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Zaca Mesa – Contending with Nature

Zaca Mesa – Contending with Nature

Chess, the beloved ancient game for the opulent and the humble masses. Played by both Kings and noblemen, and millions from the working class. Chess is a human heritage with its foundations in ancient India, before coming to Europe where it evolved and spread around the world. It has inspired us to create international champions and produce numerous books and films dissecting its every part.

Like chess wine is a global obsession. It has found favor with the opulent few and with millions of modest means. It has enticed men to lose vast fortunes and has even revived the moral of men at war. Wine is a part of our collective human inheritance; passed down through the ages.

As there is in Chess, wine has two contenders, the Winemaker and Mother Nature. Each has their pieces in which they utilize in attack against or in defense from their adversary. Nature, has her heat, wind, rain, and frost. The Winemaker, has his land, his winery, and his vineyard and cellar team that he uses to outplay and outthink Mother Nature. In this battle between adversaries there can be only a single outcome: success for one and failure for the other. … 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

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

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

Tablas Creek, The Long Road to Success

Tablas Creek, The Long Road to Success

“Would you like to try it?” Jason asked.

“Sure.” I replied.

We were in a large green house at Tablas Creek Winery. At full capacity, as many as 200,000 grape vines call it a temporary home, before moving into shade-houses, and then finally their permanent homes in vineyards all across the west coast. However, at this time of year, the vast space is all but empty, other than the gray plant racks and the lone grafting table that we stood before.

The grafting tool, one of the originals at Tablas Creek, allows a varietal, such Grenache, to be grafted onto a specific rootstock. This process is known as bench grafting. Jason Haas, General Manger, and son of Robert Haas (Owner of Tablas Creek), walked my friend Jordan and I through the steps. … 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

Chatom Vineyards

Chatom Vineyards

As a boy I spent a lot of time in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. My Grandma, an aunt, and uncle called it home. The Aunt and Uncle still do, Columbia and Oakhurst respectively. My roots are in the Southern California coastal town of Ventura, but when I was five I my family and I moved to a sleepy agricultural town in the Central San Joaquin Valley. The valley is a hell of a place, literally. Hot and dry in the summer, cold and foggy in the winter. I remember playing hide and go seek in open fields using only the blanket of fog for cover. But the mountains on the other hand were glorious. With my sisters, we could pan for fools-gold, fish for small-mouth bass, or feed raccoons grapes. We played in the creeks of my Aunt and Grandmother’s place, marveled at large group of deer, and on evening walks with my father and uncle, I would watch enthralled as a family of quail dashed across the roads and into Manzanita bushes. I played in the snow for the first time, caught my first fish, rode a bike with no hands, and ate my first rattlesnake (long story). The Sierras are a part of who I am and they will always be a second home.

When I was 13, I returned to my coastal home. Once regular visits became infrequent, then stopped. Mid-last year, after an absence of ten years, I returned with my father to visit my aunt. … Continue Reading

Carr Winery

Carr Winery

The exterior of Carr Winery is similar to that of its owner’s: surprising. The building has more in common with an old airplane hanger than a winery. Located in an industrial section of downtown Santa Barbara, the white domed building sits amongst auto shops, industrial warehouses, and even a brewery. However, what you find inside is unexpected and beautiful. The dim lighting of the tasting bar provides an atmosphere reminiscent of a neighborhood tavern, and in many ways it is, as it plays host regularly to live bands and parties. In the back, stacks of barrels rise dramatically towards the high curved ceilings. A large stainless steel winepress sits in the corner.

In a similar way, Ryan Carr caught me off-guard. He towered over me (OK, at 5’8″ that’s not that hard to do, but still) as he came out to greet me. But Ryan, the man who owns his own label and manages several vineyards for others is also a young man. Now, while I am not going to say that, Ryan is also unexpected and beautiful; because that just sounds wrong and like I said, he is way bigger than me, I will say his deep knowledge of vineyard management, wine production, and marketing was very impressive. I get this reaction a lot myself, being the gentlemen scholar I am at such a tender age. … Continue Reading

Handley Cellars

Handley Cellars

What makes California such a tremendous force in American and World wine, is the same reason that makes California tremendous force economically, creatively, and physically. California has it all. I don’t mean this in an arrogant way: California is paradise! But then again, I do kind of mean it that way. But California does have it all. To be fair, California is much larger (and longer…a very important geographical advantage to our agriculture and wine), than most other states of the Union.

However, what it contains within its large borders is what is most important.  From the lowest to highest points in the lower 48 States, to the largest trees, celebrities, and budget deficits, California does everything on a large scale. There are many more clichés to add here about our Governor, etcetera, etcetera, but you get the point.  Aside from the general imagery everyone conjures up of palm tree lined beaches and very public celebrity meltdowns, California remains a naturalist’s dreamland. There is a reason much of the modern day environmental movement first started with California: it is a glorious place.  The diversity of snow-capped peaks, boiling desserts, vast valleys, and jagged coastline is what give California wine such tremendous range and potential. Often you hear comparisons between California and France’s wine regions (Central Coast and Rhône, Napa and Bordeaux). If there is an award-wining region of France, California has an AVA that mimics its ancient European predecessors. … Continue Reading

River Run – The Start

River Run  – The Start

If you read Wine Spectator, you are familiar with the last page, “Wine Talk”. Here, you may find an interview with a race car driver, an 80’s hair metal legend, or my recent favorite, Sean Connery. Often, in these short profiles, you will read a sentence something like this: “I remember when I had my wine revelation, it was… (insert memorable wine moment here)”. Wine has a gift, older than Bob Barker himself , of grabbing a person and often in a dramatic and lasting way. I was no different.

I had always wanted to like wine, but wanting to like wine and liking it are two different things. I collected a few bottles as a teenager, not to drink, just to have them. However, I had a hard time really enjoying what I drank when I first started trying wine. At the time, I thought I simply did not have the “acquired taste” for wine that I had heard about and I figured I would need to work hard to build an appreciation of wine over time. In retrospect, there is only so much quality in a $5 to $7 wine from the local super market, no offense Sutter Home … 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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