Thursday, December 18, 2014

World's Most Amazing Vineyards #2

 With its iconic hilltop stone chapel, Red Willow Vineyard is probably the most recognizable farm of wine grape vines in Washington state. The small rock monument can be seen for miles across the flat Yakima Valley

A stone chapel sits above the Syrah vines at Red Willow Vineyard in the Yakima AVA of Washington state.

Inspired by a trip to Italy, along with the death of his longtime friend Monsignor Mulcahy, Mike Sauer had a stone chapel built atop the highest hill on the family farm to honor the memory of the Monsignor. The hilltop chapel, built with stones from the farm, took three years to complete.

Located in the far western end of the Yakima Valley, Red Willow Vineyard is one of the oldest vineyards in Washington state.

The history of Red Willow started when irrigation canals were dug throughout Yakima Valley in the mid 1920s, and settlers flocked to the sage-covered land to farm. Included in this first wave of settlers was Clyde Stephenson, the first generation to farm the land which became Red Willow.

The first vineyard, planted in 1971, was 30 acres planted with Concord vines. The few token rows of wine grapes, Chenin Blanc and Semillon, did not survive on the rich soil where the Concords were planted. However, the Cabernet Sauvignon vines planted in 1973, are still in production today.

Red Willow Vineyard is part of the 4th generation Stephenson family farm that dates back to the 1920's.
Mike Sauer sits on his get-around-the-farm 4-wheeler at the base of the hill with the iconic stone chapel.
Third generation farmer, Mike Sauer, provides wine grapes for many of the most recognizable winemakers in Oregon and Washington.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Did drunken gods really create the first human?

When the world was first created, each god had a specific job to help maintain the land. But being fresh off the boat of creation, the gods were not used to hard labor; so, like any adolescent god, they complained, demanding help. 

Tired of hearing the constant whining, one day the water goddess Nammu, birth mother of heaven and earth, decided to create man to help care for the land. She assigned Enki—the patron of all arts, crafts, wisdom and magic, and Ninmah—the Great Mother goddess and Enki´s feisty lover—the creation task. 

But like happens with teenagers, the two creator gods got drunk before beginning the job.  The idea was that Ninmah was to create beings out of clay, while Enki found a role for each creation. Imagine doing surgery while drunk.  Well, the first creation was completely un-viable, unable to stand or feed itself, and had to be held in Ninmah’s lap. 

And thus, by the hands of drunken gods, was born the first human infant.

A modern storytellers version of the Sumerian creation myth
(Remember, the Sumerians were one of the earliest urban societies to emerge on our planet.)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

One of world's most amazing Vineyards

A shark fin-like rock formation juts from the Vineyards of Cain Winery in the Mayacamas Range above Napa Valley wine country, California.

The Vineyards of Cain Winery overlook the Napa Valley from one side of the Mayacamas mountain range crest and Sonoma Valley from the other side.
The Cain Vineyards are part what was part of the huge McCormick Ranch, which grazed hundreds of sheep on both the Napa and Sonoma side of the Mayacamas Range in this area known as Spring Mountain.

Fingers of fog creep from the Napa Valley up the mountains, touching Cain Vineyards.
At one time, the original McCormick Ranch encompassed 3,000 acres. Sheep ranching continued into the 1970s, until it became financially unviable. 
An early morning view from from Cain Vineyards atop the Spring Mountain area high above the town of Saint Helena.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

How Satan created Ethiopia's Crater Lake.


On the way back to Addis Ababa from Ethiopia's Omo region, I wanted to stop at a crater lake I had heard about. While it is suppose to be a tourist destination, we passed the small rusty directional sign along the road several times, before finding the correct little road to the lake.

This emerald-green lake is in a deep crater about the depth of a 35 story skyscraper from the crater edge. I have no idea how deep it might be and a local told me it is deadly to throw a rock into the lake.

This panoramic photograph makes the lake look so small. But, in fact, you could put a 35-story skyscraper on the water surface and it would barely reach the height of the rim.
Actually, the local man—who walked from his nearby field of maze—told me that this scenic crater lake is an evil place. In fact, the lake’s name, Ara Shetan literally means “Lake of Satan”. 
Many years ago, it seems that an evil sorcerer, who had fought with local peasants, was finally mortally wounded. He fell at the exact spot of the lake. With his last bit of energy as he was dying, he drove his spear into the ground, yelling a curse something like “let this be the devil’s home.” Suddenly, the earth below the dying Satan imploded, swallowed him up and the hole filled with a greenish water.

"Be careful. Don't throw a rock into the lake," my self-appointed guide told me.  It seems that the lake’s Satan will hurl the rock back with incredible intensity, killing the stone thrower.  

While today's geologists might have a different explanation for the lake's formation—something about shifting faults causing the hole—I decided it prudent not to throw any rocks into the lake.

Why Native Americans today cannot look at Oregon's Crater Lake.

Sunset light falls on Crater Lake in southern Oregon.
The Klamath Indians have this story about Oregon's Crater Lake:

A band of Indians were returning from a hunting trip and went up a mountain. At the top of the mountain they looked into its crater and saw a most beautiful blue lake -- bluer than the skies above it. They were awed by the intensity of the blue depths and by the smoking island in the lake. They were sure it was the home of Llaos, the Great Spirit.

Feeling that they had invaded forbidden ground, they quickly retreated down the slope and made camp for the night at a fitting distance away.

But one of the Indian braves could not forget the beautiful sight. He could not resist going back to stand on the rim and gaze at it. When he came away he felt much stronger. He went again and came away stronger and more powerful. After a third visit he grew daring and decided to go down the steep side of the crater. He bathed in the beautiful blue waters. After this he was the strongest and most skillful warrior of the tribe.

Imagine the Native American diving into Crater Lake and becoming a better hunter. Then one Indian ruined the lake's magic powers.
Other Indians wanted to do as he had done. So they also looked at the lake and bathed in its waters and each one came away more powerful than he had been before. They were better hunters, faster runners, more sure of their skills.

But one day, for some unknown reason, one Indian brave, when he was bathing in the lake, killed one of the creatures that lived in the water. Suddenly hundreds of the lake creatures, or Llaos, came from the water, rushed after the warrior and killed him. This ended the spell for all Indians, and they now knew that they could no longer go to the lake.

The fathers told their sons, and those sons told their sons that "death will come to any Indian who even dares to gaze upon the blue waters of Llaos Mountain."
This story taken from the Oregon Blue Book.

Oregon's Crater Lake under the magic spell of winter.

China The New Wine Frontier: a wine lover’s photographic journey.

The straight rows of vineyards can be seen in remote Beng village in Yunnan Province near the border with Tibet. This is just one of the vineyards visited in my China The New Wine Frontier book and presentations.

China is now the world's largest market for red wine, having increased more than 136% since 2008. In France, the second largest consumer of reds, it has declined by 18%. Small wonder that Chinese wineries are springing up like Oregon mushrooms to meet the tremendous demand in their own backyard.

Yet most people outside of the Land of the Dragon have no idea about the country’s booming wine industry, or that the country’s wine history actually dates back at least 9000 years. 

Marco Polo rated the wine in far west Xinjiang, China during his Silk Road journeys, even suggesting a wine mixture for mad dog bites.

With a cow-powered plow, these farmers are pulling up the peanuts grown between rows of Cabernet Sauvignon in a Tinjian Province vineyard.

Join Janis Miglavs for a photographer’s and adventurist’s visual journey through parts of China and an incredible wine scene seen by few outsiders.  Get a behind-the-scenes peek at the booming industry. See the architecture, the vineyards, the people and the wine. 
This is how Chinese drink wine. They call it ganbei.

Along the way learn secrets like how to survive drinking wine with local Chinese during the common practice of ganbei.

The general manager at Chateau Changyu Baron Balboa in Shihezi, Xinjiang, holds up a copy of my China The New Wine Frontier book opened to a page showing another Changyu winery, Chateau Changyu AFIP Global.

Since it is only available in China at this time, these presentations are a rare chance to buy China The New Wine Frontier book, the definitive work on Chinese wineries written and photographed by Miglavs.

Can guns, bows and arrows, and bowling sell wine?

Changyu, China's largest winery, built Chateau Changyu AFIP Global one hour out of Beijing to sell wine with Disney-like attractions. Not only did they build a photo-perfect European-style Chateau and Village, but they also included a shooting range, archery, bowling and an Olympic-size swimming pool.

All to sell wine.

After a few wine tastings, try out the Al Capone-style shooting range at Chateau Changyu AFIP Global, near Beijing, China.

Perhaps attempt the archery before the wine tastings as the arrows are real at Chateau Changyu AFIP Global, near Beijing, China.

When you tire of shooting at targets, try a little bowling at Chateau Changyu AFIP Global, near Beijing, China.

For those who would like to swim off their hangover, Chateau Changyu AFIP Global, near Beijing, China has an Olympic-sized swimming pool. The water temperature is just right.

Yes, they actually do make wine—something like a million bottles a year—at Chateau Changyu AFIP Global, near Beijing, China.

Chateau Changyu AFIP Global, near Beijing, China.