Sorry I haven't been very active here lately, but I'm currently working on some new content and updating my site. Forgive me for any pages that aren't functioning properly.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Blue Rainbow

After the heavy storm hit Pinetop-Lakeside, Rainbow Lake pretty much frozen over completely. The skies finally cleared up a bit on our last day, and the ice made for some wonderful pictures.

Related Posts: Still Cold, Snowy Sunrise, Frozen, Dreaming of a White Christmas

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Back to SLO

Well, I'm glad to say that I didn't miss all the swell while I was in Arizona. We made it back Sunday evening in time for me to paddle out for a couple hours and score some solid, overhead waves in La Jolla before the sun went down. I basically dedicated yesterday to surfing, which entailed two fairly extended sessions at PB Point and the surrounding reefs. I would venture to say I spent about six hours in the water, with overhead sets rolling through all day. My friends Nick and Drew were able to join me and we all got some good waves. Unfortunately, I was too busy surfing to take any photographs, but I'm sure they won't be hard to find (check this site out for general San Diego photos).

I'll be heading back up to San Luis Obispo this afternoon, with a (hopefully) quick stop off at Los Angeles International Airport to pick up my friend, Alfonso, who is flying in from the East Coast for a week of waves. I met Alfonso during my travels in Costa Rica earlier this year and told him to head out to California anytime (I tell pretty much every firned I make while I'm traveling this, though he is the first to take up the offer). I'm hoping the surf forecast holds true and that we'll have some great waves to surf throughout the week.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Domaine Ste. Michelle NV Brut

Domaine Ste. Michelle is a section of Chateau Ste. Michelle, Washington state's first winery. Their Woodinville winery in the Columbia Valley wasn't built until 1976, after nearly twenty years of production under a different name, Ste. Michelle Vintners. Today, Chateau Ste. Michelle is well known for providing reasonably priced, quality wine. They have earned accolades, such as Winery of the Year, from numerous wine publications including Wine Enthusiast. Domaine Ste. Michelle produces the company's sparkling wine, strictly following methode champenoise (traditional method for making Champagne or sparkling wine; secondary fermentation is completed in the bottle). Along with their Brut, Domaine Ste. Michelle provides a range of sparkling wines, which includes Blanc de Blancs, Blanc de Noirs, Extra Dry, and Luxe.

Winery - Domaine Ste. Michelle
Location- Woodinville, Washington
Wine - Domaine Ste. Michelle NV Brut
Varietals - Chardonnay
Appellation - Columbia Valley
Alcohol - 12.5% by volume
Price -$9 USD

- Pale yellow.
Nose/Aroma - Peaches with a slight breadiness.
Palate/Flavors - Peaches, lime, and a slight sour apple taste combined with a light creaminess. Nice, heavy mouthfeel that continues into a relatively short finish of stonefruit and lime.  
Style - Entry level sparkling wine.
Food Pairing - Have it with hors d'oeuvres at your next party. Cheese and crackers, maybe roquefort. 
Comments- Not very complex, but a nice, non-vintage sparkling wine for parties or informal events when you don't want to break the bank. Not particularly carbonated, slight bubbling with a thin ring around the edge.

Related Posts: Laetitia 2006 Brut de Blancs, Reviews

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Still Cold

After over a week in Arizona, my parents, brother, and I are returning to California today. We've had a wonderful trip spending time with relatives and enjoying the cold weather here in Pinetop-Lakeside. Needless to say, I don't think I'll miss the snow as much as I've missed the ocean.

Related Posts: Snowy Sunrise, Frozen, Dreaming of a White Christmas

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Campo Viejo Reserva 2005 Tempranillo

Campo Viejo took its name from Campus Veteranus, the Latin name given to the area in northern Spain after it was secured by the Romans. Centuries after the Roman Empire fell, Campo Viejo's founding winemakers produced their first wine in 1959 out of an old winery in Aldanueva de Ebro; this was one of the first Denomination of Origin Rioja wines widely available to consumers. They began exporting wine in the mid-1970's, quickly supplying the lion's share of Rioja's wine exports.

Campo Viejo gave way to Bodegas Juan Alcorta in 2001 with the construction of a new facility that melds traditional winery processes with modern technology. Campo Viejo Rioja Reserva is produced from vineyard plots selected by winemaker Elena Adell. It is aged for eighteen months in barrel and eighteen months in bottle prior to release, in accordance with D.O. regulations (wines from the region are designated "Rioja", "Crianza", "Rioja Reserva", or "Rioja Gran Reserva" based on the type and amount of aging).

 Winery - Campo Viejo
Location -Logrono, Spain
Wine -Campo Viejo 2005 Tempranillo Reserva
Varietals -Tempranillo, Graciano, Mazuelo
Appellation -Rioja, Spain
Alcohol - 13.5% v/v
Price - $13 USD

Color - Vibrant maroon.
Nose/Aroma - Blackberries and white pepper.
Palate/Flavors - Sweet cherries and blackberries, white pepper, vanilla, charred oak, and a certain earthiness like truffles that leads to a medium finish of pepper and plum. Not overly acidic or astringent, smooth tannins, but it has an unique bitterness that I associate with most Rioja reds. 
Style - A good mid-range Rioja red.
Food Pairing - Carne asada enchiladas with jalapeno creama fresca and guacamole over a bed of arroz (rice).
Comments - Nice wine, pretty well balanced and relatively complex. Worth the price. Don't be turned off by that unique bitterness, it takes a while to get used to if one hasn't had much experience with Rioja wines. Oh, don't chill the wine (I set the bottle in the snow just for the picture since I thought it looked neat). 

Friday, December 25, 2009

Snowy Sunrise

Well, Merry Christmas everyone (or happy holidays). My dream for snow came true. By midday Tuesday, some light snow began to fall in Pinetop-Lakeside. Unfortunately, the temperature was not cold enough for it to stick. As the afternoon progressed, the temperature finally dropped as the snowfall became heavier. I could only wonder how the weather was another couple thousand feet higher, at Sunrise Park Resort. The weather reports claimed the storm would continue through the night into Wednesday. By nightfall, I was beginning to worry that I may not be able to make it to the mountain for opening day as the snow continued to pile up on top of my mom's 2-wheel drive Rav-4.

I awoke early Wednesday to find the car covered in at least six inches of snow. The storm had continued through the night and was still dumping down as I loaded my snowboard gear into the Rav-4. The plow had just come by, but  there was nearly an inch of fresh snow already accumulated on the road as I eased out of the driveway and started my journey. The forty-mile drive was somewhat unnerving as I gingerly crept along the highway amidst increasingly heavy snow (shown above). I pulled into the parking lot behind a handful of other adventurous drivers and quickly began suiting up. Sunrise Park had received nearly two feet of snow overnight and the storm showed no signs of letting up.

I was riding up High-Speed Quad Lift I by 10 AM. Surprisingly, there was no line whatsoever despite only a portion of the park opening (Sunrise Mountain was open, but Apache and Cyclone Mountains weren't scheduled to open until the 26th). I made several runs, exploring the available terrain and re-gaining confidence on my snowboard (it's been a while). Still, no lines awaited me upon reaching the bottom and I scooted directly on to the next set of chairs every time. I found a run on the backside of the mountain which was un-groomed, had significantly more powder, and was relatively vacant compared to the others. By 1 PM, I had made more runs than I could count. It was lunchtime.

The snow continued to fall and the temperature hovered around 20 degrees Fahrenheit (7 degrees Celsius) as I hurried back to the car and inhaled my peanut butter sandwich, banana, yogurt, and Gatorade while thawing out (as seen above, I'm a bit snow covered). I was surveying my favorite run once again within a half an hour. The wind had picked up, blowing snow straight up the mountain and limiting visibility. Nonetheless, conditions were epic and I snowboarded for another two and a half hours before the mountain closed. As I walked back to the car and began changing into warm clothes, the snow suddenly stopped. I cranked the heater on full blast as I thawed the windshield, and myself. I pulled out of the parking lot to find the highway thoroughly plowed and salted. The drive back was quite pleasant and I arrived back in Pinetop-Lakeside just in time for a hearty meal with my family before a warm shower and a couple glasses of wine.

Related Posts: Frozen, Dreaming of a White Christmas, Morning & Evening, Cool Flight, Waiting for Snow

Thursday, December 24, 2009


The weather here in Pinetop-Lakeside is pretty cold. Though the ice is rather thin in some areas, the majority of Rainbow Lake is frozen over.

Related Posts: Dreaming of a White Christmas, Morning & Evening, Cool Flight,

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Dreaming of a White Christmas

I'm hoping that Bing Crosby's dream will come true here in northeast Arizona (really a white, few days before Christmas). I arrived in Pinetop-Lakeside, a small community of approximately 5,000 residents on Sunday to find snow on the ground. Unfortunately, this is the remnants of a large storm that struck the area over a week ago. Located at 7,200 feet in the White Mountains, Pinetop-Lakeside relies primarily on tourism, attracting visitors with activities such as fishing, hiking, and hunting. My family has been visiting the White Mountains since I can remember, typically coming in summer to fish at Rainbow Lake (shown below).

I've been checking the forecasts regularly over the past week, hoping the weather will provide some good snowboarding conditions at Sunrise Park Resort. Sunrise is just over an hour drive from Pinetop-Lakeside and is considered the best destination for skiing and snowboarding in Arizona. With a maximum elevation of 11,000 feet and a vertical drop of 1,800, Sunrise Park's three mountains offer 65 runs serviced by 10 lifts. Though the weather has been rather sedate since our arrival, the forecast is calling for snow today, through this evening, and into tomorrow. It's unclear how much snow will fall, but reports suggest there may be up to two feet of fresh snow for Wednesday, the park's opening day. Hopefully, I'll be able to enjoy a few days of white before Christmas. 
Related Posts: Morning & Evening, Cool Flight

Thursday, December 17, 2009


 California surfers are tired (at least I am). The north Pacific has been churning out consistent swell for the past few weeks after a rather disappointing start to the season. My trip to Santa Barbara last week certainly proved fruitful and I was happy to shred some fun waves with Nick. After a cold and rainy weekend in San Luis Obispo, the weather cleared up and the surf really turned on; the winds turned offshore, the sun came out, the swell eased back, and the period dropped. I wish I had some more pictures to show, but I've been too busy surfing to take any. The two below are from Monday, in between sessions in Shell Beach; still a good amount of size. 

I spent all day Tuesday and Wednesday in Morro Bay and Cayucos surfing clean, overhead waves with only a few other surfers. I pulled my old 5'7" single-fin off the rack in the garage, where it's been collecting dust for several months while I've been busy riding various other boards. It's been perfect, despite my primary reason for riding it. After the last month of unemployment and too much surfing, my entire quiver is thrashed.

Related Posts: More Surf, Shell Madness, Big Swell

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Long Shot

With such a big swell running on the coast, I had to make a trip down to Santa Barbara to visit Nick and score some surf. I left San Luis Obispo early Thursday morning to meet up with Nick and head to Rincon. Rincon is considered California's best right point break, located near the southern Santa Barbara county line. Clearly visible from Highway 101, Rincon is also one of California's most crowded surfing spots (think over 100 people if it's pumping and not crowded). Though it's possible to connect Rincon all the way from the Indicator to the freeway on the inside, there are usually several takeoff spots that help disperse the crowd; waves start at the Indicator at the top of the point, then connect into the Rivermouth before continuing into the Cove.

Though I've surfed Rincon several times, I had never really seen it with a decent swell in the water. Above shows the Indicator through my binoculars (shot by Nick). I can see why so many surfers flock here to have a chance at earning their keep. Nonetheless, it doesn't take long to get frustrated in the lineup here due to the large and over zealous crowd, and a few hours later we were ready to find surf elsewhere.

Related Posts: Cloudy and Cold, In the Hills with Nico, Angel over the Hills, Visit to the Hills - Part II

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Cloudy and Cold

Last past weekend was pretty wet and cold on California's central coast. I had a very wet and foggy drive back to San Luis Obispo from Nick's house. The San Marcos Pass connects Santa Barbara to the Santa Ynez Valley via Highway 154, traversing the Santa Ynez Mountains. The area is notorious for dangerous driving conditions and multiple accidents every year.

Related Posts: In the Hills with Nico, Angel over the Hills, Visit to the Hills - Part II

Monday, December 14, 2009

Tobin James 2004 "Liquid Love"

The James Gang has been producing wine in Paso Robles from their Highway 46 winery since 1994, though Tobin James got his shot at making his own wine by chance in 1985 when he happened upon some free grapes. Today, Tobin James works with partner James Silver to make over 30 different wines for Tobin James Cellars. The pair focus largely on red varietals, including Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Lagrein, and Syrah. They also maker a handful of whites, including Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, and  several dessert wines, including the Dream Catcher Muscat and the Liquid Love Late Harvest Zinfandel.

Winery -Tobin James Cellars
Location - Paso Robles, California
Wine -Tobin James 2004 Liquid Love Late Harvest Zinfandel
Varietals -Zinfandel
Appellation -Paso Robles
Alcohol - 17.4% v/v
Price - $18 USD  

Color - Dark ruby.
Nose/Aroma - Cooked raspberries and coriander.
Palate/Flavors -  Mouth-watering, overripe raspberries and blackberries right upfront that lead into a mix of licorce and mature oak. Slightly mealy; I like how the sugar balances out the relatively high alcohol level. Not overly bitter or astringent,
Style - A dessert-style late harvest wine; a bit like a Port.
Food Pairing - This was the perfect after dinner wine; I served it with some nice Lindt 70% Cocoa dark chocolate.
Comments -Tobin James puts out several good, value-priced wines. This is one of my favorites from year to year. A very consistently good dessert wine that exhibits a different side of Zinfandel than usually seen.

Related Posts: Wine Region - Paso Robles, Norman Vineyards 2005 "The Monster", Peachy Canyon 2004 Jester

Friday, December 11, 2009

More Surf

It's always nice when I get to say those two words. Few more shots from Shell Beach.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Shell Madness

I awoke early Wednesday wanting to surf. After several days out of the water due to an ear infection, I was getting rather frustrated. The day before, I spent over an hour checking the surf, watching mostly empty waves roll through as the swell grew and offshore winds blew. Tuesday night saw a westerly shift in the swell direction and increased wave height. I decided to drive south to Shell Beach to have a look.

Sheltered by the Port San Luis breakwater, Shell Beach receives less swell than north county spots and can be one of the only options during large swells. I arrived to find that the swell had filled in more, but was still not setting up correctly at any of the breaks. Several were completely walled out, though some had a fair share of good waves coming through.

After watching from the cliff for far longer than usual, I finally decided to paddle out. My ear was feeling better and I had purchased some ear plugs, which I thoroughly dislike surfing with. I couldn't complain about them too much when my ears were relatively dry and after a couple hours of good waves.

Of course, Shell's breaks encourage competitive (though not necessarily talented) lineups. This longboarder got faded two waves in a row, by the same shortboarder, who didn't make either wave.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Big Swell

One of the larger swells in recent history is currently running its course in the north Pacific Ocean, gracing the shores of California and Hawaii with memorable waves. The famous big-wave contest, The Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau, was held Tuesday, the 25th anniversary of its inception (this is quite phenomenal since the contest only occurs in years of spectacular conditions and may occur anytime during a three-month period). Monday and Tuesday combined represented Hawaii's largest sustained episode of surf in the past 4o years. The swell's landfall in California nearly had the Maverick's Contest running; logistics and unpredictable weather forced its delay until later in its waiting period.

The swell has San Luis Obispo surfers getting frustrated. Conditions have been rather hit or miss despite the swell's massive size. The beachbreaks were barely holding the swell Tuesday morning, and the increasing swell through the day brought death walls that kept lineups rather empty despite decent wind conditions. There were definitely some waves to be had, but conditions were rather shifty and required a large degree of luck and lots of paddling. I took the shots seen here on Tuesday just as the beaches were starting to max out.The guy below must have had a long session; I can't understand why he was paddling to catch this wave. Or why he wasn't sitting 100 yards south.

I took this shot around midday in Cayucos. I'm pretty sure it was low tide and the swell was only about 80% at this point. I'd would imagine the pier got thoroughly rinsed in the afternoon. I was disappointed that I didn't get a shot of the body surfer who I saw get a massive barrel just south of the pier. I didn't even see him floating in the lineup until he took off.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Norman Vineyards 2005 "The Monster"

Norman Vineyards is a family owned company that started growing grapes in 1971, during the first true boom in Paso Robles. Their first vintage making their own wine was 1992, when they opened their winery with the help of winemaker Robert Nadeau. Now, Norman Vineyards produces all of its estate-grown fruit along with some contracted grapes from other local vineyards. Norman Vineyards produces a range of blends and different single varietal wines from varietal such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah, Syrah, and Zinfandel. Though their focus has been on red varietals since the original vineyard plantings, they also offer rose and white wine, including Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Viognier, and Syrah Rose. They have gained particular acclaim for their Zinfandels, such as The Monster.

Winery -Norman Vineyards
Location-Paso Robles, California
Wine -Norman Vineyards 2005 Zinfandel The Monster
Varietals - 96% Zinfandel, 4% Petite Sirah
Appellation -Paso Robles
Alcohol - 15.2% v/v
Price -$24 USD

-Dark maroon
Nose/Aroma - Sweet brambly spice and cedar.
Palate/Flavors - Blackberry jam and pepper with touches of chocolate, toasted oak, and a certain earthiness. Pretty thin body, not quite enough acid; rather bitter and hot in the back though not very astringent.
Style - Hot-climate Zinfandel; lighter and spicier with a bit of extra alcohol.
Food Pairing - Something spicy like green curry with chicken (coconut curry with green chilies and Thai basil).
Comments- I loved the flavor profile of this wine, quite complex. Out of balance; a bit too thin and bitter for my taste, which signals to me this is probably passing its peak.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

San Diego - Searching for Waves

A couple more shots from my trip to San Diego last week.
1. Black's Beach on a sizable day with a sizable crowd.
2. Pacific Beach Point

Friday, December 4, 2009

Wine Region - Paso Robles

Appellation - Paso Robles
Sub-appellation(s) - None (pending TTB applications).
Location - United States (San Luis Obispo County, California); 36th parallel.
Size - 248,500 hectares (614,000 acres).
Rainfall - variable 15.5 in/yr (39 cm/yr) in city of Paso Robles; can be as little as half or as much as triple depending on the region.
Growing Degree Days -3,400° F   (varies depending on area).
Varietals - Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Zinfandel, Chardonnay, Petite Sirah, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc (smaller plantings of 30 other varietals including Barbera, Semillon, Viognier, Pinot Gris, Grenache, Petit Verdot,Tempranillo, and Mourvedre). 
Claim to Fame - Cabernet Sauvignon plantings dominate the region for a good reason; some of the best Zinfandels around; home to the Rhone Rangers.

The Paso Robles area's viticultural history began with the Catholic missionaries in the late 18th century. By the end of the 19th century, Andrew York had planted several acres of vineyards and opened Ascension Winery (known today as York Mountain Winery) just outside of Paso Robles. More vineyards were planted in the early 1920's following prohibition, but it wasn't until the 1970's that Paso Robles' wine industry really began to grow. Several larger scale vineyards were planted and modern winemaking facilities built as more knowledge, technology, and money came into the area. The 1970's also saw the emergence of Cabernet Sauvignon as the area's powerhouse varietal. Paso Robles became an American Viticultural Area (AVA) in 1983, along with the adjacent York Mountain AVA.
At 614,000 acres and 26,000 vineyard acres, Paso Robles is the largest geographic AVA. From the Santa Lucia Coastal Mountains in the west, the AVA spans east 35 miles to the Cholame Hills. From the Monterey County border, it covers south 25 miles. With dozens of distinct microclimates and over 40 different soil series, Paso Robles is arguably the most diverse appellation as well.Only six miles from the Pacific Ocean, Paso Robles has Californias's largest night and day temperature swings. The diverse growing conditions and large geographic area allow over 200 wineries to operate in the area, producing wines from over 40 different grape varietals.

Cabernet Sauvignon accounts for nearly 40% of the area's vineyard plantings and is definitely the area's shining star. While not as renowned as those from Napa and Sonoma, Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon is known for its black fruit and chocolate characteristics. Producers such as Eberle Winery, J. Lohr Winery, and Justin Vineyards are known for their Cabernet Sauvignon. Merlot, Syrah, and Zinfandel are also important varietals in Paso Robles. Dried fruit and pepper are defining characteristics of the Syrahs and Zinfandels from the area. The emergence of the Rhone Rangers, including Alban Vineyards and Villa Creek Cellars, has brought acclaim to the area's Syrah and other Rhone varietals like Grenache and Mourvedre.
White varietals represent a relatively small portion of Paso Robles wine. Chardonnay is the fifth most widely planted varietal behind the four red varietals mentioned above, and accounts for approximately half of the AVA's total acreage of white varietals. Chardonnays are typically in the tropical and stone fruit flavors, with heavier, more oak-influenced wines being more of the norm.Oily, floral Viogniers are also found here, with nice stone fruit and citrus flavors.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


The Scripps Institute of Oceanography is one of the world's oldest, largest, and most important centers for ocean and earth education, research, and public service (the Old Scripps Building, built in 1909, is a U.S. National Historic Landmark). Originally founded as the Marine Biological Association of San Diego by William Emerson Ritter and Ellen Browning Scripps in 1903, it joined the University of California system in 1912 as the Scripps Institute of Biological Research.

I began visiting the beach near Scripps Pier before I can remember. My father frequently took my siblings and I there on Sunday mornings to play in the water and visit the tide pools. We would walk down through the complex north of the pier to see if anyone was out working. Often, we found scuba divers gearing up or researchers setting up various equipment. I'm sure these early experiences help nurture my love for the ocean, nature, and science. As I grew older and began surfing, I continued to visit Scripps regularly.

Scripps is a rather popular destination for surfers in southern San Diego and can hold a far bit of swell. Northwest and west swells work best here, forming a range of peaks on both sides of the pier and south to La Jolla Shores. With more protection from prevailing south winds and less tide sensitivity than other area breaks, Scripps can get rather crowded; a typical day will usually involve a small crew of local rippers mixed in with a large crowd of beginners. I took these photographs in between surfing this past week. I had several fun days of surf here from waist high up to slightly overhead.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

San Diego

Well, it's been almost a week since my last post. Thanks to my current schedule, I was able to spend an entire week down south in San Diego. The weather was quite pleasant despite a rare rain event on Friday and Saturday (there wasn't a whole lot of rain, maybe an 1/8"). I had a great time visiting with my family and friends while enjoying familiar surroundings.

My favorite place in San Diego is Mount Soledad, the large hill contained within the communities of La Jolla and Pacific Beach and stuck between the Pacific Ocean to the west and Interstate 5 to the east. I was quite fortunate to grow up and Pacific Beach and enjoy the view below, looking over Mission Bay towards downtown San Diego. Reaching over 800 feet (250 meters), Mount Soledad provides stunning views for most of its residents. The area's only real issue is seismic since it lies along the Rose Canyon fault, which has been implicated in the well publicized 2007 landslide in La Jolla that destroyed one home and damaged five others.