Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Quick Trip

I've had a nice couple of weeks back in California. I'm back in my old house in San Luis Obispo and will be working at Orcutt Road Cellars for harvest once again. Since harvest won't begin until later in August, I was happy to find out that my friends Drew and Nick were heading to Costa Rica in search of some waves (California has had a rather poor summer swell season, although this past weekend saw the largest waves for several months). Drew and I are leaving tonight, meeting Nick in San Jose, and then beginning are adventure. While I'm gone, I'm expecting to have little time for the internet. This means that posting will probably be impossible, so I'll have to wait until I'm back to share Costa Rica. For now, here are a few photos I took along the Central Coast over the past couple weeks.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Righthand Point Breaks in Indonesia?

Some of the best surf I had during my trip to Indonesia was in this sleepy little Javanese surf town. The town's main break, and namesake, is one of several spots in town. It's a right point with a shallow rock boulder bottom that works best on south and southwest swells under five feet. For the past several years, Cimaja has been a stop on the Indonesia Pro Surfing Tour, a series of competitions throughout Indonesia that was won by Cimaja's own Dede Suryana. The small town has a handful of good surfers, primarily younger locals and older ex-pats. Besides surfing, the small community based here is lovely. I quite enjoyed my stay there and made some great friends. The food at Evan's just in front of the point is stunning (look for the Bintang flags shown below), and it's a great hang out for travelers. Some of the best stories in Indonesia can be heard here, and they only get better as more Bintangs are consumed. The break's main problem is the small river that terminates just east of the break and brings some rather brownish colored water, which does not look or smell very clean. The locals don't seem to mind; they can often be found fishing with their nets along the river (shown below). One of my favorite soccer fields (shown below) is located just a few hundred meters from the lineup. The local kids have regular afternoon games, which were always fun to watch. They always invited us to join in, but I couldn't since I lost a toe nail on my second day in town.The town's economy relies primarily on tourism and rice growing. Rice patties line the streets, flooded by diverted river water. I watched several men drying rice one day just off the town's main road. The men carved the rice into rows using their feet in order to encourage the thickly piled rice to dry quicker. We were lucky to be here during one of the season's largest swells, which closed out the point for a few days. Still, we were able to surf the break at its best for several days. During those days when Cimaja was unsurfable, we explored the nearby coastline to find some other breaks. The pictures below show Cimaja on an overcast afternoon.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Travel Stories: West Java

It's difficult to get accurate information while traveling in a foreign country. I was constantly hearing stories about surf breaks, sights, directions, travel times, and accommodations that seemed to get less credible the longer I listened. Often, I would hear two or three completely different stories of the same topic from different people. I decided the only way to really know the truth was to experience it myself.I had read and heard plenty of stories about traveling in Java and I wasn't particularly worried despite past incidences. The hotel bombings last week are a reminder that there are still problems in Jakarta. I felt relatively safe while I was there, until I met Aziz. We were waiting on the steps of our hotel in Jakarta when he arrived to pick us up for the drive to Pelabuhan Ratu. We had an idea of the 130 kilometer route that we'd be taking through Depok and Bogor, but wasn't too sure how long it would take. We talked to several people before leaving and estimated a drive of two and a half hours. Or six hours. Or three hours. Aziz said that it does depend on how traffic works, but guessed four hours. At first, I enjoyed the roller coaster ride but became worried once we were driving on the shoulder of the freeway with hazard lights blinking and brights flashing. We raced down half a dozen toll roads and through several surrounding towns as the roads changed from eight lanes each way to one lane each way. After a long series of climbs and descends, we finally fell into Pelabuhan Ratu. This small town is the jump off point for surf exploration in the area, though it is primarily lined with poor quality beach breaks. Water quality is also a concern, since the Citarik River, which terminates in the town, is the epitome of Java's environmental problems. We continued further to find a small community centered around surf.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Sebastiani 2002 Sonoma County Merlot

Sebastiani Vineyards & Winery has a long history in Sonoma County winemaking, established in 1904 by an Italian imigrant, Samuele Sebastiani. Four generations later, the family continues this tradition. While Sebastiani Vineyards & Winery was best known for its flavorful but cheap wines bottled in magnums, they are now focused on producing premium wines from their vineyards located throughout the Sonoma County. Sebastiani's offerings include a "Sonoma County" range, an "Appellation Selection Series" that makes sub-appellation designated wines from places like Carneros or Dry Creek Valley, and two "Proprietor's Selection Wines" produced only during the best vintages.
Winery - Sebastiani Vineyards & Winery
Location- Sonoma, California
Wine - Sebastiani 2002 Merlot Sonoma County
Appellation - Sonoma County
Alcohol - 14%
Price - $17 USD per 750 mL bottle

Color
- Maroon with a brickish tinge.
Nose/Aroma - Lovely dried fruit, molasses, and sawdust.
Palate/Flavors - Overripe currants and blackberries with a touch of chocolate and char that flows into a long finish of blackberries and chocolate. Very little bitterness or astringency. Smooth, velvety, mouth filling texture. Well integrated and balanced.
Style - An outstanding introductory Sonoma County Merlot. Seems to be aimed at a slightly bigger style than it was able to achieve, though I don't think this was a negative by any means.
Food Pairing - This is a perfect wine to have a meal with. Great with most red meats, try venison with baked potatoes. A nice sheep's cheese would be nice as well, or even a rich dessert like chocolate brownies with vanilla ice cream.
Comments - Great wine, very well made. I was a bit worried I'd left this one in the cellar too long, but it showed great. I think this wine was probably a bit different at a younger age, but this is the type of Merlot I enjoy drinking; not too big or over extracted, complementing the fruit characteristics instead of overpowering them.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Jakarta

After a week in Bali with only a few days of good surf, I jumped at the chance to head to Java with my friends Geoff and Ruby. We book our tickets to Jakarta, Indonesia's capital and largest city located in northwest Java. Jakarta is currently the twelfth largest city in the world with nearly 8.5 million people, and the sixth largest metropolitan area in the world with almost 19 million. Originally named Sunda Kelapa, the city was founded in the 4th century under the Kingdom of Sunda. It became a major trading port in the area, particularly once European sailors arrived in the early 15th century (the Dutch were most influential and powerful in the area). Due primarily to its importance along Indian Ocean trading routes, the city endured several power and name changes (Sunda Kelapa to Jayakarta to Batavia to Jakarta) until 1950, when Indonesia gained its independence and made Jakarta its capital.
We arrived at Soekarna-Hathta Airport from Denpasar just as the sun was setting. After booking our hotel rooms, we jumped into a taxi heading into town. Like most major cities, Jakarta has major transportation issues that make travel excruciatingly painful. During weekdays, Jakarta's population doubles as people from nearby areas flood the city. A poor layout and confusing (or non-existent) streets signs only compound traffic problems, making the city nearly impossible to navigate. Practically an hour and a half later, we finally reached our hotel, which was only 50 kilometers. After having a nice dinner, we enjoyed a night out. The next morning was spent exploring the city a bit, then relaxing in our hotel's day-spa. Jakarta is a major hub for travel throughout Indonesia, although it is not a major tourist destination itself. There is very little to see or do in Jakarta, unless one is interested in shopping. We were able to take a couple of rides in auto rickshaws, three-wheeled vehicles with motorcycle steering (orange vehicles seen in the photos). Auto rickshaws, also known as Bajajs and Tuk-Tuks, are used for public transportation throughout Southeast Asia and other parts of the world, but are only found in a few major cities in Indonesia. They aren't very fast (50 km/h max), but they're small, manueverable, and have room for three passengers plus the driver. As Indonesia's wealthiest city, Jakarta is a great example of the massive gap between the wealthy and poor seen throughout the country. Towering skyscrapers and luxury vehicles nearly hide the large groups of cardboard and scrap metal shacks lining the brown rivers threading through the city. People have no concept of sanitation, making Jakarta the third most polluted city in the world behind only Mexico City and Bangkok. Estimates say seven million residents, nearly 80%, are without clean water. The air is filled with industrial and automobile pollution, since few laws control emissions.

After two nights in Jakarta, we were all ready to head out. We awoke early and booked a ride south. The swell forecasts were predicting a large burst of swell the upcoming week and we were excited to get back in the water.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Balinese Cuisine

One of the best parts of traveling is getting to try local foods. Unfortunately, finding traditional Balinese food is actually quite difficult, since it is typically only served at ceremonies. Instead, one mostly finds Indonesian, Chinese, Halal Padang food, western food, or a mixture of these. For the most part, the food quality is excellent and very reasonably priced (ten US dollars could easily cover food for a day). A main stay in Bali are the small shops and street vendors that serve Padang food, whose name derives from the West Sumatran capital where it was first introduced. Padang food is prepared in advance, then placed in a large glass case where customers can pick and choose what they would like to eat. The food may remain in the case for several hours, but is prepared so that it can remain at room temperature for extended periods of time and be consumed without re-heating. This system stems from Indonesian culture; families usually have no set meal times, so members just eat whenever they are hungry.At a Padang shop, the host/hostess places a bed of rice on the plate, then adds the types and amounts of each item selected by the customer. Padang shops showcase Indonesian cuisine quite well. I particularly enjoyed the variety of curries, primarily based on meat, tofu, and/or potatoes. Rendang is another classic Indonesian dish that originated with the Minangkabau culture. Primarily made from beef, Rendang is slow-cooked for several hours in coconut milk and spices. Rendang keeps extremely well, anywhere from one to four months at room temperature. Several different dishes include tofu, though it can often be purchased in small bricks seasoned with chili sauce. One can also find tempe at most shops, a soybean cake made using a fungal fermentation process that concentrates the protein, dietary fiber, and vitamins that make tofu so healthy. Padang shops are great for everyday eating, but can get monotonous if frequented too often. There are also other options which may be more appetizing. My favorite place to eat in Bali was Jimbaran, a small fishing village just south of Kuta. Jimbaran's beach is lined with seafood restaurants that offer seafood fresh off the village's boats. My friends Mark, Ruby, and Geoff took me to their favorite spot, Gekko Cafe. At Gekko, one can order from the table or chose live food directly from the tanks in the kitchen. After selecting from fresh clams, crabs, lobsters, prawns, snapper, and squid, one's food is taken straight to the kitchen for preparation. A band (shown above) weaves through the cafe's tables, which are set in the sand lining the waterfront, playing songs by request and displaying great musical talent as they switch from traditional Balinese songs to Classic Rock to Jazz (one of their favorite songs is the Eagles' Hotel California). The band, which I would describe as a Mariachi-style band, consists of three guitar players, a double bassist, and a hand-drummer.I ate a lot of my meals at the small warungs I stayed in. These warungs, usually lining the beach offer not only accommodation, but also breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus including water, juice, smoothies, and beer. For the most part, warungs have rather basic cooking facilities (as shown above), though several have restaurant quality equipment. Warung menus usually include several western dishes such as bacon and eggs, pancakes, chicken club sandwiches, and fries but focus more on Indonesian dishes like nasi goreng, curries, and sates. Indonesia's best known dish is Nasi Goreng, which literally means "fried rice". It is prepared with spices and usually some garnish like shallots and spring onion. They are typically topped with an egg or prawn cracker, and often have prawns or meat mixed in. Mie Goreng is also common, basically identical except it is prepared using fried noodles in lieu of rice. Sate is a dish particularly popular with western visitors, prepared using sliced or diced meat that is then skewered, spiced, and barbecued.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Cuvee du President Red Wine

Algeria has as much wine grape acreage as Germany and South Africa, though it has little power in the international market. Algeria is located on the southern shore of the Mediterranean Sea in north Africa. Winemaking in the area can be traced back to the Phoenicians and Romans, though it was halted during the Muslim conquests of the 7th century. Under French rule in the 1830's, Algeria experienced large vineyard plantings. During the destruction of France's wine industry by phylloxera in the mid-1900's, Algerian wine was imported in large volumes. After the crisis passed, Algerian wine continued to be used as a blending component for French wines to help bolster color and phenlics. Regions such as the Languedoc still use Algerian wines today. Cuvee du President is a red blend composed of several varietals from different growing regions along the Hauts Plateau, where all of Algeria's seven small but distinct regions are located.
Winery - Vin d'Algerie
Location- Algeria
Wine - Cuvee du President Red Wine (year not provided)
Appellation
- blend of Mascara, Dahra, Medea, Tiemcen
Alcohol - 12.5%
Price - $10 USD per 750 mL bottle

Color
- Ruby, rather plain and light.
Nose/Aroma - Rather bland aroma, a hint of spice and fruit.
Palate/Flavors - Light bodied and slightly sweet with ripe strawberries and white pepper. The acid adds a touch of sourness, though it fades quickly. Almost no mid-palate and a very short finish. No bitterness or astringency.
Style - For lack of another category, I would probably just call this a food wine because it's simplicity. Could be compared to a house Chianti one might find at a typical Italian restaurant.
Food Pairing - I wouldn't save this one for too special an occasion, though it will pair easily with lots of foods. I would probably keep it basic with spaghetti and meatballs or chicken and vegetables pizza.
Comments - Seems like this was probably just a blend of the left overs at the winery. I'm guessing it was created to be a rather basic, no frills, easy-drinking wine. It does a good job fulfilling this role, but it's not stunning by any means.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Uluwatu: Bali's Windansea?

Growing up in Pacific Beach, I was fortunate enough to surf Windansea on a regular basis. Windansea was one of the first spots surfed in San Diego and has produced several of San Diego's best surfers. It is also one of the most consistent spots in southern California, picking up any westerly swell (southwest, west, and northwest). Typically the lineup is composed of an inside and outside peak with lefts and rights, though variables such as swell direction, size, and tide can provide a range of takeoff spots to choose. The bottom is primarily rock reef, though sand movement does play a large role in the lineup, particularly in the summertime when the beach fills in and the inside sandbars set up. Unfortunately, the good surfing conditions make good crowd conditions (as shown in the photo above); there is constantly a pack of surfers fighting for a finite number of waves. I couldn't help but flashback to my childhood days at Windansea when I first looked down over Uluwatu. Uluwatu is located on the western coast of Bali's Bukit peninsula, just south of Padang-Padang and Bingin. Uluwatu was one of the first waves surfed in Bali (at least waves outside of Kuta). Uluwatu became one of the world's most desired surf destinations after movies such as Falzon's Morning of the Earth (1972) showed surfers paddling into empty lineups with perfect waves. Just like Windansea, Uluwatu has increasingly grown in popularity over the years and now boasts a hefty lineup regardless of wave size or quality. The cliffs above the famous Uluwatu cave provide a great view of the overall lineup and are lined with warungs and photographers where one can get anything from a meal to a Bintang to surfing photographs. Uluwatu has several distinct takeoff areas. All the waves break left (a few random right corners can be found) over shallow coral and rock reef. The Peak (shown in picture 2 above) is Uluwatu's most consistent and surfed break. Generally best on a mid-low tide, it will break from one to ten foot. Sometimes the Peak will connect into the next section (swell needs to be at least 3 foot), Racetracks, which is a faster barreling wave over even shallower reef. To the left of the Peak lies Temples (shown below), a far shallower patch of reef that works best on a high-mid tide and provides a good barrel section when the swell is between two and six foot. Once the swell gets larger (over 8 foot), the Bombie outside Temples may begin to do it's thing though it's far more temperamental than the wave considered the "real Uluwatu", Outside Corners. Outside Corners can hold swells up to 15 feet and works best on lower tides. I didn't get a chance to ride Uluwatu during a larger swell, though I could see the potential even on the smaller days.
The surf was never particularly stellar when I visited Uluwatu, though I was able to get it several times in the 3-4 foot range (head to head-and-a-half high waves). I spent most of my time there surfing Temples and the Peak. It's usually rather easy to get photographs at Uluwatu since the cliff is lined with several photographers on a daily basis. I got a couple of shots from my last session of my trip (above and below), though they weren't of my best waves. Since I was surfing at Temples with only a couple surfers, the photographers weren't particularly focused on us. As you can seen, I'm wearing a bootie on my front foot to protect it from the reef (that's a whole other story).

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Biodynamics: Preparations and Composting

Maintaining adequate levels of humus is essential to soil's well-being. Biodynamics integrates several methods for improving humus content, relying heavily on nine biodynamic preparations. Three preparations (500, 501, and 508) are added as sprays, while the rest (502-507) are used during composting. 500 - A humus mixture of cow manure is prepared and stuffed into a female cow's horn in autumn. It is buried 15-25 inches deep and allowed to ferment for six months before it is dug up, diluted, and stirred for an hour alternating between clockwise and anti-clockwise directions every minute (this creates a vortex that instills a fundamental principle of plant life). It is then applied as a soil spray to stimulate root growth and humus formation (one cow horn is sufficient for one hectare of land).
501 - A powdered quartz mixture is prepared and stuffed into a cow's horn in spring. It is buried and allowed to ferment for six months before it is removed and diluted like preparation 500. It is then applied as a foilar spray to regulate growth (one cow horn is sufficient for 25 hectares of land).
508 - Horsetail plant is prepared into a tea. It is then applied as a foilar spray to suppress fungal and pest presence.502 - Yarrow blossoms are stuffed into a Red Deer urinary bladder and left in the sun over summer. The bladder is then buried and allowed to ferment for six months.
503 - Chamomile blossoms are stuffed into a cow's small intestine in autumn. The intestine is then buried and allowed to ferment for six months.
504 - Stinging nettle plants in full bloom are gathered together and wrapped in peat, before they are buried and allowed to ferment for one year.
505 - Chopped up oak bark is wrapped in peat and stuffed into a domesticated animal's skull. The skull is then buried and allowed to ferment for one year.
506 - Dandelion flowers in full bloom are gathered together and stuffed into a cow's peritoneum (abdominal wall lining) in winter. The peritoneum is then buried and allowed to ferment for six months.
507 - Valerian flowers are extracted into water.

If farmers do not want to make these preparations themselves, they can opt to purchase BD Compost Starter, which contains the compost preparations (502-507), a blend of several microorganisms including bacterias and yeasts, and pre-stirred preparation 500.Composting could be considered the foundation of biodynamic farming; it helps better soil health, increase soil humus, balance nitrogen levels, and recycle organic and animal waste. The first step is to construct a compost windrow, a large pile of green organic matter and browned leaves. The browned leaves provide carbon, while the green organic matter provides nitrogen. The compost pile must be built to allow oxygen flow in order to stimulate anaerobic activity (if the static pile method is used, farmers will often add ventilation pipes). Once the pile is constructed, preparations 502-506 are placed 20 inches deep in specific locations 5-7 feet apart. A portion of preparation 507 is buried in the same fashion as preparations 502-506, while the rest is applied over the outside of the pile. At this stage, the farmer must decide what compost management system should be employed, a decision based on the operation's size, equipment, financial resources, and intended use. The typical method employed is the static pile method, which instructs farmers to scatter soil over the top of the pile before covering it with straw and left to decompose for six months to a year. Once the compost is ready for application, it is spread throughout the vineyard.