Thursday, May 31, 2018

Vintage snapshot.

As I had mentioned in an earlier post, flowering is a little retarded this year.  The Orange muscat (OM) vines are usually (in an average year) further through bloom at this stage of the growing season.  And please, do not be alarmed, the OM flower cluster in the photograph is not upside down: it is a mildly curious fact that the OM clusters point upwards until the baby grapes advance to a stage when they cannot defy gravity any longer.
I had had a tiny internal debate, with my slightly schizophrenic self, about whether or not to post a photograph of Vinoland's OM bloom this year.  I mean, one Vitis vinifera flower looks much like another, doesn't it?  But then it occurred to me that even though, at this point, it is impossible to tell what the finished wine from this vintage will be like the vintage is in the flower cluster right at the moment the photograph is taken, so each vintage's image is unique.  The flowers that I photograph are different every year, one cannot see the vintage, but it is there.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Too pricey?

This was a lovely wine, the proof is it's all gone.  I purchased this bottle of Quintessa's  2016, 'Illumination' Sauvignon Blanc (SB) when I visited the winery back in January.  I can't remember what I paid for it (there was a small inter-winery discount involved), but on Quintessa's website it says this wine retails for $50.00.  And by my reckoning, that's about $20.00 too much.
Wine pricing is a funny old thing.  The average consumer could be forgiven for asking, "Why is this wine priced thus?"  Well, the wine's packaging is a little upscale, it comes in a Rhone-style bottle (how trite) and there is some flashy gold on the label, but packaging alone shouldn't make a significant impact on the retail price of this wine.  The cost of SB grapes is on the rise in the Napa Valley.  In fact, SB is in danger of becoming more scarce, indeed many growers are ripping out this delightful white grape and planting Cabernet Sauvignon in its place.  Having said that, I looked up the average price per ton of SB grapes (Napa County Crop Report) when I started blogging in 2008 and it was $1,905.91.  In 2017 the average cost had risen to $2,012.00.  That's a whopping increase of $106.09 over a 10 year period.  (By no stretch of the imagination is that a significant price hike.)
Yes, I enjoyed this $50.00 SB, it was a beautiful glass of wine; a little heavier of the palate than most SBs, adequate acid, a lovely grapefruit/mandarin orange citrus-y-ness and a lingering finish.  However, I don't think I enjoyed it enough to pay full retail.
Quintessa is a pretty swanky winery, so I believe it is up to the proprietors to maintain some aura of exclusivity.  I'm thinking the folks that can afford to drink Quintessa wines are Cabernet Sauvignon aficionados who aren't necessarily white wine drinkers (I meet people like that all the time), but might be persuaded to buy an overpriced, in my humble estimation, SB.  I am not Quintessa's audience.
Call me cheap, but I'd rather have two bottles of SB from a Napa Valley producer such as Honig or St. Supéry.  Or even better, three bottles (or, perhaps, four if it's on sale) of that old Kiwi stalwart, Kim Crawford.  My little pea-brain just doesn't understand expensive SBs.  I have tasted the Illumination once, I don't need to try it again.

Friday, May 25, 2018

What a grey May.

Today, I did a Google search on how to spell the sound one makes when blowing a raspberry, as I hadn't the foggiest.  Luckily, others before me had seemingly pondered the same complex, philosophical question and so I learnt that a cartoonist, Berkeley Breathed (Bloom County), had spelled it thus, "PPTHHPTHPFFTHPPPT."  It doesn't sound quite wet enough, if you ask me, but for wont of a better spelling it is the spelling that I am going to adopt on my blog when I need to convey my especial distaste for something.  So here goes: PPTHHPTHPFFTHPPPT! to the month of May.
I had predicted, earlier in the year, that it was probably going to be a rather short winter.  I was wrong, very wrong, it still feels like winter.  It's been a cool and grey spring.  It has been unusually windy for about three weeks now and this past week the temps have been down in the low 60s.  Then, today, it rained.  Sigh.
However, despite the coolness, we finally have bloom in Vinoland.  I'd guesstimate that the Pinot grigio vines are almost two weeks behind their average bloom date.  Not that Mother Nature works on any particular viticultural-schedule, bloom-time is different every year, but the vines do seem to be particularly tardy this year.  Once again,  PPTHHPTHPFFTHPPPT!!!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Helix.

My previous post, Four-Buck Chuck, made mention of an "innovative closure."  Meet the Helix.  The brainchild of Amorim (one of the planet's biggest cork producers) and O-I (a rather large bottle manufacturer), the Helix closure combines a grooved cork with a correspondingly threaded bottleneck.  Bronco Wine Company was an early adopter of the Helix cork stopper for several of their value-priced wines.
With the Helix there is no need to look around for a corkscrew, there is also no need to feel like one is slumming it by buying a screw cap closed wine.  Additionally, in some small way, the Helix manages to preserve the romance of opening a bottle of wine and the pleasant pop that a real cork delivers when it is coaxed out of a bottle.
I for one found the Helix to be a little hard to twist in and out (despite multiple printed exhortations suggesting otherwise), but I did find it rather interesting.  And innovative.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Four-Buck Chuck.

There is a lot going on with this wine; trendy packaging, organic grapes, innovative closure, infamy.  What it doesn't have going on is complexity.  This is a bottle of Two-Buck Chuck, or rather Four-Buck Chuck ($3.99, to be exact, at Trader Joe's), Bronco Wine Company's Charles Shaw ultra value-priced vino.
The biggest selling point of this bottle of wine, perhaps, for those who care about such things, is that it is made from organic grapes. It seems that organic has become a synonym for quality nowadays.  As compared to most other wines that I drink, that are not made from organic grapes, does this wine taste different?  Better?  This is a four dollar wine, people.  Now, if this plonk was produced by a perceived premium winery the fact that it was made from organic fruit may count for something.  Instead, I'm quite sure this wine was produced in 50,000 gallon (or larger) silos.  Whose taste buds are that good to make such a distinction?  Not mine.
My WhiffsNotes for the Shaw Rosé 2017 are; nondescript on the nose except for a generic berry component; Kool-Aid-y berry-ness on the palate; acceptable acid; slight bitterness on the finish.  A beautiful pale, pale salmon, it is a shame that one can't taste colour.  (Or can one?  Synaesthesia?)  Undrinkable?  On the contrary, think a hot summer's day, afternoon garden party, giant galvanised trough of iced wine bottles, good conversation.  Drinkable?  Abso-freakin-lutely!  Besides, one sometimes has to drink the cheap stuff to understand why the good stuff is so, well, good.

Friday, May 04, 2018

Wild turkey.

I was woken up this morning by the gobble gobble of a rafter of wild turkeys: so loud.  The rather significant population of Meleagris gallopavo around Vinoland have been quite active the past few weeks.  I have spotted up to a dozen turkeys hanging out on a neighbours driveway when Vinodog 2 and I have been on one of our walks.  This morning, though, they were right outside my bedroom window.  So loud!
It was a cool, foggy and still morning, so this particular young tom-turkey didn't seem to notice me sneaking up on him, in my pyjamas, with my camera.  However, he wouldn't cooperate and keep still, he just kept strutting his stuff and gobbling - loudly.  I'm just glad that there are no grapes on the vines because a flock of this size could do some real snacking-damage.

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Branching out.

Vinodog 2 and I get a little bored on our regular walk sometimes, so, now and again, we like to branch out and try new routes.  For several months now, we have been ambling, daily, up the hill behind Vinoland.  Well, it's not exactly ambling for me and I'm quite sure V2 finds the extremely steep section at the top a little easier on her four legs than I do on my two.  Phew!
It is on this daily walk that my dog and I just recently became acquainted with Phacelia ramosissima, commonly known as brancing phacelia.  A winsome little weed that is part of the Boraginaceae family (its familiar curving cyme did indeed remind me of fiddlenecks), branching phacelia can be very variable in appearance.  The local phacelia has white flowers, but they can also be blue; it can be prostrate or upright; it can be hairless to very hairy; it can have bell or funnel shaped flowers.  Interestingly, or at least I think it is interesting, like Vitis vinifera, this phacelia species is hermaphroditic.
I have no idea who the tiny interloping insect is.