I’m not sure when or where I first learned about extremophiles, and neither can I explain why I became so determined to make them the subject of my 2018 label series - even as friends suggested more practical themes such as “native plants of New Zealand.” Throughout the many weeks that I spent drawing tragic renditions of sea monkeys, hydrothermal vents, and even cave slime, the idea seemed to become ever more unrealistic. It turns out that finding aesthetically lovely microscopic organisms is rather difficult, but I just couldn’t let it go.
To me, extremophiles are a mysterious and powerful example of resilience and hope. These organisms not only live but THRIVE in the most inhospitable environments on our planet – places where life, until recently, was thought to be impossible. When they experience challenges, such as radiation, extreme heat, cold, salt, or acid, they find creative ways to exist and carry on with their work. Diatoms, for example, are responsible for generating around twenty percent of the planet’s oxygen each year and have the unique ability to build glass-like cell walls for protection, allowing them to survive in a wide range of hostile environments. Tardigrades (now possibly established by mistake as the first life on the moon – click here for the story) have survived all of Earth’s mass extinctions and can go without food or water for more than thirty years. From Latin extremus meaning “extreme” and the Greek word for “love” philiā, these tenacious microscopic species inspire me to wonder what other impossibilities might be possible were we to respond to adversity with extreme creativity and love rather than fear.
When I first began The Color Collector, I could not have imagined that it would involve moving into an off-grid tiny house on a remote piece of raw land or digging a thousand holes with a spade. But the past few months have given me a chance to draw inspiration from extremophiles and practice a little resilience. As a winemaker, the compelling exploration of place has stood out as an ultimate goal, and - with a recent opportunity to establish my own vines on a pristine alpine meadow outside of White Salmon, Washington - the journey has begun. This fall, in addition to making more (delicious and exciting!) Gamay than ever before, I was able to plant my first acre of winegrapes at 2,000 feet elevation on generous ashy loam. It will be a long and risky process to establish a viable crop here, but guided by a beginner’s mind and inspired by extreme love and curiosity, I am committed to seeing it through.
As always, I am grateful to you for being part of the ever-unfolding story. My Gamay Noir from the exceptional 2018 vintage is now available in over twenty locations in Portland including: E&R, Tasty & Alder, Mom & Pop, Davenport, and Montesacro. In response to requests from around the country, I have also recently joined forces with VinoShipper to make it possible to send wine to many more locations. Supply remains limited, but if you live outside of Oregon and would like to place an order, please click here to be linked to VinoShipper’s online store. Wishing you a beautiful season of celebration!
For technical information on the 2018 Color Collector Gamay, please click here.