Sunday, May 28, 2017

Bloomin' 'eck!

Yesterday, when I was working in the vineyard, stuffing shoots and suckering trunks, I noticed that bloom is rather advanced in the Cabernet Sauvignon vines.  How did that happen? There didn't seem to be much going just this time last week.  The weather was warm at the beginning of the week, but temps have cooled to the low 70s and it's been a bit windy. Whatever is going on the vines seem to like it.  Carry on buddies!

Friday, May 26, 2017

Still loving them thar hills.

Last week, due to an event that was held at TWWIAGE, I was able to taste this incredible wine, the 2014 Smith-Madrone, Cabernet Sauvignon (Spring Mountain District AVA).  The Wine Institute of California was holding its third international 'California Wines Summit' and I was lucky enough to be involved, albeit in a microscopic capacity.  The Summit was a week of tastings and events meant to showcase California wines to key wine-media and trade folks participating from 10 different countries. (Yes, the United Kingdom was well represented.)  There were a lot of great wines in attendance also.
I don't think the  2014 Smith-Madrone has been released yet, perhaps I shouldn't even be blogging about it, but it was just so spectacular I can't not write about it.  Whilst I personally think it's insane that some producers are releasing their 2014s already I just couldn't put my glass of this 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon down.  And over the past 10 days I haven't stopped thinking about this wine.  (I'd estimate that only half a dozen wines have had that effect on me in my entire life.)  Abounding with black fruit and spices this wine is certainly, in my humble opinion, not ready for drinking yet.  But, if my experience with a 1985 Smith-Madrone is anything to go by, I am predicting that this wine is going to be magnificent, oh, about 29 years from now.  Can't wait.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Bloom is bustin' out all over.

Everything is blooming in Vinoland, except for the Cabernet Sauvignon. But that is not surprising, as the Cabernet Sauvignon is always the last variety to go through bud break and bloom.
The wonderful weather we have been having in the Napa Valley of late is absolutely ideal for bloom. Vitis vinifera generally likes the temperature to be about 85°F during bloom and will quite happily bloom away in the heat - until temperatures reach above 95°F when, like me, the vines get a little toasty.  Temperatures above 95°F can result in bloom, and fruit set, being adversely affected.  The grapevines and I are so sensitive.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Just because 9...

...Today would have been Joey Ramone's 66th birthday.  And also because it is 40 years to the day that Thud actually met The Ramones, in Liverpool, on May 19th 1977.  That particular day was Joey Ramone's 26th birthday.  Thud still owns The Ramones t-shirt he bought that same day from Joey's brother, Mickey Leigh.
It's not a secret that The Ramones are perhaps my favourite band ever, thanks to Thud, and it is no surprise to me that I enjoy their music now just as much as I did when I was a teenager. What has been a surprise to me is that, 40 years later, we now have a new generation of Ramones fans in the family.  Thud's nine, almost ten, year old daughter possibly knows more about The Ramones than me and her dad combined.  It's amazing to witness and it's a constant source of amusement to me.
Thud can be seen in the photograph on the right, or at least his leather jacketed-back can be seen, talking to Joey.  Great memories.  Happy birthday Joey.  And RIP.
Photographs courtesy of Ian Dickson.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

I doff my calyptra to you, Pinot grigio.

I noticed last week that the Pinot grigio vines were starting to bloom, just a little bit here and there.  A week later, I am estimating that they are probably about 60% through bloom, (or anthesis).  Just look at those calyptra coming off.
There is a lot going on out in the vineyard right now; flowering, shoot stuffing, suckering, sulphuring, weeding, mowing, etc.  Phew!  The vines are busy, so am I, but I am not too busy to pause and acknowledge that the vines are doing most of the work.  Go buddies!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

A tale of two bottles.

I was just saying to someone recently that, of late, I rather enjoy it when I open a bottle of wine that I can't drink.  That is, undrinkable for a variety of reasons; cork taint, over the hill, etc. And then it happened the very next night.
The wine on the left, the Henry Earl Estates 2013 Merlot (Red Mountain AVA), was totally oxidised and, yes, undrinkable.  Down the sink it went. I suspect that the wine was in this state when it was bottled, probably having been produced poorly.  (The cork appeared sound, no leakage.) This bottle of Merlot was a gift, which probably contributed to my rapid rejection of this wine.
The wine on the right was a quick replacement - simply, the next bottle at hand - as dinner was being served.  The Goosecross 2014 Amerital (Napa Valley AVA) was tasty, quite moreish and not oxidised.  And, being a blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon and 43% Sangiovese, it just so happened to be a much better pairing with my Bolognese.
Life is too short to drink oxidised oenos!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The old and the new.

New Cabernet sauvignon leaves, old Cabernet sauvignon tendrils.
Vinoland's grapevines are enjoying a fantastic start to the 2017 growing season.  All four grape varieties are flourishing right now; lots of vigour in the vines, so lots of shoot stuffing for me to perform.
The weather has been a bit up and down, mid 90°s last week, mid 60°s the past two days.  I hope we are not going to have another cool growing season like that of 2011.  Only time will tell.

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Afternoon in the Vineyards: 2017.

This afternoon, Vinomaker and I ventured out of Vinoland, but we didn't go too far.  Staying fairly close to our Coombsville home, we decided to attend Afternoon in the Vineyards the annual event hosted by the Napa Valley Vintners.  And, for the first time, Vinodog 2 came along with us.
The folks at Faust, our vineyard of choice, farm approximately 112 acres in Coombsville's gently, rolling hills.  The vineyard is planted to five grape varieties; Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Syrah and Sauvignon blanc.  And all the vines, from what I could see, are head-trained and cane-pruned.  The weather was a tad cool, the scenery was beautiful and V2 had a poo.  Not much more to say really.  Oh, except that I did taste a Faust 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, but didn't think an awful lot of it; too plummy and one-dimensional, not a lot going on.

Monday, May 01, 2017

¡Trabajadores del mundo, uníos!

Happy May Day!  By which I mean a cheerful May Day to all, but only in the ancient-spring-festival-laudatory-way of celebrating the first day of May.  I love a bit of paganism now and again.
Yes, it is spring and, like me, Vinoland's grapevines are suitably enthused.  I spent most of the past four days making sure that the new, rapidly elongating shoots are securely tucked up behind the trellis wires. I love viticulture.  I love farming the grapevines in Vinoland, but, at this stage in my life, I wouldn't want to pursue viticulture as a full time job. Things, and people, change.
TWWIAGE is in the process of hiring a viticulturist.  The vacancy was just posted on Winejobs.com.  It is a new position, as TWWIAGE has never had a dedicated viticulturist before.  Instead, the owners of TWWIAGE went the traditional route of employing a vineyard manager who oversees all things grapey.  But things change.
I would not be an eligible candidate for the job. Neither would my young coworker, The Doodler, who is in the process of working his way through UC Davis and has designs on making a career out of viticulture. Why? Well, The Doodler, like me, doesn't speak Spanish and, furthermore, has no particular desire to learn Spanish.  But speaking Spanish is a requirement of being considered qualified to perform the job of viticulturist.  As The Doodler commented, in wry observation, "California [Napa] is the only place where one has to learn a foreign language in order to get a job in one's own country". Thought provoking.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Happy St. George's Day, 2017.

Who is this international dog of mystery?  It's just my faithful Vinodog 2 celebrating St. George's Day.  Yes, today is the Feast of Saint George, so V2 and I are dressed appropriately for the occasion.  And I've been singing Jerusalem all day.
I wish I had timed my holiday a little bit better, so that I could have celebrated St. George's Day in England this year.  Unfortunately, I departed "England's pleasant pastures..." 48 hours too soon.  Perhaps next year.
Happy St. George's Day to my family, friends and any dog who loves England as much as I do.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Brimstage Brewery.

Today, I went for an informative tour of a small brewery located close to where Thud lives. Situated in a modest building in the yard of a dairy farm, Brimstage Brewery produce about 5 different beers - including my favourite offering of theirs, Trapper's Hat.
Brimstage Brewery's head brewer, Adam Williams, gave me and my fellow Trapper's Hat fan, Monkey, a fantastic tour of the compact brewing facility and walked us through the entire beer making process. So interesting.  I even got to taste a few different types of malt and smell several different varieties of hops. Wonderful stuff, thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Monday, April 17, 2017

The takeaway.

I love cheap and cheerful, in almost anything, and at £5.00 a bottle (approximately $6.50) this wine was definitely cheap - and quite cheerful.
Purchased at Sainsbury's, The Takeout, 2015 Sangiovese (Rubicone IGT) was just the wine to pair with Thud's pasta bake; a hearty dish of baked ziti, meatballs and tons of cheese - which we ate in.  Whilst I would have liked a little bit more acid (though, unfortunately, I think I did detect a bit of volatile acidity), The Takeout was smooth, plummy and, ultimately, quite easy to drink.  
The label on the bottle (funnily enough, most info about this wine is on the front label), recommends drinking this wine with tacos and burritos, amongst other things.  Good English fare?  Hee, hee, I think not.  Saying that, it is a commonly held misconception that English people do not like spicy food.  On the contrary, Mexican food may be eaten in England now, but the English have been shovelling down curry for more than 250 years. But marketing is marketing and the whole, "Enjoy fine dining from the comfort of your couch" and "Great wine to take away" is this wine-peddler's schtick. Especially when paired with the slightly silly food pairing suggestions, (see what I did there?)
Oh, and happy International Malbec Day.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Happy Yeaster, 2017.

Sorry, but I couldn't resist using the pun, Yeaster, supplied by the manufacturer of this Easter egg.  Titter, titter.
It is Easter Sunday and, as is the tradition in England, a lot of chocolate eggs have been exchanged: big, tasty chocolate Easter eggs.  My Lenten fast ended just before breakfast this morning with my first taste of chocolate since February.  Yum!
I may not have had a lot of fermented grape juice since I have been home, but Thud wanted to make sure that I still had something yeasty. So he bought me this Marmite egg to try.  Marmite is a spread made out of yeast; it is dark, sticky, smelly and extremely salty.  Lots of people love it, or hate it.  Thud and I never had Marmite when we were growing up, it wasn't something our Vinomum liked even, so we never acquired a taste for it.  I had cousins who liked Marmite and they would eat it spread on top of buttered bread.  Yuck!
The Marmite Easter egg tasted bizarre.  I wouldn't say that I hated it exactly, but Marmite flavoured chocolate is not something I would really want to eat again, (but I'll try anything once).  It was intensely salty.  If I wanted to be pretentious about it, I'd describe the taste as umami-like. Titter, titter, again.
Eat chocolate!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

A bunch of rosés.

Although there hasn't been much rain since I have been home it has been extremely blustery. Extremely blustery.  In other words, the weather has been anything but rosé-weather.  I was hoping that whilst I was here I could perhaps enjoy a glass, or two, of a nice pink vino with a leisurely lunch, or dinner.  No such luck. (Although I did have a nice glass of Frascati after the Grand National.)
If the weather had been nice, and a tasty rosé had been in order, I would probably have had a hard time picking just one to buy.  The selection of rosés available in the local Sainsbury's supermarket is rather extensive, I wish it was like that in my Napa supermarket.
I may still have time to partake of something pink, but only if the weather cooperates.  For now, I will just imagine that I am sitting in the Napa sun with a glass of a nicely chilled rosé in my hand and my trusty poochie, V2, who I am missing like mad, by my side.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

The National.

Simply say The National to any English person and they will know exactly what one is referring to: just the greatest steeplechase in the universe, that's all.  The Grand National is an annual horse race which is held at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool.  The race is famous for having larger, and deeper, jumps than the common or garden steeplechase and it is run over a much longer distance, i.e., over 4 miles.  The race is a big event for Britons - even if one doesn't usually bet on the gee-gees, one will have a wager on The National.  The race has been run since 1839 and there have been a lot of winners.  But the 2017 race will mark 40 years since Red Rum, the most famous of all National winners, in an unsurpassed and historic feat, won his third and final Grand National.
I was excited to be home for The National this year, I love the spectacle of it all.  The entire family, even the 3 year old, got in on the act and placed bets (two horses each).  In fact, the horse the toddler picked came in first, a horse called One for Arthur.  (How did she do that?) Another niece and I both picked the horse that placed fourth, so we broke even money-wise, meanwhile the 3 year old is a big winner.  I still love the race, whether I win or lose.