Sunday, November 22, 2015

Old Nebbiolo’s Influence on Napa Valley and New California Wine

“I think it’s safe to say I drank more Nebbiolo on my last visit to Napa Valley than Cabernet. And that’s beginning to be more the rule than the exception.” There’s more to that quote than the mere act of opening bottles of Barolo and Barbaresco. We're witnessing a minor revolution in California and it is one that has enlisted winemakers, sommeliers, importers and restaurateurs.

Last week, while in wine country for meetings, my friend Dan Petroski arranged for an informal wine get together in the home of Chef Sarah and sommelier Jason Heller. There were a dozen of us, and we all brought various bottles of Nebbiolo, some aged and some newer, like those of us in the group. And yes, we ate crazy good food, including white truffles and fresh tajarin (from Chef Sarah) and we drank ridiculously awesome wines. And I’d like to tell you about that, really, just for the bragging rights. But there’s something else going on, something much more important than one great meal with some of the most iconic wines on earth. Would you like to know?

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Dear Dad, Happy 100th – If only you could have been here

We spent much of the weekend moving a 100 year old man. His wife recently died and his family wanted him to be closer to them. He’s a pretty mellow fellow – likes to eat good food, drink a little wine, read the papers and get a good night’s sleep. He doesn’t get too riled up about anything – always pretty much an even keel fellow. He told me yesterday, “I have to get my mind back in working order.” In January he will be 101.

I talked to my mom today. She’s already 101. She told me today, “I’m 101 and ½.” She’s slowed down somewhat, but her mind is still going 100 MPH.

My dad would have been 100 today. He was born just down the street from where my son lives. Today my son and I worked in the garden, readying it for the winter. He talked to me about his life, his love and his ongoing search for meaning and happiness in life. It wasn't unlike the conversations I had with my dad in days long past.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Blood, Sweat and Tiers - Speading a Wine Culture in America

From the “my world and welcome to it” dept…

GOVERNMENT WARNING: According to the Surgeon General, women
and men who enjoy Italian wine, run the risk of becoming happy.
“That was one hell of a week,” I thought to myself as I landed in rain-soaked Dallas late Friday night. Earlier in the week I’d driven from Dallas to Austin in the fog, and then again the next day from Austin to San Antonio (again, in the fog). After two days of work in the streets with salespeople, I drove home that same day. 700 miles in two days. And then on a plane to New Orleans, for two more days of the same. It was in the French Quarter that I had one of those wonderful epiphanies about the wine business. I mentioned it to my colleague, that at this very time all over the US, people like us were doing the same thing – showing wine to restaurateurs and wine shop owners – and people like us had been doing this for years and years. To me, it was a most wonderful moment, a realization that we are many who are devoted to elevating the culture of food and wine in our world. We, reviled members of a three-tier system. It was revelatory and wonderful.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Will the real Franciacorta please stand up?

I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news. The good news is that young, urban wine lovers are really enjoying Franciacorta. The bad news is, many folks still don’t know what exactly Franciacorta is, including some producers.

First off, Franciacorta isn’t Champagne. And Franciacorta isn’t Prosecco. And Franciacorta isn’t something in between Champagne and Prosecco. I’ve heard all of those recently in tastings, and I cringed more than slightly.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

New York – The Center of the Wine World – for Some

I’ve been to New York three times in as many weeks. They’re getting to know me by name at Aldo Sohm Wine Bar. Some folks in Texas have even asked me if I’ve moved back there. But after all these years, I know my place.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Sixteen little eggplants that made a grown man cry

from the "tears of happiness" dept.

Alfonso and Rafael in Assisi - October 1977
Getting to a weekend where there are no obligations, no travel, no “must-do’s” during the October-November-December holiday season is a rarity. But this is exactly where I found myself this weekend. So, I’m taking a little time to “mommy-blog.” I’ve been working at a pretty hard and fast pace, so please bear with me. There may or may not be enough bloggy Italian wine stuff on this post. But this needs to be written.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Youth - Not Wasted on the Young - Not This Time

It’s never easy to stare into the barrel of time. That’s a showdown that time always wins. We may make it for 60, 80, even 100 years, but the time comes when we all must give the stage over to the young talent. Fortunately there are always more of us coming. And in the last week, I have been overcome with young Italians coming to America after harvest to spread the word and help make the world safer for Italian wine. We are truly in the Golden Age of wine and these young Italians are working to extend that era.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Five Italian wines every 29 year-old should own

This past week I was doing wine service at a wine dinner with a younger salesperson. I poured a glass of wine, the 2011 Felsina Chianti Classico and handed it to her. She took a sip and smiled. “This is wonderful, what is it?” she asked. I showed her the bottle and then said, “This is something you should collect a case of to drink over the next 20 years.” She raised an eyebrow, Spock-like, almost as if to say, “Collect? 20 years?” I reckon, to a 29 year-old, being 49 is akin to staring into an infinite abyss of eternal nothingness. Nonetheless, this millennial took it in good stride.

It got me to thinking about wine I have “collected” over the years and how those years just rolled along, with no consideration toward me regarding their velocity. Hopefully I gathered a few good ones for the long, fast ride. But for a 29 year-old, that is, if I were 29 years old, here are a few wines I would recommend to myself to buy a case of and enjoy over the next 20 years. This is also applicable for 39, 49, 59 and 69 year-olds, providing you are mindful of your health, diet and don’t set foot in a crosswalk when the driver of a truck is texting.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Cannubi Conundrum ~ If 15 was 30

Still life with glass of Lambrusco at Aldo Sohm Wine Bar
Although harvest is in full-swing in Piedmont, the folks who sell the wines have hit the road. This week found me in New York City and Frisco, Texas for a barrage of Barolo events.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Wine – made by dead people – for people not yet born

With autumn’s beginning, Italian winemakers are now home from the beach and the mountains, and busy working in their wineries. Gone are the long dreamy days listening to the lap of the sea. Faint are the memories of lunch that went from 1:00 until 4:00 PM, and which included a nap after that. Distant are the long nights, sipping frizzante wine and eating fresh fish, pasta and fruit at a nearby chalet way past midnight. Now is the time for no-sleep, meals on the fly and little time for reflection. Oh Daniele boy, the grapes, the grapes are calling.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

"Hare Today - Gone to Merlot" or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Shelf-Talkers

While many wine lovers are trekking off to exotic lands to experience the grape harvest, I am deep into the holiday selling season. The traditional O-N-D (October-November-December) selling season has added an “S” (for September), and now it is the “S-O-N-D” season. Every year I get wound up and this year is no different. But for some reason, I sense when this one is put to bed, it will mark an important crossroad in my work life. I don’t want to miss a moment. I love the competition, I love to win, still have fire in my belly, even though to many of the young’uns around me, I am pretty much invisible. That’s OK; I know how to do invisible real well.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

“I just want wines reviewed by Parker”

While in one of my favorite little Italian wine shops near my home, I ventured over to the Tuscan section to see how the owner’s Labor Day sale was going. Earlier in the week I had arranged the Brunello section (for about five minutes, before the various distributor reps decided they didn’t like where their placements had been configured). A 50ish man was looking at one of the bottles. “Can I help you with anything?” I asked him. I figured, having just organized this section, and researched the critical acclaim various wines received, I was about as versed as anyone regarding what was what. As well, I had tasted nearly all of the wines, so I could give him my blow-by-blow. “No thanks, I’m just looking for wines rated by Parker,” he said. I wanted to ask him, “Would you like the reviews of Italian wines from Parker by Daniel Thomases or the ones by Antonio Galloni (now with Vinous) or the ones now being done by Monica Larner (once with the Wine Enthusiast). And if you liked those, let’s say in the time when Galloni was reviewing, why wouldn’t you like to look at his reviews now and consider those (on Vinous) with as much credibility that you imbued his reviews when they were on Parker?” But I started with “Oh well, there are plenty of wines rated by Parker’s writers here, so that shouldn’t be a problem, if that is what you are looking for.” He gave me this look, as if I didn’t know what he was talking about and then he shouted out, “No, I just want wines reviewed by Parker.”

Sunday, August 30, 2015

A summer night in a backwater berth in Ohio where dining in America was transformed

The view from the Lagoons at Vermilion, Ohio is a bit intimidating. Sheltered from Lake Eyrie, this bedroom community of Cleveland is one of those places in America that if people who don’t live here they probably don’t think about. There’s a million of these places in the States. What makes it so intriguing is that people live their lives here, cut their lawns, take their boats out to the lake, on the 4th of July, on Labor Day weekend, and live as though they are the center of the universe. Which indeed, they are. As we are all, living within our very own microcosms. Peaceful, placid, bring your boat up to the dock, park it and come in for a multi-course wine dinner. Why not?

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The End of Summer Vacation ~ The Beginning of Autumn Harvest

It happens like this every year. It’s been a great month at the beach. Now we must pack up our belongings, shut down the cabana and head back to the vineyards for harvest. Summer vacation is over.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

A World Beyond Wine Blogging ~ Musings on a Ferragosto Evening

(L-R) Louis, Alfonso, Mary & Julia Cevola - Palermo ca. 1919
I’m stealing time right now. There’s a 2,100 word, multi-segment piece on the desk that needs polishing, with a deadline in a few days. And another two stories in the works, with a third to come. And there’s the day job, which isn’t the Monday to Friday kind. Along with that, my family has an inordinate amount of elderly folks to check in with, ages 97-101. And we lost one this week.

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