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.
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!
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!
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.
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.