Wednesday morning I awoke to sub-freezing temperatures. My Hoja Santa long past giving up the ghost, I set out to check on my arugula and radicchio plantation. The radicchio had relocated to one of Dante’s hells but the arugula was fighting to stay alive. I covered it and under the cover of a late autumn fog I headed off to catch a plane to Houston.
The night before I had gotten a call from a colleague who had informed me that I had gotten removed as moderator
I am in the habit of understanding that Italian government employees work in a separate reality, so while I was disappointed I wasn’t surprised. After a round of emails to other folks on the panel and in the bloggy-blog world,
Last year at the Italian extravaganza in NY, what did they call it - Vino 2009 - where there were all kinds of seminars and dinners and awards and tastings and everyone left NY feeling all warm and fuzzy? Well they will do it again next year in Feb, Vino 2010. And I will trek from La Jolla to Dallas to New York to show up and be a good soldier for the cause of Italian wine
Thinking that the social network can hold up just fine without me for a day or two, I ventured into the wine jungle that is Houston. 30 degrees warmer than Dallas, which was a welcome change. But hopefully I would be able to embrace the deeper side of things Italian, especially during this moment when all things sharp turn smooth and all things bitter turn sweet.
A warm porchetta at Giacomo's and the welcome embrace of Lynette with a bottle of Trebbiano was a good start. Beets, cauliflower and a little taste of insalata di mare misto sent my altered regimen of eating into the stratosphere, if just for a day. But here, as I have written before, is a place that gets the sensibilities of things Italian. Thankfully the Houston restaurant reviewer, Alison Cook, totally gets it. Great review, lots of business. Read here.
We slipped over to another friend’s place, this one a bit more of a challenge because the next generation is taking the reins of the business, slowly. Still, this has been a field we have steadily plowed over the years. Houston is just too young of an urban blot to make a deep enough impression on the Italian experience in America, even though the Sicilian heritage is long and deep.
Running over to Tony’s to taste with Jon and his colleague; Rosenthal wine rep was there with a full bevy of great French and Italian wines. The Piedmont wines from De Forville and Brovia were showing gorgeously. Also opened were a Nero d Avila from Las Lumia which was stinky and wild and wonderful and a Primitivo from Pichierri that was equally savage in its unbridled refusal to surrender to the Rollandization of wine. Very happy to taste these wines with the Rosenthal examples. All these years showing these wines to somms and wine stores and not having anything to go on but my story and a hope that folks would connect with these authentic examples of individualism in Italian winemaking. Very happy.
Later in the day the very same colleague who had to break the news that I had been bumped in favor of Andy Blue called again. “You’re Calabrese aren’t you?” I didn’t know if I was in trouble for something, but I said, “Well, yes, my mother’s family came from there.” My friend then asked me to moderate a panel on Calabria wines.”The Italian Trade Commission felt bad about the way they disregarded you and they wanted to ask you if you would help out with the Calabrese panel.” Being a good soldier, I said sure. Look, my life is pretty good; all things are working out just fine. I always remember the energy of this whole thing revolves around the wine gods and sometimes you gotta serve somebody.
And that, dear listeners, is 24 hours in the life of an Italian wine guy, on the wine trail, this time in Houston during a cold snap. Mmm, gotta find me an amaro before I call it a day.