On Friday night, Heron and I joined our family in the Willamette Valley outside of Portland, Oregon, where we drank so many pinot noir that I felt like my blood had literally been turned into wine. It was my first time in the valley, and I was surprised to find that it reminded me so much of my home in New England. In the photo above, you can see the thick fog that hugged the grape vines at Domaine Serene, a fantastic winery with some earthy and complex pinots and a dry rose. It rained the entire weekend, but I enjoyed it. The fog enveloped the entire scene, and it forced me to examine what was right in front of me, and I was in the moment and focused on family and friends. Below you will find some of the photos I took in the Willamette Valley to highlight some of the places we drank and ate.
What struck me about the Willamette Valley is how green it is. My brother-in-law went on a run, and he came back and said he felt like he just ran through a jungle. The views are lush, and the rain warm.
We drank a lot of wine, but we did something that I never did before: an olive oil tasting. It wasn’t my idea, and we almost went to a local brewery instead, but I was so glad that I stuck around for the olive oil tour at the Oregon Olive Mill at Red Ridge. We tried olive oil in official tasters, and what I learned was that when tasting olive oil there is a peppery, almost spicy taste at the finish. I had one olive oil that hit me like I had just ingested a bunch of pepper. We had a lunch after the olive oil tour, and everything was drenched in olive oil, including coconut ice cream with a bit of sea salt.
The rose above was taken on the grounds. Someone who is a part of my family pointed out the rose above and said: “Take a photo of that rose. It’s Mother Nature at her finest.” Hope I did it justice.
Final shot is of a hazelnut. At the bottom of the olive plants, they use hazelnut shells as ground cover.
This weekend, I fled Los Angeles, work, and all my responsibilities and jumped on a jet plane to Walla Walla, Washington. I have never been to Walla Walla — or really ever heard about the place — but my family, who do enjoy wine tastings, raved about the town that is five hours outside of Seattle and closer to the Oregon border than you might expect. Honestly, I needed to get away. I’ve been anxious, trying to find the balance between my professional and creative life, and I thought spending time in a town where the only thing to do was farm or drink wine would provide the cure. So I went there with the idea that I would eat, drink, and take photographs. You’ll see some shots below.
We stayed at a winery called Abeja, and we had the most fantastic rooms and the most incredible breakfast. I remember the last breakfast most distinctly. They brought over a baked egg seasoned with a bit of thyme, parmesan cheese, sea salt, and some light cream. Then they brought out bacon with sourdough waffles covered in fresh apples with a dollop of whipped cream. We drank their wine, too, which was good, but I have to be honest with you: I don’t know anything about wine. I wish that I did, but when I taste four or five different wines it’s really hard for me to tell the difference. I’m trying to learn and respect the craft, but one thing that I have learned from my family and friends is that all you have to do is say something descriptive like “minerality,” “apricot,” or any other floral or fruit taste, and people might actually think you know what you’re talking about. The people I was with knew wine, and it was fun to learn, but I was more interested in the sights in Walla Walla. And of course, the company.
What I loved most about Walla Walla was that everywhere I looked there was a different landscape photo opportunity. It was close to the high plains desert, and every piece of land was used to grow crops. It reminded me of a place Jack Kerouac would have loved to wander through, and he would have written about the people who worked the land. Because it was farmlands and they were growing different crops, the colors of the Earth altered as much as the contours of the landscape. Continue reading “Wine and Photography in Walla Walla, Washington”→
On Friday, Heron and I flew into San Francisco to meet up with our family. I wanted to see San Francisco again. I haven’t been there since I read at Lip Service West, and it’s a city that reminds me so much of Boston…a place I once sort of called home. So below you will find a documentation of that trip, and it’s my first attempt at writing in the BuzzFeed blog format.
Our first stop in San Francisco was a walking tour in North Beach — the former stomping ground of one of my favorite writers…Jack Kerouac. We stopped at a bunch of Italian bakeries on the walking tour and ate pizza, linguini, homemade bread and macaroons and drank espresso. Our tour guide was Italian and grew up in North Beach. He told us the Italian flag is all over North Beach…but he said it’s hardly called Little Italy.
While I was in North Beach, I knew I had to stop at City Lights, but I wasn’t sure if we would have time. We had to meet Heron’s father at Pier 33 for a tour, and I led us off the trail to the bookstore. Of course, I ended up getting us lost and walking to Market Street, but that’s another story I will hear for the rest of my life…lol.
I love all movies and books about prison — Shawshank, Green Mile, Oz, The Fixer. By examining prison life, it forces me to look at my freedom, and it causes me to wonder: With prison always looming in the background of our lives, can we ever be free?
What’s amazing about the tour is that they give you a pair of headphones and an audio version of a former guard walks you through the prison. It’s amazing to hear stories of the prisoners. On certain summer nights, the prisoners ould hear the sounds of freedom — laughter, girls and music — wafting over from the San Francisco Yacht Club. Freedom was so close and so far.
I also didn’t realize that Native Americans, after the prison closed in 1963 , took to The Rock to occupy and protest their rights to land.
We had a great time in San Francisco, but then on Sunday, we drove out to Napa Valley. I didn’t realize how close Napa was to the city, and the drive was stunning. We stopped for some cherries on the side of the road. On a recommendation, we visited Mumm Napa for some champagne.
Then we stopped at St. Supery and played a little bocce ball.
In the end, it was an amazing weekend. I picked up a book by Williams Gibson and Kenneth Rexroth, and I even got some writing in during the plane rides. The book is coming along. It’s nice to remember to be a part of the world, while I’m trying to create one in an office on a Mac computer. Let me know what you think of the new blog form. Your comments are always welcome. Photos were taken by my beautiful wife, Bianca Lapin.