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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
When you or I walk into our favorite wine shop to purchase a crisp Sauvignon Blanc, we rarely think about the effort that goes into that one perfect bottle. I was given the opportunity to photograph the recent harvest of these lovely grapes at Ehlers Estate in Napa Valley. Situated in the St. Helena appellation, this winery practices a strict adherence to Biodynamic and organic farming methods. The harvest began at night under the light of the full moon and continued until sunrise the next morning. This experience was very surreal for me. I wish you could have been there to take in the smell of the earth and the fresh cut grapes. One of the most indelible moments of this experience for me was watching the hard work and pride of the team at Ehlers. It’s given me an entirely new appreciation for what goes into a beautiful bottle of wine. The next time I open a bottle of Ehlers Sauvignon Blanc, I will take the time to savor the smell, taste, and the spirit of the people that went in to creating it. I hope the images I captured will encourage you to do the same. Cheers!
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.
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.
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.
Being a commercial photographer in Northern California, I find myself outside at stunning wineries shooting landscapes, vineyards, and rustic builders. But for my latest project for Levelsleep I moved inside to shoot models, mattresses, and a dog. My client LEVELsleep is a Bay Area mattress company that designs and manufactures mattresses to help people to sleep better. They don’t just offer a good looking mattress, but they have proven science behind it. Owners Roger Sramek and JJ Abodeely hired me to photograph their mattresses, their team, and situational shots with models for their marketing and advertising needs. Visit their website to view more of my images and to learn about these amazing mattresses and the technology behind them. My commercial work brings me great pride. Especially in a case like this where my imagery helps a great company to tell their story.