Recently photographed contender Duskie Estes, Executive Chef and owner of Zazu Kitchen + Farm for Food Network’s Beat Bobby Flay. A pre-law student turned chef Duskie opened her farm to table restaurant in Sebastopol California in 2001. Serving farm-fresh American comfort food with an Italian twist, Zazu Kitchen + Farm has been named one of San Francisco’s top 50 restaurants in the Bay area. Chef Duski Estes is featured on episode 8 “Say Cheese!” of season 18.
Bistro Jeanty has been a staple in the Napa Valley for over 20 years. Serving classic French cuisine, this family-run restaurant focuses on quality fresh ingredients, delivering an array of delicious food with a cozy environment. From Crème de Tomate en Croute to Boeuf Bourguignon every single dish, along with their wine and cocktail menu, is bursting with flavor and uniqueness. Located in the picturesque town of Yountville, Bistro Jeanty is a favorite among locals and a must stop for tourists alike.
The fashion label, Chanel, recently made its way to Napa Valley to introduce their new haute jewelry collection, Les Blés de Chanel. The intimate gathering, which was invite-only, took place at the gorgeous Auberge du Soleil, and brought together some of the wealthiest tastemakers from San Francisco and Napa Valley for the private event. Dinner from the resort’s Michelin Star restaurant was served to guests while they took in 33 acres of pristine hillside vineyard views. Crisp white wines were the pour of the evening – perfect on the warm spring afternoon.
The beautiful event featured fresh flowers, candle lanterns and gold wheat embellishments – a nod to the jewelry presented. With a backdrop of Napa Valley’s beautiful sunset, Chanel’s glamorous 62-piece collection immediately stole the show. Guests were invited to tour the wheat-inspired collection, which also happens to be an acknowledgement to Coco’s childhood in Auvergne, France – the region is known for its wheat fields, and her August birthday coincides with harvest season.
Event attendees tried on their favorite styles, and some took pieces home with them ranging from $100,000 to $1,000,000. Statement treasures, such as the Fête des Moissons, was among the most impressive. The necklace itself is anchored by an octagonal 25-carat yellow diamond, and features a total of approximately 120 carats – just gorgeous. The Brins de Printemps and the Epi d’Ete necklaces were also head turners. From aquamarines and peridots to colored diamonds and sapphires, truly spectacular.
The event was a memorable one. With breathtaking views, delicious food and wine, and of course – the variety of stunning jewelry, it was quite the experience – mostly because haute fashion shows and presentations typically take place in the fashion capital of the world, Paris, but we got a little taste of it right here in Napa Valley.
To learn more about the collection and view some of the precious styles, click here.
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!
It was a warm, late summer’s night in the Annadel Gap estate vineyard—and, 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 interconnected—including 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 chemicals—including most pesticides and herbicides—can 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 clones—Dijon Clones 115, 667, 777 and 943; Heritage/Field Selections Pommard, Mt. Eden, Calera, Chambertin and Martini. Syrah was also planted with diversity in mind—100, 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 crew—but just the beginning for the cellar team.
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!
The 2017 Cakebread Pinot Noir harvest was one for the books! Harvest is always a fun and exciting time in the winery, but the lead-up often brings an extra level of complexity, and this vintage was no exception. Mother Nature brought abundant rainfall during winter, producing vigorous vines, followed by extreme heat over Labor Day, kicking harvest right into high gear.
Capturing the buzz at Cakebread Cellars during this time was truly one of my most memorable photoshoots yet. The day for these grapes started with a night harvest at the Annahala and Apple Barn Estate vineyards – known collectively as Two Creeks Vineyards in Anderson Valley. Here, the marine-influenced climate and warm, sunny afternoons provide the perfect stage for growing nine superior pinot noir clones. By the time I was on-location at the winery in Napa just after sunrise, the fruit had just arrived from the vineyard and was ready to be sorted.
Meanwhile back at the winery, where the air was filled with aromas of juicy, fermenting fruit, the cellar team was equally as busy – grapes were hand-sorted, while tanks were drained and filled and pumpovers happening all around. Needless to say, harvest is truly an all-hands-on-deck job, with head winemaker Julianne Laks leading the charge.
There is no denying that during harvest an incredible amount of hours are spent in the vineyards and at the winery… I’m talking sometimes up to 100 hours a week. Cakebread’s crew had sky-high spirits and remained strong throughout the long days, fueled by shared laughter and camaraderie. Their spirits were infectious, making this day not only one of my most unforgettable and fun shoots, but also one of my most treasured Napa experiences.
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.
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 Vintners, Thomas 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.