Monday, November 23, 2015

12 wineries in China's hottest wine region

Just to give a sense for the impressive growth and intensity of investment over the past several years, these are 12 of the more than estimated 50 wineries that have sprouted in the Ningxia desert.

Moët Hennessy's Domaine Chandon Ningxia
Moët Hennessy broke ground on April 2012 on Domaine Chandon Ningxia of this modern winery to produce sparkling for the Chinese market. Yinchuan, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, China.
Pinot noir in the desert anyone?
Formal tasting and dinning room at Domaine Chandon Ningxia. You can see the stainless steel tanks through the glass windows. Yinchuan, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, Chin

Silver Heights Winery, Ningxia

French-trained winemaker, Emma Gao and her father working pump-over hoses at family-owned Silver Heights winery, Yinchuan, Ningxia Wine Country, China.
Tired of depending on local farmers, Emma Gao and her family of Silver Heights Winery have purchased land parcels near Helan Mountain to plant their own vineyards. Did you happen to see Chairman Mao staring skyward from the mountain ridge in the background? Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, China.
Masked against the dust, a female worker harvests Cabernet Sauvignon grapes destined for Silver Heights winery from a farmer near Yinchuan, Ningxia Wine Country, China.

COFCO's Great Wall Winery, Ningxia
COFCO's Great Wall Winery at the base of Helan Mountain.  State owned, COFCO  is China's largest food processing, manufacturer and trader.  Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, China.

Pernod Richard's Domaine Helan Mountain, Ningxia
From the informal front entrance, Pernod Richard's Helan Mountain winery looks like a Soviet-era factory. Inside is a different story. Ningxia Province, China.
Pinot noir grapes on sorting line at Pernot Ricard's Domaine Helan Mountain winery, Ningxia Wine Corridor, China.
The scale is impressive. Stainless steel fermenting tanks at Helan Mountain winery, Ningxia Wine Region, China.
Nothing goes to waste in China. That's about a quarter mile of grape seeds from Helan Mountain winery this Worker spreads to dry for sale to the cosmetics and aromatherapy industries. Ningxia Wine Region, China.

Ningxia Chateau Lanny Winery and Resort

Local government-owned estate chateau Lanny (sometimes seen incorrectly spelled Lanyi) Winery and Resort near Yinchuan, in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, China.
Chateau Lanny uses a trellising system to support vines that looks more like those used for table grapes. If you look carefully, you might see Chairman Mao's profile in Helan Mountain. Ningxia Wine Corridor, China.
If you get tired of tasting wine or have a few too many "ganbeis" (the Chinese bottoms up way of drinking), you can sleep the night away in one of Chateau Lanny's guest rooms. Ningxia Wine Corridor, China.

  Changyu Moser XV, Ningxia
Changyu is China's largest winery. So naturally they have a huge presence in Ningxia. This is the nightly light show at Chateau Changyu Moser XV just at the outskirts of Yinchuan, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, China.
Just to make sure that visitors get the idea that they are at a winery, Chateau Changyu Moser XV placed this huge grape sculpture as a not-so-subtle hint.  Yinchuan, Ningxia Wine Region, China.
No winery should be without Medieval-era armored guards. Obviously, no shoplifting here.  Regardless, Changyu provides a Disney-like experience at Chateau Changyu Moser XV in Yinchuan, Ningxia Wine Corridor, China.
Changyu believes in educating visitors at their newer chateaux. Chateau Changyu Moser XV is no exception.  Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, China.
An interactive video game in the visitor's center is very popular among the younger visitors. On another note, the Chinese seem to enjoy photographing foreigners and I happened to be the only one available that day at the chateau. Chateau Changyu Moser XV in Yinchuan, Ningxia wine region, China.
And what would a chateau be without vineyards.  Chateau Changyu Moser XV in Yinchuan, Ningxia Wine Region, China.

Dragon's Hollow Vineyards, Ningxia
David Henderson, founder of Dragon's Hollow Vineyards, started a number of business and schools before in 1988 creating Montrose Food and Wine to become obtain the first direct license to import wines into China. Then he started Dragon's Hollow with the novel idea of exporting all of his wine. All of the vines he harvests fruit are part of the Helan Shan (Helan Mountain) estate. Ningxia Wine Country, China.
Henderson currently uses the Pernod Richard's Helan Mountain facility, to make his wine. Here Ms Zhou, in light tan coat and head winemaker at Helan Mountain winery, checks one of Dragon's Hollow's rented tanks.  Ningxia Province, China, Asia

Imperial Horse, Ningxia
While Dynasty has been making Imperial Horse wine in Ningxia for many years, every time I go by the facility, there doesn't seem to be much activity. Perhaps I visited only on some surprise national holiday. Imperial Horse winery, Ningxia, China

HeLan Qing Xue Winery, Jai Bei Lan wine, Ningxia
This is where the Ningxia buzz started. At the 2011 Decanter World Wine Awards, their Jia Bei Lan (also spelled JiaBeiLan) Grand Reserve 2009 was awarded the International Trophy for Red Bordeaux Varietals over £10. There was lots of speculation about how a Chinese winery beat some of the world's best Bordeaux-style wines – including those from the Médoc and St-Emilion.  HeLan QingXue Vineyard and Winery, Yinchuan, Ningxia Wine Region, China.

Founded in 2005, Helan Qingxue Vineyard and Winery was the first demonstration vineyard in Ningxia. The idea was to be a government-based, winery-funded association and role model for new owners considering a wine operation in Ningxia. No longer a winery association, its founders now run the estate as viticulturist, winemaker and manager. Controversy swirled who was the actual winery of the 2009 Decanter awarded wine as Li Demei, a professor at Beijing Agriculture College was a consultant there at the time.  HeLan QingXue Vineyard and Winery. Yinchuan, Ningxia Wine Region, China.
As at many Chinese wineries, labels are hand glued onto the bottles at HeLan QingXue Vineyard and Winery. Yinchuan, Ningxia Wine Region, China.

Ningxia XiXiaKing Chateau Yuquan Winery 
Chinese style Yuquan International Wine Chateau of Xixia King fronts one of their vineyards. Yinchuan, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, China.
After seeing dozens of Chinese wineries in all sorts of architectural styles, I found it refreshing to see more traditional Chinese design used at Chateau Yuquan. Ningxia Wine Region, China.
The grandious lobby of Chateau Yuquan.
Opened in 2014, the lobby of Chateau Yuquan's hotel gives a hint of the rest of the interior. Besides guest rooms, there are all sorts of game rooms. The hotel complex is next to the Chateau.  Chateau Yuquan, Yinchuan,  Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, China.
In the display area, traditions are integrated. Here ancient Chinese businessmen drink Chateau Yuquan wine in tea cups. Chateau Yuquan, Ningxia Wine Region, China.
Chateau Yuquan, Ningxia Wine Region, China.

Ningxia Daylong Winery
With it's fairytale castle-like architecture, Ningxia Daylong Winery, run by the Thailand-based Daysun Investment group, has the Ningxia Chateau Lanny Winery and Resort's young vineyard in the front yard and Helan Mountain as a background. Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, China.

Ningxia XiXia King

XiXia King has great plans to build an entire wine complex on the property. Some of those plans have been built—Chateau Yuquan and the nearby hotel. According to the company president, future plans call for Huang Yangtan Xixia Culture Grape Town and Nuan Quan Holiday Grape Town.
Established in 1982, Xixia King is the oldest and probably still the largest winery in Ningxia, with over 130,000 mu (that's more than 21,000 acres) of vineyards. (Mu is the Chinese measure of land area with approximately 6 mu to an acre.) That's nearly one-half the total vineyard acreage of Napa Valley AVA. Ningxia Wine Region, China.
Production area XiXia King winery.
Bottling line XiXia King winery.

Chateau Yuanshi, Ningxia
This is one of my favorite Chinese wineries as it is built from natural stone taken from the site, built in a local architectural style and crafted by local masons.  Here sunrise touches the natural stone buildings of Chateau Yuanshi Winery near Yinchuan city in Ningxia Wine Region, China.
All of the buildings are made of natural stone found on the property. The owner grew up on the site. Chateau Yuanshi Winery near Yinchuan city in Ningxia Wine Region, China.
This stone mason told me that it would take him two days to carve this single stone for a new building at Chateau Yuanshi Winery near Yinchuan city in the Ningxia Hui Province wine region next to Helan Mountain.
Worker topping off French oak barrels at Chateau Yuanshi Winery near
Yinchuan, in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, China.
One of the tasting rooms.
Chateau Yuanshi (Yuan Shi) Winery designed in local Chinese architecture style and build from local stone near Yinchuan, in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, China.

Remote African woman to Janis: Looks as if not all whites are bad

Two women chatting in the Bedik village of Iwol, Senegal, Africa.

It’s time to leave. After more than a week of camping in the remote Puel village of Ibel, I’m hiking out towards the road, the car and the beginning of my journey home. Thoughts and emotions wash over me as I reflect on all that I have experienced in this village and the neighboring Bedik tribe.

This is the Puel tribe village of Ibel, where I stayed for more than a week while visiting the neighboring Bedik tribe, Senegal, Africa.

My translator/guide Pacoo and my host Omar Ba walk in the lead with a tail of kids laughing and following behind me. Totally absorbed in my thoughts, suddenly I hear a woman’s voice.  At the entrance of her family compound she saying something loud enough for us to hear. And she’s pointing her head towards me.

Janis: “Pacoo, what did she say?”

Pacoo replies: “She say, it looks as if not all whites are bad.”

Wow. I teared up. At first I felt honored, special. Was that a sign of acceptance?

But as I continued to trudge along the grassy path, wave after wave of thoughts washed over my mind.

What made this grandmother-aged woman in this remote pocket of Senegal first classify whites as bad? It was us versus whites, us versus them?

I even thought, oh what a cruel hoax God played on us by painting humans different colors. Was it a test to teach us lessons?

Here I am surrounded by Konso tribe women in Ethiopia, Africa.

And what had I done to change her mind about whites? Was it playing with the kids each morning, taking notes as elders talked, instigating a meeting of chiefs to talk about how tourism could bring money to pay their taxes or …?

Traveling by myself, I think a lot about the importance of belonging to something bigger than myself.  The woman belongs to a tribe, kids belong to gangs, the Tambacounda shopkeeper who kicked me out because I wasn't Muslim belongs to a religion and I’m headed home to my family and my tribes.  But the older woman’s casual statement reveals a great divide between groups she has delineated, whites and her tribe.

How does this happen? The little children who greeted me each morning were curious, totally accepting. What changes these children? Is it our human craving to belong? 

This photograph of Konso children at the gate is a symbol of my hope for the future. Konso tribe, Ethiopia, Africa.

And what is the secret to dissolving the calcified barriers we build as we age in place?

Monday, November 16, 2015

Bedik tribe dilemma: tradition or religion

Keep one foot in tradition so the other foot can wander.
Thomas Merton 

Christianity presents a soul-searching conflict for the Bedik tribe hidden in the most remote corner of Senegal. A Christian cross and view of the large church with a newly-thatched roof in the background are the first things visitors encounter in the Bedik tribe village of Andyel.

Bedik tribe village Andyel (sometimes spelled Andjel). Senega, Africa.

The chief of Andyel struggles with the tribe's dilemma: follow ancient traditional animist beliefs or the teachings of the Christian missionary. 

Chief of Andyel weaves a new basket, a typical job for the village men.

On the one hand, the chief stresses the importance of holding on to traditions. In fact, when I asked him what advice he would give world leaders, he replied: "Traditions. Tell them to hold on to traditions." 

But then there is the helpful generosity of the missionary. "He has helped build a school, and provided a machine to peel rice," reports the chief. "And with his own money and car, he takes our sick people to the hospital in Tambacounda and even Dakar."

So the Bedik balance on a tightrope between traditional beliefs and the new Christian teachings. And all of this cultural and spiritual battle in a very Muslim country, Senegal. (More about how Muslims attacked the Bedik to convert them in a future post.)