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, August 30, 2012

Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa

Many San Luis Obispo residents walk right through the historic Mission Plaza fronting San Luis Creek without thinking much of it. Located right in the heart of downtown, one finds Alta California's fifth mission, San Luis Obispo de Tolosa.
The Spanish colonization of California revolved around Catholic missionary work throughout Baja and Alta California. The first mission founded in modern-day California (Alta California) was Mission San Diego de Alcala in 1769. that same year, Spanish explorer Gaspar de Portola and his party departed San Diego and headed northward in search of Monterey Bay. They passed through modern-day San Luis Obispo on their way, referring to the expansive valley as llano de Los Osos (translated today to Valley of the Bears, or Los Osos Valley) due to the prevalence of grizzly bears.
After failing to recognize the Monterey Bay area on his first journey due to poor weather, Portola returned to Monterey with Father Serra in 1770 and founded mission San Carlos Borromeo. When their food supplies dwindled in 1772, a hunting expedition was sent south, returning with ample bear meat from the Valley of the Bears and prompting Father Serra to assess the area's viability as a mission site. Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa site was officially founded on the 1st of September, 1772 by Father Serra.
The mission has been remodeled numerous times over the years since the original church structure was completed in 1794. The restoration process started in 1933 by Friar Harnett took the mission back to its Spanish roots and current state. The mission remains an active Catholic parish, serving the city of San Luis Obispo and its surrounding areas. The Mission Plaza is home to several city events, such as the Concerts in the Plaza series and Taste of San Luis.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Wine Phenols - Nonflavonoids and Flavonoids

Read Also: Successful Fermentation - Red Varietals (Part I, Part II).

Phenolic compounds effect several sensory components of wine, including red wine color, astringency, bitterness, and olfactory profile. Though present at low levels, their concentrations are a primary factor in the differences between wine types and styles. They are also important oxygen reservoirs and substrates for browning reactions.Their concentrations are largely due to processing considerations (for example, flavonoid content increases with increased skin contact time and temperature).

The basic phenol structure is carbolic acid (also known as hydroxybenzene; C6H5OH). Several hundred different phenolic compounds are naturally occurring in grapes, divided into two basic groups referred to as nonflavonoid and flavonoid phenols.

Nonflavonoid Phenols - The phenol content of grape juice is primarily nonflavonoid. For white varietals, nonflavonoids represent the overwhelming majority of finished wines' phenol content as well. This is due to the fact that the majority of nonflavonoid phenols are sourced naturally from grape pulp: hydoxycinnamate derivatives present as free acids, ethyl esters, and tartrate-glucose esters. Nonflavonoid phenols levels are largely effected by fermentation; up to 20% of total nonflavonoids are absorbed by yeast, and many are hydrolized to free acid and ester forms including free cinnamic acids and ethyl phenols. Phenols arising from oak maturation are primarily hydrolizable nonflavonoids such as vanillin (oak influence on phenol content will be discussed in a following post).

Most nonflavonoids are present below their sensory threshold, though collectively they can have an impact on bitterness and astringency. Some nonflavonoids are also indicators of spoilage; for example, 4-ethyl phenol can be used as an indicator of Brettanomyces.

Flavonoid Phenols -Flavonoids have much more impact on a wine's structure and color compared to nonflavonoids. They are found in skins, seeds, and stems of both white and red grapes; they represent 25% of total phenol content in white varietals made without skin contact, and represent 80-90% of total phenol content in red wines produced in a traditional manner. Flavonoids can exist in monomeric forms, or polymerized to other flavonoids, nonflavonoids, sugars, or a combination of these. Polymeric flavonoids make up the majority of total phenolics found in all stages of red winemaking; further polymerization yields flavenoid polyphenolic compounds (tannins and condensed tannins).

Catechins account for the majority of white wine flavonoid content (particularly those produced without skin contact), and up to 14% of total red wine phenol content. These are flavon-3-ols; catechins are negatively charged, while epicatechins are positively charged. Catechins and epicatechins are the precursors for browning and bitterness in both white and red wines. They polymerize to create procyanidins (condensed tannins).

Luecoanthocyanidins and luecoanthocyanins serve as precursors to larger polymeric forms (anthocyanins, which will be discussed in a following post). These compounds are very closely related to catechins; luecoanthocyanidins have an additional hydroxyl group, and luecoanythocyanins have an attached sugar molecule. These compounds have minimal effect on a wine's bitterness, less than flavonols.

Flavonols are primarily found in grape skins, thus their concentrations in wines produced without skin contact are minimal or nonexistent. Quercitin commonly represents the majority of a wine's flavonol content, though kaempforol and myricetin are also found in significant concentrations. These compounds have some effect on a wine's bitterness.

Tannins, anthocyanins, and processing considerations involved with wine phenols will be discussed in following posts, so check back.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Harvest Update - Christian's Report

Read this season's previous harvest updates: Vintage is Nearly Here!.

I was reading through the Niven Family Estates' August 2012 newsletter Club 1909 this morning and thought I'd share my friend and mentor's update on the 2012 vintage. Reading this makes me excited to get back into the winery for another season and make some wine, so hopefully you enjoy it too. Here's 'Update from Winemaker Christian Roguenant':

After the rather challenging vintage of 2011, I am happy to report that we are back in track in 2012! Conditions so far have been textbook, reminding us why Jack Niven chose to plant winegrapes in the Edna Valley back in the early 1970s. Thanks to his foresight, we are still growing and harvesting top-quality fruit almost 40 years later. And thanks to his wife Catharine's vision, we are making great wines as well!

This vintage's growing season began with budbreak in mid March, and there were no late frost incidents to speak of. Spring rainfall totals were in the normal range, and temperatures have been nice and even. Shoot growth and vines are healthy, a testament to our vineyard management team. All factors are ideal so far; we are extremely excited about the quality this year!

The Pinot Noir clusters are just beginning to go through veraison (one of the first stages of ripening; the berries begin to turn color), as are some of the earlier ripening blocks of Chardonnay. Over the next few weeks, they will get softer and juicier, sugar levels will rise and acid levels will drop. When those factors, along with the pH and flavors in the fruit come into perfect alignment, we pick! The rest of our varietals should follow suit nicely, setting us up for a picture perfect harvest and crush.

Meanwhile, our 42 goats are munching away at brush and overgrown trees, ensuring that the tributaries running through our vineyard run clean when the rainy season hits next spring. Gunner, our sturdy Great Pyrenees, stands guard daily, protecting them from coyotes and other predators on the property. One of the best sustainable examples of riparian management.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

San Diego Zoo Safari Park

My parents have been a member of the San Diego Zoological Society since I can remember, and I was excited when they told me they wanted to take Kristin and I on a trip to the newly named San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Formerly known as the San Diego Wild Animal Park, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park welcomes over 2 million guests annually to its San Pasqual Valley location (read about the San Pasqual Valley AVA). Of course, this is not to be confused with the San Diego Zoo (to be discussed in a later post); this park encompasses approximately 1,800 acres, and houses several hundred wild and endangered animal species along with thousands of plant species. It is also home to the world's largest veterinary hospital and one of the world's largest 'frozen zoos' (cryopreserved genetic material for thousands of species).
Kristin and I brought along our friends Drew and Brittany to join us, my parents, and my niece for our Caravan Safari. The Safari Park is not a traditional zoo, and is composed primarily of large open exhibits with several animal species instead of individually caged animals. Our Caravan Safari involved riding on the back of a truck through three different exhibits (two Asian and one African), where we were able to hand-feed Giraffes and Rhinos!
The Wild Animal Park first opened in spring 1972, originally proposed as a supplementary breeding facility for the Zoo. After weighing several alternatives, the San Diego Zoological Society decided to create a natural environment zoo, giving guests a view of animals in a more natural setting rather than cages. Still, the main purposes of this facility were species conservation, breeding of animals for the San Diego Zoo (and other zoos), and providing areas for zoo animal conditioning. Its original layout was designed by Charles Faust, including a beautiful aviary entrance and a monorail line wrapping through the park's exhibits.
It wasn't until 2010 that the name was changed to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Several other changes have been undertaken, including the abolishment of the monorail and introduction of several new tours and shows. Still, the Safari Park has kept its original natural environment layout and now offers several tours, referred to as 'safaris', to give guests more options: Africa Tram Safari, Cart Safari, Cheetah Safari, Jungle Ropes Safari, Behind-The-Scenes Safari, Flightline Safari, Rolling Safari, Caravan Safari, Roar & Snore Safari, and Ultimate Safari.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Amed - Part II

After a good night's sleep, we awoke early to a beautiful morning in Amed. We had a pretty good view from our little beachside homestay (below), so we enjoyed a lazy breakfast before gearing up and hitting the road.
Amed has rightfully earned a reputation as a quiet getaway from the hustle and bustle of southern Bali. Along with its quiet black sand beaches and beautiful mountain (and volcano) views, there are several world class diving and snorkeling sites. Numerous dive companies offer full PADI certification courses and dive trips in the area, including trips to the famous USAT Liberty wreck in Tulamben that attracts thousands of divers every year. I've been wanting to get dive-certified for several years, but have yet to make the commitment. Kristin isn't a diver either, but we love the water and were excited to do some snorkeling. We weren't able to make it to Tulamben due to time constraints, and instead enjoyed the site closer to our homestay.
We first found the idyllic bay of Jemeluk just a few minutes up the road from our homestay. The reef here starts close to the beach and stays pretty shallow until about 50 meters offshore, providing an easy access snorkel in calm waters. When we first arrived, there were only two other people in the water, and we enjoyed the reef by ourselves until a scuba group of 10 arrived on boat and jumped off in the deeper water (I think this is a popular spot for training courses as the water is calm, relatively shallow, and close to the accommodations). The bay had excellent visibility and made it easy to enjoy the broad variety of coral formations and fish.
Our next stop was the Japanese shipwreck in Banyuning. Despite its name, very little information is known about this ship (including if it is truly of Japanese origin). The wreck itself is located just 20 meters offshore in 5-8 meters of water, and the ocean drops off significantly just past the wreck. Visibility is not as good as Jemeluk due to stronger currents, though it's still pretty clear compared to a lot of spots I've dove. Just past the wreck, the ocean drops off significantly and there are some amazing structures to be seen here for more experienced snorkelers.

Unfortunately, we had to had back south to the Bukit that afternoon. We had a relaxing lunch to prepare for the treacherous motorbike ride south through the mountains, the busy Padangbai port area, Sanur, and finally Kuta/Tuban. I think we both wish we would have had more time to spend in Amed, but I'm sure we'll make it back there soon.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Padang Padang Cup Was On!

Read also: Padang Cup Waiting Period Begins, Padang Cup Local Trials at Uluwatu.

The 'Balinese Pipeline' showed its teeth yesterday as the patience of Rip Curl Cup Padang Padang organizers paid off and put surfers in solid double overhead conditions. Last year's Padang Padang Cup was a bit disappointing due to inconsistent swell conditions, wind, and poorer tides.

Since leaving Bali two weeks ago, I have been watching the swell charts in anticipation of the competition. This 3 meter swell, coupled with medium tides all day, looked ideal for the competition to run. Of course, it's always hit and miss whether swells will truly arrive in Bali as forecasted. This one sure did!
Chris Ward took home 1st place with a perfect 10 in the closing minutes of the final. After holding first place for the entire heat, local Mega Semadhi came in a close second. Wildcard entry Bethany Hamilton became the first female to surf in the Cup, and proved herself worthy by advancing through her Round 1 heat before she was knocked out in the quarter finals. All in all, it sounded like a great competition and a great day of waves.
I can't try to hide my jealously as I grovel in waist high wind swell here in California! In an effort to make myself feel better, the shots above are from a couple of my sessions out at Padang Padang earlier this season.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Amed - Part I

View also: Exploring Northeast Bali, Tirta Gangga (Part I, Part II).

After our refreshing swim at Tirta Gangga, Kristin and I were ready to continue northward. We left behind the cool wet climate of the mountains as we moved towards the coastline. We arrived in Amed feeling hungry, and stopped off for a nice lunch in the dry midday heat. We didn't know where to stay, so we asked a couple locals and began our search. Several young girls approached us trying to sell some items to earn money for school, and ended up leading us right to the ideal warung. It was just steps from the beach, a short bike ride from all the restaurants, and we were the only guests that night. We thanked the girls with some sodas while they taught us how to blow bubbles using a local leaf.
This 14-kilometer stretch of Bali's northeastern coastline is commonly referred to as Amed, though it encompasses several other small fishing communities (including Aas, Banyuning, Bunutan, Cucik, Jemeluk, Lipah, and Selang). Amed has only recently made its way into tourist itineraries, which has spurred dramatic improvements in living conditions over the last decade including paved roads and phone lines.
The sun seemed to fall from the sky quickly as the day wore on. We ambled down to the beach, finding it virtually empty (particularly compared to the busy beaches on the Bukit). We cooled off in the calm water as we enjoyed a stunning sunset together. As the sun ducked behind Gunung Agung, we cleaned up and headed out for dinner at a local restaurant, complete with beachside tables and a live reggae band. We called it a night early, knowing that we had a big day ahead of us.

Continue to Amed-Part II.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Harvest Update - Vintage is Nearly Here!

Vintage should kick off in just a few weeks, so I'm busily trying to get everything organized in time. I'm looking forward to getting back into the winery, especially one that I am familiar with; having worked at Edna Valley's Niven Family Estates for two vintage previously, I know that they have a great crew and make beautiful wines. I also really like Edna Valley as a wine region, and the San Luis Obispo area in general. I have a lot of friends there, so it will be great catching up with everyone!
The weather here in San Diego has been beautiful, and my friends and family have given Kristin and I a warm welcome back to California. That being said, there is no surf to be found whatsoever and I haven't even been in the ocean since I've returned! That will hopefully change today as I accept the fact that I'm not in Bali anymore (of course, it's pumping there right now) and indeed stuck in the middle of California summertime (dismally small wind swell). Still, vintage season still means surf season so I'm looking forward to getting those magical fall days soon!