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.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Catena 2007 Mendoza Malbec

Nicola Catena immigrated to Argentina from Italy in the early 20th century, planting vineyards in Mendoza. The winery was passed on to Domingo, Nicola's son, who continued to make wine. During economic and political instability in Argentina, third generation Nicolas Catena left his home for California. Inspired by California's budding wine industry, Catena returned to Mendoza in the 1980's with hopes of reinventing Bodega Catena Zapata. He planted a number of high altitude vineyards in Mendoza, focusing on Chardonnay and Malbec. Today, Nicolas and his daughter Laura continue to expand their family's winery; they now produce three different tiers of wines focusing on Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Malbec.
Winery - Bodega Catena Zapata
Location- Mendoza, Argentina 
Wine - Catena 2007 Mendoza Malbec
Varietals - Malbec
Appellation - Mendoza
Alcohol - 13.5% by volume
Price -$18 USD

- Quite dark reddish purple
Nose/Aroma - Sweet dates, vanilla, and dark fruit.
Palate/Flavors -Boysenberries, tobacco, and oak char with a hint of figs. Crisp acid leads to a long, mildly bitter finish of overripe blackberries. The phenolic structure was pleasing, strong and supple at the same time.
Style - Who does Malbec better than Mendoza?
Food Pairing - Red curry sauce with lamb.
Comments- Well balanced wine. Good structure, good flavor profile. After trying this entry level Malbec, I'd like to try the Catena Alta and Catena Zapata selections.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Couple Waves

Clear blue skies and slight offshore winds graced San Diego this past week, providing some fun surfing conditions despite the decreasing swell. I managed to get a few good days of surfing prior to my ear doctor appointment, which (as expected) resulted in the revocation of my surfing privileges for at least a week. Now, I'm left to watch as yet another WNW swell fills for the weekend.

Friday, January 29, 2010


Well, I finally snapped on Sunday. After watching a few days of big, somewhat out of control waves, I had to surf. I loaded up the car with an old, beat-up 6'6" round-pin that I found in my parent's garage and headed down to La Jolla. I arrived to find plenty of waves breaking, but only a handful being ridden by the small number of surfers in the water.

I watched for a few minutes before pulling on my wetsuit and waxing up my newly repaired, old board. The paddle out was not particularly enjoyable but I reached the lineup without too much hassle (I passed one guy who was caught inside and not happy about it). I finally caught my first wave after fifteen minutes of waiting around in the lineup; I made a long drop, pulled into a little barrel, and came out as it close out. I caught a handful of waves over the next hour and a half before I found myself on the inside, watching one of the bigger sets of the day stack on the horizon. As I scrambled for the outside, I watched another surfer drop in and bottom turn before the wave broke squarely on my head.

I felt the board snap in my hands as I dove underwater, and felt it repeatedly hit my legs as I rag-dolled in the whitewater. I finally surfaced just in time to get a breath before the next wave broke on me. After dodging a few waves, the set subsided and I made my way to shore amidst quiet stares from onlookers. While I'd usually be disappointed, I was glad I decided not to take out one of my nicer boards.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Another Big Wednesday

While it wasn't near the best surf I've seen in San Diego, Wednesday the 20th brought some big waves along with stormy conditions. With the stormy conditions and rain, I decided to stay out of the water (primarily due to some recent ear problems I've been having, which are exentuated in the water). The lifeguards apparently thought that this was a good idea.

I would probably call the La Jolla  Shores area as the epicenter of the swell, since most spots were overwhelmed with the swell and wind. Despite being slightly more protected, the Shores was pulling in sets that easily reached double overhead. The conditions were pretty choppy, but it was still rather rideable. There was a decent amount of surfers spread up and down the beach, watched by a hefty crowd lining the shore.

As with most big swells, lots of spots began to come alive around the county. The high winds were straight offshore here, but so strong that it was significantly slowing down the waves (and blowing many surfers straight off the back).

I don't recall seeing this particular spot breaking while I was growing up in San Diego, but I'm not sure I've been missing out on anything. The wave was breaking in some seriously shallow water, nearly exposed as the wave sucked up and broke.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Kim Crawford 2008 Marlborough Pinot Noir

Kim Crawford began making wine in the late 1980's, during the most dynamic period in the country's budding wine industry. He first produced wine under his own name in 1996, including the highly-acclaimed Tietjen Gisborne Chardonnay. The acclaim earned by this wine propelled the brand's growth; soon, Kim Crawford Wines were available throughout New Zealand, as well as countries around the world. The label includes wines from most of New Zealand's wine regions, along with an array of varietals. Along with their Marlborough Pinot Noir, their releases include Hawke's Bay Merlot, Gisborne Gewurztraminer, and Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. They also produce several smaller lots 

Winery - Kim Crawford Wines
Location- Auckland, New Zealand
Wine - Kim Crawford 2008 Marlborough Pinot Noir
Varietals -Pinot Noir
Appellation - Marlborough
Alcohol - 13.5% by volume
Price -$15 USD

- Crimson-purple. Rather clear, too.
Nose/Aroma - Quite an aromatic wine, cherries and strawberries with oak and a slight floral characteristic.
Palate/Flavors - Delicate, and slightly sweet. Black cherries and lush red fruit, balanced well with barrel spice and a touch of pepper. Lasting finish with little astringency and medium bitterness.
Style - Pinot Noir; a rather Burgundian approach
Food Pairing - Salmon Risotto.
Comments- Very approachable wine, pretty much made to drink immediately. The balance of sweetness, acidity, and bitterness make this a good food wine, though it was nice on its own. A good example of New Zealand Pinot Noir found in the United States.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Real Quick

It's been a rather bittersweet week for me. I moved out of my wonderful home in San Luis Obispo, back to my parent's home in San Diego. My self-addressed envelope arrived in the mail yesterday, adorned with a small New Zealand Consulate label as its return address. Visa approved, flight booked. It's hard to believe that I'm leaving in just eighteen days (February 8th).

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Not Warm Anymore

California saw an unseasonably delightful streak of warm weather, mostly blue skies, and great surf during the first part of January. Unfortunately, this past sunny Saturday in San Luis Obispo was followed by gray skies on Sunday. After a few days of high winds and rather consistent rain (consistent for California, at least), I'm starting to think I took that nice weather for granted a little bit.

Fresh off a week of exploration in Santa Barbara, I was ready to do a bit of exploring north of San Luis Obispo. The easing but rather large swell left the lineup at Morro Bay empty, except for some triple overhead death sets. Continuing north, I found most breaks were unable to hold the swell (yes, expected that). The conditions had me thinking of an extremely fickle right reef break well north of Morro Bay, requiring a large westerly swell and low tide. Of course, I arrived to find sloppy conditions. Disappointed, I watched for several minutes before walking south to check the empty beach breaks, which often provide good waves in smaller conditions. I stumbled upon this shallow sandbar and pulled into stand-up drainers on the low tide for a few hours until an elephant seal chased me out of the water. I guess he didn't want to share the lineup anymore.

Related Posts: Lots of Surfing, Tired, Big Swell,

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sunrises in SB

Santa Barbara provided some unexpected warm weather during my stay last week. Usually, Nick's cabin tends to be a bit chilly in the morning and evening, surrounded by large trees that provide lots of shade. I'm typically ready for some sunlight when I wake up, particularly on early mornings when I stay at the cabin. The short hike to top of the property has the best view in Santa Barbara; it's always well worth it.

Related Posts: Lots of Surfing, Long Stay, Knapp's Castle, Time Flies, Long Shot, Cloudy and Cold, In the Hills with Nico, Angel over the Hills, Visit to the Hills - Part II

Monday, January 18, 2010

Surfing in Ventura

Ventura County has some of the best surf in California. Covering from Leo Carillo in the south to Rincon in the north, the area offers a little bit of everything for surfers: points, reefs, piers, jetties, and beach breaks. Sheltered by the Channel Islands (particularly Santa Cruz Island) and Point Conception, Ventura can be wave starved for months at a time while other parts of California see great waves. It can also provide perfectly groomed a-frame barrels and legendary long-walled point breaks. Most breaks in Ventura need a west or northwest swell from the proper direction, though other breaks rely on summer's southerly swells.

The recent run of westerly swells that has graced California's coast has provided Ventura (and Santa Barbara) surfers with the best winter season in years. While I was in Santa Barbara last week, I made the drive south to Ventura to find some waves. I found one of my favorite breaks in the area firing; low tide here means long walls and racetrack barrels. When I surfed here on Monday, there were some fun shoulder to head high waves coming through, but Tuesday saw the swell jump another couple feet. These shots are from Monday; I was a bit too excited to get in the water on Tuesday.

Related Posts: Long Stay, Shots from the Hills, Lots of Surfing, Cloudy and Cold, In the Hills with Nico

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Lots Of Surfing

Without a job commitment, I've been fortunate to be surfing quite a bit lately. I met Drew and Nick around nine o'clock on Saturday morning, beginning my long stay in Santa Barbara. They had reached the break before I and were already in the lineup when I paddled out. We pretty much surfed until the sun went down, taking a short break for some lunch. There were plenty of head high waves coming through, with some overhead sets becoming more frequent in the evening. Sunday was basically the same program, except the swell had picked up overnight, there were less people in the lineup, and Drew left on Saturday night (lame). Sunday's nighttime hike back was also a bit more exciting. Nick and I had an extended flashlight search stand-off with the CHP before we crept back across the freeway.

I was alone Monday and Tuesday until Nick got off work, so I checked out a couple other spots in the area. My recent visits to Santa Barbara have been rather enlightening in regards to the quality and diversity of the area's surf. It seems like more spots awake everyday as the conditions come together. The extreme high morning tide was a bit limiting but I did score some good waves in Isla Vista, and further south at Rincon and other area breaks. The largely anticipated swell arriving Wednesday ended up being much small than forecasted and a bit of a let down, particularly since side-shore winds picked up to 15-20 knots. Still, the afternoon glass-off left some spots working pretty well.

Related Posts: Long Stay, Knapp's Castle, Time Flies, Long Shot, Cloudy and Cold, In the Hills with Nico, Angel over the Hills, Visit to the Hills - Part II

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Trying to Get Back

I've been looking forward to another Southern Hemisphere vintage since I returned to California in August. I began researching and pursuing my options in new places such as Australia and South America, but always had another vintage in New Zealand in the back of my mind. New Zealand is a beautiful place filled with good people, particularly the small town of Gisborne that I called home last year.

Now, the southern vintage season is upon us and I find myself eagerly awaiting a visa application. I'll hopefully be back in Gisborne, waking up to my beautiful front yard (shown above) in less than a month. Plus, it will be nice to be back in the winery after such a long break between vintages.

Related Posts: New Zealand, Reminiscing of Gisborne, Wine Region: Gisborne, Milton 2007 Riverpoint Chardonnay, Cook's Cove

Friday, January 15, 2010

Long Stay

I finally made it back from Santa Barbara yesterday morning, though I probably could have stayed much longer as the swell continues to produce fun waves all over the county. Nonetheless, six days was a bit more than I had planned on. I arrived back in San Luis Obispo to find some good waves despite the extreme high tide.

I ended up finding some fun surf in the afternoon, dodging dry reef as the tide drained to negative one foot. The models are showing that waves around here will remain overhead through the weekend before a big increase in energy Monday into next week.

Related Posts: Strategic Mission, More Surf, Shell Madness

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Great Blue

The Great Blue Heron is one of my favorite birds. These birds are common in North and Central America, as well as the West Indies and Galapagos Islands. There are five subspecies of the Great Blue Heron, with the largest and most common being the North American. The North American heron has a wingspan around six feet and can be over four feet tall. Great Blue Herons feed primarily on small fish, but opportunistically will consume a range of organisms including aquatic insects, shrimp, crabs, rodents, amphibians, reptiles, and small birds.
Related Posts: Fallen Soldier, Hang Ten, Sonora Desert Birds,

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Strategic Mission

I'm making another strategic mission south to chase some swell. A large swell has brewed in the north Pacific once again and is sending some big waves towards California with a rather westerly direction. This means Santa Barbara could light up, so I'm heading down to meet up with Nick and Drew. Hopefully we'll score some fun waves like last week. I'm sure Nick will be ready to charge.

Related Posts: Knapp's Castle, Time Flies, Long Shot, Cloudy and Cold, In the Hills with Nico, Angel over the Hills, Visit to the Hills - Part II

Friday, January 8, 2010

PB Point

I returned to California a couple days after Christmas and had a few fun days at various reefs in La Jolla. A sizable swell in San Diego is always exciting because so many different, little nooks and crannies start producing waves. Here's a couple random days from a week ago.

Related Posts: Back To SLO, Big Rock, San Diego - Searching for Waves, ScrippsSan Diego,

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Knapp's Castle

The short, winding trial that leads to Knapp's Castle is beautiful, traversing the mountain tops overlooking the Santa Ynez Valley and Lake Cachuma. The 160-acre plot was once home to a large mansion and six other structures, built by George Owen Knapp in the early 1900's. Unfortunately, a 1940 forest fire destroyed the majority of the property, leaving only remnants of the structures. Though the property is still privately owned, Knapp's Castle has been open to the public since its destruction, and draws an eclectic crowd of people ranging from hikers to climbers to drummers.

 Santa Barbara, wedged between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ynez Mountains, has been ravaged by forest fires throughout its history. The Santa Ynez Mountains are one of the only east-west oriented mountain ranges in the United States, running from just north of Ojai in Ventura all the way to Vandenberg Air Force Base west of Lompoc. The mountains' east-west orientation forms unique weather patterns, known as sundowner winds that are created when high pressure areas above Santa Barbara form a perpendicular pressure gradient with the Santa Ynez Mountains. This causes strong winds to blow down the mountains, becoming increasingly hot and dry as they moves downward (called sundowner winds because they blow towards the sunset, west, instead of east like usual). Sundowner events are quite similar to Santa Ana winds seen in Southern California, and usually proceed Santa Ana events since these high pressure areas usually move inland to the east.

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

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Time Flies

Well, things are back to normal. At least as normal as they can be right now. My friend Alfonso arrived back on the East Coast yesterday after a fun trip in California. Nick joined us for a couple days in San Luis Obispo, including some fun surf and a night on the town New Year's Eve. We then headed south to Santa Barbara to stay in the hills at Nick's house. As always, there was plenty of relaxing, exploring, and surfing. I was lucky enough to stay in the attic suite above the house (shown below).

The swell was rather quick-lived, peaking Saturday, holding Sunday, and quickly fading into Monday morning. Saturday saw some fun head high waves with the odd larger set, while Sunday was a bit smaller.

In between surf sessions, we enjoyed the cabin and its surroundings. The combination of nature and landscape throughout the property gives it an unique vibe.

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

Wintertime Blues

Blue skies in wintertime are a bit of a mixed blessing. Many people would welcome them as a nice break from often gloomy weather, while others (snow sport enthusiasts like skiers) would be wary of melting snow. Nonetheless, snow and blue skies make for lovely photographs.