The Murals at Big Creek Winery

The Murals at Big Creek Winery

By Dr. John White, artist

Fortune smiled upon me in 1966 when I had the unparalleled opportunity to work as an artistic assistant to John de Rosen, a world famous artist, in a project to paint a mural behind the main alter of St. Basils in Vallejo, California. He had painted the wonderful murals for Grace Cathedral in San Francisco and the majestic dome in the St. Louis Cathedral. From him I learned a great deal about the art of mural painting and have completed several projects of my own in the succeeding years.

When Billy Brymer contacted me in the summer of 2016 he said I had been referred to him by Gio Venturi , a good friend of mine, exceptional artist in his own right. All Billy knew was that he wanted a mural in the main gallery of his soon to open winery. We set a date to meet and give me an idea of the space I would be working in.

I might mention at this point that a mural not only inhabits a space and those dimensions restrict the mural in various ways, but the mural must live within the environment the space provides. When I say it must live, a good mural is more than mere decoration, or at least in my opinion they should, and as such they create their own world, embracing everyone who enters and transports them beyond the here and now and into the world of their existence. With that in mind I always look at the intended space.

Naturally, I’m wanting to know the basics; how long, how high, how wide, but I also want to get a sense of the area, the lighting, the environment, and the wall itself. I recall the first thing John de Rosen had done to the wall in St. Basils was he had it scrubbed, removing the top outer surface of the wall so he could work directly into the texture of the wall itself.

Before starting a mural I like to “feel” the wall; see if it is flat, cracked, weak in spots, damp, or too dry. Da Vince did not do this with the Last Supper, and the result has been dismal ever since. But also I want to get a sense of the room.

In this instance I asked Billy what his intentions were for the room and he explained. During that explanation I learned that he intended to have a table or tables in the room. I asked him where he planned to have them and he showed me a location near the wall where the mural would be. I asked the height of them and he took me into another room and showed me the table. It was not the standard table, standing tall enough to require a bar stool to sit at it.

This presented a problem, as far as I was concerned. If I expended the mural to the floor, as was originally intended, the table would block part of it but worse it would interfere with the setting the mural would create in the room. I explained this to Billy and he agreed. I told him I thought I had a solution and before starting the mural I measured the table and translated those numbers to the wall.

Before our meeting I had painted a “sketch” of my initial concept. The approach was simple and straightforward. The mural was to be in a winery so the natural subject would be a vineyard and this is the basic idea I presented to him, but I explained that the finished product would not look exactly like the sketch. He trusted me and we agreed on the commission.

I began work shortly thereafter. First I asked Billy if he would wash and clean the wall. I intended to use water based paint and I needed a good base without oils or debris to block adherence to the wall. He had done this prior to my commencing the initial sketch.

The preliminary sketch was in pencil and was very brief. The only thing that was concrete was the line, which denoted the height of the table. Measuring a point slightly higher than the table I scribed a straight line from one end of the room to the other and masked it off. Above that line I laid down washes of colors that represented be basics of the objects that would finally exist in the spaces. This extended to the sky which was created by varying shades of blue washes slapped onto the wall in a haphazard application.

The reason the underlying washes were applied so indiscriminate a manner was I wanted the paint to suggest things to me and not restrict the paint into preconceived delineations. I have found if I allow the work to talk to me it says things I may not have considered otherwise, and it also grows to fit the room.

After I had completed this stage of the work I removed the masking and reversed it. What I had decided to do was create a space below that line fit with the table motif as well as tie the room together. I painted it flat reddish brown into this space and then used measured portions to represent the side slats to imitate wood paneling. The side slats were lightened tones of the original color and were easy to apply.

The finished result was so convincing that one of Billy’s workers came in one day and saw the work. When he met Billy in the warehouse he complimented him on installing such nice paneling in the entranceway. Billy laughed and said he had not installed any paneling, that it was a painting that I had done the previous Friday. The worker came back, ducked his head in and double checked just to make sure it was pant. The greatest compliment of all is when people confuse your painting with reality!

The vineyard was a buildup on basic light tan foundation flicked with darkening spatters of reddish brown to simulate earth tones and the grape vines were painted on that. The trick was to paint the vine rows in a sweeping configuration that would lead the eye from left to right and create a sense of distance. This effect was intensified by placing a wooden fence to the far left of the vineyard, which would echo the distancing effect.

As I worked I let the paint talk to me and it told me about hills in the distance, a farm house and little road, a pond, a creek with water fall, and even an old cemetery. Fields, hills, and tree lines emerged from the washes that tied into the overall landscape. The same was true of the sky. Varying shades of blue suggested clouds and as they developed a darkening here or there rendered them distance. There was no initial plan of how the clouds or landscape would look. It all grew day by day as the undertones talked to me about what they were or what they could be.

The end result is a mural that depicted a paneled wall over which you can see a vineyard stretching out into a lush landscape. It renders a tranquil environment to sit and sip a glass of wine as you enjoy the company around you.

I was fortunate to be able to paint the Big Creek Winery mural and hope it is enjoyed for many years to come.


Big Creek Winery to Host Chamber After Hours

Big Creek Winery to Host Chamber After Hours

Big Creek Winery is hosting the Giles County Tourism and Chamber of Commerce after hours on April 21 from 4:30-6 p.m. The public is invited to taste our wines and tour the winery.

Here’s what Jessie R. ParkerChief Executive OfficerGilesCountyChamber, had to say about the winery.

Welcome to Big Creek Winery! Destination Giles is proud to host various Tennessee agritourism specialties. Next to our beautiful landscape, our agriculture is our next prized possession. When you pair these and create a fine wine, it is a winning combination for our economy. Leisurely adventures themed with “stopping to smell the grapes” have provided a boost for rural tourism by attracting travelers to the slow lane and finding our great treasures, such as Big Creek Winery. We hope you enjoy your visit and let us know if you want to see more! Cheers!

If you are tech-savvy, find Big Creek Winery on our South Central TN GeoTour and make a day of it!


Take a Breath!

Take a Breath!

One of the bigger debates about wine drinking has to do with whether or not it’s really important to let a wine breathe before you drink it. Even among wine drinkers there’s a lot of disagreement about whether it’s important, whether all types of wines should breathe or how long a bottle needs to breathe.
So here’s the scoop on giving that bottle a few minutes before you enjoy it. The idea of letting air into the bottle – especially for red wines and ports is that letting a little oxygen into the wine will open up the flavors and make it more robust. On the other hand, left to the air for too long, some wine pros will tell you that flavors begin to fade. Others will tell you not to worry about letting it breathe in the bottle, but you should air it by swirling it in your glass. And we know that aged wines (more than 15 years old) are considered fragile and do better with a shorter breathing time.
The average time a bottle of wine should breathe is about 30 minutes. But the best way for you to decide what amount of time you prefer is your own trial and error experiment. Open a few bottles of your favorite wine and sample them without breathing, at about the 10 minute mark and then at 30 minutes. See what you notice about subtle changes in the flavor and you can decide what your decant time is going to be.
The other reason for decanting is less subtle. Fermentation causes sediments – especially in older red wines and ports. Color pigments and tannins will bond inside the bottle and as you pour, that sediment will end up in your glass. This is what can give wine a cloudy appearance as well as leaving a bitter taste or even a gritty residue. Sediment isn’t harmful, it just isn’t pleasant.
Decanting helps separate the sediment from the wine.

Here’s how it’s done:

1) Let the bottle stand upright for 24 hours.
2) Open your bottle and wipe off the neck of the bottle (inside and outside)
3) Pour slowly into a decanter or pitcher without stopping.
4) As you reach the midway point of the bottle pour even more slowly
5) Stop when you see the first sign of sediment in the neck of the bottle.
6) Discard that last ounce of sediment-filled wine.

Remember that pouring the wine into a decanter will help it breathe more quickly so you’ll want to take that into account as you estimate the amount of time you want the wine exposed to air.
Decanting is part art and part science. But mostly it’s just a matter of personal taste. Experiment and have fun finding that perfect prep for your favorite flavor!

Not Just For Drinking!

Not Just For Drinking!

Wines have always been a favorite ingredient for any adventurous chef! Wines will be used to create a zesty marinade. But it can also be used as a way to add pizazz to a dish before serving. Some will also use wine as a liquid to replace water or other cooking liquids.
The idea of using wine – just like using any other seasoning – is to enhance a food without covering up its natural taste.
If you are cooking the wine, the alcohol will evaporate, leaving flavor, but no alcohol. The amount of wine is always an art and sometimes a trial and error. Too much wine will overcome the food, but too little will not add to the flavor.
Just like any marinade or ingredient, it is always best to use the wine in the recipe rather than pouring wine on the food just before serving. The wine’s flavors will seep into the food and enhance its flavor it is not a last minute thought. The rule is to add the wine not less than 10 minutes before the food has finished cooking
The best cooks will add wine to only one dish in a meal. You would never want every food on the plate to be seasoned with garlic or any other seasoning and you also don’t want all the food items to be wine-flavored.
And don’t feel like you have to use the entire bottle of wine… An opened wine will last just fine in your refrigerator for up to 1-2 weeks IF you are planning to use it to cook with.

Wine in the Bible

Wine in the Bible

Ecclesiastes 9:7: “Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favors what you do.”

First came Noah…. In addition to the rescue of every animal, Noah is really a farmer. He plants a vineyard and becomes intoxicated from his fruit of the vine. Then there is Jesus, who often used wine imagery in his teachings. In fact, both Testaments speak often of the consumption of wine as a way of life in ancient Israel.
We know that these ancient people made wine from grapes and any number of other fermentable fruits. It’s the most commonly mentioned alcoholic beverage in any of the texts and is associated with all things good – and a few not so good. There are 10 different words that refer to various wines in the Torah. And in the early Greek Testament, there are five words for wine. Interestingly, the Biblical Hebrew words for wine are used interchangeably between fermented (alcohol) and juice (non-alcoholic). Tirosh refers to grapes in any state of fermenting and is a sweet wine or juice that’s been newly made. There is Chomets, a vinegar used for cooking, but which is also intoxicating. The most common word for wine in the bible is Yayin.
The use of wine, most often described as a bounty of a harvest, a sign of God’s good will and favor upon people is reflected in the texts along with the natural tension of what can happen when you imbibe irresponsibly. Drunkenness in all texts is certainly frowned upon. Wine is used often in rituals of thanksgiving, blessings and anointments. The first public miracle of Jesus was at a wedding in Canaan when he turned water into wine.
The texts also describe the medicinal uses of wine. Without a doubt these ancient people understood the dangers of drinking water. Parasites and other impurities in addition to sharing water with livestock and other human waste would have made drinking plain water simply dangerous. But mixing a little hydrating water into wine was a reasonable way to kill off bacteria and parasites and create a somewhat less toxic water. But there are also references to wine being used as an anesthetic and as a cleaning agent for wound care. Jesus tells of spreading wine and oil into a wound of an injured stranger in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, and there is no question that Jesus was encouraged to drink wine as an anesthetic prior to the crucifixion.

Psalm 104:14-15: “[The LORD] makes … plants for man to cultivate – bringing forth food from the earth: wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread that sustains his heart.”

Read Psalms 104 in both Hebrew and in in English

א בָּרְכִי נַפְשִׁי, אֶת-יְהוָה: יְהוָה אֱלֹהַי, גָּדַלְתָּ מְּאֹד; הוֹד וְהָדָר לָבָשְׁתָּ. 1 Bless the LORD, O my soul. {N} O LORD my God, Thou art very great; Thou art clothed with glory and majesty. ב עֹטֶה-אוֹר, כַּשַּׂלְמָה; נוֹטֶה שָׁמַיִם, כַּיְרִיעָה. 2 Who coverest Thyself with light as with a garment, who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain; ג הַמְקָרֶה בַמַּיִם, עֲלִיּוֹתָיו: הַשָּׂם-עָבִים רְכוּבוֹ; הַמְהַלֵּךְ, עַל-כַּנְפֵי-רוּחַ. 3 Who layest the beams of Thine upper chambers in the waters, {N} who makest the clouds Thy chariot, who walkest upon the wings of the wind; ד עֹשֶׂה מַלְאָכָיו רוּחוֹת; מְשָׁרְתָיו, אֵשׁ לֹהֵט. 4 Who makest winds Thy messengers, the flaming fire Thy ministers. ה יָסַד-אֶרֶץ, עַל-מְכוֹנֶיהָ; בַּל-תִּמּוֹט, עוֹלָם וָעֶד. 5 Who didst establish the earth upon its foundations, that it should not be moved for ever and ever; ו תְּהוֹם, כַּלְּבוּשׁ כִּסִּיתוֹ; עַל-הָרִים, יַעַמְדוּ מָיִם. 6 Thou didst cover it with the deep as with a vesture; the waters stood above the mountains. ז מִן-גַּעֲרָתְךָ יְנוּסוּן; מִן-קוֹל רַעַמְךָ, יֵחָפֵזוּן. 7 At Thy rebuke they fled, at the voice of Thy thunder they hasted away– ח יַעֲלוּ הָרִים, יֵרְדוּ בְקָעוֹת– אֶל-מְקוֹם, זֶה יָסַדְתָּ לָהֶם. 8 The mountains rose, the valleys sank down–unto the place which Thou hadst founded for them; ט גְּבוּל-שַׂמְתָּ, בַּל-יַעֲבֹרוּן; בַּל-יְשֻׁבוּן, לְכַסּוֹת הָאָרֶץ. 9 Thou didst set a bound which they should not pass over, that they might not return to cover the earth. י הַמְשַׁלֵּחַ מַעְיָנִים, בַּנְּחָלִים; בֵּין הָרִים, יְהַלֵּכוּן. 10 Who sendest forth springs into the valleys; they run between the mountains; יא יַשְׁקוּ, כָּל-חַיְתוֹ שָׂדָי; יִשְׁבְּרוּ פְרָאִים צְמָאָם. 11 They give drink to every beast of the field, the wild asses quench their thirst. יב עֲלֵיהֶם, עוֹף-הַשָּׁמַיִם יִשְׁכּוֹן; מִבֵּין עֳפָאיִם, יִתְּנוּ-קוֹל. 12 Beside them dwell the fowl of the heaven, from among the branches they sing. יג מַשְׁקֶה הָרִים, מֵעֲלִיּוֹתָיו; מִפְּרִי מַעֲשֶׂיךָ, תִּשְׂבַּע הָאָרֶץ. 13 Who waterest the mountains from Thine upper chambers; the earth is full of the fruit of Thy works. יד מַצְמִיחַ חָצִיר, לַבְּהֵמָה, וְעֵשֶׂב, לַעֲבֹדַת הָאָדָם; לְהוֹצִיא לֶחֶם, מִן-הָאָרֶץ. 14 Who causeth the grass to spring up for the cattle, and herb for the service of man; {N} to bring forth bread out of the earth, טו וְיַיִן, יְשַׂמַּח לְבַב-אֱנוֹשׁ– לְהַצְהִיל פָּנִים מִשָּׁמֶן; וְלֶחֶם, לְבַב-אֱנוֹשׁ יִסְעָד. 15 And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, making the face brighter than oil, {N} and bread that stayeth man’s heart. טז יִשְׂבְּעוּ, עֲצֵי יְהוָה– אַרְזֵי לְבָנוֹן, אֲשֶׁר נָטָע. 16 The trees of the LORD have their fill, the cedars of Lebanon, which He hath planted; יז אֲשֶׁר-שָׁם, צִפֳּרִים יְקַנֵּנוּ; חֲסִידָה, בְּרוֹשִׁים בֵּיתָהּ. 17 Wherein the birds make their nests; as for the stork, the fir-trees are her house. יח הָרִים הַגְּבֹהִים, לַיְּעֵלִים; סְלָעִים, מַחְסֶה לַשְׁפַנִּים. 18 The high mountains are for the wild goats; the rocks are a refuge for the conies. יט עָשָׂה יָרֵחַ, לְמוֹעֲדִים; שֶׁמֶשׁ, יָדַע מְבוֹאוֹ. 19 Who appointedst the moon for seasons; the sun knoweth his going down. כ תָּשֶׁת-חֹשֶׁךְ, וִיהִי לָיְלָה– בּוֹ-תִרְמֹשׂ, כָּל-חַיְתוֹ-יָעַר. 20 Thou makest darkness, and it is night, wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth. כא הַכְּפִירִים, שֹׁאֲגִים לַטָּרֶף; וּלְבַקֵּשׁ מֵאֵל, אָכְלָם. 21 The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their food from God. כב תִּזְרַח הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ, יֵאָסֵפוּן; וְאֶל-מְעוֹנֹתָם, יִרְבָּצוּן. 22 The sun ariseth, they slink away, and couch in their dens. כג יֵצֵא אָדָם לְפָעֳלוֹ; וְלַעֲבֹדָתוֹ עֲדֵי-עָרֶב. 23 Man goeth forth unto his work and to his labour until the evening. כד מָה-רַבּוּ מַעֲשֶׂיךָ, יְהוָה– כֻּלָּם, בְּחָכְמָה עָשִׂיתָ; מָלְאָה הָאָרֶץ, קִנְיָנֶךָ. 24 How manifold are Thy works, O LORD! In wisdom hast Thou made them all; {N} the earth is full of Thy creatures. כה זֶה, הַיָּם גָּדוֹל– וּרְחַב יָדָיִם: שָׁם-רֶמֶשׂ, וְאֵין מִסְפָּר; חַיּוֹת קְטַנּוֹת, עִם-גְּדֹלוֹת. 25 Yonder sea, great and wide, {N} therein are creeping things innumerable, living creatures, both small and great. כו שָׁם, אֳנִיּוֹת יְהַלֵּכוּן; לִוְיָתָן, זֶה-יָצַרְתָּ לְשַׂחֶק-בּוֹ. 26 There go the ships; there is leviathan, whom Thou hast formed to sport therein. כז כֻּלָּם, אֵלֶיךָ יְשַׂבֵּרוּן– לָתֵת אָכְלָם בְּעִתּוֹ. 27 All of them wait for Thee, that Thou mayest give them their food in due season. כח תִּתֵּן לָהֶם, יִלְקֹטוּן; תִּפְתַּח יָדְךָ, יִשְׂבְּעוּן טוֹב. 28 Thou givest it unto them, they gather it; Thou openest Thy hand, they are satisfied with good. כט תַּסְתִּיר פָּנֶיךָ, יִבָּהֵלוּן: תֹּסֵף רוּחָם, יִגְוָעוּן; וְאֶל-עֲפָרָם יְשׁוּבוּן. 29 Thou hidest Thy face, they vanish; {N} Thou withdrawest their breath, they perish, and return to their dust. ל תְּשַׁלַּח רוּחֲךָ, יִבָּרֵאוּן; וּתְחַדֵּשׁ, פְּנֵי אֲדָמָה. 30 Thou sendest forth Thy spirit, they are created; and Thou renewest the face of the earth. לא יְהִי כְבוֹד יְהוָה לְעוֹלָם; יִשְׂמַח יְהוָה בְּמַעֲשָׂיו. 31 May the glory of the LORD endure for ever; let the LORD rejoice in His works! לב הַמַּבִּיט לָאָרֶץ, וַתִּרְעָד; יִגַּע בֶּהָרִים וְיֶעֱשָׁנוּ. 32 Who looketh on the earth, and it trembleth; He toucheth the mountains, and they smoke. לג אָשִׁירָה לַיהוָה בְּחַיָּי; אֲזַמְּרָה לֵאלֹהַי בְּעוֹדִי. 33 I will sing unto the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have any being. לד יֶעֱרַב עָלָיו שִׂיחִי; אָנֹכִי, אֶשְׂמַח בַּיהוָה. 34 Let my musing be sweet unto Him; as for me, I will rejoice in the LORD. לה יִתַּמּוּ חַטָּאִים מִן-הָאָרֶץ, וּרְשָׁעִים עוֹד אֵינָם– בָּרְכִי נַפְשִׁי, אֶת-יְהוָה; הַלְלוּ-יָהּ. 35 Let sinners cease out of the earth, and let the wicked be no more. {N} Bless the LORD, O my soul. {N} Hallelujah.
Pecan Shortbread (Paired with Blackberry Wine)

Pecan Shortbread (Paired with Blackberry Wine)

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup finely ground pecans

1/4 cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pinch of salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

1 egg yolk

Lightly grease a large rimmed baking sheet and set aside.
In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, pecans, sugar, cinnamon, and salt. With a pastry cutter or 2 forks, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles fine meal. Add the yolk and blend with a fork. Lightly knead the dough on a very lightly dusted surface until smooth.
Transfer the dough to the prepared baking sheet and flatten it into a 6-inch round. Refrigerate until well chilled, around 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Using the blunt side of a knife, score the dough into 8 wedges. Bake for 35 minutes or until golden brown around the edges. While still warm, cut into wedges with a serrated knife. Let cool to room temperature.

Yield: 8 servings

Note: Can be drizzled with chocolate if desired. Store in an airtight container and use within 3 days.

​Recipe courtesy of