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Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Rape of the Veneto

“What happened in Montalcino earlier this month was horrendous, but as bad as it was, it paled in comparison to what has been going on in the Veneto. They have virtually raped the land, stripped it of any character in pursuit of dollars. The popularization of Prosecco has had enormous effect on people, on farming, on the earth.”
In review of events that have transpired in Italy this year, the perversion of Prosecco persists. Enormous growth year after year has people chasing after more and more profit, pushing the land, changing laws, reducing the Veneto to a mere factory for the whims of folks who no longer want to spend money on Champagne and sparkling wine of character.

Many of us were struck by the harshness of the act that one man perpetrated early one morning in December in Montalcino. It was horrid, indeed. But the systematic dismantling of tradition in the Veneto, from Valdobbiadene and Conegliano, on the gentle slopes that humankind has lovingly nurtured - that is tragedy of legendary proportions. Culture, tradition, quality, values - all receding like the arctic ice in the Polar zones.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Goodbye to this world – Friends we won’t be seeing in 2013

Odd, that on the 7th birthday of this blog I would be writing about death. What started out as a simple little blog has almost taken over my life. Hundreds of blog posts about any number of things, awards, travel, meals, talk of a book, and what am I doing? Staring at the past. For a moment. A moment of silence and reflection and respect for those who have gone before us, those who made a difference on my little life in this wine business. Likely I have forgotten someone, maybe even someone of importance. There will be others to call them up, I’m sure. Cerberus will see to it that we will know everyone who has passed, will relay the info to the poodles above ground. In the meantime, here go before us:

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Not a fan of Fruitcake? Then you haven’t had my mamma’s!

I don’t know why folks hate fruitcake so much. Guess they never had one made with love. My mom turned 98 in May and this year she sent me not one but two fruitcakes. I think she didn’t get around to it last year. She had a pretty hectic schedule last holiday season. This year she got out in front of it and made up for it.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Feast of the 7, uhh 8, umm 9, make that 10 Fishes

From the "chefs can't count" dept.

When Christmas rolls into town, inevitably, among Italian-Americans, there is talk of the fabled Feast of the Seven Fishes. Folks more astute and studied on this subject have had their say, essentially to note this is an American invention with vague references to meals prepared in Southern Italian homes, notably, Campania, Calabria and Sicily. Because we Southern Italians were so doggone poor, our utilization of everything we caught infuses our culture and our DNA. Like my friend Paolo Librandi reminded me at another great meal this year in Calabria, “This is the poorest of cuisines. This food is made from things nobody in the city hungers for, wild onions, herbs, parts of animals that get discarded, skins of plants no one would think were edible. Throw away food.”

Likewise, nothing from the sea gets thrown away.

While the meal we had this week in Dallas was not likely anything that would ever be discarded, historically some of the elements were considered little more than food for poor people and animals. Chef John Tesar reanimated his memories from the Northeast, an area rich in Italian-American cultural drippings. John channeled his inner Italian with a meal, one of the best meals I have experienced in 2012 – and I have had some amazing meals this year (post coming). Special thanks to Maria for letting me know about this meal and getting our motley crew in.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Everything I know about wine I learned from Catholic school - Part I

It all started when I was tasting wine with a friend, Damon Ornowski, who is a master sommelier. We were taking apart some wine and I mentioned that I smelled ink. Damon looked at me knowingly, but we hadn’t yet made the connection. “You know like the ink in the Sheaffer Skrip ink cartridges we used to use in school?” Bingo. It was at that moment I realized, everything I know about wine I learned in Catholic school.

I’m talking grade school, 1st through 8th grade. I lived in the desert, in Palm Springs, California. It was a quiet life. But it gave me everything I would need in my adult life to muddle through a career.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Cheap Italian Wine for the Holidays

These wines can be found fairly easily and usually for under $10 – not usually what I blog about, but knowing there are folks looking for values – Italy has ‘em – snag ‘em up and enjoy yourselves in a safe and responsible manner. Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

♫ Blame it on the Cosa Nosta ♫

An arrest is made in Montalcino - a lone man acting in revenge against Soldera

Screen shot from the Daily Beast

Soldera saga unfolds in an unfettered and unfiltered manner.

This story by Barbie Latza Nadeau really cuts to the bone. Recommended reading. No punches pulled. And no words of mafia (or mafioso) involvement, nor “the money behind big Italian wine” uttered in the story. How refreshing to see someone actually took the time to see who really did this. Journalism isn’t dead.

There are some real doozies in this piece, quite juicy and tasty ones. Some of the quotes below. Please refer to the whole story HERE. Nice work, Ms. Nadeau.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Liquidation of Innocence

You are a young child of three. You hear the phone ring in the night. Your father answers. Your mother screams and then starts to sob. For hours and hours. Your father’s cousin’s husband was shot in his bed from outside the house, through the stucco. The wife, his cousin, survived. The unofficial explanation was that the husband had gotten mixed up with the wrong group and he was eliminated.

Your grandfather and his friend are sitting outside, under the grape arbor, cracking walnuts and reminiscing. They speak of a mutual friend of theirs who, all of a sudden, disappeared, car and all. Years later, as Los Angeles grew out, and subdivisions were developed, the car was found, rotted out from being buried in lime. There were no signs of their friend, who was never heard from again.

An aunt in the last years of her life, telling stories about her childhood. Her father was mercurial. At times they would live in two story homes and drive long black cars. At other times, the family was so poor some of the kids were farmed out to orphanages. The father’s brother was a promoter of sorts. One day, in South Dallas he was found with a new pair of fitted concrete shoes, several feet under the Trinity River.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

10 Best Italian Wines To Go With Seafood

Louisiana Gulf Oyster fired up "Chuckwagon Style"
Living in landlocked Dallas, Texas, I've found the evolution of seafood restaurants in the last 20 years to be nothing short of a revelation. Likewise, witnessing the onslaught of attractive Italian white wines to match up with the branzino, mussels, crab and monkfish that are arriving daily and fresh. It’s an Italian wine seafood lover’s paradise.

Some of the wines that I have enjoyed lately in conjunction with some of the delicious seafaring food are:

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Love and Death in the Marche


In the Spring of 1999 we visited a vineyard in the Marche. When I saw this vineyard, I thought to myself, “What a wonderful place this would be to rest for eternity.” I wasn’t at all feeling maudlin, although things back home would escalate in the next two years in ways which I could never have foreseen. No, it was Spring, the weather was perfect, we’d just tasted some wonderful white and red wines from our friend Aldo Cifola at La Monacesca. Life was good. It just struck me that this was just about the most perfect place I had ever come across in my life.

So it goes in Italy. Since then I have had to find a resting place for a loved one and many other strange and wonderful and happy and not so happy things have happened under the sun and the moon in this special place we call Italy. I will always love Italy, and this little spot in the Marche will always be one of my favorite resting places, in this life and the next.

written and photographed by Alfonso Cevola limited rights reserved On the Wine Trail in Italy

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Thursday, December 06, 2012

The Day the Vines Cried

When appalling events trigger knee-jerk drama

Caronne Ste Gemme after the attack
Earlier this year, after Vinitaly, I went to Bordeaux for the en Primeurs tastings. One of our hosts, Francois Nony, looks after Ch√Ęteau Caronne Ste Gemme, which had just been the target of severe vandalism in the vineyards. Described by Tom Stevenson as “a superb island of vines on a gravel plateau south of St. Julien estates,” the property is one of those little gems that has been enjoying an upsurge in quality and popularity. Below are excerpts from the report on the vandalism of the property in March 2012 by Jane Anson in Decanter:

About 2,000 young vines have been vandalised causing tens of thousands of euros damage at a Medoc estate.

The plot of Merlot vines at Chateau Labat, a 7-hectare cru bourgeois estate in AOC Haut-Medoc, was attacked on Friday night, possibly by a gang, the owners suspect.


Sunday, December 02, 2012

Calabria: Time Will Tell

It had been 25 years since I’d last been in Calabria. I was expecting at least 25 years’ worth of change. What I found was far from that.

In many ways Calabria is a time capsule. Nothing exemplifies it better than the vineyard Nicodemo Librandi and Attilio Scienza arranged. Circular in design, Librandi and Scienza scoured Calabria for the forgotten native grapes and laid out 160 plus varieties as a living museum to a place many consider the ground zero of Italian viticulture.