Friday, April 11, 2014

A pretty bloom.

Once again, just when I thought I had uncovered every last blue (and purple) wildflower in Vinoland I have found another.  I think I have mentioned it numerous times before that blue (and purple) flowering plants are my favourites and I find them all as enchanting as one another, so it made me really happy to find this little blossom.
Identifying this particular wildflower turned out to be a little difficult.  Of course it is obviously very iris-like, but the two most common native Californian irises that I identified, in a couple of native plant guides I possess in my smallish reference library, happen to be the Douglas Iris (Iris douglasiana) and the Western Blueflag Iris (Iris missouriensis).  Neither of these irises are really considered to be wild flowers as often they have simply just escaped cultivation.  So I turned to the internet to do some further research and I am 99% sure that my, quite diminutive, iris is the Bowltube Iris (Iris macrosiphon).  Found on slopes and in woodlands, the flowering stalk on the bowltube is much shorter (and stalk-less) than the attending leaves, a feature which distinguishes this iris from the aforementioned two.  The iris in the photograph is rather close to the ground, it's leaves being more than twice it's height.
One interesting snippet of information about this iris is that it was a source of fibre for Native Americans who harvested the leaves to produce cordage that they used to make bird nets, fish nets, deer snares and other useful items.  I am not going to be ripping the foliage from this agreeable little flower any time soon, as I want it to reappear next year (and I think it may be the only one of it's kind in Vinoland).  So flower on little weed.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Spray day.

Today, at last, and for the next 5 day extended weather outlook, there is no rain in the forecast.  So, and not a moment too soon, the vines received their first application of sulphur for the season.  I was starting to get a bit worried about the Orange muscat vines which have a good 10-12 inches of growth already - they should have had two, preventative sulphur treatments (to ward off powdery mildew infection) by now, but the weather has not been cooperating.  Ho hum.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Grape Pearls.

Grape pearls, or sap balls, are tiny sap-filled droplets that are exuded from surface cells of rapidly growing grapevines.  Often mistaken for insect eggs, which is what I thought they were when I first saw them, grape pearls are a curiosity (to me at least) found on grapevine shoots, and the underside of leaves, in the spring only.  In fact, I had to look under several leaves before I found a node displaying these slightly opaque sap balls: they were much more evident a week or so ago, but I was too busy elsewhere to stop and take a photograph. 
The technical name for this phenomenon is guttation.  Grapevines experiencing rapid spring growth can exhibit guttation under high moisture conditions - diffusion pressure builds inside the plant because of high soil moisture and a low rate of transpiration due to high humidity.  The built up pressure is released by exuding water and minerals from specialised cells...voila, grape pearls.  Apparently, pearls occur on some grape varieties more than others, which probably explains why I have seen then mainly on the Orange muscat vines.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

My Cab's here.

It's a good job my livelihood isn't dependent on me predicting things correctly.  Four or five days until budbreak, indeed!  Today I noticed that the Cabernet Sauvignon vines are experiencing budbreak - albeit sporadic - but budbreak it is.  Infact, there are quite a few adventitious buds that have developed on the vine's trunks that have already unfurled into rosy-pink, baby leaves.  Go little buddies!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Past due.

It rained for most of today, most of the week actually.  Just enough drizzly rain to make my hair annoyingly curly, but not enough to put a dint in California's water shortage woes.  However, the amount of precipitation has been sufficient to make the first application (for the season) of wettable sulphur impossible.  The Orange muscat vines have about 10 inches of growth already and look fantastically healthy, but they are at the stage were they should be due a second application of powdery mildew killing sulphur, not awaiting their first.  Mother Nature is not cooperating.  So, besides my tonsorial-tribulations, I have running through my head tortuous images of the unfettered sporulation of Uncinula necator slowly creeping over my pretty, green, succulent Orange muscat shoots.  Hang in there buddies.

Friday, March 28, 2014


Vinished, that's Vinoland lingo meaning I have finished tying down every last cane in the vineyard. Yay!
It was a pretty easy process as the Cabernet sauvignon vines are still slumbering.  The cooler weather this week has slowed things down a bit, so I'm predicting that budbreak won't happen for another 4 or 5 days yet.
Also, got a couple of dead vines removed (thank you, Vinomaker) and filled the holes (that Vinomaker dug) with new, baby vines.  The photograph shows, but not very well (I should have used a different background), one of the extracted vines which has a deep, 11" split along the lower half of it's trunk.  Did this split cause the death of this vine?  No, I'm sure this vine had just run it's natural course and the split occurred postmortem.  Hate when that happens.  But I love it when I have finished pruning.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Birthday bevvies.

I am having a busy week and I am only now getting around to posting about my birthday dinner.
As is our tradition, Vinomaker and I like to surprise each other with a visit to a new restaurant on the other one's birthday.  My surprise eatery this birthday was Lulu's Kitchen at 1313 Main.  1313 Main is a wine bar/lounge located at 1313 Main St. in downtown Napa.
And as is our tradition, our wine choices for the evening were from the 'Wine by the Glass' wine list - not as extensive as at some other restaurants, but nevertheless we found enough variety to keep us entertained.  And the wines were;
Weingut Knoll, "Lobiner" 2012 GrĂ¼ner Veltliner, Federspiel, Wachau, Austria.
Terre Rouge, 2012 Viognier, Amador County, California.
Xarmant Txakolina, 2012 Hondarabbi Zuri, Arabako Txakolina, Spain.
Gamling & McDuck, 2010 Cabernet Franc, Napa, California.
Lioco, "Satira" 2011 Carignan, Mendocino County, California.
Muga Reserva, 2009 Tempranillo, Rioja, Spain.
The tapas-style small plates we paired with these wines were all fairly decent, but really nothing to write home about.  I enjoyed myself, but I'm not in a hurry to revisit Lulu's, there are so many more restaurants in the valley to try.
Thank you Vinomaker for an enjoyable birthday evening.

Sunday, March 23, 2014


I finished pruning.  Whoo hoo!  My trigger finger is a bit sore, but my trusty Felco No. 6 secateurs performed admirably.  Still have to tie down about 50% of the canes, but I have time as there is no real sign of budbreak in the Cabernet vines yet.  Phew!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Happy birthday to me, again!

Yes, I'm having another one!  And as much as I have enjoyed my day thus far, I don't think I need anymore birthdays after this one.  Who exactly do I contact to cancel the annual anniversary of my birth?  Never mind, I'm just joking.
Oh...and Happy Birthday John Toshack.
Vinogirl loves birthdays.

Friday, March 21, 2014


The first full day of spring has come and gone.  But for several distractions, I spent most of the day pruning in the Cabernet vines.  I think I'm on schedule to be finished the actual pruning, but not the tying down of canes, on Sunday.
One distraction was a huge cluster of California poppies (Eschscholzia californica) that just looked so splendid I had to get a closer peep.  The poppies got going a little later this year, because of the lack of winter rain, but they are now blooming spectacularly en masse.  And they are everywhere: this year's crop is perhaps the most prolific display of full-on-poppy-goldiness I have ever seen.  There should be plenty still blooming by California Poppy Day, which is April 6th.
Then I got distracted by a crab spider (Misumenoides formosipes) who in turn was distracted by a small, pollen covered beetle.  The beetle flew off and I went back to pruning.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Syrah in a jar.

The 2014 Syrah pruning is in the bag.  Yup, finished pruning the Syrah today, yay!  And not a moment too soon, I'll say.  The vines seemed to be getting more and more enthused, popping out leaves and flower clusters before my very eyes, as I worked my way along the last two rows.  I couldn't resist bringing some cuttings indoors prolonging their life a little, and getting to enjoy some really fresh greenery, if only for a few days.
Now, back to the Cabernet vines.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Aging disgracefully.

A story caught my eye in the 'On Wine' section of yesterday's Napa Valley Register, or rather two specific quotes in the story did.  The gist was...Leslie Rudd, owner of Press Restaurant in St. Helena (and Rudd Winery, Dean & DeLuca etc.), had invited 25 notable, pioneering Napa vintners to be wined and dined, and join him in the opening of his new cellar - said to contain the largest all Napa wine collection in the country - at the restaurant.  Guests included the likes of Paul Draper of Ridge Vineyards, Randy Dunn of Dunn Vineyards and Robin Lail of Lail Vineyards.  Rare wines were poured for the guests, including; a 1974 School House, Pinot noir and a 1977 Stony Hill, Chardonnay...I bet a good time was had by all.
During the dessert course a few vintners were asked to speak about wine and aging, and here are the aforementioned quotes.  Firstly, John Williams of Frog's Leap Winery compared wine to people claiming "if either starts out ugly, they're doomed to remain ugly."  Titter, titter.  And secondly, Wayne Winiarski (he of '1976 Tasting of Paris' fame) waxed a bit more lyrical than Mr. Williams philosophising that "wine is not a living thing (as many espouse), but rather a dying thing, hopefully dying gracefully."  Snigger, snigger. 
I am going to add a third quote, more about people than wine, from my dearest mother who has been known to quip, "I don't plan on aging gracefully.  I plan to do it disgracefully."  The older I get, the more I am inclined to agree with her.  Chuckle, chuckle.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Budding debut.

There's a lot going on in the vineyard - the least of which includes me, frantically pruning my way through the Syrah -  especially in the Orange Muscat (OM) block where the vines are very enthused.  And there's a lot going on in the OM's new growth; baby leaves, baby tendrils and baby flower clusters.  I love how glossy the OM shoots look when they are brand new.  The weather has been beautiful all week and, I swear to goodness, the OM vines grew a whole half-inch in one day.  I will be finished with pruning the Syrah tomorrow (thanks to a lot of help from Vinomaker) and then I will return to the Cabernet vines.
If anyone needs to find me, I'll be in amongst the Syrah.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Sweet Sixteen.

My birthday princess, V1, is celebrating her 16th birthday today.  Old Brownie is not the dog she once was, but at 112 in people years she's doing relatively fine.  Well, V1 now totters about like some old dear in ill-fitting high heels; her bark, of late, resembles that of a hoarse, demented sealion; and her rear caboose is a bit loose (get my drift?) in that it can't be trusted for any longer than 3 hours in the house.  But all in all, she is doing great for a dog of her age - her appetite is still good, she continues to be irritated by a certain neighbour when they drive past Vinoland and, most importantly, she's been right there alongside me as I prune my way through the grapevines.  She's a great dog.
Happy birthday V1!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Now, I'm panicking!

I spoke too soon, because I have started to panic.  Why I hadn't bothered to look at the Syrah vines before today is beyond me, so when I did make the effort to go and have a peek at what the vines were up to I was horrified.  I discovered that bud-swell (and lots of budbreak), is much further along than I would have liked.  Drat! 
I had to abandon pruning in the Cabernet vines because the Syrah vines simply cannot wait.  I did, with Vinomaker's help in removing last year's growth from the trellising, get quite a bit pruned.  It makes it very difficult to prune when the buds are so advanced, as even the simple act of pulling the old growth away from the trellis wires can easily knock off adjacent buds - never mind the fiddly process of wrapping and tying down the new canes.
I will get everything pruned eventually, even with my day-job paring into my pruning time, but I will have to accept the loss of some crop.  At least the Orange Muscat and Pinot grigio pruning went smoothly this season.