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Hidden Ridge – Art in Wine

July 6, 2011 Fifty-Two Weeks 1 Comment
Hidden Ridge – Art in Wine

I was late. I had just left the outskirts of Napa headed south on the 29 when my phone rang. I lingered too long at a lunch in Calistoga and was late for my next appointment. Winemaker Timothy Milos was on the other end.

“Just wanted to check in and see where you were at,” he asked. In addition to being late, I was also lost. After another phone call to clarify the directions, I finally arrived at the custom crush facility we had agreed to meet at. But this wasn’t where we were supposed to be.

We were supposed to be atop one of the most rugged and hard to access vineyard sites in California. Hidden Ridge Vineyard, as its name implies, it’s off the beaten path. It is in fact so far off the path that it is only accessible with vehicles much more all wheel drive than my Mazda3. In the rainy weather of this past December, when I visited the Napa Valley, the normally difficult roads became impossible roads and so we settled on the civilized streets of the custom crush facility where the wine is made.

I am, “all about the vineyards,” or so I tell people, and so I was disappointed to not be atop the peak of what is no doubt a breathtaking site. There was however, an unexpected windfall to my letdown.

… Continue Reading

By the Side of the Vineyard – A Poem

By the Side of the Vineyard – A Poem

To the collective critic.

The critic lay dying by the side of an old vineyard. He was once mighty in appearance.

Passersby shook their heads, lowered their eyes.The boys showed no respect, muttered evil under their breath, could not be bothered to care. The old men would pause, attempt to offer assistance, but they too were weak, too faded to offer anything more than a kind word, a remembrance of better times.

The critic lay dying by the side of an old publication. He was once mighty in voice.

Those who hurried passed had mostly forgotten the words or never known them at all. A few, still lucid in their recollection, still vibrant in their affection called to mind the sayings that had beckoned them to follow. These eternal notes, written on paper, written in fields, etched in the memory of vintages.

The critic lay dying by the side of an old legacy. He was once mighty in honor.

In dust he lay, in memory of all that had passed him, in love, in hate, in compliments, in accomplishment. On his side, facing west, facing the diminished sun. In the earth he carved with a vine, ”REMEMBER ME,” and then, he expired. … Continue Reading

Husch Vineyards – Promise of a New Vintage

March 2, 2011 Fifty-Two Weeks, Mendocino County Comments Off
Husch Vineyards – Promise of a New Vintage

It’s not the destination, it’s the journey…or so they say.

When I decided to take on 52 weeks of California wine last year, I wanted a journey. I expected to go places I had not yet been to and to see things I had not yet imagined. I did both. From windswept hidden vineyards to some of the most iconic establishments in California wine, I have voyaged far and wide. There has been plenty of reward, in experiences, in friendships, in companions, in wine, and so I voyage on into my second year.
Winemakers too have their personal voyages. They come from all walks of life, all corners of culture and background. Some were raised with vineyards and barrel rooms for playgrounds and others stumbled upon winemaking by chance. But the destination can be elusive for winemakers, a moving target, concrete today and eroded tomorrow. … Continue Reading

Frank Family Vineyards – In the King’s Court

Frank Family Vineyards – In the King’s Court

I had a chip on my shoulder. I had a bad attitude. I walked alleyways and vineyards muttering the same four-letter word: Napa! Napa! NAPA!

You can’t pursue wine, particularly domestic wine, without tripping over praise and loathing for the juggernaut that is Napa. Like it or not, Napa is the very heart of American wine. Everything flows through Napa. American wine is relevant in the world, because of Napa.

But it wasn’t for me. Accepting Napa as a Lord of the Wines wasn’t my road, it wasn’t the way I was going. I like vineyards in the middle of nowhere and antique barns that house barrels instead of hay. I like it real, I like it gritty and I like it raw. I hate tour buses, I don’t pay $50 to taste, and I don’t buy drunken cases of wine. In other words: I DON’T DO NAPA! … Continue Reading

Handley Cellars – Pulled from the Earth

Handley Cellars – Pulled from the Earth

It is a human thing to work with our hands. From our earliest ages our hands are our connection to the world around us. It is in our intrinsic character to be builders, to alter and reshape our environments. Toddlers start with blocks, before graduating to advanced structures built of pillows and sheets.

The acclaimed journalist and author Pete Hamill when recalling his Brooklyn childhood and the worn-out men who would crowd the trains after a long and dirty day of work said simply and eloquently, “you have to honor that.” For the millions of men and women who broke their backs, weathered their skin, and sacrificed their bodies in labor, callused, scared hands are a testament to a life spent providing for their families. The history of mankind and the advancement of the human race were carved out by enormous physical effort, by the work of the hands. … Continue Reading

Black Sheep Finds – By the Will of the People

Black Sheep Finds – By the Will of the People

It is human nature to respect great efforts of time. Be it a work of art, the sculpted beauty of a National Park, or a long overdue title win, we value more so what takes longer to achieve. For those wine enthusiasts with a larger vocabulary than “mmm grapes!” we too value and esteem great efforts of time. We respect the Grand Cru vineyards, the storied Chateau, and even the great vintages. We do so because we respect the time they represent and the effort, determination, and foresight behind them.

This respect of time is evident when considering wine regions and the importance we place upon them. France is the undisputed King of wine and for many it will always be so. It is more difficult and subjective to crown a Queen, but for now, France still has a powerful monarch named Wine and his influence is strong and his dominion wide. … Continue Reading

Bonny Doon – The Magnificent Opulence of Randall Grahm Part II

Bonny Doon – The Magnificent Opulence of Randall Grahm Part II

An unavoidable consequence of making available great volumes of both written and verbal opinion is that you are bound to win both allies and enemies. It is then no surprise that Randall Grahm has acquired both. He has been both a pioneer and innovator for wine, which has endeared him to many. He has railed against or championed for any number of controversial matters (screw caps, wine critics, the dumbing down of wine) and this has won him his fair share of scorn and Anti-Grahm Fans.

In Bonny Doon – Slaying the Beast (you can read that here), I wanted to present the story of how Bonny Doon came to be, how they lost their way, and how they have dedicated themselves to correcting their errors. In reality, the topics addressed in that article were only a short part of the hour and a half conversation I shared with Grahm. The topics varied, from bio-dynamics to Twitter, the paradox of wine critics to his daughter’s Mandarin lessons (Wǒ juéde tā xuéxi Zhōngwen shì fēichánghǎo Randall. Zhōngwen kěyǐ bāngzhù tā. Anyone know PinYin?). … Continue Reading

Bonny Doon – Slaying the Beast

Bonny Doon – Slaying the Beast

The Birth of Bonny Doon – aka Randall Grahm and the Temple of Doon, Part I

The fantastic Mr. Grahm. The champion of the unsung vitis vinifera and decrier of the long over hailed vitis elieitist. The ever witty prolifcator of the written word, the masterfully poetic advocate of the unorthodox. The wild haired, be-spectacled, trail blazing, Rhône Ranging, entertaining, pontificating, elaborating, and stimulating, fantastic Mr. Grahm.

Randall Grahm is many things. An author (Been Doon So Long), a restaurateur (The Cellar Door), a trendsetter (Rhône wines, screw caps, comic book ads), a provocateur (see items previously listed), a marketer, a father, and of course, a winemaker. He is the name behind Bonny Doon Vineyard in Santa Cruz and the original Rhône Ranger. … Continue Reading

Tercero Wines – More Than Numbers

Tercero Wines – More Than Numbers

Robert Parker has it out for Larry Schaffer.

In the most recent issue of Parker’s highly influential publication The Wine Advocate, Larry’s Tercero Wines, were eviscerated by the East Coast King Maker. Parker took the numerical and verbal gutting so far that he happily ignored his own rule of not publishing ratings lower than 85 points. Aside from one wine, which scored an 86 and was called “a superficial red with no real depth or layering,” the other wines scored in the low 80’s. Some of Parker’s critiques included gems like: … Continue Reading

Alma Rosa – The Valley of Giants

Alma Rosa – The Valley of Giants

How do you measure a man? How do you judge his life’s work? Is it by wealth, by notoriety, the opinions of others? For the banker, is it by the quantity of his assets, or the doctor by the lives he saved? What about the winemaker, is it his vineyard, his winery, his wine?

How do you measure a man?

It is a personal question that is shaped by our social and moral upbringing. Throughout the ages, man has admired men for their bravery, their acts of love, their knowledge, and their art. Each culture sets its own unwritten code of admirable values and accomplishments. Some are genuine accomplishments, while others are pure vanity, like striving after the wind.

They say, show me a man’s friends and I will show you the man, but what of a man’s heroes, his inspirations? I have asked that of winemakers throughout California, “who has inspired you?” There has been inspiration in wine’s rich history, in those who came before. Others find it in their mentors both past and present. Some, in a husband or wife. However, many have told me they find inspiration in a soft-spoken pioneer of grape growing from the Santa Rita Hills, Richard Sanford. … Continue Reading

{Archives}

Bonny Doon: Day of the Doon IX {Photo Essay}

September 22, 2011

Bonny Doon: Day of the Doon IX {Photo Essay}

We have grown rather accustomed to long trips for short stays, so much so that a 500 mile weekend is not such a big deal anymore. There are a lot of events we are invited to and we can only attend a few of them. But when Randall Graham asks you to attend, you attend. [...]

Secret Project {the reveal}

August 17, 2011

Secret Project {the reveal}

A few weeks ago I posted the “Secret Project” with some shots of  a friend’s new winery taking shape. At the time, the space was still in a raw state, holes in the ground, bare walls, cut concrete. In terms of photographing a new winery, one might say there was not much to see, no [...]

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