I was fortunate to have been born.
When the Communists invaded Latvia during World War 2, they arrested my father to kill him because he owned land. Fortunately, some of his buddies tore out the jail window bars to help him escape. After hiding in the forest for months, he finally gathered his wife–my mom–and a few belongings into a wooden horse drawn cart and trudged toward freedom. I was born along the way.
Eventually, we immigrated to the United States, where I became a US citizen, graduated with a bachelor's degree from the University of California at Berkeley, then received a master's degree in fine arts from California State University at Sacramento.
After 10 years of teaching high school art and photography, then a year of teaching special education teachers and doing wedding photography every weekend and most nights, my wife put her foot down. Choose one career. In a state of confusion and probably after a beer or two, I choose photography.
Being an extreme workaholic, during my chosen photography career–clients include lots of famous architects, National Geographic and Nikon, I wanted to supplement my income by becoming either a tuba repairman (two in my home state of Oregon) or a wine writer (thousands in Oregon). Although my aptitude tests strongly advised against it, I chose to add the wine route to my resume.
Now I write, photographs and create videos for a long list of winery clients and publications like Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, Sommelier Journal, Oregon Wine Press, Outdoor Photographer and a variety of travel magazines.
I’ve also created two wine-related books; my last, Oregon the Taste of Wine, won a handful of international awards including “Best Regional Book in North America,” and Wine Spectator called it one of the “top reads for wine lovers.” Imagine that, the book isn’t even about wine.
Amazingly, I still feel like a newbie at the game. And being handicapped by single-digit IQ scores, I’ve been very thankful to the Napa Valley Wine Writer’s Symposium folks and Stag's Leap Winery for a generous fellowship and to the Culinary Institute of America for bestowing two amazing Master Wine Course scholarships. I can now differentiate red wines from whites.
In addition to this tasty winery work, in 1999, I started a major personal project I call Africa’s Undiscovered Myths. For this I’ve traveled to and interviewed the elders, shamans, witchdoctors, storytellers, and chiefs of Africa’s most remote tribes about their myths and archetypal dreams. For all but one of the tribes, I am the only person to have never documented their oral stories. My illustrations of those myths and dreams have been displayed in galleries throughout the United States, including at the United Nations headquarters.
Talk about a blessed life. Currently I live with my family in the rolling, vineyard and forest-covered hills above Sherwood, Ore., and work out of a high-tech barn next to my home. Life just doesn’t get any better. Let’s have a glass of wine.