Wednesday, July 29, 2020


As I expected, the onset of veraison in the Pinot grigio vines was not too far behind the Syrah.  About a week earlier than in 2019, walking through the vineyard this particular cluster caught my eye due to the dramatic contrast between the deep, grey-blue and the verdant green of some adjacent grapes.
I love the randomness of the change in colour of the grape berries in a given cluster.  Of course, there are some vines that are more advanced than others (they tend to be the strongest vines in perhaps better areas/soil in the vineyard), but that doesn't make veraison's progress any more predictable.  Nope, the vines know the exact sugar accumulating-schedule they are on: it just appears to be haphazard to the casual observer.  Like me.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Rock 'N' Roll Wine School.

I did something a bit out of the ordinary today: I went wine tasting.  What?  Is that really that unusual for Vinogirl?  No, not really.  But please, let me elucidate.  I went wine tasting with an in the flesh, genuine rock star - and his lovely family.  Yup, I went drinking with the stars (sounds like a TV show, maybe it should be) at Black Cat Vineyard (BCV).  Being a bit starstruck, it would all have been a bit of a blur if I hadn't been roused out of my reverie by the fabulous, expertly crafted wines at BCV.  A truly fun, and tasty, event.
When it comes to producing fine wine, Tracey Reichow is a bit of a rock star in her own right.  Winemaker and proprietress of BCV, Tracey is a brilliant person to taste wine with, very engaging and terrifically passionate about her art.  Our little, socially distanced group was schooled on the wonders and trials of making wine; the challenges and rewards that different vintages can bring; and the varying approaches and skill sets needed to work with fruit sourced from different AVAs across the Napa Valley.
Our tasting began with a 2018 Napa Valley Chardonnay.  Focused and crisp (lots of Granny Smith apple), aromatic and generous with just a touch of oak (quite Mersault-esque).  The rest of the tasting was comprised of red wines all from the 2017 vintage; the Winemaker's Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, the Family Cuvée, the Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon and the Rutherford Cabernet Franc.  All beautiful and distinctive.
My favourite amongst the lineup was the Cabernet Franc (CF).  At once intense and subtle, the fresh yet super-ripe-perfumey-raspberry component was delightful.  As the wine opened up in my glass the telltale vegetal characteristic of the varietal began to pop, but not in a bell pepper-like way.  No, the green character in the CF was more like gently bruised grape leaves, sun-warmed and earthy.  Stunningly complex, the CF went from strength to strength, palate-pleasing with supple, polished tannins and just a hint of dark chocolate.  Yum!
Overall, the entire tasting was a lesson in quaffability.  #funfortracey and everyone else.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Get ready, get set, ripen!

Yup, it's that time of year, again.  I know, I start posts about veraison off with the same thing every year.  But really, there is nothing that I could write that would better illuminate the onset of veraison than a snapshot of the little marvel that Mother Nature visits upon grape-growers year after year.  I love it. 
These are the very first berries to begin veraison in Vinoland and, as usual, it is the Syrah (a particular old, gnarly vine on 110R.)  I'm a little more on top of things than last year when I was a little tardy to the party.  Be sure, the Pinot grigio won't be far behind.

Monday, July 20, 2020


Waterberry sort of sounds like a quaint hamlet in a fairy tale of old, but it's not.  No, waterberry is a grapevine disorder that interrupts the development of ripening berries.  Waterberry is known to manifest itself in two distinct ways; one occurs on the very tip of the rachis (which I've observed over the years in Vinoland's Cabernet sauvignon); the other, as photographed in the Pinot grigio above, can impact berries anywhere throughout the cluster.  The affected berries become flaccid, shrivel and eventually turn raisin-like.  Certain grape varieties are more susceptible to the disorder than others.
What causes waterberry?  Hmm.  Studies have shown that there is no clear relationship between the disorder and irrigation practices, although heat stress is thought to be one likely cause.  It is possible that waterberry occurs when grapevines are overcropped, giving rise to competition in the vines for a limited amount of the nutrients and materials needed for both fruit and tissue development.  Possibly the xylem vessels in the pedicels become plugged up with tyloses (tyloses are outgrowths of parenchyma cells: parenchyma is soft cellular tissue) thus obstructing the movement of goodies to the berries.  It also has been noted that in growing operations were girdling is practiced there seems to be elevated instances of the disorder.  Who knows for sure?  I don't.   
It's not like I see this phenomenon every growing season.  In fact, I had to actively seek out a Pinot grigio cluster with waterberry damage for this post.  Growing conditions are different each year, one vintage is not like the next.  And the relatively small occurrences of waterberry in Vinoland's grapevines do not negatively impact the overall crop.     

Friday, July 17, 2020

Some privacy, please!

I love butterflies.  I recently heard a character on a television programme describe them as, "Worms with wings."  And I suppose they are, really, but I still think they are beautiful.  A favourite butterfly from my childhood is the Cabbage White (Pieris rapae).  They were frequent visitors to the nasturtiums and stock that my mother had planted outside the living room window and could be spotted all summer long fluttering over the lawn from flowerbed to flowerbed.
The cabbage white is so named because it is rather fond of all cruciferous vegetables.  Too fond, actually.  This small butterfly is probably one of the most successful invasive species on the planet.  Having been spread from Europe to all over the globe (by human travel mostly), it is considered a very worrisome pest when it comes to agricultural crops.
There are a lot of cabbage whites around Vinoland right now, they seem to be especially partial to hanging around a few stands of mallow that are flowering.  Problem is, for me, they don't alight with their wings open (unlike the Pipevine Swallowtail and Common Buckeye) and they are constantly flitting to and fro, so they are hard to photograph.  And that's why I disturbed the privacy of this couple (wings closed, but stationary), who were busy working on producing a whole new generation of mustard munching caterpillars.  Sorry, don't mind me.  Carry on.

Monday, July 13, 2020

The new house white.

I love Sauvignon Blanc (SB).  I think I drink more SB than any other varietal wine.  And especially when the weather is toasty, which it has been this past week.  The right SB can simply hit all the spots.
I had almost exclusively been drinking one particular producer's SB for the past 15 years. (I'm a creature of habit, so sue me.)  Not anymore.  Some relationships just need a clean break.  So, without further adieu, let me introduce my new SB crush: the 2019 Laird Family Estate (Napa Valley).  Love it!
The Laird SB is primarily fermented in stainless steel tanks, with just 15% fermented in neutral oak barrels, so it is clean and crisp.  Floral and citrus aromas on the nose, with some tropical and melon notes on the palate.  Winemaker Brian Mox does a great job with all of Laird's wines.  Vinomaker is partial to Laird's Cold Creek Ranch Chardonnay, whilst I have been a fan of their Cold Creek Ranch Pinot Grigio for years.
New love affairs are so exciting.  I think I can foresee my Laird liaison lasting for quite some time.

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Independence Day: 2020.

Happy 244th birthday, America!
Being in the midst of a pandemic may have dampened this year's festivities for most Americans, but not for Vinodog 2.  Donning yet another pair of patriotic, but cheap, sunglasses she is ready for any fun today will bring (which may include a little ZZ Top).
Around the USA, Independence Day celebrations have been drastically curtailed this year, but I hope everyone can find some joy in the spirit of the holiday.
And remember, be grateful and gracious.
Oh...and God Save the Queen.

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

A few words from the Goode doctor.

Yay!  It's my 1500th post on Vinsanity.  Whoo hoo!  This time last year I didn't think I wanted to continue blogging.  But here I am, still going on about nothing much in particular.  Today, however, I have something special to post.  Something quite particular, in fact.  An interview.
Dr. Jamie Goode PhD is a scientist, newspaper columnist, award winning author, wine judge, lecturer and an expert on all things oenos.  He travels extensively and is much in demand as an authority on wine-grape growing regions around the globe - places the rest of us just get to read about in books.  Sigh.
I am currently reading his book  I Taste Red (2016) which is a study of the science of tasting wine.  The title refers to synaesthesia which is a condition that muddles up the senses.  I experienced synaesthesia myself once.  The experience was, to say the least, bizarre.  It's a good book, intense, but interesting.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, Dr. Goode has been hosting web-forums on Instagram (@drjamiegoode) and Zoom which I have been thoroughly enjoying.  He also has a daily wine review series called Wine on Camera (Instagram).  Sometimes the internet connection leaves a little to be desired (illustrated by the fuzzy screenshot above), but it's only a minor bother.  
Anyway, here is what the doctor had to say:

Vinogirl:  Are you drinking wine right now?  If so, what is it?
Jamie Goode:  No, I had a big night with friends last night (socially distanced and outside in a garden, of course) with some amazing bottles, and it was very late. So I’m rather tired today.

VG:  You're a scientist.  Is it hard for you to enjoy a glass of wine and not always be tempted to break it down into its chemical components?
JG:  I think there are different levels of enjoying wine. Sometimes I examine what I’m drinking in a sort of scientific way. Other times, I drink. Some wines have something interesting to say, and then I pay attention. Other times, the wine is just wine. Science is good at answering some questions, but wine needs more than science to understand it. I’m also not so keen on reductionistic approaches to wine. A chemical analysis of a wine can’t tell us much about its quality. Breaking a wine down into its components doesn’t tell us what the wine is like – the wine is a whole.

VG:  What is your take on writing reviews of bad wine?  The less said the better?  Or full disclosure?
JG:  The problem with reviewing bad wine is that if you get it wrong, then you might have damaged the reputation and feelings of a producer. A false positive is much less problematic than a false negative. Our perception is not always right. If you taste a wine and it seems to be really bretty, for example, sometimes it’s best to just say nothing about that wine rather than pan it. Some writers enjoy saying negative things, but there is a person behind the wine, and often a small business. We have to be careful here.

VG:  During the shelter-in-place, I've watched a lot of your Instagram/Zoom presentations.  I like the virtual-access afforded to the consumer of some really great wines, producers and regions.  Is this something that you'll continue in the future?
JG:  Yes, I enjoy doing it. The tasting wine on camera videos have been very well received. Producers have approached me about getting their wines tasted live. The interviews with producers have been great, but internet issues can make them a bit tricky: you just don’t know how good other peoples’ connections are.

VG:  You seemed to be having a blast with Ernie Loosen. Do you have a favourite amongst the online presentations and virtual tastings that you have hosted thus far?  
JG:  I really enjoyed chatting with Ernie, who is great value. It was also good to connect with Elaine Brown, and it was super fun to chat with Anna Jorgensen in the Alentejo: she’s just taken over her sizeable family property and is making some really interesting changes, especially in the vineyard.

VG:  You actually contracted Covid-19 early on and spoke about losing your sense of smell and taste.  How scary was that for someone who earns his living smelling and tasting wine?
JG:  It’s pretty scary when your career is potentially over! Fortunately it came back. But for quite a while I was having to ask deep questions of myself. What would I be without my career? There was a lot to process.

VG:  I was recently re-reading Wine & Philosophy (2008).  Twelve years on, how are your orbitofrontal cortex and amygdala holding up?
JG:  I’m really fascinated by perception, which is why I wrote a book on it. You can only really make sense of perception with a multidisciplinary approach. The brain really is remarkable.

VG:  It is a little unusual for a wine-writer to be so philosophical.  Wax lyrical about which dead philosopher you'd like to share a bottle of wine with?
JG:  I guess I am unusual, but I like to think deeply. Sharing a bottle of wine with a dead philosopher? I’d go big and right back to ancient Greece, and have a night out with Plato. There’d be a language barrier, but with a Babel fish in my ear, I think we’d have some interesting discussions. I’d be pretty curious to taste the wines he drinks, too – wine back then would have been quite different, but maybe not as different…. Hmmm. It would be great to catch one of the symposia, too. Lots of smart people drinking wine together and musing on deep issues. 

VG:  I am impressed that you seem really interested in viticulture, again a tad unusual for a wine-writer.  Where does that interest spring from? Is it just part of the holistic and scientific way in which you approach your work?
JG:  I did a PhD in plant biology, and I have a love for all things botanical. Viticulture is at a very interesting place right now. It’s incredibly hard to do good experiments in vineyards if the readout is wine quality, and so if you rely on the scientific literature you probably won’t get a very good understanding of what’s going on in the vineyard. I find travelling and talking to people is a great way to learn.

VG:  You've traveled all around the world and been in some fabulous and storied vineyards.  Do you find it difficult to stop yourself from hugging the odd vine, or two?
JG:  I have this bizarre affection for good vineyards, and I’ve seen some famous ones. But the vine should just be part of the vineyard, not the whole focus. It should be seen as part of an agroecosystem. I love vineyards that are full of life. It’s also amazing to see vineyards where the vines are incredibly old. There’s something special about an old vineyard, even if they look a bit raggedy sometimes.

VG:  I know you used to grow a little back garden Pinot noir.  If you produced your own wine, what grape variety would you pick?
JG:  It depends where I am in the world. I’d love to work with Palomino, Trousseau, Pineau d’AunisAlbariñoPinencTintaBarocca and Pais

VG:  Although I know you love dogs, I don't take you for a critter-wine-label type of person.  What type of packaging do you think gives a wine shelf-appeal?
JG:  It depends on the segment, but for fine wine, good typography, simplicity and elegance, and wax.

VG:  And a name for your virtual wine?
JG:  Tetraphis pellucida. It’s the latin name of the moss I first grew in sterile culture when I began my PhD.

VG:  Besides yourself, who is your favourite English wine writer?
JG:  Andrew Jefford.

VG:  I personally don't believe it is possible, but do you love Hugh Johnson as much as I do?
JG:  His writing is effortless and a joy to read. But I’m guessing you win here.

VG:  When the travel ban is lifted, where will you be off to first?
JG:  Maybe Canada.

VG:  Next time you visit Napa, are we going to hang out and dish the dirt on some wineries?
JG:  Totally. I think we’d hit it off.

Thank you for indulging me, Dr. Goode.  
For more from Dr. Goode, go to