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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

Foxen – Degrees of Separation

July 16, 2010 Fifty-Two Weeks 6 Comments
Foxen – Degrees of Separation

There are certain truths in life. Light travels at 186,000 miles per second. The Earth orbits the Sun once every 365.25 days. Bob Barker will never die. There are six degrees of separation between Kevin Bacon and the rest of the world.

Many are familiar with the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, a trivia game with the goal of tracing anyone in the entertainment industry back to Kevin Bacon in six or less steps. I myself can be traced to Kevin in four degrees:

  1. I have a friend named Rob.
  2. Rob has a friend who wrote the screenplay for Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lighting Thief.
  3. The Lightning Thief starred Pierce Brosnan.
  4. Pierce Brosnan and Kevin Bacon contributed text to a book of photographs by British photographer Andy Gotts. … Continue Reading

JUSTIN – Lions, Triangles, and Goats, Oh My!

July 1, 2010 Fifty-Two Weeks 1 Comment
JUSTIN – Lions, Triangles, and Goats, Oh My!

When I started A Long Pour I had a few goals. Learn about California wine, become famous, meet the Queen of England, and interview someone at JUSTIN. Now, only the Queen is left.

A big part of my obsession with wine came from the Paso Robles based JUSTIN Vineyards & Winery. Two wines sparked my current passion. The 2006 River Run Carignane from J.P. Pawloski and a Reserve JUSTIN Isosceles that a couple of complete strangers offered me a few years ago. My friends and I passed it around with glee totally immersed with its fruit forward goodness. It was quality we had never enjoyed. JUSTIN makes wines that are as opulent as they are sought after and I was instantly enamored. The shift from drinking $8.00 grocery store Merlot to something like JUSTIN is dramatic and I was determined to find more wines that gave my mouth such a happy feeling. Somewhere over the grocery store rainbow, good wine existed and I was on a mission to find it.

Late last year as I was planning ALP, I would cite and write lists of wineries I wanted to work with: Tablas Creek, Costa Brown, The Ojai Vineyard, Sine Qua Non, Barrel 27, and others. The list grew and changed, but JUSTIN always stayed in the top five. … Continue Reading

Jordan – Where The Wild Things Are

June 23, 2010 Fifty-Two Weeks 1 Comment
Jordan – Where The Wild Things Are

Big ships turn slowly so the adage goes. The wine industry once took hundreds of years to see significant changes and as such longevity was valued over agility. In recent decades, change has come with increasing speed, testing how quickly wineries both large and small can respond in uncertain times.

Starting in the late 70′s and building throughout the 80′s and 90′s, the influence of wine critics shaped perceptions, palates, and some winemaker’s styles (whether they admit that or not). While some of the styles in wine changed, much of the marketing remained the same, with a handful of big publications like Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, and The Wine Advocate serving as the leading critical voices in American wine.

The mid 2000′s saw the addition of wine blogs like Alder Yarrow’s Vinography, which helped to shorten the time it took to publish a critique from weeks or months to days if not hours. A Critic could now share an opinion almost instantly, which was then easily spread from blog to blog and forum to forum. … Continue Reading

Landmark Vineyards – The Third Flag That Flies

Landmark Vineyards – The Third Flag That Flies

1776: The Founding Fathers sign the declaration of independence. 1805: Lewis and Clark “discover” the Pacific Ocean. 1838: John Deere invents the steel plow. 1865: The Civil War ends. 1914: Henry Ford revolutionizes automobile production. 1929: The stock market collapses. May 22nd, 2010: Mike Colhoun, Owner of Landmark Vineyards meets me, Wayne Kelterer.

While each of the above events had massive implications for American culture, none were as earth shattering as Mike Colhoun having the opportunity to meet me. I am the Barbara Walters of wine interviewers. The Ernest Hemingway of wine writing. When people say, “it is a pleasure to meet you,” I usually say, “yes! you are right. It IS a pleasure to meet me.” … Continue Reading

Kokomo Winery – There’s A Place Called…

Kokomo Winery – There’s A Place Called…

A city sign that reads: “Kokomo First into the Twenty-First Century – Hometown of Erik Miller” sits high and proud on the tasting room wall of Kokomo Winery.

Erik Miller is the energetic thirty-three year old behind Kokomo Winery, based in the Dry Creek Valley AVA of Sonoma County outside of Healdsburg. The sign was a gift from the Mayor of his birth town in Indiana, the town that was the inspiration for his brand name, Kokomo. Eric wears a goatee that contrasts with his buzzed hair. His intense and dramatic eyes match his absolute zeal for sharing his wines and the land they are made from. He wears a Kokomo T-shirt and jeans and speaks quickly.

Kokomo sits on the Dry Creek Canyon “bench” that runs a long the east side of the valley. Once the site of an orchard and dried fruit processing center (Timber Crest Farms), the series of old farm buildings now house a half dozen independent wine brands. Behind the facilities, a junkyard of the rotting decrepit remains of old Sterling trucks lead up to the base of the vineyard. The farmer who owns the land has an intense passion for these forgotten relics and expends huge efforts to bring them back to their former glory. Erik too speaks of them with enough focus and exuberance that suggests he finds inspiration in their transformation and in the possibility of what can be, with some time, and a lot of hard work. … Continue Reading

Lafond Vineyard – Pioneers and Pinot Noir

Lafond Vineyard – Pioneers and Pinot Noir

Santa Barbara, the American Riviera. First settled by the Chumash Indians and later colonized by Spanish Missionaries in the late 1700′s, Santa Barbara continues to be a cultural mixing pot. Santa Barbara straddles the line between Central and Southern California lifestyles. From hippie communes in the hills, to billionaire moguls, there is something for everyone in the city embraced between the mountains and sea. Few places in California allow for a surf session in the morning, rock climbing in the afternoon, and a fine dinner and Yo-Yo Ma in the evening, all without leaving the city limits. Almost the entire California experience can be had in Santa Barbara, if only Robert Iger would build a theme park.

The original Santa Barbara Mission, a key landmark within the city, founded in 1786, was rebuilt after it was destroyed by an earthquake-induced tsunami in 1812. The rebuilt mission remains one of the most impressive in California, affectionately called The Queen of the Missions. The Spanish colonization influenced Santa Barbara greatly through the centuries. The mission and other historic structures remain threads that tie the identity of the city together. History pairs with high fashion in a city known for its museums and shopping. Street names and neighborhoods bare Spanish names like Carrillo, Chapala, Sola, and San Roque. Interestingly, it was Sebastián Vizcaino in 1602, a Spanish soldier that gave Santa Barbara its name (he passed through the Santa Barbara Channel on Dec. 3, the eve of the feast of St. Barbara) along with Point Conception, and San Diego. … Continue Reading

Barrel 27 – Wine Amongst Friends

Barrel 27 – Wine Amongst Friends

Two weekends ago was a big weekend for me. To understand why, I need to go back to the fall of last year.

My initial short list of wineries that I wanted to work with included Tablas Creek, Kosta Browne, Sine Qua Non, JUSTIN, Barrel 27, The Ojai Vineyard, and a few others. As I re-wrote my list a few times, JUSTIN, Barrel 27, and The Ojai Vineyard were consistently part of the top five. So, the weekend of April 23rd was a big one for me. On Friday, I spent several invigorating hours with Adam Tolmach and his assistant at The Ojai Vineyard. The following morning was spent on a tour at JUSTIN, where I had the opportunity to meet Justin Baldwin. We concluded the day down the hill, on the other side of the 101 freeway in Paso Robles, at Barrel 27. Three of my top 5 in less then 24 hours! Oh, plus I got engaged the next day, but that’s another story… … Continue Reading

Alder Yarrow – Vinography

April 29, 2010 The Press 4 Comments
Alder Yarrow – Vinography

Few individuals have done more for wine blogging or are better respected in the medium than Alder Yarrow. When I do discuss blogs with winemakers and the few they have time to read, Alder’s blog Vinography is usually at the top of that list.

Vinography has been featured in dozens of publications for its excellence in wine writing and has won numerous awards in recognition of its dedication to wine and wine blogging. It is with great honor that I publish the following interview with Alder, which he wrote while on a tasting trip in Australia. … Continue Reading

The Ojai Vineyard – Myths, Rumors, and Fantastic Chardonnay

April 28, 2010 Fifty-Two Weeks 2 Comments
The Ojai Vineyard – Myths, Rumors, and Fantastic Chardonnay

For nearly thirty years, Adam Tolmach of The Ojai Vineyard, has been making critically acclaimed wines from his humble family-owned winery on the outskirts of Ojai. He boasts a career that spans over three decades including stints at Zaca Mesa (he was the third employee), Edna Valley, a harvest in Burgundy, and ten years as a partner with Jim Clendenen at Au Bon Climat. Adam is a quiet guy with a charming sense of humor and a gentle demeanor. He enjoys being off the normal beaten path of the California wine scene. “There’s tons of gossip that goes on in the wine scene,” he tells me, “and I don’t have any interest in it at all actually.” Although Adam’s wines have earned him praise from critics and colleagues alike, as well as a devoted following over the years, he tries to avoid too much time in the limelight. “He never promotes himself,” his assistant winemaker Fabien Castel tells us.

However, there has been much debate and attention focused on Adam on forums like eRoperParker and Decanter in recent years, centered on a Los Angeles Times article entitled, “Are California Wines Over the Top?” The article included a quite fantastic quote that set the internet wine pundits a-buzz. “I’d stopped drinking my own wines,” it quoted Adam as saying. It prompted headlines on various blogs such as, “Adam Tolmach of Ojai Vineyards is in the LA Times today. It looks like Adam has gotten tired of serving the dark Sith lord Darth Parker…” The article, focused on Ojai Vineyard’s recent efforts to tame the alcohol content of some of their wines, wines that previously received very good scores from critics, such as Robert Parker. … Continue Reading

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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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