Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Ahhh, Wednesday in the garden of the mind, in the dark, with a cold front bearing down upon us. Winter is coming.
A few nights ago I had a dream about the "first love". For the duration of the dream I was innocent, the world was farther away from me, it didnt touch me so much. The heart was stronger, but lighter, and less supple than it is now. It was such a sweet, sweet moment. Did it ever exist?
What was your first-love from the world of wine? Was it Boones Farm or Bordeaux, Thunderbird or Muller-Thurgau? Blue Nun or Pio Cesare?
If I could find a wine as sweet as that first kiss, with the aroma of that perfume she wore. A little cherry, a warm sunflower blossom, delicate powder and the young skin whose chemistry made all of that into an indelible memory that I have yet to find in all these years, tasting and breathing in the bouquet of thousands of wines. Never yet.
To the young kids, sommeliers and career builders, master sommelier and master of wine hopefuls, those of you who might think getting that certificate will lead you, solely, to a life of fame and fortune.
Take a moment. Put away the PDA's and the Ipods. Go outside and take a walk around your block, wherever you are. Every 10 feet, close your eyes and open up your olfactories. Your ancient sense, the one only you have with only your unique set of memories.
Breathe deep, and hold.
And breathe out.
And open your eyes, and walk into your new world.
Sunday, November 26, 2006
1959 Chateau Lafite – The first time I had this wine, in 1985, with Michael Broadbent in Chicago, it was a memorable experience. This one was from a bottle with slightly lower than optimal fill level. The whole gang was there; tea, leather, tobacco, dust, old, distinguished, tired, and finally silence. The glass was empty.
1985 La Chapelle Hermitage – this wine seems like an old friend now. We met when we were both younger, more youthful, red faced and full of rage. Now we both are mellower. There’s some of this at home as well as on the island.
1928 D’Yquem. – What a difference 20 years makes. Much more for us mere humans than the wine. This first time I had this wine it was as old as I am now. I hope I fare as well.
There are more….but tasting notes are not what this dream is about
On to the Italian coast. An early departure, thank God the coffee was Italian in style. While cooler than on Corsica, a private landing strip between Pisa and the Maremma was a welcome sight. A month earlier, in waking moments, I had been in the southern Maremma near Grossetto. It reminded me of Santa Barbara in California. The area north was a little more scrub-like, fewer trees, more rangeland. Our last stop would be a hilltop estate.
The owner rarely lives in Italy, preferring to stay with his family in New York or Spain, away from the potential kidnappers and ransom masters. Security was tighter than La Guardia Airport on Sept 19, 2001. But you wouldn’t know it. You couldn’t see it if your eyes were open. But all was in place. I asked my friend why we didn’t just deliver this to their offices in New York. His comment, “These folks pay to have it where they want it, when they want it. It might not make sense to little folks like you and me, but they live in a different world.”
Money is no object, when it comes to getting sensitive material in a private manner. A fax doesn’t transmit in this world, this diary of a somnambulist. I keep thinking I’m going to wake up and it will be all bright and painful and it will have gone away.
Friday 1:00 pm – The headache is returning. My right foot as if it is asleep. Maybe sitting in the back of the limo for this long, bumpy ride has caused it to flair up. Maybe not sleeping in the past few days. In any event, no one needs to envy me on this trip a cross between a Twilight Zone episode and an Ionesco play.
Finally, at the top of the hill, beyond a row of cypress and behind a cover of trees, we are led to the villa. We meet the final client, a man in his mid 40’s, with a few young men on the outside acting as cover and watchdogs, along with the watchdog. A lawyer, an elderly man, was also present. We have been eagerly awaited, the water was boiling and they were ready to have lunch. And they were waiting for us.
Over a plate of antipasti, little seagoing creatures, fresh and marinated, we sipped a glass of Vermentino from the region. A friend of the client, Marco Bacci, has an estate down the coast, Terre di Talamo. The Vermentino “Vento” was fresh and crisp. Not biodynamic, but nonetheless organic, it was as unsullied as the land we were on. Modernity was natural in this territory as there were no over layers of ritual demanded of the inhabitants, only a deference to position and place.
A pappardelle alla lepre (see recipe below) was then served with a young light red from the area, A Sangiovese and Cabernet blend. Almost resembling a rose’ wine or a Beaujolais, it was perfect with the pasta.
The main course (and this would be our only meal of the day, but one that would last for 5 hours) was a wonderful Bocconcini di Manzo Stufati al Morellino di Scansano. Fittingly we had it with Morellino di Scansano. Six of them. A 2004, 2000, 1990, 1985, 1982, 1976. They had a saying,” Old Morellino doesn’t die, it gets turned into sauce.”
The whole idea of dining as long as one sleeps is interesting, because it becomes a kind of sleep. The different courses are like different dreams, in fact they are. The moments between the courses, the conversation, the stories all weave into the dreamlike nature of these past few days. Very disembodying, but very wonderful.
Finally, one of the old guards was also a great pastry chef in his early days. A Sicilian, and trained with a knife in more ways than most of us could imagine. He was famous for his “capi duzzi di ricotta” , little fried pies filled with fresh ricotta. It went well with a Marsala Riserva Speciale 10 year from de Bartoli, the only exception to the drink local code. But Marsala, is a wine for honorable men with honorable intentions. Another code, this one unbreakable.
With that we disembarked back to the States, arriving Saturday, a little earlier than planned. But an elderly friend was in need of having his life’s belongings, a life of wine, packed up and stored away. But that’s another story for another time.
*IWG's note- As it is not my intention to deceive you, I must confess. In reality I have really been laid up with a broken toe. And no pain medicine. So I thought it would be a good diversion (for me) to write about another place and time, to get my mind off the pain and the hassle. The wines mentioned the last two postings have all actually been drunk somewhere in time, in the past, by me. I thought it would be a good exercise (seeing as I cannot actually step outside and take a run, my usual exercise) to weave some wines tasted with an imaginary trip. I know a few of you wrote, thinking I was either nuts or out of my mind. Only with the temporary agony of a physical infirmity. The wines were all tasted but the places were not visited. This time. Most of the pictures I did take. I hope I did not offend anyone by taking them on my imaginary journey with me. Then again if any of you had called you would have known my predicament and possibly come to my aid. But not to worry. I am on the mend. Slowly, but eventually.
SALSA ALLA LEPRE
1 costola di sedano
3 bacche di ginepro
2 chiodi di garofano
2 foglie di alloro
1 spicchio di aglio
1 bicchiere di vino rosso
400 gr di pomodori pelati
sale pepe nero olio extra vergine di oliva
Lavare la lepre, tagliarla a pezzi e metterla "a far l' acqua" in un tegame a fuoco vivace per 3 minuti. Scolare, sciacquare con acqua. In un tegame a parte far rosolare con l' olio d' oliva la cipolla, il sedano, e la carota finemente tritati. Quando il soffritto avrà raggiunto una colorazione marrone, aggiungere lo spicchio d' aglio tritato, le bacche di ginepro ed i chiodi di garofano schiacciati. Subito dopo unire la lepre e farla amalgamare al soffritto cuocendo e mescolando per un minuto. Bagnare con vino rosso, far evaporare, aggiungere i pomodori pelati passati, le foglie di alloro, salare, pepare e far cuocere per un’ora abbondante a fuoco lento a tegame coperto. A cottura ultimata togliere la lepre dal tegame, disossarla su un tagliere e tritarla finemente. Mettere nuovamente la lepre nel tegame con la salsa.
200 gr di farina di grano tenero
100 gr di farina di grano duro
olio extra vergine di oliva e sale
In una ciotola mescolare le farine e poi disporle a fontana sul tavolo. Al centro mettere le uova, l’ olio ed il sale. Far incorporare la farina lentamente, dopodiché lavorare energicamente finchè la pasta non risulti liscia ed elastica. Far riposare per 10 minuti. Tirare la pasta fine e tagliarla a strisce di 4 cm di larghezza. Lessare le pappardelle in abbondante acqua salata e condire con la salsa alla lepre.
Friday, November 24, 2006
I have known for some time that this friend was at the disposal of some interesting propositions. He works in the entertainment field, brokering deals between studios and some big stars.
Dallas to Paris was a snap, there in time to deliver the papers to the first of his clients, a well to do gentleman who loves seafood and biodynamic wines. We were to dine with him.To go with the freshly caught fish, he opened an Aligoté Domaine d'Heilly Huberdeau to start. Eventually we got around to the L'Etoile Domaine de Montbourgeau of Jean Gros. The client is a gentleman-farmer and a producer, and we talked the night out about all manner of things, wine and film mainly.
My latest interest in byodynamic was further piqued. There was just enough time for a morning stop by another friends wine shop, to pick up some wine that had been ordered months ago and was waiting for one of us to pick it up. With a private plane, how could one resist?
While Paris was chilling down, Corsica was experiencing one last brief moment of sun. Sun worshipers were gathering the last of the rays while his client crouched, characteristically, nearby.
Thanks to the satellite wireless connection of the client and his generosity in letting me post this. Bonifacio has an interesting history. Not unlike many of the places in southern Italy and France. I felt right at home here, in fact the French was mixed in with a little of the local dialect which reminds me of my Sardinian friends patois. Near the Semaphore of Pertusato we were invited to a dinner. Once again the Biodynamic world intersected our paths, this time with an array of wine from the island starting with the Patrimonio AOC of Sylvain Paoli of Farinole. It reminds me of a dry muscat I have had in Pantelleria, south of Sicily. Fresh, unctuous fruit, an almond and honey marmalade. Bone dry.
Thursday night was spent near Farinole in St-Florent, where his client has a villa. And a wonderful wine cellar. An interesting time so far. There'll be little or no sleeping on this journey. Already, in this short time, the *spirit* has been active.
Tags: wine shop, corsica, gentleman farmer, sun worshipers, paris, biodynamic, bonifacio, private jet, southern italy
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Advisory: the following video is uncharacteristically schmaltzy of me. My long-time friend, Patty , would approve.
What to bring to the gathering
Gotta go catch a *plane* - will post as soon as I'm able
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Before you get to thinking that I'm set to disregard guidebooks, that's not where I'm going. What I am reaching for is another direction.
Last night in a new restaurant in Austin, Texas with friends and clients, we were pondering the wine list. All Italian. The first wine I ordered was cooked. The next wine was fine. The following wine gave me such a terrible headache that I spent most of the night awake with a real pounder. It wasn’t from excess. Something was wrong in the winemaking. And something was more wrong in the wine buying.
I'm attuned, after some time, to look at wine from an enjoyment perspective. But deeper down there is an appreciation for a well-made wine. It can come from anywhere. But a thread of quality runs through those examples that reflect sound winemaking principles, healthy and sound wines. When wines age in warehouses or when distributors go out of business, wines that have languished in storage, especially if they aren’t of the highest quality or if they have been aged beyond their potential, can produce results that are less than optimal.
When a wine buyer offers to take these products into their restaurants or retail stores and represent them as sound examples of wine, it makes me wonder about the other products in the business. Are they buying eggs on close-out or mushrooms? How about pancetta or olive oil that have passed their expiration points? Maybe the bread isn’t as fresh on Sunday as it was on Friday? Or the shrimp smells a little too clean, like it has been passed over by a chlorine wash?
Maybe it's been a few too many days in contact with wine consultants who have gotten good press and believed it a little more than was good for them. And for their customers.
All this is written as a preface to a recent experience I had in Tuscany. There was no wine consultant who wrote the wine list, in fact the list was written in pencil, very simple and innocent. We were in the heart of meat country and the place specialized in sea food. And they did it very well. The restaurant in Castlenuovo Berardenga is Da Antonio. And it was a wonderful example of 1) What to eat with what you drink and 2) what to put on a wine list that works with the food.
Da Antonio - Castelnuovo Berardenga
1st- crudo of shrimp and small lobster
2nd – salad of fresh mushrooms, gamberetti and arugula
3rd - puree of eggplant and filet of sole
4th – salad of artichoke julienne and octopus and gamberetti
5th - fried small fish ( like sardine) and tempura style white octopus
6th - pasta with garlic and parsley and julienne calamari ( flat pasta cut on diagonal, small)
7th – rombo (turbo) filet , fresh mushroom and grilled prawns
8th – crème brulee’ or tortino cioccolato
- café and grappa
Wine- white blend of Zibbibo, Ansonica and Cataratto from Sicily - Donnafugata Anthilia
A Sicilian wine in Tuscany? That's what I thought. The lady of the house recommended it over Vernaccia, Galestro, Vermentino. We were not disappointed.
Too bad the last few outings back in the New World haven't been as fortuitous.
Perhaps the book, What To Drink With What You Eat, needs to be read by the young consultants who are writing today's wine lists. Or perhaps they need to get back in touch with their client base, folks who dine and have disposable income. Smart folks who travel, people who know quality. That they might have disposable income doesn’t mean that they want to drink wines that should have been disposed of months, or years, ago.
Many of us already know what to drink with what we eat. We want honest wines, healthy wines, and sound wines. At fair prices. If you want us to come back, take heed. There are too many possibilities, too many choices, to waste time on "consultants" with worse taste than their already bad attitudes. We are not stupid. We will not come back. You don’t have us at "hello."
And our "disposable income" is not at your disposal.
Don't disappoint us.
Tags: Italy, wine, Travel, Tuscany, italian wine, , italian-wine, italian wine guy, wine guy, On the Wine Trail in Italy,What to drink with what you eat
Friday, November 17, 2006
Italian Wine Guy has asked me to write about the hospitality business, especially from the aspect of running a restaurant. I'll start with a hypothetical review:
"The basic problem underlying our evening here can be summed up as, "Angry chef". We had made a booking for four at 8:15 on Thursday evening some five days earlier, arrived a little early with our guests and were told, "Fifteen minutes before the table is free". Cutting a very long story short, we were eventually seated almost an hour and a bottle of wine later having been bypassed by quite a few later arrivals. No apologies from the young hostess, her much junior assistant or the somewhat self-important maitre d'. In fact we weren't actually seated; we saw a table for four being cleared and seated ourselves, not wishing to stand and drink for another hour."
"The wait staff were OK although when my wife requested the halibut, it was almost refused. For the main courses, my rabbit was somewhat overdone, the osso buco were apparently good, the halibut was somewhat dry and overcooked but it was the liver that made this meal memorable for all the wrong reasons. Our guest asked for it to be lightly cooked and pink - what arrived was very dark, overcooked and tough as boot leather. Our guest returned the dish and asked for it again, lightly cooked. Ten minutes later a waiter came and asked her to choose something else: she declined and insisted on the liver but was told that it was only cooked "one way" (our friend is a superb cook). She eventually declined to order another main course and went to the kitchen, quietly, to speak to the chef. He eventually came out of the kitchen and, when asked to cook the liver lightly, refused and fairly abusively told our friend that he refused to cook it any other way. If she didnt like it she could leave right now, and asked the waiter to prepare the check."
"Following this, once the main course was finished, we decided to leave. We did not leave a tip ( a first for us) and, quite simply, will never return to Da Asinello. We had eaten there several times over the past four to five years and enjoyed the food but this last evening is unfortunately the one that we will remember."
This could be a review from a very popular restaurant. These things happen. A place gets a great review, someone from Vanity Fair writes about it, Saveur lists it as one of the best restaurants in America, and faster than you can say "Bam", the place changes into an emotional obstacle course. And we're just talking dinner for four!
Some places just take it as it comes. Recently, Italian Wine Guy told me, when he was in Tuscany, and went into Da Antonio in Castelnuovo Berardenga, as he entered, the hostess asked him if he knew this was a strictly seafood restaurant. Quite an unlikely occurrence in meat heavy Tuscany. IWG said,"yes, that's why I came here." Ok, qualifying the client.
At which time they had an 8 course, all-from-the-sea, meal. At the end the chef came out and sat nearby with some friends. They laughed, enjoyed each others company, and celebrated friends, food and life. Imagine, a chef sitting down with old friends and enjoying their time at work with their diners!
In Italy this seems to be a natural occurrence, it happens often and daily. Why is it in the USA the restaurateur sometimes acts like a high priest, a Pharisee, handing down verdicts and edicts as if from some divinely designated place?
The kitchen isn't an altar, and if it is, why must we treat this new religion of dining with the age old habit of fear? Is this the purpose of the restaurateur, to turn their establishment into a palace of panic?
Sure, there is plenty of pressure in the kitchen. But diners don't come for that, they come to escape the outside world.
Restaurateurs, remember your profession is one of hospitality and conviviality. Today's diners have the option of many choices. Screw up and they'll drop you like a hot potato. No matter how popular you are today. It's a stove, not a shrine. The only miracle diners want is to be treated with civility and respect.
Like we learned from Momma.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
I particularly like the Best of Wine Tourism area. I quote from their site, " the Great Wine Capitals Global Network awarded seven international prizes to seven particularly distinctive wineries across the world. Each award-winning winery demonstrated exceptional capability to cater for, and welcome, visitors and tourists.
Prizes were awarded in the following "Best of…" categories: accommodation; architecture; arts and culture; meetings and events; leisure & tourist attractions; parks and gardens; winery restaurants; special wineries tourism. The contest attracted many entrants, all of them situated in the heart of world-famous wine regions of the Great Wine Capitals."
Check it out! We can cry out in the darkness and wail about the lack of entree into the wine world , but when a site like this shows up, it's a light in the tunnel.
Bravo, a good step forward, a giant step for wine-kind!
Monday, November 13, 2006
I dont want you all to think it's all fun and games and steaming bowls of cafe-latte.
I set to taste through 40 or so wines with journalist and Master of Wine candidate, Rebecca Murphy. Today was a pretty good day. For one, we only had one corked wine. Not bad for this many wines. I will list the wines at the end of the post for anyone who is so interested.
These were wines sent up from the warehouse so that they might be considered for some mention in newspapers and other printed and electric wine news.
Afterwards I went back home to the Bat-Cave in the '56 Bel Air. This might have looked like fun, but it was WORK! (i.e., the wine tasting; the drive home was loads of fun!)
CHARLES DE FERE CUVEE
CHARLES DE FERE RESERVE
CHARLES DE FRERE DRY ROSE
MONT-MARCAL BRUT ROSE NV
TALTARNI BRUT TACHE VS
GRUET BRUT ROSE
WHITE - MISC
ABBAZIA DI NOVACELLA - KERNER 05
ITZAS MENDI – TZAKOLINA 2005
LOS CARDOS ‘DONA PAULA’ SAUV BLANC 2006
SOUTHERN RIGHT SB WALKER BAY (SOUTH AFRICA) 2006
PASCAL JOLIVET ATTITUDE SB 2004
VINCENT BOURGOGNE BLANC 2005
STE GENEVIEVE PEREGRINE HILL CHARDONNAY (TEXAS) 2005
HAMILTON RUSSELL CHARD WALKER BAY (SOUTH AFRICA) 2005
LOS CARDOS MALBEC/ROSE 2006
CLAUDE GEOFFRAY –CHATEAU THIVINS – COTE DE BROUILLY 2005
GEORGES DUBOEUF JULIENAS 2005
GEORGES DUBOEUF CHATEAU DES CAPITANS JULIENAS 2005
GEORGES DUBOEUF MOULIN A VENT FLOWER 2005
GEORGES DUBOEUF MORGON DOMAINE MONT CHAVY 2005
GEORGES DUBOEUF MORGON JEAN DESCOMBES 2005
RED – SPAIN
ARENA LOCA UTIEL-REQUENA 2004 TEMPRANILLO/CAB/ETC
CACERES RIOJA RESERVA 2000
TINTA DA PARROTES ALENQUER DOC 2001
TINTO DA ANFORA ALENTEJANO VR TINTO 2001
LA VIEILLE FERME RED 2004
PAUL JABOULET CDR ROUGE PARALLELE 45 2003
PAUL JABOULET CROZES HERMITAGE “LES JALETS” 2001
RED - ITALY
SANTI VALPOLICELLA “SOLANE” RIPASSO 2001 (CLASSICO SUPERIORE)
SARTORI VALPOLICELLA “MONTEGRADELLA” 2003 (CLASSICO SUPERIORE)
BANFI COLLEPINO SANGIOVESE/MERLOT TOSCANA 2005
FEUDO MONACI SALICE SALENTINO 2003 (DOC)
CANTELE PRIMITIVO (SALENTO IGT) 2004
SPORTOLETTI ASSISI ROSSO DOC 2005
VAL DELLE ROSE MORELLINO DI SCANSANO DOC 2003
GIACOSA BARBERA D'ALBA 2004
NEW WORLD PINOT NOIR
STE GENEVIEVE PEREGRINE HILL PINOT NOIR (TEXAS) 2005
CONO SUR PINOT NOIR RAPEL VALLEY CHILE 2006
LOS CARDOS MALBEC MENDOZA 2005
MERLOT ( NEW WORLD)
CLOS DU VAL MERLOT NAPA 2003
SAGELANDS MERLOT COLUMBIA VALLEY 2003
CAB MERLOT BLENDS ( SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE)
NEIL ELLIS CAB SAUV/ MERLOT STELLENBOSCH 2003
TALTARNI 3 MONKS CABERNET/MERLOT VICTORIA 2001
CABERNET SAUVIGNON (NEW WORLD)
TERRAZAS CAB SAUV MENDOZA 2004
SEBASTIANI CAB SAUV SONOMA 2004
CLOS DU VAL CAB NAPA 2003
SAGELANDS CAB SAUV COLUMBIA VALLEY 2002
Sunday, November 12, 2006
Today we were talking about what one would do if someone told you that from this moment you only had 10 years to go. What would you do, would you still work? Where would you go?
I don’t think I’d travel too much. And I don’t think I’d stop working. I know probably the first thing I’d do would be to give away a lot of stuff. Maybe spend 6 months to a year doing that. Aint that silly?
I’d spend time with family and with friends. And I’d like to get this Tuscany-Sangiovese-Chianti thing figured out. Not all the wines taste as clear as the Tua Rita. Sometimes Chianti and Sangiovese are really a fiasco.
When you think about all the wine producing areas in the world and then take out all the areas or wineries that produce only marginally acceptable wines, there really exist only a few special places on earth. So when I taste Chianti wines that taste like they were made in a factory I wonder about the people behind it.
I think about the folks in Texas or Mexico and what they wouldn’t give to have some of the growing and soil conditions that we have all around Tuscany.
When I was a little one, my dad bought a Packard. He was moving up in the world. I think the last car he had was an Oldsmobile. After the Packard he’d bring home an Eldorado. But that Packard was the beginning of a step up. He wasn’t going to drive a cheapo chianti-mobile anymore.
When I was in college and we didn’t have much money, we’d get one of our friends to bring home wine from their family winery. Sometimes it was Sebastiani and sometimes it was Heitz. We were barely escaping a war that had gone amuck, anything tasted good then. Poor and free, looking on it now, we were very fortunate.
A little Zinfandel, maybe something from the nearby Santa Cruz Mountains. Or a Petite Sirah from Livermore?
Someone came up to me in a wine store the other day, wanting to know what was the best Chianti in wicker. I directed the person to a little corner of my mind, where there is a little wine cellar and a cellarmaster by the name of Rod Serling. One person’s nostalgia is another person’s nightmare.
Heading back from the 1950’s and 1970’s with a little pit-stop in the 1980’s, I recall a wonderful Chianti Rufina from Selvapiana. It was a Riserva from 1977. Black cherry and roasted chestnuts. Velvet armchair. Beeswax on an antique sideboard.
Now furniture companies find it advantageous to market their lines with such angles as the “Hills of Tuscany Collection.”
Sitting in the back yard of an ancient Tuscan estate, I ponder on this Sunday night why we cannot arm ourselves in the wine world to collectively strive to succeed together to make the wines of Tuscany more understood.
It doesn’t have to be that people think of the lowly fiasco, the 2-buck chuck of its time, as the archetypical Tuscan expression of red wine. It doesn’t have to be that way, On the Wine Trail in Italy.
Tags: Italy, wine, Travel, chianti, sangiovese, Tuscany, italian wine, Red Wine, italian-wine, italian wine guy, wine guy, On the Wine Trail in Italy,california,Santa Clara University
Friday, November 10, 2006
So a quick run over to Dry Comal Creek Winery for a French Colombard & Jalapeno Shooter ( I know, the bottle says Sauvignon Blanc, that was wine #2, waiting for us to cool down). Hot and cold at the same time. Worth a try. Wine~Texas style. It isn’t Tuscany, but it is a short break.
Out to the open air criadera where the sherry like wine is developing.
Unfortunately the Long horn steer didn’t make it. This is tough country.
Double-wide country style cooling tank?