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.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Waves on the Way

After a long run of small swell here in Bali, tomorrow should bring some of the biggest surf the island has seen in the past two weeks. Despite smaller conditions, there has been plenty of waves around. Still, surfing head high waves starts to seem inadequate when there are world-class breaks lying dormant. I'm guessing the crowds will be spread out well, with the forecast calling for not only decent sized swell, but calm conditions.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Wine Region - San Diego County

Appellation - San Diego County
Sub-appellation(s) - San Pasqual Valley, Ramona Valley
Size -   2.7 million acres (estimate 120-200 acres planted to vineyards)
Rainfall - 16 in/yr (406 mm/yr)
Growing Degree Days - 3800 (varies depending on specific area)
Varietals- Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Marsanne, Merlot, Orange Muscat, Picpoul Blanc, Petit Verdot, Roussanne, Riesling, Sangiovese, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Viognier, Tempranillo, Zinfandel.
Claim to Fame - First vineyard sites planted in California.

California can trace its wine roots to San Diego, where Franciscan missionaries led by Junipero Serra planted the state's first vineyard in 1769 (of course, it wasn't a state then; it was part of a Spanish colony referred to as Mexico). San Diego's commercial wine production began in the late 19th century, only to be destroyed by Prohibition. Though San Diego was never renowned for its wines like Napa Valley, production restarted shortly after prohibition by the Rizzo family at Bernardo Winery. It wasn't until the early 1990's when San Diego was put on the international wine map by Orfila Vineyards and Winery. In the past several years, San Diego's wine industry has growing exponentially and is now home to dozens of wineries scattered throughout the county, making wines from a diverse group of varietals. Though some wineries source grapes from other California growing regions, most of San Diego's wine production comes from the two American Viticultural Areas (AVA's) within the county: San Pasqual Valley and Ramona Valley.
Despite being the country's 4th AVA (established in 1981), San Pasqual Valley has yet to reach its full potential. The 9,000-acre region is California's smallest AVA, and excels in warm-climate viticulture. It's desert-like climate is moderated by the Pacific Ocean's influence, generally keeping summer temperatures below 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius); high diurnal temperature variations are common. San Pasqual Valley's well-drained, granite soils provide great growing conditions for several varietals from Tempranillo and Sangiovese to Syrah and Viognier. There are only a handful of producers in the area, and most of the vineyards are by Orfila Vineyards & Winery, who is credited with putting this region on the international map.
The Ramona Valley AVA was approved in 2006 (162nd), and encompasses nearly 90,000 acres, much larger than its northern neighbor San Pasqual Valley. The valley is mostly enclosed by mountains, though its west-east orientation allows cool ocean air to moderate is generally hot climate; slightly elevation between 650-1,600 feet keeps the valley free of the fog that plagues the nearby coastal regions. This means moderate temperatures and long growing season, with a high diurnal temperature change. Its soils are mostly well-drained, deep sandy loam and sandy clay loam, offering moderately fertile growing conditions for its vines.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Bali Backroads

Over the past couple months, I've been spending a lot of time exploring the back roads around Bali. There is a myriad of roads, trails, and paths that either arrive just where expected, somewhere extraordinary, or simply dead-end. Every now and then, there will be a little road block; just need to stay diligent and find another way around.
During most of these adventures, I see only a handful of locals tending their fields or heading off to work. Very rarely do I stumble upon another tourist in search of waves. It's great to think that there are still untapped resources hidden around the island, with a handful of locals watching empty waves rolling through.
Even with popular waves just around the corner,I found this place well overhead, cranking, and empty. Just need to follow the brown dirt road sometimes instead of sticking to the pavement. If you don't look, you don't find.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Successful Wine Fermentation - Indigenous Yeast

See previous Successful Wine Fermentation posts: Introduction, Selecting the Right Yeast (Part I, Part II), Preparing Juice/Must for Fermentation.

Once the juice/must is properly prepared for fermentation, the winemaker needs to decide what yeast will be used. I discussed indigenous fermentation in a previous post (see Part I). Winemakers traditionally allowed their juice/must to begin fermenting naturally; yeast performing such fermentation would come from the vineyard (there are thousands of species of yeast that can be naturally present on grape skins) or from within the winery or fermenting vessel (even with all the advances in winery cleanliness, many wineries today have an "indigenous yeast" living within their facility that will kickoff fermentation if juice or must is not well protected, though this is often a vigorous commercial yeast strain). Over time, winemakers began encouraging the "best" yeast possible, and once the technology was available, began isolating these strains.

With the importance of marketing becoming increasingly important in today's industry, many winemakers want to claim that their wine is produced "naturally" or with "minimal intervention". Still, others desire the characteristics indigenous fermentation can provide; proponents of indigenous yeast fermentation claim it leads to a more harmonious finished wine that better reflects the vineyard's terrior. Indigenous yeast tend to ferment slower, and produce more textural wines when compared to their commercial counterparts.

Winemakers experimenting with indigenous yeast have had mixed results. Though some believe that commercial yeast strains are the only way to make good wine, plenty promote indigenous yeast in some form during wine production. They do so in varying levels of risk; some winemakers utilize indigenous yeast on all their juice/must, others utilize indigenous yeast on a portion of their juice/must, and others promote indigenous yeast for several days before inoculating with commercial yeast to takeover the ferment.

Most of those opposed to indigenous yeast site their disadvantages. Indigenous yeast usually have an extended lag phase, which means it can take several days to over a week for fermentation to truly begin. This leads to issues with other microorganisms (lactic acid bacteria, Brettanomyces, etc.) taking hold, which can produce undesirable compounds and inhibit yeast from beginning fermentation. Indigenous yeast are also far more susceptible to alcohol toxicity due to problems reproducing enough generations to finish ferment. They get stressed easier (may lead to volatile acid and hydrogen sulfide production) and are far more likely to get stuck towards the end of fermentation (not ferment the wine to below 2 g/L residual sugar) than their commercial counterparts.

I am a strong believer in the use of indigenous yeast and have conducted several experiments using it in production. The risks can be minimized with winemaking diligence, while wine quality can be increased greatly; ensuring the juice/must is prepared (as discussed here) is essential for successful indigenous yeast fermentation. Nevertheless, I would be hard pressed to base my entire production off indigenous yeast due to the simple fact that wines fermented with indigenous yeast often lack many qualities that commercial yeasts provide. The complexity provided when blending wines of several yeast helps make a more balanced, interesting final product.

Continue on to read about 'Successful fermentation - Inoculation'.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Play Days with Little Waves

It's all about keeping things interesting when there isn't too much swell in the water. Bali has been experiencing a bit of a flat swell the past week; luckily, there are always waves to be found somewhere on the island. To keep us occupied during a recent small wave session, my friend Drew and I took out Kristin's waterproof camera. Drew got a couple photographs of me, but then the waves shut down once I took over (sorry Drew). The waves weren't very big, but it was lining up well and not too crowded.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Olive-Backed Sunbird

Well, ask and you shall receive. My last post looking for an answer about a mystery bird has returned an unexpected brilliant answer from a friend, Kira (no offense, I couldn't figure it out myself). The bird pictured is of the family Nectariniidae, which is composed of Sunbirds and Spiderhunters. These small birds are found throughout Africa, Australia, and southern Asia. They are distantly related to both hummingbirds and honeyeaters, both of which I researched somewhat extensively before giving up and asking for help.

The bird pictured is a male Olive-Backed Sunbird (also known as the Yellow-Bellied Sunbird). The bright yellow underparts and dullish brown back identify it rather easily (they did a good job naming this one); the male has a blue-black face and throat, while the female does not. Largely a nectar-eating bird, the Olive-Backed Sunbird also eats insects; though these birds are capable of hovering (like hummingbirds), they often opt to perch when feeding.

This description identifies my friendly morning visitor perfectly. So, the mystery was solved thanks to Kira. Thank you!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Hummingbirds in Bali?

There are a pair of beautiful birds that come to visit the plentiful Birds of Paradise blooms in my backyard. It's obvious by the coloration that they are a mating pair (male and female), but I've yet to identify them. I originally thought they were hummingbirds; after a little research, I discovered that these are only indigenous to the Americas. I researched a few other species of birds and just can't identify what these could be. Below is a photo of one of the pairs, I believe the male by the coloration; any ornithologists out there want to shed some light?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Successful Wine Fermentation - Preparing Juice/Must for Inoculation

See previous posts on successful wine fermentation: "Introduction", "Selecting the Right Yeast" Part I and Part II).

Wine production cannot happen without fermentation, though fermentation can occur without inoculation. Once grapes have arrived at the winery, they are processed in preparation for fermentation. White varietals are typically fermented without skins (some styles are actually fermented with or partially with skins), red varietals are fermented with skins, and red varietals destined for rose wines are fermented either with or partially with skins. Either way, a winemaker needs to ensure that the yeast have a happy environment for a successful fermentation. Here are a few things that need to be kept in mind:

Brix (sugar) is often considered the most important pre-fermentation characteristic in wine production. Alcohol is produced by the conversion of sugar by yeast during fermentation (1° brix equates to approximately 0.55% v/v alcohol), so typical brix levels prior to fermentation vary greatly depending on stylistic choices made by the winemaker (of course, harvest conditions can lead to some crazy brix levels; way too low to way too high). Every country has its own laws regarding whether water can be added (to decrease sugar levels) or sugar can be added (to increase sugar levels) prior to fermentation, which gives winemakers a little bit of room to play depending on where the wine is being made and where the wine is being sold. Fermenting wine to dryness (less than 2 g/L residual sugar, which is particularly desired for still wine production) is often difficult when there is too much sugar; many yeasts are subject to sugar toxicity levels and alcohol toxicity levels, which is why many commercial yeast producers offer high-brix yeast (they can start ferment with lots of sugar and finish ferment with lots of alcohol). 

pH and acidity levels are important for numerous reasons. Their balance is an important indicator of ripeness prior to harvest, is essential for sensory characteristics of wine (color, taste, and balance), and is necessary for microorganism protection. Yeasts require a certain pH range to perform non-stressful fermentation, which can vary greatly depending on the strain. A winemaker needs to keep in mind not only the yeast strain but the grape varietal(s) and other microorganisms that may be present. A good rule of thumb is to keep the pH above 3.1 but below 3.8. The titratable acidity (total acidity, a gram per liter measurement of all the acids combined in a wine) is not as important when it comes to fermentation, but is hopefully in balance with the pH; titratable acidity should be somewhere above 6 g/L but below 10 g/L. As with sugar, there are different regulations for the types and amount of acid a winemaker can use to adjust pH and acidity, but tartaric acid is the overwhelmingly favorite for increasing acid (decreasing pH), and potassium carbonate for decreasing acid (little effect on pH).

Oxygen management is one of the biggest topics in winemaking today, but is often overlooked when it comes to fermentation. Researches are continuing to prove that slight variations in oxygen throughout the winemaking process can have significant effects on wine quality, though oxygen levels are particularly important during fermentation and bottling operations. Yeasts are facultative microorganisms, capable of conducting aerobic respiration and anaerobic respiration depending on environmental conditions; supplying wine yeast with adequate levels of oxygen during stationary and growth phases in essential for a successful fermentation. Wine active dry yeast (see follow-up post on inoculation) should ideally grow aerobically during rehydration; research shows that yeast propagated aerobically contain a higher proportion of unsaturated fatty acids and significantly more steroids than anaerobically propagated yeast (this means better yeast viability and more successful fermentation). Once fermentation is underway, induction of oxygen is primarily used to help remove carbon dioxide (above concentration of 0.2 atm, carbon dioxide is toxic to yeast).

Micro-nutrients are essential for successful fermentation. Yeast require nitrogen-containing compounds, vitamins, sterols, and minerals during their growth phase. Depending on the juice/must brix (how much sugar yeast will need to consume and convert to alcohol), yeast require varying levels of nutrients throughout fermentation. Yeast-assimilable nitrogen (YAN) in juice/must is measurable, and shows the amount of ammonium salts (NH4+) and free alpha-amino acids (FAN) that are available for yeast consumption. Proprietary nutrient products are available from several different wine additive companies (see Yeast Rehydration Nutrients and Fermentation Nutrients); some are specifically designed for use during yeast rehydration, while others are designed for use during fermentation. Many winemakers use routine rates for adding nitrogen (usually done using DAP) and other nutrients, but this can lead to too much of a good thing. Fermentation nutrient requirement will be discussed further in a follow-up post.

Sulfur dioxide is a compound that is naturally occurring in grapes and used as an additive to protect against oxidation and spoilage. Balancing adequate levels of sulfur dioxide to inhibit undesirable microorganisms while allowing desirable yeast to remain active is essential. Though levels can vary highly depending on the yeast strain, juice/must pH, and stylistic choices of the winemaker (for instance, sulfur dioxide helps retain fresh fruit characteristics in white wines), a good basis level for free sulfur dioxide is less than 10 ppm and less than 50 ppm for bound sulfur dioxide prior to fermentation. 

Temperature has a major effect on the metabolic rate of yeast. Just like with pH, yeast have an ideal temperature range that they can successfully ferment within; too low or too high of temperature will stress yeast. Since fermentation produces heat, it's usually a good idea to begin fermentation at a slightly lower temperature than desired. Winemakers have varied opinions on ideal temperatures dependent on the grape varietal, grape quality, and wine style. A good basic rule of pre-fermentation temperature would be 54-63° F (12-17° C) for both white and red wines (white wines are usually fermented cold, while red wines are usually fermented at warmer temperatures but cold-soaked prior to fermentation).

Contine on to 'Successful Fermentation - Inoculation'.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Calm After the Storm

My friends Drew and Brittany arrived in Bali this past weekend. With a bit of swell in the water and calm winds yesterday, I opted to stay close to home while everyone else headed for the opposite side of the island. So, we scored my favorite spot with only five others.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Galungan - Bali's Most Important Festival

This past Wednesday was Gulangan, which marks the beginning of Bali's most important festival. It celebrates the victory of Dharma (virtue) over Adharma (evil). During this time, God and the deified ancestors descend to earth to be with their families. Galungan is celebrated every 210 days (every six months in the Balinese calendar, which has 35 days in each month). The end of the festival comes ten days later on Kuningan, when God and ancestors return to heaven.
The Balinese begin preparing for Galungan weeks before. 'Banten' (shown above) are woven out of bamboo fronds and filled with different foodstuffs. 'Penjor' are constructed out of bamboo poles and various accoutrements. Food is prepared for offerings and feasting. The three days prior to Galungan are the most important days of preparation; three days prior is referred to as 'Penyekeban' (represents the peak of the battle between Dharma and Adharma; this is when food preparations begin), two days prior is referred to as 'Penyajahan' (dedicated to meditation and self control), and the day prior is referred to as 'Penampahan' (slaughter day; when animals are prepared for feasting).
On Galungan itself, Balinese visit their ancestral homes (family temple), village temple, and their friends' homes whom have helped them along the way. Barongs, divine protectors in the form of a mythical beast, make their way through villages visiting homes to preform the ceremonial dance called Ngelawang. Residents pray before the barong completes his dance, meant to restore the balance of good and evil in the house.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Wine Region - Napa Valley (Part II)

As discussed previously in Wine Region - Napa Valley, Napa Valley is one of California's largest and oldest wine growing regions. Winemakers (and wine marketers, of course) have made a concerted effort to differentiate sub-regions of the area; today, it is home to fifteen different American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), which are described below in order from north to south (well, roughly north to south).
Calistoga - The TTB finally approved American Viticultural Area (AVA) status for Calistoga in November 2009 after a long battle. While most of Napa Valley faces due south, Calistoga has a south-east aspect that provides more gradual and longer growing days; it has a large diurnal variation, with daytime temperatures regularly the warmest in the valley. Calistoga also has more annual rainfall than most of the valley (primarily during winter months) but less humidity on average.The soils here are of volcanic origin and are well-drained, varying from stoney loam to gravelly loam with some heavy silty loam soils towards in low-lying areas.

Howell Mountain - Located east of Calistoga in the Vaca Mountains, Howell Mountain is the 73rd AVA and the 1st Napa Valley sub-appellation approved. The higher elevation of the vineyards here (1,400-2,200 feet) have lower daytime temperatures than most of the valley, without the nighttime fog common at the southern end. This means warmer summer nights (quicker, more even ripening) but cooler spring temperatures (latest bud break in the valley). Like Calistoga, Howell Mountain primarily has well-drained, volcanic soils and higher annual rainfall; its soils are rather infertile, which limits yields.

Diamond Mountain District -  Located just south of Calistoga on the opposite side of the valley from Howell Mountain AVA, the Diamond Mountain District runs along the eastern slopes of the Mayacamas Mountains. The district's similar elevation the Howell Mountain AVA gives it a similar climate, though cooling breezes from the Pacific Ocean give it even less temperature fluctuation. The Diamond Mountain District only has 500 acres planted to vines, with only seven wineries and thirteen growers. Soils here are a mix of volcanic and sedimentary, rather infertile and well-drained rocky loam to sandy loam.

Chiles Valley - The 133rd AVA, the Chiles Valley is located due south east from Howell Mountain. Since its relatively secluded, the area was not effected by phylloxera and has some of the oldest vineyards in California. Relatively warm days give way to cool nights, and the steep sides of the narrow valley force growers to plant along the valley floor. Harvest comes far later than nearby Oakville due to colder wintertime and springtime temperatures. Soils are of marine and alluvial origin; the valley floor is primarily fertile silty-clay, while hillsides are less fertile stony-clay.

Spring Mountain District - Similar climate to neighboring Diamond Mountain District but slightly cooler, resulting in a long growing season that extends far into November. This region is on the western slopes of the valley along the Mayacamas and has a unique mix of soil types; mostly sedimentary deposits mixed with some volcanic soils (in between the primarily volcanic Diamond Mountain District and primarily sedimentary Mt Veeder). This means well-drained and low fertility loam to sandy-loam soils.
St. Helena - St. Helena is one of Napa Valley's warmest sub-AVA's due to its location in a rather narrow section of the valley that produces higher radiative heat from hillside reflection. It is also well-protected by the mountains to the west, keeping it void of marine influence. Lying on the valley floor just below the the Spring Mountain District, it's not surprising that St. Helena's soils are quite similar in its southern and western areas; sedimentary in origin, gravely-clay with moderate drainage and fertility. Soils become deeper and more fertile moving north and east due to more volcanic influence.

Rutherford - Located in one of the widest parts of the valley, Rutherford is a bit warmer than neighboring Oakville; the region has the most growing degree days of any Napa sub-AVA. The western bench area is cooler than the rest of the region with more marine influence and less afternoon soon. Deep, well-drained alluvial soils with high, sandstone gravel content; this means good water retention and fertility. Soils become more volcanic as you move to the east, which are deeper and more fertile. 71% of total vine acreage planted to Cabernet Sauvignon. 

Oakville - Oakville could be considered Napa Valley's most renowned sub-AVA, home to "cult Cabernet" producers and many of the biggest names in winemaking. It enjoys warm climate with high diurnal variation due to marine-influence fog. Oakville has similar soils to Rutherford, primarily sedimentary with more volcanic influence towards the east.

Atlas Peak - Another of Napa's high-elevation districts that is void of nighttime fog, moderate temperatures and low diurnal change its westward orientation provides more direct sunlight to its vineyards. Very shallow, volcanic soils with poor water retention. Nice, acidic structured Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.

Yountville - Cooler than up-valley regions due to marine influence; foggy mornings and breezy afternoons. It's home to one of Napa's largest towns and over 4,000 acres of vineyards. It can be subject to dramatic diurnal temperature variation (can swing up to 40° F in one day). The soils are silt loam, relatively fertile and primarily of sedimentary and alluvial origin. Has a broad array of varietals grown here. 
Stag's Leap District - Just east of Yountville, tucked at the bottom of the Vaca Mountains. Much warmer temperature than Yountville (regularly up to 10° F higher) due to radiated heat from rocky hillsides; receives the same afternoon maritime breeze that helps combat this. Soil is combination of gravel loam and heavy clay mixed with rock. Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux varietals excel here.

Mount Veeder -  Another sub-region in the Mayacamas Mountains, higher elevation (600-2,100 feet) keep it above the fog and offer less diurnal temperature variation. Daytime temperatures are more moderate than the valley floor. Its soils are of sedimentary origin, most shallow and well-drained sandy loam with low fertility. Known for its lower yields, its wines are typically well-structure and age-worthy.

Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley - One of Napa's coolest regions due to proximity to San Pablo Bay; marine influence provides morning fog that may linger through the day, and clearer summer conditions lead to high diurnal temperature differences. Long growing season. Soils are variable, largely originating from the Dry Creek alluvial fan; more stoney volcanic soils in the northwestern area, with gravel loam and silty clay loam in the south and east (closer to San Pablo Bay). Home to a mix of cool and warm climate varietals, and known for its more elegant styles of Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot.

Wild Horse Valley - The smallest AVA in Napa (only partially contained within the Napa Valley AVA), its eastern location keeps it slight warmer and its southern location provides it with high sunshine hours than most of Napa, but its climate remains moderate due to marine influence from the Suisin Bay. Shallow volcanic soils with poor water retention. Primarily cooler climate varietals like Los Carneros.

Los Carneros - Southern most sub-region of Napa Valley (partially contained in both Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley AVAs) that enjoys cool marine climate with lower daytime temperatures and slight diurnal variation due to Pacific Ocean winds through the Petaluma Gap to the west and cool air from the San Pablo Bay to the south. Predominantly very shallow, clay soils that limit root depth and cause low yielding vines. Regional focus on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.