Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tools needed to make great Oregon Pinot Noir

At IPNC (International Pinot Noir Celebration), I learned what it takes to make great Oregon Pinot Noir. 
Is it really that simple?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Monks divide Burgundy at Oregon's International Pinot Noir Celebration

If you you had a magnifying glass for the fine print identifying the wines in the photograph, you would read that all the wines we sampled at the "Study Abroad in Burgundy" session at Oregon's International Pinot Noir Celebration in McMinnville are either Premier or Grand Cru wines. That means they represent the best Burgundy has to offer. It was a shame to spit, but it was 9:00 a.m..
At my very first session at the International Pinot Noir Celebration, I learned it was the monks who divided Burgundy into wine growing regions hundreds of years ago. The IPNC session was "Study Abroad in Burgundy".

Those Cistercian Monks first appeared on the European scene nearly a 1000 years ago.  They built their first abbey at Cîteaux (Latin Cistercium, hence "Cistercian") near Nuits-Saint-Georges.  It just happeed that several of the wines we tasted in the IPNC Burgundy session had roots in the region. It felt like I was tasting history.

As they grew grapes and made wine, those monks kept great records, according to moderator Allen Meadows, who spends 4 months a year in Burgundy when he visits more than 300 domaines and publishes Burghound.com—an e-newsletter specializing in Burgundy. Those monks started to notice that the wine from one parcel tasted different from the next, sometimes from adjacent plots. 

Fortunately, they planted lots of Pinot noir, the most terroir transparent of grapes, says Meadows. He claims the monks were tasting differences in terroir, in geography, in soil, in temperature.

The monks attributed the taste differences to God. For those pious monks, Pinot noir was only the messenger, not the message.

Regardless, those monks prospected for terroir. They planted vines everywhere but only kept those that were the most interesting. And they took meticulous notes, keeping volumes of hand-written records. So now Burgundy has hundreds of years of history of knowing what will grow best where.

Thus today, Burgundy is divided into many different appellations, sometimes covering only a single vineyard. In fact, Meadows said there were some 1600 different "climats"—a term unique to Burgundy which designates each plot or group of plots of vines which have been known under the same name for several centuries.

In the end, Meadows and the 5 Burgundian panelist—Bertrand Ambroise from Maison Ambroise, Cyril Audoin of Domaine Charles Audoin, Philippe and Vincent Lécheneaut of Domaine Lécheneaut and Jacques Lardière of Maison Louis Jadotseemed to agree with the historic monks: Pinot noir was the messenger of Burgundy terroir.

Thank you monks. Thank you God.

Thank you Anne Amie Winery, one sunny IPNC host

This weekend at the International Pinot Noir Celebration (IPNC) conference at Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon, highlight sessions were held at Willamette Valley wineries which were undisclosed to us mere attendees until we boarded the bus to the destination. I lucked out. Our bus—tour guided by Texan-turned-Oregon-winemaker Rollin Soles—ended at Anne Amie Winery. What an Oregon treat.
With glass in hand, vineyard manager Jason Tosch gave us a tour of the estate vineyard while we sampled the results.
Some found the production equipment especially relaxing.
Then a honest peek at what it takes to make great wine.
Can life get any better than lunch with a panoramic view of the Willamette Valley?

Thank you to all the wonderful people at Anne Amie Winery for providing such a memorable Oregon experience.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Surprise backpacking weather in Washington Cascades

This is a short sequence of the variable weather my son Ryan and I experienced during our 4-day backpacking trip to Silver Lake in Henry Jackson Wilderness. This is mid July, and we were totally surrounded by snow, except for this tiny island of clearing where we set our tent.

Our original destination, Ice Lake in Glacier Peak Wilderness, was totally snowed out. Then we aimed for Silica Lake high in Glacier Peak and found the 7-mile road to the starting point was totally washed out. We were too lazy to do the 14 extra miles on a dangerous road where we would have to forge two major rivers where the bridges were washed out.

Silver Lake turned out to be great. We will return some day.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Life as a wine-loving backpacker

Here we are preparing for a serious backpack trip in the morning with my youngest son Ryan.

This is what it is like inside the tent on a very wet foggy morning at Silver Lake in Henry M. Jackson Wilderness in Washington's Cascades. Yes, we did have a bottle of 14 Hands (Check out my photos on their site)  Chardonnay the night before.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Changyu Thinks Bigger than Disneyland

Changyu, officially China's oldest winery—though Zhang Bishi founded the winery in 1892, that was long after adventurous French monks planted productive vines and made wine in remote mountainous Cizhong village in Yunnan province—has big wine plans. 
 Changyu started with industrial-sized facilities scattered throughout Yantai city, in Shandong province.

Then they partnered with the French to build Changyu-Castel in Yantai in 2002 and with the Canadians for Château Changyu Ice wine in northern Liaoning Province and Changyu Kely Estate in New Zealand. 

 And then came the Disney-like marketing effort called Chateau Changyu AFIP Global.  

Besides, these facilities, the company is building three other chateaus—Changyu Baron Balboa in Xinjiang Uygur province, Changyu Moser XV in Ningxia province and Changyu Reina in Shaanxi—planed to open in 2013. Adding to this armada of wineries, Changyu  announced at the end of June plans to build a “wine city” in Yantai.  Blueprints call for the 413 ha facility to have a research institute, wine production center, vineyards, an international wine trading center and, of course, a “European-style village.”

Obviously Changyu feels it has a winning formula with the European-style villages as wine tourism destinations. Back at AFIP, even the adjoining estate vineyard serves dual purposes, both as a source of wine grapes and as a scenic experience with the Yan shan Mountains in the background. A young couple stroll hand in hand through the vineyard on the two-kilometer long street-wide concrete walkway with a lacy metal arched overhang. They giggle and photograph themselves with iPhones near tight clusters of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes hanging ready for harvest.

Changyu just might have the winning wine formula—by combining entertainment, education and tasting—for luring Chinese to wine. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Which is the best China Winery book cover?

Which cover do you like best for the China Winery book I just finished writing last Wednesday?

This is the cover I sent as a suggestion.

The covers below are ones the Chinese designer submitted.
Chinese Designer Cover #1
Chinese Designer Cover #2
Chinese Designer Cover #3

China: The Wild New Wine Frontier

This is Chateau Huadong Parry in Shandong Province. General Manager thinks that for China, this winery is too small.