Thursday, January 31, 2013

Arriving in Australia

My Australian trip began at 4 am when I arrived in Perth last Thursday and was greeted by my friend Jim. Fortunately, Jim had a few days off from work and knowing that I needed to head down to Margaret River area for work, he said there was a little swell in the water and offered to drive me down the following day. We awoke before 3 am to begin heading south; the drive was beautiful but uneventful (actually, I did get to see my first kangaroo as it tried to run across the highway). We made it to Dunsborough in just a few hours and decided to check the surf around Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse. This spot looked fun (pictured below) but a bit crowded so we continued south through Yalingup and Gracetown.

We arrived in Prevelly in time to watch a nice set roll through Surfer's Point. Also referred to as Main Break, Surfer's Point (pictured below) is one of the premier surf breaks in Western Australia and the main venue for the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro. Unfortunately, it was Australia Day weekend and the region was crowded; Margaret River is one of the premier holiday locations in the country, largely due to its close proximity to Perth. After a fun surf, we checked into our campsite.
I was lucky to have Jim to tour me around and help me get set up down here. I quickly found a cheap used car for sale and have continued to enjoy camping out while touring around this past week. With work beginning on Monday, I'm excited to get back in the winery for another vintage!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Visiting Intramuros

See previous post: History of Manila's Walled City

One of my favorite adventures while visiting Kristin and her family in the Philippines was our day spent at Intramuros. We were planning to take the Walk This Way tour with Carlos Celdran, who is supposed to be very entertaining and informative. Unfortunately, our schedules didn't match up so we decided to do our own tour. 
We quickly found out that we could create our own tour, covering more of the city and saving money at the same time. Upon arrival, we parked our car near the Manila Cathedral and quickly found a friendly pedicab driver named Mac, who offered to drive us around for 200 pesos per 30 minutes (about $5 USD). Instead of spending 1,500 pesos each for a 3-hour tour, we spent 1,200 for a 4-hour tour with a personal pedicab driver (view from our pedicab pictured below right); others choose the more traditional calesa, a horse-drawn carriage that runs for 350 pesos per 30 minutes. Mac had a map of Intramuros and knew all the spots, and he drove us around while providing some history of the sites and waited for us while we walked through buildings and other areas.
With so many wonderful attraction to see at Intramuros, you can easily spend an entire there. Here are a few of my favorites:
  • Manila Cathedral, known as the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, is the seat of the Philippines' archbishop. Originally constructed when the Spanish first colonized Manila, the cathedral has been destroyed and rebuilt several times over its 400-year history; unfortunately, it was under repair during our visit and we couldn't see the inside. It is the Prime Basilica of the Philippines and the seat of the country's archbishop.
  • Fort Santiago is probably the most historically significant site within Intramuros due to its strategic location. It was the first citadel built during the construction of The Walled City by Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, situated at the mouth of the Pasig River. Thousands of prisoners died within Fort Santiago during the Spanish colonial rein and the Japanese occupation during World War II; even the Filipino national hero Jose Rizal was imprisoned here prior to his execution. Check out the Rizal Shrine Museum, the classic building structures,the adjacent Plaza Moriones, and the views over the river from the Santa Barbara cavalier (pictured below right).
  • San Agustin Church is rather unassuming from the outside (pictured below left). It is one of the only structures in Intramuros that survived World War II (the only of the seven churches within the complex to remain standing) and considered the oldest stone church in the Philippines. Construction was completed in 1607 after the two original structures of wood burned down in fires. You can walk through San Agustin as long as a wedding isn't underway (its gained the reputation as "the wedding capital of the Philippines"). The adjacent monastery has now been renovated and turned into the San Agustin Museum and contains relics of the Spanish colonial church and culture.
Check back again for some more photographs!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Intramuros - History of Manila's Walled City

Spain announced its sovereignty over the Philippines in 1571 after taking control of Manila. Shortly after, the city was declared the capital of the newly-founded Spanish colony by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, and construction of Intramuros began. This large complex quickly became the political, cultural, and religious center of Spanish influence in Asia. Despite massive damage during World War II, Intramuros still stands in stark contrast to the surrounding metropolitan city of Manila as a remainder of the country's past.
Referred to as The Walled City, construction of fortified walls surrounding the complex began in 1590. The walls themselves cover over 64 hectares of land, standing eight feet wide and 22 feet in height. These walls encompass nearly one-square kilometer along the Manila Bay and Pasig River waterfronts that were once filled with government buildings, churches, monasteries, schools, and homes of the rich. The city was protected by seven bastions strategically placed around the complex, and accessed via eight drawbridge gates passing over an inner and outer moat.
The old saying "if these walls could talk..." must refer to Intramuros. Through its storied history, the walls of Intramuros helped the Spanish hold off threats by Chinese pirates and Dutch forces; the British even took control of the city for two years during the 1760's before Spain was able to regain this important post. The Spanish finally relinquished control after the Spanish-American War ended in 1898. America took control of the Philippines, and The Walled City became the seat of its government and military in Asia. They made drastic changes to the complex, including the removal of massive sections of its wall and destruction of its moats. The Japanese invaded the Philippines in the early stages of World War II and took control of Manila. The city fell under American control again in 1945, after the Battle of Manila; this battle resulted in the near-destruction of Intramuros and the death of over 100,000 Filipinos by the hands of the Japanese army (the bells pictured above were removed from churches destroyed throughout Intramuros and Manila by the Japanese during WWII).
Since the end of World War II, Intramuros has been slowly restored. It will unfortunately never be the same; it is now home to several office buildings, schools, residences, a graffiti-covered skatepark (pictured above), and a golf course (built by the Americans during their control and pictured above with workers removing golf balls from its pools). Intramuros is also marked as one of twelve endangered cutural heritage sites "on the verge of irreparable destruction and loss" by the Global Heritage Fund.

Click here to continue reading about my visit to Intramuros and the best way to see this amazing place.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Wine Laboratory Cost-Benefit Analysis

Cost-benefit analysis is a process for quantifying and comparing benefits and costs of a project, decision, or policy. This type of analysis is widely used by government agencies and private sector businesses. Wineries are no exception, and cost-benefit analysis can be applied to a myriad of situations: changing winemaking techniques, determining whether to enter a new market, pricing of products, and upgrading facilities.

I completed Cost-Benefit Analysis for Updating [Name Withheld's] Laboratory in 2008 for a winery in San Luis Obispo, California. There is a lot of useful information here about wine analysis, laboratory equipment, and costs involved. Please follow this link to view the entire paper; I have withheld the name of the company and its employees for anonymity. You can also read the abstract below:
Would [name withheld]’s winery benefit from updating its current laboratory? Examination of this question was completed using cost-benefit analysis, and aimed to prove that updating [name withheld]’s laboratory would decrease its overall analytical expenses, while providing accurate and speedy results that would benefit wine quality. First, [name withheld]’s analysis needs, including the types of analyses desired and the number of analyses desired were determined. Then, [name withheld]’s current inventory and procedures were compared to the most commonly accepted methods for each analysis in order to determine what equipment, supplies, and chemicals would be required. All expenses for the update were determined and divided between fixed and variable expenses. Each analysis requiring variable expenses were calculated separately. Labor expense was also calculated for both the current and updated laboratory. Off-site expense was calculated for the analyses not completed by the current laboratory. Once all expenses were determined, a budget was created for both the current laboratory and the updated laboratory to operate from 2008 through 2011. Speed of results and accuracy of results were determined based on the method of testing and the time each test requires for completion. Analysis showed that [name withheld] would spend far less on their total analysis expense between 2008 and 2011 if they updated their current laboratory. [name withheld] would also benefit from increased speed of results for the majority of its desired analyses and more accurate results on several analyses completed on-site.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Nick Cook Photography

Nick Cook is an extremely talented freelance photographer, one of the few today that continues to shoot exclusively with film. He is constantly working on several projects simultaneously. Nick currently resides in Isla Vista, the anything-but-relaxed town surrounding the University of California Santa Barbara. Here, he has found his inspiration for his 'Idiosyncratic IV' series while trying to catch a few hours of sleep amidst the parties engulfing the average night here. His surf photography, in and out of the water, has always impressed me. Plus, his portraits seem to capture people's true spirit; he recently sent through some awesome photographs he took of me during a surf trip last year.

Along with his photographic prowess, Nick is a great surfer that can be found in lineups all over California's central coast. He is also one of my very good friends and favorite surf companions; whenever I'm in California, I always look forward to trips with Nick. We don't always score great waves, but we always have a great time.

Make sure to check out Nick's website, and follow him on his blog. Thanks for the photographs and hope to see you soon Nick!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

In Awe of Nature

I was surfing one of my favorite spots here in Bali two nights ago. Overcast skies and slight onshore wind made conditions less than ideal, but the waves were overhead and reasonably clean. In between waves, I watched as a large storm approached. The other two surfers in the lineup headed for the beach, but I stayed. Within minutes, the skies above me opened up as the storm engulfed the coastline.

The water looked alive as the rain's intensity pulsated, falling hard then softening periodically. The explosion of droplets as they hit the ocean was awe-inspiring; they appeared as small white lights that danced along the surface. I was alone in nature, and the feeling was electric. I sat up on my surfboard and raised my arms, allowing the storm to engulf me too.

It was one of those moments when nature simultaneously reminds us how insignificant we are, and how beautifully unique everyday is. I wondered how many other people were experiencing this moment? And how different was their experience of it to mine? I find myself constantly in awe of nature.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

New Year's Eve - Enjoy at Your Own Risk

As I've said before, the Philippines love the Christmas season. This definitely includes New Year's Eve; parties are everywhere! Fireworks are used in celebrations around the world, but not like they are here. It seems like every street corner has a vendor selling fireworks. Luckily, they're smart enough to advertise 'no smoking or testing' (I know you'd probably find an attendant smoking on site in a few countries I've visited, like Indonesia).
I'm not talking about little bottle rockets or sparklers. I'm talking about blow-your-hand-off-if-you-mess-up fireworks. These are reserved for professionals in California; you need a license and permits if you want to fire these things off. Over the past several years, the Philippines has begun cracking down on the sale of fireworks and prohibited a whole number of the more dangerous ones; this ban has included one called 'Goodbye Philippines' (I guess the name says it all). There are numerous injuries every year over the holiday season due to fireworks.
For me, this year's celebration with Kristin and her family was one of my favorite New Year's. The party at their house was great, complete with plenty of delicious food, fun games, and plenty of fireworks! Kristin's brother was in charge of the fireworks display (part of his stash shown above; my favorite was the 'Dragon's Tempest Fury'). I tried to get a few photographs of the show, but they didn't come out too well. It was really fun viewing from so close, and there were other nearby groups setting off fireworks as well. You do have to watch out for misfires and falling debris, so enjoy at your own risk!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Porta Reserva 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon

The Guiterrez-Porta family has been making wine for nearly forty-five years in the Cachapoal Valley, a short hour and a half drive from Santiago. It wasn't until 1991 that they began producing wine under the name Casa Porta. After being bought out by Vinedos y Bodegas in 1997, the winery's capital significantly increased. This lead to the acquisition of vineyards throughout several of Chile's wine regions, including Aconcagua, Maipo, Colchagua, and Bio-Bio. They currently produce wine under six different categories (Varietal, Reserva, etc.), each with several wines including Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Chardonnay, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Noir.

The Reserva 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from the Aconcagua Valley. This viticultural region lies just north of Santiago and in the shadow of the America's tallest mountain, Mount Aconcagua. Cabernet Sauvignon is the most widely grown varietal here, but the valley is also home to Carmenere, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, and Syrah.
Winery - Porta Winery
Location- Rancagua, Colchapoal Valley, Chile
Wine - Porta Reserva 2005 Aconcagua Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Varietals - Cabernet Sauvignon
Appellation - Aconcagua Valley
Alcohol - 14.4 v/v
Price -$15 USD

Nose/Aroma - Black currants and pepper with a hint of tomato leaf.
Palate/Flavors - Black currants and plum, lovely truffles, and a slight vegetal flavor. Oak influence is a bit overpowering, and there was a hint of slight VA, but overall it's a lovely wine. Low-med. acidity, nice medium bitterness, lighter bodied.
Food Pairing - This isn't the heaviest Cabernet Sauvignon; I don't think you want this with your next ribeye. Maybe try a nice stuffed eggplant
Comments - This was a gift my friend Hayes brought back from his trip to Chile years ago (along with one of their Carmenere offerings). Though it still drank nicely, I probably let it sit in the cellar a bit longer than I should have.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Philippine Cuisine - Balut

The Philippines' colorful history has led to the development of a unique cuisine, influenced by China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Spain, and America. With a broad variety of dishes ranging from kare-kare to fish balls, balut is probably the most infamous Filipino dish and definitely not one for the faint hearted (I guess I should say the faint stomached). Many foodies rank this at the top of the most disgusting dishes on the planet, but I personally enjoyed it. It looks rather harmless at first, but you can't always read an egg by its shell.
Balut is a fertilized duck embryo that is boiled and served in the shell. Once the egg has been fertilized, it is incubated for a period of 17-21 days before being cooked in the same fashion as an ordinary hard-boiled egg. Balut is commonly sold by Filipino streetfood vendors from buckets full of sand (this is the retain the heat), but are also available in other Southeast Asian countries including Cambodia and Vietnam. The level of embryo development ranges from partial to high; it is not uncommon to be crunching bones and beak while choking on feathers.
The taste is a bit hard to explain. All I can say is it tasted just like I imagined: half egg, half duck with some crunch to it. Here's the best way to enjoy your balut:
  • Crack the top of the egg carefully, making sure not to spill the liquid.
  • Sip the broth from the egg (many believe this is the best part of Balut).
  • Carefully remove the rest of the shell and study in awe (seasoning may also be added; salt, vinegar, and/or chili are common).
  • Enjoy (everything can be eaten, except the egg white which is often rather cartilaginous)