Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Onward Through the Fog

It’s the 30th of the month, and again I’m writing this from New York. A seminar on Nebbiolo by Seth Box, the MHUSA Italian Wine Director. Seth is young and high energy, a winemaker and a tastemaker. He gathered Italian wine specialists from all over the USA for this event. We all met at Fiamma, the first night in Soho ( Menu here)
Ceretto is a traditional winery, or as Charles Curtis said, an updated traditionalist. What he meant by that was to imply they have a great respect for the uniqueness of Nebbiolo in the context and assisted by technology and healthy winemaking practices. Seth could attest to that as he was there, as a winemaker, for 3 vintages.
Our full immersion into the heart and soil of Ceretto’s wines was accompanied by some great commentary by these two young professionals. Wonderful work, gents. (Tasting Flights here)

A brief walk to Union Square in a light rain and a meeting at the Italian Wine Merchant with an importer friend, Andrea Fassone of Tricana. We headed over to one of his favorite spots and one I can recommend highly when you are in or near the East Village, In Vino.

Italian wine marketers, take note: Go here and look at the clientele. 75% are young women. Here is your future.
The wine prices are marked up 2 times plus $5.00 per bottle. New York. High rents. USA, California, Texas, Florida, they are moving wine here and not overcharging…solid trattoria food…3 girls for every boy.
In Vino 215 e 4th St. in the East Village (NY)

A couple of the young gents who work there, Galil and

Keith (also a blogger, East Village Wine Geek), are there to help. Keith said it best, “We don’t want to scare people, we want them to enjoy wine.”

Some new vintages tasted there with Andrea:

And a dessert wine at the end from Di Majo Norante, Apianae, an exotic moscato from Molise. Very nice.

Long days and lots of travel... more when I get back home later this week... Be safe....

Monday, August 28, 2006

Storms & The Fog of Wine

Aug 28, 2005 ...I wrote down the date one year earlier, as I fly into NY. Katrina on my mind. Wine, food, heritage. Aaron Neville, he and his family, their existence defined by New Orleans, having to move to Nashville, because of the toxins in the air that caused his asthma to flare up. Not to be able to live where your life is. What kind of cruel joke is that?

I choose not to live in California, because the California I knew no longer exists. Residents of New Orleans cannot return because it was wiped from the face of the map by the hand of God. There is a difference.

Storms return to the south, it’s that time of the year.
It’s also time for the Nebbiolo, time to lift the fog on my understanding of this wine. Is this my Burgundian moment? Is this what Eco talks about in his books? Is it time to put aside my Montepulciano and Nero d’Avola and face the fog? Well, maybe for a while, for these few days, it is.
The Nebbiolo Seminar at the Texas Sommelier Conference was interesting. The wines were exceptional.
Ceretto was center court, with their Barbaresco Bricco Asili and Bernardot, their Barolo Prapo, Brunate and Bricco Rocche and the Gattinara from Travaglini and Sfursat “5 Stelle” from Nino Negri. Nice lineup, older and current vintages, to compare the years, the land, the crus. Later this week, in NY, this will be elaborated upon.

That was followed by some other seminars on Burgundy, Spain, South America and Washington State.
Later that evening, several of the Master Sommeliers and a Master of Wine and those of us invited went to York Street for a Master class in tea and a meal matched with wines and tea. The Gong Fu ceremony was explained. Parallel world to our Intensive Wine weekend. The floating world compared to the fog of wine.

I can offer pictures and more descriptions, but that really isn’t why I’m here. Nor you. You had to be there. Or not. And that is alright.

What I learned about over this weekend was that there are all kinds of folks in search of understanding some process, something mysterious, that they want the fog lifted on for their education, for their passion, for a chance at mastery.

Last year, Portugal was that for me. I saw some part of my unknown self there in the schist on the hills overlooking the Douro. Not unlike the ancient part of my Sicilian being or the Calabrian man on the donkey. A way to see how one can fit into the patterns of their life, how they are woven into their work, their community, their friends, their loves.

Looking at my bookshelves a few days ago, wanting some information about Italian wine. Some nugget. Something to make me feel unique. I really had a start when it seemed I had more books about French wine than Italian. What I had a lot of were Italian travel books, books about the land. The information about wine came from going to Italy and from popping corks. Not the Italian Wine Trail to mastering wine. My path, 30 years now. The travel books just gave me an idea where to look, my own treasure hunt. Yours, too, if you’d like. But just like what I can smell and taste in a wine will be determined by my experience, my individual set of markers, my likes, my abilities, so will your path be unique.

I respect the way of the wine masters. And I also know I will cheer them on as they head out in their vessels to spread the word. I will toil in the fields of the insane poet, the sunburned monks standing on top of a column in the Aragonese deserts. There is soil for all, and seas to sail on as well. And air to live off of when that is called for.

Sure, this is a rationalization for not taking the 7 years it takes to pursue the course of mastery. Time, time, time.

It will be cooler on the east coast, and the Frappato is ready to be harvested in Vittoria. The water off the coast of Chile is cooler than all of it, and one can drown in a cup of tea. One doesn’t need a hurricane to face the task.
Courage, courage.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Texas Sommelier Conference & York Street Tea and Wine Dinner

Texas Sommeliers Phil Natale and D'Lynn Proctor
A long, but good day, with many great seminars. This one by D.C. Flynt, M.W., about Burgundy.

Guy Stout, M.S. and York Street Sommelier, Brandan Kelley.

Water, Wine and Tea

Tea Master Kyle Stewart, partner with Phil Krampentz of the Cultured Cup

Charles Curtis, M.W., Robin O'Conner, Bordeaux Wine Council, and Rob Costantino, Sante Magazine, learning about the Gong Fu tea ceremony.

York Street entree, a masterpiece.

Slow roast loin of berkshire pork, horseradish bacon jus, buttered rice puree, wax beans, tomatoes, chanterelles
(full menu here)

Sharon Hage, chef, owner, national treasure.

Friday, August 25, 2006

T.G.I.F. ~ Weekend Wine Wound-up

Just a few notes, rounding out a challenging week. On to the good news.
Robt. Parker has shuffled his deck. Pierre Rovani and Daniel Thomases are gone or going. Thomases gave me a whole new appreciation for Robert Parker, relative to Italian wine. Another story for another time.

Next, a good review for a wine that I like a lot, as does my buddy, Guy Stout.

Soletta Vermentino, reviewed by Rebecca Murphy of the Dallas Morning News.
Italians Insight, also has some kind words about the wine.
Soletta Winery in Sardegna (Flash-free)

Good stuff , Maynard…

The Texas Sommelier Conference will be happening this weekend in Dallas. Looks like it is Sold Out.

The two young guys in the middle are responsible. Drew Hendricks and James Tidwell.

Restaurant week ( now 3 weeks long) is almost over. One restaurateur, Adelmo Banchetti, can hardly wait.

And Felice Pastore, too, though he is in the luxury side of the biz.
Hank’s Corvette is finally restored. Hey Hank, when are you gonna take me for a ride in it?
I like this picture, but I kinda like forks.

Monday, escape to NY. Nebbiolo matriculation. It's all legal. And sanctioned.

And then we gotta figure out what to do with all these new wines.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Flash Point ~ Note to Italian Wineries about your WebSites

Stop setting up your websites with FLASH!

We don't need the whole story of your beginning, your mission statement, everytime we go to your site.

We don't need to hear your music and we don't need to have you take 1/4 of the viewing screen to make for a small little presentation.

We need to get in and get on with it!

Most of your Italian connections are still dial up.You lose them, too.

We cannot use your information to share with our clients
(i.e., your customers)

It's gotten old...It's not cute...Stop it!

Go back to a simple presentation....


Not P-A-R-T-I-C-O-L-A-R-E....


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Life's a Beach

Nearing the end of the Italian summer. Those of us who haven’t been there the whole time, all of August, have missed the miracle of summer in Italy. It is a special time when the world lets down its hair, puts the socks and the long pants and the ties in the drawer, and heads for a stretch of solitude, by a stream or by a sea, in search of a moment outside the compressed container of daily life.

And summer life responds. Tomatoes are bursting with flavor and their quintessential redness. Squashes are showing their stretch marks, as if their birth gives birth to another unique creation, which, in the hands of a food lover, will be not just another side dish. Watermelon slips into salads, appears in evening surprise fruit platters, shows up on the kitchen counter as if magically transported from another dimension. All of life is dancing and singing by the edge of the coastline.

Along a small strip of land in Tuscany, near Grossetto, a politician commits young men and women to pack their swimsuits and head to lands to protect people from each other. No more fear of the jellyfish or the sunburn, September’s reality calls. Minefields need to be cleared, towns need to be guarded, women and children must be cared for, their fragile bodies dangling from the line like so many beach towels.

It is becoming hard to imagine a holiday season of wine-selling with these unresolved items. It’s not like we can just redo the menu for the fall, rewrite a wine list, and everything will be OK.

Yesterday, in one of the offices I fall into, a high-level manager, says this: “Holiday time is upon us”, speaking of the march to Christmas and New Year. Yes, we will sell lots of red wine and Champagne, cordials and Cognac, beer and water, from all over the world. One holiday ends, and another looms. One war doesn’t end, yet a handful flare up, spring back into life, like the zucchini and the tomato. Another conflict pops up like the watermelon on the counter. It’s the stuff of life and the people in it. The cycle, the endless pattern of birth and death, seasoned with the salt and pepper of love and hate.

In ancient times, the wine trade often helped to fund someone’s dream to conquer a land far away. Today, that glass of Pinot Grigio or Sangiovese tamps down the daily anxiety after a day of hearing the chatter, the drums, the endless beating of the drums, near and far. And the jets, landing, taking off, flying low, dropping leaflets; buy my wine, read my blog, follow my dream. Read my lips.

Something seems to have fallen off track.

And yet the Italians take one more plunge into the Adriatic, grill one more fish over the open fire, draw one more bottle of wine from the rack, wish one more wish for love and peace and the hope for another summer in Italy.

Links -

Room to Read
Adopt a Minefield

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Nero d'Avola in Another Light

Texas~Vineyards for Stone?
or Italy~Vineyards for Wine...
One week later, back in the warm Texas cradle of love. Our vineyards here have turned to stone, the heat has been so intense. But you didn't come here to listen to this. We need wine. We need happiness. We need freedom. "Let them drink Cakebread!"

Yeah, OK, whatever you want. Don't want to think about your big car and the war your grandkids will have to fight over the oil? No need to. We're in A-M-E-R-I-C-A. We put the I CAN back in AMER-I-CAN! It'll all work out. The other guy'll take care of it. It's been outsourced. Like the man said, it'll all work out.
Back on the plane and through all the gates and checkpoints, I found an alternate universe. Somewhere between the checkpoint and the final gate, there was a vortex, and I veared to the right. Once inside, things were a bit different.
At first I was thinking I'd made a mistake, but then I noticed it wasn't hot anymore. Or cold. I knew this wasn't San Diego (they weren't playing "that" music), so it seemed like a ride worth taking. Let's just call it the Sunday Spaceship.
There was a little horse pond with some words in Italian. We were somewhere near a lake, a body of water. This was all blending in together, emulsifying like an olive oil mayonnaise. What was this salad? Which wine were we opening today?

In a few weeks, this pond site in another dimension will host a conclave of Italian artists, Planeta's Viaggio in Sicilia. This is my alternate universe, opening up onto the Sicilian mindscape. A fabulous gathering: artists and Italians of all ages and artistic persuasion.

I'm in the mood to open a bottle of wine on this Sunday afternoon. As it should be the kind of wine to mirror the mood, the choice is narrowed to a Sicilian red. Why do I come back to this island? What is it there for me? A bowl of red, this sharing cup of my Sicilian soul?

Sandro Bracchitta - Segreta geometria 1

It must be Nero d'Avola, for this Noir-esque mood I'm in. The sun is burning down on my head, creating this inversion into a cool, dark, cavernous confluence of mood and soul, wine and spirit.

I'm staying in here for awhile. I won't be coming out. You know where to find me.

some of my favorite Nero d'Avola wines

Planeta Santa Cecilia Nero d'Avola

Barone La Lumia Don Toto'

Morgante Don Antonio


Friday, August 18, 2006

T.G.I.F. ~ Thank God It's FRIULI

Today, while still on the Left Coast, we’ve just been to Wine Expo in Santa Monica, where the latest wines from Josko Gravner of Friuli have just been released to the public.
We have been lucky to secure a bottle of the Breg, which was my choice several days ago, to go with shark.

Gravner has been written about in so many places lately, suffice it to say, the wine was exceptional. We had it with a Williams-Selyem Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir Hirsch Vineyard , which was a treat for this Sangiovese head.

Over a meal in the Hollywood Hills, we sampled these wines with a wonderful plate of duck. My vacation is nearly finished. Today is Friday and it has been surrounded by Saturdays on both sides, part of the vacation space. A little more body surfing sans sharks.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

W.W.W.S. ~ Which Wine With Shark

It’s Wednesday Week 3 – WWIII on the Pacific Coast - and we’re wondering, which wine with shark?

I have asked a few folks along the way for their thoughts, so short of a guest posting today, we will turn parts of this over to their ideas.

First, my rant must be paid.

I’m on a train from San Diego to Orange County. Here is where you can sometimes find signs of “early California”, the California of my childhood, the California of Junipero Serra and Fig Tree John. The California of scrub desert and coastal coolness, mission architecture and low-slung, arts-and-crafts dwellings. The California in my past has receded from the present but not from my heart. One of the reasons I cannot come back home, home isn’t here anymore. Tough thing for a native, one who grew up among the Agua Caliente and the Pala, who climbed Tahquitz and camped in Temecula, before the glossy winged sharpshooter real estate developers got hold of this special place. So, as long as the memory holds, I’ve got it here, inside. And that will have to do.

It’s Ferragosto in Italy, and here in Old San Diego, waiting by the tracks for the train, there’s’ a cool breeze. It’s slightly hazy and not too crowded. It made me wonder why I wouldn’t take a shorter flight more often and come here? There’s good wine and great produce, seafood is fresh and the living is casual, easy, relaxed. And the waves are better.

Yesterday. Low tide, seaweed and an advisory out for sting rays. Perfect weather for a swim. Along the California-Mexico border, we saw a family of sharks hugging the body-surfing lanes. And who’s to argue with them? But if they can eat us, we can eat them, too. But which wine to go with it?

Some of the folks submitted suggestions straight off, and some prompted me for the way we are going to prepare the aquatic beast. I’ve asked newspaper food section editors, wine importers, an exceptional chef who has one of the best restaurants in the country and is landlocked in Dallas, a gypsy freelance wine and food writer, a Master Sommelier, a Master of Wine, a bay area (SF) Italian restaurant wine director, an American turned Italian ex-pat who knows food and wine and the financial markets, and a few other folks. So it should be an interesting cioppino of ideas were simmering on the stove.

Michael Bauer sent this back. His was the first (and quite expeditious) response. Michael is the San Francisco Chronicle Chronicle restaurant critic, and executive food and wine editor. “The 2004 Lucia Pinot Noir goes with anything; it might even cover up the ammonia flavors in Iceland’s famous fermented shark dish.”

Sharon Hage, the chef and proprietor of York Street in Dallas, Texas ( the best little restaurant in America and one I can walk home from if needed), sent me this note. “Shark is one of those 'meat-fish.' The texture is so firm (yet not really oily) that, depending on the accompaniments, you could even do a light red. The meatiness of the fish also lends itself to more acidic or even fruit-type accompaniments (mango/pineapple). You may want to consider dry riesling or chenin.”

I asked Guy Stout, a Master Sommelier, to work with her suggestions, and here is what he came up with.
“Villa Maria Private Bin Riesling from Marlborough on the South Island of New Zealand: aromatic hints of peach and spicy yellow plum with a touch of chalky mineral, moderately dry with a hint of green apple, soft round texture on the palate, no oak is used, with a medium-crisp citrus length to the finish.”
“Burklin Wolf white label 'The Doctor' 2005 dry Riesling: ripe, rich with delicious stone fruit, peach, pear, green apple, slate, mineral... juicy man. The juice.”
“Ch d' Epire Savennieres 2004 from the Loire from Chenin is as lean and mean as Chenin Blanc gets, must have food.... Drooling is optional, or risk indigestion.”
And then on his own, Guy recommended these: “Depending on a sauce that is used, I would go with Lucien Albrecht Pinot Gris Cuvee Cecile, for the minerality and luscious round fruit and No Oak.... King Estate Pinot Gris - more fruit-forward and ripeness, with a bright crisp flavor of pear and plum, and again, No Oak.
Red wine: I would go with something that has firm acidity, but not too sharp. A Chianti Classico from Castello Monastero, or Perrin Bros. Cotes du Rhone Villages with a slight hint of cranberry and vanilla to lift the flavors without overpowering. Both wines are lightly oaked.”

Alice Feiring lives in NY when she is not on the Wine Trail somewhere in the world herself. She is a Wine/Travel columnist for Time Magazine and has won a James Beard Award for an article she wrote for the NY Times, to which she is a frequent contributor. We had a few notes back and forth, and she had a good question.

“Well, how are you preparing your shark?”

I sent her back 3 possible preparations. Her response was marvelous.
(1) Grilled shark steaks with soy sauce, orange and lemon juice marinade with garlic and parsley:
“A Rhone Village, something less intense than a CDP or Gigondas. A little floral, but with guts like a Lirac, or a Sablet, or a Seguret. Conversely, we could go north for a syrah...St. Joseph Offerus from Chave.”
(2) Shark steak au poivre:
“Probably either a Tondonia Rosé, or a Gravonia White from Lopez de Heredia....or a Loire Valley Cabernet Franc...perhaps a Chinon from Jean Raffault."
(3) Shark tacos - with chipotle, cilantro and garlic - cubed like kebobs, grilled and then prepared into tacos, with avocado, cilantro, lime and onion.
“The above choices could work for this as well, but also plenty of other fun choices: Muscadet from Pepiere or Jo Landron, a good solid Chablis from the 2004 or 2005 vintage, or the A&P de Villaine Aligoté.”
Thank you, Alice!

David Anderson, an American expat, Italian expat, now living in America. But his head, much of the time, is in Italy, and he had this to say about squalo (shark):
Pomino Bianco
Don Pietro Bianco di Sicilia
Rivera Ligure di Ponente Pigato
Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi
Regaleali Bianco di Sicilia
"In Umido:
Trentino Pinot Grigio
MonteCarlo Bianco
Etna Bianco
Riesling Friuli
Acquilea Renano
Torgiano Pinot Grigio
Bianco d'Alcamo
"Aceto Balsamico:
Collio Bianco
Vernaccia di San Gimignano
David is an Amici dello squalo. Grazie, Davide!

While we are in squalo territory, let’s hear from Shelley Lindgren, the Wine Director of one of my favorite Italian wine and food spots in the US, A16 in San Francisco. Shelley replied,“I selected some wines for you to pair with shark. I think medium-weight whites with firm acidity, long finishes and volcanic minerality would be sublime:
Feudi di San Gregorio 'Campanaro', Campania 2004
Vestini Campagnano 'Le Ortole', Pallagrello Bianco, Campania 2004
Benito Ferrara, 'Vigna Cicogna', Greco di Tufo, Campania 2005
"I also selected some reds that wouldn't overpower the shark, but add a range of earthiness, structure, fruit and tannins. Plus, I recommended some wines I love and imagine would be ideal with the earthy, bitter and acidic capers:
Molettieri 'Vigna Cinque Querce', Riserva, Taurasi, Campania 2001
Marisa Cuomo 'Furore', Costa di Amalfi, Riserva, Campania 2001 (Aglianico/Piedirosso)
Palari, Faro, Sicilia 2001 (Nerello Cappuccio/Nerello Mascalese/Nocera)
Punica, 'Barrua', Isola dei Nuraghi 2002 (Carignano/Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot).

"I hope this is helpful. Let me know if you would like me to elaborate on any of these wines. It's really nice to hear from you. Besos from your honorary squalo, Shelley."

Much better a beso from Shelley than from a squalo. Great suggestions. Grazie Tanti!

Alison Smith is a pistol! She and Shelley are the next wave. Dividing her time among Texas, California, South America and Japan, Ali sent this in from her Bluetooth Corporate Hang Glider somewhere overlooking the Brazos River.
“Ahh, I just sipped a 2004 Schiopetto Pinot Bianco, so this popped to mind first. Pending the shark recipe, the Crios Rosé of Malbec would be lovely. It's a wonderful wine for heartier fish. For a red, a nice Barbera d'Alba might work - again, pending the recipe.”

Not bad considering she sent this while managing not to crash into Michael Dell’s house. Thanks, and besos to you!

Bill Watson had an excellent suggestion. Bill was one of the first wave of ambassadors who spread the Gospel of California Wine. He was one of the first who went out into the hinterland of America with bottles of Robert Mondavi wine. He is now a business manager for a portfolio of wineries at a large distributor in Middle America. But he hasn’t lost his edge. The poor guy does have to listen to me talk to myself a lot; we have cubicles next to each other. I try and stay out in the heat most of the time so he can get his work done. Thank you, brother, for bearing my rants.

Bill responded: "Itsas Mendi Txakoli 2005, made from 100% Hondarrabi Zuri grapes, a varietal native to the Basque area where this wine is produced. The nose of the wine is explosive, reminiscent of Sardinian Vermentino, herbal and floral at once, even a bit tropical. The palate carries this impression through and amplifies it, supported by vibrant acidity. The body is medium, but the complexity and length of the flavors create a big, memorable experience.

“The slight lemon zest in the nose and the crisp acidity on the palate would dance with lemon and capers as if life's script planned it that way! The shark would be extremely pleased just knowing it would be bathed in Sardinian oil and grilled over used Burgundian Never or Allier French Oak chips.”

Thus spake Zarathustra. Thank you Bill. Sounds like something for El Bulli or Etxebarri to tackle?

And Charles Curtis, an American Master of Wine, author and Director of Wine & Spirit Education for Moet Hennessy USA, also a young one, had these ideas: “Shark, huh? Well, a lot depends on the method of preparation and the accompaniments. It's a thick, meaty type of fish, though, and I think I would choose a broad, rich white wine without too much of a pronounced aroma. From our book (MH USA), I'm thinking the Friulano (my note: Tocai, soon not to be called that) from Felluga or the Terre Alte.

"You would also do quite well with the La Nerthe Blanc. Outside the book, I would look at a (dry) Alsatian Tokay Pinot Gris (maybe Deiss?) or a (dry) Pinot Gris from California (Hendry, maybe?).”

And my choice? "Well this seems to be a difficult food. The creature has no way to eliminate and hence has some gnarly uric acid buildup. I’d be a bit on the aggressive-angry side, too, if that were the case with me. Shark and wine? I’d vote for the
Gravner Breg, a white wine with a soul as dark as the shark. Here’s a winemaker who, along with his son, turns philosophy into wine. And the Breg fits the bill with my chosen preparation, which would either be as a steak with capers and lemon and olive oil, or as an experiment in place of stoccafissa for the Portuguese dish, bacalhau."
[By the way, Eric Asimov wrote a very good piece on
Gravner for the NY Times, if you have a subscription you can access the article here]

Thanks to all who responded. By the way, all but two of the folks responded. (my writer friend in NY, on vacation, and the other, an uber-blogger, who is probably too busy to join in this exercise and swim in the tank with all these luminaries and devotees of the wine and food world.) You folks were great! Let’s do this again! Anyone else who wants in, leave on comments, or
email me, and I'll pop you in the tank with the rest of us.

So there you have it. Even on vacation, the beat goes on.

Fig tree John, my hero

Sunday, August 13, 2006

From Canaan to Coronado

What is it about our wine culture these days? Has the hyper umbrella of the uber-media hijacked a culture that has been around for 8,000 years? When the folks in Canaan were making wine 4,500 years ago, generation after generation after generation, they effectively “got into” the essence of what we are seeking…some of us. What is this metaphor mean to you, to me? It must be Sunday, because Italian Wine guy is launching his rant from the space station. Or Coronado...

Early morning flight to the West Coast, the fear of no hair gel, no water, no contact lens solution, but we made it smoothly, quickly and safely. Days of hearing how the hassle, how the plotters, how the fear must be endless in our daily lives. As if being on the ancient plains and being chased by a tiger or a jackal was a walk on the beach? There has never been a guarantee of safety, of certainty, that we would make it through the day unscathed. But like our big trucks and our big guns and our bigger macs, we protect ourselves in some surreal-surround sound of delusion that this has always been the way it is and we must have it this way too. And white teeth, and green tea ice cream and 100 point wines.

In the lobby a wine tasting, Napa Chardonnay or Cabernet, some private label, some DbA…water into wine is still 86% water. And 100% oak. Asa Nisi Masa .

Today on the Wine Trail we are strolling along the Pacific coast as Fra Junipero Serra might have done several hundred years ago. The padres might be replaced with the yogi’s, at least that is my encounter on this warm cool crisp wet day on the beach.

You were looking for scores? Ok here’s my score for the day…Perfect…10…3 glasses..5 stars….7 brothers for 7 sisters. 100 points. Feel better?

This is like a scene in a Kubrick movie as co directed by Frank Capra and Groucho Marx.
Nice waves though…they can’t alter the tides yet.

So I was doing some work on telling the troups about a wine we are getting in our market, from a small producer in Tuscany by the name of Querciabella. The wine, called Batar, in homage to the great white burgundies of France, has some interesting fans. Out in Fort Worth I’ve been told of a C&W music star who wants “all he can get”. That’s a long ways from Willie and Hank and Lone Star Beer. Look up the word Batar on Google and push the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button. I wont even go into it here….see for yourself, it’s quite fantastic.

What was also fantastic was the multi course vegetarian dinner we had with the proprietor this spring in Verona during Vinitaly. The Batar was served in multiple vintages and the owner, Sebastiano Cossia Castiglioni, who is a vegetarian, launched his newly formed alliance with the Roederer folks at this event.

Many luminaries from the wine world were present, many sitting at the main table with Signore Castiglioni. Plenty of Cristal was flowing into the Burano Pimp cups. Yeah, I said that…

I wish I would have brought the family cat to the dinner, as he would have loved the scene. It was orchestrated and manicured down to the French tips. He, after all, is a vegetarian more often than he isn’t.

All this to say we have settled into this California vortex for the next week. I’m on vacation, so the pounding on the waves I took today is likely to have me speaking from a changed perspective

Let’s say Tsunami meets umami...stay turned on and tuned in.

Friday, August 11, 2006

T.G.I.F. ~ Thank God It's FELLUGA

“Words came so fast the typewriter caught on fire, and the computer was ushered in.”

...n tha land Friuli, where tha mythtacal Pico-lit vidiizzles, flowahs n caps `bout hizzle of it’s crop. Whiznat peches n chillin is tha butta . Whoa whasup? Sounds like mah post'n has been Gizoogled .

Let’s start this again….

The land of Friuli, where the mythical Picolit couches, flowers and scraps about half of its crop through some genetic fire dance. But what remains for the winemaker can be the ultimate expression of greatness. First a fire, then Snoop takes over my brain, now this computer has a tourettes virus? Is this week done, 'cause I am.

I started out writing this with the last of the Nonino Picolit grappa, and feeling that more inspiration would be necessary. When that was discharged, the rosolio of cannella from Sicily was brought in to stoke up the fire of illumination. Seems like my brain might be experiencing the same mutation that the Picolit must have in order for it to be so highly regarded. At least the wine will be treasured, as for moi, the old grey matter aint what it used to be.

It is Friday, and thanks to the most high for a brief respite. While this is just a little calm after the storm, let’s take a stroll on the Wine Trail in Friuli.

Between Gorizia and Palmanova, the Felluga estate bring forth their vinous children in a gentle and respectful manner. If you are in Venice, visiting the birds and the glass and the narrow alleys and just need a break back into the country, look this way. About an hour and you can be in the bosom of a beautiful treasure land. Gorizia reminds me of an Italian Havana, with restored architectural buildings of significant provenance and the occasional American automobile from an earlier time. That’s Josko Gravner tooling around town in his vintage Falcon.

Palmanova is a perfectly preserved star shaped citadel, a fortress town founded in 1593 to withstand any threat. In 1797 Napoleon walked right in without a sword lifted and proceeded to get the first good cup of coffee he’d had in many a moon. Only in Italy do these towns crop up like sunflowers. This one is must be seen and if you can be there on market day (Monday) there are many unusual Friulan delicacies. San Daniele Prosciutto, In August they have the Frico Festival, honoring a characteristic dish of Friuli made with potatoes and cheese and served with polenta. And there’s always the ubiquitous edible offal, Trippe, from the pages of la cucina povera. Finally, the wonderful Montasio cheese.

In between these two places one will discover Cormons. The Felluga foresteria and vineyards at Rosazzo situate themselves in the heartland of Friuli, the Colli Orientali del Friuli. Here is where the region has the greatest expression of local terroir, Colli Orientali, The Eastern Hills. To me they are akin to the vineyards of Margaux or Latour in Bordeaux, of Castelnuovo Berardenga in Tuscany or of Zeltinger Himmelreich in the Mosel. All very different wines from this little Picolit wine, so feeble the vines are here.
The grapes here, instead of the attack from botrytis are subjected to "acinellatura", a form of floral abortion that causes only 5-6 grapes on 30 to ripen. A single vine produces only 4 bunch of medium size grapes, even more sickly than D’Yquem.

I came upon an open bottle earlier this week when the Moet Hennessy USA director of wine and spirit education and Master of Wine, Charles Curtis, was directing a symposium. Late to this segment from an earlier commitment (the day job) Charles saw me and motioned me over to the tiny, soon to be orphaned, bottle of Felluga Picolit. I am a dessert wine lover and have too many of them in my wine room. It’s my Sicilian and Calabrese side, the side that loves sweet, the side that is enjoying this spicy rosolio from cinnamon as I write this in the wee hours ( so as not to interfere with the day job). I took a sip and a shizzle, oops that thing is back. This wine did a little number on me. There were goodbyes to be made, people to get to the airport, rush hour traffic in 100 degree weather, all kinds of distractions. So I took another small taste, made a mental note, and got back in the drivers seat.

About 2 hours later, when the dust had settled and I’m home, the jogging trail calls. Halfway though a run I notice something in the way I’m breathing, like there is a tree in bloom. No flowers in sight, I do this run 5-6 times a week. Aha, the lingering finish of the few surviving grapes pressed into the service of immortality! Finally the light of this fabled quaff shimmered on this solitary runner in the dusk.



Rosolio di Cannella




Thank God Its Friuli!