Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Ripening Regent grapes

With nets (nets with spreaders, this year), and mean-looking plastic snakes and good luck, so far the grapes are ripening unmolested. Pretty blue color that will go to deep purple. The grapes are already about 18 Brix with superb rubbable skin pigments.

The clusters aren't completely full because not all the flowers got pollinated, as there was some rain during flowering this year. But the crop on my three vines is looking great--perhaps 70 or so clusters and plenty of healthy leaves to ripen them all, if this great sunshine holds. The 15 day forecast predicts a continuation of warm, sunny weather--just ideal.

Vanderbilt Engineering

Wow. Vandy is my alma mater (Engineering and Law). This year the Engineering school had 5,300 applications for just 320 seats in the Class of 2016. Yes, kids apply to multiple schools, but not to 16.56 schools! It's safe to say that Vanderbilt can fill a class with some very special kids. And even when I went there (1976-1980), my engineering class was more than a third women, which was an unusually high fraction at that time, and something (even before I met my feminist wife) that I was very proud of. Also proud that my daughter and my grandfather attended Vanderbilt.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Somebody's list of Oregon's Top 50 wines

This list, like all such lists, is, of course, condemnable for the many good wines it leaves off.

However, it's useful to peruse it, for several reasons. First, some wines you may not have had are listed, and those would be fun to try. I know White Rose pretty well, including its winemaker Jesus, but W.Rose hasn't gotten a lot of press recently; however, they hold down the #1 and #2 Pinot Noir spots!

Also, notice the high score given to Gamay (the '11, by Division Winemaking Company). Gamy is a grape grown between Burgundy and the Rhone, which suggests it could be grown here, in the warmer parts of the Willamette Valley, because there is good Syrah made here now, too.

The list is here.

Friday, September 14, 2012

But, if soil minerals don't flavor wine, at least nearby aromatic plants do

It makes sense that stuff floating in the air can stick to the grape and thus make its way into the wine. We know that smoke from forest fires does that (with sometimes terrible results). So can aromatics, such as resins from plants. Think rosemary, sage, pines, eucalyptus . . .

"Garrigue" is a hot term now, to describe woodsy flavors in wine (esp in the Rhone). It relates to the native bushes and trees that grow in and near the vineyards, and rosemary is one of those in the Southern Rhone.

I think such botanical influences on wine add to the complexity of the wine, and can foster a unique "terroir" for each vintage and each vineyard. Now, if the grapegrower can just deter any passing irritated skunk . . .

The article is here.

Here's a photo of garrigue (photo credit to Ian Whitehead):

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Pac NW grape weather update, 9-13-2012

Very good news. A dry and warm summer (warm for this region, which would be a summer cold crisis just about anywhere else). And now, a continuing sunny spell for at least two more weeks. We haven't had more than a tenth of an inch of rain since July 6.

The grapes, all grapes (vinifera and modern varieties), are looking great, though some are already suffering some bird predation.

It would be easy to go ahead and declare a triumphant, wonderful year! but it is prudent to wait and see.

And yet, the harvest is so close now.

(photo credit:

Minerality in wine? Only problem is, there isn't any.

. . . or so say researchers:

We see many winemakers referencing their wines' "minerality." Whether it's oyster shells in the wines of Marlborough, New Zealand, or Burgundy's limestone, or the Sierra Foothills AVA's decomposed granite, many wines are marketed as having unique minerals in the wine.

It's almost as if making wines is more like a rock and mineral show than a study in fruit.

But a fascinating article shows that minerals in wine are not detectable by humans. Really? Yep.  There are certain smells and flavors that we associate with minerals, but we cannot detect the minerals per se--there just aren't enough ppm of the minerals in the wine, for us to be able to notice them.

One example is flint. Flint is silica, which is what we make glass from. Flint is odorless and tasteless. We make glass from it precisely because it's odorless and tasteless. Ergo, it can't be a taste or aroma in wine.

However, we all know that smell after a summer rain on hot rocks. We all know what "flinty" means in a wine descriptor. So I think that even though the minerals aren't perceptible to us, there are other smells and flavors (perhaps from the fruit?) which we describe as mineral in origin. No harm, no foul. And as we know, grapes are the original chimeras of the plant world: Grapes alone are able to mimic the bouquets and flavors of other fruits. Yes! Just think of the many fruits we taste in grape wine: strawberry, kiwi, citrus, blackberry, apple, peach, pear, currant . . .

Read the article here.

(photo credit:

Monday, September 3, 2012

Pretty impressive wine haul

Every picture tells a story. This first pic says, "61 cases of wine purchased from the bankruptcy trustee's rep safely made it back to Portland from Seattle, and are eagerly awaiting enthusiastic drinkers."

The second pic is my home's foyer saying, "My joists are aching! I sure hope everybody gets their wine soon!"

Wow; what great prices! I am happy that we can enjoy some of that '06 Merlot; Walla Walla fruit, perfectly mature now, expertly made, and a super, super treat! And of course the '07 Narcissa is just wonderful in every way. What a find!

Considering both volume and vehicle weight ratings: 61 cases just barely fits into a Highlander and a Civic. In case you wanted to know. Also, an SUV's mpg (which, admittedly, is not so great to begin with) doesn't seriously suffer when it's loaded to max weight; who knew? And: would you be surprised to know that our '06 Civic can carry nearly the same weight as our Highlander? (of course, it doesn't have nearly as much room, but it could carry almost as much weight).

I learned more about the Whitman bankruptcy. There were several owners, and the majority owner really loved the Narcissa (who doesn't?) but he made too much of it--more than could be sold. That's about all it takes to get into trouble. So sorry it happened. But don't feel too bad when consuming this wine--at least we're all helping the unpaid creditors get some of the money owed to them, by buying the bankrupt estate's assets.

How Climate Change's Extreme Weather Events Affect Grapes and Wine:

  We (Epona) joined the Porto Protocol a year or two ago; it's a collaboration of grapegrowers and winemakers, worldwide, who are focusi...