Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Arriving in Bali

The plane came in low over the ocean as it approached Ngurah Rai International Airport. The bright lights of Kuta lit up the coastline just north of the runway and lights dotted the coastline traveling south. Heavy fog in the Tasman Sea had delayed both of my flights, pushing my arrival time back from 6 to 11 PM. Instead of heading into Kuta for the night, I decided to head south and out onto the Bukit peninsula, home to nearly all of Bali's surf breaks. My Gisborne flatmate Mark was staying at a warung (family-owned business, usually a combined restaurant and accommodation) on the beach. After bargaining with taxi drivers, I finally found a ride with a driver who seemed to know where my destination was. Unfortunately, he wasn't fully aware of its location and after asking several people for directions, I soon found myself in a small cliffside parking lot heading down a steep, narrow stairway to the beach. The stairway passed several small warungs with lights fully dimmed and hardly anyone to be found. The few people I came across had no idea where or what I was trying to find. After traversing the stairs, I reached the beach. The cliff here, once a secluded and seldom visited beach, is now dotted with warungs built directly into the rock. Looking south, the beachfront warungs looked sleepy, lit only by the large moon. I made my way down the beach, checking every place on the shoreline until I finally reached the end. I finally tracked down some surfboards that looked like Mark's, but the warung was dead quiet and everyone was asleep. I tucked my stuff away upstairs and spent the night on the day bed downstairs (under the wave in the photo below).The next morning I found Mark and his friend, Geoffrey, who had already been staying there for several days. We had breakfast and chatted for a while before deciding to head out for a surf. Small waves with several surfers already in the water made it a bit of a hassle, but we all had a handful of good rides before we headed back in to wait for the tide to drop. Bingin is mechanical left reef break that can work at any tide, granted there is enough swell. It lines up best during mid-low tide with a two to four foot swell running. During these conditions, Bingin provides wide barrels that reel down the line before ending on dry reef. The picture above shows Bingin's dry reef in between sets at low tide during a small swell (the take off spot is on the far left hand side where the crowd is waiting; Dreamland resort can be seen off in the distance on the right hand side).A few hours later, Geoff and I saw a set peel through cleanly with only two surfers in the water. We hurried into the lineup and scored a handful of fun barrels before the crowd thickened to nearly fifteen surfers. Bingin gets crowded quickly once it turns on since it is such a perfect wave and the area has so many warungs full of surfers. The small takeoff area can only handle around five to ten surfers comfortable unless it's really pumping. We decided to paddle 500 meters south to Impossibles.
Impossibles, shown above from the warung, is just north of the famed "Balinese Pipeline", Padang-Padang. Surfed primarily at low tide, Impossibles has three distinct peaks that can sometimes magically connect to provide an impossible ride that terminates in shallow water over jagged reef. The waves here are quite fast and provide a long, rippable wall and plenty of barrel opportunities. Solid head high waves were coming through with occasional head and a half high sets. The last two sections would connect on a select few waves, so all three peaks could be surfed. This spread the crowd out well and allowed plenty of waves for everyone. We surfed for a few hours before the sun began to set and we headed in.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Indonesia: Long Travel Days

Indonesia is an archipelago of over 17,000 islands, of which only 6,000 are inhabited. Still, it is home to 240,000,000 residents, making it the 5th most populous country in the world behind China, the European Union, India, and the United States. Indonesia also has 54,000 kilometers of coastline, meaning there is a myriad of opportunities to find surf. All you need to do is go explore (picture; Ruby and Geoff, somewhere in Java).I felt like I had just arrived in Indonesia when I found myself at the airport ready to head back to New Zealand. The beautiful scenery, lovely culture, and great waves made three weeks seem far too short a stay. Nonetheless, I have returned to New Zealand for three days before I continue on back to California on the 29th. The cold, wet weather in New Zealand feels like a reverse vacation between sunny Indonesian days and summer in California.Once I reach San Diego, I will have had nine flights in less than a month and spent countless hours driving. Over the next couple weeks, I'll be putting up several posts on Indonesia, starting with my arrival in Bali.

Waikato Draught Bitter Beer

New Zealanders are quite territorial when it comes to their beers. During my first visit in 2006, I was introduced to Waikato Draught while traveling the North Island's West Coast (Raglan is in the Waikato district, which is located just south of Auckland). Waikato Draught was first brewed by the Innes Family Waikato Brewery in the 1920's, and was purchased by what is now Lion Nathan Brewery in 1961. Lion has carried on the Waikato Draught tradition and the beer can be found not only in every tavern from Hamilton to New Plymouth, but across the country.
Brewery - Lion Breweries
Location
- Auckland, North Island, New Zealand
Beer- Waikato Draught Bitter Beer
Alcohol - 4%
Price - $20 NZ per 12-pack of 330 mL bottles

Color
- Deep amber with a thin head.
Nose/Aroma - Spice and caramel malt
Palate/Flavors - Dominated by a persistent caramel malt taste that gives way to bitter and slight citrus hops. Heavy mouthfeel followed by a relatively crisp finish.
Style - Typical draught-style lager. I don't think you could call it a pale lager, but I'm not sure what else it would be categorized as.
Food Pairing - Fine as a 5 o'clock knock off beer, but probably want red meats. Maybe a nice sirlion steak with potatoes au gratin and steamed vegetables.
Comments - Not a particularly impressive beer, but clean and servicable. Waikato Draught is one representative of higher volume produced New Zealand beers that are beginning to dominate the market and push out small micro-breweries.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Biodynamics: Basics

Biodynamics is a popular topic in the wine industry lately, though I don't think the average wine consumer, or even winemaker, knows much about it. This post and one to follow will give a general overview of Biodynamics. I will begin by saying I know far less about the subject then I'd like. Rudolf Steiner, a 20th century Austrian philosopher who founded anthroposophy and coined the term spiritual science, was eager to apply his beliefs in the real world. In the early 1920's, Steiner composed and presented a series of lectures in response to German farmer's concerns with infertile soil, unhealthy animals, and decreasing food quality. From these lectures, the basic principles of Biodynamics emerged. These beliefs were brought to the United States in the 1930's by Ehrenfried Pfieffer and are now practiced around the world.
Biodynamics looks at a farm and its soil as living organisms. Maintaining soil health is essential to its longevity and is accomplished through several practices, such as recycling nutrients. A farm's ability to remain self-contained while maintaining its soil health is a means of progressing and evolving as an individual. Since the farm is considered a living entity, any farming action taken affects the entire system. Farmers use personal observation coupled with analytical data to determine hollistic methods that will best address the environmental, economic, and social aspects of the farm. Combining biological practices, such as cover cropping, green manures, and composting with dynamic practices such as planting by calendar, redionics, and special compost preparations makes biodynamics a unique blend of traditional and modern techniques.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Millton 2007 Riverpoint Chardonnay

James Millton has been biodynamically farming wine grapes in Gisborne for 25 years, despite skepticism from other growers and winemakers. After The Millton Vineyard became New Zealand's first organically certified winegrower, they began working towards Demeter certification, which they recently obtained. Demeter New Zealand is one of several individual certification programs setup by Demeter International, a non-profit organization that represents biodynamic agriculture. Since biodynamics is such an interesting and complicated subject, I will be discussing it in a follow-up post. Millton's wines and growing techniques have gained him international attention, winning several accolades and medals while becoming a spokesperson for biodynamic agriculture. The Millton Vineyard produces a range of estate wines from four vineyards: Chardonnay and Viognier from Riverpoint, Chardonnay and Riesling from Opou, Chenin Blanc and Malbec from Te Arai, and Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Naboths. The wines are priced between $20-60 NZD.Winery - The Milton Vineyard
Location- Gisborne, New Zealand
Wine - Millton 2007 Chardonnay Riverpoint Vineyard
Appellation - Gisborne
Alcohol - 13% v/v
Price - $19 NZD

Color
- Pale gold, very clear.
Nose/Aroma - White peaches and honeysuckle.
Palate/Flavors - Bright citrus and tropical fruit, lime and lychee. Fruit spice combined with a bit of oak. Nice linear structure provided by crisp acid and minerality that is complimented by a bit of weight in the mid-palate by a touch of oak. Very balanced, flavors meld together well.
Style - Reminisent of Chablis, very lean and crisp.
Food Pairing - This is a great food wine, it would pair well with a wide variety of dishes. Paua and pareto fritters with cream sauce on chiabatta bread was beautiful (paua is an abalone and pareto is a seaweed species unique to New Zealand).
Comments - Has an inherent fruit sweetness and spice that can't be attributed to residual sugar or barrels, which seems typical with good Chardonnay in Gisborne. Using less oak has benefited this wine greatly, allowing it to showcase Riverpoint well. Good quality wine, good value. A bit austere, would cellar well for a couple of years, but drinking well now.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Reminiscing of Gisborne

After four months in Gisborne, I can't believe it's already time for me to pack up my things and head out. After a quick few weeks in Indonesia, I'll head back to California in search of a harvest position. I'm hoping to find something in the San Luis Obispo area, but we'll see how it all works out (any suggestions?). I've put my website on "auto-pilot" with some posts I prepared in advance since I don't think I'll have much internet access while traveling. Here are a couple photos of me during my last week in Gissy.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Cook's Cove

Just south of Tolaga Bay, approximately 50 kilometers north of Gisborne, lies Cook's Cove. The cove is aptly named after Captain James Cook, who visited the area during his journey to New Zealand. The area was inhabited by several Maori tribes (iwis) who constructed fortified villages (pa) on prominent ridges overlooking the flatlands below.
Cook's ship took refuge in Tolaga Bay, shown in the picture above, for several weeks and the crew spent a significant amount of time at Cook's Cove, which is located several kilometers south of the bay's entrance around a large headland. References to the inhabitants of Tolaga Bay and Cook's Cove in the crew's writings tell of the area's relative prosper compared to other iwis, including more developed agriculture, boats, and clothes. Cook's Cove now has a walking track that begins a few hundred meters from the Tolaga Wharf's base. I pulled into the muddy carpark and found the small track leading into the forest. I carefully traversed the track up the first section, which was far muddier than the carpark. Fortunately, some stairs set into the hillside made the worst sections passable. The poor trail conditions so early in the hike made me a bit apprehensive.I was glad once the track flattened out, leading into the base of a large natural ampitheater dotted with livestock and lined with mountains. The trail proceeded over several fences and gates before finally reaching the summit. A small wooden deck just on the coastal side of the summit overlooks Cook's Cove to the east and the East Cape coastline to the north. I sat down to enjoy the solitude and silence of nature. After relaxing in the hazy sunlight, I decided to contniue on. The sun was still high, but it seems to set much quicker as autumn comes to a close. I began my descent along the hillside, once again crossing the grasslands, nearly sliding down the hill, carefully traversing the steepest section, and finally reaching the carpark with little light left.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Wine Region: Gisborne

Appellation - Gisborne
Sub-appellation(s) - Central Valley, Golden Slope, Manutuke, Ormond Valley, Patutahi, Patutahi Plateau, Waipaoa.
Location
- New Zealand (NE North Island); 38th parallel.
Size - 2,000 hectares (4,900 acres).
Rainfall - 1,000 mm/yr (40 in/yr).
Growing Degree Days - 1500
Varietals - Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Gewrztraminer, Malbec, Merlot, Muller Thurgau, Muscat, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Semillon, and Viognier.
Claim to Fame - "Chardonnay capital of New Zealand"; internationally recognized Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer.Gisborne is the third largest growing region in New Zealand, behind only Hawkes Bay and Marlborough. Commercial wine was first produced in the 1920's under German winemaker Friedrich Wohnsiedler, but Gisborne's fertile soils allowed heavy cropping varietals to flourish, quickly giving the area a reputation for low quality wine. The 1970's brought big change to Gisborne; Phylloxera arrived and led to the replanting of most vineyards, Montana and Corbans moved into Gisborne, and Matawhero wines won several accolades in Europe for Gisborne Gewurztraminer and Chardonnay. Now, Gisborne has all but shed its reputation for low quality, bulk wine production and is home to over 20 wineries, including Montana, Vinoptima, Milton, Bushmere Estate, and TW Wines. Gisborne is best known for its Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, sparkling base wines, and aromatic white wines, though recent focus on red wine production has began increasing quality of varietals like Merlot and Malbec. The Ormond Valley and Golden Slope sub-appellations are located northwest of Gisborne. The area is a mixture of silt and clay loams with relatively high calcium levels. Ormond Valley is quite narrow and hilly, producing sites with unique microclimates that lead to tightly structured and balanced Chardonnays and Viogniers. The Golden Slope is a 10 kilometer stretch, consisting of small sites elevated along the sloping hills. Most sites have fertile silt loam topsoil atop heavy Kaiti clay base. Broad palate weight and well-developed fruit flavors are seen in most wines from this region, which is the source of most award-winning Chardonnays from Gisborne.One-third of Gisborne's grape vines are planted in the Patutahi region, which is best known for its quality Gewurztraminer, as well as Chardonnay and Semillon. Due to geographic orientation, it receives significantly less rainfall during the growing season than most areas in Gisborne (Ormond gets almost three times more). This, couple with the mixture of silt loam and clay loam soils, allow Patutahi fruit to become fragant, flavorful wines with broad palate. The newly developed Patutahi Plateau region, just to the east of Patutahi, has more clay-influenced soils and has been turning heads for its powerful Gewurztraminers and late harvest Semillon. Manutuke is the oldest of Gisborne's seven sub-appellations, and is primarily an earlier ripening region used for sparkling base wines. Its proximity to the ocean also encourages botyritis cinerea, allowing excellent late harvest wines to be produced in certain vintagers. The high silt and calcium content soils along the rivers produce soft, mineral-driven fruit, while the vineyards further from the rivers have high Kaiti clay content and produce full-bodied Chardonnays. The Milton Vineyard, the internationally acclaimed biodynamic winery, calls Manutuke its home.The Central Valley is the largest of Gisborne's sub-appellations and home to Matawhero wines, who put Gisborne Gewurztraminer on the map in the 1970's. Well-draining silty soils allow vines to flourish here, allowing fruit to reach a high level of maturity. Most of the Central Valley's fruit is destined for sparkling base wines, though the small Riverpoint Road area is well-known for its fruit-forward, spicey, and complex Chardonnays and Gewurztraminers. Riverpoint Road receives the cooling effects of the ocean that travel up the valley at night and cool the hot daytime temperatures.

Reviews of Gisborne Wines - Hihi 2007 Gisborne Viognier , Millton 2007 Riverpoint Chardonnay, Longbush 2007 Tui Viognier, Montana 2007 Terrior Series Waihirere Chardonnay.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Hihi 2007 Gisborne Viognier

Founded in 2005, Hihi Wines is a small winery still in its growth phase. Its 2,000 case per year production is comprised of several wines, including two different Chardonnays, a Gewurztraminer, a Malbec, and a red blend called "Lock, Stock, and Many Barrels". Andrew Nimmo, Hihi's founder, is not only the company's viticulturist but the winemaker and marketer. Hihi is located in Ormond, though it sources fruit from vineyards throughout Gisborne.
Winery - Hihi Wines
Location- Gisborne, New Zealand
Wine - Hihi 2008 Gisborne Viognier
Appellation - Gisborne
Alcohol - 13%
Price - $16 NZD

Color
- Pale yellow, extremely clear.
Nose/Aroma - Delicate honeysuckle coupled with nectarines.
Palate/Flavors - Apricot that develops into a more tropical flavor of lychee. A slight toastiness derived from limited oak use. Relatively low acidity is balanced with slight sweetness. Decent weight and a nice, oily mouthfeel that leads to a long, citrusy finish.
Style - Similar to a Condrieu Viognier, very fruit-forward and aromatic.
Food Pairing - Some spicy Asian food would be perfect. Maybe a nice Shrimp curry with rice and vegetables or an Albacore tuna spring roll with avocado and wasabi.
Comments - For a 2008, it showed quite well. I think it could be held onto for several months or a year, but not too much longer than that.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Sunshine's Gisborne Gold Lager

Sunshine Brewery is a small micro-brewery near Gisborne's City Centre that was established in 1989. They produce a handful of different fresh, unpasteurized all-malt beers using no sugar additives. Gisborne Gold is sold throughout New Zealand, while their other beers, such as their Reseve Ale and Black Magic Stout, are rare outside of town. The brewery has quite a loyal local following, which it serves well.Brewery - Sunshine Brewery
Location
- Gisborne, North Island, New Zealand
Beer- Gisborne Gold Lager
Alcohol - 4%
Price - $9 NZD per 2 L flagon ($11-12 NZD if purchased at a retailer)

Color
- Straw gold with a fine, white head.
Nose/Aroma - Hoppy and slightly bready with a hint of vanilla.
Palate/Flavors - Some stonefruit or citrus flavors, but hard to define. Creamy with a hint of minerality, medium body, and crisp finish.
Style - could be a German-style Pilsener.
Food Pairing - Look to balance the hops and maltiness with cream-based dishes, seafood, or white meat (don't have to hold the spice either). In New Zealand, just head to the local fish and chip shop. Plenty of other options: New England-style clam chowder, Talapia fish tacos with cilantro and jalapeno sour cream, or fettucini alfredo (chicken or shrimp).
Comments - Prime example of a good everyday local beer that's offered at a good price, particularly if you buy it at the brewery; you can bring empty flagons to be filled up directly off the holding tanks prior to bottling. This means you get less processed, unfiltered beer (while recycling). The bottled version not only has far less body and yeasty goodness, the mineral component seems more like a tank metal flavor. I would say there is some variability between brews, but it's a relatively consistent product.

New Zealand has a good number of micro-breweries spread across the country, primarily serving their community. Most beers are not intended to spend any significant time in bottle, particularly if they are not carbonated using secondary fermentation. Brewers can use secondary fermentation in bottle or tank to carbonate their beer by adding sugar in some form, whether it's malt-derived or cane sugar, and allowing it to ferment under pressure (this would be in lieu of pressurizing it with carbon dioxide). A few weeks can make a big difference in a beer, especially since they are so sensitive to storage conditions, such as temperature. New Zealand is a good example of how micro-breweries can be successful. Make your target market local; find the smallest area where your supply's demand can be met, then supply it. Several California micro-breweries have problems with trying to reach too far, and suffer because of it.