In part, I wanted to see some of the winemakers (the relationship thing) and to participate in some of the educational seminars. With Italian winemakers and marketers I believe it is important to stay in touch with them, to see where their hearts are beating and to get a sense of the moving target that is the state of the Italian wine. Yeah, and, it's my job.
I passed on New York this year and opted for San Francisco. It is interesting to note that when the winemakers are in New York, the atmosphere is more highly charged, a little more buttoned down, while on the West Coast the style is a little more casual and easygoing. Maybe it is because San Francisco has a more feminine side to it than New York. San Francisco allows those who come to the city to be more comfortable in their own skin. It is an easier city to immerse oneself in quickly. And for those winemakers who do make the trek, we get to see a different side of them, and they get to experience a part of the USA that is more akin to their Mediterranean ambience. Plus, I'm a sucker for red balloons.
Restaurants in SF – We had two meals, one at A16 and one at Delfina, both fine examples of a more settled style of Italian food that is current in the city. One major complaint in both San Francisco and Los Angeles: the kitchen needs to taste their food from time to time. Too dadgum much salt. And wine prices are creeping up on the wine lists too. However their selections are different and wonderful and I just love to hear them moan about how backwards their area is in relation to other places. Wahhhh. Get me a recycled Kleenex, please.
I’m on the run and moving fast, the plane is waiting. So this will be a quick read with more to follow.
Ligurian wines are alive on the West Coast. We sampled Pigato and Vermentino in SF and LA. I wasn’t too excited about seeing them for $75-85 a pop, considering you can pay about $4-6 euros a bottle ex cellar. What they are getting though are real wines and, hey, gas out here is $4 a gallon and climbing.
The Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri show in SF? They should call it 3-bicch and 2-red, for we tasted a lot of 2 glass (red) wines, as well. So the event has transformed. I am not objecting; think the 2 red glass category offers value and sometimes interesting glimpses of where things are going. One producer was showing a tre-bicch Sauvignon Blanc that sells for $45 in the stores in SF. We’re approaching Dagneau country. Don’t know if they'll get me down that road in Collio.
I did manage to put on my Sherlock Holmes hat and try to suss out the real wines that hide amongst the superstars. I got an email from Alice F; seems she was disappointed in the NY show. I had to look hard and found a few. Not as many as I would have liked, though. More on that later.
LA was a different story. While escaping the snow flurries in North Texas, I huddled in a dark room with 25 wines and a few experts to talk about some of the unique wines coming out of Italy. Sicily is struggling with their fame and their direction. Piedmont and the North are a machine, but it seems they cannot get their pricing to reflect what most people can afford. There are 400 people in the USA who make over $100 million a year, known as the Fortunate 400. It seems many of the reds from Piedmont are targeted for that group. I’d wish them luck, but they’d just think I was being a smartass.
Central Italy, come’ va? Encouraging. The Marche wines, both red and white, await their explosion in the marketplace. Sagrantino is climbing higher, hoping to borrow a few buyers from Brunello. Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is showing different styles and is evolving into an area that will continue to have this multi-faceted look to their wines, from Masciarelli’s homage to sun, oak and horsepower to Valle Reale’s firm, steady, serious progression to serious world class wines. And then there is Illuminati. Now Gambero Rosso calls Dino Illuminati the Grand Old Man of Abruzzo. Holy Mother of God, they almost buried him with that description. Hang in there Dino, we're not done with you yet.
Last night we closed down Osteria Mozza with the sopranos, the starlets and some old sidekicks from New Orleans, complete with Grappa shooters. Just like I remember from Decatur Street in the Quarter, when I was much younger, and had a quicker recovery time.
OK, that’s enough for now. More to come.
Anybody want to guess who this is? Hint: he isn't in the wine biz