Thursday, September 29, 2011

Parallel Paths - La Cucina Italiana and Jazz in New Orleans

Limoncello by symbiosis at Domenica
New Orleans has a relationship with things Italian similarly as it does with jazz. While there is a lot of traditional food and jazz in the Crescent City, there is also a good deal of improvisation. And in the world of La Cucina Italiana, this is welcome news. New Orleans is experiencing new and renewed energies in this arena. Places like A Mano, Ancora and Dominica are shining examples of innovation and experimentation. And just like jazz, there are some pretty little melodies floating out of the neighborhoods of New Orleans. In three short days, I just touched the tip of the iceberg.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Bouzeron in the Afternoon and Biancolella in the Evening - Just Another Day on the Wine Trail in New Orleans

This week finds me in Louisiana, starting in New Orleans, one of my great-great-grandfather’s haunts. Meetings in the morning and an afternoon tasting of French wines, mainly Burgundy, at the Windsor Court Hotel. A chance to see old acquaintances and make some new ones. And a great showing of wines.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Italian High Noon: Five Rode In

As morning dawned, only five were left. After many wars and battles, they couldn’t claim victory. They had been left behind, without any entitlements to greatness, as their fellow warriors had enjoyed. No victory laps, no medallions, nothing. Just the blank stare from the sun as it rose to shine upon everyone else but them.

How many more years before these five could taste the glory of greatness, riding tall in their saddles, heads held high? As if it were ever in the cards for these five?

Soon, the curtain would fall, and there would be no more pageantry, no more striving for the highest honor. Before long, they and all their compatriots would be swept away into a larger procession. And with it, dashed is the chance to go into new battles with a taste of triumph.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Picking and Pulling in Tuscany

Regardless of the political or economic situation in Italy, there are some certainties that the Italians will faithfully address: When the grapes are ripe they will be picked and when the sheep are full they will be milked. Though many of us are dreamers, Italians know when it is time to pick and pull.

That’s one of the wonderful things about this country that my family emigrated from over 100 years ago. Yes, the political scene is a disgrace. Giving a lifetime stipend of €3,000 Euros a month to a hard-corn porn star or giving the country away to a failed torch singer who treats it like his own personal bordello is an ineffable shame. But to neglect the grapes or the sheep, where I took these photographs, in the Tuscan countryside, that would be a bigger shame. And so the harvest proceeds. And the milk is drawn. And wine and cheese are made. And Italy sustains herself for another day, to fight on the moral grounds. I do not doubt it for a moment.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Pensions for Porn Stars and the Newest, Bestest Italian DOCG list ~ now "73"

It’s been a long, lonely summer, but the Italians are back from holiday. Two important new DOCG appellations now have received their well-tanned reward. Almost as good as giving a hard-core porn star (who was in the Italian Parliament for five years, albeit with a lawyer hired to “write” legislation for her) a reward of a pension of €3,000 a month - for the rest of her life - Bunga! Bunga!! Bunga!!!

Ahh, Italy, you make all of us emigrants so proud.

Here are the two latest deliveries :
· Suvereto
· Val di Cornia Rosso (or Rosso della Val di Cornia)

Making a grand total of Italian wine DOCG’s now, for the moment, “73”

The complete list, and new map, after the jump…

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Does your rosé swing both ways?

Joe Bastianich, please call me

It never rains in California
But girl, don't they warn ya
It pours, man, it pours
My mom, for anyone who hasn’t been perusing this blog lately, is not one to shrink from an opinion. She didn’t get to be 97 by being a pushover. I don’t know too many people who win an argument with her. Ask my sisters. Or her numerous grandchildren. So when she gets something into her head, let’s just say, there isn’t anyone I know, dead or alive, who can talk her out of it.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Which wine with the world's most expensive Cannoli?

from the “nicest things sometimes happen for no reason whatever” department

The world's most expensive cannoli (o) James Ferris Photography
Down in Deep Ellum this morning I happened to meet a fellow Sicilian (and customer I might add, in Kansas City, MO), Jasper Mirabile. One of the nicest fellas I’ve met in a long time, Jasper owns the eponymous (and great) restaurant, Jasper's, and being a lover of cheese, he was visiting our mutual friend Paula Lambert, who is the iconic cheese goddess of New American cooking. I grow (and just harvested) Hoja Santa and Epazote for Paula (it’s an Herbs for Cheese barter program) and we all met on the steps of the Mozzarella Company. Jasper and his wife Lisa were in town visiting their daughter Alex, who is attending SMU.

Anyway, after we talked about some of the new Italian spots in town (Lucia, Dough, Nonna and Il Cane Rosso) Paula and I both asked if he had made it to Jimmy’s yet.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Mixed Case

and around and around it goes in the circle game

Wacky week, really a mixed bag, so far. Gotta say, so many of my friends are grieving over things going on around them, around all of us. I am kind of stunned by most of it. Like I said to my closest confidant tonight, it seems like we are looking at a train wreck in slow motion and it is right there in front, heading straight at us, and there’s not much any of us can do except possibly get out of its way.

In the meantime, these divertiti from the wine trail and beyond.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Red Wrath & Beyond

From the "You say you want a revolution..." department

I am in one of those states where I don’t really know which direction to go. Finding myself again as a stranger in a strange land, among friends, workers, family, countrymen. I know it’s me. It must be, the perception versus the reality. But it feels way too convincingly familiar as no man’s land, these trails I find myself walking. And as the Zen koan goes, nothing above, nothing below, so I leap off.

And leaping I find myself looking at the Italian peninsula and the latest revolution that seems to be emanating from Tuscany, in regards to red wine and the emotions that have been stirred these past few weeks via the Montalcino consorzio vote to keep the cépage of Rosso di Montalcino from being vitiated with Cabernet, Merlot or Syrah.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

A Brother, a Father, a Son

Our little group had an appointment at a winery which our host imports. We were on the outskirts of San Gimignano and the family has been established there since the 15th century. We were slated to have a tasting and then after a meeting, a little light lunch.

We had been on the road for almost a week, and the August holiday was winding down. I don’t ever remember being in Italy at the beginning of August and at the end. It was a passage for me; seeing folks heading north on the Via Aurelia on August 1 from Rome to the coastline of Tuscany. And then, traveling south on that very same highway at the end of August. It almost got me into the mindset of an Italian on holiday. Not that I was there on vacation. I just happened to be there, for work, both times. But I do have an imagination and a sense of placement when it comes to trying to get myself inside the head of an Italian.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Bibere Umanum Est. Ergo Bibamus.

From the Weightwatchers intervention department

And yes that is true...the saying on the old piece of furniture above, "To drink is human, let us therefore drink."  And one must have food to go with wine. Ergo, some pictures from the recent harvest trip and business meetings, lunches and dinners. The Italians eat well, even when we are workshopping...

More pictures and the jump

Sunday, September 04, 2011

The Tuscan Harvest of 2011 - Maremma Report

Warm days with breezes – followed by a little moisture release. One of the hottest summers in a while. The grapes are coming into wineries along the Maremma. We captured some of the action in Suvereto at the Petra estate.

I’m back home in Texas, where the wind is howling outside my window. The temps are down here as well.

A great week past in Italy. We covered over 1,000 miles in 4 days. Tired, but happy. I’ll post more in the coming days, but wanted to drop a few pictures in and let everyone know the harvest in Italy is in process, and it’s looking like a good, maybe not great, vintage. Too soon to tell.

Meanwhile back in the USA we have the last of the summer holidays. So I am powering down and going to catch up with the time zone I am in.

Thanks, all!

more pictures after the break

Friday, September 02, 2011

New Maremma Wine, Qaddafi's Hummer & Late Night Pasolini

There is no lack of news and oddities in the vineyards of the Maremma, or the rest of Italy, for that matter.

I have been on the road all day, driving back from a whirlwind tour of Tuscany during what is turning out to be a very hot and dry harvest, and one with a few distractions.

We arrived back in Milan for a few last meetings and a quick dinner at a restaurant run by sweet folks from Apulia. But the real news is the wine I was shown at La Badiola winery. When asked the grape the winemaker told us it was called Marselan. It was light in color, totally unoaked and fresh, spicy and a delicious sipper. In fact I did not spit any of the wine. Anyone heard of this grape? Some reports say it is a hybrid between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache. It was not too tannic. It was refreshing in the heat of the Tuscan sun at the end of the August month.

Odd. On August 1 I was driving north on SS1 (the Aurelia) and on August 31 I found myself driving south on the very same highway. The month of August, the revered month for Italians to vacation. And twice I found myself running from winery to winery. Consider myself very lucky to be working in the playground of many Italian holiday goers. And glad to be working, rather than catching more sun. Something which we have more than had our share of in Texas.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

The Quiet Mountain

Blow your horn, Gabriel, there are other mountains

Sunrise in Montepulciano
While some concerned eyes of the Italo-enoblogosphere are on Montalcino in the last (and most likely, in the next) week, much of Italy is focused on the harvest or on their own particular problems. Imagine the president of a country wanting to get in front of the leaders and the opposition telling that person, “No” because a couple of political hopefuls are debating somewhere in flyover country. Then imagine the Italian opera, whereby this kind of scenario is light weight in comparison. And one gets a small view through the crack in the door.

The furor over the proposed Rosso di Montalcino DOC alliterations seems to me a bit silly and self-indulgent. As one producer’s representative said over dinner the other night, “The biggest problem is there is no market for Rosso di Montalcino, when one can find Brunello in the low end for a similar price.”