Sunday, March 26, 2017

100 Vineyard Stories: Cellar worker hated Father's winemaking

"When I was growing up, my father made wine. He used anything that would ferment, grass, any kind of fruit, vegetables, squash, anything he could think of. 

"It was awful. I hated the stuff. Completely turned me off to wine.

Nosing Chardonnay juice just squeezed from the press.  Craggy Range Winery, Gimblett Gravels, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand.

"Then I happened to go to a big wine festival down in Wellington. That was my first real wine. I loved it.

Dave Whittington watches Chardonnay juice pouring from the press. Craggy Range Winery, Gimblett Gravels, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand.

"Yeeah, now I've been here Craggy Range through a couple of winemakers. Taught them everything I know."

Dave Whittington  adjusts one of the fermenting tank nozzles during harvest. Craggy Range Winery, Gimblett Gravels, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand. 

Dave Whittington
Cellar Worker
Craggy Range Winery, Gimblett Gravels Vineyard facility
Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Rene Magritte visits a New Zealand vineyard

On the ferry from Auckland (seen in the distant background), to Waiheke Island (not seen),  I saw the strangest thing. 
Rene Magritte visits Man O War vineyard, Waiheke Island, New Zealand.

Fortunately, years of transcendental training with remote tribes in Africa gave me the rapid reflexes to capture the vision with my trusty Nikon D810.
Later, over the third glass of Pinot gris-Sémillon-blend wine, I wondered if what I saw was Rene Magritte wanting me to experience New Zealand's Waiheke Island wine and vineyards differently?

100 Vineyard Stories: Man O War vineyard manager

Matt Allen, got his job as manager of the Man O War vineyards, Waiheke Island, New Zealand, by replying to a newspaper ad 24 years ago.

Janis: "Which vineyards remind you of your daughters?

Matt: "That's a question I've ever been asked before."

Vineyard Manager, Matt Allen, holds pruning shears while answering unusual questions. Bird- netted vineyards sit in the valley below him. Man O War Winery, Waiheke Island, New Zealand.
Hesitantly, Matt starts listing vineyards: "Madman, Asylum way out on the east side, Lunatic. And there's the one on a very steep slope." 

(I forgot to clarify if he was referring to himself as parent or his daughters.)

Matt: "Just when you think you have it right, then something happens; you get some excessive rain resulting in excessive vegetation growth. My oldest can get an A one day, and I think everything is going well. Then she gets detention the next day."

Janis: "Whose in charge in your family, you or your wife?"

Matt: "I like to think that I am in charge. But really I'm on the lowest, the 4th rung of the ladder."

Janis: "It's kind of like the vineyard. Whose really in charge?"

Netting keeps the birds from eating all the sweet ripe grapes. Vineyard manager, Matt Allen explained that it takes 6 men to put on the netting and 3 to take it off. But no grapes, no wine. Man O War winery, Waiheke Island, New Zealand.
Janis: "So how is the vineyard like your family?"

Matt: "Do you have kids?"

Janis: "Yes. Two boys, four grand kids."

Matt: "Well, tending vines is like having a baby every single year. After harvest you are pleased it's all over. You think you can rest. But then you start all over again. Pruning. Tending the weeds. It's crazy."

Matt: "But this is my 24th year of doing it here. Before that in Gisborne."

Janis: "That's a lot of babies."

Monday, March 20, 2017

Man O War Vineyards

One of the most amazing viticultural efforts I've visited in New Zealand, actually the world, are the Man O’ War vineyards.

You can see three blocks of vines not far from one of the little bays found at the east end of Waiheke Island. Man O War Vineyard, Waiheke Island, New Zealand.

Not just one vineyard, the vines are actually planted in 76 individual blocks scattered on 4500 acres on the eastern side of Waiheke Island. Most of the 150 acres of vines are planted on very steep hillsides.

Man O War Vineyard, Waiheke Island, New Zealand.

Sauvignon blanc harvest. Man O War Vineyard, Waiheke Island, New Zealand.

When asked about the difficult logistics of moving men and machine over often washed out roads to the scattered vineyards, vineyard manager Matt Allen says: "I wouldn't have it any other way. Doing in the flat would be boring."

Matt as been Man O War vineyard manager for 24 years.

Matt Allen, vineyard manager. Man O War Vineyard, Waiheke Island, New Zealand.

Bird netting. Man O War Vineyard, Waiheke Island, New Zealand.

Besides the vines on Waiheke Island, Man O War Winery has vineyards on adjacent Ponui Island. At harvest, the grapes are barged from Ponui at high tide to the winery on Waiheke Island.
Ponui Island seen from Waiheke.  Man O War Vineyard, Waiheke Island, New Zealand.
Bird net-covered vineyard and sheep seen from a hill covered with volcanic strewn boulders. Man O War Vineyard, Waiheke Island, New Zealand.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Bedik Ancestors live below the Tree of Souls

From my upcoming book 
We All Have Five Fingers  
My Quest with the Bedik Tribe
 (While I went to listen and learn about the African roots to my beliefs and religion, I learned something far less lofty about myself.)

Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.
Hermann Hesse, Baume

Bedik tribe village of Iwol in remote Southeast Senegal

Janis: "Chief Keita, you mentioned that the Bedik pray. Please tell me how you pray."

Chief Jean Baptiste Keita: "When we pray to the sacred Baobab tree or to the Fromager tree, the prayers are directed there and from there the God transmits the prayers to our dead ancestors.

" So you see, trees are sacred to us, we Bedik.

"For example, if you consider that sacred big Baobab tree which is measuring 33 meters and a half, it was planted on the tomb of dead Keita, the Keita family. The Keita family was the first to settle here. It was the Keita family, which was buried there.  Now you know that there is a tomb under the sacred baobab. 

"At the beginning of every year we go and say prayers around the tree, to implore our ancestors." 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

How I met Wassily Kandinsky during my current teenage development

In creating the illustrations of the remote African tribal myths and archetypal dreams I've recorded over the past 16 years, I have two struggles:

This is my first attempt to create the mystical feeling I experienced with Mbahuma, the highest ranking Himba tribe shaman near Epupa Falls, Namibia.

1) create an accurate depiction of the story the elders, chiefs, storytellers, shamans and witch doctors told me in a way that Westerners can understand; and 

2) create an illustration that not only attracts the viewer's attention, but also has a spiritual presence.

After looking at a number of Kandinsky paintings, this was my effort. Mbahuma told me that his shamanistic powers came through to him through his toe from his deceased uncle, who was also a powerful shaman.
At this point I feel like a teenager in my development stage of creating these myth images. But then I look at early works by Kandinsky and Chagall to see that they too developed and matured along their artistic path.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Bedik reincarnation tool

I went to the tiny Bedik tribe in remote southeast Senegal to learn about their myths and dreams. In the village of Iwol, chief Jean Keita told me about a special instrument they used to tell if a person has come back from the dead as a baby. 

The tiny Bedik tribe has a small round instrument that tells if the new born is a reincarnation of a deceased relative. Bedik tribe, Senegal Africa

Chief Jean Baptiste Keita: 

I myself had a dream about a dead ancestor coming back into my family. 

My dead father come to me in a dream and talked with me.  Some days after the dream, my wife delivered a baby.  When the baby was born, he started crying.  Crying.  Crying. 

We saw the baby is not ill, but he’s crying. What can be the cause of that?   

In our village we have this small round instrument, maybe something like a small wheel. When we put that instrument on the wall, if it ever adheres, if it gets stuck when it is thrown against the wall, it means the dead parent, the dead person has come back.  If ever it falls down, it means it’s not him.

So we took that instrument, threw it against the wall.

It stuck.

Journal thoughts:
Interesting that the Bedik use a circular instrument to determine whether the new born is a deceased relative. I immediately thought of the serpent which in some myths forms a circle as it eats its own tail thus representing rebirth, reincarnation.