Sunday, October 31, 2010

40 years to Wine Spectator article

It only took 40 years (yes, it's years not days), to write this article for Wine Spectator magazine. Forty years ago my extensive college-wine-expertise declared that Mogan David blackberry wine beat anything from France. Then I was sure that Peking duck would pair well with any Mogan David flavor.

So 40 years after my college Mogan David period, I'm writing about Chinese wine. Check out pages 79-83 of Wine Spectator's latest issue (Oct 31) to see the Chinese winery story I did–writing and photography
. Who knows, in another 40 years I might be ready to do an article on Myanmar or Ethiopian wine.

Regardless, the article's China wine facts, culture, personalities and predictions of the future will surprise (at least entertain) even hard-core Asian wine lovers. After all, I personally drank a boatload of wine in China as background research.

(A quick thank you shout to
Thomas Matthews
for long-term faith and Mitch Frank for gentile editing.)

Sorry, the WS magazine folks would frown if I posted the entire article here. So if you don't want to spring for a copy, head to your local bookstore magazine rack. Or you can swing by the studio here to read it while looking out the window at our neighbors' vineyards. Just bring a bottle of blackberry wine.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Help choose a book cover

Vineyard Light on our Earth, Character and Spirit is the working title for one of the new books I'm creating. The text is quotes from 100 winemakers, owners and vineyard workers plus excerpts from my personal vineyard journal telling what we have learned while in the vineyard. Heavy and humorous stuff, all synergistically combined with knock-your-booties-off photography.

I've done a layout with the title as a sample, but those PDF cover photos are dull.

Need your help with the cover. Which would you choose? Why?

(Note that the numbers and titles are below the photo.)

Sample cover
Sample cover
Photo #1 Morning light on Five Mountain Vineyard and Mt Hood
Photo #2 Sun streaks on Red Hills Vineyard
Photo #3 Breaking storm at Sunset
Photo #4 Morning light after storm on Red Hills vineyards
Photo #5 Sunset over vineyard
Photo #6 Stormy light on Napa vineyard
Photo #7 Sunrise after storm Napa vineyard
Photo #8 Foggy sunrise over Red Hills vineyards.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


This unretouched picture might not be worth a 1000 words, but probably a couple.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Essential Photo Equipment: Flu shot

Part of this photographer's gear is the flu shot.
When I travel to China, I don't want to be responsible for quarantining the entire airplane for 7 days. But the nice shot lady didn't even give me a band aid with pictures on it.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Which has more magic, a pencil or camera?

Reading a book about pilgrimages and vision, art critic Robert Hughes said that back in the 19th century every educated person drew on a regular bases. He said: "Drawing was an ordinary form of speech used as a pastime or aide-memoire (something I find I need more and more), without the pretensions to 'high' art." His contention was that drawing was gradually abolished by the mass camera market and implied that now we see less.

While working on my Masters degree in drawing and painting, often we would strengthen our ability to see by closing our eyes and drawing while touching the subject, or drawing models without looking down at our paper. With practice and trust, amazing results happened.

Now, after some 30 years as a pro photog, I find myself doing two different kinds of photography: 1) documenting the subject 2) looking for the magic in the subject. There's a world of difference. Zillions of photographs cluter our planet. Only a small percentage have magic.

What do you think? Would you see more with a pencil than a camera?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

China & Cancer 2

Thank you for the hundred or so emails confirming that I made the right choice about not going to China. Wife Eddi and I have been studying intraductal carcinoma with surgery scheduled the day I would have gotten back from China.

Monday, October 4, 2010

2000 years of China wine history gone?

From what I can tell, wine was first recorded in China's northwest region of Xinjiang Province during the Han Dynasty, beginning about 200BC. That's when one of the emperors brought back both grape seeds and wine makers from the Middle East. While the Han emperor enjoyed the flavor of these wines, somehow the plants and techniques were not passed down.

That's why, when Zhang Bishi decided to build his own winery
–which he called Changyu Winery–in Yantai in 1892, he found only a few edible grapes in China. So he first brought 2,000 plants from the United States, but few bore fruit and were not sweet enough. Then half of those vines rotted before harvest. Being persistent fellow and a Chinese ambassador to other countries, he bought 640,000 more from Europe. Unfortunately these plants too found difficulty growing in China, with only 20 to 30% of them surviving.

Changyu's first winemakers. Check out the foreign influence.

In order to save his venture, Zhang Bishi brought back wild plants from northeast China that produced a bitter fruit but were hardy. They were grafted to the foreign vines and planted in the Shandong Province vineyards. The new vines survived, granting fruit rich in sugar with good color and were insect, disease, and cold resistant.

This is the main Changyu winery's huge factory-like facility.
Each of these Changyu factory winery fermenting tanks holds enough wine to fill a Southern California swimming pool.

All day long this beautiful Chinese woman imprints the Changyu logo on corks. My Chinese was not good enough to ask her if she counted her work.

Chinese wine security is tight in the Changyu cellar. These guys look as if they traveled the 2000-year Chinese time warp from the Han Dynasty. But they aren't as stoic as the British Royal Palace guards as I could get these Chinese guys to crack a smile. Just in case you were wondering, they are not allowed to drink on the job.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

After the Flood, first thing, Noah plants a vineyard

If you had just spent more than a month on a cramped wooden boat packed with two of all the planet's animals–think huge smelly number of beasts and critters, perhaps getting seasick floating on a flooded earth, what would be the first thing you did when you stepped on dry ground?

If you were Noah, you would plant a vineyard and become a winemaker. Why? That Bible story
in Genesis 9 always amazed me. I picture a waterlogged earth covered with flood mud much as the Willamette Valley was covered with silt brought down from Montana and Washington by the Missoula floods some 40,000 years ago. Then I picture this old bearded guy–some 600 years old–with the foresight to have taken grape cuttings with him on the boat, stepping off the arc into the gooey flood mud to plant a vineyard. What are the priorities here?

Then Noah's after-the-flood vineyard story continues as a drunken affair where he curses one of his sons–Canaan–to become a slave, affecting the rest of human history. Now that's a vineyard story that's hard to match.

So why do vineyards and wine take on so much importance in Biblical history? Any ideas as to what varietal Noah planted?