Posts Tagged ‘video’

This past Monday, I found myself wanting to refresh and energize my soul with a bit of high culture. For me movies, music and museums always seem to do the trick. A great film, soulful music and a well executed art exhibit always seem to give me a little boost,  a pick me up if you will, and a renewed faith in the human spirit. What can I say, surfing the internet and reading the latest celebrity gossip or breaking news can often leave me feeling very similar to after I’ve eaten a bad greasy donut. Why did I eat that? I feel fat and stupid.

How Wine Became Modern: Design + Wine 1976 to Now is an exhibit currently running at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and Monday was my day to check it out!

Per the SFMOMA program guide, the objective of the exhibit was to present.. “An exploration of contemporary wine culture and the role of architecture, design and media have played in its recent evolution-a chance to discover wine as you’ve never seen it before.”

Of course, as I am nose deep in the ‘wine biz’  I was already familiar with many of the concepts and developments presented throughout the exhibit. HOWEVER, I have to say that I was extremely impressed by the works that were presented, as well as how the recent developments (1976 to present) in wine were so artfully conveyed to the viewer.

My first case in point, this re-creation of the famed 1976 “Judgement of Paris” wine tasting, wherein an English wine merchant by the name of Steven Spurrier conducted a blind tasting in Paris with a coterie of (mostly) French and British judges. A selection of french and american chardonnays (10) and cabernet/bordeaux (10)  wines were tasted blind and rated on their intrinsic qualities. After the tastings and critiques were made covered bottles were revealed.

The results sent shockwaves through the world of wine. The #1 wines in each category were not from the hallowed vineyards of Burgundy or Bordeaux, but from the sunny shores of California. 1973 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay had run the gauntlet and beaten the big guns. As a result of this historic tasting, wine from the new world and more specifically California transcended to a whole new level of prestige and acceptance. A new world age in wine had officially begun.

In homage to this historic tasting (only one journalist was present), the design firm of Diller, Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R) created this fictionalized mural depicting what perhaps the Judgement of Paris tasting entailed. From a visual standpoint, the mural was a striking piece and one of the first installations that the viewer enjoyed after reading up on the actual event.

From the Last Supper-esque Judgement of Paris mural, I entered the darkly lit “terroir” room. Here (I believe) 14 wineries from across the globe were showcased in the exhibit.  I’ve zero-ed in on Germany’s ambassador, the venerable J.J. Prum and the “Sundial” or Wehlener Sonnenuhr vineyard. In the circular glass case, crushed shards of mostly blue slate yield some of the most elegant and mineral laden wines of Germany’s Mosel wine region. Vines of 30-44-50+ years of age struggle to find their way through this metamorphic rock, and the results truly express the unique terroir (soil, aspect, climate) of the vineyard.

The concept of terroir really hit home when I rounded the corner and was presented with this stunning specimen of a vine. a cabernet vine: “Vine in two Parts” was comprised of an American 110R rootstock below and a cabernet sauvignon clone 7 vine grafted onto it above. The vine was planted in 1985 and uprooted in 2010. At 8+ feet, one really gets a sense of of how these vines root themselves to and then ultimately transmit the terroir or specific characteristics of their immediate environment.

This video presentation was being projected on the museum floor, thus simulating the viewpoint that one would experience if employing the high tech practices of precision viticulture. Utilizing global positioning systems (GPS), meteorologic stations and digital elevation models (DEM) wineries are able to fine tune their viticultural practices and increase yields, while mitigating environmental risks. This video is a 1 minute, edited version of the original. The music track (Crystal Castles II, Empathy) is my doing as well.

Wine and wine growing isn’t all science to be sure. A beautiful display of blown glass decanters were also showcased directly behind the PV video installation. This stunning “petit coeur” or little heart/aorta from artist Etienne Meneau is a new found object that I am coveting. As you can imagine, the production on this piece is extremely limited.

A third room revealed an impressive gallery of photographs. One instillation, which took up an entire wall, was a profile of approximately 30 wineries around the world exemplifying cutting edge, modern design. In particular, one winery profile that resonated with me is located right in my back yard, at least from a global perspective.

CADE winery is located in Napa Valley’s Howell Mountain district. In addition to it’s beautiful minimalist modern design, CADE is Napa Valley’s first organically farmed and LEED Gold certified winery. There aren’t too many of these wineries around (Stoller Vineyards in the Willamette Valley is another) and I am impressed with their commitment towards building a striking and environmentally sustainable winery.

In 2000, a 6L of 1992 Screaming Eagle sold at auction for the staggering price of $500,000. Such is the fame or infamy of cult wines.

How do these wine ultimately fetch such stratospheric prices and become such objects of desire? Some would quickly point out that critiques from publications like the Wine Advocate (Robert Parker) and The Wine Spectator are considerable factors.

Since its first publication in 1978, Robert Parker and his monthly publication the Wine Advocate has reviewed thousands upon thousands of wines and rated them using a 50-100 point scale. Over the past 30 years he himself has developed a cult-like following, with collectors waiting with bated breath to quickly scoop up wines that Parker anoints with 95-96-97 and once in a great while 100 point ratings.

Juxtapose Parker’s monthly publication (no pics, tons of tiny text) to Kami no Shizuku, the Japanese magna that moves and shakes the wine drinking world of Japan, Asia and beyond. Translated in english to “the drops of God”, this ongoing graphic series follows a young hero by the name of Shizuku Kanzaki as he must uncover the identity of 13 of the greatest wines (12 “apostles + the legendary Kami no Shizuku) as described in his late father’s will.

However time is of the essence, as the young wine neophyte must compete against his half brother, a gifted sommelier no less, in order to succeed and ultimately inherit the wine collection worth ¥20 billion.

To say that Kami no Shizuku influences the Asian wine world is an understatement. It rocks it. Whenever a particular wine is featured in the comic (and they’re not always cult or super pricey wines) sales go through the roof. Apparently, a feature in Kami no Shizuku is as good as a 95 point rating in the WA.

My friend Valerie, who lives in the Rhone Valley and represents the Cave de Rasteau, recently brought me two installments of Kami no Shizuku. The next time I am in France, I will be sure to seek out additional copies. They’re great fun, and for me a really refreshing and inventive way of presenting wine.

Much like this exhibit. I certainly didn’t cover all of the installations at How Wine Became Modern, but hopefully this synposis has peaked your interest. If you are in SF between now and April 17th 2011, I definitely suggest you stop by the SFMOMA for some vinous inspiration and education.

NEXT: A Ridge Retrospective


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nothing but gray skies..

This is the current scene taken from my office window. Gray, rainy and blustery. It’s been raining off and on for the past several days, which, along with the cold weather, is a firm reminder that here in the Bay Area, we are definitely deep into winter. Luckily we don’t have snow or freezing temperatures to deal with, however all of this rain does tend to keep me inside and thinking about warmer days past and future.

In the meantime, how about if I spin tail recounting sunnier times, when the vines were growing, the bees were buzzing, and the flowers were in full bloom!  This vernal scenario is exactly what transpired when I had the opportunity to visit Tablas Creek earlier this year. Accompanying me on this visit were two very knowledgeable and easy going guys, Nicolas Jaboulet of Maison Nicolas Perrin, and Emmanuel Lemoine of Vineyard Brands.

Our host for the day was none other than Robert Haas, one of the founders of Tablas Creek. After taking us on a tour of the vineyards and nursery, Robert was also going to lead us through a tasting of the domains’ current offerings. We were in for a real treat!

which way to the Rhone Valley?

Tablas Creek is located in Paso Robles, a wine growing region situated approximately halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles on California’s Central Coast. On this west (of the Hwy 101) side of Paso, two venerable business partners and friends founded Tablas Creek back in 1989.

More specifically, the Perrin family of famed Chateau Beaucastel in France’s Rhone Valley, and American importer Robert Haas, the founder of Vineyard Brands, believed that the shallow, rocky limestone soils and the mediterranean-like climate would favor the production of high quality Rhone inspired wines.

the vineyards at Tablas Creek

Haas and the Perrins purchased a hilly 120 acre parcel of approximately 12 miles from the Pacific Ocean in a district known as Las Tablas. From Beaucastel’s famed vineyards in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, they imported traditional red and white Rhone vinifera plant material, with the intent of propagating and grafting these vines for this new domaine.  It should be noted that this process was by no means easy or expedient, as the vines had to pass a thorough testing program in order to receive a clean bill of health.

Today, Tablas Creek is planted to a veritable panoply (more on this later) of Rhone varietals, all of which are farmed and certified organic. The Mourvèdre, Grenache Noir, Syrah, and Counoise (reds), and Roussanne, Viognier, Marsanne, and Grenache Blanc (whites) grown on the domain have all been propagated and cultivated here at Tablas Creek.

In addition to these tried and true Rhone varietals, one will also find lesser known varietals like Picpoul and Vermentino (Rolle). The domain also partners with NovaVine in Sonoma, which provides customers with high quality grafted vines using Tablas Creek vinifera material.

L-R: Emmanuel, Nicolas and Robert Haas at the grafting table

Tablas Creek young vines ready to be planted

After our tour through the Tablas’ vineyards, Robert brought us to the on-site nursery for a first hand look at how these vines are propagated. In fact, many steps need to be taken before, say, a Grenache vine can be planted in the vineyard. First, vine budwood needs to be selected and grafted onto Phylloxera resistant rootstock.

I shot  this a brief video of Robert showing us how it’s done! Using the omega grafting machine, Robert first cuts the vinifera bud. Next he inserts a suitable rootstock cane while the machine holds the cut vinifera in place. With a second press/cut, the rootstock is cut and now fits like a puzzle piece with the vinifera bud. For a great summary of this vine propagation process, check out the Tablas Creek Vineyard Nursery Journal.

After Robert’s grafting demo, we were off to the Tablas Creek tasting room to taste wine!

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At 5:15 my alarm goes off as I groggily rub my eyes. Why am I awake so early? It takes me a second or two before realizing that this morning I am going to be flying up, up and away over the Willamette Valley in a hot air balloon!

The plan is to meet at 6 a.m. at WillaKenzie Estate, a stunning 420 acre domaine located in the Yamhill-Carlton District of the Willamette Valley. The estate takes its name from the Willakenzie soil which is evident throughout the approximately 100 acres planted to vines on the property.

This particular sedimentary soil, along with the region’s climate which, is so aptly suited to the production of cool climate varietals,  are what led Bernard (a native of Burgundy) and Ronni Lacroute to establish WillaKenzie Estate in the early 1990s.

After a quick cup of coffee and a morning pastry, three balloons were fired up and off we went for a breathtaking tour of the Valley. Check it out!

As we slowly floated upwards, we got birds eye view of the WillaKenzies’ 30 or so separate vineyard blocks that were dispersed amongst untouched parcels of Douglas Fir, oak and maple trees. These vineyard blocks are planted exclusively to vines of the pinot family. Below is a quick breakdown:

Pinot Noir:   67 acres    (10 different clones)

Pinot Gris:    18.4 acres

Pinot Blanc:   5.5 acres

Pinot Meunier:   3.6 acres

Gamay Noir:    3.2 acres  (a cousin of the Pinot family)

Differences in elevation (300-700ft), exposition, soil depth, row orientation and drainage are important factors which influence the  the specific “terroir or expression of each wine in the WillaKenzie lineup.

In addition to vineyard location, clonal selection is another factor, which when suitably paired with an ideal vineyard local can produce a more diverse range of wines with specific qualities and nuances. At WillaKenzie, 10 different clones of pinot noir are planted across the property. The idea is that each clone, planted to a specific terroir will elicit a different expression of pinot noir. These folks really practice what they preach. Take a look at the clonal bottlings from WillaKenzie below.

La sélection clonale de WillaKenzie Estate

After our balloon ride, our balloon group had worked up a pretty hearty appetite. (It’s hard work getting up that early to check out the view!) Luckily, a delicious breakfast buffet was waiting for us by the time we returned to the winery.

Fresh brewed coffee, make your own omelettes, bacon, waffles, fresh fruit, oatmeal and the oh so popular selection of Voodoo Doughnuts were on hand.

Sunday morning breakfast at WillaKenzie Estate

Quick, before all of the blood in my brain rushes to my stomach, it was time for a tour of the winery with Bernard Lacroute!  Located directly outside the WillaKenzie tasting room was a great overhead view of a portion of the winery’s cellar.

People Matter! Winemaking at Willakenzie Estate

Here, Bernard explained that along with the significance of soil, and clonal selection, the human element, or more specifically, winemaking practices are also important in the WillaKenzie equation towards the production of top notch, value driven wine. Three practices that the domaine enthusiatically promotes are:


Sustainable Viticulture and Winemaking

To promote and responsible stewardship towards the land and natural resources of the region. WillaKenzie Estate was the first winery to receive the new Low Input Viticulture and Enology (LIVE) winery certification. They are also the first winery to be awardreceive the Oregon Certified Sustainable Wine (OCSW) designation for the 2008 vintage.

Gravity flow winemaking

To ensure the gentle handling of grapes and wine throughout the entire winemaking process. Gravity flow winemaking is essential in the production of high quality wine. Willakenzie employs this process for their entire range of wines.

Screw Cap Closures

In order to safeguard the highest level of quality and consistency to wine consumers. Willakenzie Estate was the first winery to bottle their premium pinot noir wines utilizing screw cap closures.


Thanks for the ride and visit WillaKenzie Estate!


Next: East Side meets West Side at Winderlea 

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Well, for now we will say adiós to Argentina. I had a marvelous time getting to know the land, people and wine of Mendoza. Our last day and a half was spent swimming, horseback riding, and relaxing around a large open fire as we recounted our adventures and sipped on a glass or two of Argentine malbec. An yes, we also took in a bit more dancing!

Until we meet again!

Next up: A tasting with Yalumba..and a second Medaille de Mumu.

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After our blending session with Susana Balbo, our group was whisked about 20 minutes away from DDP to this beautiful home overlooking a serene little “lake”. What was in store for us this evening?

photo courtesy of Lisa Johnson

A little socializing, followed by empanadas and argentine vino under the veranda, followed by a glorious dinner, followed by dancing! As you can see from the number of wine glasses laid out on our table, there was also going to be some pretty serious wine tasting / drinking too.

But prior to all of this, we took the opportunity to unwind a bit, relax, and have a snack or two with a cup of tea or a sip of mate. Pretty funny..I guess this is how wine people “unwind” before gearing up to taste more wine!

4-5-6 dozen empanadas ??

Lest we got too comfortable sipping assorted stimulants, about 45 minutes later our group was instructed to meet out back behind the casa  and under the veranda for a glass of 2009 Crios Rose de Malbec and 2008 Crios Chardonnay.

Check out this wood-fired clay oven!

And of course, Empanadas! All baked to perfection with some serious high heat.

The sun slowly set as our group enjoyed an empanada or two (or three) and sipped on Susana’s delicious white and pink wines. Good food, good wine, good company.

What a vista!

And then..to the table! Here is the view from my seat as I sat down to dinner that evening. Magical.

To accompany our superb dinner that evening, Susana offered the following selection of wines for us to enjoy. Clicking on each wine will provide you with additional info on each wine.

2009 Susana Balbo “Crios” Torrontes

2008 BenMarco Malbec

2008 BenMarco Cabernet Sauvignon

2007 BenMarco “Expressivo” (with 10% Tannat!)

2008 Susana Balbo Malbec

2006   Susana Balbo Cabernet Sauvignon

2005 Susana Balbo “Brioso”

2007 Susana Balbo “Nosotros”

Note: This wine has not yet been released for the US market, however I have provided a link with information on the 2006 vintage in order to give you an idea.

Ali, Jose y Susana enjoy a bit of dancing..

Just when we thought the evening couldn’t get any better than this, guess what? It did. Turn up the music and roll out the carpet for a fantastic live performance of classic Argentine dancing! Here, Susana and her son Jose Lovaglio (a UC Davis wine grad and up and coming Argentine winemaker in his own right) take in the performance.

This brief re-cap of the evening’s performance includes several various styles of traditional dance. In particular, the last segment in which the three male dancers perform together is called the Malambo.

The Malambo is traditionally a dance performed only by men. Developed in the 17th century, it involves highly stylized and very rhythmic “tap” dancing to music that contains no lyrics. Most often gaucho (or cowboy)  boots are worn, and the very complex footwork involved often include movements like the “cepillada”  or brushing the floor with the sole of the foot, as well as the “repique”, a strike to the floor using the back part of the boot.

Thank you Susana for hosting such an educational and inspiring day!

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