Wednesday, August 16, 2017

My Rotary Club visual presentation about acceptance in Sherwood Oregon

As part of their peace effort, the Rotary Club asked me to give a visual talk about acceptance. They saw the work I've done in Africa, where I went looking for the primal roots of my beliefs and religion in the Birthplace of Modern Humans and found much more.

Little village children taught me to look through my first eyes, my child's eyes of acceptance and exploration. 

In a remote corner of Ethiopia, when I asked Konso elders what advice they would give world leaders, one elder replied: "Tell them that we are all made by God. No matter what your tribe, no matter what your religion, we all bleed the same color blood." Then he raised his hand with fingers outstretched and concluded: "We all have five fingers." 

Come hear how the village children's acceptance of a stranger and the remote elders wise words inspired me. 

I've invited President Trump. 

Please come so we can all be inspired to move forward on September 6, 6:30PM at the Sherwood Library Community Room, in Sherwood, OR 97140.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Ethiopia's remote Suri tribe: Fall of Man woman's fault

Originally humans had a direct connection to God. 

So say the elders, chiefs, shamans and storytellers of the remote Suri (Surma) tribe in Ethiopia's Omo River region. 

"Long long ago there was a rope from earth to God," explains Bolagedong, the eldest Suri chief. "So in ancient times people had a direct connection to God.

"Humans could climb that rope at any time to visit God," contines Bolagedong. "The only rule," the chief hesitates for drama, "humans could not bring anything with them up the rope."

This is my illustration of the Fall of Man story I heard from the Suri tribe. Omo River region, Ethiopia.
"One day the woman decided to bring her grinding stone. As she started to climb up for a visit to God, instantly the rope fell to the ground. 

"People lost their direct connection to God."

So today we don't have a direct connection to God.

Three things struck me about the Suri Fall of Man story:
1) I wondered which was older, the Suri story or the one in the Bible. 

2) For me, the Suri story is easier to understand. A rope makes sense. An apple, not so easy to bite.

3) And why is it always the woman's fault? 

Suri tribe. Omo region, Ethiopia, Africa.

Monday, May 29, 2017

One kid's chores in the Birthplace of Modern Humans

Hamar tribe, Omo region, Ethiopia, Africa.

Leading the family cattle to the watering hole is a daily chore in the Birthplace of Modern Humans, Africa.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Mursi tribe elder confirms my photo-illustration perfectly depicts God.

"Is there a God?" I asked the Mursi tribe elder.

This is my illustration of God as described to me on my first trip to the Mursi tribe in 2001.  Mursi tribe, Omo River Valley, Ethiopia, Africa.
That was one of the questions I asked the elders, shamans, chiefs, storytellers and witch doctors of Africa's most remote tribes.

"Yes, there is a God," said the Mursi elder. "He is powerful. He has no legs and has a rainbow colored chest. And he flies through the air." Then the elder emphasized, "And he can kill a man instantly."

Mursi tribe elder explaining God. Mursi tribe, Omo River Valley, Ethiopia, Africa.

On my last trip to the Mursi in 2014, I showed elders at the distant village of Belle my illustration. Without hesitation, they said, "Yes, that is God." There was no doubt.

In 2014, a Mursi elder in Belle village confirms that my illustration perfectly depicts God. Mursi tribe, Omo River Valley, Ethiopia, Africa.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Could learning the "Secrets of Life" actually kill us?

In the remote cliffs of Senegal's SE corner, these 12 and 13-year old Bedik boys run in this traditional way all day for one month and then spend 5 months in the bush by themselves to learn the "Secrets of Life". Bedik tribe, Senegal, Africa.

Shaman tell us that, were meaning to come to us fully unveiled, it would turn us into it; that is, it would kill us.
Malidoma Patrice Somé

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

100 Vineyard Stories: He escaped from Zimbabwe to a New Zealand vineyard

To show rebirth and future promise, I was photographing a new-born Syrah leaf in a vineyard on Roy Hill above Trinity Hill Winery in Hawke's Bay region of New Zealand's North Island

Rain drop covered Syrah leaf. Hawke's Bay region, North Island, New Zealand.

And here comes Matthew Stobart, a friendly vineyard worker (I never actually met an unfriendly New Zealand vineyard worker) on a mower.

He turned off the engine and asked how I was doing.

I replied my usual: "When I count my blessings, excellent." 

He said likewise. It turns out we both are immigrants with amazingly parallel stories.

Matthew Stobart: "I escaped from Zimbabwe in 2001, with my parents, when the government took our farm. We got out with just two boxes of things. Everything in two boxes."

Mowing the vineyard grass. Trinity Hill winery, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand.
Matthew: "And it's not like we stole the land. My parents paid the government for it. Then 10 years later the government took it away. Gave it to the president's relatives, cousins and relations. All for politics, for votes."

Janis: "The Communists arrested my father and tossed him in jail because we owned land. Landowners were criminals. Fortunately, friends broke my dad out of prison." 

Matthew: "We're lucky to get out in time. Many farmers didn't. Now they're stuck with no farm, no pension, nothing."

Janis: "After hiding in the forest for months, my father and mother packed a few things in an ox-drawn cart, buried some valuables in the forest and left our farm forever." 

Matthew: "Zimbabwe used to be the bread basket of Africa. Now they can't feed their own people."

Janis: "Latvia had the best standard of living of all the Soviet states, yet at the end of the Soviet Union, it was very difficult to even get a bottle of milk without connections."

Matthew: "Things are good here. The people are great. The government is stable. Now my wife and I own a house. We're doing all right now."

Working at Trinity Hill winery, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand.
Matthew: "There isn't a morning that I don't wake up and count my blessings."

Matthew Stobart
Vineyard Worker and Landscaper
Trinity Hill Winery
Hawkes Bay, New Zealand.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Five Most Scenic Vineyards in New Zealand

Maude Winery vineyard
I discovered this amazing little vineyard by sheer luck. (But isn't that the way of great discoveries?) When my sister Zaiga found I was going to New Zealand, she suggested I contact Vanessa, co-winemaker at Maude Wines. After asking about their vineyards, Vanessa took me to petite Mt. Maude Vineyard.

Dawn and Dr. Terry Wilson planted this vineyard "because all doctors want to plant a vineyard." They named it Mt. Maude for the stark mountain Mt Maude, across the Maungawera Valley just outside of Wanaka, Central Otago. Mt. Maude Vineyard, Maude Wines, New Zealand, Central Otago, Wanaka region.

Netting to prevent birds from eating the ripe fruit, the vineyard is four hectares of Pinot Noir, Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris.  Mt. Maude Vineyard. New Zealand, Central Otago wine region, Wanaka region.

Rippon Winery vineyard
This has to be the most photographed vineyard in all of New Zealand. I even had to sign a release form stating that I will let them know how the photographs are used.

Biodynamic Rippon Vineyard, New Zealand, Central Otago, Wanaka.
Ruby Island points to Rippon Vineyard on the shore of Lake Wanaka in this aerial view.  New Zealand, Central Otago, Wanaka.
View of vineyard and Ruby Island through an old spider-web-covered truck. Rippon Vineyard and Winery, New Zealand, Central Otago, Wanaka.

Man O'War Vineyard 
Wnadering around the Man O'War property with vineyard manager Matt Allen, I was struck with the scale of the project. It is actually 150 acres of vines planted in 76 individual hillside blocks scattered over 4,500 acres. It's like a grand experiment with each vineyard having a distinct soil profile and microclimate.

Man O' War vineyard is on the "other" side of Waiheke island, requiring a scenic drive over an unpaved road. Barely visible are two hikers on the far left of the photograph. The boulders are the left overs of the ancient volcanic activity which created the island. Man O' War Vineyards, Waiheke island, New Zealand

Captain James Cook anchored along this coastline during his first voyage around the islands of New Zealand in 1769. When the good captain saw the ancient stands of magnificent Kauri trees ashore, he wrote in his journals that they would make great masts for the Man O' War battleships of the Royal Navy. Thus the name Man O’ War was given this unique part of Waiheke island. Man O' War Vineyards, Waiheke island, New Zealand

Located at the eastern end of Waiheke Island, Man O’ War vineyards are a combination of coastal hillsides with high cliffs, pristine hidden beaches, and a rugged coastline. Man O' War Vineyards, Waiheke island, New Zealand

Sheep, vines and crop trees co-exist on Man O'War Vineyard land.
Man O' War Vineyards, Waiheke island, New Zealand

Te Whau Vineyard
Te Whau was the first vineyard I saw from the Auckland to Waiheke Island ferry. So, actually, that makes it the first vineyard I saw in New Zealand.

Bird netting covers cabernet sauvignon vines of Te Whau vineyard. The view is of ferry and sailboats in Anzac and Putaki Bays.  New Zealand, Waiheke Island, Te Whau Vineyard

Te Whau cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay vineyards seen from the Auckland to Waiheke car ferry. New Zealand, Waiheke Island, Te Whau Vineyard

Auckland can be seen in the background from the Te Whau vineyard and restaurant. New Zealand, Waiheke Island, Te Whau Vineyard

Chard Farm Winery
This was the very first vineyard I saw in Central Otago, on New Zealand's south island.

The landscape seems to dwarf Chard Farm vineyard hanging on a lip above the Kawarau River.  (The vineyard is the patch of green in the distance. I wanted to show the river canyon in the photograph.)  Chard Farm vineyard, Gibbston wine region, Central Otago, South Island, New Zealand.

This Chard Farm 11.6 hectare vineyard was planted by Rob Hay, wife Gerdi, Rob's brother Greg and their parent's checkbook.  Chard Farm vineyard, Gibbston wine region, Central Otago, South Island, New Zealand.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Trump's wine choices not on my World's Most Incredible Vineyards List

A couple of weeks ago Trump hosted China’s president, Xi Jinping, for talks in the US. I wonder how the decision was made to serve the two California wines at dinner?

Imagine Xi's diplomatic surprise if our President had chosen a world-class Chinese wine from a Yunnan Province vineyard. Two Yunnan vineyards are pictured below. Know and surprise your enemy? 

Trump could have chosen a world class wine from President Xi's own back yard. Chinese Shangrila Winery joint ventured with Moet Henessey to make wine from vineyards in the mountains of Yunnan Province.  Beng (some call it Bu) village on LanCang (also called Lantsang, Lansang and Mekong) River is one of my favorite incredible vineyards. This is in the Heng Duan (Hengduan) Mountain Range, 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 (also called Lantsang, Lansang and Mekong) River, Yunnan Province, China.

Trump could have chosen a French wine, such as a Romanée-Conti from the famous vineyard pictured below. To most Chinese, France is wine. Know and surprise your enemy.
Signature cross in front of world-famous Romanée-Conti vineyard above Vosne-Romanée village, Burgundy province, France.

Clouds create passing shadows over Romanée-Conti vineyard (to left of the paved road) in front of Vosne-Romanée village, Burgundy, France.

Neither of Trump's California selections are exceptionally good pairings with the hamburger he promised during the  presidential campaign to serve Xi . Apparently, the McDonalds-meal promise was not kept.

While Trump has repeatedly said that he is a teetotaler himself, he served his dinner guests a 2014 Chalk Hill Chardonnay from the Sonoma Coast and a 2014 Girard Cabernet Sauvignon from Yountville in Napa Valley, according Decanter news.

Here are vineyards providing other choices Trump could have made from my World's Most Incredible Vineyards List.

Spring mustard flowers in highly-rated Screaming Eagle Vineyard on Silverado Trail Road. 
USA, California, Napa Valley.

Vineyard view from Artesa Winery on Henry Road, in the Carneros wine area of Napa Valley, California.

And don't forget Oregon. Check out my book Oregon The Taste of Wine to get insights into why Trump could have chosen a wine from Oregon wine country.

Cabernet Sauvignon grapes with bronze-colored leaf on knarly old vine in Valley View Winery and Vineyard in the Applegate Valley, Oregon.

My book China The New Wine Frontier offers a cellar door insight into President Xi and the Chinese culture, but it is only available in China. I'm now working on a version for the rest of the world.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

100 Vineyard Stories: Vineyard decisions with a 1000-year perspective

What does a 1000-year perspective do when making a decision in the vineyard? 

When making decisions in the vineyard, winemaker Matt Stafford thinks at least 50 years out. So if a block or some vines are not doing well in a particular soil, he replants with a different varietal, better suited to that terroir. Thus fruit quality is maximized for the long term. Craggy Range Winery and Vineyard, Hawkes Bay, North Island, New Zealand.

In New Zealand's Hawke's Bay wine region, the Craggy Range Winery family trust requires the winery and vineyards stay in the Peabody family for 1000 years. The kids, grand kids, great great great grand kids cannot sell (even to buy a yacht). No cashing in for 1000 years. 

Oyster shells and stones are placed below many rows of vines to reflect heat to ensure grapes ripen.  Craggy Range Winery and Vineyard, Hawkes Bay, North Island, New Zealand.

Winemaker Matt Stafford says that perspective completely changes how decisions are made in the vineyard. If a block or even row of vines are struggling for whatever reason, replant with something that will do better. 

That way, in the long term, you will have the best fruit to make the best wine possible.

Te Mata peak towers above the main Craggy Range Winery visitor's center near Hastings.   Craggy Range Winery and Vineyard, Hawkes Bay, North Island, New Zealand.

Would your perspective change if you were required to maintain our collective vineyard, our environment, our world for 1000 years before you could sell out? 

Monday, March 27, 2017

100 Vineyard Stories: Regrets of a Winery CEO

"Yeeah, I do regret getting out of wine making.

Michael completed his Master of Wine examines in 2009. Only 3-5% of those who try, pass the examines, according to Michael. But he still needs to write a 10,000 word dissertation to complete the degree. "There isn't a day that goes by when I don't think about that dissertation, just to finish the thing." Trinity Hill, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand.

"I was making wine in Spain and had a long distance relationship with a lady in London. We did that long distance thing for three years. It wasn't easy.

"Then I had a wine making job lined up in Argentina. But she didn't want to move there. So I had a decision to make.

"I took a job with Christie's, you know the wine auction company, in London.

"Now I'm CEO here at Trinity Hill in New Zealand, running a winery business. I work on a computer looking at spread sheets and travel a lot. At this stage in my life I can't just drop everything. I'm 43 with two kids. 

"Yeeah, we're divorced now. So I share kid time with my ex.

"Maybe when I'm 50, it'll be time to re-examine things."

Just to be sure that I didn't jeopardize Michael's career, I emailed him parts of the text. He made the following changes:

“Now I'm CEO here at Trinity Hill in New Zealand, running a winery business. At this stage in my life I can't just drop everything. I have 2 two kids who I want to spend quality time with.

"Maybe when the kids are older, it'll be time to re-examine things.”

Michael Henley
Trinity Hill Winery
Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

Sunday, March 26, 2017

100 Vineyard Stories: Cellar worker hated Father's winemaking

"When I was growing up, my father made wine. He used anything that would ferment, grass, any kind of fruit, vegetables, squash, anything he could think of. 

"It was awful. I hated the stuff. Completely turned me off to wine.

Nosing Chardonnay juice just squeezed from the press.  Craggy Range Winery, Gimblett Gravels, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand.

"Then I happened to go to a big wine festival down in Wellington. That was my first real wine. I loved it.

Dave Whittington watches Chardonnay juice pouring from the press. Craggy Range Winery, Gimblett Gravels, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand.

"Yeeah, now I've been here Craggy Range through a couple of winemakers. Taught them everything I know."

Dave Whittington  adjusts one of the fermenting tank nozzles during harvest. Craggy Range Winery, Gimblett Gravels, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand. 

Dave Whittington
Cellar Worker
Craggy Range Winery, Gimblett Gravels Vineyard facility
Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Rene Magritte visits a New Zealand vineyard

On the ferry from Auckland (seen in the distant background), to Waiheke Island (not seen),  I saw the strangest thing. 
Rene Magritte visits Man O War vineyard, Waiheke Island, New Zealand.

Fortunately, years of transcendental training with remote tribes in Africa gave me the rapid reflexes to capture the vision with my trusty Nikon D810.
Later, over the third glass of Pinot gris-Sémillon-blend wine, I wondered if what I saw was Rene Magritte wanting me to experience New Zealand's Waiheke Island wine and vineyards differently?

100 Vineyard Stories: Man O War vineyard manager

Matt Allen, got his job as manager of the Man O War vineyards, Waiheke Island, New Zealand, by replying to a newspaper ad 24 years ago.

Janis: "Which vineyards remind you of your daughters?

Matt: "That's a question I've ever been asked before."

Vineyard Manager, Matt Allen, holds pruning shears while answering unusual questions. Bird- netted vineyards sit in the valley below him. Man O War Winery, Waiheke Island, New Zealand.
Hesitantly, Matt starts listing vineyards: "Madman, Asylum way out on the east side, Lunatic. And there's the one on a very steep slope." 

(I forgot to clarify if he was referring to himself as parent or his daughters.)

Matt: "Just when you think you have it right, then something happens; you get some excessive rain resulting in excessive vegetation growth. My oldest can get an A one day, and I think everything is going well. Then she gets detention the next day."

Janis: "Whose in charge in your family, you or your wife?"

Matt: "I like to think that I am in charge. But really I'm on the lowest, the 4th rung of the ladder."

Janis: "It's kind of like the vineyard. Whose really in charge?"

Netting keeps the birds from eating all the sweet ripe grapes. Vineyard manager, Matt Allen explained that it takes 6 men to put on the netting and 3 to take it off. But no grapes, no wine. Man O War winery, Waiheke Island, New Zealand.
Janis: "So how is the vineyard like your family?"

Matt: "Do you have kids?"

Janis: "Yes. Two boys, four grand kids."

Matt: "Well, tending vines is like having a baby every single year. After harvest you are pleased it's all over. You think you can rest. But then you start all over again. Pruning. Tending the weeds. It's crazy."

Matt: "But this is my 24th year of doing it here. Before that in Gisborne."

Janis: "That's a lot of babies."

Monday, March 20, 2017

Man O War Vineyards

One of the most amazing viticultural efforts I've visited in New Zealand, actually the world, are the Man O’ War vineyards.

You can see three blocks of vines not far from one of the little bays found at the east end of Waiheke Island. Man O War Vineyard, Waiheke Island, New Zealand.

Not just one vineyard, the vines are actually planted in 76 individual blocks scattered on 4500 acres on the eastern side of Waiheke Island. Most of the 150 acres of vines are planted on very steep hillsides.

Man O War Vineyard, Waiheke Island, New Zealand.

Sauvignon blanc harvest. Man O War Vineyard, Waiheke Island, New Zealand.

When asked about the difficult logistics of moving men and machine over often washed out roads to the scattered vineyards, vineyard manager Matt Allen says: "I wouldn't have it any other way. Doing in the flat would be boring."

Matt as been Man O War vineyard manager for 24 years.

Matt Allen, vineyard manager. Man O War Vineyard, Waiheke Island, New Zealand.

Bird netting. Man O War Vineyard, Waiheke Island, New Zealand.

Besides the vines on Waiheke Island, Man O War Winery has vineyards on adjacent Ponui Island. At harvest, the grapes are barged from Ponui at high tide to the winery on Waiheke Island.
Ponui Island seen from Waiheke.  Man O War Vineyard, Waiheke Island, New Zealand.
Bird net-covered vineyard and sheep seen from a hill covered with volcanic strewn boulders. Man O War Vineyard, Waiheke Island, New Zealand.