Tuesday, January 27, 2009

2009 - Time to Explore...More

One of my personal goals this year was to get a nice digital camera and begin shooting my own version of Napa Valley and the local areas. Well, after a very good referral from a photographer friend of mine, I'm off and running with my new gadget.

One of things I've quickly noticed is that you immediately become more observant about your surroundings...looking for any opportunity to shoot a good shot. I've gotten up early to catch a sunrise, taken the camera in the car on the way to work, taken it along while walking the dog, and pretty much looking at the vineyards much more diligently than ever before.

The Vineyards

There is a strange beauty in the depleted vineyards right now. The vines are being pruned back and the mustard flower is almost in full-bloom weaving its way throughout the land. Where the vines were once canopied and fully green, all the greenery is now on the valley floor and hills contrasting with the barren stalks of vines...almost giving it a sinister look to the vineyards.

Another observance is the the quicker assessment of the age of the vines. You can easily discern the young, newly planted 'skinny' vines along with the thicker, more robust aged trunks that denote its length of time in the ground. After being here for while, you can actually spot the 20+ year-old vines pretty easily in one glance.

The Land

The geology here is also pretty amazing. I had a tasting with a winemaker friend of mine that was a geologist in his former life. He now owns a vineyard up on Diamond Mountain (one of my favorite sub-appellations here) and he gave a quick lesson as we were standing atop the mountain area looking down at the valley floor. He said this area is so unique in that it comprises three primary topographies/landscape formations - 1) Volcanic, 2) Glacial, and 3) Tectonic. This was all "greek" to me, but when you look around, you can actually see these type geological activities results across the landscape.

The Seasons

Then there is the seasons as it relates to the sun. As you observe the path of the sun at different times of the year, you begin to notice how it affects the vines in various ways. As the sun goes from East to West and/or lower and higher during the seasons, you see that there is somewhat of a science to how the vines are laid out. some run North to South or East to West (or vise-versa) depending on their location in the valley or across a hilltop.mountain. This is no accident and when you talk to growers or vineyard mangers, you realize there is deep philosophy mixed with wine science that goes in to the entire process.

It never fails to blow me away when I really sit and write or think about these special things about 'wine country'. I love it here. These are just a few quick observations and I'm sure much more to come as I begin to explore this region and beyond start to train my new photographic eye.

Until the next sip, swirl ya' later!


Saturday, January 3, 2009

My 2009 Wine Goals

Every new year I do goals, not resolutions. I've never really liked the idea of "resolutions" per-se...they always sounded to me like exposed past mistakes or failures attempting to turn in to a new positive movement of some sort...blah blah blah. Anyway, I do several 'categories' of goals - personal, business, family, etc. - and this year, I'm adding a new category, wine.

I never have really thought of doing 'wine' goals until now. Now, that I am living in wine country and working within the wine industry, I think it is more appropriate. I have a new position in the industry working for a high-profile premium winery that has solidified my presence here and staying in Napa Valley for a while. I couldn't be more pleased with starting 2009 in this manner.

Now for the goals...here goes:

1. Drink/open the wines in my collection that are probably near or past their prime. Believe it or not, this is no easy task. I have several 80's and 90's California reds that just plain need to be opened and drank asap. I see a "drink it or dump it" party in the near future.

2. Expand my collection to include more French, Italian and German varietals. 90% of my collection is CA red. This is primarily because when I collected a lot early on, I just flat out did not know what I was doing and made the common mistake more amateurs make. Through my wine training I've learned that regions like Piedmonte, Tuscany, Barolo, Burgundy, Bordeaux, Rhone Alsace, Mosel, Rheingau, etc. and the such provide for much more interesting wines to age.

3. Try more wines from Spain, Argentina, Chile and Portugal. Not only do these wines provide for some incredible values, the wine quality has surprised many experts in a very short time.

4. Join a dynamic wine club (or two). It's been over 5 years since I was a member of a wine club...and I miss this immensely. Only this time around instead of joining only from one winery, I am going to mix it up and try to include a club that exposes me to new varietals from around the world that I may not normally find on my own.

5. Take some more wine classes and possibly finish my 3rd level Sommelier training. The biggest thing I've learned in my training so far is how much I actually do not know. It is truly an endless vat of information that one can only hope to grasp a small percentage of within a keen area of interest.

6. Learn more about wine making. This is probably the area of least knowledge in my wine arsenal. Aside from constantly asking questions and observing about the process from winemakers I have met and/or worked with, I'd love to some day actually make a batch of my own wine.

7. Travel to new wine country/region. This one is pretty simple...Italy (Tuscany & Piedmonte). It has been on the radar for several years and it just needs to happen sooner than later.

8. Add more features on my personal wine website, LocalWino.com. I have had this site for over a year and have several new cool ideas/features I want to add to it...much more to come soon.

9. Work a wine harvest season. Now that I am working directly with a winery, I am very excited about working in the middle of a harvest (Aug. - Oct.). The amount of activity during this time is unparalleled and there is so much to learn. Lots of extra hours, but well worth it.

10. Keep up with my wine blog writing more regularly. Ideally, every week. But knowing what type of work schedule I am probably going to be dealing with, a more realistic goal is bi-weekly. I'll leave it at 2-4 times a month I will try and write about something new...I will have more 'material' to work with being more involved, so maybe I can make it happen.

So, there's my top-10. A great start already to the year...wine-wise that is. On New Year's eve, we did open three decades of wine spanning the 80's to 2005, I've updated my blog (here), I bought some Riesling and Piedmonte wines, made a 'date' with a winemaker to learn more about the processes and joining a local wine club this week that spans the globe...now about that vacation to Italy...better talk to my new employer soon.

Until the next sip...swirl ya' later!

Chief Wino