Brunello on the Brazos
There must have been a vortex that I slipped through. Drove to Austin on Monday to meet Guido Orzalesi of Altesino. All went well; a little 2003 Rosso, some 2001 Brunello and an amazing 1997 Vin Santo. After work, driving around Austin tasting these and other wines, I took Guido to a non-Italian place. Not too far from the hotel, Sandra Bullock had just opened up her café, Bess. It was either that or Guero’s Taco Bar, and the last time I was there, the tacos al pastor were dried out and tasteless and the bartender treated me like a Yankee. Pineapple in a taco al pastor? I know, but this time is seemed so much like yuppy chow.
Talking with Dottore Guido, a young man who is really trying to help take Altesino and Montalcino into a realm of the world view. It was refreshing how he said the signs were good, but folks still compare their Brunello to their neighbors. Or rather talk about how much better theirs is than their neighbors. Invidia.
“Folks in Bordeaux say, our wine is better than Brunello, than Burgundy, than Napa” Guido said. “In Montalcino they say how much better their wine is than neighbor over the hill or the big company down the road. They cut down Brunello. Lafite and Mouton don’t cut Bordeaux down.” Amen.
I would so love to talk to the producers, say at Benvenuto Brunello, and offer my perspective. We must all work together, first, getting people to drink wine, then maybe red wine. Then Italian, and then Brunello. Over the next generation.
“The older generation went out in the 1980’s and told people around the world a little about Brunello. Then the land became valuable and more growers started making wine. But they ask a price for their wine without considering what the market can bear. All they see is their wealthy neighbor asking so much for their wine and the think, because they are next door or down the road, that they can ask the same, or more.”
Gold Bands on Grape Stained Hands
”What they don’t see is that large winery, or even a small one like us, going to America and elsewhere in the world, traveling away from home, from our families, to listen to wine buyers and sommeliers tell us what they are looking for. We don’t always hear what we want, sometimes we hear them angry with the prices and they tell us about the other wines of the world that are competing for their dollar. It is very sobering, how do you say, a reality check?”
Yes, a reality check in Austin, that’s an anomaly. Maybe we have slipped through a vortex.
The next day there was a ZAP tasting here in Austin, so everything stops. Italian wine business, etc. And Thursday there is a vertical Malbec tasting, so we must sell tomorrow and shovel coal, solo, the next day. Jeesh, the Italians in this town just don’t ever seem to get their due.
At the ZAP, I overheard a wine-industry wonkette, say, “Yeah, we spill more Zinfandel at our winery than all these folks make.” Sweet. Nice bragging point in ever-so-greener-than your town-Austin. Now, if you spill more Zinfandel than let’s say, Shiner Bock, maybe that would impress the locals. The ones who make the Berkeley-lovin’ guy feel like a Yank. Well, Mr. Borrego, back in Dallas, with his Mutton tacos and not-so-cool crowd, is seeming cooler and more grounded than these dreaded hipsters. The only thing he does with pineapple is juice it and serve it with a straw.
Scalpel, Suture, Winelist
So I get word an Italian restaurant, that a friend of mine is opening (and one of the reasons I have come to Austin) has a partner, a doctor, who is writing the wine list. So I have decided the only thing I can do is, buy a book and learn how to do open heart surgery. Without anesthesia. Just like in sales.
I called back home as I was driving up Congress Avenue; just thought I’d ask if maybe I died in my sleep last night and this was all part of hell. No answer. My watch said 6 o’clock, though the sun was directly overhead. Maybe I had sunk even lower than hell.
Who Wound Up the Wine Doll?
Back at the Zap tasting, some hand pats my butt, and I look around to see one who shouldn’t be. Someone who doesn’t even know the difference between a Dolcetto and a Roero. That can be a real turn-off. I’m now not just in hell, but Dante’s layer-cake hell. With only Zinfandel to drink.
Fortunately Donn Reisen of Ridge had a table with his Lytton Springs, York Creek and Geyserville Zinfandels.
A Berkeley alum, red wine that doesn’t burn, something I can swallow (after the umpteenth joke about, "hey Alfonso, where’s the Primitivo?")
Before yesterday, I was proud to be from California, and Palm Springs at that. The Old Mountain that I used to stare at as a kid, talking to San Jacinto. Now even that memory has been tarnished by an experience that I can only allude to, in a Schrambling-like crypticism.
I’ve gone way over my limit, and only a little hint about wine, the Ridge. Great stuff. Nuff said.
Back to the cake; see if we can burrow past the pineapple, out of this bete noire.
IWG & Baby B