Thursday, August 28, 2014

View from a train.

Today, Vinomum and I had lunch on the Napa Valley Wine Train.  We spent a leisurely 3 hours travelling up and down the valley (at about 15 miles per hour), gazing at moving vineyard-vistas, eating a three course meal and quaffing a bottle of Mumm Brut Prestige.  Life could be worse. 
The Wine Train was relatively quiet for what is considered peak season in the Napa Valley - harvest time.  Our waiter informed us that a lot of prospective passengers had cancelled their reservations due to fears related to Sunday's earthquake.  What a shame!  I don't think there are many other pastimes that could possibly be much more soothing to frayed nerves than sipping bubbly whilst being unhurriedly ferried through beautifully calming scenery. 
The wine list needs some help, and the waiter could do with brushing up on his facts a little bit, but other than that Vinomum and I had a wonderful afternoon ride on the Wine Train.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Still shaking!

With new barrels arriving at TWWIAGE, in anticipation of the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon harvest, wine-life goes on after a rather major earthquake.  Watching news coverage of the damage at certain wineries, (notably two crumpled-like-a-soda-can, 10,000 gallon, stainless steel tanks at the Hess Collection), I realise that TWWIAGE got off very lightly.  My employers only suffered the loss of a few cases of personal wine that were still stacked in cases, not unpacked and placed in the diamond shaped wine bins.  And Napa is still shaking.  Thud and his family got little sleep on Sunday night due to all the aftershocks.  I myself was awakened at 5.32 a.m. this morning by a small temblor, followed by another at 6.44 a.m.  California, man!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Shake, rattle, but no roll.

Vinomaker and I had been saving this magnum of Havens, 2001 Syrah Napa Valley for more than a decade.  Not for any particular, special occasion, maybe just a nice dinner with friends who appreciate Syrah.  But as of 3.20 a.m. this morning, courtesy of a 6.0 earthquake, this 1.5 litre bottle of Syrah no longer exists.  Hate when that happens!  It was a very violent, shaking type of earthquake, and very noisy as everything was rattling.  Add to that the sounds of things falling from the walls, shelves and in the pantry.  When I opened the refrigerator this morning most of the contents fell on me.  It was very different from the rolling motion of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.  Things could be worse. 
Vinomaker, Vinodog 2 and I are unscathed.  And so are my visiting English family.  However the farmhouse in which they are staying, on the westside of the valley which was hardest hit, has took a real beating.  Thud is not even sure if they can stay there tonight; no power, no water, and a very unsafe chimney stack.  What a way to begin the last week of their holiday.
Vinoland fared much better.  The main water supply pipe to our well ruptured, but Vinomaker was able to turn the water off quickly before the cellar suffered major water damage.  We did not lose electrical service.  In total, just three bottles of wine broke.  Thankfully, all the barrels of our 2013 vintage stayed put on their barrel racks...phew! 
Clean up is complete, now everything is just drying out.  I'm definitely having a glass of wine with dinner tonight, perhaps something I have been saving - before Mother Nature disposes of another valued bottle of wine for me.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Happy birthday Thud!

Today, to celebrate Thud's birthday, the entire English contingent (including V2 - English heritage, you know) drove over to Stinson Beach for a day at the seaside.  The marine fog has been a bit persistent of late, but today we couldn't have asked for better weather, it was just gorgeous.  The kids frolicked in the surf, I took photographs of jellyfish, the babies ate sand, we all got pink...the usual stuff you do on the beach.  Fun!
Our evening repast was not a crab-feed, as could possibly be inferred by the accompanying photograph, no, we were all too tired to prepare a huge birthday meal.  So instead we dined on take-out Chinese food; washed down with a 2005 Mumm Napa Valley, DVX; followed by a wonderful chocolate cake made by Tenbellies.  Yum!
Oh! I do like to be beside the seaside.  A good day was had by all.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Happy anniversary: Version 2014.

Today is my, and Vinomaker's, 8th wedding anniversary. Happy anniversary to us!
After a quick glass of Contadi Castaldi Franciacorta, Vinomaker and I dined at a neighbourhood restaurant, Cordeiro's Bar & Grill.  Under new owners (at a location that used to be the Bay Leaf restaurant), Cordeiro's was a bit of a confusing dining experience.  Pleasant, but confusing.  Fairly high prices (that won't do anything to attract new customers) and a poor wine list.  That is all I am going to say about Cordeiros's.
Happy anniversary Vinomaker.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Main Street Reunion 2014.

Another year, another annual Main Street Reunion Car Show.  This is one of my favourite downtown Napa happenings (I may have mentioned that before), I look forward to it every summer.  Once again my English family joined me in enjoying a very sun-reflecting-off-chrome afternoon. 
This year I saw several cars that made me want to own them, not just admire them from afar.  The list included a 1957 Ford Fairlane, a 1959 Chevrolet Impala and a 1966 Plymouth Barracuda.  The silver-flamed 1940 Ford Coupe in the photograph was just very pretty to look at.  Think I'm bad?  Thud had his eye on a lot more cars than me.
Afterwards we all ate together at the house Thud is renting, over on the westside of the valley, for the rest of his holiday.  Burgers and sausages were washed down with one of Vinomaker's finest syrahs, followed by a delicious tarte Tatin made with pears (instead of apples) from a tree on the property (thank you, Tenbellies).  A quick swim and a cup of tea later, I was snuggled up in bed with visions of tailfins dancing through my head.  A good time was had by all.
Vroom, vroom!

Friday, August 15, 2014

One for the tub: Sagrantino.

I have never been one for fads (and I'm not athletic enough to jump on the bandwagon), but I have always thought the '100 Grape Challenge' (1GC) is quite an interesting concept and a harmless sidebar to one's personal wine knowledge and enjoyment.  The 1GC is perhaps a decade old now and whilst I have never formally bothered to document all the different grape varieties I have tried over the years, the idea of the 1GC is always in the back of my mind when I try a new grape.  I have just added another variety to my personal list.
The Sagrantino grape hails from Umbria in central Italy: it is a intensely pigmented grape which produces a deeply coloured wine.  Sagrantino, and the wine that is produced from it, was new to me until I tried a bottle of Jacuzzi Family Vineyards, (yes, the same Jacuzzi's who brought the world hot tubs and spas), 2011 Sagrantino, Tracey Hills (San Joaquin County, CA).  The wine was heady and luscious, but at the same time mellow and silky.  The nose was delightful.  On the palate lots of blackberry and black cherry abounded with an almost sweet, tongue-pleasing fatness to the mouthfeel.  The Sagrantino surprisingly held it's own against Thud's spicy-sweet goulash (served over gigli) and quickly disappeared from the dining table.  Hate when that happens, but the wine was a hit with everyone.  Now, I have to try the Italian version.

Friday, August 8, 2014

All set to net.

I'd estimate that Vinoland's Pinot grigio is about 90% through veraison.  The fruit this year looks fabulous.  As yet, my little feathered friends don't seem particularly interested in the fruit, nevertheless, it is time to get out the bird-netting and install it on the vines.  It's not a particularly pleasant job, but it is a necessary one.  After months of tending to the vines I don't feel a particular need to share the grapes with the avian population, so tomorrow the nets go on.  Clothes pegs at the ready!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Rain and an earthquake.

On my recent mini-vacation with my family, we all laughed when it rained during our stay in Utah.  We chuckled when it sprinkled on us whilst we were swimming in our hotel's pool in Las Vegas.  Two of the hottest places I have ever visited and it rained while I was there, funny.
I'm not laughing now.  It started to rain at 10 p.m. last night and continued to rain over night - and showers are forecast for all of today.  What?  Rain in August is very unusual here.  And then, this morning, at 5.40 a.m. there was an earthquake (don't know how strong yet, but it wasn't much).
Now, I can't really hold my dear brother Thud responsible for the earthquake, as California has earthquakes all the time, but the rain in Utah, Las Vegas and August in Napa?  You bet I'm holding him responsible.  In fact, I'm going to start calling him Rainmaker.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Meanwhile, whilst I was away...

...In the Cabernet sauvignon vines veraison is progressing.  I may have been absent from the vineyard for a while, but Mother Nature has been busy in my stead.  Veraison is always a little random in the Cabernet block and this year is no exception, the warmer and protected areas are a little more advanced than others, and I'd estimate that veraison is only about 20% complete.
Elsewhere in the valley harvest has already begun.  Mumm Napa brought in their first Pinot noir grapes on Wednesday 30th July - that's about a week earlier than last year apparently.  More bubbly, earlier...what's not to love about that?  Go little grapies!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Drinking in Las Vegas.

Last night, whilst the majority of my family toddled off up The Strip to see the musical-fountain extravaganza at the Ballagio Hotel, I took my mother for a drink at our hotel's bar.
The Mandarin Bar, located on the 23rd floor of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, is a lovely place to enjoy a glass of wine and the bright lights of Sin City.  Floor to ceiling windows ensured that my mother and I were able to drink in the unimpeded sights of some of the goings-on on the Las Vegas Strip.  My mother had a pleasant glass of Okanagan Estates Merlot and I had a glass of The Federalist Zinfandel (sorry, did not pay attention to the respective vintages).  Once again, I really enjoyed The Federalist and it paired wonderfully with the appetisers I chose for our big girl's soirĂ©e. 
Bottoms up, mother!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Where in the US of A is Vinogirl: Part 2?

Today I woke up in Las Vegas!  How did that happen? 
My family holiday has progressed into the Silver State; we are all up for some more fun in the sun, and I'm up for a glass of bubbles.
To be continued...

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Where in the US of A is Vinogirl?

This morning I seem to have woken up in Utah.  I know this because there is a massive mountain outside my hotel window. 
I'm excited to visit the local state owned liquor store in Springville and have a gander at the wine selection.  And holiday with all my family members, of course.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Dot wine.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is a non-profit agency that coordinates the world's internet domain names.  I did not know that such an organisation even existed.  ICANN is based in Los Angeles, Ca. (of course it is.  It wouldn't be in plain, old Bognor Regis, England, would it?) and is currently overseeing an expansion of available domain names.  The most common domain names are .com , .org and .net, but ICANN has a list of 2,200 potential new offerings up for consideration.  Amongst the new suggestions are two proposed new wine-themed domain names; .wine and .vin.
Now apparently wine producers around the world have their knickers in a twist over the possibility of having to defend their brands against trademark infringements and other unscrupulous goings-on.  The Napa Valley Vintners, a non-profit trade association, recently joined six other west coast trade groups, representing some 2,000 winemakers (including 500 Napa vintners), in a concerted effort to secure the cancellation of the .wine and .vin domains.  In June ICANN rejected their appeals.
Napa vintners already have several governmental regulations in place, as does Champagne in France, that defend their product's identities.  They obviously feel they need more safeguards.
I'm in two minds about this.  On one hand, seeing as I work at a winery, I'd like to see the product I help sell protected, after all most wines are tied more specifically to a particular place of origin than any other food product.  On the other hand I believe in a free market economy, and I also feel  that a wine with a simple, California appellation designation does not  need to be protected as perhaps a wine from a specific vineyard in a designated AVA should (for example the one in which I live, Coombsville).  Consumers in all walks of life need to do their homework before they purchase anything.  Caveat emptor, I say.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Sip and Spit.

I have always thought that oenology and viticulture students in the USA were at a distinct disadvantage, compared to their European peers, by not being able to taste wine in a winemaking class until they turned 21 years of age.  I actually think the whole minimum drinking age of 21 is absurd (don't get me started on that one), but handicapping future winemakers in this manner is just plain ludicrous.  Universities, like U.C. Davis here in N. California, have had to structure their oenology programmes in such a way that leaves any class that would involve tasting wine until the student's last semester - at which time the students are most likely to have come of age.  Crazy!  I can imagine the mere idea of this type of prohibition is very amusing to the French (and the Italians, and the Spanish) who have in essence had the advantage of drinking wine, and honing their palates, from a much, much younger age.  Fancy letting the French have an edge over anyone, tut, tut!
All that changed today with California Governor Jerry Brown signing AB 1989, a bill that allows students of 18-20 years old who are enrolled in an accredited college oenology programme to taste, but not swallow, wine as a part of their coursework.  The so-called sip and spit law, which is set to take effect next year, in part remedies the disparity of exactly when budding American-winemakers can begin to develop their own palates, legally.  It's a start, but methinks all adults should be treated like adults as soon as they turn 18.  I couldn't imagine not having been able to have a glass of bubbly on my 18th birthday. Thanks mum!