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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

“The Birth of an American Viticultural Area” By: Wes Hagen

“The Birth of an American Viticultural Area” By: Wes Hagen

Let’s take a slightly different view of the wine world this week.  I’d like to leave the nuts and bolts of vineyard management for a few moments and discuss the descriptive system of wine appellations in the United States, a Federal program overseen by the TTB, or Tax and Trade Bureau.  But before you start to think that this is going to be a boring blog full of bellicose bureaucracy, let me guarantee that I will be injecting the subject with enough interesting anecdote and incisive commentary to keep it interesting and entertaining (although pouring a tall glass of pinot noir makes any of my blogs more palatable).

First, a quick vineyard update.  The weather has taken another cool, foggy and windy turn as low pressure trofs continue to move over the Central Coast, keeping us in the high 60’s.  While most folks don’t think about June in California as sweater weather, it really has been.  There have been some warm days, as well, but the nights have been in the high 40’s and the vines are growing slowly, methodically, and finishing their fruit set and marching toward bunch closure in a very patient and easy manner.  Cool weather means we’ll turn off the irrigation for a few weeks until we see a warm up and an increase in evapotranspiration, which is a measurement of how much water is both being used by a plant and how much is evaporating out of the soil. … Continue Reading

Sanguis – Blood and Wine

July 9, 2010 Archieves 3 Comments
Sanguis – Blood and Wine

Artists know a moment in which all natural sensations dim until all that is left is the artist and their art. The mind stops. You no longer think how to respond, you just do. It is as if your hands have always known what they were to do. It would be challenging, if not impossible, to describe the creative process an artist goes through while in this altered mental state. For each artist, the experience is unique and without words to describe it.

For some years, I was in a band called Devore. With influences from Sigur Rós to Mogwai we could be melodic, even beautiful, but more notably we could be loud. My friend Jordan and I wrote everything, from guitars and bass, to many of the drum lines. We didn’t write “songs” in the singular sense, but rather, we labored over long periods of time to craft sweeping events with highs and lows, tension and poetry…and really loud guitars. We loved it and I miss playing greatly. The rush of performing before an audience and sharing something you have spent months crafting is like nothing I have ever experienced. Those live shows, the way people responded, the way I was lost in the creative moments, will stay with me as vivid as the days they were played. … 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

The Ojai Vineyard – Part II

The Ojai Vineyard – Part II

Two weeks ago I wrote about The Ojai Vineyard and my time with Adam Tolmach and Fabien Castel. Much of the story centered on Adam’s decision to tone back the amount of alcohol in some of his wines over the past several years. At the outset, I did not intend to write a story that focused so heavily on the controversy that came along with his decision. Nor did I plan on writing so extensively about his relationship with wine critics (one in particular). These topics just became a big part of our conversation that day.

Yet, I am pleased I wrote it. In preparing for my interview with Adam, I came across much chatter about him. Some was in praise of the winemaker and some was not. A small portion of it was borderline character assassination. Therefore, I was happy to present Adam’s fair and balanced side of the story.

Read the original interview here: The Ojai Vineyard: “Legends, Myths, and Fantastic Chardonnay”. … 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

Clos Pepe – Battle For the Soul of Pinot

April 14, 2010 Fifty-Two Weeks 6 Comments
Clos Pepe – Battle For the Soul of Pinot

Wes Hagen makes it easy for one to get excited about visiting him at the Sta. Rita Hills vineyard he manages. “Put your thinking cap on,” he told me, “this place may blow your mind,” Sta. Rita Hills has certainly blown his.

The guy is nuts about his little slice of pinot paradise called Clos Pepe, and rightfully so. The Sta. Rita Hills is a special part of the Central Coast, and Wes appreciates the piece of land he farms maybe more than any other winemaker I have met. He talks fast and colorfully often using wild hand gestures, like a magician crafting an illusion.

When we first spoke over email, he encouraged me to visit him at Clos Pepe (pronounced clo, with a long O and no S, and peppy), because as he said, “you have to kick the dirt and breathe the air to get this place.” Wes gets it. … Continue Reading

Claiborne & Churchill – Vikings, Riesling, and Crossword Puzzles

April 1, 2010 Fifty-Two Weeks 2 Comments
Claiborne & Churchill – Vikings, Riesling, and Crossword Puzzles

The road into wine is a varied path. Some are born into it and it is only a matter of time before they take the wheel. Some buy their way in, successful tycoons with enough personal drive and ego to play the high-risk game of world class wine production; often hiring others to do the driving for them. Still, others are drawn away from entirely different careers and career paths by the siren call of the fermented grape. Tragically, some are dashed against the rocks of reality even as others slip past the dangers to collect their reward. Milla Handley gave up a potential career in commercial real-estate, Paul Clifton was a firemen, Dave Potter was on his way to becoming a lawyer, Ryan Carr a graphic designer.

Of the people I have met over the past five months, Claiborne “Clay” Thompson has one of the more interesting paths into wine. Before he made a name producing Alsace wines of balance and charm, before he was a cellar rat at Edna Valley Winery for $6 an hour, Clay earned his Ph.D. from Harvard. So how did Clay and his wife go from Professors at Michigan State (he being a Professor of Medieval Literature and Languages and she of German) to producing award-wining wines on the Central Coast of California? … Continue Reading

Wolff Vineyards, A Study in Sustainability

Wolff Vineyards, A Study in Sustainability

He once created a world-class wine from a bottle of Welch’s grape juice simply by looking at it; Robert Parker scored it 94 points. He can sign fluently in American Sign Language using only his feet. He once met the Prince of Belgium and sold him wine. For fun, he sometimes blows-up hotdogs using either electrical current or his charming smile. He protects threatened California Pacific Pond Turtles and restores native streams, all while sleepwalking. He won a world championship in water skiing, without skis, or a boat. He started the California Gold Rush. His wine mentor invented a special alloy for NASA and taught him how to break dance. He is the most interesting man in Central Coast wine.

After a little over an hour of conversation, I jokingly told Jean-Pierre last week that he reminded me of those Dos XX commercials. He laughed and said, “Yeah, yeah, that’s me!” While not all the statements above are true or fully accurate, Jean-Pierre, a vintner and owner of Wolff Vineyards in Edna Valley, is a remarkably interesting person. To illustrate my point, the following statements ARE all true. … 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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Studio Holladay
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