Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Milky Way and Taste of Wine

Earlier this week I took my oldest grandson, Jose, backpacking into the Jefferson Wilderness in the Oregon Cascade Mountains. (It surprised me a modern 17-year-old would actually enjoy being in the wilderness—except for the mosquitoes, which drove him to spastic slapping bouts.)

At night we marveled at how bright the Milky Way—that spiral galaxy of at least two hundred billion stars that contains our little earth—shined overhead. 

When we first moved to the hills above Sherwood 15 years ago, we could also clearly see the cloudy galaxy, even on many summer days. No more. 

I wonder how that disappearance affects grapes, wine and human life?
View of the Milky Way from our camp in the Mount Jefferson Wilderness.
Sometime during the night clouds came in and it started to rain. Let me tell you I wasn't excited about getting out of my warm cozy sleeping bag to retrieve the camera and put the rain fly on the tent.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Have you ever seen a white rainbow?

While pulling some stock photos for a client, I came across this view I took last March over Bella Vida vineyard above Dundee in the Dundee Hills of Willamette Valley Wine Country, Oregon. I called it a white rainbow.
 Is it the same thing as this event seen from Cain Vineyard above Napa Valley?

Monday, August 13, 2012

What do vineyards in Napa, Santa Barbara, Beng, China and Ziway, Ethiopia have in common?

Today, I pulled vineyard photographs from around the world for the world's largest calendar company. I'm awestruck that people and corporations plant vines in all corners of the world. Yet, as I looked at my selections, it struck me how different the vineyards and their stories are from each country. 

What is is about growing wine that is so attractive to so many around the world for thousands of years? 
California: This is the privately-owned 230-acre Star Lane Vineyard, a part of an almost 8000-acre Dierberg ranch, Happy Valley, Santa Ynez, Santa Barbara County, California. Jim Dierberg started out in banking in Hermann, MO and  expanded into wine.  What is it about growing wine that is so attractive?
California: Spring-time view of privately-owned John William's (former dairy farmer from upstate New York and owner and winemaker at Frog's Leap winery) white barns and water tower seen from mustard-flowering Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard  in the Napa Valley, California. So why go from dairy to wine?
Ethiopia: This is the Awash Wine Company vineyard about 3 hours from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. They get two harvests per year, with dormancy controlled by irrigation. Founded in 1943, the company is based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
China: Perched on a flat above the Lancang River (known as the Mekong further south) in the Yunnan province near the boarder with Tibet sits the village of Beng. The ShangriLa wine company has taught the farmers how to grow wine grapes and changed the economy of the entire region.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Is it always necessary to take a picture?

This morning just after my first cup of decaf, I saw a Great Blue Heron sitting on our deck railing. Yes, on our very own deck, 5 meters (15 feet) from me. At first I just stared in slack jaw wonder.

Then, ding ding, I remembered: "Dummy, you're a pro photographer, you should take a picture." But no camera, not even an iPhone in sight. Would he wait for me to get my Nikon D800 from my office? 

Fortunately, the bird sensed that I was a true pro and patently stood his ground on the railing. Fortunately also, I had to photograph through our screen door to get that professional soft look with those special-effects lines. (Compliments to Nikon, I had no focus problems through the screen door filter in the foreground.)

Sometimes I wonder if it might be better just to watch and enjoy the moment instead of running to get a camera. 

What about you? Do you always take photos during those full-of-wonder moments?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Can saddles & horseshoes affect the taste of wine?

Recently a group of us went to a Napa Valley winery well known for its Zinfandel. Great experience. We walked the vineyard while the winemaker told us about his ancient vines and how the various slopes affected the grapes. Then we tasted the wine in the cellar while the winemaker explained his secrets. Oh so perfect. Cellar smells enveloped our senses. The wines were great. All of us bought some. 

That night we drank those same wines in one of our hotel rooms. Faux paintings on the wall, TV blaring in the next room, antiseptic aroma of whatever they spray to kill germs, all in the unromantic glow of low-energy flourescent lights.

We were disappointed in the wines. They tasted different. 

We concluded that the atmosphere affected our taste judgement. What do you think?

Could the horseshoes, saddles and cowboy boots in the tasting room at the Black Stallion winery affect your tasting experience? 
How much could this branding influence your wine buying decisions?
A horse barn atmosphere with the beams in the tasting room.
Horse shoes with small hooks at the tasting bar for women to hang their purses. That's attention to details.

I have no idea what these containers near the wine bottles are or do, but they look horsey cool?

Monday, August 6, 2012

The influence of cattle & weather on Oregon wine

Locals say that if you don't like the weather now in Oregon wine country, wait a minute or two. This time lapse shows 30 minutes of Oregon Spring-time weather in Briggs Hill Valley seen from Sweet Cheeks Winery vineyard just south of Eugene in the Willamette Valley.

Besides the clouds and sun breaks, watch the ant-sized cattle on the center left side of the big barn. (Cattle are part of the Oregon terroir, providing valuable aromas to make a more complex wine.)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

After more than 100 Years, the French Return to Grow Wine in Cizhong, China

We drove our four-wheel drive Toyota over the LanCang (also called Lantsang, Lansang and Mekong) River, to our destination, Cizhong village in Yunnan Province, China.
Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard in front of historic Catholic Church, first built in 1867 and rebuilt in 1909, in Cizhong village on LanCang River, Yunnan Province, China.

French missionaries planted wine grapes—including rare Honey Rose or Rose Honey vines—in remote Cizhong village in Yunnan Province more than 100 years ago. They wanted to convert the locals but also indulge in passions brought from home.

When the French left, interest in making wine faded, especially during the Cultural Revolution. 

Then Chinese liquor maker VATS Group winery ShangriLa, came to the area to encourage locals to grow wine grapes again. Over the years, ShangriLa vineyard manager taught the locals how to grow the best grapes for wine. That changed the whole economy of the region, from subsistence farming to producing a cash crop. People in the region, like those in Cizhong, had money to spend.

Then the French returned. Late February of 2012, French winemaker Moet Hennessy joint ventured with ShangriLa Winery to plant additional vineyards and utilize those already ShangriLa had established with the local farmers.

Looking forward, Moet Hennessy Chief Executive Christophe Navarre said just after the joint venture announcement: "China will be our number one market this year. I'm very confident in the continued growth of the luxury market."

Looks as if it has been a global wine market for some time.
Local teacher Zhang does his morning Tibetan cedar baugh offering from his home's deck, with a view of 100-year-old historic Catholic church, first built in 1867 and rebuilt in 1909, in Cizhong village on LanCang (also called Lantsang, Lansang and Mekong) River, Yunnan Province. Here the French monks planted wine grape vines. The decendents of those vines are still producing in the church garden.
Wife prepares breakfast in kitchen of Teacher Zhang's Tibetan-style guesthouse in Cizhong village on LanCang (also called Lantsang, Lansang and Mekong) River, Yunnan Province, China.
Morning light streaks in through window as teacher Zhang's wife prepares breakfast in kitchen of Tibetan-style hours and guesthouse in Cizhong village.
Photo of Kawa Garbo or Khawa Karpo in kitchen of Teacher Zhang's house  and guesthouse in Cizhong village on LanCang (also called Lantsang, Lansang and Mekong) River, Yunnan Province. The mountain is one of the most sacred mountains for Tibetan Buddhism, as the spiritual home of a warrior god of the same name and the highest mountain in Yunnan province.
Honey Rose grape vines in original vineyard planted by French priests at the historic Catholic Church in Cizhong village on LanCang River, Yunnan Province, China.