Saturday, October 16, 2010

Birds I'm Watching: Spring Lake (10/16/10)

Joined a Madrone Audubon Society group this morning for a quick walk around Spring Lake, in Santa Rosa. It was cold and foggy, but Spring Lake never disappoints. I saw 45 species, the group as a whole about 50.

Birds I saw were: California towhee, Oak titmouse, Bushtit, Crow, Scrub jay, Spotted towhee, White-breasted nuthatch, Acorn woodpecker, Nuttall's woodpecker, Yellow-rumped warbler (18), Dark-eyed junco, Red-winged blackbird, Steller's jay, Canada goose, California quail, Anna's hummingbird, Chestnut-backed chickadee, Downy woodpecker, Belted kingfisher, Townsend's warbler, Red-tailed hawk, Snowy egret, Lesser goldfinch, Double-crested cormorant, American coot, Black-crowned night heron, Green heron (3), Great blue heron, Northern flicker (4), Mallard, Wood duck (3), Pied-billed grebe, Great egret, Cedar waxwing (50), Brown creeper (3), Turkey vulture, Common moorhen, Black phoebe, Greater scaup, Song sparrow, Orange-crowned warbler, Black-throated gray warbler (2), Golden-crowned sparrow, Ruby-crowned kinglet, European starling. (Numbers indicate unusual numbers for a given species.) I got an excellent shot of one of the Black-throated gray warblers--a very handsome bird (above)--and of a Golden-crowned sparrow. Ditto.

For more information about bird watching in Sonoma County, see my Website Sonoma County Bird Watching Spots

Wines I'm Making: 2010 Sangiovese Harvest

Harvested the Sangiovese today (October 16). The vines yielded 99lbs of grapes. I don't know if I should have waited longer, but it's supposed to rain tomorrow, it's cold, and the sugars seemed to be going nowhere. The fruit was generally in good shape and this is the first year since we started making wine that we have lost no fruit to raccoons or other critters (using an electric fence and nets outside the fence).The numbers aren't ideal, but not too bad either. The proof will be in the pudding, of course.

The must tested at 17 Brix by refractometer, 1.070 by hydrometer, which works out to a Brix of 17.75 if adjusted for temperature (raised 0.25 Brix). The pH was at 3.46, a trifle high, and the acid was lower than I'd have liked, at 0.66%. I Chaptalized the must to raise the sugar to the equivalent of 20 Brix, which should result in a wine at about 12% alcohol. I sulfited the must very lightly, to about 27 ppm (using five Campden tablets in about 12 gallons of must), which should ultimately yield about 6 gallons of wine, or about 30 bottles. As this will be rosé, I will press the grapes as early in the morning tomorrow as I can. I picked the grapes at about 4:00PM. That will mean about 18 hours on the skins if I get it pressed by 10:00AM--just about right. Below, grapes are in the crusher, ready to go.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Wines I'm Making: 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc

I added a yeast culture to the crushed Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc grapes today (October 15), after a three-day cold soak. The grapes were picked on the 12th. I happened to pick up the wrong yeast at The Beverage People and added it to the must before I realized what I had done. In the past I have used the "French Red" or "Rockpile" strains. Frankly, I can taste little difference between them, but the French Red has been more to my taste. I had intended to use that this year but added a dose of the "Pasteur Champagne" strain instead--but that's fine, as this is an entirely suitable yeast as well, and it might turn out to be better. Who knows?

Accidents can be happy accidents. We'll see. I added the yeast at about 9:00AM. By early afternoon, the bubbling had begun. I left the containers in the sun in the driveway to let them warm up to about 80 degrees from the soak temperature of about 65 degrees--which was not really low enough. I put in the yeast this morning because I was beginning to see signs of a white mold at the very edge of one of the fermenters. That was quickly removed and no harm done, but it would not have been prudent to wait longer. Already the house is beginning to smell like young wine--fruity and yeasty. Tomorrow I hope to pick the Sangiovese.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Miscellaneous: The Yen is Not Just at a 15-year High against the Dollar

Why do the media keep talking about the Japanese yen at a 15-year high against the US dollar without pointing out that 15 years ago the yen was the strongest it had ever been since it started floating? In other words, it was then and is now as strong as it's EVER been. If it keeps going, we will be entering uncharted territory.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Wines I'm Making: 2010 Cabernet Harvest

I decided today was the day to pick the Cabernet Sauvignon in the backyard vineyard. The sugar was close to where I wanted it and some of the grapes were starting to raisin, so it seemed the thing to do. We harvested 117 pounds of grapes. Crushed and de-stemmed, we ended up with about 11 gallons of must, which will make around six gallons of wine, or 30 bottles.

The fruit was remarkably clean and free of mold considering how cool and damp the summer was. The fruit tastes good. It has a very nice Cabernet spice--almost like cayenne pepper. The numbers look pretty good, too. The sugar is at 23.5 Brix, the pH at 3.55. The total acidity was 0.6, which is at the bottom of the range most people recommend for a dry red wine, so it was probably best not to have waited for the sugars to rise any further. 23.5 Brix is respectable. That will translate into a wine of a little over 13% alcohol--although I didn't adjust my Brix reading for the temperature, so the actual Brix level was probably a little higher, perhaps around 24.

I sulfited the must very lightly (to about 35ppm) with three Campden tablets in each of two batches of about 5.5 gallons each (for convenience--I don't know yet if I will ferment them differently or not). I usually let the must soak for about four days before inoculating it with yeast, keeping it as cool as possible. That seems to yield a somewhat softer wine than when made without the pre-soak, so I've continued doing it. The wine has been very good, so I don't want to fool with the method too much. I have high hopes for this year's wine on the assumption that we are still getting better fruit each year as the vines mature.

2010 will be our seventh vintage. The vines were planted in 2001. We made our first wine in 2004. The 2008 was the first I'd call really good. The 2009 (soon to be bottled) was noticeably better. We will see how the crazy summer weather of 2010 is expressed in the wine. The Sangiovese is still quite a long way from ripeness, it seems. Decided to let it hang--another weak perhaps? As long as the weather holds. It's hot again today and warm weather is predicted for the rest of the week.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Tidbits: RIP--Joan Sutherland

I was sorry to see that Joan Sutherland died today. Surely one of the all-time greats. RIP.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Cars: The Alameda All-Italian Car and Motorcycle Show (2010)

I just got back from the Alameda All-Italian Car and Motorcycle show, held around this time every year at Lincoln Middle School, in Alameda. There were more than 150 cars on display this year, including my 1978 Alfa Romeo Spider--more than I've ever seen before. There were cars from Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Fiat, Ferrari, Maserati, De Tomaso, Bertone, and Abarth Fiat. A big crowd turned out to see the cars as well. Proceeds from the event go to the Alameda Special Olympics.

As usual, the cars ran the gamut from Fiat clunkers to pristine concourse-ready restorations along with some beautiful unrestored cars. The oldest car this year was a 1925 Lancia. There were two "Jollies" (customizations, usually of the Fiat 600, done by the Ghia people, with wicker seats and frilly sunscreens; they were originally designed for use on the yachts of the very wealthy. Each one is unique. Only about 100 are said to exist).

Someone even brought a Yugo, presumably because it's essentially a Fiat. One year someone showed their Karman Ghia, because the body design is Italian. What I like about the Alameda show is just this laid-back attitude. Even the Ferrari owners that come are comparatively friendly. There were also about 40 motorcycles including an interesting 1946 Motto Guzzi. This show is always well worth the time--if you love Italian cars, or just love to look at art on wheels.

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