I'm one of several members to be featured on AWP's online magazine.
What are those things among the leaves?
See all those bristly things that look like evanescent caterpillars among the leaves on this Sauvignon Blanc vine? They are clusters of grape buds in full bloom. If nothing goes wrong (rain or high winds can damage the delicate flower filaments, preventing fruit "set"), tiny berries will form. Over the summer they will grow, change from green to gold, soften and ripen.
Two things to note about this. First, this photo was taken on 5/18. That's nearly a month early for bloom.
Second, that's a lot of clusters. Last year's crop was plentiful. Two big crops in a row is unusual.
Stay tuned. It's still only May.
It's time to celebrate the 40 years since Domaine Chandon was founded in 1973 -- where has the time gone?
The winery is organizing a private event for current and former employees (aka the Domainiacs) during the evening of July 6. Just email your contact information to email@example.com to receive an invitation. And please pass this along to any alums who might not otherwise know of this opportunity to get together for picnic fare, ping pong, dancing and, of course, bubbly.
I look forward to seeing a lot of Domainiacs on July 6!
A flight of Pinot Grigio.
Our panel of four judges at the Riverside International Wine Competition (results) tasted 145 wines, plus another 40-50 finalists, in two days this week. To offset the numerous Pinot Grigios and Chardonnays we faced, we were given a gift of Barberas, Chiantis and Nero d'Avola and other reds to taste/evaluate blind. Spitting is de rigueur.
We (a sommelier, an importer of Italian wines, a consulting winemaker and former winery CEO me) did rate a number of wines unanimously, but more often were far enough apart to engender lively discussion and occasionally a retasting. In this situation there are a million shades of gray, and each of us was willing to adjust our score when one or more panelists was strongly supportive of a wine that the others had only liked or even initially disliked. (Wines change quickly in the glass.)
Our panel concluded that we would make a high-functioning government for the USA.
Wineries do things differently in Oregon's Rogue Valley. Between Shakespeare plays and hikes in Ashland's lovely Lithia Park, the high school girlfriends squeezed in a day of wine touring last weekend.
Red Lily is a lovely place to visit, and makes very good wines. Fiasco (winery) was old school funky but fun; they will refill your personal "flask" from barrel at reasonable cost. Old hands that we are, we were nonetheless surprised by the greeters at Longsword Winery. Three Southdown Baby Doll rams, bred for their welcoming faces and gentle ways, wouldn't move out of the shady doorway. We had to enter the tasting room through a side door. Then the owner appeared with treats, precipitating the fat sheep version of leaping to attention. We learned that he won't have them sheared because it would be too upsetting. For them.
Don't even mention the Napa Valley in the same breath as Disneyland.
For years people have been asserting, writing, repeating, and believing, that Napa Valley is second only to Disneyland as a mecca for tourists in California.
This is not true. It has never been true. Not even close.
For the record, last year Napa Valley welcomed just under 3 million visitors. Compare that to Disneyland's 16 million -- about the same as San Francisco.
Watching this young climber start to cover the wall got me wondering whether we should rename the winery Villa Mille Roses. But then I remembered that our next door neighbor named her place Villa Mille Rose (who knows Italian grammar? not I) years ago, and has a sign out front to prove it.
We'll stick with Villa Ragazzi. Sounds better with Sangiovese, and gli ragazzi wouldn't like being replaced by roses.
Roses are in their first full flush here in Napa Valley. This 3-year old Cecile Brunner climber will get a haircut after its initial bloom, but that will slow it only a little before the curtain goes up on the next show.
The white milk cartons in the background are sheltering baby Sangiovese vines grafted last year.
In another week when frost season should be safely past, we will plant the heirloom tomato starts. Trying some new varieties this year.