Friday, October 30, 2020

Shiver me timbers!

I have often thought about how stable of a career I might have had if I had chosen to become a meteorologist.  I am more than capable of licking my finger and holding it up into a prevailing wind; I can molest a piece of seaweed to assess its dampness; I can delight in, along with some random shepherd, a beautiful sunset.  I can do all those things, I'm a veritable amateur-augur.  So I hold that being a precipitation-prognosticator on the telly not only seems to be a really cool career, but it is perhaps the only job I know of that any person working as one can be wrong 50% of the time (forecasting the weather) and they won't get the old heave-ho.
High winds forecast for October 14th did not materialise. (Although, as a precautionary measure, PG&E did shut off the power to most of the county of Napa for a total of 46 hours and 31 minutes).  A similar forecast for October 25th seemed like an non-event: that was until about 7 pm in the evening.  I was busy making dinner when all of a sudden the roof felt like it was being lifted off the house, the timbers creaking and moaning.  Vinodog 2 was very disturbed.  My poochie does not like wind.  
The extremely high winds continued throughout the night and were very, very loud.  So loud, in fact, that I did not hear the demise of a large deciduous oak that was toppled on the edge of Vinoland's creek.  At first, it looked like it had missed the bottom row of Cabernet vines.  However, on closer inspection, when V2 and I returned from our walk, I was able to see that the fallen tree had landed on the first seven vines.  Bummer.  It was only later, when Vinomaker had performed a bit of chainsaw-surgery, that I discovered only one vine had bit the dust, snapped off near the base.  Bad, but it could've been worse.  Sigh.
Hard life being a farmer, I really should have become a meteorologist.

Saturday, October 24, 2020


Despite many attempts to shoo away this honeybee from the wine press, the little sot kept coming back for yet another slurp of Vinoland's 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon.  Can't really blame the bee for wanting to do a little wine tasting, the new vintage tastes lovely, hot out of the press.  Which begs the question.  Can bees get hangovers?  At the very least, this bee is going to have a bad headache come morning.
This particular pressing shows lots of promise having a concentrated cherry vibe and solid framework of tannins.  The addition of a little bit of aging in oak, with its contribution of vanillin, will no doubt round out this juvenile pandemic-vintage.  And that's it.  I'm done! 

Monday, October 19, 2020


I first became aware of the 2018 J. Lohr Estates Wildflower Valdiguié when I watched the wine being reviewed (well tasted, really) on a wine blogger's Instagram account.  The blogger just loved it, couldn't say enough nice things about it, lauded its drinkability, fruitiness and its worthiness of being considered a 'summer red' wine.  And he mentioned that it sold for about $8.99.  I was intrigued, I don't think I'd ever had a Valdiguié, domestic or otherwise.  I had to get my hands on some.  So I purchased six bottles directly from the winery ($10.00 a pop).  Then, about a week later, the J. Lohr Valdiguié (2019) appeared on an episode of Behind the Wines: host Elaine Chukan Brown and her guests just loved it.  Great, methought, can't wait to try it.  Valdiguié, a native grape of southern France, has been growing here in California for quite some time.  However, it had been misidentified and was known as Napa Gamay.  It took a French ampelographer, Pierre Galet, to definitively identify the (Gamay) grapevines growing in vineyards up and down California as Valdiguié.  Sealed with a screw cap, my first impression of the Wildflower was that it was reduced, it was more than a tad pongy.  Initially on the palate the wine was rather tannic and had a sour finish.  Fruit?  A tiny bit.  The wine seemed awkward and I found myself struggling to describe what, if anything, was going on with this wine.  I had just one small glass, and that was enough.  Wanting to give this wine the benefit of the doubt, I tried it again the next night and it was delightful - had really opened up - all brambly aromatics, warm red fruits and a splendid balance of acid and tannin.  Wow, love when that happens.  A second bottle, more than a week later, paired with a pan seared, oven finished flat iron steak, was simply a joy.  Everything in my glass was amplified; aroma, fruit, balance.  Couldn't fault it.  A third bottle last night, again paired with flat iron steak, proved once more that the Wildflower is a solid quaffing wine.  Three bottles down, three to go.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Crushed AND destemmed.

Last harvest in Vinoland.  The Cabernet sauvignon grapes are picked and processed: crushed and destemmed.  
I cannot for the life of me understand the obsession of late with whole-cluster fermentation (WCF).  I have watched a lot of webinars during the pandemic and I would bet my life savings on the certainty that someone on a panel (usually a sommelier) will feverishly ask whilst tasting a featured wine, "Is this whole-cluster fermentation."  WCF is the current ideé fixe amongst those who just drink wine.
Wine, winemaking and wine-drinking continually go through trends, fashions and fads and WCF seems to be the latest craze.  WCF is just one technique available to a winemaker.  The fact that people have to ask if a wine was produced using this particular technique may suggest that they really can't tell if, indeed, it was.  Or not.  
WCF has its place in winemaking, but I don't necessarily think that place is in the production of Cabernet Sauvignon.  Just sayin'.

Friday, October 09, 2020

Little gems.

Leaf pulling in the Cabernet sauvignon vines today (and most of the week) exposing the fruit in preparation for harvest, I came across several little clusters, higher up in the canopy, that looked like little jewels.  Vinodog 2 was my companion, as usual, whilst I performed this particular vineyard op...and then we were joined by the chickens.  Very bucolic.

Thursday, October 01, 2020

Happy 13th birthday V2!

My baby turns 13 years old today, she's now a teenager!  Once again, I ask, how did that happen?  Regrettably, the fluffy-love of my life has slowed down considerably over the past several months.  
During quarantine we have been almost inseparable and I wouldn't have had it any other way.  Vinodog 2 has been at my side in the vineyard all spring and summer long.  She can no longer limbo under the irrigation lines, and is prone to toppling over if she finds herself on a bit of a slope and turns around too quickly, but her determination to be part of the pack hasn't diminshed.  Tonight, I will toast to my poochy's indefatigable spirit.  Love her.
Happy birthday V2!