Saturday, October 18, 2014

All done for 2014.

So that's it, Vinoland's 2014 harvest is over!
Fruit looked great, not that much bird or bee damage and the odd rain event that we have had, over the past few weeks, didn't really cause any mould problems either.  Weather was fantastic for a harvest day (even a tad on the toasty side), workers were affable and the harvest after-party enchiladas were yummy.  Once again, good friends, good wine, good food.  And to quote TWWIAGE's very own Marketing Queen, "...harvest.  Always makes me remember why I love living here."  Couldn't have put it better myself.
Of course, I think the fruitless vines look a little forlorn now, but that's just anthropomorphic me.  Now I'm looking forward to the 2015 growing season.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The stripper.

The harvest season is quickly coming to a close, so there is very little unpicked fruit left to be seen hanging around the Napa Valley.  TWWIAGE picked and processed their last fruit of 2014 on Tuesday.  In Vinoland only the Cabernet sauvignon is still hanging, but that's about to change come this Saturday.
As of today, the numbers on the Cabernet sauvignon were °Brix 25.8, pH 3.52 and TA 8.0, but since the decision to pick has already been made the numbers are sort of irrelevant.  The weather has turned quite autumnal and the vines have noticeably started to shut down.  I spent most of today pulling leaves, stripping the shoots of all basal leaves to help facilitate a quick and clean harvest.  And that's what I will be doing tomorrow also.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Rutherford AVA.

Right above the Oakville AVA (the AVA in which I work), is the Rutherford AVA.  Named after Thomas Rutherford who, upon marrying George C. Yount's daughter, was given 1,000 acres of land from his new father-in-law as a wedding present, Rutherford is/was the home of at least two of Napa's most historic wineries - Beaulieu Vineyard and Inglenook (whilst under the ownership of the visionary John Daniel Jr., not Francis Ford Coppola).  Nowadays, the AVA is the home of many renowned wineries e.g., Caymus Vineyards, Frog's Leap Winery, Mumm Cuvee Napa and, for all the wrong reasons, the nightmarish, to me at least, Raymond Vineyards.
Rutherford is perhaps best known for its soil, in fact the soil even has a society named after it: the aptly named Rutherford Dust Society.  André Tchelistcheff, who is credited with introducing modern winemaking practices to the Napa Valley (whilst at Beaulieu), said, "It takes Rutherford dust to grow great Cabernet."  Hmmm, I think the folks in the other AVAs would likely disagree.  The fact is, the entire Napa Valley is unique due to the diversity of the soils found here.  I personally can't really claim that I have ever tasted dust in any Rutherford wine I have tried, but I'll continue to experiment.  It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it.
Five down, eleven to go.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The skinny on Grenache.

The ton of Grenache that Vinomaker was promised did not materialise.  Vinomaker was a little disappointed, but it means we are done drinking Grenache, at least for the time being.
The Skinner, 2010, Eighteen Sixty-One (El Dorado AVA) was quite a delightful wine (really a GSM with a little Cunoise thrown in).  With oodles of dark berry, raspberry and cedar-spiciness, Eighteen Sixty-One was not a particularly cheap wine, at around $27.00, but it was worth it.
The cheapest wine, at $11.49, in this little gargle was the Famille Chaudière, 2012, Le Paradou (Côtes du Ventoux AOC).  Le Paradou was great value for money and very easy on the palate, loved it.
And, now, the also-rans;
Calavera, 2011, Dalton Vineyard (Sierra Foothills AVA) $26.00.
Wow!  This wine would cure the most severe case of gingivitis, as in it would remove all gum tissue leaving the drinker with just their calavera!
Elizabeth Spencer, 2012, Special Cuvée (Mendocino AVA) $21.49.
Not bad, but certainly not great.
Yangarra, 2012, Old Vine (McLaren Vale) $24.49.
The label notes say this wine shows "elegance".  They've got to be kidding me, drinking this wine was like being hit in the mouth by a Mack truck.
Dashe, 2012, Les Enfants Terribles (Dry Creek Valley AVA) $22.49.
And terrible it was.  'Nough said.
In conclusion, I'd have to say that my little investigative experiment with Grenache didn't teach me much, except that Grenache does come in a lot of different styles from a lot of different places.  And that's the skinny on Grenache.

Thursday, October 9, 2014


Orange muscat grapes, that is.
Vinomaker and I picked our Orange muscat (OM) today.  Well, what was left of it.  Looking almost like something that had escaped from my compost bin, Vinomaker had deliberately delayed harvesting the OM in the hopes of making a late harvest wine.  OM clusters are rather loose which generally reduces environmental favourablitly for Botrytis cinerea infection (unlike Pinot grigio clusters which are tight and thus susceptible to infection), so instead, dessication, as the result of an extended hang time, was the plan.  Coming in at 34.5 °Brix there is certainly plenty of sugar for Vinomaker to work with.
Although the fruit was quite unprepossessing, (OM never looks pretty as the grapes have a tendency to crack and amber as they ripen), the aromatics of orange skin and honeysuckle as we processed the fruit was absolutely delightful.  No wonder honey bees are attracted to this grape variety.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Industrious Bee.

Erm, the industrious honey bees are eating my Cabernet sauvignon grapes.  I can't really blame them because the grapes are very sweet.  However, the bees should be wincing due to the high acidity - if only I could see their squinting, little eyes.
The numbers are in; °Brix 24.2, pH 3.38 and TA 8.75.  Sugars have been driven up due to nearly a week of mid to high 90s temperatures.  Time to water.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Happy birthday to my little Vinodog.

Yes, it's V2's birthday, she turns 7 today.  She started her day off with some extra peanut butter cookies and a couple of new stuffed toys.  Hopefully, as a birthday treat, I'll have time to take her for a walk down at the Napa River when I get home from work.
V2's a great little dog, full of personality.  It's been a little strange for me just having one dog around since the passing of V1, but my little mongrel has more than filled up the poochie-void in Vinoland with her boundless energy.  And she's gotten used to me plonking weird things on her head.
Happy birthday V2.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Vitis californica.

I once said I wouldn't "clamber through a thicket" to get a closer look at Vitis californica: I lied.  This morning I did indeed find myself fighting through some riparian habitat to get a closer look at California's wild grape.  This rather sizable vine is growing on the western bank of the Napa River, just at the point where the Oakville Crossroad passes over the watercourse.
The vines become quite visible this time of year as the leaves begin to turn yellow.  There is a wonderful specimen, teeming with grape clusters, quite close to where I live that has climbed 12 - 15 feet up through a very accommodating tree.  However, the vine is on the side of an extremely busy road and there is no possible way that I could safely get out of the car to photograph it.  So I had to be content with this Oakville vine.  But because this vine was more accessible, I was actually able to taste a wild, California grape for the first time ever.  Yummy!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

A tale of two Syrahs.

Vinoland's Syrah is harvested, whoo hoo!  Fruit looked lovely, acid and sugar a little low, but the colour coming out of the berries was already a deep, deep purple.  The day went very smoothly and the gathering of friends afterwards was a lot of fun.
To wash down the harvest chili I had prepared (with cornbread, two ways), there were a few interesting wines; a delightful Elyse, 2011 Nero Misto (California); a J Gregory, 2011 Celebration Cabernet Sauvignon (Coombsville AVA); and, lastly, a Lucas Vineyards, 2012 Syrah (Finger Lakes AVA).
The Elyse wine was lovely, very soft and round, made from "a unique selection of wonderful lesser known black grapes" (so says the back label).
The J Gregory was a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from a relatively new producer, but the grapes were sourced from a very good friend's vineyard, here in Coombsville.  The wine was a little green, but it 's still very young and will perhaps age quite elegantly.
The Lucas Vineyards Syrah came with a former co-worker who had worked three harvests at this winery in Cayuga Lake, New York.  A fairly inoffensive wine, I was however struck with how little pigmentation there was in this wine compared to a Syrah grown in Napa.  This Syrah looked more like a Pinot noir.  The white pepper component in this wine did work well with the chili though. 
An interesting mix of wines.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Fox.

I'm still tasting my way through a gargle of Grenaches.  Tonight's offering was a tasty little white wine - a Renard, 2012 Grenache blanc (Lodi AVA).  I loved this wine (it's all gone).  I had a 2013 Vermentino from the same producer last week and loved that too.  I also love the blurb on the back label:
"In making our Grenache Blanc, we've selected only fruit with the greatest concentration of flavours.  The nose suggests crisp dill apple, minerally mandarin, and blah, blah, blah...Isn't wine indescribably fun?  Just enjoy it!"
It's like I wrote it myself, except for the Oxford comma.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Dirty rotten scoundrels.

This time last week there were some rotten little scoundrels hanging around, up to no good, in the Pinot grigio block.
The above photograph of a cluster of grapes infected with Botrytis cinerea isn't that great (I could have fetched a better lens from the house, but I didn't).  However, the proficiency of the dessicating ability of this dastardly, necrotrophic organism is evident in the way in which it has sucked the living daylights out of the lower half of this cluster (the top half of the cluster looked perfectly normal).
Most of the infected clusters were discarded, but it's possible that some made it into the mix.  No biggie.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Pinot grigio harvest 2014.

Vinoland's Pinot grigio was harvested today, whoo hoo!  The fruit looked beautiful.  I was fairly pleased with myself for farming such attractive berries.  Mama loves you little guys!
Finished processing fruit (and cleaning everything up), just in time to enjoy a fabulous harvest party at Black Cat Vineyards: just love Tracey Reichow's rosé of Cabernet franc.  Good friends and great wine.
Long day...

Friday, September 19, 2014

International Grenache Day 2014.

I actually remembered that today is International Grenache Day (IGD): Grenaches of the world unite!  Or is it International Garnacha Day?  Whichever it is, I decided to commemorate IGD 2014 with a Spanish Garnacha.  But I had to buy one first. 
To find something suitably Iberian, I took a quick trip over to Sonoma to visit Sonoma's Best which is a quaint shop with a surprisingly good Grenache selection, (a tip from Marcia Macomber, thanks).
The Borsao Monte Oton, 2012 (DO Campo de Borja) was a rather full-bodied version of Garnacha.  Hailing from Aragon, the very place where this grape variety is believed to have originated, this 100% Garnacha had fantastic colour extraction, a spicy-leathery-lavender thing going on, an enticingly ripe blackberry/blackcurrant compote vibe and a palate pleasing acidity.  The alcohol seemed a tad high at 14.5%, but this shouldn't have been a surprise considering where these grapes were grown.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining, I'm happy.  At $9.99, this was a more than satisfying wine that paired well with tonight's homemade burgers.
I hope everybody's IGD was a happy one!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Just because 8...

Heavy rain overnight, that started just after 4 a.m. and continued until 9.30 a.m., kept me out of the vineyard today.  That's OK, it gave me a chance to catch up on some reading.
The Sunday issue of The Napa Valley Register, each week, contains a Faces & Places section which lists local births, marriages and deaths.  While I'm not quite yet at the stage of my life when I'll start scanning the obituaries (like my grandmother did), on the off chance that there may be someone listed there that I know, or rather knew, a certain birth announcement did catch my eye.  On September 3rd the world welcomed a baby boy whose surname is Bourdeaux.  Now, one mustn't confuse this Bourdeaux with the famous Bordeaux winemaking region.  This particular Bourdeaux (with it's extra 'u') is a village in southeastern France.  But one wouldn't know that if one simply heard this surname spoken.
What a great surname; "Hi.  I'm Bob Bourdeaux," (or Zane in this case), it has a certain ring to it.  I generally like surnames that are nouns (mine isn't), however, I wouldn't like to have the surname Napa for fear that people might think I'm lazy. 
Anyhow, congratulations to Mr and Mrs Bourdeaux and their 7lb 11 oz bouncing bundle of joie.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

In the warm California sun.

Enough of my lollygagging with earthquakes, wine trains, AVA signs and that certain gargle of Grenaches.  Enough, I say! 
I spent an entire day spent in the vineyard today, pulling leaves in the Syrah and admiring the pretty sight that was these back-lit Pinot grigio grapes.  But wait a minute, what else is going on in the Pinot grigio block besides a impromptu photo opportunity?  Oh, not much, just 25.6 °B, a pH of 3.48 and a TA of 7.25.  Yikes, it's time!
Like clockwork, the mini heatwave that happens early, every September has done it's magic in bringing the fruit close to harvest perfection.  Of course, these numbers don't paint the whole picture: whilst the fruit tastes pretty darn good, the seeds have still not quite reached phenolic maturity.  So, tomorrow, the Pinot grigio vines will have the bejesus watered out of them to try to buy some further maturation time.  Slow down little grapies!