Sunday, April 26, 2015

My journey to the pink wine oasis in the Silk Road desert

My winemaker friend, Fred Nauleau, at CITIC Guoan Wine Co., wanted me to see a winery way out in the Xinjiang Silk Road desert.

On the way out, we passed this billboard advertising our destination winery, Chateau JunYan. Since my Chinese is three broken rungs below minimal, I don't know exactly what I'm supposed to do with the advertised wine; but the visual clearly shows the countryside we are about to visit. Maybe pouring red wine on a tree in the desert is an ancient local tradition. 
Chateau Jun Yan, Xinjiang, China.

Where did I put my water bottle? My winemaker host and driver told me it was probably only a two hour drive to the winery. But he had never been there before. Four hours later, our journey becomes more suspenseful when we passed a series of cemeteries in the dunes.  Xinjiang, China.

A few thousand rolling sand dunes later, we arrive at Chateau Jun Yan (some spell it JunYan). While I've been to more Chinese wineries than the average Oregonian, this one surprised me. It's a wine oasis. It's an architectural ......(fill in the blank) wonder. Chateau Jun Yan, Xinjiang, China.

Even though they only get 2 inches of rain during a good year, no worries about water in this desert. The owners claimed that under their feet flowed an unlimited system of aquifers. (I quietly reminded myself that this was China, the new wine frontier, which still had unlimited resources.) Chateau Jun Yan, Xinjiang, China.

But why paint the winery pink? Ah, a few photos below, you will find out who the real boss is here. Chateau Jun Yan, Xinjiang, China.

Even though you see acres and acres of a newly-planted green forest and huge vineyards in the background, this photo is just a reminder that we are in the desert, as in sand dune-type of desert. Chateau Jun Yan, Xinjiang, China.

Besides building a large winery, the owners wanted to create an entire resort where nouveau riche Chinese visitors could relax with a glass or three of JunYan wine. Since no respectable oasis resort should be without white geese in a pond, the owners dug a lake among the dunes and imported a flock of geese. I'm ready for my glass of wine now. Chateau Jun Yan, Xinjiang, China.

No winery resort in the desert should be without a lawn, complete with a cast iron sign warning—in three languages: "Don't bother the growing grass." Chateau Jun Yan, Xinjiang, China.

Drip irrigation allows the newly-planted Cabernet sauvignon vines to survive the dry heat. Check out how the vines are planted in a valley. That's so that they can be easily buried under a protective blanket of dirt for the sub-zero (as in less than 0 F) desert winter. Chateau Jun Yan, Xinjiang, China.

Since photographers are suppose to shutter snap at sunset, I did a golden-hour selfie shadow on the new vineyard. Note the acres of plastic for weed control. Also, I'm not showing a photo of all the discarded chemical containers, confirming they are not farming biodynamically.  Chateau Jun Yan, Xinjiang, China.

So these are the proud owners. Having made their fortune with a fleet of factories, they are building their winery resort dream. Can you tell who is the real boss in the family?  Revealing her cutthroat business personality, she actually bribed a farmer for some of Xinjiang's best grapes that were contracted to my winemaker friend, Fred. But then that's business in China, the new wine frontier. Chateau Jun Yan, Xinjiang, China.

By the way, you can order my China wine book by contacting me directly.

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