Thursday, June 30, 2011

Touch of Sun, Not Enough

The sun is out this morning in Gisborne, which is a welcomed break after a few days of southerly flow. With a second system set to brush past tomorrow, it probably won't last too long. I'm afraid my avoidance of winter weather over the past few years has left me susceptible to the cold; luckily, I'll be back to summertime soon enough.
Water temperatures are tracking downward, reaching the mid-teens (high 50's in Fahrenheit) after the latest cold snap. At least there's plenty of swell in the water; the calm before the storm was accompanied by a couple days of pumping waves, and subsiding stormy conditions should provide some fine windows of weather.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Wine Region - Marlborough (Part I)

Appellation/Region - Marlborough
Sub-appellation(s)/Sub-region(s) - Awatere Valley, Wairau Valley, Southern Valleys.
Location
- New Zealand (Marlborough region/district, South Island); 41st parallel.
Size -  3,085,000 acres (58,300 acres planted to vineyards)
Rainfall - 1,249 mm/yr (49 in/yr)
Growing Degree Days - 1,100-1,400 (depending on specific area)
Varietals- Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc.
Claim to Fame - Touted as the world's premier region for Sauvignon Blanc. Home to the famous Marlborough Sounds.
Marlborough is the ninth largest of New Zealand's sixteen regions, established in the late 20th century to define local government councils. The region is bounded by the Pacific Ocean to the east, the Mount Richmond Forest Park to the west, the Kaikoura Ranges to the south, and the Cook Strait to the north. Marlborough's sunny climate allowed early settlers to build an economy reliant on agriculture, which is now mostly based on aquaculture, forestry, tourism, and wine production.

The first Marlborough vineyard dates back to the 1870's, when David Herd established Auntsfield in the lower Wairau Valley. Unfortunately, the industry all but disappeared until a new era of plantings in the 1970's. The establishment of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc on the international wine scene in the 1980's led to a rapid increase in vineyard acreage, largely focused around Blenheim and Renwick in the Wairau Valley. Today, the Marlborough wine region is considered one of the world's best and represents 70% of New Zealand's wine production.
Protected from prevailing southerlies, Marlborough enjoys rather sunny, dry weather. Moderate daytime temperatures between 20-24° C (68-75° F) and cooler nights between 12-15° C (54-60° F) provide ideal conditions during ripening season. The cool-climate conditions led to the development of the region's iconic Sauvignon Blanc wines that combine bright fruit with crisp herbaceous flavors. Representing well over half of the region's 23,000 hectares of vineyards, Sauvignon Blanc is the clear, shining star; its acclaim has led to increased interest in the region and the prevalence of other varietals, particularly Pinot Noir.

Marlborough is one of several New Zealand regions that has made Pinot Noir the most popular red in the country, and has New Zealand (alongside California) leading production of this fickle varietal outside of Burgundy. Most of Marlborough's Pinot Noir is produced in a fruit-forward, early to market style that is far lighter in body than examples from the rivaling regions of Central Otago and Martinborough. Its producers are increasingly striving for higher quality, and the best examples are complex, elegant wines with lovely floral and earthy characteristics.

Still in its infancy, Marlborough is yet to each its full potential. Varietal experimentation has led to the success of Chardonnay and Pinot Gris (7% and 6% of total vineyard plantings, respectively), along with lesser varietals including Riesling and Gewurztraminer. Viticulturists and winemakers are beginning to better understand variations in flavor profiles resulting from sub-regional differences, discussed in Part II.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Bali, but Not on the Bukit

Bali's most renowned waves are found on the Bukit peninsula, but most spots along this magical stretch of coastline need offshore winds, coinciding with the dry season. I checked this coastline only once during my January trip; I decided it wasn't worth heading back and spent my time exploring the other coasts instead.
As more and more tourists find their way to this small island, crowds are becoming more and more of an issue (particularly along the Bukit). Fortunately, there are still special places to be found if one is willing to have a look.
Driving can be a daunting task, but the controlled chaos of Kuta and Denpasar can be left behind for single-lane tracks through rice paddies. It's pretty easy to make the wrong turn when you're relying on directions like "after that, go another kilometer or so and after you go over the second bridge, look for a little dirt track on the left".
Sometimes, getting lost is what you want. A young local and I stumbled upon this wave below one afternoon after a wrong turn on our way to an east coast break.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Agut

Check out my painting from Agut here

I met Agut during my January stay in Bali; he was sitting quietly with a blank canvas, watching the waves in the shade of a warung. I had just come in from a surf and sat down to order lunch. We started chatting and I soon asked him what he was planning to paint. He said nothing.
He went on to explain his belief that art was an extension of the artist's soul. A painting isn't planned, it is created. The painter's present state of mind drives every stroke, releasing emotions on the page. He laughed, and said that's why some of his paintings don't turn out too well. Several of his paintings adorned the walls of the warung, only one of which was for sale. Agut liked the others too much. I asked him how much he expected to make from the painting. He said he didn't know because art is only worth what an individual believes. I asked him how much he believed it was worth, and he again had no value.
 
After our first meeting, I ran into Agut most days of my trip. We talked about the difficultly of being an artist in Bali. We talked about his disinterest in the popular tourist areas around Kuta. We talked about the overseas couple that had purchased one of his large paintings many years ago, only to return six months later to ask Agut to have an exhibition in an art gallery in England. We talked about his family, his wife and sons, their home.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Now it's winter

Sizable swell has arrived as expected and there are waves to be had for those willing to search. Unfortunately, along with swell has come rain, wind, and the reality of winter to Gisborne. Makes me think of California in December; everyone pulls out the steamers and hoodies. Also makes me think of here just a couple months ago; everyone was in springsuits and boardshorts.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Butterflies and Southerlies

I was a bit surprised to see this guy buzzing around the yard a couple weeks ago. For the most part, May and June have been unseasonably warm; this is largely due to a lack of southerly cold fronts, which has also meant less waves than usual. Luckily, there is a solid S/SW filling in this week that should bring some sizeable surf and good conditions to New Zealand's east coast.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Harvest Update - Is it June?

Looking back on the past four months, things are a bit of a blur. I don't even think I can call this a harvest update, seeing as I completed my vintage contract two weeks ago. I can't believe how quickly the time has gone! Nonetheless, I've had some amazing experiences.
I spent the past two weeks decompressing after a busy four-month schedule. I arrived in New Zealand on the 2nd of February, spending my first two weeks working in Blenheim. I flew north to catch Gisborne's vintage and spent about five weeks there (see my last posting) before returning to Blenheim on the 20th of March, just in time for the beginning of Marlborough's vintage. My first day off finally came on the 25th of April; the following day I flew back to Gisborne to help with post-vintage tidy-up. Despite all the traveling, I jumped at the chance to return to Blenheim for the vintage party in May.

Now, I'm still trying to get organized and on top of everything from personal health to bills to taxes to travel plans to next vintage. Life usually comes to a bit of a standstill during vintage; two in a row only makes things harder, so it's taking a bit longer than desired. I'll be putting up some new posts as well; along with my New Zealand adventures, I still have more to share from Bali!