Sunday, August 30, 2009

Raglan

During my first trip to New Zealand in 2006, I spent several days in Raglan (see my earlier post "Road Trip to Raglan"). It wasn't exactly luxurious spending the middle of winter living in a van, but I had an amazing trip and scored some great surf. During my stay I met Dale, a nice man from Florida who was on holiday with his family. The morning these photos were taken, Jake, Dale and I were the only surfers in the lineup at Manu Bay (his son took the photos). Since the swell was so consistent, we were forced to paddle from the boat ramp on the inside because the jump rock and shoreline were too dangerous. It must have taken us 15-20 minutes to reach the lineup.

Friday, August 28, 2009

A Big Crash

Don't worry, I didn't crash, my computer did (sorry to disappoint those thinking this was another mountain bike story or something). After erasing my hard drive, I've re-installed most of my software though I'm still missing a few programs (including the program I use for photography uploading). Since I didn't want to do any new posts without photos, I'm going to wait a few days until I can get things sorted out. I have a handful of photos I've uploaded and for some reason never posted, so I'll make a few posts in the interim. Both photos here are from New Zealand; the first was taken in Tolaga Bay, while the second was taken in Gisborne City Centre.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Aresti Reserva 2006 Maipo Valley Syrah

Aresti Family Vineyards has been growing grapes for over 50 years in the Valle Central region of Chile (primarily in the Curico Valley), but only recently began producing its own wine. They have two different tiers of wines: the Estate Selection Range and the Reserva Selection Range, which include varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Merlot, and Sauvignon Blanc.
Winery - Aresti
Location- Curico Valley, Chile
Wine - Aresti Reserva 2006 Maipo Valley Syrah
Appellation -Maipo Valley D.O.
Alcohol - 14.0%
Price - $11 USD

Color
- Deep, vibrant garnet.
Nose/Aroma - Over-extracted red currants with a savory meatiness to it.
Palate/Flavors - Cooked red currants and blackberries intertwined with a semi-sweet caramel toffee flavor and a hint of toasted oak. Medium-bodied with a strong acid structure upfront that fades into a weak mid-palate before a long, velvety finish of plums and toffee. Very little astringency but the bitterness was quite strong, particularly in the beginning. After oxidizing for a little while, the bitterness seemed to mellow out significantly but still detracted from the wine. Oak does a good job bolstering the body, but seems to overpower the fruit more than desired.
Style
- A good "New World" Syrah that probably leans more towards a Californian approach; less oak influenced than those from Australia and bigger and broader than those from France, but less pepper influence than those of California.
Food Pairing - Maybe red meat, like a beef round roast with cooked vegetables.
Comments
- I would have preferred riper, more upfront fruit flavors, it seemed rather over-extracted. I did enjoy the oak characteristics that were present, but they seemed to end up further diminishing the fruit flavors.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Exploring Java Part III

Despite the major pollution issues I've mentioned in earlier (see "Exploring Java Part I"), much of Java's coastline is still rather pristine and untouched. I was able to survey a significant part of the countryside while cruising around on my scooter, or speedi-moto as some of my Australian friends would say. Still, there is a significant portion of coastline that is extremely difficult to access, meaning there must be a myriad of surf spots and unexplored places waiting to be discovered. Of course, this can be said about most of the thousands of islands that make up Indonesia, along with the thousands of other small islands dotting the Pacific Ocean. Below are a handful of photos from my time in Java.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Indonesian Wine

Some form of wine is produced in most countries worldwide, whether it be made from grapes or some other fruit or plant. Indonesia is best known for its Arrack, commonly but incorrectly referred to as Arak (a grape-based liquor flavored with aniseed and produced in Middle Eastern countries such as Lebanon and Palestine). Nonetheless, Arrack is not really wine, it is a distilled beverage produced from rice and sugarcane. Still, I wasn't surprised to learn that Indonesia does indeed have true grape wine.
Grape vines, particularly those grown for winemaking purposes, typically require a dormancy period during the year's cooler months. These dormancy periods are determined by specific climatic conditions in different regions (California vines lie dormant from sometime in late November or December until March or April). In Indonesia, the tropical climate allows wine grapes to be grown in shorter cycles, providing Indonesian winemakers with up to three different harvests within the same year. Bali is home to Indonesia's only commercial vineyard and winery, Hatten Wines, which began production in 1994. Hatten is located in the north eastern town of Singaraja and produces seven different wines using three local varietals ( Propolingo Biru, Alphonse-Lavalle, and Belgia), though they also produce a Two Islands label that makes wines from imported grapes (primarily from nearby Australia).
While walking to check the surf in Java one morning, I stumbled across a small vineyard (shown in both pictures above). I wasn't able to deduce what varietal they were since the grapes had recently been harvested and I have no experience with Indonesian vines, but the vines were quite healthy and vigorous. I wouldn't be surprised if the wine I had tried during my stay here was made off this vineyard. A local who I had become friends with during my stay met up with me one night carrying a plastic bag filled with wine, which he told me was "red wine". Though I was quite tentative to try it, particularly with the Arrack scare just a couple weeks prior that killed 25 people in Bali, I figured that it was my duty as a winemaker to at least have a little (he assured me that there was nothing wrong with it). Plus, wine in a plastic bag seemed novel with all the talk of alternative closures these days. It had a very dark reddish-black color and was semi-sweet on the palate, with some decent red fruit and molasses flavors (reminded me a bit of a Merlot). The alcohol level was quite striking (seemed with over 16%), which made me think it was fortified at some point. While it wasn't a 96-pointer by any means, I was pleasantly surprised by its taste.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Home Again

Coming home always gives me a bittersweet feeling. While it's always nice to exchange stories with my family and friends upon return, it never seems like I have been gone long enough. Two weeks in Costa Rica flew by and Drew, Nick, and I had a great time finding surf and exploring the country. I'm looking forward to posting about some of our adventures in Costa Rica during the upcoming weeks, and posting on new adventures still to come! Hopefully I'll be able to keep those of you still reading interested with more frequent and diverse postings I have planned. If you haven't joined my new mailing list yet, please send me an e-mail so that I can add you (thedriftingwinemaker@gmail.com). Below is one of the most classic photos I've seen in a long time; the boys and me, looking a bit too stoked to be at the market. Edna Valley's 2009 vintage is coming just around the corner. Though I haven't had a chance to walk any vineyards since veraison, all estimates I've received are pointing to a relatively late harvest start sometime in mid-September) with some great quality fruit. This will not only be my second vintage in 2009, it will be my second vintage at ORC, so I'm excited to get back into the cellar after a few months of bumming around. Below are a few random photos I took while in Costa Rica (1. San Jose graffiti, 2. Crossing rivers and stressing, 3. Dinner a la KR, 6. Paquera Harbor, 5. Funkey Monkey)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Exploring Java Part II

When we awoke to another maxing day out front, we loaded up our scooters to explore the coast once again. First stop was the right point just a few hundred meters up the coast, which is used as a set indicator for Cimaja since its visible from the lineup. This spot can produce an intense takeoff with a quick, reeling wall closing out into a boulder-strewn shoreline (the picture below shows Indicators with a wave face height of about 16-18 feet). We decided that the tide looked a bit too low for comfort. We sped along the coastline, enjoying the scenery as the road began to ascend up a large mountain. As we reached the summit, the road turned inland and dropped us into a large green valley dotted with small buildings. Spices, herbs, and coffee beans lined the streets of the small towns as they dried in the midday sun. We finally turned off the main road an hour later, nearly sliding down a gravely dirt road for a few kilometers before finding a small suspension bridge tucked behind some bushes. The mere size and awkwardness of the bridge forced us to cross one by one, but we all reached the other side safely and continued out a single track to the left hand point break we sought. We reached the beach just in time to watch a massive set peel across the reef all the way from the point to the inside. Waiting for the tide to rise, we watched empty waves roll through for nearly two hours while debating how big it really was. Unfortunately, the sharp, dry reef lining the shoreline (including a large section of the waves on the inside) and the ensuing paddle looked too daunting and we decided to come back another day when the swell dropped.Just a few days later, Ruby and Geoff decided to head back to the secluded left point to see if the waves were more inviting. Since I awoke rather ill that morning, I opted to stay behind and recuperate. By night fall, their absence could only mean they had found some surf. I awoke early the following morning to make the long journey to find my friends, and hopefully some waves.It felt like the two were waiting for me when I pulled up on the sand. They looked a bit surprised that I had made it and told me that the waves were great. We surfed all morning before taking a lunch break at the small warung they had stayed the night before in the small, secluded town just off the beach. Despite having just enough room for their own family, the Widi clan runs a warung out of their home here. This means that every visitor who arrives puts another one of the five boys out of their bed for the night (below shows the Widi family in the front surrounded by their guests, including my friends and I in the back right corner). After another long surf in the evening, we setup at the warung for the night. We were all relieved that we hadn't decided to surf on our previous visit, since the waves looked twice the size of the 5-6 foot (double overhead) waves we had surfed all day. We had a great dinner and headed to bed early, exhausted after a long day's work. An early morning surf saw some more fun waves but also a decrease in size. Still, the spot showcased its power as two surfers snapped their boards and another snapped his leash. While this left point break had amazing waves, it was not the typical example of an Indonesian wave. The takeoff took quite a bit of timing as most waves seemed to double up, often forcing surfers to air-drop in. They would then back off and section slowly before doubling up a second time. Then, the wave would fire through to the inside, sometimes providing a barrel section, before detonating on the dry reef.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Exploring Java Part I

West Java is often referred to as "The Wild West" since far less is known about the area than other parts of Indonesia, particularly Bali. While some breaks are gaining popularity quickly with international coverage, the rest of the coastline has not been extensively explored. This is primarily due to the difficulty of access and the lack of resources outside of the main cities. Geoff, Ruby, and I did some exploring around the coast during the several maxed out days of surf. Our first trip took us down the coast to a fickle left point break.You can see the break from the cliff as you look across a large field of rice paddies (the photo above was taken from the shoreline). The break may begin to work once large southwest swells reach the coast, but only if the tide and wind conditions are cooperating. The bottom is covered with rock boulders. As shown below, the water near shore has a significantly different color than further out to sea. This is due to the river that terminates just up the coast from the break, demonstrating the lack of environmental concern and sanitation that plagues Indonesia. It was very hard to see such a beautiful and pristine place with such poor water quality. I would have to say it was the dirtiest water I have ever subjected myself to, including the sewage spill off Blacks in San Diego when I ended up with inner, middle, and out ear infections in both ears. After debating whether the surf was worth the risk of illness, we decided to paddle out for a surf (we jokingly said we would just jump in above the point, paddle down, catch one wave, and head in). We threaded our way through the rice paddies, balancing on the small hand-built walls of mud that separate the flooded pools. Rice paddies are fascinating and ingeniously designed to allow the water to flow from one area to the next while maintaining adequate water levels. When I jumped into the water, the various reef cuts on my feet immediately begin to tingle, which I knew wasn't a good sign. After discovering that the waves were better than they looked, we ended up staying in the water for nearly two hours before finally heading in. After a quick lunch, we headed back to our hotel for some sanitation in the heavily chlorinated pool.