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Alta Maria Vineyards – Antithesis of Common Sense

August 12, 2010 Fifty-Two Weeks 3 Comments
Alta Maria Vineyards – Antithesis of Common Sense

James Ontiveros and Paul Wilkins have impressive resumes.

James Ontiveros is a 9th generation Californian. His great-great-great-great-great grandfather was Juan Pacifico Ontiveros, the son of a Spanish soldier and a one time Corporal at San Gabriel Mission. His family originally settled in what is now Orange County on Rancho San Juan Cajon de Santa Ana (modern day Anaheim), which Juan Pacifico Ontiveros’ father was granted by the Mexican Government in 1833. A connection to wine came early to the Ontiveros family, when Ontiveros sold 1,165 acres of the land to the Los Angeles Vineyard Society in September 1857 for the cultivation of wine grapes. It was the first commercial vineyard in California.

In 1855, Ontiveros purchased the 8,900-acre Rancho Tepusquet from his father-in-law Tomás Olivera, who acquired it in a land grant in 1837. In 1957, he relocated to the Ranch in what is now the Santa Maria Valley, constructed an adobe, and lived there until his death in 1877. During his time there he raised cattle and horses and even planted wine grapes. Rancho Tepusquet, which today includes famed vineyards such as Bien Nacido and Solomon Hills made up the north side of the Santa Maria Valley. The south side was Rancho Tinaquaic, some 9,000- acres that were granted to Benjamin Foxen, another son-in-law of Tomás Olivera and Ontiveros’ brother-in-law. Ontiveros and Foxen were the first two Anglos to settle the region (Foxen, is the namesake of Foxen winery, which was co-founded by his great-great-great great-grandson Dick Doré). … 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

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

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

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

Dierberg & Star Lane – The Knight of Happy Canyon

Dierberg & Star Lane – The Knight of Happy Canyon

“For what it’s worth, we call our place the “Wine Castle.” Complete with secret passages, orcs, and knights in shining armor (well, rain suits, actually).”

Two weeks ago I wrote about Dave Potter of Municipal Winemakers. A day after I published it, I got the above email from Dave’s friend and fellow winemaker Nick de Luca of Dierberg & Star Lane. He went on to write, “I’m going to have to work really hard to elevate myself from the traditional “marble-halled-chateau” look that Dave so deridingly speaks of.”

Originally, I was scheduled to meet with Nick two weeks earlier, but he had to reschedule on account of the birth of his new baby girl. Her name is Gracie and she is an angel! I know, because the proud father sent me pictures of her, adorable pictures! Gracie is not Nick’s first daughter, just the first human one. The award of the de Luca’s firstborn goes to an eight-year old Coonhound named Bella, who although incredibly lick-happy, recently fought a coyote to the death. Seriously, she did. … Continue Reading

Municipal Winemakers – And the Man Who Is Better than You

March 24, 2010 Fifty-Two Weeks 6 Comments
Municipal Winemakers – And the Man Who Is Better than You

“I am pretty sure that most of you reading this are in fact not good enough to buy our wine.”

Dave Potter made the above statement in response to a Wine Spectator article calling his 2008 Bright White Riesling “A California White With No Need for Pretense”.  “Au contraire!” Dave fired back, “I would like to point out that the Municipal Winemakers do have a great disdain for all that are beneath us (aka not Awesome).”

After just a few moments on Municipal Winemakers’ website, you realize that it isn’t business as usual for the Santa Barbara winemaker. There is not a Chateau to be found, neither oak tree, or regal men smoking pipes. There are however, pigs in uniform and Tom Cruise adorned in 80’s shades. The site includes a few professional reviews, well…sort of. Tron Guy, who found his own Internet fame after fashioning himself an outfit modeled after the 80′s sci-fi cult classic: Tron (which is being re-released this December by Disney), was approached by Dave to review a few of the Municipal Winemakers’ wines. See Tron Guy here. … Continue Reading

Hahn Wines – Sustainability in the Highlands

Hahn Wines – Sustainability in the Highlands

Born out of the decrepit and vile heart of Los Angeles near Hollywood, where stars are born and even occasionally meet their destruction, the 101 marches north, passing through some of the most fantastic regions of California, Oregon, and Washington. Away from The City of Angel’s congestion, violence, and vanity. Along sun bathed beaches and into the rolling hills of the Central Coast it roams. Through vineyards and ranches, farm towns, and military bases. Through the land of John Steinbeck novels and across the Golden Gate Bridge. It winds through the rugged coastline and massive redwoods before it leads you away from its birth state, imploring you to discover the unknown that lies ahead in Oregon and later Washington.

On drives to the Bay Area, there is a stretch of the 101 freeway that always catches my attention; it is about an hour north of Paso Robles. Here the landscape is open and desolate. Although desolate really isn’t the right word, since it is a vibrant farming region. None-the-less, I have always been intimidated and enticed by desolate places, whether they are actual or imaginary. As I drove through here a few weeks ago, it felt particularly desolate and enchanting. I watched rays of sunshine burst through the patchwork of somber clouds, illuminating the green of the hills with vibrant bursts of color. It was a perfect day, the sky was unsettled and moody and there were little man-made distractions around to take away from its beauty. … 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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