Archaeologists discover world’s oldest wine press in Armenia

wine, armenia, ArmeniaArchaeologists in Armenia have discovered what they believe to be the world’s oldest wine press. The press is inside a cave, where they found the remains of grape seeds, pressed grapes, and vines of Vitis vinifera vinifera , the same type of grape still used in winemaking today. The site is dated at 4,000 BC, about 900 years older than the previous record holder–wine from the tomb of King Scorpion I, a ruler of Upper Egypt before that country became unified.

This isn’t the first time Armenia has broken an archaeological record. Last summer archaeologists found the world’s oldest leather shoe in the same region. These discoveries are hardly surprising. Armenia is an ancient land with a rich history. It had a complex prehistoric culture that culminated in the Kingdom of Urartu in the 9th century BC. Urartu was one of the greatest ancient civilizations of the Near East.

Armenia suffered from its position between several empires, and while it was often independent it also changed hands between the Romans, Persians, Byzantines, and other powers all the way down to the Soviet Union. Now it’s an independent nation again. It also has the distinction of being the world’s oldest Christian nation, having converted in the early 4th century AD.

During all this time they never stopped making wine. They were one of the main wine producers in the Soviet Union and have since started exporting their wine worldwide. Armenian wine even spread to Africa. During the Armenian genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire during World War One, some Armenians fled to Ethiopia, where they cultivated vineyards. Many Armenian reds are very sweet and rich, and Ethiopian wine has a similar quality.

All of these past cultures and the Armenians’ own rich heritage has created an interesting destination for adventure travelers. Sadly I’ve never been there, but it’s been on my shortlist for years. Poring over maps and books, it’s easy to see that I’d need to spend a lot of time. The mountains offer remote trekking, there are medieval buildings to explore such as the Saghmosavank monastery pictured below, and there are even wine-tasting tours. People who have been there tell me it’s still pretty cheap, making it an attractive budget travel destination.

Maybe 2011 will be the year for me to finally get there?

[Wine photo courtesy Arthur Chapman. Saghmosavank photo courtesy Olivier Jaulent]

Armenia, armenia

Illinois man works 50 jobs in 50 states

Looking to spice up your work routine? Want to travel the country but don’t have the cash to go without a job for an extended period of time? Take a page from Daniel Seddiqui’s playbook. Quit your job and contract yourself out to 50 different employers in 50 states over the course of 50 weeks. You’ll get variety, the chance to travel for a year, and a somewhat steady income. It’s genius.

Bored with his job at an office in Skokie, Illinois, Daniel decided to try something new. Actually, he decided to try something new every week. He resolved to work his way across the US, doing odd jobs in each state. Along the way, he held some jobs he loved (working as a dietitian in Mississippi) and some he loathed (taking abuse from film company execs in LA). He also worked as a border patrol officer in Arizona, helped out a cellar master in Napa Valley, made cheese in Wisconsin, and toiled in an oil refinery in Oklahoma.

Some jobs paid well, like the medical device manufacturer that gave him $2000 for getting the company coverage on CNN, while others, like the gig making furniture with the Amish in Pennsylvania, well…not so much. For that, Daniel earned just $100 for the week.

Daniel says some jobs were more difficult than others, but it seems like one of the hardest aspects of undertaking this project was probably setting it up. Daniel says he estimates that 100 companies rejected his offer per state. But he continued making cold calls and networking and eventually landed all 50 gigs.

So what’s the next job for Daniel? Writing a book about the adventure, of course.

Enter to win a “cuisinternship” in Oregon

Ever wondered what it’s like to be a winemaker, brewmaster, or cheesemaker? How about a rancher, chocolate maker, fisherman(or woman), or a liquor distiller? Here’s your chance to find out. Seven lucky winners will be given the opportunity to apprentice in their chosen professions, helping out with all the duties of the job and learning the ropes from the pros.

The Oregon Bounty Cuisinternship contest runs until September 18 and aims to highlight the variety and quality of food and drink produced locally. The internships take place around the state, covering the Pacific coast, Willamette Valley, Mt. Hood, Eastern Oregon and Portland. The brewing intern will be mixing barley and hops at Full Sail Brewing and the apprentice chef will be prepping dishes at Le Pigeon Restaurant. Each apprentice will receive airfare from his or her home city to Portland, six nights of lodging, a five day apprenticeship, and $1000 cash to cover meals and other expenses.

To enter, compose a 140-character statement on why you should be chosen for the apprenticeship, along with a two-minute video explaining why you are the best person for the job. You can submit one entry per category, but you can apply for as many categories as you wish. Entries must be received by September 18 and the winners will be announced on September 30.