Sunday, June 30, 2013

Eating My Way Through Sicily (and Rome)

Gioacchino Campanella ~ Buon “quarumaru”
- photo by Manuela Laiacona
This last trip, first through France and then Italy, was one of the most challenging journey’s I have ever had on the wine trail. The little mishap in France set me back more than I knew. Upon returning home, the docs shook their head in amazement that I would carry on through the trip to Sicily, not the easiest part of the world in terms of convenience. But I saw it another way. Many years ago when I got sick in Greece, I had only one thought, and that was to get to Italy as soon as possible and get healed, which I did. So I set my course for Sicily in hope of a healing journey.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Sicily 2013: Escaping the Hellish Roads to Nowhere

The drive from Etna to Chiaramonte Gulfi was one for the books. After saying goodbye to Salvo Foti and his family I headed out. He had recommended a restaurant in Catania to try for lunch if I had time. Reticent about going into another large Sicilian town with a car (still shaky from the Bordeaux mishap a week earlier and having survived Palermo by car) I made a note to see. First I would have to get off the mountain.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Sicily 2013: The Dark Side of the Island – Etna with Salvo Foti & Co.

I was running late to the town of Passopisciaro on Sunday. Somewhere between Palermo and Catania when I tried to get onto the highway, the road was blocked and I had to backtrack 15 miles. Sicilian roads are famous for their quirky dysfunctional aspect.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Sicily 2013: The Timeless Fountain that is Regaleali

How many times have I opened a bottle of wine from this estate in the last 25 years, never knowing this place? How often has a newer, brighter, younger winery from Sicily appeared in the headlines, while this winery was put back on the second or third page? Is it not a story about life in these times, to take something so important and dismiss it because it is older? Does that make it less significant? Does that decrease the relevance? Is it diminished somehow, because it is not young and pretty anymore?

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sicily 2013: Palermo Street Scenes

Parental Advisory: Some of these images might make you hungry

We're far from the dog days of summer but that was no consolation
for this poor little  abandoned dog near the train station
I’m deep in the heart of Sicily now and the Wi-Fi is irregular. I thought to put this post up, shots of street scene in Palermo on the one day I was there, which was the first day of summer and the longest day of the year. Palermo is an epicenter for street food and many of the vendors have disappeared into history. Two that remain are Zio Toto and Giochinno Campanella, near the al Capo neighborhood, where there is also a famous outdoor market. Feast your eyes on the food and the scenes. It was a hot day in Palermo.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Sicily 2013: Palermo "Full Immersion"

Il Genio di Palermo
If you are reading this then you know I made it to Sicily from France. From the dark, rainy cold of Bordeaux to the sunny, warmth of Sicily. An immersion of sorts, starting in Palermo.

The plan was to meet up with Manuela Laiacona, native Palermitan and a wine journalist and editor at and the girlfriend of my Calabrese friend Giovanni Gagliardi. Manuela agreed to meet up and show me her Palermo. Manuela is my spirit guide incarnate. I really feel she has taken a life form to usher me though this time and place and I am very grateful for this. Her companion Giovanni is a wonderful fellow - this is all because of the internet and the blog- who cares about monetizing your blog when you can have the possibility to make deep and meaningful friendships?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

#Vinexpo 2013: Crashing the Party

Scanning the Twitterverse this week I ran across this tweet: ‏@jamescwilmore “Among opinions I've heard: #vinexpo now just for PR and parties; @ProWein more professional & where more business gets done.”

That might be so, but the event is important in that it is held in the modern epicenter of the wine business. You might not agree, but thousands of producers and winemakers are here, to pervert ZZ Top’s famous lyrics, “just looking for some touch.”

Sunday, June 16, 2013

From the Archives: Palermo: It’s now or never

I'm in transit this weekend, heading over to Vinexpo in Bordeaux and then Sicily to visit winemakers. Not sure if there will be WiFi anywhere before posting time, so just in case, I'm posting something from the archives (June 9, 2011). Once I get settled I'll continue to post from the wine trail ( in Bordeaux and Sicily) in the coming days. Buon weekend!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Messages in a Bottle: Vacuum Sealed

Letters from the void*

Dear Italian Wine Guy,
"I recently visited a long-established Italian place in my town. The owners are good friends and honest hard working people. The owner said his business was spotty. “Some days are good. Some days it’s like a mausoleum in here. What can I do?” I sat down for lunch and the waiter took forever to bring me a glass of water. Before that he asked me if I wanted anything from the bar. I asked him what kind of wine he had. “Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Chianti, Cabernet.” His heart clearly wasn’t in it. I asked for the wine list. The water eventually showed up as did the menu and wine list.

The place was empty, maybe three tables. It was blisteringly hot outside.

Eventually I settled on a glass of Frascati. The wine was fine enough, but they served it in one of those wine glasses from the 1960’s, you know the ones that are thick like jelly glasses. The wine was cold though, so I overlooked the stemware.

I ordered a mixed antipasto, really more of a vegetable salad. The waiter brought me that along with cruets of oil and vinegar. The oil was rancid and the vinegar was that faceless industrial balsamic stuff that you see around these days. I ate the vegetables dry, sprinkled a little oil on them and tried not to notice its fetid nature.

My question to you is: What do I tell these owners, friends. They clearly are fine people but the world outside their restaurant has moved on, in some cases light years beyond where they are stuck. I just got back from Italy and this is not what Italian food and wine (and service) is like in Italy."


Sunday, June 09, 2013

A week on (and on and on) the wine trail in California

 A fantastic blogger/judge
Admittedly, not all roads lead to Rome. But eventually they lead to something Italian, at least in my case. This week I spent in California, first in Sacramento at the California State Fair Wine Competition. Three days of heavy spitting ensued. Along the way we had a caper or two.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Firenza, Sienna and Sorento (Parental Advisory: Cacographic Content)

Recently I was in the market for a car. Somehow when I was on the internet, they’d know that I was looking for a car (cookies) and so I would get solicitations to come test drive this or that. I’d even get a few offers via email, but they usually went into the spam file. I tried to figure out why that was, and I quasi-scientifically deduced it was because there were misspellings that triggered either a “bot” or a person for whom English wasn’t their first (or their second) language.

These were for cars, though, not to bail someone out of jail in Indonesia or help a nephew scurry his uncle’s multi-millions out of Nigeria. Just a car. But for some reason, my internet email saw it as a security risk.

I used to do spelling bees as a kid. Studied Latin all through high school. Love words and love spelling them correctly. Now my grammar, that needs work. I can never get the its and the it’s straight. And so on. But place names in Italy, that’s a no-brainer.

Yep, if you haven’t guessed already, this is a bit of a rant. But it’s like a mild infection. It will pass quickly.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Three Outstanding Prosecco Producers to Seek Out

On this last trip to Italy I spent a week in the Conegliano/Valdobbiadene area, where the Prosecco Superiore DOCG comes from. Over a period of two days, the Conegliano/Valdobbiadene Consorzio arranged for many of us to see wineries and winemakers. I saw eight in two days. It was the equivalent of speed dating, with appointments starting at 9:00 AM and scheduled at 11-11:30 AM, 2:30 PM and 5:00 PM. Twelve hour days, but a really good way to get quick-start and full-immersion towards understanding many of the different realities on the ground in the most prestigious producing area for Prosecco wines.

Three of the wineries are showcased here. Hopefully I will get time to write about the others, but in any event, these three made an impression and I’d like to spend some time noting what it is they do well. These wineries are not in the extremely hilly areas like Cartizze by Valdobbiadene, but they have great exposures and their wines are notable.