Corto Olive Oil Planting – Lodi

One of the things I love most about photographing for the wine industry is that I get behind-the-scenes access to every stage of the winemaking process. From the sunrise plantings to midnight harvests to the crushing process… all the way through to capturing people as they enjoy the finished product with good friends and family. Seeing the hard work and dedication that goes into each bottle of wine is truly what fulfills me in my profession and fuels me to not only continue doing what I love but supporting that by being an avid consumer myself.

Olive oil might just be the next big plant-based product offering the same experiences and sensory pleasures as wine. Therefore, having an opportunity to photograph Corto’s sapling planting was truly an honor and great insight into another aspect of the agricultural industry that I had not witnessed before.

Olive trees are typically planted in the fall, which gets them settled in the soil and usually results in the best growth spurt the following spring. Our day began in Lodi before the crack of dawn, so the fragile saplings could be planted well before the sun’s heat had a chance to touch them. Fast forward to mid-morning, when skies were clear, the sun was high and many of the young olive trees were already getting acquainted with their new home.

I loved shooting for Corto and am excited to say that I just returned from Colorado where I photographed for them once again. See below some of my favorite snaps from this shoot, and stay tuned for further photos from Denver that will be up on the blog soon!

Westwood Winery Night Harvest

It was a warm, late summer’s night in the Annadel Gap estate vineyardand, unexpectedly, I was learning all about astrology. Amid the lush vines bulging with Pinot Noir under the near-full moon in this Sonoma Valley AVA vineyard, winemaker Ben Cane was leading the harvest crew with full steam, while filling me in on Westwood’s winemaking philosophies.

Biodynamic winemakers believe that everything in the universe is interconnectedincluding celestial bodies like the moon, planet, and stars. Finding the balance between those celestial bodies and vine, man and earth provides the ultimate recipe for sustainable agriculture. All the various tasks, from planting, pruning, to harvesting, are regulated by a special bio-dynamic calendar.

The concept of biodynamic farming follows an ethos composed in the mind of the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner in the early 1920’s, and the tenets are fairly simple: No synthetic chemicalsincluding most pesticides and herbicidescan be applied to vines, and no acid, sugar or enzymes can be added to wine in production. As an alternative, vineyard workers use insects, compost and cover crops on the land.

Tonight I was here at a very unique vineyard site in the northeastern end of the Sonoma Valley AVA. Nestled between Annadel Peak and Hood Mountain lies Annadel Gap Estate vineyard, which is comprised of 22.7 planted acres, precisely defined by 27 blocks and sub-blocks. The site is planted to Burgundian & Rhone varietals, including Pinot Noir (13.1 acres), Syrah (4.6 acres), Grenache (1.68 acres), Mourvedre (1.6 acres), Counoise (0.72 acres), Tannat (0.49 acres), Roussanne (0.17 acres) and Viognier (0.12 acres). The 13.1 acres of Pinot Noir are dedicated to diverse and rare Pinot Noir clonesDijon Clones 115, 667, 777 and 943; Heritage/Field Selections Pommard, Mt. Eden, Calera, Chambertin and Martini. Syrah was also planted with diversity in mind100, 174, 877 and Tablas Creek.

This may sound like a lot of different grape varieties, but the overall hand-crafted production is small, with less than 3,500 cases produced.

As the picking bins were filled, the first glimmer of sunlight could be seen, signaling the end of a shift for the hard-working harvest crewbut just the beginning for the cellar team.