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.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Goodbye Bali, Hello California

It's been a busy few days since Kristin and I arrived back in California. We are still adjusting to the change in time, lifestyle, and weather while trying to catch up with friends and family. Once we settle down, I'll have a chance to relax and settle into a routine.
I had my last Bali surf session Thursday morning at Uluwatu's Outside Corner. I was happy to see that a solid swell filled in overnight; it was solid double to triple overhead, and I had a great session. Of course. the island of the gods seems to always have an interesting sense of humor. Just hours before we were set to get on our flight, a freak accident resulted in my surfboard hitting me just below the nose that created a large gash and required 4 stitches. Thanks Bali, see you soon...

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sea Horse Arrack (Arak) Attack?

Not to be confused with the Middle Eastern arak (an anise-flavored distilled beverage), arrack is a distilled beverage produced from fermented sugarcane, coconut flower sap, or fruit. It is commonly produced throughout Southeast Asia, particularly Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and the Philippines. In both Sri Lanka and Philippines, arrack is primarily produced using coconut flower sap; in Indonesia, sugarcane is the primary fermenting agent. Indonesian arrack (referred to locally as arak) is produced using sugarcane, fermented rice, and/or palm sap. It is distilled up to 70% v/v using a pot still, then several distilites are blended to usually arrive between 30-50% v/v.

In Bali, Arak is closely related to religious ceremonies (and cockfights), and purposefully spilled to honor the goddess of rice, Dewi Sri. There are several companies licensed to commercially produce arak, though there are hundreds of small, unlicensed producers. These unlicensed producers have rightly come under fire due to several incidents involving improper production (the use of methanol to bolster alcohol levels, resulting in deaths on more than one occasion). Nevertheless, plenty of these small producers are putting out quality products.

I took the photograph above in Tirta Gangga, a small village in Northeastern Bali. While Kristin and I were stocking up on supplies at a local market, we saw this interesting bottle that looked like a sea horse aquarium (well, a dead sea horse aquarium since they weren't moving). I asked the owner what it was, and he told me it was arak; he had produced then bottled it with an infusion of ginseng, some local wood, and real sea horses!

For centuries, the Chinese have believed in the medicinal properties of sea horse consumption. Those touted include enhanced virility, and the ability to cure or relieve asthma, arteriosclerosis, heart disease, skin ailments, impotence, incontinence, and broken bones. Over 40 countries deal in the sea horse trade, and prices can reach up to $3,000 per kilogram!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Candi Sewu

Also view: Candi Prambanan, Candi Mendut & Monastery, Candi Borobudur, Candi Borobudur - Photographs, Jogjakarta.

Candi Sewu is often confused by visitors as a part of Candi Prambanan due to its close proimity. The two are contained on the same site, less than a kilometer away from one another, so one might find it odd that Candi Prambanan is a Hindu temple, while the older Candi Sewu is a Buddhist temple (the second largest in Indonesia behind Borobudur). Candi Sewu is believed to have been constructed in the late 8th century under the Medang Kingdom; its completion under the Buddhist Sailendra Dynasty when a Hindu prince married a Sailendra princess (most likely congruent with the construction of Prambanan) has led historians to believe there was a strong bond between the two religions during this time period.
The temple complex of Candi Sewu is nearly square, 185 meters by 165 meters. The main temple is a 20-point polygon, nearly 30 meters in diameter and 30 meters in height. Stairwells at the four cardinal points exit the temple and form a cross-like structure. This main structure is surrounded by 240 Perwara (guardian) temples arranged in four concentric rows. At each cardinal point, two larger perwara utama (main guard) temples stand.
Unfortunately, Candi Sewu has suffered much the same fate as neighboring Candi Prambanan; extensive looting during its abandonment has removed most of its statues and seismic activity has damaged its structure. Sewu was also much more effected by a 2006 earthquake, leaving it rather unstable and basically unsuitable for visitors (one can walk through the grounds, but cannot enter). Most of its structures remain in ruins, with only the main temple and 3 of its perwara utama temples standing today.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Padang Cup Local Trials at Uluwatu

The local trials for the Rip Curl Cup Padang Padang were held at Uluwatu's Racetrack on Monday amid a building swell. Uluwatu's own Made Lana (below on the biggest set of the day) and Wayan Gobleg took the top spots, earning wildcard bids to join 30 invitees in the renowned barrel riding competition to be held sometime between now and the 26th of August.
Solid swell was on hand but conditions were far from ideal. Wave size was 4-6 foot most of the morning, with some 8 foot bombs coming through during the afternoon final. The main issue was a sideshore wind that blew throughout the day, and strong current that pulled competitors out of the wave zone due to the quickly dropping tide. Nonetheless, all the competitors gave it their best; congratulations to all of them for making it into the trials and good luck to Lana and Gobleg in the Cup!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Padang Cup Waiting Period Begins

Indonesia's most renowned surfing competition, the Rip Curl Cup Padang Padang, officially opened its waiting period two days ago. Extended to six weeks this year, the waiting period will last until the 26th of August and should allow organizers to put competitors in the best conditions possible at the legendary Padang Padang surf break. The invite-only competitors, composed of 16 international surfers (including Chris Ward, Anthony Walsh, and Dean Morrison) and 16 of Indonesia's best surfers (including Dede Suryana, Mega Semadhi, and last year's champion Lee Wilson) are in Bali awaiting the call for the one-day competition.
Bali surfers have not enjoyed the best surfing conditions this Dry Season. In fact, many are calling it the worst May/June in terms of surf in the past twenty years. Personally, I've been a bit disappointed in the lack of larger swells but have still enjoyed plenty of quality waves around the island and elsewhere. Kristin has been improving her surfing daily and enjoying the smaller conditions thoroughly.
With a solid swell forecast to fill in throughout today and peak Thursday, rumors that the Padang Cup may run are circulating. From my analysis, I don't think ideal conditions will be seen and organizers will wait until later in the season; I do think the local trials will be held this week (12 Bukit locals will vie for 2 wildcard slots).

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Candi Prambanan

Also view: Candi Mendut & Monastery, Candi Borobudur, Candi Borobudur - Photographs, Jogjakarta.

After a morning visiting Borobudur and Mendut, the hour and a half drive through the agriculturally prosperous Javanese countryside passed quickly. We arrived at Candi Prambanan in the early afternoon, and were surprised as we exited the van and were hit by the heat of the day that had crept up during our journey. As we approached, we caught our first glimpse of Candi Prambanan.
Candi Prambanan is one of Southeast Asia's largest Hindu temple complexes, dating back to the mid-9th century Mataram Kingdom. The temple's original name was 'Shiva-laya', meaning 'the Realm of Shiva', but was modified over the years to Prambanan (most likely derived from the term 'para brahman', meaning 'for the brahmins'; brahmins are those who have attained the highest state of spiritual enlightenment). The site is organized into three zones, starting with the outer zone demarcated by a large outer wall with four large gates. The middle zone is composed of 224 Pervara temples, arranged in four concentric squares. The inner zone is the holiest, elevated on a large stone platform and containing the 3 main Trimurti temples, 3 Vahana temples, 2 Apit temples, and 4 Kelir temples.
Candi Prambanan was unfortunately abandoned, just like its Buddhist counterpart Borobudur. It was rediscovered by the British in the same time period as Borobudur (19th century), but unfortunately was in ruins due to seismic activity. Rehabilitation efforts began in 1918, but extensive looting by foreigners and locals previous to this time proved to be a challenge. The only structures that have been reconstructed were those with at least 75% remains (the 16 temples of the inner zone and 2 of the 224 Pervara temples).
After making a quick trip by car to nearby Candi Sewu (to be discussed in a later post), Kristin and I returned to the gardens surrounding Candi Prambanan and enjoyed a nice picnic lunch in the shade of the trees before catching up with the rest of our group and heading back to Jogjakarta.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

One-Year Anniversary in Indonesia

It's been one year since I left New Zealand and moved to Indonesia. My original travel itinerary had me here for a short two week holiday before returning to California for another wine vintage. Plans change; two weeks turned into two months, and two months turned into a year.

Despite plenty of cautionary comments from colleagues, friends, and family, I have no regrets about taking my sabbatical from my winemaking and 'normal life'. Looking back, I've had some of my best and most life changing experiences in the past year. Thank you to everyone who has shared this experience with me, and those that have supported me throughout.

With only two weeks left before I return to California, I am enjoying this tropical wonderland while looking forward to being back in the winery for vintage, seeing my friends and family there, and heading out on my next set of adventures. The anticipation of finding a vintage position somewhere in California, much less where I'll end up in six months, is exciting.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Successful Fermentation - Red Varietals (Part II)

Read previous posts on Successful Fermentation - Introduction, Selecting the Right Yeast (Part I, Part II), Preparing Juice/Must for Inoculation, Indigenous Yeast, Inoculation, Yeast Propagation (Part I, Part II, Part III), Fermentation Monitoring, Red Varietals (Part I).

As discussed previously, winemakers take a different approach when fermenting red varietals. Though these practices are not strictly limited to red varietals due to increasing experimentation, here are a few things to think about during red varietal winemaking.

Cold Soaking - The practice of cold soaking grapes has become more prevalent in the modern wine industry, primarily deemed useful for light red varietals such as Pinot Noir, St. Laurent, and Monestrall. Cold soaking, or cold maceration, is the practice of allowing grapes after processing to sit for a period of time prior to fermentation (usually just a few days, but some winemakers allow up to 2 weeks). The aim of cold soaking is to allow extraction of water-soluble color and flavor compounds without the extraction of harsher phenolic compounds (tannins) that are more soluble with the presence of alcohol. Additives to increase color extraction and stability are commonly completed (discussed below). Cold soaking proponents contend finished wine will have increased color, fruitiness, flavor intensity, and mouthfeel with lower astringency and bitterness. Cold soaking is also desirable because it promotes mixing, allowing more accurate chemical analysis (i.e. accurate brix and acid levels). The main requirements of cold soaking are:
  • Hold grape temperature cold; ideally below 10° C (50° F).
  • Ensure minimal oxygen level to limit microbial activity and oxidation; this is done by using inert gas coverage, usually CO2.
  • Keep sufficient SO2 to limit microbial activity and oxidation (disscussed below).
  • Conduct cap management on a daily basis; 1-2 times daily is sufficient.

Cap Management - During fermentation in the presence of skins, CO2 released pushes skins to the surface forming a 'fermentation cap'. Without cap management, both CO2 and heat will be trapped in the fermentation vessel, oxygen will not be able to enter the fermenting must, and extraction of skin components will be minimal. The cap will also dry out, promoting negative microbial activity. Different cap management regimes have a different effect on extraction of skin and seed components, and are often used in conjunction with one another:
  • Punchdown - Depending on the fermentation vessel, a handheld or piston-like device is used to push the cap down into the center of the tank. Punchdowns are usually used when higher extraction is desired, and completed 2-4 times daily during active fermentation.
  • Pumpover - Juice from the bottom of the tank is pumped over the top of the fermenting vessel, wetting the cap but not fully submerging it. Pumpovers can be completed in a gentle or more rigorous fashion depending on the desired rate of extraction, and can also be used to oxygenate the must if desired. These are usually completed 2-3 times daily during active fermentation.
  • Rack and Return - Juice is drained from the bottom of the fermentation vessel, leaving behind only the grape solids (primarily skins). It is then pumped back over the top of the tank, either immediately or several hours later. This is believed by many to be the gentlest way for mixing an entire tank, and is also used for seed removal (seeds, particularly less-than-ripe seeds, are believed to have more astringent/bitter tannins and many wineries try to remove them once fermentation is underway). Rack and returns are not usually completed everyday during active fermentation, used in conjunction with a punchdown or pumpover regime.
  • Rotary Tank - Rotary fermentation tanks can be rotated on their axis, mixing the tank thoroughly and promoting a more uniform temperature throughout the must and faster extraction. Often, they are only used for the first half of fermentation before juice is drained/pressed off and allowed to complete the remainder in tank or barrel.

Additives - Winemaking additives are in no way exclusive to red varietals or considered necessary during winemaking activities. Though often bolstered by winemakers, all the additives discussed below are naturally occurring in wine at some levels (excluding non-ellagic tannins). Besides additions of acid (discussed in later post) and fermentation nutrients, tannins and enzymes are becoming increasingly common:
  • Sulfur dioxide (SO2) - Considered by many as essential to the production of quality, age-worthy wines in today's industry, SO2 is usually added to red varietals at the destemmer/crusher stage when fermentation will not be immediately induced (i.e. cold soaking desired). This protects the must from microbial activity and oxidation; common additions prior to cold soaking are at 30-50 ppm.
  • Enzymes - Enzymes are now commonly used during red varietal winemaking to increase extraction of stable phenolic compounds and help stabilize color. There are numerous proprietary enzymes available on the market today that are designed for creating different wine styles, from cellar-worthy to early-release wines. These pectolytic enzymes have higher levels of hemicellulase side activity (increased breakdown of cell walls, thus increasing extraction), while limiting anthocyanase activity (releases sugar-bound anthocyanins and thus promotes color loss) and cinnamyl esterase activity (leads to formation of vinyl phenols, which have positive flavor and color stability properties in low concentrations, but negative flavor effects in higher concentrations). Enzymes should be added prior to fermentation (usually adding at the beginning of cold soaking), while ensuring SO2 levels are not too high to inhibit their activity.
  • Tannins - There are several different types of tannins naturally occurring in grape stems, skins, and seeds; these are classed as polyphenolic compounds and attribute to a wine's astringency, mouthfeel, aroma, and color stability. A broad range of proprietary tannin products are available to winemakers today,  sourced not only from grapes but oak wood, nuts, and other fruits; they are used for varying reasons, including increasing color stability, increasing phenolic structure, inhibiting specific microbials, and decreasing oxidation; most are designed for addition prior to or during fermentation.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Tirta Gangga - Part II

View Tirta Gangga - Part I

After bidding farewell to Kusumajaya, we walked down the hill and a hundred meters up the road to the Tirta Gangga watergarden. I had been looking forward to visiting this site for quite a long time and hadn't told Kristin about it at all, so I was excited.
Tirta Gangga belongs to the royal family of Karangasem, who began construction of the complex in 1948. The watergarden mixes traditional Balinese, Chinese, and European architecture to create an unique atmosphere covering over 3 acres. The garden's attractions include the two massive front ponds, the 11-tiered fountain, and 2 upper pools.
The water of Tirta Gangga ('tirta' meaning blessed water and 'gangga' referring to the holy Ganges River in India) is sourced from the Rejasa natural spring. It is considered holy water by the local people and used for ceremonies on site and throughout the area; the water enters into a main swimming pool at the top of the complex before filtering down into a second swimming area, through the garden's remaining pools, and finally out into the rice fields below as irrigation. The spring water is rumored to be the fountain of youth; those who swim in it are revitalized and remain youthful forever.
With a handful of young locals enjoying the small, lower swimming pool, Kristin and I were surprised to find the main pool empty. Of course, that meant we could enjoy it all by ourselves! I'm guessing the pool is 25 meters in length, about 8 meters in width, and about six feet in depth. The spring water was refreshingly cool and crystal clear; I think I could have stayed there all day.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Tirta Gangga - Part I

After visiting Pura Goa Lawah and continuing another hour north, Kristin and I were ready to settle in for the night. I had been told the best place to stay in Tirta Gangga was the Kusumajaya Homestay. Sitting halfway up a mountain, the site overlooks the beautiful valley below. It's not the easiest place to find, but we didn't mind exploring the surrounding area's rice terraces before finally arriving at our destination.
My friend told me the climb up was pretty arduous, so I ascended first to check it out and make sure we would be comfortable staying there. Fortunately, it wasn't as far up as expected, the accommodations were nice, and the view was amazing (photo below from our room's balcony). I went back down, brought Kristin and our bags up, and we relaxed for a bit before heading out to buy some supplies and have dinner.
We found a small convenient store half a kilometer down the road. While buying a few items, the owner gave us some of his locally made Arak (to be discussed in a later post). We then found a nice little warung, where we enjoyed some delicious dinner. We were both surprised by the cooler nighttime temperature due to being at a higher elevation and further inland, so we bundled up and turned in for the night. We awoke early the next morning and wander around the Kusumajaya property, enjoying the well-maintained grounds and a slightly hazy but beautiful sunrise. We then sat down to breakfast overlooking the valley below before packing, saying goodbye, and continuing on to the Tirta Gangga Water Palace (see Part II here).

Monday, July 2, 2012

Pura Goa Lawah

After weaving our way north, Kristin and I made the first stop of our road trip at Pura Goa Lawah. The temple is one of six that are known as the Sad Kahyangan, or 'six temples of the world'. The Balinese believe these six temples are the pivotal points of the island; along with Pura Goa Lawah, Pura Besakih, Pura Lempuyang Luhur, Pura Uluwatu, Pura Batukaru, and Pura Pusering Jagat makeup this sacred group.
Literally meaning the 'Bat Cave Temple', Pura Goa Lawah is a rather unique site. The temple dates back to the very beginning of the 11th century and has been an active site of worship since. It sits just one hundred meters from the beach in Klungkung, and fronts a large cave home to approximately one thousand fruit bats. These bats are considered the temple's guardians and highly regarded by the Balinese.
A celebration was underway during our visit. We ambled around the surrounding gardens before quietly joining the crowd gathered at the cave's mouth. We couldn't have a very good look into the cave, but it was special to watch the ceremony take place.