by Bob Senn Rain, Rain Go Away!
WEATHER MAKES THE NEWS:
Our fair state has been pummeled with rain all month long, and a day doesn't go by where storm damage to crops, homes, and roads doesn't make the nightly news along with Newt, O.J. and Ennis Cosby
I spoke to local vineyard manager and consultant, Jeff Newton of Coastal Vineyard Care, about the January rains in the vineyards. He told me this time of year rain won't do damage to the vines. He noted, however, that we had frost earlier than normal this year, so the grapevines went into dormancy earlier. The concern, he notes is this steady rain is creating warmer than usual conditions for the month of January, "so now we're starting to see some bud activity, and bud activity is the pre-cursor to budbreak."
"The real problem," Newton added, "the earlier the budbreak in the season or cycle, the greater the increased vulnerability to frost."
If frost zaps the new leafy green, no grape or no harvest off of that plant, so you wait for the following year!
The Night They Invented Champagne
CALIFORNIA'S REALLY GOT IT!
- Friday, February 14 through Sunday, February 16, just when you were wondering what to do fun, special, super-indulgent and extraordinarily extravagant for Valentine's Day, along comes a weekend of champagne at Santa Barbara's beautiful Four Seasons Biltmore.
Event organizer Archie McLaren calls it the International Festival of Methode Champenoise.
Many of you might never have guessed from the name of this event, the organizer was talking about champagne and fine sparkling wine.
Methode Champenoise, by the way, is the method by which real Champagne is made and in part explains why true Champagne or fine California sparkling wines made by this same process are rather expensive compared to the Cook's and Andre you find on supermarket shelves.
Wines made by this method are fermented twice. The first fermentation is simply making the still wine, just as you would make any table wine. After the still wine is made, it is put into champagne bottles with a fermentable sugar and yeast, and the second fermentation takes place in the champagne bottle you actually drink !
The main by-product of fermentation is carbon dioxide. And since, at this point in the winemaking process, the bottles are sealed with crown caps such as you would find on a beer bottle, the carbon dioxide has no place to go, so it stays in the bottle. That's how you get bubbles in Methode Champenoise sparkling wines and Champagne.
There are several alternative methods for putting carbonation into sparkling wine. One is called the Charmat process (named after the inventor) and the other is called the bulk process where the producer simply pumps carbon dioxide into big tanks of still wine. These mass processes are probably the reason why people who claim they don't like champagne don't like it! These mass-produced sparkling wines which can be real headache-producers, are sadly served at most weddings and are the reason that I, for one, generally drink beer at weddings (including my own many years ago, before I even knew what real champagne tasted like).
Part of the proceeds benefit Public Radio KCBX and The Music Academy of the West. For more on this three day event, contact the Four Seasons Biltmore at 969-2261.
- Tickets are on sale from the Santa Barbara County Vintners' Association for the April 19 and 20 Festival. The event will take place at Firestone Meadow. The price is $60 per person. For reservations or additional information, call the Association at 688-0881.
An old friend and colleague from my broadcasting days, Keith Royer of KTYD, and I had dinner last month. Keith brought a 17 year old California Cabernet Sauvignon--a true California classic--a 1979 BV Georges de Latour Private Reserve, a wine which was still rich and opulent, with loads of tannin and acidity--components which make a wine interesting to drink
These classic Private Reserves, going back to the late 30s were California's entry into the world of fine wines and winemaking, in times when it was certainly not the vogue to admit to liking California wine.
We drank Keith's bottle of BV Private Reserve with a moderately priced Margaux, a French Bordeaux cabernet sauvignon, which we bought from the winelist of Chuck's of Hawaii on upper state. It took the younger vintage Margaux time to come around and open up, but when it did, it showed all of those remarkable and delicious characteristics of cigar box and Cassis--buzzword attributions frequently given to fine Bordeaux wines.
The BV Private Reserve had mellowed and matured as gracefully as perhaps any of the best from Bordeaux. A wine of such caliber could well be regarded as the pride of California--a wine that can sure-as-shootin' hold its own from the best from anytime and anywhere. Bon appetit!
Bob Senn writes The Independent's monthly wine column, "Grapevine," and owns the Los Olivos Wine & Spirits Emporium.
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