Thursday, July 24, 2008

Keeping the Exhibit 'True to Life'

One of my primary goals in creating this wine exhibit is to educate people. Not only in the production of wine, but in the contrasts in wine production styles. Oftentimes this directly relates to winery size. Wine can be such a diverse product. There can be vast differences in the production techniques employed in modern day wine making ... from hand-crafted 'boutique' products to 'refinery winery' blends.

There are many variables in wine making. A winemaker is part chemist, part artist and part farmer. The best always have a 'vision'...of what they want to produce. They combine the season's harvest Mother Nature has provided in the vineyard with the skills and talents they have acquired in the cellar. For me, the goal of a winemaker should be to produce 'distinctive' wines. What do I mean by distinctive? I mean that the wines accurately reflect the characteristics of the varietal or varietals they are produced from. They reflect a sense of terrior, or be expressive of the vineyard or region where they are grown. More on 'terrior' in later posts...

To bring all this back to the exhibit...I want every aspect to be as realistic and accurate to what really happens in a vineyard and winery as possible. Fortunately, I spend a fair amount of time in wineries. Many have been extremely helpful in not only pointing me in the right direction when sourcing winery equipment for the exhibit, but also in keeping my conceptual designs based on reality. Chris Corley of Monticello Vineyards / Corley Family Napa Valley, pictured above, is one such winemaker. Chris has been helping me work through some 'interactive' exhibit details that I hope to incorporate. We talked last week about ways to visually show what happens during a fermentation. This would of course need to be achieved by artificial means that could safely exist in a museum environment, yet look realistic. During installation next September, Chris has agreed to make a quick visit to Texas to inspect everything for accuracy... or keeping things 'True to Life'.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Post Number One

Welcome to The Culture of Wine blog.... I am excited to get this officially started. For those who are interested, this blog will provide a comprehensive behind the scenes view into the making of this unique wine exhibit. I also hope to pass along some educational viewpoints from time to time.
To illustrate this first posting I have chosen a photograph of a cluster of grapes in veraison. This is symbolic to me... Firstly, because veraison is the period in a vines annual cycle when foliage growth ceases and all energy is focused on ripening the fruit. (Notice in the photograph that the cluster is changing from pre-veraison green fruit to post-veraison red fruit). Secondly, this is happening right now in vineyards throughout Northern California. In some ways I feel this parallels my path into the creation and production of this wine exhibit. For the past six months I have worked on exhibit planning & design. I have talked to winemakers, vineyard managers and coopers. I have secured storage facilities for winery equipment and sourced materials. Very soon however, the real production begins. Just today I met with Bing Djie, an engineering tech who has agreed to help produce technical drawings of the exhibit space. These drawings will lend an element of precision to a project that so far has been conceived on sketch pads. For me, creating this exhibit is a dream job. A chance to meld my creative skills as a photographer and artist with my 20 year background in the wine industry.
And so, like the grape cluster in veraison, I must be focused, and get down to the business of bringing this exhibit together.