Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Commercial harvest.

Harvest 2019 began at TWWIAGE today.  Thirty-odd tons of one of our growers' best Sauvignon blanc (SB) grapes showed up, first thing this morning, to kick off the 2019 vintage.  After a quick blessing of the grapes, it was into the presses for processing; a two hour procedure that gently squeezes out the sweet, juicy-deliciousness that is destined to be a glass of something chilled and refreshing in my hand, oh, in about April 2020.  Love SB harvest.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Pegging along.

It's that time of year again - bird netting time.  Yup, the Pinot grigio (PG) grapes are ripening as I type.  Many apologies, in advance, to my feathered friends, but we wouldn't be friends for long if you ate all my grapes.
The more than welcome warm, to hot, temperatures this month (the warmest weather all summer, actually), have ensured that the PG grapes are accumulating sugar at a steady rate.  If I've said it once I've said it a million times, installing bird netting is my least favourite vineyard operation.  Netting is a tedious task, getting way too up close and personal with creepy crawlies in the canopy is one major issue for me, but it is absolutely necessary if I want of harvest the fruits of my labour.  So, peg on Vinogirl!

Saturday, August 24, 2019

New girls.

Not to let stupid Lynx rufus get the better of me, I once again drove over to Sonoma to purchase a few new chicks.  It seemed the right thing to do.  Meet my Ameracauna, Buff Orpington and, yes, another Barred Plymouth Rock.  In keeping with my, fairly new, tradition of naming chickens after Henry VIII's warships, meet Anne Gallant (Annie), Pansy (er, Pansy) and Henri Grâce à Dieu (Gracie).
Only hatched on August 8th, they are younger and a lot smaller than Vinoland's first batch of chicks.  But, guess what?  I love them already.

Friday, August 23, 2019


These two feathers are all that remains of Minion (AKA Minnie).  In broad daylight, a despicable bobcat (Lynx rufus) nabbed my super-friendly, favourite chicken Minnie and ran off with her up the hill away from the house.  Caught in the act, the bobcat dropped Minnie and slipped through the deer fencing to safety, because if I'd caught it's scrawny, tawny ass...Minnie died in my arms.  I'm very sad.
RIP, Minnie.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Main Street Reunion 2019.

I still love this event.  Today, downtown Napa hosted the Main Street Reunion (MSR), 2019.  Once again, this year, diminished in size compared to how it once was, the MSR is still a lot of fun.  I didn't think I'd want to attend this year, but as the date neared I couldn't resist.
I'm getting quite familiar with some of the same exhibitors that show up every year (that I have attended).  And rather than becoming bored with seeing the same cars year after year, I find myself actively seeking out old favourites.  Familiarity does not breed contempt in me, rather the opposite in fact.  I wouldn't ignore an old friend.  Especially one that weighs about 4,000 lbs of vintage American steel.
Look at those flames.  Sizzle, crackle and pop!
Vroom, vroom!

Monday, August 12, 2019

CS: Veraison, 2019.

Always bringing up the rear, Vinoland's Cabernet sauvignon has deemed it the right time to begin to start the process of veraison.  Clone 4, as I may have mentioned before, was not the best clonal selection to make for a Coombsville vineyard.  It is so cool here, compared to other Napa Valley AVAs, that it is a struggle to get these darned grapes ripe every year.  Takes quite a bit of extra work with canopy management etc., but we always get there, together, in the end.  Well, we'll see what sort of ripeness this year brings.

Monday, August 05, 2019

Wouldn't be a show without Punch.

Not to be outdone, like Punch in a Punch and Judy puppet show, the Pinot grigio vines are hot on the heels of the Syrah in the veraison-department.  Of course, they will be harvested before the Syrah - lower sugar and higher acid - they will be white wine, after all.
The fruit is looking quite charming.  I'm looking forward to tasting it as the sugar accumulates over the next several weeks.  Grapevines are just wonderful plants.

Saturday, August 03, 2019

Veraison days are here again...

..."The skies above are clear again, So let's sing a song of cheer again, Veraison days are here again."
Yup, it was a bit of a slow start to the 2019 growing season, with all the rain and the cool temperatures, but the Syrah (SY) grapes are beginning to ripen.  Actually, the SY probably got enthused about a week ago (and some of the vines are less advanced than the one photographed) but, as usual, I've been rather distracted.  So despite reports of delayed development, even perhaps up to two weeks for some growers, here in Vinoland Mother Nature is working here magic right on time.

Thursday, July 04, 2019

Fourth of July Party Animal.

Here is V2, being all festive and patriotic as befits the celebration of America's birthday.  Any excuse for a party, which just means an excuse to eat human food - hotdogs, burgers, chips and dip, potato/pasta salad - anything she can get her paws on, or her teeth into.  My furbaby's not fussy when it comes to food.
God bless the United States of America and its humble, quaint culinary traditions.  (All good when washed down with something tasty in the wine department.)
Oh...and God save the Queen!

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

I'm a mother-clucker.

Speaking of babies, besides being Vinodog 2's dogmum, I recently became the mother of quadruplets - four bouncing baby chickens. Hatched on May 29th, I purchased the chicks at Rivertown Feed & Pet Country Store in Petaluma, Sonoma. (Shockingly, they're not hip Napa-chicks.)  I had a fun time driving over to the other valley.
The chicks are four different breeds; a Golden Sexlink, a Rhode Island Red, a Silver Laced Wyandotte and a Barred Plymouth Rock.  I named them after Henry VIII's warships, (seeing as ships are female, like hens), so I have a Mary Rose (Maro), Primrose (Rosie), Lizard (Lizzie) and Minion (Minnie).  Aren't they adorable?  I love them already.

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Pregnant pause.

It's been a while: I've been busy.  My absence, whilst not as lengthy as a real pregnancy, has seen a good deal of fruitfulness - out in the vineyard.  My babies are looking good.  Pictured here is a cluster of Cabernet sauvignon grapettes.  Fruit set looks great, weather conditions have been favourable and there doesn't seem to be much evidence of shatter.  I always feel a sense of achievement at fruit set, but especially when the set looks as good as it does this season.  I am aware that a lot of crazy stuff can still happen between now and harvest, but I've been doing this for a while now and I feel confident saying that 2019 looks like it's going to be a really good vintage.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

A satisfying Sangiovese.

Tonight it was time to drink the Pestoni Family, 2017 Sangiovese that I purchased at the winery's tasting room on May 15th.  Paired with something suitably Italian and tomato based for dinner, this was a simply lovely wine.  Quite savory and peppery, with lots of red fruit and dried herbs this wine went great with dinner.  The acidity?  Did I mention the acidity?  Lovely, strident and joy producing the acidity was perfect with my pasta and red sauce.  I must go and purchase some more: always nice to have a domestic Sangiovese in the cellar when pasta is on the menu.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

A solitary, May flower.

It's cold, it's wet - very unfortunate weather.  If I were a Pinot grigio flower bud I would not want to make my debut in the meteorological conditions that Vinoland is experiencing right now.  Thankfully, my grapevines do not have the same distaste for precipitation as does their guardian/pruner.  (Which begs the question, what is the exact nature of my relationship with those hundreds of green, fuzzy things out there?)  Mother Nature is in charge and when it is time to flower, it is time to flower.  Rain be damned.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Waiting in the rain.

The rain has returned - with a vengeance.  And it is forecast to rain every day for the next week.  Disgusting weather.  I suppose I should be thankful for bloom being a bit delayed this year, at least I don't have to worry about all this rain blasting the flowers off the vines.  Sigh.  What is a Vinogirl to do?  Go wine tasting, of course.
A quick drive up Highway 29 (in heavy rain, light traffic) found me at Pestoni Family Estate Winery.  I chose to visit Pestoni, established in 1892, as I wanted an authentic Napa Valley experience.  Or should I say what the Napa Valley experience used to be.  I have been feeling a little jaded with the wine industry lately (or rather the theme park direction the Napa valley seems to be heading in), so a quick dose of Napa Valley history seemed to be just what was needed.
A rather old-fashioned, brown tasting room, which seemed a tad dim on this grey day, the Pestoni experience was still a suitable antidote to the new, gimmicky wineries that seem, more and more, to be the way of wine's future in the Napa Valley.  I was interested in tasting Pestoni's 2017 Sauvignon Blanc, their 2018 Rosé and their 2017 Sangiovese.  So I did, and I liked all three wines sufficiently that I went ahead and purchased a bottle of each.
Upon leaving Pestoni I had to stop to let the Wine Train pass as it headed north.  Whilst I waited, I braved the rain and took a photograph.

Thursday, May 09, 2019


I have spent a lot of time in the vineyard since I returned to California: I am paying for going on holiday during the spring bud break-bacchanalia.
The weather in Vinoland continues to be unusually cool which has been a bit of a boon as whilst I was away the vines have had a bit of a slower start to the growing season.  There is no evidence, as yet, of flowering in the Orange muscat (OM), or the Pinot grigio.  Flowering was retarded in 2018, so I'm expecting 2019 to be late also.  However, it's not as if the grapevines were dormant in my absence, there is plenty of growth for me to deal with.
The OM is more than a little unruly, I was positively slapped silly as I struggled to stuff the recalcitrant shoots into the trellis wires. I'm not a wimpy person, but at one point I almost felt that if I got thwapped in the face one more time I was going to burst into tears.  It hurt!
Whilst I'm not saying a grapevine has the ability to bear malice (even with my proclivity to be a tad anthropomorphic), I do feel I was being severely reprimanded for my dereliction of viticultural-duty.  Ouch.

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Anyone for cricket?

Thud is good at discovering interesting wines for me to try.  The ones he finds can be of interest due to an unusual varietal or blend, a compelling place of origin, or a gripping backstory.  Or, as is the case with this wine, a celebrity connection: former England cricket star Sir Ian Botham OBE (incidentally, born about 2 miles away from where I'm sitting).
The 2017 Botham All-Rounder, Cabernet Sauvignon (Australia) is definitely not a complex wine, but I wouldn't expect it to be for a wine that costs about £8.00 (currently about $10.50).  Produced from several vineyards in South Eastern Australia, and the result of a collaboration with Paul Schaafsma (innovative wine industry guru), The All-Rounder is a medium bodied, invariably quaffable, fruit forward, usual-suspect-berry-packed red.  Thanks Thud for the easy to swallow wine - bit of a dibbly dobbly, really.
Sir Ian was a rather big deal when I was in my teens (I do like a bit of cricket) and is considered one of England's best ever to play the game: excellent at both batting and bowling (an all-rounder).  As a retired sportsman, he is currently in an advert on the telly hawking the Revitive Medic, an electrical muscle stimulator/circulation booster.  He isn't drinking wine in the advert, but methinks he should be.  In my opinion, a glass of wine would certainly aid in the relaxation of Sir Botham's, or anybody's, aching muscles.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Everybody was Kung fu wine-fighting.

Thud and I bought this Kung Fu Girl, 2017 Riesling (Colombia Valley AVA), simply because we both liked the label.  But also because he was planning on cooking Chinese food for dinner.  (The Kung Fu Girl [KFG] was the first Riesling we spotted whilst out shopping.)  On Thud's part it reminded him of the killer-kiddie-Kung fu moves of his youngest daughter: on my part I thought that it would pair well with Thud's, own recipe, 'Chinese Chilli Chicken'.
The KFG did not disappoint.  What was initially a rather pedestrian wine, the KFG turned into a delightful citrusy, white-peachy, unexpectedly medium-bodied, food friendly wine.  When consumed with food this wine went through a really remarkable transformation.  Not only did it pair well with our dish, it didn't fight with the food - always important.
Admittedly, buying a State of Washington wine (in Costco) whilst on holiday away from the US is a little odd.  However, sometimes, when deciding on what wine to buy, I just throw my hands in the air like I just don't care.  Or like a drunken Kung fu-fighter.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Der Geschmack der Farben.

I arrived home in one piece.  My flight from SFO to Manchester, via Zurich, was without incident - very smooth and painless.
Now that I am home, I am in a state of amazement.  I have experienced better weather here in the past four days than all of 2019 in California and I have loved every minute of it.  Thing is, England is hard to beat when the sun is shining, it is just so pretty.  And so green.  Spring has always been my favourite season in Blighty.
Family OTW and I have busied ourselves with lots of activities; shooting, archery, bingo and other games.  Every meal has been outside, breakfasts, lunches and dinners.  Of note, yet another fabulous wood-fired pizza event (my sister-in-law's Thai chicken pizza could give California Pizza Kitchen a run for their money) at which I discovered that a particularly spicy pizza paired well with a Prosecco that Thud pulled out of his wine-stash.  Fun.
The Taste of Colours, kindly reproduced with the permission of Swiss Air (well, I'm sure they would have approved it if I'd asked), is not about the neurological trait synaesthesia.  Rather, the wine-article in my seat-pocket magazine maintained that there was a correlation between the colour of a wine and the way in which a wine is produced, even a vintage's growing conditions, with the qualities therefore inherent in a wine.  Not sure I totally buy the whole premise of the article as it's a little simplistic, besides I don't read German, but it made for some light, in-flight entertainment - a bit like the colour, Blasses Weissgelb.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Get back...

...to where I once belonged, Part 14.
Yes, this evening I will be winging my way back home to Blighty, hopefully with a glass of Swiss Air white wine in my hand.  Chasselas to be exact.
In preparation for my journey, I did a bit of research (wine research, my favourite) and drank a bottle of Swiss wine.  I even let Vinomaker have a little.  The 2017 Cave de La Côte, Chasselas Romand was an extremely quaffable, light wine.  Fresh and airy, with an aroma of lime and flowers, followed by lemon and melon on the palate this was a very nice Chasselas.  Besides, what's there not to like about a bottle of wine with the Matterhorn on the label?
I remember years ago driving past the vineyards in the canton of Valais (around Sion).  Little did I imagine that years later I would be sitting in the Napa Valley drinking a bottle of Swiss wine from the Upper Rhône Valley.  Life is funny.
Get back JoJo!

Thursday, April 11, 2019

All systems go.

A little bit later than last year, but no too much, the Cabernet sauvignon vines are beginning to go through budbreak.  That's it, all of Vinoland's vines now have some green-stuff going on.  In fact, the white grapes are at the stage were I need to start suckering the trunks.  It's always something. 
Go Cab, go!

Saturday, April 06, 2019

Fava beans and Chardonnay.

This is not a post about a food and wine pairing.  No, it is a post about the incessant rain that northern California is experiencing and the fact that I don't like it.  However, a neighbouring vineyard's cover crop is enjoying it immensely.  Every cloud has a silver lining, or something like that.

Friday, April 05, 2019

I'm nettled.

It has rained every day this week,  PPTHHPTHPFFTHPPPT!!!
The weeds, like this purple dead-nettle (Lamium purpurem), are loving the rain, whilst me, and Vinodog 2, not so much.  At least I have something pretty to look at, as I walk around with my head constantly bowed to avoid the raindrops.  Sigh.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Pruning, performed.

I'm pooped, but I am finished with pruning (at 4.26 pm, to be exact).  Hallelujah!  It was a tough year, the rain has been incredible, this is the latest date ever that pruning has continued in Vinoland. 
I don't normally drink on Sundays, but the end of pruning always calls for a bit of a celebration.  I opened a bottle of something Vinomaker had given me on my birthday.  Another Crémant D'Alsace, the Emile Boeckel Brut Rosé is a delightful wine - right down to the simulated pink leather label (complete with faux silver stitching).  Quite pink, rather fizzy, very tasty.  Love it!
A second reason to have a glass of bubbles (as if I needed one) is that it was Mother's Day in England today, so cheers to my Vinomum.
Phew.  I'll sleep well tonight.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Frost wars.

It was a gorgeous day today, finally.  Beautiful blue sky, a few white fluffy clouds, temperature reached 66° F.  I managed to get quite a bit of pruning done.  Yay!  When, at 5.10 pm, I finished pruning for the day it started to rain - just as Vinodog 2 and I were going on our afternoon walk, of course.  With just one gigantic, dark grey cloud over Vinoland the rain did not last for long, thankfully.  The weekend forecast is promising.
Of course with clear, cloud-free spring nights comes freezing overnight temperatures and frosty mornings.  A neighbouring vineyard, Farella Vineyards, is preparing for such an eventuality.  (As an aside, I love this portable fan.)  It can be a bit of a battle, as frosts may or may not occur this time of year.  However, commercial vineyards need to be armed with preventative measures to ensure that the vines are protected from injury.  It's always something with Mother Nature.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Hydroponic farming.

I can honestly say that I have a new found appreciation for England's farmers, or rather how difficult it must be for them to grow or raise anything in the often calamitous English climate.  I myself am having a bit of difficulty farming here in, currently, not-so-sunny California.
I managed to get out into the vineyard quite early this morning and it was actually a little sunny.  However, I made the mistake of stopping for a cup of tea at 11.00 am and consequently wasted some valuable outside-time.  When I returned to the vineyard I barely managed to get in another 40 minutes of pruning before the heavens opened.  Determined to be finished pruning by this coming Sunday, I was hoping the weather would cooperate with me over the next four days, but nope. 
This afternoon, for the 3.00 pm hour, lightning was forecast.  What?  There was no way I wanted to be caught out in the vineyard with long metal loppers in my hands in lightning.  The lightning didn't materialise, not that it mattered, I was stuck indoors anyway.  The weather forecasts have been very changeable of late - as in they have been literally changing every 4 to 6 hours - and I don't know whether I am coming or going.  Neither does the rain.  Sigh.
At this rate I may have to ask Vinomaker if he has a headlamp I can borrow and some skunk repellent I can arm myself with, as I may have to resort to a bit of catch up nocturnal-farming.
Today was a bust, oh well.  One down, three to go.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

The Mule-Ear Report.

My hopes of getting out into the vineyard Friday, for a little while at least, were dashed by a constant downpour that just got heavier and heavier as the day progressed.  Yesterday was a different matter.  Absolutely gorgeous sunshine meant that I was able to get out into the vineyard and get some pruning done.  Also, Vinodog 2 and I had a lovely mid-afternoon walk, always a better event when the two of us don't get drenched, and on the walk I discovered yet another new wildflower.
I first noticed several Mule-ears (Wyethia glabra), growing here and there a couple of weeks ago, due to their rather conspicuous burdock-like, lance-shaped leaves, but I had no idea what they were.  Now, however, they are flowering and the beautiful, vivid yellow blooms are extremely cheery looking.  Still, it took me a while to identify the Mule-ears as at first I thought they might have simply been wild sunflowers, but in researching sunflowers, wild or cultivated, I came up with nothing that resembled my neighbourhood-native.  But I persisted and finally identified the Wyethia glabra, a member of the Asteraceae family, as my new floral-find.  So I'm happy to report, well, that I'm happy with my discovery.     

Friday, March 22, 2019

My birthday buddy.

It's my birthday and the fact that it is raining hasn't dampened my enthusiasm any.  Seeing as I already had my wellies on, after my and V2's morning walk, I had a quick glance at the Syrah vines to see if anything was going on.  Yes indeedy, bud break is happening - finishing pruning the Syrah this past Sunday wasn't a moment too soon.
Of course, the rain means that I won't be getting much done out in the vineyard today.  I am, however, determined to tie down the Cabernet vines I pruned yesterday.  So I'll don my rain jacket and hopefully not get too soggy wrestling with the wet canes, but other than that it is just too wet to get any actual pruning done.  I always try to be finished pruning by my birthday, but  Mother Nature hasn't cooperated with my plans this year.  Sigh.
Oh...and Happy Birthday John Toshack.
Vinogirl loves birthdays.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

October 1982.

I recently got to partake in the tasting of a 1982 Groth Cabernet Sauvignon.  And it was stupendous, probably one of the nicest wines I have ever tasted.  Stunning, really stunning.
In October of 1982, the young Vinogirl had just started college: the vineyard workers at Groth had just started to harvest the Cabernet sauvignon grapes that went into this wine.  Hard to believe that what I was drinking was a 36 year old vintage.  Whilst I got a lovely, crazily nuanced strawberry jam vibe from the '82 (acid was sublime), the tablemate, to my right, got plum jam.  The tablemate to my left wouldn't stop drinking long enough to comment - can't say I blame him.
It is fitting that I post about Cabernet Sauvignon this evening, as I started to prune Vinoland's Cabernet vines today.  It's a little distressing to me that I am only just getting started, I usually set myself a goal of being finished with pruning by the 22nd of March.  That is not going to be the case this year.  However, I must keep calm and prune on.  Panic!

Sunday, March 17, 2019

How green am I?

Gorgeous weather yesterday and today, so I was lucky enough to get quite a bit of pruning done.  However, I am still really behind because of all the rain we have been having.  (Panic?)  But today, I was able to finish pruning the Syrah vines and I got them all tied down.  Phew, what a relief.
I did have one teensy-weensy hiccup, though: I ran out of twist ties.  Vinomaker had gone out and I had no idea where he kept our supply of ties.  Then I remembered that I had bought a bunch of asparagus yesterday and it had a couple of ties on it.  Voila!  Recycling at its finest.
So Happy Finished-Pruning-Syrah Day, or Happy St. Patrick's Day, whichever celebration one prefers.  I'm going with the former.

Friday, March 15, 2019


I attended a retirement luncheon today and although it was a happy occasion - the celebration of a job well done for 37 years - it did, however, cause me to pause and reflect on a few things.  Things like, let's see, the passage of time, the comings and goings in life of friends and family, and the fact that nothing stays the same forever.  Including wine.
A score of years has passed between the vintages that produced these two wines: Groth Vineyards & Winery's 1996 and 2016 Chardonnay, Napa Valley AVA.  (Of course, if I had one bottle to represent each year in this particular span of time I'd have 21 bottles of wine.  Two will do.)  Drinking these two wines, side by side, just seemed fitting considering my mood.
The 1996 was still a beautiful wine, golden in colour with a honeyed-apricot jam thing on the nose.  (I'm thinking the 1996 will be good for a couple more years, at least.)  I just wish it had been a tad more crisp.
The 2016, however, was very crisp and vibrant with a lovely apple-limey-pineapple mouth-filling complexity.  Chardonnay is not my favourite wine varietal, but when it is done well it can be quite fascinating.  Although not fascinating enough to get in the way of my navel-gazing.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

On the table.

Apparently, there is no room for discussion, the table grapes are leafing out.  Bud break is happening in all three varieties of the only grapes in Vinoland that don't go into making wine; July Muscat, Crimson Seedless and, pictured here, Red Globe.  We are having rather nice weather at the moment, so I'm expecting them to go crazy this coming week.  Leaf away, little fellas.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

The Geek Squad: 2.

Illuminated in a rare (this winter) ray of sunlight, this pretty Pacific hound's tongue (Cynoglossum grande) adds a very noticeable and welcome pop of colour to all the greenery that currently is soggy-California.  A member of the borage family, I had first spotted this particular wildflower a year ago, but was too busy, distracted, preoccupied, dog-tired (pick one) to take the time to identify it.  As with the shooting stars, this wildflower was identified for me by the Marketing Queen.  Thank you MQ!  I just love any blue flower.
Seeing as I was out and about with my camera, photographing the aforementioned shooting stars, I thought I'd get a quick snap of the hound's tongue too.  Geek's do stuff like that.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Plus: the Pinot grigio.

Not to be outdone by the Orange muscat, the Pinot grigio vines are also ready to get started with the 2019 growing season.  I do love the fact that spring is fast approaching.  And I love that I don't have to check it's proximity on a calendar - I have grapevines for that.
I'm starting to panic a little, as I always do this time of year, that with all this rain I may not be able to get all the Syrah and Cabernet sauvignon vines pruned before they want to start going through bud break.  The weather this coming week is forecast to be nice.  We'll see.

Saturday, March 09, 2019

Must(cat) you do that?

Apparently, it must.  Despite all the rain we have been having, the Orange muscat vines have decided that they need to get a move on.  Although bud swell is not determined by atmospheric moisture, but rather by soil temperature, it has been rather cool of late, so I wasn't expecting the vines to be so enthused.  Wrong.  Again!
The atmospheric moisture came with an earnest all day today.  I tried to prune in the Syrah vines, but finally gave up as I was spending more time sheltering in the barn, from rain and hail, than actually out in the vineyard pruning.  It was when Vinodog 2 found something to incessantly bark at, in Vinomaker's lumber supply, that I decided to call it a day.  It was then that I discovered...

Thursday, March 07, 2019

The Geek Squad.

Most lunchtimes will find TWWIAGE's Marketing Queen (MQ) and I huddled together in the winery's kitchen discussing a diverse miscellany of topics; anything from art to zucchini.  (Dear reader, you don't have to state the obvious as we both freely admit to being rather geeky.) Yesterday's lunchtime was no exception, however the subject at hand did happen to be one of my favourites - wildflowers.
Whilst the MQ had been out hiking she had spotted and photographed a wildflower that I had never seen before.  How exciting!  Furthermore, the MQ went on to identify this dainty, but quite dramatic, wildflower as Henderson's shooting star (Dodecatheon hendersonii).  Such a discovery scores high on my geek-o-meter.  So, imagine how thrilled I was when, today, I spotted a couple of shooting stars whilst Vinodog 2 and I were out walking.  (V2 is the black and white bokeh in the photograph.)  What were the chances?  Perhaps simply an example of frequency illusion, I was nonetheless excited to discover the shooting stars growing in close proximity to Vinoland.
It is my hope, after suffering through so much rain this winter, that the array of wildflowers this spring will be full of new discoveries for me and the MQ.

Saturday, March 02, 2019

Last night's tipple: 3.

Last night Vinomaker and I went out to celebrate his birthday, finally.  We had originally planned to go out to eat last Friday, but Vinomaker was feeling a bit poorly and we ended up having to cancel our plans.  After rescheduling, yesterday evening we headed off to Gran Eléctrica in downtown Napa.
Always on the lookout for something curious in the vino-department, a particular white wine on the restaurant's wine list caught my eye.  The Ruth Lewandowski, 2017 'Naomi' Gibson Ranch Grenache Gris seemed to fit my curious-criterion, so I went ahead and ordered it.  Our server brought out the bottle and proceeded to give a little speech.  "I think this is my favourite wine on our list.  It's made by a gay Mormon with fruit he buys from California and makes into wine in Utah.  The winemaker wanted to be a ski-bum instead, however, he decided to start a winery."  Thanks for the editorial, I think, but I usually prefer it when a server just gets wine into my glass.  Some people love to assign labels: I just love to be assigned a glass for my wine.
As I sipped the wine, it dawned on me that the vintner and proprietor of Ruth Lewandowski Wines, Evan Lewandowski, is most likely not a practising Mormon.  Unfined and unfiltered, the slightly cloudy, almost colourless Naomi was a truly eye-opening wine: it takes a gifted winemaker who is a wine-drinker to make a wine as interesting as this - I'm just saying.  Made from the grey clone of Grenache (similar concept to my Pinot grigio/gris vines), Lewandowski does indeed source his grapes from a vineyard in the McDowell Valley AVA, up north from Vinoland in Mendocino County.  The fermentation process is started in California, but then the partially fermented juice is trucked to Mr.  Lewandowski's Salt Lake City warehouse-winery.
Peachy, citrusy, floral, with a crazy vanilla-pineappley-vibe and diaphanous-salinity, my initial reaction to the lofty acidity was that it could possibly render the Naomi undrinkable.  But no, everything just magically slipped into focus on my palate.  (And it paired wonderfully with Gran Eléctrica's upscale Mexican cuisine, though the food wasn't nearly as exciting as the wine.)
A lovely wine with an entertaining story, a nice little find.

Friday, March 01, 2019

Happy St. David's Day: 2019.

It is March 1st (or Mawrth 1af, if you're Welsh).  Happy St. David's Day!
There are quite a few patches of daffodils flowering around Vinoland.  Unfortunately, with all the wind and rain that the Napa Valley has been experiencing lately, they are looking a bit worse for wear.  They still appear cheery, however, and I smile as they catch my eye whilst pruning.  Again, Happy St. David's Day whether you are of Welsh extraction, or not.
Bore da!

Thursday, February 28, 2019

E Clampus Vitus.

Today, I wanted to write a post in celebration of a niece whose birthday it is.  (She's actually a leap-year baby, but y'know.)  Vino-niece, La Serenissima's oldest daughter, is a historian so I thought I'd do a quick Napa-history bit in her honour.  How do I possibly connect my niece, history, England, Utah and Napa together?  It could be tricky, but - with the help of an inconspicuous little plaque on the Silverado Trail, north of Yountville, against the fence of a Napa County corporation yard - I think I can pull it off.
I first spotted this modest plaque last year whilst I was stuck in traffic, but I wasn't able to photograph it until yesterday as I drove home from work on a deserted Silverado Trail.  Erected by E Clampus Vitus (ECV), Sam Brannan Chapter 1004, an organisation dedicated to the preservation of the heritage of the American West, the plaque marks the location in the Napa Valley of a World War II prisoner-of-war (POW) camp.  Apparently, the United States aided Great Britain with the detention of a surplus of POWs: Germans some of who, upon release, returned to Germany and then made their way back to eventually settle in the United States.
An interesting little history-factoid, or not?  ECV's motto is, improbably, Credo Quia Absurdum which, roughly translated from Latin, means "I believe it because it is absurd."  Titter, titter.
Happy birthday Vino-niece!

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Road Closed!

It is not often that you see roads being closed to through traffic in the Napa Valley.  Essentially, with very few arterial roads in the valley for locals and tourists alike to begin with, even one road closure can cause a major headache.  After two nights of substantial rainfall, this morning's commute to TWWIAGE was problematic.  So problematic, in fact, that only the winemaker and I made it in.  I made him a pot of coffee, myself a cup of tea and proceeded to answer some voice- and emails, etc.  It was very quiet at the winery.
Sitting in a long queue of traffic, awaiting my turn to drive through the water that was streaming over a low spot on the Silverado Trail, I was able to have a good look westward to where the Napa River had breached its banks and had submerged acres and acres of vineyards.  Submerged, as in the pruned, cordon-trained vines were fully under water.  I really can't complain about Vinoland's current soggy condition after seeing that.
The Napa River peaked at 11 pm last night: there is a lot of water everywhere in the Napa Valley.  The amount of precipitation, experienced as of late, is very reminiscent of the direful rains that fell during the winter of 2017.  I'm not a big fan of rain (I may have mentioned that before), but I am thankful that this rain event was nothing like that of Napa's record rainfall, set in 1862, of 80.62 inches.  Now that would have been something for me to complain about.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Last night's tipple: 2.

I love this wine.  I first tried it at a neighbour's Christmas gathering and immediately fell head over heels.  Delicate (almost ethereal), refreshing, laden with a bowl-of-red-berries-fruitiness, crisp and gracefully balanced acidity, this was the perfect wine for sipping whilst mingling and chit-chatting.  As one would imagine, I was very happy when my party-throwing neighbour recently gifted me a couple of bottles of it.
Domaine Allimant-Laugner Brut Rose NV (Crémant d'Alsace, AOC) is produced from 100% Pinot noir, is a very pale pink (I'm thinking not much skin contact) and is perilously easy to drink.  Priced well, so it falls into my cheap and cheerful category of wines, I will certainly be stocking up on this little gem.  (I find myself enjoying sparkling wines now even more than I ever have before.)  Vinomaker wasn't quite so enamoured with this wine as I was, which I am totally fine with because it means that there is more for moi.  It's a tough job, but somebody has to imbibe in this eminently appealing Alsatian wine.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Make haste.

Some nice sunny, springlike weather today was exactly what I needed to get a start on pruning the Syrah vines.  I would have started yesterday, but the wind was just too strong.  Armed with my Felcos (actually, I grabbed a pair of Vinomaker's as I couldn't locate either of mine), and a pair of loppers for the big cuts, I headed out into the vineyard with my trusty Vinodog 2 bringing up the rear.  That was until V2 spotted the neighbour's horses.  It was then that the quiet, contemplative discipline that is pruning quickly devolved into an uproarious disturbance.  Sigh.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

The Golden Vineyard.

This past Tuesday, the 19th, was Vinomaker's birthday, whoo hoo!  To celebrate the anniversary of his birth, I bought yours truly, ahem, Vinomaker a bottle of Vigna Dorata Brut (Franciacorta DOCG).  I am just so good to myself him.  Titter, titter.
In all honesty not the world's most complex sparkling wine, but very enjoyable nonetheless, and seemingly a tad unbalanced on first impression, the Vigna Dorata opened up to reward the palate and nose with huge dollops of delicious appley-ness.  A blend of 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot noir, I, I mean we, quite enjoyed this bottle of metodo classico Italian fizzy stuff.
I also gifted Vinomaker a bottle of Château Du Tariquet Bas-Armagnac.  Armagnac is one of Vinomaker's favourite after dinner tipples and this particular bottle, aged for 15 years and made exclusively from the Folle blanche grape, apparently did not disappoint.  I wouldn't know, I am not a spirits drinker, I'll have to take his word for it.  More bubbles, please.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Meteorological mélange.

In less than 24 hours Vinoland experienced an epic variety of weather; rain, hail, frost, fog and glorious sunshine.  (And an earthquake.  Just a magnitude 3.7, close to Yountville). 
It was not forecast to rain today.  And it didn't.  Instead it hailed, again.  Vinodog 2 and I were treated to a fabulous rainbow, over a neighbouring vineyard, on our rather soggy afternoon perambulation.  An interesting weather day.
I did, however, manage to get all the Orange muscat and Pinot grigio canes tied down whilst the sun was shining.  In fact, I got a little bit warm working my way from vine to vine, but I loved it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Wanted: an ark.

There has been a lot of rain lately, a lot.  And I may have mentioned it once or twice before, but I really don't like rain.  I like to be able to go out and about whenever I want to, and stay dry.  Simple as that.
It really bothers me when it rains so much that the road in front of TWWIAGE vanishes under the flooding, Napa County closes said road, and then I have to navigate through the deluge to head home.  Sigh.
I must admit, it was mildly entertaining watching some motorists hit the standing water at full speed and momentarily disappear from view.

Friday, February 08, 2019

Don't start me, fuzzy-buddy.

No, stop!  I am not ready for budbreak.  This promiscuous, young Viognier vine, the only Viognier vine in Vinoland, is trying its hardest to get going for the season.  I made it my job to set the little fellow straight, but not before I finished pruning the Pinot grigio vines. 
A good example of apical dominance in Vitis vinifera, albeit a very subtle one, this stunted lateral shoot was having delusions of grandeur.  The whole unit was removed (as is all the lateral growth of this nature), but not before the prospect of an early start to the growing season gave me, well, a little start.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Brass monkey weather.

There are no monkeys in Vinoland, but if there were, well, they'd be cold.  Yesterday and today, the Napa Valley has experienced its first real frosts of the winter.  There was one chilly day after the new year, but in no way was it cold enough to discommode any cannonballs.  We have been having a good amount of rain, though.
It was a crisp 29°F when I got up, nevertheless I ventured out into the vineyard to take this photograph.  I love it.  My drive to work revealed that the Mayacamas and the Vaca Mountains both had a light dusting of snow, beautiful.  And, at the top of the valley, Mount St. Helena was adorned with a white cape.  I felt like I was in Lake Tahoe, not the Napa Valley.  Very pretty.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

I like lichen...

...but I'm besotted with bryophytes, aka mosses.  Which is just as well as Vinoland is covered in the green stuff right now: everywhere is very moist.  There has been quite a lot of rain thus far in 2019 and more is on its way.
Unfortunately, I don't know much about mosses.  I think moss is a fascinating plant, the way it can go dormant and survive through California's arid summers alone is amazing.  But with about 13,000 different species worldwide it is nigh impossible for me to identify any that are thriving in Vinoland right now.
I started pruning the Pinot grigio vines yesterday and it was a little concerning to me to be trampling all over the myriad of mosses that are growing between the rows and near the vines.  My anthropomorphism is raging right now, I'm contemplating wearing earplugs so I can be spared the bawling of the bryophytes.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Choose your Chardonnay.

It's a tough job, but somebody has to do it.  Another staff blind-tasting at TWWIAGE this time squared off the 2016 Chardonnay (CH) against five other 2016s.  Once again, the TWWIAGE contender happened to be my favourite of the bunch.  For me, the second best wine turned out to be a 2016 Gary Farrell, Russian River Selection (Russian River Valley AVA).  My tasting notes were thus; candy, caramel apple, toast, nice mouthfeel.  A rather lovely little wine.
My least favourite wine, and the lowest rank amongst the majority of my fellow co-workers (great taste buds taste alike?), was a 2016 Mer Soleil Reserve (Santa Lucia Highlands AVA).  In my opinion, this wine was absolutely undrinkable.  And, surprise, surprise, or not, this wine hails from the cellars of the Wagner Family of Wines (Caymus...titter, titter).  Who drinks this stuff?  Apparently someone does because the Wagners make 59,000 cases of this plonk.
I'm so glad that there are alternative winemaking styles being employed with Chardonnay nowadays.  I personally never bought into the California style of this the most impressionable of grape varieties.  More choice is always good for the consumer, just don't choose the Mer Soleil.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Last night's tipple.

I love bubbly, I do.  I generally prefer a Blanc de noirs over a Blanc de blancs, but, honestly, if it is fresh and well balanced I'll drink it.  So when I was introduced to Tipp Rambler (TR), which is 100% Pinot noir, I was intrigued.  And thirsty.
A novel concept, in snazzy packaging (that almost Tiffany Blue, very attractive), I didn't quite get this little tipple at first.  It wasn't that TR was a bad wine; it wasn't flawed, it's just that it tasted like a sparkling rosé not a sparkling wine.  A subtle distinction, I know, but tasting is in the, erm, taste buds of the beholder, or something like that.  And it did not go with my grilled salmon, a tad disappointing.
It wasn't until I visited the TR website that I started to understand this little wine-offering.  I believe psychology has a lot to do with enjoying any wine and sitting around Vinoland on a Saturday evening just wasn't the best way to experience TR.  The whole concept of a portable libation, as a take-along to a picnic, a BYOB party or a barbeque, now rang an oenological-bell in my head.  TR comes in a four-pack, each bottle containing 187 ml.  I was gifted just one bottle of TR but it is something that I would indeed buy.  I'm not the TR target, but then I'm rarely anybody's target.  Sigh.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

A quick fix.

Still suffering from a bit of a shopping-hangover from Christmas, this afternoon, when I had resolved to start pruning the Vinoland vineyard, I was faced with a bit of a dilemma; having worn out the left thumb of my old pruning gloves I really needed a new pair, today.  Not wanting to drive over to a certain hardware store on the other side of Napa to procure a pair, I decided to do a quick patch job with duct tape (AKA gaffer tape in Blighty) on my old gloves.  It did the trick.  In fact, I doubled up the tape and have decided to try to make my old faithfuls last one more pruning season.  Gloved-fingers crossed.