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.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

East Java - Part IV

I was pretty glad that my friend Mark let me borrow his surf booties for my Indonesia mission; I didn't think I would end up using them since I hadn't worn booties in at least five years (no, not even winter booties during those cold months on California's central coast). Plengkung is definitely a place where booties are useful since entering and exiting the water at low tide requires at least a hundred yard walk on dry coral littered with urchins. The impact zone isn't very deep either, so there is definitely a certain degree of confidence gained when surfing larger waves.

Monday, July 26, 2010

East Java - Part III

 As my week at Plengkung continued, the swell continued to increase. By Thursday, solid double overhead plus waves were reeling down the point consistently. I took full advantage of the conditions throughout the week, surfing six or seven hours everyday in between enjoying the tranquil and lovely surroundings.
The swell was forecasted to reach its largest Friday, so I planned on few less Bintangs on Thursday night. Unfortunately, two of my new friends, Bubsy and Satchee, ended up having a few more than usual. I dragged myself out of bed Friday morning to the sound of waves detonating on the reef just a few hundred yards away. I made the short walk through the jungle to check the surf from the beach tower. I was a bit disappointed to see waves just slightly larger than the night before, but was happy to find out I had been a bit hasty in my decision. Out of nowhere, a massive set crested on the horizon; it was far larger than anything that I'd seen in the five days prior.
After breakfast, I watched a few more massive sets roll through the empty lineup. It was time for a surf, but seemed rather daunting. I made my way out with another guest, Sean, and were joined shortly by a handful of other surfers. With everyone else riding a 6'8" or longer, I felt a little bit under-gunned on my 6'4''. (Photos - 1. Heron, 2. Solid triple overhead, 3. Me).

Friday, July 23, 2010

Carpe Diem 2007 Pinot Noir

Carpe Diem's winemaker Christian Roguenant has led a storied career in the wine industry. Born in Burgundy, it's no surprise that Christian's path led to a career in the wine industry. After studying enology and viticulture at the famed University of Dijon, he has made wine on five continents, an impressive feat that has taken him to numerous countries including all over Europe, New Zealand, Australia, Argentina, and Korea. Christian has now settled down in the Edna Valley, but he still finds himself traveling extensively to promote his wines, judge competitions, and continue to learn more about the dynamic world of winemaking. Carpe Diem sources its Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Firepeak Vineyard in the Edna Valley, one of the premier locations for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay on California's Central Coast. The fruit from Firepeak allows Christian to make full use of his Burgundian winemaking techniques to produce elegant, refined wines.

Along with all his other responsibilities, Christian has found time to mentor the Cal Poly wine program (the university is just a few miles from the Edna Valley). His love of wine is infectious; I took away invaluable knowledge, and a good friend, from my days spent working with Christian as the 2008 Cal Poly winemaker.
Wine - Carpe Diem 2007 Firepeak Vineyard Pinot Noir
Varietals - Pinot Noir
Appellation - Edna Valley
Alcohol - 14.1% v/v
Price -$29 USD

- Medium-dark red.
Nose/Aroma - Cherries, roses, and a touch of clove.
Palate/Flavors - Burst of cherries and strawberries upfront that lead to a long finish of dried red fruit and allspice. Medium body, nice acid, well integrated but powerful tannins. 
Food Pairing - Ahi tuna steak with wild rice and lentils. 
Comments- This wine is still young but is showing itself well. I had a glass straight after opening the bottle and it was rather tight. After about an hour of decanting, it was starting to show its true colors. Still, this wine needs to be laid down for several years, five or more.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

East Java - Part II

Plengkung is home to two, starkly contrasting communities; the local fishing community and the visiting surfer community. The tightly clustered group of tents tucked away in the jungle houses anywhere from five to fifty locals, depending on the season (the camp is virtually unlivable during the wet season). These locals are considered squatters in the national park and survive off a diverse range of sea life (fish, shellfish, etc.) found trapped on the exposed low tide reef.
The four different camps that makeup the surfer community house upwards of 200 visitors when all are at capacity. Though the long left point break in front of the camps does have several distinctive takeoff spots, I don't think there is really room to fit that many people comfortably (or safely). Fortunately, I only saw one or two days during my stay when there were more than thirty surfers in the water.
With only seven surfers staying at my camp (it can hold upwards of 50 people) and a total of 25 at the other three camps, the lineup seemed rather empty the first several days. In fact, the low tide afternoon sessions on the Ledge would usually consist of two others and myself! The large swell due to arrive at the end of the week had everyone excited but nervous; it was already well overhead and forecasted to increase dramatically. (Photos - 1 & 4. Me, 2. A local's daily catch, 3. sunrise perfection).

Monday, July 19, 2010

East Java - Part I

After having such a great trip to Java last year, I decided to return to visit another part of the island. Java is the fifth largest island in Java and thirteenth largest in the world, though it's the most populated island in the world with over 130 million residents (over half of Indonesia's residents live in Java). Java has a long and sordid history with records dating back as far as the 4th century; it has been home to major Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms, Islamic kingdoms, the center of the Dutch East Indies, and Japanese occupation during World War II. Today, Java is the center of the Indonesian economy with major cities like Jakarta (10th largest city in the world), Surabaya, Yogykarta, Semarang, and Bandung leading the way.
I avoided the major cities this year, opting for a jungle mission to the famous point of Plengkung. Located deep in the Alas Purwo National Forest,my journey to Plengkung was rather long; a 5-hour drive from Kuta to Gilimanuk, followed by an 1.5-hour ferry to Banyuwangi, followed by another five-hour drive through the jungle. I couldn't complain when we arrived in the early morning hours to watch a lovely sunrise like the one above. Though my first day there provided rather small surf, it began to pick up the second day.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Campion 2006 Edna Valley Pinot Noir

Larry Brooks is a legend. After nineteen years helping establishing Acacia Winery, Larry decided to move on to new endeavors. Along with consulting for several reputable wine companies throughout California, he started his own label, Campion Wines, producing Pinot Noir from three different appellations in California: Carneros, Edna Valley, and Santa Lucia Highlands. Not only does this provide three very distinct wines showing how versatile the Pinot Noir grape is, it also allow him to hedges his bets to make sure he produces at least one exceptional wine (can't say I've ever had one of Larry's wines that didn't impress). I credit much of my passion for winemaking to Larry after working my first vintages under his guide.
Winery - Campion Wines
Location- San Luis Obispo, California
Wine - Campion 2006 Edna Valley Pinot Noir
Varietals - Pinot Noir
Appellation - Edna Valley
Alcohol - 14.1% v/v
Price - $40 USD

- Brilliant, deep garnet.
Nose/Aroma - Black cherries, earth, and oak.
Palate/Flavors - Ripe cherries and raspberries, earthiness, and old wood. Soft tannins, nice acid structure, and excellently balanced. Med-long finish of dried cherries and that wonderful earth flavor.
Food Pairing - Gorgonzola-stuffed, pan-roasted duck.
Comments- Excellent wine. I remember having some of this shortly after bottling, and it was delicious then as it is now. Interesting to see how its evolved, and I would guess it will continue to do so for another few years.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Finding a New Home - Napa

With California's 2010 vintage just around the corner, I decided to take a road trip north to look at some wineries and visit some friends. I returned to San Diego on Monday with the realization that I may not be surfing much over the next several months. The reason behind this? I'm moving to Napa in just over two weeks to take an assistant winemaking position at a lovely winery in Calistoga.
While I'm not looking forward to living over an hour from the coast, I am looking forward to the opportunity to work at such a great winery. Plus, the Napa area has plenty of fun outdoor activities to keep me entertained, from fishing to mountain biking. Now, all I need to worry about is finding a place to live. Any suggestions?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Missing Winter (Really Just Missing Waves)

The dismally flat summer conditions plaguing California are giving surfers plenty to look forward to, or look back on (particularly after last year's stellar fall and winter season). Local Santa Barbara photographer David Molleck recently sent me this shot, which he took last January. After spending a couple weeks chasing swells in the Santa Barbara area, I shot down to this spot in the Ventura area on a Tuesday to find there was almost nobody out. I surfed here the rest of the week; it was hard not to want clean, overhead, thin-lipped barrels (until the weekend crowd turned up).

Friday, July 9, 2010

Bali - More Waves

Here are a couple more shots from Bali. (Photos - 1. Jason 2. Me)

Monday, July 5, 2010

Production Notes - 2008 Cal Poly Wines

Cal Poly's The Cluster 2010 summer newsletter was just released, including some production notes I wrote regarding the 2008 Cal Poly wines. I've copied these production notes below; enjoy! ["A Winemaker's Tasting Notes for 2008", The Cluster, pg. 5].

I've always thought San Luis Obispo is best suited to growing Chardonnay. My goal was to create a Montrachet-style Chardonnay; a nicely acid-structure wine with just a touch of malolactic fermentation and oak, focusing on the true flavors of the fruit. Excellent weather conditions allowed us to harvest the two blocks of Chardonnay in near perfect condition, requiring minimal adjustment at the winery. Block I was harvested on September 11th at 24.7 Brix, 3.28 pH, and 6.29 g/L TA. Block III came in nearly a month later on October 6th at 25.7 Brix, 3.45 pH, and 5.11 g/L TA. Both lots were whole-cluster pressed. They were barrel fermented in primarily neutral oak barrels, with only 20% one- and two-year old French oak and 10% new Hungarian oak. I used a range of yeasts to increase complexity, including nearly 30% fermented with native yeast. The remainder was fermented with Montrachet, D21, Rhone 4600, and QA-23.
Just a few months after the 2008 harvest, the majority of Cal Poly's Pinot Noir (Block 2) was pulled up and replanted to decrease the vineyard's variable ripening conditions. When planning harvest, I decided to split the pick between two days to maximize fruit ripeness. The first half of Block II arrived on September 12th at 25.5 Brix, 3.61 pH, and 6.40 g/L TA. The remaining portion of Block II and Block IV arrived on September 26th at 26.3 Brix, 3.69 pH, and 6.43 g/L TA. My goal was to create a Pinot Noir that was more closely related to a Burgundian style: fruit forward with less oak and phenolic structure. I decided the best way to achieve this was via native yeast fermentation, so a majority of the fruit was allowed to undergo whole-berry fermentation on its own in a small, open-top fermentor. To increase complexity, a small portion was fermented in half-ton picking bins with RC-212. Once fermentation was complete, the must was gently pressed into barrels for eight months maturation. A combination of 30% new French and Hungarian oak, 20% one- and two-year old French oak, and 50% neutral barrels were used to create the last Pinot Noir from these vines. 
The Syrah crop was largely lost due to poor weather during fruit set, but the smaller crop led to increased flavor concentration. My goal was to create a fruit-forward but well-structured Syrah, taking a Rhone-influenced approach. The grapes were harvested at 26.9 Brix, 3.76 pH. and 5.18 g/L TA on the 22nd of October. The entire lot was whole-berry fermented in one-ton picking bins after three days of cold soaking. I inoculated this Syrah with two different yeasts, D21 and Syrah, to bring out the strong fruit flavors for which Cal Poly's Syrah is known. In order to ensure that these flavors were not overpowered, I used just 20% new French oak and 20% one-year old American oak for eight months of maturation.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Bali has Some Waves...

Some surf historians maintain that surfing in Bali began in 1936, though it wasn't until the 1960's that surfers really began exploring the island, discovering the Bukit peninsula and its famous waves such as Uluwatu. Over the past forty years, Bali has truly embraced tourism and developed it into the region's primary income source. Of course, this has meant increasingly more people throughout the island, and the lineups. Destruction of nature by over-zealous building projects is now becoming commonplace. Still, its hard not to fall victim of to Bali's charms; friendly people, picturesque countryside, warm water, and a plethora of waves that allow year-round surfing. Bali has waves for all skill levels, from Kuta Beach for learners to Padang Padang for experts.
I spent my first six days in Bali, primarily out on the Bukit peninsula. The surf barely reached double overhead during my stay, but did provide rather consistent head-overhead high waves the entire time. It felt like the perfect warm-up for my other island adventures, where I found myself primarily riding larger, more powerful waves (Photos - 1. Me showing the Kiwi spirit, 2. Jason, 3. me)

Friday, July 2, 2010

Cardinal Zin 2005 California Zinfandel

I stumbled across this wine the other day, lost in my many stored wine cases. This is a somewhat iconic wine, that was originally produced by Bonny Doon Vineyard. With its clever but controversial label, not to mention its quality and price, led to success that eventually led to Gallo's purchase of the brand (along with BD's Big House label).
Winery - Cardinal Zin Cellars
Location- Santa Cruz, California
Wine - Cardinal Zin 2005 California Zinfandel
Varietals -Zinfandel
Appellation -California
Alcohol - 14.0% v/v
Price -$15 USD

- Med dark, brickish red.
Nose/Aroma - Plums, white pepper, and cedar oak.
Palate/Flavors -Dried cassis and plum, tobacco, and black tea. Med. light body, with a fair bit of bitterness (a biting characteristic I find fairly common in Zinfandel). Not a whole lot of astringency, but a long finish of dates and truffles.
Food Pairing - Mexican pizza with pollo verde, red onion, tomato, avocado.
Comments- Not overly tannic or alcoholic like many Zinfandels you find these days. Less fruit-driven than expected, but reasonably complex for the price range and age. Not as impressive as earlier vintages.