Tag Archives: Canon 5D MK II

Top Towns to Visit on the Middle Mosel River

Ürzig and Ürziger Würtzgarten, Germany

To wrap up on the Mosel River in Germany, I thought I’d cheat and just compile a quick guide to the places worth visiting in between the major attractions of Cochem, Burg Eltz and Bernkastel-Keus. All of these places were within easy reach of each other, especially if you base camp it at Senhalser Höfe in Senhals. And since most of them have a famous wine associated with them, I thought I’d throw in some suggested riesling pairings as well.

Ürzig & the Ürziger Würtzgarten

Why go there: Only a handful of villages along the Mosel can even challenge the beauty of Ürzig. The justly famous Ürziger Würtzgarten vineyard — with its severe pitch and unusual red-clay soil — serves as a dramatic backdrop to the north of town. With the vineyard and its cozy buildings tucked together, I could have spent a full day photographing Ürzig and its surroundings.

Suggested pairing: Dr. Pauly-Bergweiler Ürziger Würtzgarten Riesling 2012. Of all the wines I sampled along the Mosel, this one was the best example of minerality in a riesling. Continue reading

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A Cruise Tour on the Mosel River: Cochem to Beilstein

Boat touring the Mosel River near Beilstein, Germany

Along with the Rhine, the Danube and the Rhone, the Mosel sees a ton of cruise traffic. The sheer volume of boats slipping in and out of the docks along Cochem’s waterfront surprised me. Along with the simple cross-the-river ferries operated by the local municipalities, there were day-trip cruises as well as multi-day mega-liners — long pearly-white craft that were crammed with hotel rooms and sapped of personality. They’re stiffness made them resemble floating logs. They looked about as much fun. Continue reading

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Bernkastel-Keus: The Prettiest Place on the Mosel River

Bernkastel Doctor, Bernkastel-Keus, Germany

Wandering the streets of Bernkastel-Keus, its hard not to feel like you are on a treasure hunt. For one, there’s the countless storefront window displays, many of them showing off wine bottles of nearby producers, their labels bedecked with Gothic script and a stodginess that paradoxically counters the happy and saccharine flavors of the Riesling inside. There’s also the half-timbered buildings, many of them leaning as though they’re about to fold over like a house of cards. And then, there are those glimpses — usually over a roofline or between two buildings — of the Bernkasteler Doctor, one of the most prized vineyards in all of Europe, stretching up the hill side like a dwarf emerald forest.

Cyclists, Bernkastel Doctor vineyard, Bernkastel-Keus, Germany

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Visiting Cochem, Germany

Cochem, Germany at dusk on Mosel River

We started our first day in Germany slowly. My daughter clearly needed to sleep in from the jet lag, and so did my wife. So my mom and I opted to cross the river to Bakerei Stenz and load up on goodies for breakfast. By 10:30am, we were alert, satiated and ready for a little exploration, and with zero hesitation, we headed north, down the river to the city of Cochem. For months, I had been trolling Flickr, seeking inspiration and locales for how to shoot the area. Images of this city — with its Imperial castle vaulting skyward, looming over a quaint city like a domineering bully — seemed to make up 50% of the search results, apparently for good reason. Continue reading

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Visiting the Anderson Valley, California

Knez Winery wine tasting, Boonville, CA

It’s rather amusing to tell people where you are headed: I’m taking a short vacation to Boonville, California. All they hear is “boonies,” and while they chuckle, it occurs to you that they’re not far off.

Tucked away in the Anderson Valley of Mendocino County, Boonville is absolutely rural, with the nearest significant town 20 miles away. I didn’t think this was possible in California, but apparently it is. To get there, you drive north out of San Francisco, through Sonoma County on Highway 101, and just past Cloverdale, you find your way onto a road that can only be described as serpentine. Highway 128′s twists and turns border on the ridiculous, as it weaves its way through oak, grassy hills, brittle fields and — ultimately — vineyards. Rolling into town, its nothing extraordinary. A county fairgrounds on the left, a Victorian home here and there, storefronts, old trucks. You might wonder: what’s the point? Seems pleasant, but of all the places one can go …

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Tasting Alexander Valley Wines in Sonoma

Alexander Valley Vineyards wine barrel, Sonoma County, California

Apparently I am at that stage in life where its time to fall in love with wine. It’s a precursor to middle age, I am guessing.

But before you start painting a picture of me based on the usual assumptions of a stereotypical midlife crisis — balding means time to grow a ponytail! — let me first state that I am only 34 years old. Also let me state what this new obsession is not about:

  • The prestige of wine,
  • Wine as a status symbol,
  • Wine as a vehicle for alcohol-based escapism,
  • Wine as an excuse to bullshit someone with phrases like “seared stones” and “velvety mouthfeel,”
  • Wine as sexual displacement.

You may laugh about this last one, but if you’ve ever read the garbage that passes for modern wine writing, you’ll have come across plenty of bury-your-face-in-your-hands tasting-note descriptions that liken a cabernet to Angelina Jolie. Continue reading

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Staying at Travaasa Hana: Garden View Suites

Travaasa Hana Resort Hotel, Maui

In 2003, shortly after a crazy wedding that included a bridesmaid going into labor at our rehearsal dinner (and her husband, the best man/my brother, rushing her away to deliver their first born), my wife Hailey and I headed to Hawaii for our honeymoon. We had initially considered Trinidad & Tobago, but when a travel agent specializing in T&T told us to go to Hawaii instead (thereby giving up any hope of a commission), we saw it as a sign: This place really must live up to the hype.

Still high off the pura vida of a 2002 trip to Costa Rica, I insisted we focus on the wet sides of the Big Island and Maui. I was fascinated by jungles, wanted nothing more than to see waterfalls, and was happy to dodge the crowds and trade in postcard beach scenes for rocky coastlines and black-sand. I was also, sadly, going through a tropical shirt phase thanks to a sale at Mervyn’s. (Yes, I just wrote that).

Long story short, we ended up spending five nights at the Palms Cliff House north of Hilo, and four nights at the Hotel Hana Maui, now rebranded as the Travaasa Hana. It was time to return, family in tow, and reconnect with the rugged coastline and end-of-the-earth splendor of Hana. Continue reading

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Dining in Alba and Barolo Wine Country

La Libera restaurant, Alba, Italy

Planning a vacation with friends can be a study in contrasts. In the build-up to our trip to Piedmont, Adam contacted a friend of his father’s, a wine buyer who knows the area well. What he responded with was a list of wines to look for, and a roster of restaurants to fill nearly two whole weeks of eating.

beef tongue, tajarin al ragu, italy

We both quickly identified our top two choices, the one’s we ought to make reservations for in advance, and they each revealed a bit about our character. Adam was fired up about Ristorante Bovio in La Morra, a white-linen bastion of class and elegance. I was keen on La Libera in Alba, a place that emphasized a modern and creative approach to traditional Piedmontese cuisine.

Now, Adam enjoys wearing a jacket and tie. I prefer to leave my shirt untucked.

Yin and yang.

Bovio Friday night. La Libera Saturday night.

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To Barolo Wine Country – La Morra, Piedmont, Italy

La Morra, as seen from the vineyards of Villa Carita, Italy

From Orta San Giulio, we headed south the next morning, destined for the town of La Morra in the Barolo wine country. For all four of us, this was the reason for our trip: seeing this legendary land of undulating vineyards, robust wine and extraordinary food. We’d read Matt Kramer’s cookbook, A Passion for Piedmont, cover to cover, and Adam had intensively researched the area’s wine. The more I learned, the more I began to wonder why this region wasn’t more competitive with Tuscany from a traveler’s standpoint.

The whole trip came about in an unusual way — a reverse engineering of sorts. Continue reading

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Sacro Monte + Villa Crespi, Orta San Giulio

Adam Huggins ascends into heaven, Orta San Giulio

From Piazza Motta, a cobbled street leads uphill to a sunflower-hued church. Rising from the church’s apex is a statue of Christ, who is flanked by two angels. His arms are open, his head is back, and he is facing the lake. Below him is a faded fresco so in need of restoration that it accurately depicts nothingness.

This is clearly a corner of Italy that has yet to benefit from the restoration industry that decorates much of the country’s skylines with cranes. In the basilica on the island, it was depressing to see how many frescos were etched with the initials and graffiti of assholes. It was art desecration. Vandalism. And it had been done most likely by tourists, judging by the volume and off-the-cuff, hurried nature of each scribe. Someone’s initials here, profanities there. You’d expect this sort of thing on a big oak in a city park. But on a 14th century masterpiece? What possesses people? Continue reading

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