Thursday, January 21, 2010

Wines I'm Making: New Rosé Label

Just finished designing the label for the 2009 Sangiovese rosé and having it printed. Looks good on the bottles. Ready for drinking. Two cases made.

Birds I'm Watching: Lake Ralphine/Spring Lake

Took a walk around Lake Ralphine and Spring Lake today in the pouring rain. What was I thinking? Actually, I was thinking I might finally get to see a rail, as people keep telling me they are easy to see when high water levels force them up on to higher ground, but today I didn't even hear a rail.

I did see some birds, though. Several moorhens were close in on the little peninsula that juts out into Spring Lake (it's nearly an island at the moment). There were robins everywhere. There are still many common mergansers on Lake Ralphine. The highlight was probably a varied thrush--not exactly a rare bird, but it's the first one I've seen in a couple of years.

Other birds I saw were: Mallard, double-crested cormorant, Canada goose, bufflehead, pied-billed grebe, ruby-crowned kinglet, hermit thrush, spotted towhee, California towhee (including a partially-leucistic bird normal in all respects except that it had a crescent of white at the nape--as if it had rolled up a towel and flung it around its neck), house finch, dark-eyed junco, Anna's hummingbird, great blue heron, great egret, snowy egret, scrub jay, Steller's Jay, yellow-rumped warblers (15 or so), California quail (19), golden-crowned sparrow, black phoebe, crow, acorn woodpecker, hairy woodpecker, downy woodpecker, Northern flicker, bushtits, and chestnut-backed chickadees. These last were in a group (5) picking buds off the willows. I noticed that many of the buds have already broken. The chickadees were imitating the rather annoying habit birds in my backyard have of eating all the buds off the fruit trees and ornamental plums. At home, however, it's mostly the house finches and juncos that do this.... Anyway, despite the rain and absence of rails, I still saw thirty-two bird species.

Plants I'm Growing: Candytuft

First blooms on the Iberis (candytuft) in the garden on Monday, the 19th. The first blooms last year were on the 22nd. A year (corresponding mostly to calendar year 2009) according to this plant was thus 362 days. I've become fond of candytuft as it handles our summer drought well and it blooms in the winter, when comparatively little is in flower. It looks dainty under manzanitas, also blooming at this time of year.

Miscellaneous: Still Raining

It continued to rain overnight and it is still sprinkling this morning. The rain gauge read 0.75 inches as I took my son off to school this morning, but it will have risen since then. As of this writing, however, our 2009-2010 total stands at 14.25 inches, which is still somewhat below average, although other areas nearby are reporting rain higher than normal--for the first time in four years. Good news.

[Update: Rain finally abated today--the afternoon of the 22nd. The rain gauge shows 1.75 inches. That brings us to total of 16.0 inches as of 6:00PM today. 15.34 inches is the official average for this day in Santa Rosa, so we are a little less than three-quarters of an inch above average at our location, although some places nearby are reporting about an inch more than that. Anyway, being above the average is a good thing.]

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

2009 Sangiovese Rosé Bottled Today

Finally got around to bottling the 2009 Sangiovese rosé today. It's paler than last year and a quick taste suggests it's lighter on the palate as well. We'll see tonight. I plan to open a bottle with dinner. I sulfited the wine very lightly (to about 38ppm--three Campden tablets in a five-gallon carboy). The vessel threw a crusty deposit, as usual, which made racking the wine easy (for some reason, this wine always deposits a hard layer of tartaric acid crystals on top of the more easily disturbed sediment). Now it's time to design a new label.

[Update:] Opened a bottle with dinner tonight. Made a lemon prawn pasta (lots of butter and garlic) and a side of fingerling potatoes with broccoli and shiitake in a simple sauce of butter and soy sauce. Very relieved to find the wine is lighter, cleaner, and more delicate than it has been in the past, but not at all without character. Good length and depth of flavor. Perhaps the best I've made so far. The long, cool fermentation appears to have helped. I was a bit apprehensive when bottling the wine as it looked quite pale--paler than I expected it to be, but it has turned out to be very tasty indeed. "Opened a bottle" is a bit odd, I suppose. I just pulled out the cork I had pushed in a few hours earlier. Probably should have left one bottle uncorked.... Anyway, cheers!

Plants I'm growing: Daphne Odorata, Prunus Mume

The first Daphne odorata blossoms are open in the garden today. They appear to have opened yesterday, January 18. Last year the Daphne bloomed on January 20, so a year (corresponding mostly to calendar year 2009) was 363 days, according to this plant. Buds on Prunus mume, the fragrant Japanese flowering plum behind the house, are swollen and ready to burst. The first one opened today, January 19. The first blossom last year opened on January 21, so a year, as calculated by this plant, was also 363 days.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Miscellaneous: Stormy Weather

While away over the long weekend (skiing at Lake Tahoe), we got another 1.3 inches of rain, and it's still coming down. It's supposed to be stormy all week. So far Santa Rosa has had 10.5 inches of rain in the 2009-2010 rainy season (as of 7:00PM Monday, January 18).

[Update: It's rained more or less steadily through the early part of the week. The rain gauge now shows 4.3 inches since we left for Lake Tahoe, that's an additional 3.0 inches since the numbers above. Thus, the total now at our location as of 10:30AM on Wednesday the 20th is 13.5 inches, which is getting close to normal for this date (about 14.9 inches), according to the site I monitor for data on normal rainfall. Usually my numbers are quite close to those reported on the site, but in the past two weeks the totals have gradually diverged. The weather site is currently showing a total of 15.53 inches, which is more than half an inch above the average. I'm a bit surprised by the difference now of more than two inches (the location of the site's rain gauge is only a few miles away), but more rain is good thing.]
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