Wednesday, June 17, 2020

A Tale of Three Wineries.

Or, perhaps:  Love (Ethics and Betrayal) in the Time of Covid.
When the Governor of California shut down all Napa Valley tasting rooms on March 16th, no one knew what to expect.  It was an unprecedented situation and the response to the immediate cessation of all hospitality business varied greatly from winery to winery.  Here are three tales, two uplifting, one of woe, of how a few wineries handled the financial, and mental, well-being of their personnel.
Winery no. 1, family owned, kept all of their staff working.  They found their employees lots of different things to do; telemarketing, shipping (because ecommerce went through the ceiling), filing, stuffing envelopes, cleaning, etc.  My source (and I do have one) did not lose a single hour of pay.  From now on, I will be buying this winery's wine in support of their admirable commitment to their staff.
Winery no. 2, a large international concern, simply paid all of their staff through June 1st to stay at home.  And stay safe.  Sure, the parent company of this winery has plenty of money and could afford to take this approach, but they didn't have to.  (So much for the big, evil corporations widely vilified in many media outlets.)  I already buy a lot of this winery's product and I will continue to because I think they cared for and treated their team in a very honourable way.
Winery no. 3, another family owned winery, sent some of their hospitality staff packing on March 16th and then...crickets.  When the restrictions on tasting rooms were lifted, the furloughed staff only learned that the tasting room was reopening when the winery posted about it on social media.  A few days later their employment was terminated, one staff member just 51 days shy of working for the family for 15 years.  Classy.  Not one drop of this winery's wine will pass my lips ever again, it would leave a very bitter taste.
It was difficult coming up with a photograph with which to illustrate this post.  How does one capture in a picture an example of a loathsome and heartless business practice.  The image of a big, steamy dollop of chicken manure popped into my head (I have a lot of it around nowadays).  But chicken poop is chock-a-block with goodies -  nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium - it's great stuff.  No, winery no. 3 is just plain chicken s**t.  So I went with another avian themed photo instead, the bird.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Drip, drop, dribble.

I spent the entire day up close and personal with every single vine in Vinoland.  Tomorrow the vineyard is being sulphured so I needed to get all the shoots stuffed up under the trellis.  I also spent some time removing some laterals in the fruit zone.  Wow, there seems to be plenty of extra vigour this season.  All that surplus greenery just gets in the way of where the sulphur needs to go, so it was, "Off with their heads!"  It's okay, they don't feel a thing.
The vines also got their first watering of the year.  That meant checking every emitter, two for each vine, to make sure that they weren't clogged up with gunk.  All in all not bad, only a handful needed to be replaced which is much better than some past years.  The recycled water we are now using is much easier on the emitters than Vinoland's well water.
Drink up kids!

Friday, June 12, 2020

All five words.

Thus concludes my mini series of 'Wine Word Association'. 
In psychology it is believed that words can reveal something about a person's subconscious mind.  So then, what did my whimsical word game reveal?  In summary:
Well, fancy that!  Titter, titter.
Alright, I'm finished with all that nonsense, fun though it was.  I need to return to writing more meaningful posts.  For example, stuff about my loyal Vinodog 2, all things flora and fauna and, of course, viticulture - after all, there is no wine without wine grapes.

Thursday, June 11, 2020


One word: History.  Groth Vineyards & Winery made Napa Valley history when their 1985 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon received the first 100 point score (for a domestic wine) from wine critic Robert Parker Jr.  There is only ever one first time for anything, just one.  The first perfect score is a great history to have and Groth owns it.  In reading histories of the Napa Valley, it bothers me when I read articles about some or other bog-standard Napa Valley winery and the way in which said winery has helped shape the valley that both locals and visitors see today.  Groth is never mentioned.  (In the same way it irks me when a German, Charles Krug, is credited with producing the first commercial wine in Napa, when historical documents quite clearly show it was an Englishman, John Patchett.)  I always believe credit should be given where it is due.
Groth also have a history of making varietal wines that taste like what the label purports to be in the bottle: 38 years of that particular accomplishment to be exact.  (One would think that was a simple ask, but not every Napa Valley winery can claim that feat.)  Personally, my favourite Groth wine will always be any vintage of their Oakville Estate Cabernet Sauvignon  The Oakville is my go-to cab when I want to drink something that truly tastes like a cab.
Groth most recently proved that they are not the new-kids-on-the-winemaking-block when it comes to producing wonderful Cabernet sauvignon.  Groth's 2016 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon was named no. 4 in Wine Spectator's top 100 wines of 2019 (an international list).
So what's the wine like?  Gorgeous.  The nose, redolent with blackcurrant, black cherry, lavender and mint is everything one would want in an Oakville AVA Cabernet sauvignon.  The mouth has more black fruit, red current, raspberry, elegant tannin structure and perfect acid (that is on point, like the acid in cranberries).  Those peeps at Groth know a thing or two about making a winning red wine...again, and again, and again.
Groth is history.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020


One word: Tannins.  I cannot count the number of times that I have been told, in almost a folkloric way, that a Mayacamas Vineyards Cabernet sauvignon when young is so tannic that it is almost impossible to enjoy.  It is advised that one ages this wine for 20 to 25 years before drinking it.  (Hmm, that would take a lot of forethought.)  I have tasted a few vintages of this winery's Cabernet sauvignons (CS) in the past and, yes, I found them to be tannic.  I have also tried a barrel sample of their CS (and Chardonnay) when I visited the winery for a hillside viticulture class (as part of my degree programme at Napa Valley College) and it was, of course, very tannic.  So I was very curious to try this, not quite, 26 year old bottling from one of the classic wineries and much lauded producers of CS in California.
Tannins are naturally occurring phenolic compounds (technically, they are plant derived polyphenols) found in wine-grape skins, seeds and stems.  Tannins in wine are felt, not tasted - they are the textural component of a wine that has that astringent, tooth enamel stripping effect on the mouth.  CS as a wine-grape variety is inherently high in tannins.  And this particular wine is made from mountain fruit, so tannin extraction is elevated.  In addition to contributing texture, tannins act as a preservative enabling the cellaring of wine for an extended period.  So how tannic was this 2½ decades old wine?  Drum roll, please.
The 1994 Mayacamas Cabernet Sauvignon was simply fabulous.  The cork was a little dry and broke on removal, usually not a good sign.  The colour was amazing, a deep garnet, showing very little age in the meniscus.  On the nose, cedar, blackberries, blueberries and an appealing savouriness.  On the palate, cedar again, woodsy, red currants, black fruits and vanilla.  Amazingly long finish.  Amazing!  Velvety and silky, but firm and precise structured tannins, pepper and other spices.  Delicious.  Despite how tannic this wine may have been upon release, right now it is elegant, luscious, classy, refined and mind blowing.  I'd predict that the 1994 still has many years of ageing ahead of it.  Thank goodness for polyphenols.
Mayacamas oozes tannins.

Tuesday, June 09, 2020


One word: Olé.  I have to admit, 90% of the times that I have enjoyed drinking a Herrera wine it has been at a party; a blessing of the winery, Cinco de Mayo celebrations, release parties, a child's christening.  Just name a special occasion and I have been there enjoying wine.
In the same manner as hearing Greek music transports me back to the idyllic island of Ithaki, or the aroma of French roast coffee firmly plonks me down amid the boulevards of Paris, drinking this particular wine has me conjuring up some convivial, festive event in my head.  Herrera is a second label from winemaker Rolando Herrera, co-founder of Mi Sueño Winery.  Each small production wine in the Herrera portfolio is named for Rolando's wife and their six children.  Meet Lorena, the matriarch.
The 2017 Herrera Selección Lorena, Red Wine is not a shy wine: it is bold and spirited like its namesake.  On the nose, hot sagey-undergrowth (a descriptor I never could have understood back in England), black cherry, plum, vanilla and cedar abound.  On the palate, perfect acid, candied raspberry, berry compote, vanilla (could be a mixed berry pie, but it isn't) and smooth, lush tannins.  This wine is a wine-blanket for ones senses, nothing is left out, everything is covered, more than delivers on the quaffability-quotient.  Party in a bottle.
Herrera embodies olé.

Monday, June 08, 2020


One word: Restraint.  Farella have always practiced the art of producing finessed wines that age well and pair beautifully with food.  (Indeed, the winery's motto is 'Farella with food'.)  Pioneers of the planting of Cabernet sauvignon grapes in, what is now, the Coombsville AVA (2011), Farella's winemaking philosophy hasn't changed since the winery was founded in 1985.
Not every wine has to be a big, bold Napa Valley red, sometimes a more sober approach to wine making is more appealing.  Farella wines are excellent because of their subtlety.  The 2019 'La Luce' Sauvignon Blanc is a fair representation of the restraint that Farella exercise in all their winemaking.  I've had this wine many times before.  Lovely hint of grass on the nose with pear, mango, pineapple and honeysuckle - clean.  A little green apple skin on the palate, gooseberry, a soupçon of minerality and a trace of bitter almond on the finish.  In my honest opinion, if I was going to age this wine I would have liked a tad more acid.  But who am I kidding?  The wine was gone with one meal.
Farella shows restraint.

Sunday, June 07, 2020


One word: Gratitude.  Actually this word is not necessarily about the wine, but rather the wine's proprietors.  Mountain Tides (MT) is a wine project headed up by Scott Kirkpatrick and his wife Allison Watkins (best photography teacher ever, hence the cool label).  Remarkably, although a very small concern, MT have been offering a 30% discount on their wines since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic if purchased by, or for, a health care worker.  (The discount code is the first thing that comes up on their website.)  Amazing, I don't know how they do it, their wines are so value priced to begin with.  (Simply explained to me, they both have health care workers in their families and they are very appreciative of the sacrifices that doctors and nurses et al., are making during these difficult times.)  Wines with a purpose.
Concentrating on one grape variety Petite Sirah (PS), with which to produce the entire MT line up of wines, Scott and Allison source all of their grapes from more affordable vineyards and grape growing areas (i.e., more accessible fruit pricing than in Napa and Sonoma).  Smart.
The 2019 Carbonic Petite Sirah is a fun wine.  A beautiful ruby hue (packaged in a clear glass bottle), quite light bodied, low in alcohol (11.5%), pepper, cranberry, plum, perfume, earth and with a hint of those unmistakable PS chalky tannins on the finish.  It was suggested that I chill the wine before trying it, so I did, but I much preferred it when it warmed up to room temperature.  The MT Carbonic (yes, like Beaujolais) PS is a fresh take on a wine varietal that people don't often consider trying.  Go try it.
Mountain Tides has gratitude.

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

Wine games.

With a particular bottle of wine in mind, I headed into Vinoland's wine cellar for a look-see.  Yikes!  I didn't realise that there is so much crappy, old wine in there.  There's a lot of good stuff, but there is a fair percentage of wine that needs to disappear - down the toilet if necessary.  Then, I had a thought.  I should select a bottle a week, taste the wine and post about it even if the wine is awful and undrinkable.
I remembered that I like doing series/themes of posts.  Amongst some in the past, there have been; Winery Christmas Lights (WCL), Napa Valley's American Viticultural Area Signs (AVA Sign), Wines of the World (WOTW) and, Thud's personal favourite, Week of Weeds (WOW).  Titter, Titter.  (To see all posts related to these series, click on respective labels below.)
As my search continued, dodging cobwebs (some with spiders in them), stubbing my toes on cases and almost triggering a small avalance of teetering bottles, I had fun trying to recall the provenance of individual bottles I espied.  Where did I buy this bottle?  Was it a gift?  Have I been to this winery?  Memories, mental images and single words popped into my head like a game of word association.  Or rather, in this instance, wine word association (WWA).  A ha!  A new idea for yet another (short) series formed in my mind.  One wine, one word.  I grabbed five random (local) wines with which to start.
Never did find the original bottle of wine that I was looking for.
Stay tuned.