Latest Writings + Travels From Oregon + California

Finally, this hot, humid mess of a summer is nearing its end. Despite not having AC in my apartment, traveling excessively, breaking my laptop, and living out of suitcase across continents and coasts, I’ve had a very productive past few months, and I’m really excited about what the fall will bring. I know already that it will mean larger writing projects, travel to Champagne and South Africa, a food-and-drink crawl in L.A., and a new collaboration with a talented illustrator.

I’m still coming down from the high of a week in Napa and Sonoma during harvest. I’ve been in wine country during harvest before, but for some reason this trip was particularly enthralling. I think those California gold hills, with their rugged stature and sprawling woods, got into my soul a little. My heart was captured by the vineyards of Sonoma in particular, where the cool air kissed my skin and the sun warmed my back as I rode on a tractor through rows of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Gamay. 

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Before that, there was Oregon, where I spent a fascinating week visiting producers all over the state, leading up to the International Pinot Noir Celebration. I wrote about some exciting aspects of Oregon wine on Vine Pair, which you can read here; I also have a freshly published piece up on Vogue.com about the killer urban winery scene in Portland. Read that one here. I’m looking forward to writing some more detailed features on the bustling wine culture of Oregon, so be on the lookout for that in the near future.

Scholium Project bottles

As I go through my notes from Napa, Sonoma, and the Central Valley, where I spent a day helping the team at Scholium Project (read my 2015 profile of Abe Schoener here), I’m enthralled to know that American wine is so diverse, so forward-thinking in many aspects, and so, so delicious. And speaking of delicious, I should also mention that Food Republic published my round-up of San Francisco’s best new spots to eat and drink (based on research from an earlier trip), read that here.

Before I left California last week, I spent a day in San Francisco. Walking around the Mission, I came across the “Free Box” outside Dog Eared Books, and there was a copy of M.F.K. Fisher’s Gastronomical Me. How perfect, I thought, to have a collection of essays from one of our country’s pioneering literary food writers, to read on the plane back to New York. I opened it up and read the first sentence of the prologue: “People ask me: Why do you write about food, and eating and drinking? Why don’t you write about the struggle for power and security, and about love, the way others do?” 

I laughed and held the book to my chest, reassured to know that, back in the 40s, Fisher was grappling with the same question that often occupies me. I believe she wrote this forward in the middle of WWII, and while we aren’t in exactly that situation on a global scale, it’s unquestionable that conflict and suffering dominate great swaths of our planet, near and far. Knowing that so many issues in my city, our country, and this world are deserving of the power of the pen, I do sometimes wonder why I dedicate myself to writing about food and wine, something which seems on occasion quite petty, self-serving, and limited to a small, well-heeled population. But I knew right away where Fisher was going with that question. I think my answer, today, is not too different from hers: “There is a communion of more than our bodies when bread is broken and wine drunk.” And I would add that it’s about beauty. If you’ve ever stood in a vineyard with the late afternoon sun setting over ripe grapes, as a farmer details each soil type on every hill on his property, and looked out onto the fog rolling in from the mountains, you’ll understand what I mean.

 

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Riesling And Riesling

Last month, I traveled to the Rheingau and Rhinehessen, and learned about the shift in Germany toward terroir-driven winemaking, particularly with dry Riesling, as well as the organic and biodynamic movement there.

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Back in New York, I’ve been spreading the Riesling gospel. But of course, I would have been remiss if I limited it only to what’s going on in the Old World. The Finger Lakes is producing wonderful Riesling, and I wanted to not only mention that region in general, but highlight the strides taken by innovative winemakers like Kris Matthewson, of Bellwether Wine Cellars, toward natural winemaking – which is not really a trend, in that area. For other natural Finger Lakes wines, look for Bloomer Creek and Eminence Road.

Check out my article on the new generation making German Riesling for Vine Pair here . . .

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my more domestic-focused Riesling piece for Eater, here.

And . . . go drink some Riesling.

America The Great, The Violent And The Racist

Although I realize that the 4th of July is supposed to be celebratory and leisurely, I think this year in particular calls for some reflection on what America is and how it became this way. I am not naive enough that America’s legacies of inequality and injustice are news to me, but it does seem that this state has become gravely exaggerated over the last year or so.

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On Friday, I visited the MoMa and walked through the incredible “Migration Series” paintings that Harlem-based artist Jacob Lawrence made in 1941. With his astonishing technique that is at once childish and basic yet unique and awe-inspiring, Lawrence tells the story of the migration of Southern blacks to America’s northern cities, starting around 1910. Normally, the series is split between the MoMa and the Phillips Collection in DC, and it’s incredible to see them altogether.

I also ready an article by Rachel Aviv, certainly one of the most important journalists working today, about a case where a black man was sentenced to death for killing his baby, in a black township of Louisiana. It’s currently not behind a paywall (“Revenge Killing,” in the current issue of the New Yorker) and I urge you to read this nuanced account of a story that seems to me representative of many broader, structural problems in America today. A legacy cannot be wiped away quickly, and so much work has been done to change our society already, but at the very least we can use this holiday to reflect just a little bit on who we are, and what there is to lament as well as celebrate.