Just because California (mostly) broke its five-year drought this year did not mean it was a perfect year for growing winegrapes. Growers dealt with devastating floods early in the season–leaving some of Lodi’s most storied vineyards submerged in water until early summer!–and an unprecedented heat spike just as harvest began, with almost two weeks of 100-plus-degree days across the state (which made for an all-hands-on-deck kind of insanity for a while with seemingly everything coming in at once). And then there were the devastating wildfires that tore through Mendocino, Sonoma and Napa counties at the end of harvest (which reminds me–have you bought your 2018 California Wine Country calendar yet? $5 from each sale goes to fire relief in those counties).
Still, reports from across the state show that it’s been a pretty good year with a harvest that has most winemakers looking very positively on the results of the 2017 vintage.
We’ll have to wait a while longer to taste these wines, so until then enjoy some images from this year’s harvest.
As I work my way through some preliminary and background posts in my Year in the Life of Wine project, this early work is as much for my own edification as it is my audience’s–and it’s got some fun photographic challenges.
I wanted to do some light coverage of this year’s harvest to feature in these preliminary posts, and that would mean shooting when they harvest at Tablas Creek. They harvest at night. And that is a tough thing to shoot–action shots in almost total darkness? Hey, I’m always up for improving my skill set–and will need to if I’m going to shoot this intensively next fall. First, thank goodness for cameras that perform well in low light. That helps a great deal. As for the rest? Jump in the deep end of that figurative pool and get to work.
The payoff is that it gave me a much-needed handle on how to approach this kind of vineyard photography, and got the creative wheels turning as I think about interesting ways to photograph things next fall now that I have a feel for the technical requirements.
I may have nibbled a few Mourvèdre grapes (Counoise, too), and discovered that grape juice mud is a thing in dusty vineyards. And it’s sticky stuff. I was impressed again with the hard work and skill of the harvest crew (all of whom were so incredibly lovely to hang out with as they worked and I shot).
And, most of all, I’m excited to taste the wines that are made from these grapes I followed over the course of a night and morning. I’m already a fan of Mourvèdre generally, and Tablas Creek’s is one of the best I’ve had.
So. Never been present for a night harvest? Go take a look right here, in that case. Later this week: back at the winery with the fruit from the night’s harvest.
A few months before I started this blog, I was working away on a proposal for a new documentary project. (If you’ve not read the “about” page here, you may not know that I’m a nature photographer!) In fact, that proposal is what led me to create the wine-stained lens blog as an ancillary pursuit.
My previous documentary project, the Owens Lake Project, concluded for the most part after six-plus years. While there will be some ongoing work for years to come, the major work on the project is finished. Since I like to have a personal photography project going at all times, I wanted to jump right into something new as soon as possible.
The idea I’d kicked around for a few years–and what I finally decided upon–was an in-depth, year-long look at the winemaking process from grape to bottle. A year in the life of wine, if you will.
This project will be a slight shift away from prior work (conservation photography) in that it will involve writing as much as it would photography–but photography is still the primary focus.
Centered completely at the estate of Tablas Creek Vineyard in Paso Robles, home to some of the most stunning Chateauneuf-du-Pape style wines produced in the new world, The Life of Wine will take an up-close, in-depth look at a year in the life of the vineyard. Follow along now with the introductory posts, setting the stage for the “new year” in the vineyard, which for our purposes will begin following this fall’s harvest as the vines go into dormancy. We will go from dormancy to bud break to the end of next year’s harvest, with a parallel look at what’s going on in the winery lab and barrel room as the current harvest begins its next phase of life.
Tablas Creek is a pretty special place, and I’m honored they’re allowing me to tell this story through their vines and wines. I’m excited about showing you this life, and hope you’ll follow along over the next year.
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