Saturday, April 23, 2016

Did my karaoke or President Xi force sale of China's Chateau Junding for 15 cents?

China's food service conglomerate, COFCO, is selling their 55% share of Chateau Junding for 1 yuan (that's about 15 cents). 

Chateau Junding in Shandong Province.

This news evoked a flood of memories, some painful.  Chateau Junding was the very first winery I visited on my inaugural China wine trip in 2009.
Chateau Junding, with its restaruants, tasting rooms, gift and wine shops, golf club, golf course and underground cellars all sit on 400 hectares (almost 1000 acres).

Since I had never done any kind of business or journalism in China before, I didn't really know the protocol.
Night view of stone bridge leading to Chateau Junding winery, near Penglai, Shandong Province, China.
It took months of email introductions to finally get a dinner appointment with some Junding bureaucrat when I arrived to Beijing. 

But the guy must have liked the way I used chop sticks because a couple of days later I was flying to Jinan, the capital of Shandong Province, to meet with head marketing director, Ms. Lin. In fact, she actually met me at the airport for the hour drive to Junding.

Chateau Junding winery, with Phoenix Lake in the background, seen from nearly 1000 acre estate vineyard, near Penglai, Shandong Province, China.

The place was huge. They gave me a golf cart to get around on the nearly 1000-acre Junding estate for 3 days of photography.
One of the roads to Junding's Golf Club.
Workers tend the expansive Junding golf course so clients can catch a perfect 18 holes before dinner and wine at Chateau Junding seen on the other side of Phoenix Lake.

Assistant winemaker taking sample in barrel cellar at Chateau Junding winery, near Penglai, Shandong Province, China.
This bottle  of wine, created for the opening of the Chateau Junding winery, lists for RMB27998 (US$4442). Asia, China, Shandong province.

The whole Chateau Junding concept was to attract luxury consumers and government officials to an opulent lifestyle, like the Cab Sauvignon retailing for a cool US$ 4,442 a bottle.The idea was that it should be given as an expensive business gift as everyone knew the price.

Dining in one of the many restaurants and private rooms at Junding winery near Penglai in the Shandong Province, China. This photograph was taken of an important regional wine director in 2009, at the height of spending on government officials.

One of the days during my visit, Junding hosted a handful of Chinese government officials and the head of the regional Winery Association. After a dinner enjoyed with some Oregon wine I had stuffed into my suitcase, we headed down to a huge entertainment center.  

Now these guys were hot on karaoke. And they just assumed I, being from the United States, knew all the English-language songs ever written. And worse, they thought I could sing. 

It was terrible. I couldn't even remember all the words to "Hey, Jude." Luckily, the marketing director knew the song and had a great voice.

Fortunately for me, the Chinese officials drank a lot of wine, a really lot of wine. We're talking bottles of wine each. At the end of the karaoke evening, I carried out some really important government wine people out to their black Buicks.

I got lost trying to find my way around all of the restaurants, private rooms and entertainment centers.

But current President Xi's straight-laced program of anti-corruption and austerity policies put screeching brakes to the karaoke and spending lots of yuan at the winery resort, especially for government officials. 

Now the expansive estate is visited more by busloads of curious Chinese tourists than actual clients.

Evening view of Chateau Junding winery, near Penglai, Shandong Province, China.

So the place is for sale.

Oh yes, there is one minor caveat to the Chateau Junding sale price: besides paying the 15 cents, the buyer must also pick up the tab for the debt on the property. For that bring an extra 392m yuan (a bit more than US$ 60,000,000) and controlling interest of the place is yours.

Farm vehicle in front of vineyard and buildings of Chateau Junding winery near Penglai in the Shandong Province, China.

They do have a great karaoke machine. So I keep wondering if it was really my bad karaoke or President Xi's policies forcing COFCO to sell Chateau Junding?

As government policies and winery sales swirl, workers still tend the vineyard.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

What year would you say this photograph was taken?

Northern Ethiopia, Africa.
                                      2015 AD

Which of my submissions for the new Family of Man project work for you?

Here's my submission for the new Family of Man project photographs. 

In 1939 Edward Steichen curated a show called the Family of Man for New York City's Museum of Modern Art. He asked 30 photographers, including Cartier Bresson, Eugene Smith, and Dorothea Lange, to document the common links of humanity worldwide. 

Family of Man became the biggest-selling photography book in the history of photography. 

So this year an outfit called IPA (not the beer but the International Photography Awards) takes inspiration from the Family of Man Project, to document parallel circumstances in the world today. 

The categories are Birth, Childhood, Youth, Love, Marriage and Old Age. I submitted the following photographs:

Which ones work for you?

Childhood: Children at the Gate.    These Konso children came out to greet me; then proceeded to give me a hard time because I was an adult and only knew a few words of Konso.  Konso tribe, Buso village, Edge of the Omo region, Ethiopia, Africa.

Childhood: Growing up with Booze.   A drunken Himba mother in traditional clothes allows her child to play with the booze bottle she just finished drinking at the open market in the frontier town of Opuo, Namibia. Himba tribe, Namibia, Africa.

Youth: A Himba tribe girl (already married as seen by the head gear) reacts at seeing herself in a photograph for the first time in her life. I think I've seen this same look on girls in Portland area malls. Himba tribe, Namibia, Africa.

Youth:  As part of their tribal initiation into manhood, these 12 and 13-year-old Bedik boys run all day for one month through their village of Iwol. Then they will spend 5 months living in the "bush" by themselves. Tribal chief Keita told me the initiation is for the boys to "learn the secrets of life." Please sign me up.   Bedik tribe, Senegal, sub Saharan Africa; West Africa, Africa.

Old Age:  Old lady with her grandson in the Bedik tribe village of Iwol.  Senegal, sub Saharan Africa; West Africa, Africa, 

Old Age: On my first trip to the Bedik tribe in remote corner of Senegal, the Chief's mother wore traditional clothes. Three years later on my second trip to the Bedik, she still had the porcupine quill in her nose but was wearing an elaborate hand-me-down European style outfie. Bedik tribe, Senegal, sub Saharan Africa; West Africa, Africa. 

All photographs and text © 2016 Janis Miglavs

Monday, January 11, 2016

Wine Photographer Janis Miglavs seen in Photo District News

For the non-photographers, Photo District News is the magazine targeted towards professional photographers. So now after 40 years of using a camera to support a family and lifestyle, can I officially consider myself a professional photographer?

Before I head out on each assignment, I do this little meditation to clear my mind, so I'm approaching every winery with an explorer's excitement about seeing it for the first time. So no matter how many wineries I've visited, it/s fun and a brand new experience.

Workers in the vineyard at Changyu AFIP Global winery, Ju Gezhuang Town, Beijing city area, Miyun County, China. China wine country.

Vineyards in Beng (also called Bu) village on LanCang (also called Lantsang, Lansang and Mekong) River, in the Heng Duan (Hengduan) Mountain Range, Yunnan Province, China, Asia. China Wine country.

North America, USA, Washington, Washington, Yakima Valley, Yakima county. Stone chapel a top of Syrah vines at Red Willow Vineyard in the Yakima AVA.

The sun sets behind San Vicente de la Sonsierra village perched on a hill top overlooking vineyards in La Rioja region of northern Spain.


Winemaker Paul LeRoy in the barrel cellar at Hermannhof winery in Hermann, Missouri, USA.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Water Spirit commands the village women to quit polluting the spring

I went to the isolated Bedik tribe in the most remote corner of southeast Senegal to find how their beliefs compared to those I grew up with.

Iwol village, Bedik tribe, remote southeast corner of Senegal, Africa.

When I asked Jean Babtist Keita, the Bedik Chief of Iwol village, about God, he explained that they had one Super God and many Spirits.

Chief Jean Babtist Keita, Iwol Village, Bedik tribe, Senegal, Africa.

Chief Keita told me a story to illustrate their idea of a Spirit: "Once our women went to the village spring to fetch water. But they did not take care of the place. They were spoiling the water."

Iwol village, Bedik tribe, Senegal, Africa.

"One day when they went there, they saw into the water a face, a white face, a bearded face.

 Chief Keita continues: "They were afraid. They rushed back home.

"When they arrived, I asked them, 'what did you see?'

"'We saw a white face on the water,'

"Are you sure it was not your own faces? Did you bent down and see your own faces?

"'No,' the women replied.

"Then I knew certainly it was one spirit. Maybe the spirit in charge of the water, who wanted to tell them to take more care of the water.

"From that day, the women tried to take more care of the place.  Since then nothing more."

Kids going to fetch water. Iwol Village, Bedik tribe, Senegal, Africa.

This is my illustration of the Water Spirit from Chief Keita's description.

A Water Spirit came to warn the village women to quit polluting the spring. Chief Jean Keita told me that the Water Spirit had a white face with a beard and wings that looked like bat wings. Guess what? After seeing the spirit, the women took better care of the village spring.  Iwol village, Bedik tribe, Senegal, Africa.

When I asked Chief Keita to sketch a spirit, this is his drawing. He said that everything was accurate, but he didn't know how to draw the feet.   Iwol village, Bedik tribe, Senegal, Africa.

All photographs and text © 2015 Janis Miglavs

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Our faces: are they given, earned or do we just grow into them?

So my subject's face: was it a mask given her, did she earn it with her personality, or did she just grow into it? So how did she get her face?

Bume (sometimes called Nyangatom or Bumi) tribe, Omo region, Ethiopia, Africa.

While photographing the Bume tribe in the remote Omo region of Ethiopia, this one woman began shouting and making fun of me. 

In response, I pretended to threaten her in an exaggerated, humorous way. Others laughed at my dancing antics. Even my serious subject squeezed a pimple-sized smile from her face.

Bume (sometimes called Nyangatom or Bumi) tribe, Omo region, Ethiopia, Africa.

So how did my subject friend get her face?

All photographs and text © 2015 Janis Miglavs

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Dusty-faced African children made me wonder what would happen if the whole world experienced collective joy for two seconds daily?

Journal:   May 12       Peul tribe village of Ibel, remote southeast corner of Senegal

Africa really intimidated me. Yeah, people called me a “world traveler,” but Sub-Saharan Africa was bigger than my imagination and, in my mind, full of dark lurking unknown mysteries.

A woman carrying a basket on her head walks past one of the family compounds comprising the Peul-tribe village of Ibel (Ebel) in the remotest southeast corner of Senegal, Africa.

So I’m sleeping in my mosquito-netted REI hammock in Omar Ba’s family compound. I had chosen this Peul tribe village of Ibel as a base camp as it was perfectly located below the cliffs where the Bedik lived, my final destination for a couple of weeks. 

Home Sweet Home in Omar Ba's family compound in Ibel, Senegal, Africa.

In the 90 F coolness of first light, muffled giggling and polite little whispers woke me up. Just outside the woven reed fence of Ba’s little compound, a group of eight curious mostly butt-naked village children wanted a peek at the visitor.

Putting on my shorts, I waddled into the group. For a few moments all of us were shy. Then I clumsily uttered the few words of Peul I knew, “Good night” and “thank you.” I love kids so I started tickle poking a few in the stomach. A barrier was broken. We all laughed, over and over. In the commotion, some rubbed their curious little fingers across my arm and giggled when the white didn’t rub off my skin.

One kid reached out to hold my hand with his small dirt-encrusted fingers. Then somehow, spontaneously, we all held hands and started walking in a V-shaped chain like migrating geese. I was at point. 

In the quiet of predawn, wordlessly, we meandered away from the houses. Behind us the hushed sounds of an awakening village: chickens clucking, roosters crowing, adults talking quietly as they started the morning cooking fires. It all seemed so peaceful, so isolated from the rest of the world.

Our little migrating flock wandered across the stubble of harvested fields. With the wide eyes of a fresh-off-the-boat immigrant, I looked back over the bobbing heads of the children towards the collection of thatched-roofed mud huts. Tears of joy streamed down my cheeks. I was swimming in a river of bliss. “This is real. This isn’t Disneyland,” I whispered to myself.

Three little boys running towards the Peul-tribe village of Ibel (Ebel) in the remotest southeast corner of Senegal, Africa.

I felt totally out of my element, but really alive. I was a little boy exploring the world in my own adventure movie, playing a bit role on a tiny planet hurtling through space at 65,000 miles per hour. Inside a tiny crack opened in some deep part of my being. I was connecting with something I didn’t understand.

Here I was sharing sheer joy together with a group of kids from a different culture, a different language, a different religion, a different ethnic race. Where were the barriers?

I looked down at the dusty-faced children and wondered if they too saw the world differently holding my hands. For those 15 or 20 minutes of our walk, I regained the innocent joy of these little kids.

Later that day, I wondered what was it that allowed us, from two totally different situations, to share such a moment of collective ecstasy, of being so alive?

Then in my wildest dreams I dared to wonder what would happen if this feeling of collective joy spread around the world, even for a few moments every day?

Why not? This is Africa, we all originated here. 

Villagers watch as a local bus crammed with people from the Peul-tribe village of Ibel (Ebel) head away.  Senegal, Africa.

All photographs and text © 2015 Janis Miglavs