Monday, June 26, 2017

USA 2017 / New York Day 4

Day 4 saw us on the subway and heading for the Guggenheim Museum.
Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright the building is cylindrical, wider at the top than the bottom.
















Its unique ramp gallery extends up from ground level in a long, continuous spiral along the outer edges of the building to end just under the ceiling skylight.
video

It is the permanent home of a continuously expanding collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, early Modern and contemporary art.
Important works include those by Paul Gauguin, Edouard Manet, Camille Pissarro, Vincent van Gogh and 32 works by Pablo Picasso.
The co driver was particularly interested in the Kandinsky collection.
I think I liked the building more than the art.
There was a T-shirt in the gift shop which said “Modern art = I could do that + Yeah, but you didn't.” which was a message I took on board
For lunch we headed back to midtown to the 2nd Ave Deli which is now on 33rd St.
Most tourists head for Katz's Deli (think the "I'll have what she's having" scene from When Harry Met Sally) for their Jewish deli experience so I was looking for something a little quieter.
This alternative was a perfect choice filled with business people and family groups. The food was excellent and the service friendly and devoid of any 'tude prevalent in the other place.





















I had Matzoh Ball Soup with Carrots and Noodles and half a hot pastrami sandwich with cole slaw, pickle and Russian dressing and a HUGE serving of fries on the side. The co driver had a traditional hot dog with sauerkraut and mustard and shared my fries.
It don't get much better than that!
Walking back to the station was the only glimpse we had of the Empire State building.
And this time around we managed totally to avoid Times Square.





















Next stop was the Strand Book Store with its huge collection of new and used books.
As of July 2016, the store claims to have 2.5 million volumes.
The New York Times called The Strand "the undisputed king of the city’s independent bookstores."
The co driver was after some out of print quilting books and found one of the two.
The day had really heated up and we were quickly running out of steam so we abandoned our program eg. revisit the High Line, and headed back to the hotel in preparation for our farewell dinner with 'the kids'.
The selected venue was the Highlands Restaurant in Greenwich Village mainly because they serve haggis.
Nick and the daughter shared Scotch eggs as starters and the co driver and I shared smoked haddock and blue crab cakes with market greens, blood orange and citrus-chilli aioli.

The haggis, neeps and tatties were terrific and I couldn't resist the sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream for dessert.
This was all washed down with a good bottle of Sancerre, Domaine Martin, Chavignol, France, 2016.
Roll us all outta there! 
So our time in the city that never sleeps was up.
It was good to see where Nick and the daughter were living and to know they were happy in their jobs and new environment. 
I don't think they will be heading home any time soon.
And they really went out of their way to show us around with plenty of places off the usual tourist route.
Next stop for us.....South Dakota.

Friday, June 23, 2017

USA 2017 / New York City Day 3

Day 3 saw a complete change in the weather with it being much warmer and sunny.
We started with breakfast just down the road at one of our hotel's recommendations, the 12 Chairs Cafe. 
Excellent food and coffee!
Then the daughter met us for a day exploring 'their' part of New York ie. Brooklyn.
We started at DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) with its great views across the East River towards Manhattan.



























The walk along the river is lovely. Lots of people and families were out enjoying the Sunday sunshine
The daughter and the co driver rode a great old fashion merry go round (Jane's Carousel) virtually under the Brooklyn Bridge. It can be fully enclosed for winter.















Then we explored Brooklyn Heights with all its lovely homes followed by a nice light lunch at a French Patisserie.















Next on our list was the Brooklyn Transit Museum.
What a find!
It displays historical artifacts of the New York City subway, bus, commuter rail and bridge and tunnel systems under the administration of the MTA and is located in the decommissioned Court Street subway station in downtown Brooklyn and Brooklyn Heights















On the platform level, two fully powered and operational subway tracks contain many historic examples of New York City subway and elevated railway equipment on permanent display. Preserved rail cars date as far back as the predecessor companies that came before the New York City Transit Authority.
Most of the subway cars in the fleet are operable and they are frequently used for subway excursions run by the Museum and New York City Transit on various parts of the system. The subway cars are fully furnished with vintage advertising placards and route maps, completing the period atmosphere inside the vehicles.
It was easy to spend a couple of hours here.

Then we headed for the daughter's and Nicko's apartment in Fort Greene.
She and I explored the area for a while until we got caught in a huge downpour. Luckily there was a awning nearby which we shared cheek by jowl with 10 others for about 15 minutes. Those sheltering under trees in Fort Greene Park  opposite were not so dry.
It's a nice leafy neighbourhood (in summer anyway) with some lovely old houses and brownstones and has a good 'feel' about it.










That evening it was BBQ at the Hometown Bar-B-Que in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
What an amazing place.
Situated in a very industrial area, the restaurant specializes in authentic, pit-smoked meats prepared in the classic Southern technique of smoking on oak wood. 
It also serves up a wide selection of traditional sides and dessert. Two bars feature craft beers, a wide range of American whiskeys, seasonal cocktails and reasonable wine.













In classic barbecue style, it's walk-up service to the counter on a first-come, first-served basis until that day’s specially cooked offerings are sold out. Nicko and the daughter 'did' the line while the co-driver and I manned the table. It took nearly an hour to get our meal but it was more than worth it.
To make the wait more enjoyable we all ordered drinks from the bar and people watched as couples and large families with kids of all ages dug into the wonderful food.
We ate pulled pork, beef ribs, mac and cheese, mashed potato and corn bread.
The meat falls apart on eating and is both intensely peppery and slightly sweet. It's served on butcher paper-lined metal tray with the sides in paper cups. Nothing fancy here except the food.
For us, a 'must do' in NYC!
Filled well above the plimsoll line, we ubered it 'home'.
Another great day.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

USA 2017 / New York City Day 2

Day 2 dawned cold, very wet and windy.
The four Aussies were not thwarted however.
Armed with umbies and dogged determination, we set off via the subway to Museum of the City of New York.
Here the exhibitions included:
New York at Its Core which follows the 400 year story of the city’s rise from a striving Dutch village to today’s “Capital of the World.”












Posters and Patriotism covers the time when the United States entered World War I in April 1917, and New York City's artists and illustrators were enlisted in the war effort.  Many of them worked for the federal government’s new Division of Pictorial Publicity. This exhibition examines the outpouring of posters, flyers, magazine art, sheet music covers, and other mass-produced images created by these New Yorkers to stir the American public to wartime loyalty, duty, and sacrifice.


 A City Seen: Todd Webb’s Postwar New York, 1945-1960 examines New York through the lens of photographer Todd Webb.
Featuring more than 100 images, accompanied by entries from Webb’s own journal, the exhibition highlights Todd Webb’s personal exploration of the city that enthralled him while providing an expansive document of New York in the years following World War II.

Webb’s images captured the city’s contrasts—from Midtown’s skyscrapers to the Lower East Side’s tenements, from high-powered businessmen in the Financial District to the remnants of old ethnic enclaves in Lower Manhattan.
This is a marvellous museum. It needs many hours to absorb the content here. Unfortunately information over load tends to creep in after a while. It's a place earmarked for a return visit.
After a brief walk from the museum in pouring rain through the top end of Central Park to a nearby station, it was back on the subway to the World Trade Centre.
Here we stopped for lunch at Eataly.
Spread over 3700m2 (40,000 sq ft), this marketplace features thousands of imported Italian products and local seasonal specialties, including everything from the simplest sea salt, extra virgin olive oil, and dried pasta to the fresh truffles and aged Modena balsamic vinegar.
At open-kitchen stations experts make house made products right before your eyes, from fresh pasta shapes to irresistible pastries.
I have never seen so much fresh food in one place.
In addition, there are five restaurants, nine take-away counters, two cafes and a wine bar.
Our meals there were first class.
Then we explored the WTC transportation hub, the Oculus.
This is an amazing structure both from inside and out.













video


We made our way outside in now what were really atrocious weather conditions to visit the WTC twin memorial pools.
A very sombre place with the new building, this day, disappearing high into the clouds.
But finally the weather had won, so we ubered to the Marlton Hotel for drinks and a warm up and dry off.
Then off, a few doors down, to the burger joint for one of the best burgers and fries ever.
And the co driver is still raving about the root beer float.





















Another busy day well planned by our now 'local' guides.

Monday, June 19, 2017

USA 2017 / Sydney to New York City

Our flights across the Pacific and the continental USA were uneventful. Spare seats beside us for the long haul but 100% full plane for the last leg which did not encourage any sleep when we really needed it.
The immigration formalities using the APC at SFO went without a hitch and it was nice to be finally admitted to the USA after all these years as a couple.
Our driver picked us up at Newark Airport baggage claim and whisked us off to the Marriott Courtyard in SoHo, New York City. This hotel turned out to be exactly what we were looking for ie. not too expensive (by NYC standards), handy to transport and restaurants and quiet.
From check in at Sydney to our room in downtown Manhattan took 27 hours.

After a shower and a freshen up, tiredness seemed to miraculously vanish.
Drinks anyone? Sure!
I had read about The City Winery just down the road. It is a music venue, tasting room and restaurant.
The music venue was at full throttle and unbelievably loud so we opted for the much quieter restaurant where we had a small meal and tasted some of their barrel wines by the glass. The low sulphur Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc were excellent.
Then it was lights out! In more ways than one.
Next morning we were up and about early.
Breakfast was in Greenwich Village at Pasticceria Rocco which was yummy.
The daughter had included our weekly subway tickets in a care package she had kindly organized and had sent to our hotel so we headed to the Staten Island ferry wharf without delay for a (free) return trip across the Hudson River, before the tourist hoards arrived, to blow out the cobwebs.
This must be one of the great free tourist attractions in the world.














The view of the NYC and Jersey City skylines plus a close up view of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are unbeatable.














Back in lower Manhattan, we walked a short way to the National Museum of the American Indian which was in a beautiful building, the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Customs House, and is a part of the Smithsonian Museum.
Here they had wonderful exhibits dedicated to the native American tribes from all over north America as well as those from the indigenous people of south and central America.
There was also a Native Fashion Now exhibition which featured contemporary garments, accessories, and footwear spanning a variety of genres and materials by designers who have crossed cultural boundaries by utilizing creative expression and cultural borrowing.











Then another short walk to see the Charging Bull and the recently installed Fearless Girl which are a feature of the Financial District with the latter creating some controversy.

Another short walk to Stone Street which is one of the oldest streets in the city. This cobblestone thoroughfare is now dominated by restaurants. We were a bit early for lunch so sat for a while with some light refreshments and decided to get some lobster rolls from Luke's (recommended by the daughter) and have a picnic lunch in Battery Park.













I had a lobster roll Maine-style which is a quarter pound of that seafood served chilled on a buttered, griddled New England split-top bun with a swipe of mayo, a dash of lemon butter and a sprinkle of their 'secret seasoning'.
The co driver opted for a Luke’s Trio which is half a lobster roll, half a crab roll and half a shrimp (prawn) roll. I got to finish the latter.








Battery park was a great place to people watch with so much going on. It is the departure point for the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island cruises. There is plenty of seating, food vendors and outdoor restaurants among the trees and is home to the World War II East Coast Memorial and its stunning eagle sculpture.

Then we headed back to the hotel via the Purl Soho yarn shop to freshen up before finally meeting up with the daughter, after work, at Rubirosa Ristorante in Nolita for a great pizza and a cold bottle of delicious Verdicchio.
Nicko joined us later for drinks at the Grey Dog just across the road from the restaurant before jet lag descended with a vengeance and it was time for us to hit the sack.
A full on Day 1!

Monday, June 12, 2017

USA 2017

By the time this post is published we will be well into our trip to the USA.
Stops this time around include New York to see the daughter and Nicko and Sioux Falls, SD, to visit with the co driver's family.
We have also planned a little getaway in Iowa catching up with some Chicago friends.
As usual we will be flying United Airlines.
They now have the Dreamliner (Boeing 787-900) on the trans Pacific route. It will be interesting to see how this new aircraft compared with the Boeing 777 that was flown for a short time previously although I still miss the lumbering old 747 that was on the route for decades.

Flight times have not changed much with it still being just under 14 hours from Sydney to San Francisco. Then after a 2 1/2 hour's transfer time it's another 5 1/2 hours the Newark on the always uncomfortable Boeing 757.
Hopefully the new Automated Passport Control (APC) system will have sped up and simplified the immigration and customs procedure at SFO.
Am sure we would have been glad to hit the sack at our hotel in SoHo after over 24 hours straight travel.
And hopefully we won't have been beaten up and forcibly removed from any of the UA flights.
Posts of our adventures coming soon!

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Wollemi Pine Update

Back in July 2007, I posted about a Wollemi Pine tree we had been given as a present.
Previously only known as a fossil some 90 million years old, around 100 mature trees of the species were discovered in a very remote and virtually inaccessible part of the Blue Mountains west of Sydney and became known as the Wollemi Pine (Wollemia nobilis).
One of the world's oldest and rarest trees, the pine underwent an intense propagation program and eventually became commercially available.
Ours arrived in a pot


















After a few years nurturing it on our back porch until it became pot bound, we planted it in our garden.
Ten years on it is doing well despite an attack by some strange looking insects a few seasons ago which completely destroyed its growing point.






















It has recovered from that, growing a new one, and continues to be a pleasure to look at.
The bark and leaves do have that prehistoric look about them.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Book Reviews / May 2017 / Part 2

A grumpy aging man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door. Backing over his mail box in the process does nothing to endear them to him.
Meet Ove, a curmudgeon who has staunch principles, strict routines and a very short fuse. 
The neighbour from hell
Perhaps but behind that cranky exterior there is a story of sadness.

















A Man Called Ove is translated from Swedish and is a story that ranges between morbid and hilarious...many times laughing out loud hilarious.
For Ove rules are made to be followed and signs are meant to be obeyed. And don’t get him started about computers and mobile phones.
He has been this way his whole life, but has become worse in the last four years since his wife, Sonia, died. He has decided life without her is not worth living and has plans to join her.
But his suicide goes on hold as he is forced to help solve numerous neighborly crises both large and small.
Please read this feel good book!!!!!!!
Monsieur Perdu owns a floating bookstore on a barge on the River Seine in Paris.
He prescribes novels for the hardships of life. He considers himself a literary apothecary recommending the exact book readers need to mend their broken hearts and souls.
But still haunted by heartbreak after his great love disappeared leaving him with only a letter, which he has never opened, he can’t seem to heal himself through literature.

















Forced by a attractive divorcee newly resident across the hall to finally read the letter, he is devastated by its contents.
Accompanied by a bestselling but blocked author and a lovelorn Italian chef, he ups anchor and departs on a mission to Provence in the south of France, travelling along the country’s rivers. He  hopes to come to terms with his loss and discover the end of the letter's story.
This is a tale of inter personal relationships combined with a travelogue of France full of quirky characters and stereotypical Frenchness.
I liked reading it to start with then found I was getting a bit annoyed with the somewhat prissy hero and wished he would grow a pair. I was glad when the 'adventure' was over as it meandered to its inevitable happy ending.
The Little Paris Bookshop is a best seller so maybe you have to be in the right frame of mind to enjoy all of the journey.
A couple of years ago I reviewed Flowers in the Snow a story about the racial divide in the USA south during the 1960s.
Kiss in the Wind is the follow up second book in what appears to be a series of four.
This book continues where the last one left off. That was a bit of a cliffhanger begging for a sequel.
The whole world thought one of the main characters had died on the night of the KKK attack.
Of course he didn't and, 40 years on, he returns to the scene of his 'death' with the need to come to terms with the pain of that day.
While the first book was very realistic and quite confronting, the plot of the second seems a little contrived and somewhat unbelievable in parts. 
For that reason I found the ending a bit of an anticlimax.
I would not recommend reading this one without having read the first of the series.
Confusion might reign.
But I don't think I will be reading any more of the Edenville series.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Book Reviews / May 2017 / Part 1

Tony Abbott was a very aggressive Liberal/National Party Coalition (conservative) opposition leader in the Australian parliament specializing in obstructionist tactics.
He was English by birth, a failed catholic theological student and mediocre journalist who had received a Rhodes Scholarship on very dubious grounds.
What else could he be in the end other than a politician?
In September 2013 he came to power as Prime Minister of the country with the demise of the Rudd/Gillard/ Rudd Labor (liberal) government.
He turned out to be a strange kettle of fish, loose with the truth and had a habit of making what were known as 'captain's picks' ie. making decisions without consultation with his cabinet. Many were bewildering eg. awarding Australia's highest honour to the Duke of Edinburgh (a foreigner) on Australia Day!
Among his many conservative views he was a climate change denier, anti gay marriage, anti abortion, anti stem cell research, anti Union/pro free market and a staunch monarchist.

















He was ably supported in all his political endeavours by his chief of staff, Peta Credlin. In fact rumour had it she was the one who pulled the strings. Her husband at the time was the Liberal Party federal director. Be that as it may she did run a tight ship and seemed to have excessive control over the PM. It was mooted, but never proven, that the relationship extended beyond business.
For two years this farce continued. Not only did he and Peta alienate the electorate but also his own party.
In the end the the parliamentary party dumped him as Prime Minister replacing him as with someone who has turned out to be just as hopeless. But that is another story..
Niki Savva is an Australian journalist, author and former political staffer of the Liberal Party.
Her husband is a Liberal political staffer in the office of the current Prime Minister so you cannot get a more conservative duo.
The Road to Ruin documents the bizarre goings on in the PM's office, Abbott's dependence on Credlin and the disarray it caused within the government as well as the consternation throughout the country.
Of course the protagonists have have denied the claims made with it being described as  "dispiriting and self-serving revenge tale".
I liked the book immensely, a tale of female Svengali and a male Trilby. 
One for the Australian political junkie.
I liked Niki Savva's writing style so much I sought out her autobiography.
She was born in a small village in Cyprus. Her father emigrated to Melbourne, Australia in 1951 and she followed with her mother and brother several years later.
So Greek  details her childhood and school years in one of Melbourne’s working-class suburbs where at the time locals were suspicious of olive oil and 'strange' food and Greek kids spoke Gringlish to their parents.


















A few decades later, despite all the challenges of being a migrant woman in Australia, Savva rose through the ranks of political journalism at major Australian newspapers going on to head the Canberra bureaus of two of them.
When a family tragedy struck in the late 90s she decided on a career change.
She became Liberal treasurer Peter Costello’s press secretary for six years before moving on to join prime Minister John Howard’s staff.
This is a book about Australian political life written by an insider with decades of exposure to its major players. It can be hilarious or moving but is endlessly fascinating,
This is a great book for students of  Australian politics, the media and for lovers of scuttlebutt.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Feral Animals

Australia has a problem with many introduced species.
Here are a a few.
Rabbits
They arrived in Australia with the First Fleet in 1788, but then more were deliberately released for hunting in the 1800s. The rate of spread of the rabbit in Australia was the fastest of any colonizing mammal anywhere in the world
It is estimated that their presence reduces Australia’s agricultural productivity by over $200 million each year. Rabbits also have a direct impact on over 300 threatened species nationally.

Land owners are required by law to keep rabbits under control. We do this by poisoning, shooting and gassing and ripping warrens. Many years ago myxomatosis was released as a biological control. It was effective for a while but then the rabbit population became resistant.
This was followed up by the release of the calicivirus RHDV 1 in 1996. It had a devastatingly successful affect on the rabbit population. But again, resistance began to surface.
Early this year a new strain, RHDV1 - K5, variant was released.
Foxes
Foxes were originally introduced to mainland Australia in the 1850s for recreational hunting and spread rapidly.
They have few natural predators in the country and pose a threat to livestock, as they prey on poultry, calves, lambs and goat kids.
They also prey on native wild life.
They are controlled by shooting and poisoning.
We give permission to licensed shooters to come onto our property annually to try to take care of the problem. Being almost surrounded by a National Park, we have a thriving population of foxes around here. It is not unusual to see one blithely trot through our backyard.
Wild Dogs
The dingo is considered a native dog. They originated in Asia where they were present possibly 10 000 to 14 000 years ago and were derived from wolves. Aboriginal people brought the dingo to Australia approximately 4000 years ago. It is the largest animal predator on the continent and considered a pest by many in the rural community.

But of more concern are domestic dogs that have gone feral. They hunt in packs and can do considerable damage to livestock. They are known to have interbred with the dingo.
Control is by trapping, baiting and shooting. We have a had a few packs around here at times but haven't seen them for some years now.
Wild Cats
Cats probably arrived in Australia as pets of European settlers and were later deliberately introduced in an attempt to control rabbits and rodents. Cats now occupy 99% of Australia, including many offshore islands.
Feral cats live, hunt and reproduce in the wild and have adapted to some of Australia’s harshest conditions and invade almost all parts of the continent.

They mainly eat small native and exotic mammals, birds, lizards and insects. About 80 endangered and threatened species are at risk from feral cat predation in the country.
There was quite a colony of them when we moved into this area. Some were very large and aggressive. We eventually got rid of them by shooting (before very strict gun laws came into force in 1996).
Biological control seems out of the question because of the huge number of domestic cats. However we have seen with the rabbit problem pet rabbits can be vaccinated against the calicivirusso maybe there is a similar argument for feral cat control.
Cane Toads
One of the most ill conceived biological control plans ever!
The cane toad was introduced into Australia in 1935 to control the native cane beetle in sugar cane which is a major agricultural crop. 102 were released in northern Queensland
It was a complete failure.
The cane beetle remained a pest and the cane toads thrived. Today the population is estimated at 200 million. They are making their way across northern Australia in a westerly direction at a rate estimated at 60km per year.














Cane toads naturally generate potent toxins (bufodienolides) throughout their bodies, which act by stopping the heart of most animals that attempt to eat them.
The cane toad is often cited in surveys as Australia’s most hated invasive animal taking over from the rabbit. They are listed as a ‘key threatening process’ under Australia’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 as they adversely impact native species via predation, competition and poisoning by lethal toxin ingestion.

The Department of the Environment and Energy has stated "There is unlikely to ever be a broad scale method available to control cane toads across Australia. Researchers are beginning to understand the toad’s impact on native fauna and to appreciate the ways in which native species are adapting to the presence of cane toads and recovering from the impact of their arrival."
It is likely that the lessons from the cane toad debacle have influenced the strict quarantine laws and risk assessment procedures Australia has in place today as anyone arriving at our international airports would know.
They have yet to arrive in our part of the country. But I have seen seething masses of them in suburban backyards in my old stomping ground Brisbane. 
And then Australia also has problems with camels (yes, really!), wild goats, wild pigs, deer, water buffalo, wild horses (brumbies), carp, rats and mice.
But we might leave some of those for another time.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Vintage 2017 / Some Climate Data

Below is some local climate data for the growing season based on figures from the area's automatic weather station. There were apparently some technical difficulties with the AWS in March which resulted in unrecorded rainfall figures (as though there wasn't enough!) but the overall trend is still valid.











And for interest's sake an overview of the 2016/2017 Australian summer which demonstrates the extremes we have experienced with both temperature and rainfall on both sides of the country.
Read the full report here.
















Tuesday, April 25, 2017

ANZAC DAY 2017













They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Easter Treats and Other Things.

Easter is hot crossed buns on Good Friday and chocolate eggs on Sunday.
When we were kids, we looked forward to those treats with great excitement.
But now, in this commercial world, things have changed.
As soon as the Christmas decorations came down in the stores in mid January what were on the shelves?
Easter eggs and hot crossed buns!!!
In some bakeries the latter are available all year.
But this seems to be the way now.
Everything available all the time.

One example is seasonal fruit.
'Back in the day' there was always an apple, stone fruit, citrus or berry season.
Now thanks to improved cold storage techniques, hot houses, hydroponics and imports,‘stuff' is available almost 12 months a year.
Some examples for us are grapes, cherries, stone fruit and citrus from the USA in our winter.
Asparagus from Mexico and Peru out of season.
Strawberries and apples all year.
Some might think this great but I am a little on the fence with it all.
And talking of hydroponics, a world-leading concentrated solar power (CSP) tower plant that will supply electricity, heat and desalinated seawater to grow tomatoes in the Australian desert has been constructed in South Australia.
Maybe this is the future of some crop production in this era of climate change.
This video is worth watching if you have 16 minutes to spare.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Vintage 2017 Final Update

The Semillon was racked off the fermentation lees and returned to the tank with 50ppm SO2.
The night before we had prepared a slurry of bentonite. To this we added some of the wine to make a solution and stirred this into the the tank for some time thoroughly dispersing it.
Bentonite is a special clay made of aluminium-silicate. It is distinct from other clays in that it is formed from volcanic ash.
Bentonite is principally used to remove proteins from white wine and juice, as it is a negatively charged clay colloid and reacts with positively charged proteins, precipitating them from the wine and clarifying it.
After it settles for a week or so, the wine is racked again and then checked for pH and free SO2 content in preparation for bottling at a later date.
For the Cabernet rose' we tried a different method. We added the bentonite solution to the ferment. The vigorous action of fermentation keeps the clay circulating through the wine, not letting it settle on the bottom of the tank, theoretically making it more effective.
After settling,  the fermentation lees and bentonite are then racked off together eliminating one production step.
We do not go through the cold stabilization process for white wine or rose' here. Tartrate crystal precipitation during cold storage eg. in the refrigerator, is a fact of life and, although not aesthetically pleasing in commercial wines, it is of little consequence quality wise. And it's one less process to subject the wine to in our oxidation prevention program.
All our red wines are fined with egg white.
The albumen is gently dispersed into 10 times its volume of water with a little salt added to help the process.
The solution is then gently stirred into the wine and left for a couple of weeks before racking.
French oak chips are added to each red wine in various percentages to impart the traditional oaky aroma/flavour. The wine is stored in the sealed tanks for about a year before bottling is considered. It is racked off sedimentation lees a number of times during this period and SO2 levels monitored.
So that was that for 2017.
What started out as a more than satisfactory vintage weather wise ended on a disastrous note.
We are happy with the quality of the Semillon, Pinot Noir and Tempranillo.
How the Cabernet rose' will turn out is anybody's guess. It was produced somewhat as an act of desperation to try to salvage a grape crop destined to rot on the vine so if we have to dump it at least we can say we tried.
In a few months pruning will start and we will be ready to do it over again for 2018.