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!