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01.17.2012

Introducing The Essence of Wine

Many facets of wine contribute to its allure and mystery. But foremost among wine's most magical qualities must be the remarkable landscape of flavor and aroma to be found in the glass.

That mere grape juice, given time and the workings of the microscopic kingdom, can yield flavors beyond description has doubtless played a central role in making wine mankind's most historically sacred fluid, beyond our own lifeblood.

With eyes closed, a glass of wine can transport us not only to climes far removed, but also through time. These journeys are provoked by flavor. Our deep sense memories are drawn from their hiding places, and we find ourselves tasting things that a simple liquid ought not to be able to evoke with such unnerving power.

The flavors of wine are magical and beautiful, and worth celebrating, almost as much as they are worth drinking.

It is my pleasure to introduce a new series of weekly content on Vinography called The Essence of Wine.

This writing and photography project has been years in the making. Or more correctly, I have fantasized about it for several years, and only recently encountered the collaborators that I felt could truly help me bring it to life:

Photographer Leigh Beisch
Capturing the soul of food is more difficult than you would think. Food photography these days is glaringly unoriginal and boring for the most part -- often as hopelessly derivative as it is clinically sterile.

Photographer Leigh Beisch's images of food possess a rare beauty, poetry, and warmth that capture the energy and allure of great food.

Leigh studied painting and photography at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). Moving from New York to San Francisco with her husband, an animator, Leigh opened her own studio and quickly attracted major clients like Williams-Sonoma, making a name for herself by creating stunning photographs for product packaging and cookbooks.

"My work as a painter influences my photography," says Leigh. "Color, shape, texture and the boundaries of the frame are subjects in and of themselves and I try to capture an emotional response to the subject and the setting, as much ad abstract paintings do."

Leigh's visions has led to commissions that range from editorials for magazines to store displays. Her work has won numerous awards including several Communication Arts prizes in photography and design as well as awards from Graphis and American Photography among others. The cookbooks that she has photographed have received awards from IACP, James Beard and Gourmand.

Prop Stylist Sara Slavin
Requiring equal parts sculptor, chef, painter, and engineer, good prop stylists, especially those that work with food, are worth their weight in saffron.

Art director and prop stylist Sara Slavin collaborates with photographers, designers and publishers on commercial and editorial projects throughout the country, with a special emphasis on the culinary and related arts.

She has co-authored numerous lifestyle books and has acted as art director and stylist for such books as Odd Bits, Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet, Alice Medrich's Bittersweet and Pure Dessert, Salumi, Williams-Sonoma Entertaining, Country Cooking of France, Southern Pies and Gwyneth Paltrow's My Father's Daughter.

Her clients include Williams-Sonoma, Restoration Hardware, Design Within Reach, Diageo Estate Wines, Food & Wine Magazine, Chronicle Books, Artisan Publishing, Sunset Magazine and 10 Speed Press.

Each week, Leigh, Sara and I will be bringing you a bit of visual poetry -- an original photograph and some prose -- that captures some of wines most essential elements. I hope you enjoy these as much as we are enjoying their creation.

See The Essence of Wine.

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Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson Wine Grapes The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson to cork or not to cork by George Taber reading between the vines by Terry Theise adventures on the wine route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud