Sunday, February 16, 2020

2011 Beresan Stone River

Opened this outside Death Valley at a steakhouse. Cab-Syrah. 9 years aging really showed. So smooth. Rich purple robe. Calming purple fruits. Just a pleasure to drink. At $25-ish, it's a huge bargain.
Friends, it's so true-anyone can overpay for takes no skill at all. What's challenging is finding great wines at lower prices.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Grapes of Wrath

This article reports that California saw both (1) more plantings of Cab Sauv and Pinot Noir grapes, but also (2) lower sales of those grapes, which means a surprisingly large amount of Cab Sauv and Pinot Noir went unsold and rotted on the vines.

1. Just because a grape's wine is popular doesn't necessarily mean that it's smart to plant more of it.
2. There are, oh, at least 300 different vinifera winegrapes; why focus on just two? Too many grapegrowers do whatever other growers are doing. Not smart.
3. There are, oh, at least 300 different non-vinifera ("Modern") grape varieties, which ripen earlier, don't need antifungal spray, hang higher yields, have much more cold- and drought-tolerance, and make great-tasting wine, so why not plant those?

Check out modern winegrapes in my book (on Amazon) titled "Modern Grapes for the Pacific Northwest."

(photo credit Purdue University)

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Review of 2009 Reserve de la Comtesse: Well, that was disappointing.

Well, that was disappointing. This is a $49 wine which scored 94-96 points by Wine Enthusiast.

Ten years old, it didn't drink that well at all.  It drank like a mediocre $13 bottle. You could coax a tiny trace of black currant fruit from it, and maybe some plum. The flavors were dark and the whole wine was out of balance. This is the second wine of the famed Super-Second Growth Pichon Lalande, and we can only hope the great Pichon Lalande doesn't age so poorly at this. It's possible that the second wine shouldn't be held for ten years, but the reviews (it gets about 89-90 points on Cellar Tracker) all say it still could use some more aging. I'm not so sure--a Bordeaux should be showing you some impressive flavors by ten years out. And I left half the bottle in the fridge for five days, to watch it and see if all the air time woke it up, but only very slightly.

Bordeaux may be suffering from climate change (which drives to black fruits, whereas I prefer red and purple fruits in my red wines). Or maybe the rater just got it wrong.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

I work pretty hard to weed and mulch the Epona Vineyard. So, why mulch a vineyard?

You can't make great wine from shoddy fruit. One of the benefits of owning a small, hand-tended vineyard is that you can do many things to improve fruit quality, and hopefully that shows up in the wine. Just go look at other vineyards, and you almost always see weeds/grass growing right up to the grapes' trunks. Not mine. I work hard to keep the "vinerows" weed-free and mulched. 

Heavy rains aside, I've been weeding and mulching the Epona vineyard this week. First, I weed each row by hand, then spread mulch from the trailer, by hand. The ground is so wet that even on a rare sunny day, it is making bubbling/leaking sounds, probably relating to the little passageways carved underground by the earthworms. The mulch helps the grapes in many ways: it prevents weeds that compete for nutrients; it holds moisture in the soil on hot sunny days; it keeps the soil cool on hot days, which the roots like; it eventually decomposes and adds nutrients to the soil. The mulch would last for 2-3 years if it weren't for the moles, which throw huge piles of dirt on top of the mulch (the moles are after the worms that I'm trying to grow--the worms are the big secret in an organic vineyard). I've tried metal mole-traps--they occasionally work and are a big pain to set correctly. I've not tried the shotgun-shell traps. I have tried using road flares to fill the mole tunnels with sulfur gas, which sometimes makes the moles leave for another home. 

But the best mole-trap is one invented many millions of years ago: It's this thing called a "gopher snake" ;) . I was lucky enough to see the back half of one, here, once, as it desperately fled me into a big logpile--I said, "You cannot be a rattlesnake--no way, not here." So I researched what those rattler-like splotches were, and the answer was clear: Gopher snake! They have all my best wishes and support. I am fairly sure they are active in my vineyard, even though I've never again seen one. I know this because many other nearby places have thousands more mole mounds than we have. I know  why other places don't have gopher snakes: Those other property owners are killing animals, including snakes, with inorganic fertilizers, insecticides, and herbicides. Just go organic! and let Nature help you.

We also have a few black racers, but 99% of our snakes--and we have many thousands of these--are garters, which eat many bugs but alas can't control moles. 80% of the garter snakes are "yellow-stripes," and about 15% are "red stripes," and 5% are "blue stripes"--vivid teal-blue stripes and I can prove it ;)

(Photo credit of non-venomous, "scaredy-cat" gopher snake (and doesn't it look a bit like a rattlesnake?):

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Washington state relief map!

This is pretty cool. You can see the state's wine valleys very prominently.

Though the Columbia River cuts through it, the extreme northern end of the Wilamette Valley is where our vineyard is. We're on the south side of an East-West little mountain range that extends SW from Mt St Helens. That little mountain range plunges to the Columbia around Kalama WA.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

The wonder of grapes

Are you amazed at the complexity of grapes? I am. To my knowledge there is no other fruit than can do what grapes can do: A grape can taste like hundreds of other fruits and vegetables and herbs. I've been searching for a word that decscribes this ability: The best word might be "mimicry."

Mimicry: The close external resemblance of an animal or plant (or part of one) to another animal, plant, or inanimate object.

I'm not sure that a Cab Franc grape's aroma only has a "close resemblance" to green bell pepper's aroma. I think it is the SAME aroma, made by the same chemical compounds (specifically, one of the pyrazines). This is why I'm still searching for the right word. Might have to invent one.

Getting back to the incredible complexity of grapes: This article in Nature describes how we are slowly unraveling the specific genetic basis for the vast array of grape aromas. Check this out from the article:

"The predominate compounds contributing to the aroma profile of grape berries fall into the following categories: mono- and sesquiterpenes, methoxypyrazines, furan derivatives, lipoxygenase pathway products, and phenylpropanoid pathway products... During winemaking and subsequent aging processes, volatile compounds and their precursors can undergo enzyme-catalyzed modifications and spontaneous chemical transformations. "

Each of those families of aromatic chemicals contains many specific chemicals that can be discerned by our olfactory systems (noses). 

Help me come up with this word! Join me in admiring this ability of grapes. Does this mean the grape is the most-advanced fruit on our world, given that a fruiting plant's goal is to make the best-tasting fruit, in order to induce an animal to eat the fruit and then poop out the remains of it elsewhere, thereby spreading the seeds and helping the grape survive via new offspring?

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Spectacular 1985 Washington Cab!

I went to Roland Winery, in Longview WA, for my first time last night; it was owner Mark's granddaughter's 21st birthday; they have a pizza oven (and the pizza and salad were GREAT). It's a cute space; cozy; everyone knows each other; I liked the Roland Barbera. In summer the fun spills out onto their outside crush pad area. My kind host Steve is a favorite customer there, and gave me a great tour of the wines/space.

But this post is about a wonderful old wine that one friend of the winery, Jim, brought: 1985 Columbia Cabernet Sauvignon, made by David Lake.

1. Columbia was the 1983 successor to Associated Vintners, a Univ of Wa-professor-based organization that was one of the very first winemaker groups in this state. I have a bottle from about 1975, of an Ass'd Vintners wine. (Alas, I received the bottle already empty, but I kept the bottle for its historical importance. Hey! WA needs a wine museum. This bottle belongs in it.)
2. This 1985 Cab was still young and vibrant! The color indicated it, and then the nose, and finally the palate. The wine was no doubt made in a cooler year than optimal, as the dominant fruits were cranberry and red berries (whereas it should be black currants), but the flavor was fresh and clean, and the wine was well made. It even had a nice sagebrush note. Very impressive aging.
3.Best of all, I noticed the bottle carried a $2.89 price sticker, so I asked Jim if that was really the price. "Oh, yes," he said. "These bottles were sent back by a distributor, and got dumped onto a retailer, who priced them to go quickly." Wow is all I can say. Living history! A special moment.

This was Otis Vineyard, Yakima, and David Lake was a big deal-a reknowned winemaker. He was the first to plant Syrah in Washington state.

2011 Beresan Stone River

Opened this outside Death Valley at a steakhouse. Cab-Syrah. 9 years aging really showed. So smooth. Rich purple robe. Calming purple fruits...