Monday, November 28, 2011

Surfboards, Chickens, Rice, and Military

After a fun week in the Mentawais, I wasn't particularly looking forward to our return voyage to Padang. Our journey out took about 11 hours aboard a fairly nice boat (nice as far as Indonesian ferries go). Unfortunately, we were returning on a different boat that was rumored to be far less modern. We arrived at the dock a couple hours before departure; the boat had to wait for the tide to fill in before it could pull out over the sandbar, so we loaded our boards and waited at a nearby warung.
The wooden ferry was certainly far smaller than our first metal transport, but it seemed seaworthy enough. It's hull was filled with all sorts of foodstuffs and strange products including chickens, mangoes, and rice. The surfboards were stacked neatly on the bow. My two friends and I had a small cabin to share, which resembled a wooden jail cell; there was just enough room to walk in and jump into one of the small bunk beds, which were too short for a full-grown man to stretch out. Still, it was better than sleeping in the hull amongst the chickens. I bobbed in and out of sleep all night as the old ferry rolled over waves and creaked loudly. I awoke in the morning to another beautiful day with only a few hours ride remaining (unfortunately, I knew this was the first half of our day's travel that had us arriving back in Bali at 2 AM).

I made my way to the boat's bow to enjoy the morning breeze. The luminescent blue ocean was lightly dotted with boats: small fishing boats, big fishing boats, a large yacht,  and even a large military ship. It all seemed rather normal until I felt the ferry's engines cut off; the military ship took a sharp turn towards us. We were getting boarded.

The boat crew shooed everyone off the bow deck, and most passengers returned to their respective sleeping areas. I moved to the aft deck to watch the proceedings. The military ship tied up and several military personnel loaded onto the ferry. They began poking around through the cargo and talking with the boat's crew. After maybe a half hour, they returned to their boat and the ferry captain fired up our engines once again; I'm not sure what they were after, but my guess is a small "donation" from the ferry captain to avoid some sort of "violations". Just another day in Indonesia!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Gold Medal Wine Club Selects 2008 Cal Poly Wines

I'm quite honored that two wines I made during my stint as the Cal Poly Student Winemaker have been selected by the prestigious Gold Medal Wine Club: the Cal Poly 2008 Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Their recent newsletter discusses both wines, the Cal Poly wine program, and my mentor and friend Christian Rougenant. Both wines are available in their online store, along with the Cal Poly 2007 Pinot Noir made by student winemakers Michael Bruzus and Nicole Chamberlain.
The Gold Medal Wine Club not only offers 5 different club series but operates an extensive online wine store. They only select limited production, hard-to-find wines from boutique wineries throughout California and the world. Each wine must meet a strict criterion that includes several medals in major wine competitions and high ratings from large wine publications such as Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast.

Check out their website via the link above and buy some of my wine before it's all gone! I'm hoping to have a bottle of each to try upon my return to California in December and will post tasting notes when I have the chance. The rest of the 2008 vintage wines are available on Cal Poly's website: the 2008 Mustang Red, 2008 Mustang White, 2008 Poly Royal Red Dessert Wine, and the newly released Cal Poly 2008 Syrah.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Whoa, Twister

We had humble but cozy accommodations on the island during our Mentawai trip; it was rather peaceful and slightly eerie, especially with just five in our group, our 2-man boat team, and a cook. We each had our own bungalow to ourselves, which made for peaceful sleeping at night.
Unfortunately, we weren't graced with a solid swell during our short trip; it is rather late in the season for us to expect too much but we did enjoy 2-4 foot waves everyday, so I don't think anyone was upset. Crowds fluctuated from sessions with 10 to sessions by ourselves. Most days were split between a busier morning session until the other boats headed off, followed by an empty midday lineup, and maybe another few surfers arriving for the afternoon. I spent a few sessions by myself or with one other surfer enjoying perfect head high waves. With one novel session at a lefthander breaking too small, we split our time between 2 righthand swell-magnet breaks.
One of the most interesting things about the Mentawais was the climate. It seemed to be constantly changing, with so many different weather patterns coming and going. We watched a twister (above) drop from a system one afternoon during our daily afternoon ride back to the island. It never came near to touching down but it continued on for quite a while.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Hatten NV Alexandria

The tropics are becoming more and more prevalent in today's wine industry, though grape growing in these regions is difficult due to variables such as disease and sunlight hours. With increasing demand for wine, companies are starting to take winemaking more seriously and invest more effort into research and quality development. Since 1994, Hatten Wines has been producing wines from its own vineyard in the northern Bali region of Singaraja. Due to the climate, the vines do not go dormant here; instead, they stay evergreen and provide 3 vintages per year.

Using modern winemaking techniques employed by Australian-born winemaker Don Buchannan, Hatten produces a range of wines from their vineyard using three lesser-known grape varietals: Propolingo Biru, Alphonse-Lavalle, and Belgia. They also import grapes from Australia to produce a second label, Two Islands, which focuses on Chardonnay and Shiraz.
Winery - Hatten Wines
Location- Sanur, Bali, Indonesia
Wine - Hatten NV "Alexandria" Anggur Putih
Varietals - Belgia
Appellation - Bali
Alcohol - 10.5% v/v 
Price - 140,000 IDR

Nose/Aroma - Floral notes and lychee.
Palate/Flavors - Floral, tropical fruit, and honeydew. Rather sweet, must be 20+ g/L RS. Could use a bit more acid but relatively balanced. Has an awkward phenolic bite.
Style - Quite reminiscent of a Muscat.
Food Pairing - This would be a nice afternoon drink on the beach, or pair well with some real spicy dishes. Maybe some crispy barbequed fish with chili sauce.
Comments - It's hard to make wine in the tropics and even harder to expect much of the wines. Hatten has been increasing it's quality over the past years and it shows. This is a rather drinkable wine, especially with how little I've been able to indulge in lately!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Lots of Traveling

I arrived back in Bali early Wednesday morning after nearly 40 hours of traveling via boat, car, and plane. My 8-day journey included nearly four days of travel. I flew out of Bali on Wednesday morning and arrive in Padang at 9 PM after two delayed flights. The next day was spent traipsing around Padang, doing a bit of shopping, and waiting for the ferry; an 11-hour journey that arrived in Padang early Thursday morning. I strung up my hammock on the deck and had a nice sleep until a passing tropical storm forced me to move under cover.
Our boat captain met us at the ferry and we loaded up our supplies quickly before heading to the nearby village for breakfast before continuing on to our island accommodation. We quickly unloaded our gear and set out for our first surf trip. There was little swell in the water but we found a fun, empty righthander with head high waves reeling down the reef. The five of us quickly paddled out and enjoyed a long session; not bad for day one!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Earthquakes in Indonesia

In the past week, the Indonesian archipelago has experienced thirteen 5+ magnitude earthquakes. Many people don't realize just how many earthquakes occur around the world on a daily basis. Just have a glance at this real-time, worldwide earthquakes map on the USGS website.

As the worldwide map shows, Indonesia is one of the most seismically active regions on the planet (below shows a close-up of the Sumatran coastline and earthquake events from 1990-2008), lying on the boundary of the Eurasian and Pacific tectonic plates. The 2004 tsunami that devastated 12 Indian Ocean countries originated from a 9.7 magnitude earthquake off north Sumatra; over half of the 230,000 deaths occurred in Indonesia.
Though none of the recent quakes have been large enough to prompt tsunami warnings, experts say another massive earthquake in the next century is inevitable. These smaller tremors are constant reminders, foreshadowing what's to come.

I'm pretty accustomed to earthquakes after growing up in California. It too lies along a boundary of the Pacific Tectonic Plate (where it meets the North American plate). Still, it's a bit unnerving to think about.

I think I need some waves. Or some wine. Too much thought of doomsday with all this down time.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Been a Long Time

I have never been in Bali when there was such little swell for such a long time. It's been over a week since my last post on surf, and even though I've been surfing a handful of times since, there's been little signs of swell since. I've been occupying myself as best I can but am beginning to get anxious; the swell charts aren't showing much signs of improvement down the line either.
I did get my hands on some photographs from my friend Made Topia recently, which can be seen here. I've only edited a handful thus far; here are a few of my favorites.