Sunday, November 27, 2016

Naked Fruit

Standing in the 94-degree heat at Tablas Creek Winery in Paso Robles and a trifling 9009 kilometers from Domaine du Beaucastel in Chateauneuf du Pape I am about to reap the wonders of the Grenache grape. Grenache is the dominant grape in the powerful wines of the southern Rhone valley of France, the region that we think of as Provence and more specifically the Vaucluse and the Luberon. When blended with the Syrah and Mourvedre the lofty Chateauneuf du Pape and its less known neighbor Gigondas are wines that are inky, smoky, earthy and mouth-filling treasures, the epitome of terroir driven wines. 20 years ago you could buy a Gigondas in the states for $10 and now they fetch $40. And that $10 bottle was just $4.00 at the vineyard in the lovely village of Gigondas in the mid-nineties and a garden variety Cote du Rhone was a paltry $2.50. My how time flies.

In Central California the sugar laden Grenache produces wines that are more fruit forward than their French counterparts and, since I’ve never met a fruit bomb I didn’t love, I favor the New World iteration.

We arrived at Tablas Creek smack in the middle of harvest known as “vendage” in France and while we didn't observe the picking we invited ourselves to take a closer look at the pressing of the Grenache grape, a look that included a mouthful of the sweet berries right off the vine. A well-tuned taster could probably predict the success of the vintage based on the sweetness and flavor of the naked fruit itself. And according to my novice taste buds the Tablas Creek’s 2016 Grenache and blends thereof will be killer.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Distant Cousins

The portal of the 1797 Mission San Miguel Archangel, the 16th of  Padre Junipero Serra's 21 California Missions.

Famed San Francisco de Asis in Ranchos de Taos, NM built between 1772 and 1816. 

Like the Spanish Colonial churches of New Mexico, the Spanish missions of California intrigue me. Though they were built at the same time, the late 18th century to the early 19th, they are very different. Why should two Catholic churches built at virtually the same time be so dissimilar?

My first guess is that it’s because of native American or Pueblo design influences in New Mexico and Moorish ones in California. What's your take on this riddle?

The pitched tile roof of San Miguel.

The rear buttress of San Francisco or Ranchos Church.

Comparing San Miguel Archangel in San Miguel, California nine miles north of Paso Robles to San Francisco de Asis in Ranchos de Taos, NM the differences are stark. In San Miguel there’s a sprawling “mission style” layout and long portal or portico. It feels more evolved and finer. Not finer in the qualitative sense but finer as in finished. San Francisco is more muscular, organic and contained.

The materials used were the same, adobe and timber, but in California curved earthen adobe roof tiles called tejas were employed and the architectural lines are more angular and the stucco colors lighter compared to the mud tones of New Mexican iglesias.

Massive buttresses are a feature of colonial churches in New Mexico whereas slightly pitched tiled roofs typify the "Mission Style" in California.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

A subject and a camera

David Marks

There’s a portrait right in front of us almost all of the time. It’s a wonder that we don’t take more of them. All you need is to see the subject and to have a camera.

Last weekend in Santa Fe for an art opening I attended the extraordinary History in a Moment show at the Monroe Gallery on Don Gaspar Street. The exhibition of iconic photographs from the Great Depression of the 1930s, WWll, Viet Nam and the Iraq War should not be missed. Carl Mydans, George Silk, Margaret Bourke-White, Alfred Eisenstaedt are among the photographers included. Many images in the show are part of Time Magazine: 100 Photographs: The Most Influential Photographs of All Time that appeared in my in-box yesterday.

Just across the street is the David Marks Gallery. It wasn’t on my radar at that particular moment but it featured black and white photography so I couldn’t very well not go. Turns out David is a fine black and white shooter and quite the raconteur. I commented that he was displaying landscapes and asked if it was because “that’s what sells.” He allowed that my hypothesis was valid but then he walked me to a bin of portraits. All excellent. He said that William Eppridge, a Life Magazine photographer and one of those featured in the History in a Moment show across the street, had visited his gallery a few years back and that, during that visit, he had photographed him. When Eppridge died in 2013 David’s image of him was the one included in news coverage of his passing.

As I prepared to leave I asked David where he photographed Eppridge. He said “In the doorway.” The picture up top was taken in that exact place.

Sunday, November 06, 2016


I’ve reported from Highway 104 in the past. It’s the ribbon of roadway that meanders from Tucumcari to Las Vegas that we traverse when returning from the Panhandle Plains Museum in Canyon, Texas. It’s a barely inhabited trove of desert wonders of which I never tire.