Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Are we here to subdue the earth?

7:30 AM. Patrick Sullivan, winemaker at Napa's Rudd Vineyards Winery, had just finished hand spraying biodynamic (check it out) 501 silica mixture on the Edge Hill Vineyard. He and I started talking about how there was something special about this five-acre, head trained vineyard tucked in oak forests just above St. Helena.

This was the perfect setting to ask what kind Lessons he had learned while working in vineyards. Somehow the conversation turned to what Lessons he wants to pass on to his grandchildren. His simple reply: " We need to remember that we are here for the earth. The earth is not here for us." And doesn't biodynamics teach that a vineyard is part of a whole rather than an entity unto itself.

As I was driving to my next appointment, I reflected on Patrick's Lessons for his grandchildren. "We are here for the earth." Biodynamics. We toil on the earth. But weren't we Christians taught at an early age about man's dominion over animals and plants. Genesis 1:28: "And God blessed them [that's our forefathers], and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth."

While driving up the steep grade past Angwin towards a winery striving to be gold LEED certified (check it out if you don't know what that means), on the radio comes news that the BP oil spill was much more serious than first reported. Millions of gallons a day more serious.

So I'm trying to figure out what is the Lesson from the Vineyard here. What exactly does God mean that we are suppose to "subdue" the earth? And have we as Judeo-Christians taken that statement too seriously, out of context or gone too far? Is Patrick's statement, "that we are here for the earth" in conflict with the Bible?

What are your thougths?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

One immigrant's thoughts about illegals.

OK, here we go. Although it's a subject close to my heart––I came as an immigrant who had to take tests to gain citizenship––I don't often make a big deal about the immigration problem. However, I couldn't help but respond emotionally when NPR interviewed some people about the Arizona's check-for-immigration-papers law. My response wasn't about the law, rather to what one of the speakers––a legal immigrant from Mexico–-kept repeating.

He said that the 12 million (his number) illegals were here to better themselves economically. His contention was they are forced north because they don't have jobs in Mexico. That is a big problem. (He was from Mexico and didn't talk about Central or South America.) After talking with hundreds of Mexicans in the vineyards,
I agree with the radio speaker. While some (I can't say what percentage) have adopted the United States as their new home, many come for a better job and still speak of Mexico as their home. No roots here.

I'm not at all prejudice against any people, just want to look at motives. To me, coming to earn money is far different from the motive my family had when we came to the United States. We needed to find a new home. The Communists had imprisoned my father to kill him. When some friends broke him out of jail, my parents escaped from Latvia.

We were looking for a new homeland. My parents chose the United States with the intent to plant roots. In my mind, that created a huge difference in attitude than someone coming simply to make a buck.

Not to sound too cotton candy-like in today's culture, but
proudly, the United States is my home.

Monday, June 21, 2010

OK, Which is Oregon's most beautiful vineyard view?

Tamarah, my Digital Asset Manager, and I disagree which of my photos depicts Oregon's most beautiful vineyard view. Please help us settle the debate.
Which one of these photos is your favorite vineyard view? With your selection number, please make a 7-word note why your choice.

(Also sorry about the big spaces between some of the photos. I can't figure out how to get rid of them in blogger.)

#1 Chardonnay vine view at David Hill Vineyard and Winery near Forest Grove.

#2 Mount Hood and the Willamette Valley seen from Elk Cove Winery's Five Mountain vineyard.

#3 Knudsen vineyard seen from Bella Vida vineyard in the Red Hills above Dundee in the Willamette Valley.

#4 A Fall storm hangs over the grain silos at the edge Seven Hills Vineyard on the Oregon side of the Walla Walla Valley AVA.

#5 Fall colors on Abcela vineyard in the Umpqua Valley.

#6 Sun crashes through a summer storm over Valley View Winery's vineyard and winery barn in the Applegate Valley AVA near Jacksonville.

#7 The Pines 1852 winery's old Zin vines originally planted in 1852 or so now in the Columbia Valley AVA above The Dalles with snow-covered hills in the distance on the Washington side of the Columbia River.

The fine print:
• Almost all of these vineyard views are taken from private land. Please do not enter any vineyard without permission. You just might kill the vineyard by unknowingly carrying in phylloxera or some other disease.
• Please note that the photos are not in any particular order.
• All of these images are copyrighted with the US Copyright office. If you use any unauthorizedly–which just happened Friday–you pay me usage fee, plus $30,000 and attorney's fees.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Will vineyards survive humans on earth?

This Lesson from the Vineyard i-post card number 2 really speaks to me: the wild stormy earth image with words about basic human survival. Primortial.

The genesis: I was fortunate enough to spend about a half day with Chris Howell, the general manager and winemaker at Cain Vineyard & Winery while he drove me around the vineyard in his 4-wheeler. As we stood in the howling wind on the narrow ridge that divides Napa Valley from Sonoma, Chris started talking about really heavy stuff. As we stood outside, I couldn't take notes as the wind buffeted my notebook and all my little Olympus digital recorder captured were powerful wind sounds as it wiped over the stereo microphones. Dummy me, I didn't think to have our
life lessons conversations inside his car. But somehow the powerful wind somehow matched his words. So I got only a small sampling of Chris Howell's Lessons.

The next morning barrels of rain flooded Napa streets. Perfect.

So I spent about a half day on the Cain vineyard ridges in the rain
huddle under my tiny red umbrella with my plastic-bag covered D3, waiting for cloud breaks. Pure magic happens during those breaks. Waiting. Waiting. Woa, suddenly clouds lift off the mountains, pieces of sun gently touch the soaked landscape. All the while brooding threatening clouds hover just overhead. Perfect. Click. Click.

Who else should I interview for Lessons from the Vineyard?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Tasting sweat in rice and wine

I've been sending out i-post cards as part of a Lessons from the Vineyard series. The idea is to find a synergy between photography and words.

The whole thing started as a book project where I'm asking winemakers, owners, vineyard workers what life lessons they have learned from being in the vineyard. The goal is 100 interviews. So I'm talking with folks from the whole socio-economic spectrum, some don't speak English, some are very famous Napa winemakers, some are well-known wine writers like Eric Asimov, even Tim Mondavi and Francis Ford Coppola are on the list.

Right now I'm at about number 56 of the magic 100 goal and seeing totally different perspectives of and insights on life through the vineyard prism.

This quote is from Sue Parry, owner with her winemaker husband of Parry Cellars, a one acre front-yard Cabernet sauvignon vineyard/winery in Napa Valley. During our talk, Sue focused on the workers. When she works in the vineyard and it gets too hot, or too cold or too rainy, she says she quits. The workers can't.

One of the most interesting comments
from the dozens we received from this the Number 4 of the Lessons series was from my friend Edward Dong, who just quit working for China's largest winery to earn his PhD. He wrote: "in Chinese we also have such kind of proverb, 'Every rice in our plate contains the sweat of farmers.'"

So can you taste the sweat of the vineyard workers?