Thursday, May 30, 2013

And the wind, it cries Mary

After all the jacks are in their boxes
And the clowns have all gone to bed
You can hear happiness staggering on down the street
Footprints dressed in red
And the wind whispers Mary
I woke up from a dream last night. My wife Lizanne, who passed away in 2001, appeared. She was no longer sick, but she was delicate. She only appeared for a moment, and in her way she kindly tapped me on the shoulder. Remember. Outside the wind was blowing.

We all run around making busy lives for ourselves to fill them up with meaning. We are like the little goti glass of Venice, made from left over scraps of glass, all different. All fragile. But still we step outside in the wind, and we run. And run. Competing in a race we will never win. But still, we run.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

So you want to be a wine connoisseur? - Here are a dozen top online fee-based wine journals

Reading about wine from the pros can be a pricey proposition. If you are in the trade or a serious amateur/collector, here are a dozen online publication options (in English). If you subscribe to all of them they will cost you a little more than $1,000.00 a year, no paltry sum. But then again that’s less than the going price for a bottle of 2010 Chateau Margaux. And when you drink it, it’s gone.

Would I spend over $1,000.00 a year for all of these publications? I don’t have time to read them all, so I probably wouldn’t. But $1,000.00 a year is a pretty small price to pay for some of the best and brightest in the wine world. And if you’re new to the sport, it would be a pretty inexpensive. A season ski pass to Chamonix will set one back $1,500.00 or so.

Why pay when there is all this free information on the internet and the blogs? Indeed. I’d say the reason to do so would be to have recognized sources of information on some highly selected subjects (Champagne, Burgundy, natural wines, etc.).

The dirty dozen listed with yearly subscription fees, from the most expensive to the least:
(after the break)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Battle for Prosecco

“I’m a little upset with you over that blog post you wrote about Prosecco.” That was my introduction to Primo Franco, an iconic producer in Valdobbiadene, with years of history and dedication to the elevation of the simple sparkling wine of the Veneto that has become a world phenomenon. His disarming daughter Silvia had brought me here to their home for my last day in Valdobbiadene. Not sure where this afternoon was going, I replied, “I agree with you, I am upset as well, and you know why. So it seems we are fighting the same fight.”

Primo is a force, a “big tree,” one of a handful of men and women in landscape of the modern Italian wine revolution who, when you meet them, you know they're playing for keeps. They’re not in it for ego gratification. Primo has an intellectual and artistic side that is equally disarming. We share a love for architecture, both fans of Frank Lloyd Wright. Primo had even been to Scottsdale to Taliesin West. “So you know also of Paolo Soleri?” I asked. It seems we will need to be taking a trip together in the future to visit Arcosanti; Primo hasn't been there.
It's that time of the year - The Wine Blog Awards have announced their nominations.

On the Wine Trail in Italy has been nominated for two categories:

Blog Post of the Year: The Rape of the Veneto
Best Single Subject Wine Blog: On The Wine Trail in Italy

If you are so inclined, go HERE and click the “VOTE” button: Voting will continue through Friday May 24th at 11:59pm (PST?) when the polls will close.


Monday, May 20, 2013

La Battaglia di Grandine - Severe Weather in Valdobbiadene

Crazy weather day here in Italy in a Cartizze vineyard in the Veneto. I got caught in a hailstorm and torrential rain. Nothing like what the poor folks just got in Moore, Oklahoma. Sharing this video - the hailstorm cannons made for an eery situation, considering the many real battles that took place in this area in the 20th century.

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Valdobbiadene

“Have you ever been to ‘osteria senza oste’ in Valdobbiadene?” my friend Paolo asked me by email last month. I didn’t have any idea what he was talking about. Not a clue. And I proceeded to forget about it, like we do for so many things that pass by our way. But when I arrived in the Valdobbiadene area (The land of Prosecco) Paulo planned an afternoon. “I am taking you to see people and places the tourists don’t know about.”

Paolo is young, happy, a former winemaker and now working half in Italy and half in the United States representing several wineries. One of them, Cá dei Zago, we met the young winemaker Christian Zanatta at Vinitaly last year. I promised the next time I was in the Valdobbiadene area that I’d be glad to stop by.

Under threatening skies, after several days of heavy rain, we first went to Cá dei Zago. The young winemaker has been fortunate in that his vision of Prosecco and Valdobbiadene corresponds more to how his grandfather saw the land. When I mentioned his name to an enologist at the Conegliano school of enology, he looked at me, startled but pleased, “Ah yes, Christian,” inferring with his words and body language that the young man has tapped into the source of greatness in this area.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Italy is “Open for Business”

Ever since we touched down, this recent trip on the wine trail in Italy has been non-stop tasting and traveling. From three days in Piedmont and the Langhe to a day of travel in which we spent in the Veneto and Valpolicella, to our current base near Udine, we have been hitting it pretty hard.

Tasting everything from Moscato to Arneis, Pelaverga to Barbaresco, Barolo to Amarone and now in Friuli, Pinot Grigio to Tocai. Today is the last day in Friuli before heading back to the Veneto and Valdobbiadene for the Vino in Villa event. It’s a bit of a blur, and the beat goes on.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Silence of the Alambic – The Spirit of Romano Levi

We were walking around Neive, looking for a bite to eat. One of our colleagues, Michele, started talking to this forlorn looking fellow. As it turned out this young man, Fabrizio Sobrero, had recently separated from his wife. To make matters worse, that morning he took a walk by the house he had once shared with his wife and on the patio was another man smoking a cigarette. Fabrizio said to Michele, “I cannot even go into the vineyards; my back is bent over with the pain of loss.” Fabrizio works at the historic Levi distillery in town, and Michele asked him if we could see it. “Why not,” Fabrizio answered, “it would be much better to show you the place than stand here in the street being sad.” So, on a Sunday, Mother’s Day, Fabrizio opened up the distillery made famous by Romano Levi.

Friday, May 10, 2013

“I don’t read wine blogs anymore”

One of the takeaways from this week in New York was the admission by a surprising number of industry folk and journalists I met with who said they just don’t read wine blogs like they used to. This comes on the heels of the breaking news in California from none other than the Hosemaster himself, Ron Washam, who commented on The Connoisseur’s Wine Blog, “I spent a day in a tasting room where I work occasionally asking everyone who entered if they read any wine blogs. Of the 200 or so ordinary folks I asked, not a single one, NOT A SINGLE ONE, had read one. An outcome I expected, but was still humbled to learn.”

My research this week has been confined to industry folks, so excuse me if I offend anyone with a little of my “inside baseball” analysis. The wind-up is many folks just aren’t finding relevant information on wine blogs these days.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

An Italian Giant Passes

Deuteronomy 34:1
Excuse me for this diversion- I’ve been in New York all week for meetings and importer tastings. This seems to be wine week in NYC. I’ve seen everyone; New York has turned into a little wine town of friends and colleagues. But my mind is thousands of miles away, in the desert. Someone who influenced my life, not necessarily in wine, but in life, passed away. And I’ve been thinking about the impact his life and work had on my life and our planet.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Franciacorta vs. the World

Maybe it was the way he raised the glass when he toasted the group at our gathering. Perhaps it was the conversation we had about my next trip to Italy and where I was going. Or maybe he had grown used to it, after all these years. He was one of the most powerful men in Italy and he had chosen, when building his empire, to put his beloved Franciacorta on the map. He had accomplished a lot in his life on this earth, but Franciacorta wasn’t quite yet a household name.

Franciacorta, ah Franciacorta. If you were to ask most Americans they wouldn’t be able to tell you what it was, let alone where it came from. Perhaps in Denmark or Singapore the educated masses there know better how to distinguish this sparkling wine in a bottle, but most of the world is still painfully ignorant.

There are reasons, for sure.

Franciacorta is like the tall gangly middle child, nestled between her older sibling Champagne and the cute youngest child, Prosecco. While the eldest has had more experience and is wiser to the ways of the world, and the baby is cute and cuddly, Franciacorta's beauty often goes unnoticed.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Three Days in Trento: Wine, Food and Relaxation without the Tourists

Friends of mine in Austin have a restaurant, called Trento. They asked me to set some of their friends up in the Italian town of Trento for a three day wine visit. That is the impetus for this post. I thought it would also be fun to share my thoughts on visiting wine country in the Trentino-Alto-Adige with the rest of the world. This area doesn’t get visited as much as other areas in Italy but it’s a great place to explore wine and scenery.

Three days – five wineries (there are many more, but this isn’t a death march) -based out of Trento the town.Trento – from Milan, Venice or Verona fairly easily accessed by car. Historical town, very clean and quiet. Some of the most expensive real estate in Italy (New York City-like prices). Lots of wealth. It makes a good base to get to wineries and come back to for relaxing and dining/drinking wine.