Sunday, September 27, 2020


Like a mad chemist, Vinomaker has been busy reading up on and researching new selections of commercial yeasts that he may want to try on a Vinoland fermentation.  And this is one he came up with - Lalvin's ICV OKAY.  Cool name, if nothing else, but this specific selection of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, promises rapid alcoholic fermentation and low SO2, H2S and acetaldehyde production in wines.  Vinomaker is planning to use this yeast on one batch of Vinoland's Syrah: he loves experimenting with different fermentations.
Okey-dokey then, we'll just have to wait and see how well this particular domesticated organism performs.  Ferment on, little yeasties.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

My spectacular Syrah.

This morning, starting at the crack of dawn, was harvest-day for Vinoland's Syrah (SY).  And, wow, the fruit looked fabulous and (now that the grapes have been processed) it tastes terrific.  Vital statistics are; 23.6 °Brix, pH 3.63 and TA 4.40 - all in a good range.  To celebrate I opened a bottle of our 2015 SY with dinner - delightful. 
I love farming SY, it is such an easy grapevine to get along with.  Sadly, that's all my SY interaction done with for 2020.  I am going to wait a while before I begin to even think about starting to prune in early 2021.  Besides, I still have to get the Cabernet sauvignon picked.  
Now it's time for Vinomaker to work his magic. 

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Mike & Molly.

Sounds like a sitcom, but in this particular case it isn't.  Instead, Mike & Molly Hendry is a really solid Zinfandel from an old head-trained vineyard (not far from Vinoland) in the Coombsville AVA.  Mike Hendry is nephew to George Hendry of one of my favourite wineries, Hendry.  Must be some good wine-DNA in the Hendry genes.  The 2016, R.W. Moore Vineyard is my type of Zinfandel.  Hailing from a vineyard that is 115 years young, on the nose this Zinfandel is clean and bright with brambly fruits and spice.  In the mouth this wine is focused with candied raspberry, perfumey-blackberry, mulling spices, vanilla essence and acid.  Yes, great acidity which balances the wine really well, so that it doesn't display any hotness on the palate.  A lovely Zin.  Like all Zinfandels, it's not a wine that I would cellar for an extended period of time.  But why would I?  This wine is one to be enjoyed right now.

Friday, September 18, 2020


As the idiom goes, "there's no smoke without fire."  There is also no fire without ash - a lot of it - and everything in Napa is covered in ash.
Venturing into Vinoland's Cabernet sauvignon grapes today to perform a sugar sample (22.8 °Brix, they're on a good trajectory), I couldn't help but notice how much ash is on the fruit.  This fiery-growing season, it seems grape-growers have more to worry about than just smoke taint.  I don't recall ash being this much of an issue in the calamitous fires of 2017.  Always something new in farming.  If it isn't an insidious insect infestation, it's a natural disaster. 
The air quality the past three days has been the clearest and most smoke free since the 18th of August, thank goodness.  However, the wind is supposed to shift and bring the smoke back into the Bay Area on Saturday.  A reminder that a lot of California is still on fire.
As with the Pinot grigo, I will have Vinomaker go through the vineyard with a leaf blower, prior to harvest, and try to dislodge some of the ash on the berries.  Not a vineyard operation I ever could have imagined needing to be performed, but clean fruit is the goal.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Grapey-miscellany and stuff, etc.

Two days of doing stuff.  But nothing particularly riveting.  A bit like all of 2020, to be honest.  Sigh.
Yesterday morning, to give Vinomaker a hand, I spent some time rehydrating yeasts for the Pinot grigio and Orange muscat alcoholic fermentations.  (Photo is of Cross Evolution.)  Like a mad professor, Vinomaker is always experimenting with different yeasts, especially for the white wine grapes.  It is rather interesting, and something one wouldn't necessarily have the freedom to do on a commercial scale.  The varied yeast strains really do produce distinct wines.  There were five batches in all and consequently the kitchen smelled like yeast for hours.
I also performed the first Syrah sugar sample of the season - 22.8 °Brix, not bad.  The seeds are almost completely brown and the berries have good flavour.  I ate quite a bit of the stuff as I walked through the vineyard sampling.  Sun warmed grapes are the best snack.
This morning I watched a couple of webinars, one was eminently better than the other.  Today's guest on Behind the Wines was Wink Lorch. Wink (what a simply brilliant name) who is English, is an expert and author of books on the wines and vineyards of Jura and Savoie.  I can't remember the last time I had a wine from either French Alpine region, but it was probably in the Wines of the World class I took in 2012.  The lively discussion on the history, pedigree and DNA of such grape varieties as Savagnin and Mondeuse was great grapey-geek stuff.!

Saturday, September 12, 2020

A short tale of a sherry-sipper.

In my family lore there is the story of how, like the current monarch Queen Elizabeth II, my grandmother had two birthdays.  ER II, like all English monarchs since the mid 1700s, has a real birthday and an official birthday.  The date of the latter birthday, like much in rainy England, is dictated by the weather (too silly not to be true).  The circumstances surrounding the fact that my grandmother had two birthdays were not so, ceremonious.  Or weather related.
The family friend who had been tasked with registering the newborn's birth, on behalf of my great-grandmother who was on bed rest, was unfortunately illiterate.  Exactly one whole week had passed and the poor woman, unable to read or write, was not educated enough to catch the simple clerical error.  So, according to officialdom the date of my grandmother's birth was the 19th of September 1903.  In jest, sometimes my grandmother would insist upon the family observing both anniversaries of her birth.
I only ever knew my grandmother to imbibe alcohol at parties, usually Christmas and New Year's Eve.  And her drink of choice was always a cream sherry, but just a sip.  I'm sure more sherry went into my grandmother's trifles than into her glass.  Her generation weren't big drinkers, they couldn't afford to be.
Today would have been my grandmother's 117th birthday.  And next week she will have another 117th birthday: I will observe both.  Long gone, but not forgotten, she was the best gran a Vinogirl could have.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Vendemmia: 2020.

I spent a lot of yesterday pulling leaves in the Pinot grigio (PG) block, as harvest was scheduled for today.  It was still dark at 6.30 a.m., a bit too dark to harvest (due to marine fog mixed with wildfire smoke), so I had to time to eat breakfast before the morning's viticultural-proceedings began.  The Orange muscat grapes were also picked.  I love the feeling of being up early for harvest, I find it exciting.
Fruit looks fantastic, tastes great.  Perhaps a little less than last year (according to Vinomaker), not surprising seeing as my hungry hens have been helping themselves to the ripening berries for weeks now.  Sugar came in at 26 °Brix - a little high, but one would expect a spike in sugar due to the 107/108 °F temps we had on Sunday and Monday.  
My job is done.  Now it's up to Vinomaker to work his magic.

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

Pandemic pedagogy.

For me, one of the best things to emerge during the Covid-19 pandemic is the advent of online wine-related webinars (mostly hosted on Zoom and Instagram Live/IGTV) that anyone can access - for free.  Of particular note amongst all the video offerings available is a series called, Behind the Wines with Elaine Chukan Brown (in association with the Wine Institute/California Wines).
In today's virtual tasting and discussion, wine writer and educator Elaine Chukan Brown considered some new trends in California wine.  Well, not really trends, but rather innovations and explorations of, and in, grape varieties, growing regions and out-of-the-box winemaking.  Ms. Brown's guests this morning were sommelier and author, Kelli A.White and San Francisco Chronicle wine critic, Esther Mobley.  The discussion that ensued regarding the evolution of California winemaking was informative and thought provoking.  The featured wines were; White Rock Vineyards, Claret, Napa Valley 2016; J. Lohr, Wildflower Valdiguié, Monterey 2019; and Mountain Tides, Petite Sirah, California 2018.  Compelling stuff.  And a fitting way to kick off California Wine Month.