Tuesday, June 21, 2016
During the time that I was studying for my A.S. in Viticulture at NVC, I cannot recall a single instance when upon bringing the old DB out for a little student hands-on instructional tractor time that Dr. Krebs did not comment to my classmates and me, "You know, the electrical system on this thing is terrible". I didn't take it personally, being English and all.
David Brown Engineering Ltd., is an English company that was founded in 1860 by, of course, David Brown. The first tractor produced by the company was a joint venture with Henry Ferguson (perhaps better known for Massey Ferguson tractors) in 1936. Business boomed after World War II and the company became one of the biggest tractor manufacturers in the UK. (The company also made gears for Spitfires - so cool.)
I simply love this tractor, it is just so utilitarian and that appeals to me. I just wish that I could have a conversation with the Selectamatic 990 and ask it a few questions like; How's your wiring harness feeling? How did you end up in the Napa Valley? And now that you are here, do you like the weather? Just wondering.
Sunday, June 19, 2016
With warm weather imminent, Vinomaker decided that it was time the vines got a little water, starting with the Syrah up on the hill (always the first to show a little stress). But first we had to perform one particular vineyard operation - the clearing of the irrigation lines.
As I waited (at the end of a Syrah row) for Vinomaker to give me the go ahead to open the small, inline ball valve at the end of the line, I noticed a winsome little moss: the conversely named Largetooth Calcareous Moss (Mnium spinulosum), growing on a leaky pressure gauge. It made me smile. Mother Nature is great.
Saturday, June 18, 2016
This partial Pinot grigio cluster, caught up in the sinus of a leaf (a mini viticultural-hammock), seems to be following normal morphological progress, as does the entire vine. There wouldn't be such a thing as a vintage if every growing season was the same.
Friday, June 17, 2016
It rained a little on the drive back to Vinoland, not ideal weather for transporting a butt load (technical term) of bottle-filled cardboard boxes. Tut-tut, Mother Nature!
Wednesday, June 08, 2016
Saturday, June 04, 2016
Recently I tasted an older red wine that brought to mind beetroots. A winemaker (actually the winemaker at TWWIAGE) told me that the specific organic compound that causes wine to taste/smell like beetroots is a terpene called geosmin. However, wine-fault aside, the wine still tasted like, y'know, wine. Unfortunately, this was not the case with the almost 33 year old Liebfraumilch. No, it tasted like liquid cheese - yes, cheese. There was not one clue that this liquid had ever been wine. Not even the Madonna on the label could save the integrity of this aged wine.
Thursday, June 02, 2016
Produced from fruit grown at 1300 feet, relatively high in the Mayacamas (yes, the same Mayacamas as in my last post), this wine was young, but oh-so-flavourful. With abundant sweet vanilla, red fruit and white pepper I found it a little hard to believe that this wine was 100% Cabernet sauvignon. But what do I know? And I did't even care. The E.J. Church paired well with my meal of dead-cow (piled high with mushrooms and onions). So moreish. I'm a believer.
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Nestled high in the Mayacamas Mountains (which were once a seabed), the MVAVA is a relatively small AVA of around 25 square miles with approximately 1,000 acres planted to grapevines. Some of the steepest vineyards in California, certainly in the Napa Valley, are to be found here: farming on a 30° slope is, to me, the very definition of hillside viticulture. Difficult to farm, the shallow volcanic soils mean that crop yields can be a full 50% less than what a grower could expect to harvest from a valley floor vineyard (for Cabernet sauvignon that could mean a mere 2 - 2½ tons per acre). The Mayacamas range can receive nearly twice the amount of rainfall than the valley floor, a rather soggy 35 - 40 inches a year. Abundant with firm tannins, brambly is a word quite often used when describing the red wines of the MVAVA. And apparently the wines age very well. I have had a few MVAVA wines, but not a lot.
Notable wineries (to me) are; The Hess Collection (in part for being on the site of the former Christian Brothers winery, Mont La Salle), Rubissow (I had a wonderful hillside-viticulture field trip up there once) and Mayacamas Vineyards and Winery (where my NVC viticulture professor Dr. Krebs was once employed as the vineyard manager. And also where A Walk in the Clouds, starring Keanu I-couldn't-act-my-way-out-of-a-paper-bag Reeves, was filmed).
Ten down, six to go.
Wednesday, May 25, 2016
Wine marketing at its finest. Or, perhaps, worst.
Tuesday, May 24, 2016
The only French prop I could find in the house was this mini Arc De Triomphe (have no idea where it came from), which is quite ironic really because the French lost. Vive le vin!
Sunday, May 22, 2016
Blue Nun is no longer labelled as such, now the producers value their reputation. These days, calling anything a Liebfraumilch is considered a negative when it comes to marketing. (Think cubed-cheddar on cocktail sticks.) The bottle of Blue Nun in the photograph is simply labelled "Authentic White" (as opposed to...?) and is now made from Rivaner (so says the back label), a.k.a. Müller-Thurgau. At only 10% alcohol, this sweet white wine, in its oddly blue-hued hock bottle, actually tasted better than I remembered. The wine had a wonderful nose, truly deep snort-worthy, and although the palate was well balanced it was cloyingly sweet. And what possessed me to purchase a bottle of The Nun after all these years? And let me tell you, this wine was not easy to find, it took some effort.
I was inspired to once again taste Blue Nun because I have just finished reading The Secrets of My Life: Vintner, Prisoner, Soldier, Spy by Peter M. F. Sichel. Herr Sichel is the man credited with making Blue Nun a runaway international wine-brand success story. What an interesting life this man has led; escaping Nazi Germany, schooling in England, spying for the Central Intelligence Agency and creating one of the most recognisable wine brands on the planet. It was a great book, written in an easy conversational tone that almost felt like I was sitting with Peter Sichel in his living room. Sharing a bottle of Blue Nun, perhaps.
Thursday, May 19, 2016
It is fun to live (and farm) in a relatively cool AVA e.g., Coombsville and work (and observe) in another, noticeably warmer AVA e.g., Oakville. And why do I consider this year's earlier bloom, in spite of a cooler-than-normal spring, unusual? Because from my personal experience, CS, Clone 4, in Coombsville is normally a bit of a slowcoach in the flowering department. This year my little mutants apparently want to get an early start. Go little girls and boys!
Sunday, May 15, 2016
I couldn't find out much about this wine as Passion Cellars don't provide much information on their website, but their description of the wine was spot on: "Strawberry aromas give way to subtle hints of vanilla and smoky herbal notes in this soft but complex Grenache." For the most part I would agree with their tasting notes, except I would add that this wine (of very low colour extraction, really not much deeper hued than a rosé of Syrah perhaps), had a slightly medicinal quality that was a little off putting. And was possibly slightly oxidised. And wasn't very complex. The wine fared a little better with food (a homemade sausage and pepperoni pizza), but, ultimately, this wine falls into the category of a one-glass-is-enough tipple.
Thursday, May 12, 2016
It is no secret that Vinomaker loves Viognier, so I thought I'd try to find something a little out of the ordinary for him to drink. The Trump Winery, 2015 Viognier (Monticello AVA) fit the bill perfectly. (Yes, that's correct, I did indeed type T.R.U.M.P.) Obviously, anything to do with the name Trump is very controversial at the moment, but, please, don't shoot the messenger.
Winemaker Jonathon Wheeler (who, according to his bio, has worked in wineries in Sonoma, CA) has crafted a really pretty Viognier from fruit grown on the Trump Winery estate which is located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Planted to 200 acres of Vitis vinifera varieties, the Trump Winery's vineyard is Virginia's largest vineyard and the largest planting of V. vinifera on the East Coast. (That's huge. Huge.)
A fairly typical Viognier, this wine had oodles of orange blossom, honeysuckle and apricot on the nose, and a strange (but strange in a good way) caramel-apple lollipop richness on the palate. The wine was a tiny bit flabby, but was otherwise well-balanced.
I bought this wine on Amazon as it was slightly less expensive to buy the wine through Amazon than directly from the winery. However, it was still shipped from the winery in Virginia. Vinomaker and I paired this wine with a chicken salad, not Hispanic food (titter, titter).
Sunday, May 08, 2016
Cowbirds got their name from hanging around herds of grazing cattle and taking advantage of the myriad of insects that the cattle would flush from the vegetation. Like cuckoos, cowbirds practice brood parasitism, so they are of dubious character when it comes to their reproductive habits. Still, I love their quirky brown head-held-high strut and all the chitter-chatter they make. Welcome back to Vinoland, cowbirds.