The Symposium for Wine Writers Napa Valley

In my previous blog post, I had mentioned that the week of Napa Valley Premiere is one of the most exciting times to be in the valley. The buzz and elegance of the event is unmatchable, but what truly excites me is to see the valley come alive with some of the most influential people in the wine trade from around the world.

Among these are always a truly talented group of about 75 wine writers, critics, columnists, bloggers and other editorial wine content creators, who have been invited to the exclusive Symposium for Professional Wine Writers at Meadowood Napa Valley. This non-profit symposium was founded by Napa Valley Vintners in conjunction with Meadowood, and supported by The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and helps attendees polish their writing voices, increasing their brand value as writers ans elevating their wine knowledge with themes prevalent in contemporary wine writing and networking with their peers. A combination of lectures, panel discussions, group and individual writing sessions, wine tasting and fine dining make the Symposium an unparalleled career enrichment opportunity for editorial wine, wine-food and wine-travel writers.

I have been fortunate enough to photograph this annual event on a number of occasions, but 2017’s lineup of presenters was truly one for the books. Keynote speaker Kevin Zraly was among a robust faculty of writers, editors and coaches including Richard Bradley (Editor-in-chief, Worth Magazine), Evan Goldstein (MS and author), Jim Gordon (Editor, Wines & Vines), Paul Gregutt (Contributing Editor, Wine Enthusiast), Dianne Jacob (Writing Coach, author, freelance, editor), Chris Macias (Critic-at-large; The Sacramento Bee), Meredith May (Owner, The SOMM Journal and Co-founder: The Tasting Panel and The Clever Root), Madeline Puckette (co-founder and content director of Wine Folly), Leslie Sbrocco, author, speaker, consultant, television host; Julia Cosgrove, vice president and editor-in-chief, AFAR; Esther Mobley, wine, beer and spirits writer, San Francisco Chronicle; Michael Shapiro, journalism professor, founder of The Big Roundtable; and Chris Knutsen, executive editor, Wall Street Journal Magazine NVV and Meadowood, thank you for allowing me the opportunity to help illustrate this incredible event once again!  


Premiere Napa Valley

Hands down, Premiere Napa Valley is one of my favorite weeks to be in the valley. Throughout the year there are many incredible events, but few truly exemplify greatness like Premiere Napa Valley. This ultra-exclusive, trade-only event is held annually at the end of February, where retailers, sommeliers, media, and distributors from all over the world come to network and build relationships with more than 200 of Napa Valley’s winemakers.

The grand event is always made up of an auction, in which all proceeds of the more than 200 unique lots of wine go to help fund the Vintners Association itself, who help to promote, protect and enhance the Napa Valley appellation. The wines are all unique creations and made specifically for Premiere, offering purchasers the opportunity to own an incredibly rare wine that often represents the very pinnacle of the winemaker’s efforts in that vintage.

The other part of the of Premiere Napa Valley always is a barrel tasting, in which attendees can taste their way through some of the producers’ top offerings; again, each made in very small lots with maximum attention to detail.

I am incredibly fortunate and excited to capture the buzz of Premiere once again this week at the CIA at Greystone in St. Helena. Stay tuned on my Instagram for in-the-moment coverage of this amazing event!

        


V Foundation Celebration Dinner on Wappo Hill

Perched high atop Wappo Hill on a warm summer’s night, glamorous guests adorned in Rubin Singer gowns softly clinked their crystal flutes sparkling with JCB Haute Couture French bubbles. The setting sun cast a warm glow on the historic Wappo Hill home, which tonight was graciously opened up by legendary vintners Gina Gallo and Jean-Charles Boisset.

However, the glamor and beauty of this evening went far beyond the fine wine and couture fashion.  Gems of Napa was an intimate celebration with some of Napa’s top vintners with the same goal: supporting the V Foundation for cancer research. As the red carpet was rolled out, guests had the opportunity to meet and mingle with the female powerhouses of Napa Valley: Gina Gallo, Michelle Baggett, Heidi Barrett, Blakesley Chappellet, Beth Nickel, Amy Marks Dornbusch and Helen Keplinger, to name a few. All were studded in a custom-designed gown by well-renowned fashion designer Rubin Singer, reflecting his Resort 2018 collection.

The show didn’t just stop there – models sauntered around the lavish grounds and the indoor pool in their designer frocks while guests sipped and savored their way through a multi-course dinner by Chef Victor Scargle, accompanied by exquisite wine pairings.

I consider myself extremely fortunate to be among not only among such a beautiful crowd, but to be a part of this special fundraising benefit – thank you for inviting me to document this absolutely incredible event.


Napa Valley Vintners Holiday Party With A Purpose

It’s the most wonderful time of the year here in Napa! Everyone is in the spirit of giving and the holiday parties are in abundance. This celebration, in particular, had a purpose. The Napa Valley Vintners goal is to consistently produce wines of the highest quality and to provide environmental leadership and to care for the extraordinary place they call home. Imagine all the wineries and winemakers in Napa converging to give back to needy children. That’s exactly what they did at Copia. Copia is a revitalized event space in the Culinary Institute of America in Downtown Napa. Each guest brought one or two bottles of their wine to share with their fellow winemakers and to donate toys for children in need. The venue is an amazing modern space set up for food exhibitions, tastings, and events.  To see everyone coming together to celebrate and give back to the community makes me burst with pride in my city.

On Christmas morning there will be some very happy kids in this valley and I’m glad I was there to witness the generosity of those who made it possible.

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Napa Valley Vintners & Michelin Guide 2016 Dinner

As a commercial photographer with a focus on food and wine in Napa and Sonoma, my work allows me to capture some of the best cuisine and vino the area has to offer. And what could be better than working with The Napa Valley VintnersThomas Keller and Bouchon Bistro in Yountville? After the successful opening of The French Laundry in 1998, Keller opened this French bistro in 2002, and it has become a world-renowned eatery. There is a symbiotic relationship between the wine and cuisine in Napa. Each one elevates the other, and the relationship relies on the success of each other. This partnership was celebrated when The Michelin Guide hosted a dinner for the Napa Valley Vintners prior to their 2016 Summit at Chef Keller’s iconic bistro, and I was there to photograph the event.  For a food and wine lover like myself, this was a great honor.  I wish you could have been there to feel the energy in the room and to experience the smells emanating from the kitchen. Chef Keller and his staff were extremely gracious and hospitable. This is a night I’ll never forget, and as 2016 comes to a close, it’s an assignment I’m extremely proud of and humbled by.

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The Judgement of Paris – 40th Anniversary

It may be hard to believe but in the early 1970’s Napa Valley wine was considered to be less than desirable by wine enthusiasts. Especially those in France. That is until a British wine expert and merchant Steven Spurrier changed everything. Spurrier organized the 1976 wine competition known as “The Judgment of Paris”. The competition was a blind taste test of French and Napa Valley wines, which was won by the California entries. It thrust the region into what it is today. Forty years later Spurrier returned to Napa Valley for “The Judgement of Napa”, hosted by Jean-Charles Boisset, proprietor of Raymond Vineyards. The event was an invitation only event which served two purposes. One to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Paris competition, and the second a United State’s launch of Spurrier’s Bride Valley English Sparkling Wine.

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Always the gracious host Boisset treated attendees including members of the press and wine influncers to a friendly competition between Spurrier’s Sparkling Wine and his own No. 9 Russian River Valley Brut Blanc de Blancs 2009, in a blind tasting. These two pillars of the worldwide wine community have collaborated, with Boisset importing Bride Valley to The United States. Being the wine lover that I am, and living and working is this incredible Valley, you can only imagine how truly humbled I was to photograph this event.  I always enjoy working with J.C. Boisset for so many reasons, including his impeccable style, his graciousness, and his love of sharing his joy with others.  It’s a day that will go down in my life as one that I’ll never forget.

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Caldwell Vineyard – Napa Jazz Getaway

Caldwell Vineyard hosted a private concert by Jazz Pianist Brian Culbertson. I was so lucky to be present to capture the images of another great Napa Valley event. The performance and subsequent private wine tasting was part of Culbertson’s annual “Napa Valley Jazz Get Away“. Culberston is the founder of this exciting jazz festival that brings the best musicians to our valley annually. I had such a great time photographing this event for the winery. Guests were treated to everything that Caldwell Vineyard has to offer. After watching Culbertson’s brilliant performance, everyone enjoyed multiple wine tasting stations. One of the highlights of the event was the tasting of limited production Moone Tsai wines. As if all of this wasn’t fabulous enough, Caldwell’s master barrel cooper gave a demonstration of his barrel making. At this time Caldwell is the only winery in Napa has their own full time master cooper. Watching this craftsmanship in person was a real treat for a wine lover like me.

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Landmark Vineyards – Open House

Landmark Vineyards in Sonoma invited me to photograph their recent open house for their marketing efforts and I had a great time! When the day came there was a chill in the air, but the atmosphere was warm and welcoming. Guests in attendance had the opportunity to taste a variety of wines accompanied by delicious cuisine.  I love Landmark’s labels. They have a luxurious texture and simplicity that made it easy to stage the bottles in unique situations. I used the native flowers on the property to showcase the bottles, and I’m so happy with the results. The rich colors of yellow flowers, purple lavendar and the green grass were a stunning contrast for the bottles.

You’ve noticed that we’ve been doing more experiential marketing photography lately. This combination of staged photography mixed with a live event is becoming very popular here in wine country, and I’m enjoying the medium. I love the everything about Northern California lifestyle, fine food and wine. I’m truly a blessed man to do what I love in the place I love.

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JCB Tasting Salon & Atelier by JCB – Open House

Many of my commercial clients are working with experiential marketing. This is where an event or “experience” is combined with commercial shooting. In addition to energy charged imagery, the consumer becomes part of an actual experience. Such was the case for my latest shoot with JCB Tasting Salon & Atelier by JCB. It was a combined shoot with branding and commercial images for their advertising and marketing through an open house. The Atelier by JCB is a epicurean boutique in the heart of Yountville featuring an assortment of culinary delights, as well as high-end retail items carefully curated by Jean-Charles Boisset himself. As with everything Jean-Charles touches, the tasting room and retail atelier is decadent and gorgeous.

At the open house nothing but the best was on display for guests to enjoy from the finest JCB wines to epicurean delights that are featured in the salon. I’m very lucky to be part of this world that reflects the joy of JCB and his desire to share it!

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Cakebread Cellars Open House

Cakebread Cellars recently hosted an Open House at their winery, with the goal of treating their guests to a sensory experience while capturing new images for their marketing. They brought me in to shoot the event with the concept of providing commercial and lifestyle images during a live event. I’ve been doing more and more of this style of shoot lately, and it’s something I’m really enjoying. It’s a great new way to do commercial marketing and it feels more fluid when I’m shooting around a actual event. I was chosen because the winery was attracted to my style which they felt conveys warmth, color, and texture. Through my camera I was able to show Cakebread Cellars’ commitment to quality and hospitality. Through the movement of a live event I was able to evoke the craftsmanship that goes into their wine making and the comadery that their guests enjoy during an event. I loved shooting the food and wine offerings that engaged all the senses. After all, isn’t that what food and wine is all about? It should engage the eyes, the nose and the palate. I worked very hard to ensure that I kept all of Cakebread’s goals in mind, and I’m so proud of the final product. I think I really helped to tell their story through my lens.

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