Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Happy Halloween: 2017.

I started the month off with a photograph of Vinodog 2, so I'll finish the month off with another.  My adorable little imp is probably going to enjoy some California sun this afternoon, whilst I go out trick-or-treating with some little imps over here.
It's not exactly cold right now in Blighty, it is quite mild, but it's not exactly California either.  This morning, Thud, Mrs. Thud and I enjoyed a very pleasant walk along the beach at New Brighton, a town across the River Mersey from Liverpool.  New Brighton, once a seaside-resort destination for Liverpudlians, is nowadays blessed with the singular advantage of having a superb riverfront view of Liverpool.  There was no wind, which was unbelievable, so we did not get blown all over the place.
Our sandy perambulation was enhanced by a RAF fly-by (the pilot navigating along the shoreline, no doubt headed to RAF Valley on Angelsey) and the rumble of distant machine-gunfire (soldiers training) from Altcar Rifle Range, some 15 miles north of Liverpool.  Cool.
Happy Halloween, ghoulies and ghosties.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Friday night wine.

My journey to England was fantastic.  Well, the connections and timing, that is.  The transatlantic portion of my trip was super bumpy.  I have never experienced such turbulence on a flight, it didn't bother me at all.  After decompressing for a couple of days, Thud treated me to a really nice wine on Friday night (paired with the best wood-fired oven pizzas).  He'd purchased it from my favourite shop, Marks & Spencer.
The Amalaya, Blanco De Corte, 2016 Torrontés-Riesling (Calchaquí Valley, Argentina) was delicious; crisp, fruity, aromatic and refreshing.  Ever so slightly off-dry, the blend worked well with the acidity of the tomato sauce and especially with the crispy pancetta pizza.  Yum and yum.
It's good to be home.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Get back...

...to where I once belonged, Part 11.
"Off I go into the wild blue yonder..."  I have retrieved my passport and green card from the bag that I stuffed them into during my evacuation from Vinoland (due to the October 8th wildfire) owing to the fact that I'll be in need of them later today.  Yes, once again, I am off home to Blighty.  Just me, my passport, my green card, a canine-adorned credit card, some hard cash and a fairly large suitcase chock-full of spicy-cinnamony-pumpkiny-goodness.  Excess baggage, here I come.
Get back JoJo!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

A pressing moment.

This afternoon, Vinomaker and I pressed off the Cabernet franc (CF) that we picked October 6th.  It seems like an age since we harvested those grapes.  The entire week of October 9th-15th is a complete blur: being in a constant state of emergency can have that effect, I suppose.
Vinomaker had decided to co-ferment the CF with a a batch of Cabernet Sauvignon (CS) from a vineyard on Zinfandel Lane, St. Helena.  It turned out to be a great fermentation - steady and very aromatic.  The taste of the young blend did not disappoint.  Throughout pressing, it's a good idea to sample the wine periodically to ensure that squishing the skins, seeds and stems does not negatively impact the finished wine, i.e., elevating astringency or bitterness.  (The different levels of pressing are called fractions.)  When possible, Vinomaker keeps the free-run and the pressed juice separate, affording him blending opportunities in the future.  The free-run and the pressed juice from this wine both tasted wonderfully full, rounded and supple.  And very cherry.  It's a pity that it will be about 2 years until I get to drink this wine again.  Roll on 2019!

Friday, October 20, 2017

Please rain on my parade.

I normally dislike rain, I may have mentioned that once or twice in the past.  Actually, I'm positive that I have.  Vinodog 2 and I spend a lot of our time in the great outdoors, which means that when water does fall from the sky it unfailingly curtails our al fresco activities.  Not usually a pleasant scenario, as VinoCur does not like to have a wet tail and I don't like to have curly hair.  However, I have to admit that the rain that was forecast for last night, and appeared right on schedule, was just what the length and breadth of the scorched Napa Valley was thirsty for.  Wine Country was desperately in need of some moisture - other than that which came out of a fire hose, or a helicopter equipped with a Bambi bucket.  I was more than willing to sacrifice my desire for straight hair.
There are charred leaves all over Vinoland; on the vineyard floor, on the crush pad, on the driveway, on the hill, on the deck and on the doormat.  The intensity of the fire, the ferocity of the wind and the accumulation of combustible vegetation meant that embers, ash and the aforementioned charred leaves were deposited far and wide.  (Though not far enough away, the fire raged less than a half mile from my doorstep.)  My and V2's morning parade, past our neighbours' homes that were mercifully spared the ire of Mother Nature, was crisp and fresh.  Sadly the now moistened, blackened hills look gloomily blacker.  Sigh.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The show must go on: Part 2.

I returned to work yesterday after a forced, week long natural disaster furlough.  But it wasn't exactly business as usual.  Nope, it was an all hands on deck situation, or rather all hands on the sorting table.  Yep, I helped sort 40 tones of Cabernet Sauvignon yesterday.  Then today, 12 tons of Cabernet Sauvignon and 28 tons of Merlot.  TWWIAGE's harvest is now finished.
After suffering a little bit of motion sickness - I had no idea that the progress of the moving fruit would have that effect on me - it was simply eyes down and sort out the MOG (material other than grapes).  Leaves, twigs and raisins begone!  It was tedious work, I wouldn't want to do every day, two days was plenty, but I was more than happy to be able to help get the 2017 crop in and sorted.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The show must go on.

Wildfires be damned!  Vinoland's Cabernet Sauvignon (CS) needed to be harvested, but Mother Nature seemed to have other ideas.  Vinomaker and I had planned to harvest our CS this past Friday, the 13th, problem was most of our usual picking crew were unavailable due to voluntary or mandatory evacuations.
Grateful that Vinomaker and I had kept an eye on the neighbourhood in their abscence, many of our neighbours kindly offered to help us harvest (we couldn't have managed it by ourselves).  Our pleasant group of pickers showed up early and prepared to get the crop off the vines.  I had spent the day before pulling leaves, so the fruit was exposed and the pick went smoothly.  Although it was still very smoky nobody complained.
This evening, our cheery little band of harvesters reconvened on Vinoland's deck for a celebratory repast of pizza, beer and, of course, wine.  Happy end of harvest 2017.  Finally!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Fire and water.

My grandmother was oft heard quoting Aesop, "...fire and water, they are good servants but bad masters."  Even as a small child I got the gist of what she was saying.  However, growing up in Liverpool, I didn't think I was in imminent danger of burning up, or being washed away.  Fire is mostly great; a cozy wood burning stove, a candlelit dinner, toasting s'mores round a fire-pit.  Better still, chestnuts.  Good servant stuff.  What could possibly go wrong?  Well, now I live in tinderbox dry California and wildfires happen.  The bad master stuff.
One week ago, I was going about life in a normal manner, e.g., picking Cabernet franc.  Exactly one week later things are not quite normal.  In fact, I'd go as far as to say they are abnormal.  I went to bed last Sunday night ignorant to the fact that there was a wildfire raging just a few miles from here.  Without going into detail, except to say that what ensued was quite dramatic, at 3.45 a.m Monday morning Vinomaker and I had to quickly evacuate Vinoland.  I grabbed Vinodog 2, my passport, my green card, my wedding ring, my rosary beads (from the Vatican) and my purse - and I was gone! We returned about 7 hours later.  Everything just as we'd left it, but now covered in a grey and black layer of ash.
Six days later, we still have no power, but thank God we have everything else.  In an area just about 3 miles from Vinoland, an entire street is gone.  I don't have that voyeur-bone in my body that some folks have.  People suffering horrible loses are not there for my entertainment.  I would want to grieve the loss of a home, a pet, or all of my possessions in private.  Yes, I'm curious, but this cat doesn't have nine lives.  I'll survive without witnessing, first hand, the misery of others.
Speaking with neighbours who have been in this area since the early 60s, I have learned that wildfires ravage this area about once every 20 years.  One neighbour recalled for me the calamitous fire of 1964, the year he moved to Coombsville.  And an even more destructive conflagration in 1981.  So, it seems, we were overdue.  Everything in life is cyclical and that includes wildfires.  It's just that now there are more people and homes in the way of Mother Nature (when she takes it upon herself to do a little housekeeping).  And vineyards.
Last winters heavy rains only exacerbated the intensity of these wildfires, as there is plenty of fuel to keep them stoked.  The charred hillside, from where I took this photograph, is now mostly clear of brush and shrubs, a lot of the larger trees are blackened but still standing.  Just like the neighbourhood itself: a little singed, but mostly unscathed.  I wish I could say the same for all Napans.  Fuel for thought.

Friday, October 06, 2017

Good morning, Franc!

It's been several years since Vinomaker has had the chance to make Cabernet franc (CF), his favourite varietal wine to make.  The owner of the Oak Knoll District CF vineyard, from where we sourced the grapes, had decided to replant after suffering years of declining vine health.  So when Vinomaker got the call that there was some fruit available he hopped at the chance.
It was fun to get out early in the morning to harvest the fruit.  The valley is a hive of activity right now and you can't turn in any direction without seeing fruit laden picking bins and gondolas.  Replanted on 101-14 Mgt rootstock, grafted to CF clone 214, there really wasn't much fruit on the young vines.  On arrival in back Vinoland, the fruit was destemmed and became a field blend with a batch of St. Helena Cabernet Sauvignon.
Hopefully, in 2018, the owner of the vineyard will once again let us have some grapes; a lot more grapes, perhaps.  Picking-knives crossed.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

The birds and the bees.

The birds and the bees are in busying themselves with reducing Vinoland's Cabernet Sauvignon crop.  It's not that I begrudge my avian and apian friends a little fresh fruit now and again.  It's just that I can't help but feel a little pang of disappointment at the fact that some of my lovingly pruned and farmed grapes will not get the chance to fulfill their destiny by becoming wine.  I already knew that the minute the local animal population becomes this interested in the fruit, the fruit is ripening.  I really should have taken a sugar sample before today, but I've been a bit busy.
The birds and the bees were correct.  The fruit is rather ripe; the sugar is at 25 °Brix and the seeds are mostly brown.  However, Vinomaker thinks the juice tastes just a little green still.  I don't.  I think the juice tastes simply delicious, typically Cab-like.  Apparently, so do the birds.  And the bees.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Terrific and 10!

It is Vinodog 2's 10th birthday today - that's 70 in dog years.  Wow!
V2 has had a great day so far; bacon for breakfast, a new squeaky toy (to destroy) and a nice morning walk.  She is now having a snooze next to me.  It's a dog's life.
And here is my favourite, fabulous, fun poochie (in a recent photograph) channeling her British heritage.  Look how grey she is getting: her black bits used to be jet black.  Oh well, it happens to us all.
Happy birthday V2!