Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Do winemakers from Venus have it over Martians?

Winemaker Sandra Oldfield works with one of her all-female staff at Tinhorn Creek Estate winery, Okanagan, BC. Here she pours grapes into a basket press at the winery.

So, does the wine made by an all-woman team taste different than if men were involved?

I had never thought about it before. Then it dawned on me while doing the photography
for my first book Pacific Northwest, The Ultimate Winery Guide. There I was photographing winemaker Sandra Oldfield and her all-woman wine production team at Tinhorn Creek Estate Winery in the Okanagan, BC.

Does wine made by winemakers from Venus taste different from that made by Martians?

After all, aren't women different. Ask radio star Dr. Laura. Aren't women crafted to be nurturing mothers?
But can you taste nurtured wine? And aren't those from Venus suppose to have more sensative taste buds? But can that carry over to making wine? One writer thinks so. She recently wrote Women Winemakers: A Natural Advantage. But then can a woman writer be objective?

While interviewing and photographing for my second wine book, Oregon: The Taste of Wine, I asked a number of female winemakers their perspective on the subject.

Winemaker Lynn Penner-Ash's (from Penner-Ash Wine Cellars in Oregon's Willamette valley) reply really stands out in my mind:

"One time there were a bunch of us that were having dinner with a gentleman who
I’ve been raised to believe is the foremost authority on what wine is all about. He told me that I wouldn’t be a great wine maker because I was too focused on my family and I needed to prioritize, either it’s going to be wine or my family. He’s eighty nine years old and he’s telling me this.

"I was so excited to meet the man and I was just so thrilled to be in his presence and he says that to me. He didn’t say it to any of the guys at the table he said it to me.

I was just destroyed, I came home and cried."

Here's what winemaker Luisa Ponzi from Ponzi Vineyards in Oregon's Willamette Valley has to say:

Luisa: "But I think women probably are more sensitive to aromas and tastes. I know from the women winemakers I know it seems to be that way."

Janis: "Now is that an actual an innate thing, a biological thing, or is it something that can be learned."

Luisa: "Well it can be learned. Of course it takes practice to fine tune it. But that’s a huge part of being a winemaker, getting your palate so you can taste. I know plenty of men that have wonderful palettes and can describe the wine. In fact, my husband describes wines better than I do. But, overall, I think there’s more of an intuitive sense for women."

Remind me to tell you the different replies I get from women in other cultures. I'm actually working on a book on the subject.

So, can you taste the difference?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Name Winery, Win Wine #1

The challenge: Periodically, I will post a new photograph(s) of a winery or vineyard somewhere in Oregon or possibly, the world. After a period of as-of-yet undetermined time, a select group of highly-regarded judges will choose one person who has guessed at least some of the wineries/vineyards correctly as the winner.

The prize: a bottle of fine wine from Willamette Valley Vineyards. (Full disclosure, WVV financially supports the Oregon Wine book I’m currently doing.)

The rules are loose, but hurry before I drink the prize.

Hint: this winery is near Turner and Oregon's capitol and is mentioned in the post copy. Just guess as a comment to this post.

This is the view from the Mystery Winery's vineyard during 2007 harvest.

Oregon Wine book photo possibilities

These are some of the photos being considered for my new Oregon Wine book that will come out October of this year.

Would love to hear your thoughts? Which should make the cut and which left on the editing table? And why? Go easy on me now.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Power of Photography

Konso tribe village of Busso at the edge of the Omo region of Ethiopia.

Village woman holding print of photo I had taken 6 years ago.

Son holding photo of his deceased father I had taken in 2001. When he first saw the print, he cried.

This has to do with another project I'm working on.

Last year I returned to Africa for the fifth time to complete a personal project I call Africa’s Undiscovered Myths where I interview the chiefs, shamans, storytellers, witch doctors and elders of Africa’s most remote tribes about their myths and archetypal dreams. I’m the only person to ever record these oral stories. Then I create photo illustrations of those myths and dreams.

While the work is very satisfying, it’s the human interaction that moves me most.

For example, when I returned to my favorite Konso village of Busso on the edge of Ethiopia’s Omo region I was surprised at the number of tourists there compared to my 2001 visit. In fact, the villagers now charged an entrance fee and a per-click fee for taking photos of any people.

While the chief and elders remembered me and heartedly approved the myth work I showed them, I was most touched by the reaction to the photographic prints of images I had taken during the previous trip. When the mother who I had photographed holding her infant in 2001 saw her photograph, she ran to get her 6-year-old to proudly show me. When I handed a print of an old man I had photographed on the previous trip to his son he openly cried. The old man had died. I had just given him the only tangible thing he had to remember his father.

They actually made me feel like a hero. After taking a group photo of the whole village, they gave me the equivalent of a gold key. I could take photographs anywhere and of anyone, no charge. The Power of Photography.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Your opinion for book cover

What do you think about one of these possibilities for the cover of my next book on Oregon Wineries and Vineyards? Please note that I'm a bit defensive, being a pro photographer and all, as the photos are unoptimized proofs.

The book is about people. I interviewed at least 57 Oregon winemakers, owners, vineyard managers, cellar rats and mice to get a very personal look at the state of the Oregon wine industry.

Oh yes, we're also debating on the title:
Oregon: A Taste of Wine
Oregon: A Different State of Wine

Really would appreciate your thoughts.

We go to production the last week in May. Book will be printed overseas and in book stores this October.

Unexpected inspiration while crying

Inspiration comes from unexpected places. Late last week the music leader of our church unexpectedly died. She was only 44 years old. Incredible singer and musician. During the funeral service, it seems at least half of the people were openly crying, including me. Our pastor said that sometimes there is a twinge of doubt where the person is going after they die, With Shari, there was no doubt.

During upsetting moments in my life, I try to look past the emotion or adrenalin to see what lessons I’m suppose to learn. During that funeral service I clearly saw two. First, live every second of my life so that it has a positive impact on those I come in contact with. Second, use the little basket of gifts I have for the good of those around me and the world. Even little things matter. Shari and I were going to do a music/visual show together. I got too busy and kept putting it off. I regret that.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Infrared look-a-like in the Vineyard

This is the "straight" photograph of a remote experimental Zerba Winery vineyard near Milton-Freewater that will be in my new Oregon: The Taste of Wine book.

While working on some fine-art prints for a show at Argyle Winery–check it out in the heart of Willamette Valley Wine Country, Dundee, Oregon–I wanted to create a different look. Remembering way back to the infrared photography unit I taught as a high school art/photography teacher, I wanted to recreate that same look and fee. After quite a bit of experimenting, here's the infrared-look-alike result. Through masking, I did allow a bit of the original image color bleed through the clouds.

What do you think?

This is the same Zerba vineyard photograph with the Photoshop-induced infrared look.

This is another view of that same Zerba vineyard. Check out the tumble weeds blown against the Cabernet vines. At sunrise when this photo was taken, there was a slight refreshing dry breeze that was a welcome start to the 100 degree day. Coyotes howled in the distance and hawks soared overhead. Located at the barren foothills of the Blue Mountains, the vineyard sits on a gentle north by northwest slope on the old Jon Cockburn Ranch.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Please help cure my Creativity Flab (using EiTV)

I've gotten creativity lazy. My creative muscles have become flabby. To exercise those under-used muscles, I've set up a photographic challenge. Let's call it Everyday in The Vineyard or EiTV. (If you didn't know, I do lots of vineyard/winery photography–two books, many calendars and winery-related clients.)

I challenge myself to take at least one photograph everyday somehow related to wine/vineyards, even if I'm on the road or in the air.

Then I will post at least one–I'm trying to be realistic–of those photos per week to get feedback/thoughts/input from you. So when you see a Everyday in The Vineyard (EiTV) photo, I would appreciate your comments/thoughts and reminders.

Here's the first one.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Why

Often I'm huddled by myself over the Mac with no human contact except for the FedEx guy; so I wanted to start this series of posts to share a professional photographer's behind-the-scenes look at photography, vineyards, wineries (I'm no expert), myths, archetypal dreams, architecture, excerpts from interviews I've done and life.

Welcome and thanks for visiting.