Thursday, August 21, 2014

On our journey, must we carry our own beauty to find it?

Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

I found this sunrise rainbow view of Napa Valley from Cain Vineyard and Winery, located in the Spring Mountain District above sleepy St. Helena.

If I might be so presumptuous, I concur with Emerson. We must carry our own beauty everyday. My deepest hope is to find the chance to share it.

These Konso tribe children came out to greet the camera-toting visitor to their village. But they wondered why I as an adult only spoke a few dozen words of Konso. I could only laugh with them at my ignorance and we got along anyway.  Busso Village, Omo region of Ethiopia, Africa.  
Kunina holds a photo of his deceased father Kuyta Lamita, I took on an earlier trip. It was the only thing that he had to remember his father. That makes photograph beautiful for me.  Konso tribe in Busso village, Ethiopia.

How China's largest winery markets to the nouveau middle class in Ningxia.

China's largest winery, Changyu, uses a one-two-three punch to market their wine.

First, reel in the camera-toting Chinese nouveau middle class visitors by building Disneyland-like photogenic chateaux. 

Their collection includes four and a half European-style chateaux scattered all over China:
Chateau Changyu AFIP Global about one hour out of Beijing;   
Chateau Changyu Moser XV, in Yinchuan city, Ningxia Province; 
• Chateau Changyu Baron Balboa in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region;   
• Chateau Changyu Reina in Shanxi province;   
• and finally, the not-quite so Disneyesque Chateau Changyu-Castel near Yantai, Shandong province.

These photos are from my recent visit to Chateau Changyu Moser XV, which sits like an oasis among industrial complexes.

Not only do tourists use the Chateau Changyu Moser XV as a Disneyland-like background for their personal happy snaps, but professional wedding  photographers, like those seen in black T-shirts in the above photograph, also flock to the site posing bride and groom between the tourists. Please remember this chateau sits like an oasis out in the Ningxia desert.

Second, trying to capitalize on the middle class thirst for wine knowledge, Changyu teaches visitors the ways of the alcoholic beverage made from fermented grapes

After all, an educated population will more likely buy wine and then show off their knowledge to family, friends and coworkers. All of these newly educated will in turn buy more wine—hopefully Changyu's wine. 

Wine education at Chateau Changyu Moser XV begins in a 180 degree surround theater where visitors are fully immersed in an overhead multi-projector cartoon-character video of the wine making process. A bearded European character guides the audience from harvest to bottle. Chateau Changyu Moser XV, Yinchuan, Ningxia province, China.

The visitor then winds through a labyrinth of diplays and environments at Chateau Changyu Moser XV, Yinchuan, Ningxia province, China.
Two visitors in the background are using hand movements to control an interactive display. Under the mushroom-like overhead wine aroma wheel are tubes where visitors can smell various scents associated with wine. Chateau Changyu Moser XV, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, China.
Vineyard manager at Chateau Changyu Moser XV, who also doubled as my photography assistant, touches the "bitter" sensory area of the large tongue display. Sorry Changyu, although still widely taught, scientists have disproven the belief that specific areas of the tongue are sensitive to various tastes like bitter, sour, salty, sweet. Chateau Changyu Moser XV, Yinchuan, Ningxia province, China.

Here we see the overhead aroma wheel, the sniff tubes, two hand motion interactive displays and the story of the bottle at Chateau Changyu Moser XV, Yinchuan, Ningxia province, China.

Of course, no wine education program would be complete without guards dressed in iron. Chateau Changyu Moser XV, Yinchuan, Ningxia province, China.

This scluptured display has the traditionally dressed worker pressing whole cluster, including the leaves, grapes in a wooden hand crank press at Chateau Changyu Moser XV, Yinchuan, Ningxia province, China.

Naturally, photo opportunities abound while learning about wine at Chateau Changyu Moser XV, Yinchuan, Ningxia province, China.

Even a foreign photographer (actually the only foreigner that entire day) makes for a curious  subject at Chateau Changyu Moser XV, Yinchuan, Ningxia province, China.

No wine eduaction would be complete without a Happy Nose. Chateau Changyu Moser XV, Yinchuan, Ningxia province, China.
Chateau Changyu Moser XV, Yinchuan city, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region is a partnership between state-owned China wine giant Changyu wine company and Austria's "GrĂ¼ner Man" Laurenz (Lenz) Moser, 15th generation (XV) member of famous Austrian wine family.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Is that Yosemite Falls in Ningxia China wine country?

While winding through the labyrinth of educational displays inside Chateau Changyu Moser XV, suddenly, there was Yosemite Falls. The U.S. National Park icon was projected on a wall-sized screen in a room with taller-than-the-visitor bottles of Changyu wine. (They were empty, I checked.)

Wait a minute, what does Yosemite have to do with wine making here at the Chateau in the Ningxia desert?

That's Yosemite Falls in the background of a wine education display  at Chateau Changyu Moser XV, Yinchuan city, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, China.

Is this a subtile Chinese marketing technique that was lost on this visitor?

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Why working dozens of Willamette Valley vintages taught this Oregon Wine Pioneer to be optimistic.

Vineyard Light interview with Dick Ponzi, Oregon Wine Pioneer, whose first Willamette Valley vintages were in the early 1970s.

This is Ponzi's Mountain Home Road vineyard in the Chehalem Mountains with dramatic views of the Willamette Valley, located between Scholls and Sherwood, Oregon.

"It makes me feel good to walk through the vineyard. It’s like a hike in the mountains. Refreshing. After I take a 20-minute hike through the vineyards around our home, I come back refreshed, reinvigorated.

Fall colors on Ponzi's Mountain Home Road vineyard in the Chehalem Mountains, Willamette Valley, Oregon.

"The vineyard has also made me optimistic, rather than being a pessimist. There is the rebirth that happens every year. 

"After experiencing the variation of many vintages, I’ve learned that if things don’t go well this year, they will go better next year. I guess too that if there is a series of good years, there will be a bad year."

Dick Ponzi,  Oregon Wine Pioneer,  Ponzi Vineyards, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Winter in Ponzi's Mountain Home Road vineyard in the Chehalem Mountains, Willamette Valley, Oregon. The tall white building in the background is an old walnut drying barn.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

After my heart attack I heed Helen Keller's advice

Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.
Helen Keller

Especially, after my heart attack, I'm blessed and ready to face new dragons.
Janis Miglavs

Janis with chief of small village, Himba tribe near Epupa Falls, Namibia.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Are you too pulled by an inner sacred restlessness?

Entrance to ancient Roman Catholic Church in the tiny village of Cizhong, Yunnan province, China.

When people ask what draws me to places like remote African villages, tiny towns perched on Himalayan ledges or vineyards in dusty corners of China, I think of Siddhartha Gautama.

Siddhartha grew up sheltered behind walls of wealth and power. As a prince, he was shielded from any knowledge of  human suffering and religion.

But something happened at age 29. The Prince peeked over the garden walls of his compound to see the poor, the sick, the dying, all the human suffering outside of his walls; and he saw monks. He left to seek.

What was that restlessness that pulled Siddhartha away from a luxury life at home?   

Something about Tibetan Buddhism elicits a strong familiar attraction for me. Like a magnet, the Feilai Buddhist Temple, about 10 km from Deqen, pulled me in. Deqin County, Yunnan province, China.
A woman with her traditional apron spins the prayer wheels at the Feilai Tibetan Buddhist Temple near Deqen, Deqin County Yunnan province, China.

Likewise, I'm restless. Something seems hidden. I need to go out to find it.  My journeys too are born of an inner sacred restlessness.

The ancient Catholic church stands out in the tiny village of Cizhong, Yunnan province, China. And yes, those are Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards in the foreground.

Here I am searching for spiritual threads among the Mursi tribe in the Omo region of Ethiopia. Honestly, I don't see the big picture of why I'm there. I just trust, knowing prayer and meditation led me there.

On this journey, I look in every corner without prejudice or preconceptions. Sometimes when I tell Christian friends the kind of things I experience, they worry. Don't worry, Christ is still my guiding light. This is the most powerful Himba shaman (witch doctor) in the Epupa Falls area going into a trance in Namibia, Africa. He told me that I would find a secret.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Vineyard Light: What a Slovenian winemaker taught writer Eric Asimov about life.

As part of my Vineyard Light Project, at a Napa Wine Writer's Symposium I asked New York Times wine and food writer Eric Asimov what the vineyard taught him about life.

"I think of Alesh Kristantochiev, a wonderful producer in Slovenia, just across the border from Italy. I’ve walked in his vineyard with him. It’s almost as if he knows each one of his vines, as if they all had their own individual personalities. Then he tailors his care for them to their individual needs. 

"I was very amazed by how much effort goes into being out there to observe and know those plants, and how that contributes to making great wine. It's a product of love and passion.

"In a very broad sense we can all learn lessons – life lessons – from that. Whatever you do in life, do it with love, do it with passion, do it with effort, do it with commitment."

Eric Asimov, Wine and Food Writer, New York Times, New York, New York.

On the other side of the world from Solvenia, winemaker Emma Gao (in yellow top) of Silver Heights, checks Cabernet Sauvignon grapes in one of her contract vineyards with a worker. Like Asimov's Alesh Kristantochiev, Emma is full of passion for both life and for growing the best grapes and wine. The vineyard is near Yinchuan, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, China

During harvest, Emma Gao of Silver Heights often put her face into the crated grapes just to smell them. Then, if the grapes were good, she would straighten up with a big grin.  Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, China.