Sunday, September 30, 2012

An awakening in the desert

There was this moment, many years ago, when a young woman awakened me to the outside world. We must have been on the cusp of the teen age, for I remember the year. My mom or my teacher had convinced me to sign up for a Cotillion night; learn how to dance the fox trot, the samba, the cha-cha, the waltz and so on. I remember dressing up: shined shoes, pressed shirt, tie. It was spring in the desert; I remember the sage and the wildflowers that perfumed this particular area where I lived in Palm Springs.

The Cotillion was in the Las Palmas neighborhood, down the street from the synagogue many of my Jewish pals went to. Across the street from one of the Catholic churches we would go to when our local parish priest got to talking too much about money, which was often. Eventually that priest ran away with a young woman.

Friday, September 28, 2012

American "Amarone" - a bitter drink indeed

I understand everyone needs to make a living. And in America, where free speech is sacrosanct, her citizens have the right to say almost anything. This wine label, however, is misleading, and according to Italian law has been made approximately 6000 miles outside the legal area of production. Let’s take a look at the information from the web site of the winery situated in Texas that has produced this beverage, which they call an American "Amarone":

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Garibaldi's Last Stand : East vs. West

It may come as a surprise to my friends in Italy that there is another divide besides the North vs. South one they are familiar with. Here in America the contrast is between those who came and settled on the East Coast vs. the West Coast. And while it isn’t as contentious as the Polentoni vs. Terroni battle that to this day is waging in contemporary Italy, there are marked differences.

Being a child of the West Coast who lived on the East coast and is now curbed in the middle (depending on the election cycle, it is either referred to as the "Heartland of America", or in the down cycle it's simply "Flyover country"). But for a moment let’s leave great unwashed midsection of America to it’s own devices.

What really strikes me are the differences between Italian-Americans who were brought up on the two coasts. Perhaps there is a graph somewhere indicating the trends of who left where in Italy to come to another where in America. Did more Calabrese settle in New York? More Lucchese in Northern California? I am sure there are patterns of emigration that set the scene respectively for the contrasts.

For my part, observing, living and working with Italian-Americans on both coasts, I am going to make some glaring observations.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Uber Ripasso - The Next Big Thing?

Angiolino Maule's Ladder
Ripasso wines get a lot of traction in these parts - one of my blog posts that won’t rest, You say Ripasso and I say Ripassa, now seems so long ago (in the enoblogosphere 6 years is an eternity). When I came across this post, Using Dehydrated Grape Marc Waste to Improve Wine Quality: A More “Natural” Approach? From the up-and-coming- wine blog, The Academic Wino, I was fascinated. Could this be a new way of looking at Ripasso? Read the whole post HERE.

Yeah, say what you will, maybe a post like that seems like watching pain pail off a wall in the Veneto. But for my money, this could be the start of a whole way of thinking about Ripasso in its next incarnation. To quote Spock, "Fascinating."

I wonder what Bepi Quintarelii would think about this? Wherever his energy has been sprinkled into the universe, maybe, just maybe, he is still quietly at work on the next big thing.

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W

Sunday, September 23, 2012

One Night in Tennessee: Bardolino, Baptists & Band-Aids

The drive from Dallas to San Antonio is one I’ve taken dozens of times. About 4½ hours long with the saving grace that Austin is along the way. The other day as I was driving that highway, this time to Austin, I was a little sleepy. I’d had lunch and started in the afternoon, and for some reason I could barely keep my eyes open. It reminded me of another time years ago when I was driving with a friend and colleague, Eugenio Spinozzi. We left Dallas at 1PM in order to get to San Antonio for a meeting of salespeople and for a dinner at an Italian place. It was a holiday meeting, so we had a lot of the wines we were repping lined up on the table. Sometime after 11PM we finished and set on to drive back to Dallas. Eugenio had an early flight out of Dallas the next morning, so staying over wasn’t an option.

Anyone who has ever driven that stretch knows just one way is a bit of a haul. But to come and go in the same day is madness. There we were though, with full bellies, late at night and a little less than 300 miles to get home. At first it was no problem. We were energized from the meeting and recapping all we had talked about and what we were planning to do in the upcoming holiday selling season. Then around Salado, we started getting tired. There was an AM radio station that played old rhythm and blues and Motown hits from the 60’s. Eugenio lived in Chicago in that time and became a fan of the music, as foreign to him as Gianni Morandi or Rita Pavone was to most Americans then.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

There's something happening here...

...What it is ain't exactly clear 
wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Red headed stranger sighted behind closed-doors

In keeping with my current curiosity over wine labels - wondering if anyone else can tell which wine was served at this now famous closed-door fundraiser in May?

It looks to be a California Chardonnay with an Italian connection in the name. The winery inhabits a building which is also the Bay Area's oldest continuously operating winery, to which I have a personal connection.

The Jesuit priest who was the president of the University I attended, Santa Clara, worked as a winemaker at the original winery and helped develop a particular strain of yeast used in the making of sherry style wines in California. But that's another post for another day.

more pictures after the jump...

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Italian Paradox

From the “why Italian wines are so confusing” dept

On Sept 4, 2012 @missmelpayne posted the picture above on twitter asking if anyone knew the origin of this wine or anything about it.

Her tweet:
Fellow winos: can you help me find more info on this 1964 #Barolo? #wine #vintage #Italy #Piedmont @WineWouldntYou

This week another tweet came through from ‏@WineLibrary:

@missmelpayne Not on that particular bottle. @italianwineguy, any thoughts?

I took a look at it and tweeted as @italianwineguy:

@WineLibrary @missmelpayne you got me- maybe @haddadfrank knows about this 1964 #Barolo #wine #vintage #Italy #Piedmont

Frank Haddad, a friend and collector of these kinds of wines in Vancouver, BC,  added as @haddadfrank these five tweets:

@italianwineguy @WineLibrary @missmelpayne I have had this producers wine before I will check my notes etc and will get back to you Tues

@italianwineguy @missmelpayne funny it is hard to read but appears to say that it is a DOC wine in 64 Barolo became a DOC in 66

@italianwineguy @missmelpayne you have me on this one 1964 Vintage with a DOCG on the label, a long time in the bottle until release

@italianwineguy @missmelpayne the 64 Vintage a good one should be drinking this one now. hard to put a value on it Probably brought in grapes

@italianwineguy @missmelpayne it certainly confused me would you wait that long to bottle even a tannic Barolo

Here’s the closeup on the label:

And here’s the conundrum. There were no DOC or DOCG wines in 1964 – DOC started in 1966 and DOCG ramped up in 1980. So how could a 1964 Barolo claim to be DOCG?

What’s inside the bottle?

Anyone care to comment?

P.S. Gotta love these things…

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Ab ovo usque ad mala

Driving in the rain, driving in a dust storm. So it goes in the selling season in the States. Texas is no different, except the distances can be longer. Slowly digesting the road as it disappears beneath my car. Hurry up, slow down, Stop, get in the car, start all over again. Ab ovo usque ad mala.

Narci-servitude – In many restaurants this time of the year, showing wine, spending money, pleading for our cause, fighting for my farmers. At week’s end, in a small place, just looking to eat and drink in peace. Liberal BYOB policy, we ordered a Picpoul to start with the appetizers. The server, who recited the complete menu to the table, might have understood the type and light grey color of the menu made it damn near impossible to read. Or perhaps it was his 15 minutes. As he poured the wine, all of it, into the 4 small glasses, I thought to myself how would he take care of the wine I had lovingly cared for the past 15 or so years. A Paulliac from 1990, first growth, thrown to the curb by Parker, who said it was dead and gone. I had a 1997 Brunello in the bag just in case. Didn’t need it. Server carried the bottle to the wine manager, who decanted and brought the wine into the last segment of its life on earth. The wine, a Mouton, was sharp and racy, not like its usual fleshy ripe chocolaty style I had experienced in other vintages. That is was lean and racy appealed to me, seeing as the food on the table skewed more towards lighter wine. But this wine wasn’t a lightweight as much as an agile dancer. Maybe this is the key, when Mr. Parker said “For a first-growth, this is an unqualified failure.” Ah, now I get it. It didn’t meet his expectations.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Lone Star Beer, Hill Country BBQ and Super Friulan Red in Austin, Texas

Alessandra Dorigo at J.Mueller's in Austin
If you spend enough time on the wine trail, eventually the circle of life brings you back around. So it was this week as I headed to Austin to meet up with Moxy Castro and Alessandra Dorigo. “You might have heard of Alessandra’s family. They make wine in Friuli,” was Moxy’s comment to me. Sure enough, not only had I heard of them, but sold the wine in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. Even went to visit the family once in Buttrio in 1990.

So when I came across Moxy and Alessandra in Austin this week, I pulled out a photo I took (below) of a younger Alessandra with her parents, Girolamo and Rosetta. “I remember you,” Alessandra said. It was a night more than one of us remembered.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Do you know how to drink a glass of wine?

Ok, I'm a sucker for moving pictures. And the Italians have been a huge influence in my life, from DeSica to Rossellini, Antonioni to Fellini, Bertolucci to Pasolini, to the myriad of all the other wonderful film makers the country has produced. The Tasca d'Almerita estate  in Sicily also loves moving pictures and they have had a short video produced which I find an enthralling and beautiful visual poem. Please enjoy and if you like what they are doing, go HERE and look over the 2012 video contest finalists and the nine Finalists in Wine Spectator's Sixth Annual Video Contest. The Tasca video in the finals, Sound of Wine, isn’t the one above, but it is also visually and mellifluously gorgeous.They've got my vote (voting ends Sunday, Sept 16).

With things in the Italian wine business, it isn’t always about the sell and it isn’t always about the hype. And in wine and film alike, there should always be room for art and music and beauty..

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

2012 Piemonte vintage notes from Chiara Soldati of La Scolca

In preparing for my harvest trip next month to Piemonte and Toscana, I have been in contact with friends, old and new. One friend, Chiara Soldati, whose family wine I have represented since 1983, the La Scolca estate, sent this email early this morning. I can hardly wait till we go and visit the property and taste the wines on location. For the record, I have never been to La Scolca, but this year I wouldn’t miss it for the world. In the meantime, here are a few words of encouragement from Chiara.

Good Morning,

I’m pleased to send you here attached the information about 2012 harvest at La Scolca. We started on 7th September and I’m pleased to update about the most important moments of our harvest.

The 2012 vintage at La Scolca started two weeks in advance compared to the average of recent years, with a high quality production. After a hot and dry summer which resulted in an advance of the grape harvest of about a month, compared to 30 years ago.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Forward, not Backward

Photo by Christopher Michel
Talk to anyone who is in the vineyard this time of the year and they'll tell you. It's not about planting, not at this time, and it's not about pruning. It's about waiting and looking and praying and picking. And moving forward.

Seems however there are plenty out there who want to leave things the way they are, or if not, complain about how unfair things are. The grapes aren’t listening. They are getting riper. Time to pick.

Years and years ago, so long ago it seems like another lifetime, a teacher of mine drilled into my skull the idea that the future was not going to be the way my parents had envisioned. So I had better start thinking about the way the future might shape up in my life. He recommended a book, Future Shock. That book stirred inside me the possibilities that nothing was going to be like I had or could imagine. And I had very well better get over myself. Sure enough, the author was right.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Italy’s "Other" Coast

With summer vacation now over for most of Italians, the coastal areas are returning to a less frenetic period. There are still almost 4 million Italians on holiday (plus a few lucky Americans), but the high-season prices are down and there are a few secret places I like to go to. Much of the activity is in the vineyards, or back in the cities, where the jobs are and the concentration of population lives and works. This is one of my favorite times to go to the coast and luxuriate in the sensation of the air, sea and land. Sure it’s a little lonely, this time of the year. But the harvest is still going strong. Vegetables are ripening, the grapes are filling up with sugar and the bounty of the sea has less demand on it. Did you know right now that fishing has been slowed if not halted in some areas? According to Coldiretti, in a September 2 release, “Fishing is expected to stop at the beginning of the week including all activities from the Ionian and Tyrrhenian Sea as announced by Coldiretti ImpresaPesca, emphasizing that the provision in force until October 1st will affect the coast from Brindisi to Imperia involving seven regions, while fishing has already stopped since August 6th in the Adriatic from Pesaro to Bari.”

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Cock Blogging Saturday: Top 10 posts from O.T.W.T.I.I.

Some blog posts just never go away. the three Ripassos and Seersucker among them. In any event, this is an American holiday and no one is looking at anything much of consequence. So, I am re-purposing these top 10 posts ( of all time, sad isn't it?) from an undisclosed seat in the universe of ideas. Happy holidays to America. And to Italy, welcome back from your month long vacation. Try to get a little work in before the autumn strike season kicks in.