Monday, July 22, 2013

Gisborne Garagiste Wine Company

I think every winemaker dreams of starting their own wine brand, so I'll admit I was a bit jealous when my good friends told me they had finally made the leap.

Taking inspiration from the small producers of Bordeaux, Brent Laidlaw, Peter Bristow, and Russell Walsh spurred out on their own in 2012, creating the Gisborne Garagiste Wine Company with the aim "to produce small quantities of wine which express the vintage and vineyard site in a style of wine [they] enjoy".

I first met Brent, Peter, and Russell during my first vintage in New Zealand back in 2009. Along with talented head winemaker Steve Voysey (proprietor of Spade Oak Vineyard, who's wines are amazing), this was one of my favorite and most influential experiences of my career. So much so, it prompted me to return back to Gisborne for two more vintages in 2010 and 2011.

When Peter recently mentioned they wanted to create a website, I happily offered to help and design their page. So, check out Gisborne Garagiste Wine Company and if you can get your hands on some of their wine, do it! I've yet to try it out but I can be sure it's excellent as each is a talented winemaker in their own right.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Snakes in Bali

A couple weeks ago, Kristin and I were on our way to the beach when I spotted a reticulated python laying on the side of the small road. Thanks to my dad, I've always been fascinated with reptiles (and wildlife in general), so I slowed to a stop and began turning around. Of course, Kristin wasn't terribly happy about this.
Reticulated pythons are nonvenomous constrictors and are rarely considered dangerous to humans. There are stories of human attacks by the larger ones, but this guy was a baby of 6-7 feet. Reticulated pythons are the longest species of snake on the planet and can grow to lengths upwards of 20 feet (6 meters).

Unfortunately, my suspicions were correct. Reticulated pythons are ambush hunters and don't just hang out in the open. This one was already dead. Kristin was relieved. As we inspected it, a local came out from his home and told us what happened. He had awoke in the middle of the night to his dog in a frenzy, and walked outside to find him fighting with the snake! The man had bashed its head until it died.

I don't think a lot of people realize the prevalence of snakes in Bali. It's definitely not a topic heavily covered in travel brochures and magazines, but they're here. There are dozens of species found throughout the island: rat snakes, keelbacks, vine snakes, tree snakes, pythons, etc. Some of these are venomous: king cobras, spitting cobras, green pit vipers, banded/blue kraits, and Asian coral snakes. Read a little bit more about these snakes on Bali Reptile Rescue.

Don't be alarmed. Snakes don't attack humans for no reason, only if they feel (or are) threatened. Just because there are a few venomous snakes around, don't go killing every snake you come across. The main thing to remember is to always stay mindful of your surroundings.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Balangan Sunset

Just had to share this beautiful photograph taken by my girlfriend Kristin. Balangan has always been her favorite sunset venue here in Bali, and evenings like this are probably why. What an amazing moment frozen in time, I wish we knew who this couple was because it sure looks like a romantic marriage proposal.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Charles Shaw Wins More Medals - What Does This Mean?

I just read an interesting article on JOY of Wine, Should Cheap Wines Win Medals?, and thought it was worth sharing my two cents.

Value brand Charles Shaw has once again picked up some serious awards at a prestigious wine competition, the Orange County Fair Wine Competition. 2011 Charles Shaw Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012 Charles Shaw Merlot, and 2012 Charles Shaw White Zinfandel all won golds. Bronco Wine Company produces Charles Shaw, which earned the moniker 'Two Buck Chuck' for their low retail prices (it originally retailed for $1.99 a bottle). It immediately fell into the category of 'cheap = low quality'. When it's 2007 Chardonnay won Best of Class at this same competition six years ago, the wine industry was nearly turned upside down.

How can cheap wine perform so well in competitions?

To start, cheap doesn't mean low quality! Companies like Bronco operate on economies of scale; they are able to retail wine at low price-points because they are able to keep production costs low by buying grapes and producing wine in bulk. The fact is that just because a winery is big, doesn't mean they can't produce great wine. I have worked at some seriously big wineries where we made amazing wine across the board, from $3-50 a bottle.

Judges in major wine competitions are required to taste and score a daunting number of wines in a short period of time. Despite being professionals, this inevitably results in the muddling of sensory evaluation. How wines are grouped and lined up for tasting can have a huge effect on what wines will perform well, regardless of whether or not the competition is blind or double-blind (this means the judges do not know what wines they are drinking when they taste and score them, like at the OC Wine Fair Competition).

As Joy mentioned in her article, "the wines were judged for what they were at the time of judging". This doesn't mean they would perform well in a competition one year later, or even two months later. There are indeed many wineries that produce wines specifically to perform well in specific competitions, hoping that winning medals will equate to better sales. Some wineries (and in no way am I accusing Bronco of any wrongdoing) even enter a wine into competition that is not a representation of what they actually retail. Since wineries send their wine entries directly to the competitions, it is hard to ensure that the wine arriving is indeed the same wine as it's claimed.

Assuming that the latter is not the case, Charles Shaw took down three gold medals and should be congratulated. Some wine industry members look down on these results, and believe low price-point wines shouldn't win medals. I don't understand why. The wine market is competitive, and consumers want quality for money (the nature of ANY supply-and-demand market). Will smaller producers be affected by these medals? Maybe, but why is that unfair? 

Consumer education is really the problem. Medals, awards, and reviews don't mean everything. We all have different tastes. As I have stated countless number of times (read What Wine Should I Drink?), my favorite part of Joy's article was her statement that "in the end, you should drink what YOU like, regardless of the hype, the awards, or the reviews".

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Bingin Surf by Tacos Film

Tacos Film - Michael Horton, Bingin 2013

Check out this little video from Bingin, filmed and edited by Hiroshi Fuzuzawa (Tacos Film).

Indonesia is a magical place so it's no wonder that it attracts visitors from all over the world. One of my favorite parts of traveling here are the people I've met and how often I cross paths with them again. I met Hiroshi last year during a surf trip to Java, so I wasn't surprised to run into him again here in Bali. He was filming down at Bingin a couple weeks ago. Thanks Hiroshi!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Little Barrel at Balangan

The past swell here in Bali lit up all coastlines with some good waves. With the Padang Cup trials running last Sunday, I decided to spend the day further north at Balangan. While it's not known for barrels like Padang Padang, I managed to sneak into a few. Here's a little head dip.