Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Brief Reprieve From the Onslaught

Ceiling fresco - Casòn Hirschprunn, Margreid, Südtirol

Because of the encounters I have had in the last month and with all the rush to award guarantees of origin to the decadent and irrelevant Italian appellation system, I have zigged, zagged and ran scatter-shooting across this April month. Not that it hasn’t been a romp. Jump on a plane, beat the jet lag, eat this, drink that, run, run. My mom likens it to a vacation. I could use one of those right now. But it “ain’t gonna happen,” there’s too much going about in the wine trail that I find myself perched upon these days. And that’s more of a song coming from the mouth of the sparrow hawk above my home than a kvetch. A shriek of pleasure.

But not without its moments of sadness, or at the very least, contemplative reflection. Last night, after a long day, in the early evening I was summoned to a wine dinner. Pouring wine, sitting with new people, making conversation, trying to attend to their needs as well as to my host and our winery folk. I never really thought I did justice to any of them. I was strewn, but sincere. At the end of a very mellow evening, almost frighteningly so for the normally cacophonous venue, as we were boxing up wine for the clients and tidying up, sipping on an espresso and generally heading towards comatose places, a lady came up to me. I’ve known her for what seems like ages. Always very friendly, although never going too deep. But civil. Respectful.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Latest Italian Wine DOCG Update - Italian Double Holiday Reveals Two More - Making it "65"

from the "when the going gets weird, the weird turn DOCG" dept...

I can barely keep up with it. Can you imagine the Italian government and the overworked apparatchiks at the Gazzetta Ufficiale della Repubblica Italiana trying to make sense of a law that in 18 months will be meaningless? Monday April 25, it seems, was a double-headed holiday. With Italians celebrating both Liberation Day and Pasquetta, they're running a little behind in the official announcement dept.

There have been insightful and sapient peregrinations on the web about the antediluvian DOC/G system. I tend to agree. It has become a theater of the absurd. But so very entertaining, in the way only a Latin culture can provide.

None the less, duty calls, so now let us welcome the two new members of the DOCG club:

Colli Bolognesi Classico Pignoletto - see article 8

Rosazzo - still searching for the "official announcement" for the DOCG from the GOVT

Current list after the break

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Italian Wine DOCG Update - We Have Risen to "63"

From the "Let my people go" dept...

It is that time of the year, when they roll out Charlton Heston and the 10 Commandments epic. Kind of an American ritual, to sit around the TV and watch the pageant of Moses and Ramses and all the comings and goings of 3,000 years ago. I have come to think of Charlton Heston as one the most iconic Biblical Hollywood figures, and he weighs in often on these posts. So in commemoration of that and the 3 (or is it just 2?) new DOCG’s we are rolling back the Red Sea with these new proclamations from the DOCG on high. We're up to "63" and counting...

Buona Pasqua!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Week in Italy - 7 Wine Finds from Vinitaly

from the "bringing Vinitaly to flyover country" dept.

Seven days in Italy. Seven wines. So it was my friend Paul diCarlo at Jimmy’s in Dallas asked me to put together a tasting for his little back room, his “circolo del vino” for 57 of his closest friends and clients. “Show me what we missed.” I thought about it. All the wines I sampled in Italy, how to reduce it down to seven? Not so easy. But when I was sitting outside my porch in the Langhe, looking out over a vineyard I got this idea. Why wines? Why not people? And then it got a little easier.

Vinitaly 2011 is a blur. I was only there three days, instead of the usual five. The UGG en primeurs in Bordeaux stole a day on the front side and the Summa 2 event in Trentino borrowed another day. In 2012 there will only be four days for Vinitaly and will start on a Sunday, March 25 and go through Wednesday March 28. Yes, those are the correct dates. It seems the earlier decision to run the show from April 1-4 got in the way of the UGC Bordeaux en primeurs and the WSWA show in Sin City in 2012.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sifting Through the Fine Red Dust

So far, 2011 has become an extended road trip. Work related events have taken me on the road most of the year. Italy, New Orleans, New York, Dallas, Baton Rouge, Friuli, Austin, Aubrey, Berkeley, Napa, Veneto, Arkansas, Paris, Bordeaux, the Langhe, Buffalo Gap, Texas. It just keeps getting better.

I know there are those out there who tire of the constant barking of the poodles, the bloggers, whether it be about wine or the next great meal one just had. For me too, sometimes, it does seem like one long tome in self aggrandizement. Remember, it is a (b)log. And it is voluntary reading. But from the traffic spikes, it seems someone out there likes these on-the-road rants.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Buffalo Gap Wine and Food Summit - Fried Chicken, Sabered Champagne and Jaques Pepin

From the "I wonder what the rich folks are eating?" dept.

Right off the plane from France and Italy I was whisked through a veritable Inferno on a scale only Dante could aptly describe. It seems there have been some hellacious wind and fire storms in West Texas and we drove through them to get to Abilene, where Tom and Lisa Perini host the Buffalo Gap Wine and Food Summit, now in their 7th year.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Meaning of Hospitality

From the Bolognese, Branzino and Grignolino files

Tonight. My last night. Two weeks away from home. France. Italy. Everyday, somewhere to be. Wine to be tasted. Ten hour days. Driving. Weak eyes. Sore feet. And then finally the last hotel. Near the airport. So close.

One more meal. Near the hotel. 50 feet away. Why not? After a wonderful day in Barolo, with Anna and Emanuela and nine wonderful wines going back to 1990. Dolcetto. Cortese. Barbera. Nebbiolo. Moscato. Great chef. Amazing lunch. Wonderful company.

And then the drive to the last hotel room. And the last meal.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Castiglione Falletto: What a difference 27 years makes

Luca Currado is very animated about this land. And with good cause. From a family heritage dating back before the unification of Italy, Luca's family was really out in front of the evolution of modern day Barolo. That's not to say modern Barolo, though. In fact, this second time around, the wines have steered forward in a timeless manner.

The last (and first) time I was here, in 1984, Luca's father, Alfredo, was at the helm. And it was heady times. All of Castiglione Falletto was this vibrating bee hive. Cavalotto, Scavino, any number of people I visited in those days, there was building and barriques. Rotating fermenters, technology gone wild, modernity in full swing.

Happily, my inner Rip Van Winkle, upon awakening and returning, has found that this land has found a few stewards to take the course back due North and maintain the ascendancy of these great wines and terroir.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Room With a View and the Best Pizzeria Wine List on Earth

from the Nebbiolo in Neive chronicles...

Finally, I can get into the vineyards! After nine straight days of tasting, usually from 9:00AM until 6:00PM, followed by lengthy dinners and a long drive back to a room, I am in the Langa. Two quick days to make a few rounds, visit some friends. I am staying with a long-time friend and man, if that isn't the sweetest view outside a window I don't know what is.

After visiting Lageder and the Summa alternate conference, where I tasted Giacosa, deGresy (in anticipation of today) and a whole range of Lageder, Marco Felluga, some amazing Rieslings and some wacky Austrian wines, I am calibrated. A four hour drive got me into Valdivilla just in time to catch the magic bus to Neive to have, what else, pizza and Nebbiolo in Neive.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

"The Hottest Vinitaly in 40 Years"

A bit of a mixed bag regarding Vinitaly 2011. First off, there are a lot of amazing people here (see pictures after the post). Some of them I got to talk with and taste their wines. There never is enough time. Seems like next year there will be even less.

For those who care to know, Vinitaly 2012 will be held in Verona, again, but this time the wine fair will start on Sunday April 1 and go through Wednesday April 4. (Thank you, Luca Zaia). The thinking was that it needed to be open more during business days so that the restaurant owners could come on their off days. It means one less day of the fair.

However in 2012 Easter falls on that following Sunday, April 8. So it will be Holy Week in Italy. As well it will be the week of the en primeurs 2012 tastings in Bordeaux. Which makes it impossible for journalists and folks who try to cover both events.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Margaritas and Montecristos in the Medoc with Monsieur Lapin

Totally on the wine trail, albeit a ways from Italy. It has been three days non stop in Bordeaux with the 2010 en primeurs. And what a packed three days on the Left Bank in the Medoc it has been. From Lafite to Latour, Margaux, Mouton and many more, tasting the new vintage and assessing the pageant that emanates from one of the centers of the wine world.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Natty Wine and Nasty Cops: April in Paris

A short one day layover in Paris en route to Bordeaux for the annual En Primeurs pageant. In this case one day is enough. But more about that later.

After a very bumpy ride across the Atlantic, we finally arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport, CDG. I had a short text from a couple of buddies, Master Sommeliers Drew Hendricks and James Tidwell, both from Texas. So I hauled my stuff over to their terminal for a little coffee clatch. Drew and James were on their way to Lebanon, ostensibly to spend time with the Musar bunch. We made short work of it in the time it took to drink two espressos and a tea. And then it was time for us to go our separate ways.

About 10 minutes after I left them, I felt a lightness in my bags. Before I got on the train into Paris I checked for my coat. It had gone missing. I thought I had probably left it in the cafe when I had reached in a pack to get a camera for the photo of James and Drew. So I sprinted back to see if it were still there. You've heard stories of the city and how people don't care (more about that later). In this case I was in luck, my warm and needed coat was right where I left it. On to Paris.