Sunday, April 29, 2018

Space invaders.

Invasive species are a problem in our ever shrinking world.  And this harlequin ladybird, also known as the Asian ladybeetle (Harmonia axyridis), is invading my personal space by hanging out in the Pinot grigio block.  Identifiable by a distinctive 'M' on their pronotums, harlequin ladybirds seem hell-bent on world domination; I have become very well acquainted with them over the last four years on my trips home to Blighty.
This particular ladybird did not follow me back to California from England.  No, harlequin ladybirds were introduced to the Golden State, back in the 70s and 80s, by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in an attempt to control agricultural pests.  And they have been quite successful in that respect, but they have also been successful in out-competing native North American ladybirds whose numbers are dwindling.  Sad, really.  However, I still like them in the vineyard, they're pretty to look at and I'm assuming that they will be useful in fending off any other invasive aliens.   

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Fuzzy wuzzy.

Somewhere in this photograph, amongst all that sucker-y nonsense, is a Pinot grigio vine.  Yup, left to their own devices, whilst I concentrated on taming the weeds in the greater Vinoland area, the PG vines have produced suckers upon suckers.  I kid not: I have never seen such fuzzy goings-on.  Same is happening in the Syrah vines, living proof that there is plenty of soil moisture for such vegetative-exuberance.  So I suppose I have my entire weekend planned out for me.  Sucker on.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Happy St. George's Day, 2018.

In honour of England's patron saint, St. George, last night I imbibed in a Georgian wine.  (That's the country of Georgia, not the U.S. state.)  It seemed appropriate, as St. George is also Georgia's patron saint.
The 2015 Tbilvino Qvevris, made from the Rkatsiteli grape, is a wine produced in the traditional method that Georgian's have employed for God knows how long.  Some say 8,000 years.  The juice, skins, seeds and even some stems are fermented and aged together in amphora-like terracotta pots, qvevri, that are buried in the ground for up to six months.  The resulting orange, or amber, wine is quite tannic due to the extended skin contact.
The wine?  My WhiffsNotes are; a deep, deep gold in colour; not much on the nose, a bit of pear perhaps; thought I could taste the clay, probably the power of suggestion, and there was a creamy/honeyed element; low, low acid.  An unusual wine, but a wine style that I have been wanting to taste for decades.
I have been fascinated by the thought of trying a Georgian wine since 1989, when I remember watching Hugh Johnson's series on the history of wine, Vintage.  The first episode began in Georgia - the birthplace of Vitis vinifera.  The image that has stuck in my mind all these years, besides the grey, muddy Georgian day, was Hugh being served wine, ladled with a hollowed out gourd, right from a qvevri buried in the ground (think mud).  Hugh tastes the wine and then says, "It's like nothing I've ever tasted before, really."  I'd have to agree with him.
Happy St. George's Day to my family, friends, and anyone who loves England as much as I do.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

"Man's oldest drink."

This is a great little book.  Making Mead was first published in the United Kingdom in 1968.  This expanded edition, Making Your Own Mead, was updated in 2013 by Dan Vallish.  It's a very welcome addition to my little wine-library.  Thanks to Fox Chapel Publishing.
The book begins with a quick, but comprehensive, romp through the history of mead, putting Bacchus right back into Bacchanalia.  It seems that the ancient Greeks, the Romans, the Vikings, the Elizabethans, even British soldiers of the Napoleonic era, and others, were all enthusiastic mead drinkers.  Included in the book are 43 recipes for making mead, a list of the equipment needed to make homemade honey wine and the basic techniques to get started.  And now, one eureka moment later, I finally understand the difference between the ale-like meads and the wine-like meads that I have tasted in the past.  It's the yeast, stupid.
I'm feeling the need for mead.  The recipe for 'Ale Mead' calls for just one pound of honey.  I may have to have a go at making mead myself.  Move over, Vinomaker.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Swiss swill.

The few times in my life that I have flown first class, I have been delighted by the selection of wines available to the traveller, me, and the fact that the cabin crew will open a full 750 ml bottle of anything one desires.  So civilised.  Usually airplane wine is substandard and uninspiring.  I generally only bother drinking on a plane if I think it will make me fall asleep.  It never does.
I was so impressed by this Swiss wine that I was offered, to and from Zurich, on my recent trip home to Blighty, that I took an empty bottle off the plane with me because I didn't want to forget it.  (I suppose a photograph would have sufficed.)
I don't know, and can't find, too much information about the producer of this wine except for the obvious on the label; the producer seems to be Merveilles, a co-operative out of Basel.  Made from the Chasselas grape, this medium bodied, lower acid, yet refreshing wine was a very pleasant surprise.  Chasselas, the most common white grape variety grown in Switzerland, is thought to have originated in Egypt (what a waste!)  I'm just glad it made it onto my Swissair flight.

Monday, April 09, 2018

The Ag Preserve.

On this day, 50 years ago, Napa County Supervisors unanimously enacted into law a controversial zoning ordinance: the Agricultural Preserve District (AP).  The Napa Valley, a viticultural-Eden, only exists due to the foresight of a small group of people who dreamt of protecting the valley from falling victim to urban sprawl.  And for the most part, they succeeded.  Napa has not succumbed to the same fate as, e.g., Orange County or the Santa Clara Valley, thank goodness.  The AP will hopefully succeed in protecting 31,609 acres of farmland from urban development until 2058.
There are plenty of people who live in the Napa Valley who absolutely despise anything do do with the wine business, (I've personally met a few).  These folks complain that there are too many wineries, too much winery related traffic, too many tourists, etc.  And now, too many agricultural burns.  This letter, which was published in last Friday's Napa Valley Register, was penned by one such Napa resident.
I think I can safely assume that, from the tenor of her letter, the authoress is not a fan of agriculture.  Astute, me.  There is no personal information to be gleaned from Ms. Methven's missive.  Not her age, whether or not she is a native Napan, a beer-drinker, or a teetotaller, nothing.  She is a bit of a fibber, however.  She can't really care for wildlife, as she claims (albeit sarcastically), if she thinks paving over paradise is a more suitable habitat for deer, coyotes, foxes, turkeys, skunks, raccoons, etc., etc.  If truth be told, I'm not really interested in learning anything about Ms. Maniac, as I'm a  firm believer in having as least contact as possible with crazy people.
Anyway, happy anniversary AP, you're looking good at 50!

Saturday, April 07, 2018

The blushing bud.

I may have missed budbreak in the Syrah vines this year, but my buddies in the Cabernet Sauvignon block waited for me to get back to Vinoland before doing their thing.  Thanks pals, much appreciated.
I just love spring.  The vernal equinox, which occurred this year as I was winging my way over the Atlantic, conventionally heralds the beginning of spring.  As a child, it also meant that my birthday was the next day (GMT-ish).  What is there not to like about spring and the rebirth, rejuvenation and regrowth of...every weed in Vinoland?  Yup, did quite a bit of weeding this afternoon (and planted my first tomato plant), but I barely made a dent in the lushness that is Vinoland right now.  Oh well, keeps me busy and out of trouble.

Friday, April 06, 2018

The grey area.

I am back in Vinoland.  Yes, I returned from my holiday to England last night.  It was dark by the time I got home, so I knew I would have to wait until morning to survey the amount of new growth on the grapevines.  I was excited to go outside first thing, but I had to be patient as my tour of the vineyard was delayed due to an extremely grey start to the day accompanied by very heavy rain.
I have to say, I think I was expecting a bit more progress in the leaf-department.  Vinomaker had told me that there had been some very cool weather in the first week that I was away, followed by some warmer days.  However, it is the ground temperature, not the air temperature, that determines when and how quickly the vines begin to do their thing.  Of course, five to six inches of growth in the Orange Muscat vines is nothing to be sneezed at.  Besides, there is plenty of growing season remaining.

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Happy Easter, 2018.

Happy Easter!
Lots of chocolate, cake making, pie baking, happy kids, extended family, my first cup of coffee since February the 13th and a good Barolo with dinner; is there a better way to celebrate the culmination of Holy Week?  I think not.
This 2011 Peironte Barolo was showing a little age, but still had plenty of perfumey-plummy polish which paired beautifully with dinner.  Followed by Thud's blackcurrant pie and a slice of carrot cake (made by me), my tummy had a very satisfying Easter Sunday.  However, I still see lots of chocolate in my immediate future.  Yum!