Sunday, February 07, 2016

Has Valpolicella Ripasso had its day in the sun?

Verona in January can be severe. Or it can be a welcome change from the early spring, when Vinitaly wine fair-goers clog every artery, fill every seat in every restaurant and take every bed in even the most humble lodge. And so on a sunny but crisp day last week as we drove up the hill from Verona into the Valpolicella winegrowing zone, I looked forward to a tranquil day in nature.

Our little troop, hosted by the Valpolicella Consortium for their annual Anteprima Amarone, was one of several vans combing the territory, tasting, meeting with the winemakers. On the ground, one of the best ways to learn about wine.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Noodles in Negrar Pour Un Homme Brûlant

We live in multi-planar worlds. There is wine. And there is food. Just as there is work. And there is avocation. And while it seems we live in our little protected bubbles, is it really as we imagine? Or are we simply a small fraction of a larger arrangement?

This week, driving in a van with seven other souls, we are driving up the road from Negrar, towards Torbe. I’m talking with a dear friend and start to sense we are arriving to a place not strange to me. I’ve been here before, recognize the tower and the street and the sign, which simply says, TRATTORIA. Oh joy.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Montalcino - A trip up my personal Congo River to the (mother of all?) Brunello vineyards

The owl was singing outside my room, at midnight. Fog shrouded the mountain. My hotel had turned off the internet connection. And I couldn’t sleep. I'd snuck in under the fog for a quick tasting of 2011 Brunello.

Admittedly, I’m no expert on these matters. But I have a good sense about things that lie beneath the rational explanation. And at Le Chiuse I sensed a powerful epicenter for one of the most important wines to come out of Italy, maybe the world.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Lucid dreaming from the streets of Italy

When I talk to many Italians they like to carp about how unfair life is in Italy. Long lines, lots of bureaucracy, low pay, traffic, corrupt political system, wrecked economy. And yes, there are those factors in Italian society.

How many of us make as much money as we’d like to? We’d all like to make a little more, to save for the future, to maybe help family members or a friend in need. And who of us likes traffic, long lines and unnecessary red tape? I’m sure we could poll folks from Germany, from France, Thailand, even New Zealand, Poland, Russia, Norway, New York and find something that they feel diminishes their quality of life.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Is DOCG in the Future for these Five Hopeful Regions?

From the ♫ Catanzaro dreaming on such a winter's day ♫ department...

With the 74th DOCG, Nizza, now official, Italian oenophiles are asking, “What next?” For five regions, Vallée d’Aoste, Liguria, Trentino-Alto Adige, Molise and Calabria, left at the shoreline without as much as a single DOCG, it begs for some DOCG soul-surfing.

Is there not one wine worthy of a DOCG from each of these regions? Is the DOCG classification even that important, or relevant, as it once was thought to be? If it has lost some of its caché, how come Nizza pushed to become the 74th DOCG after a lengthy recess?

Establishing that there is some emotionality about the subject, as well as a political aspect to this which can be, at times, highly charged with regional fervor, are there wines from these five regions, that if the DOCG floodgates were reopening, might be wines to consider? Let’s take a look.

Monday, January 11, 2016

How Puglia saved my life

“Is this your first trip to Puglia?” I was asked this past week. “No, I have been here a handful of times,” I answered. “In fact the very first time I came here, I was coming from Greece. I had a staph infection and my leg was swollen. My last wish was to die in Italy, not Greece.”

Sunday, January 03, 2016

What Will the Next Ten Years Hold for Italian Wine in America?

Looking back is so much easier than this. But the past is dust. So where are we going? All I have are some educated guesses. Maybe not predictions, but inklings from the tea leaves.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Adventures on the Wine Trail in Italy – Ten Years After

Somewhere in time I read "one who seriously endeavors in an activity really has nothing to say for the first ten years". It’s all pretty much “chopping in the woodshed.” Looking back, it gives me comfort, in that the years ahead might mean that I can start telling the stories I have been practicing at these past ten years.

Martha Graham once said, “'Age' is the acceptance of a term of years. But maturity is the glory of years.” Again, words of solace. But the way ahead awaits. And so onward, looking for the really great tales.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

“What do you want from me?” – Conversations with an old friend in a wine cellar

Peering into my wine closet, I shut the door behind me. Cool, quiet, removed from the world of traffic, frustration, angst. Just me and my bottles, staring each other down. They, sleeping on their sides, some for decades, some for weeks. I, looking for the right wine for a meal, a gift, an occasion. I pull one out, then another. Maybe that old bottle of Merlot from Napa Valley? Maybe that Meursault? How about a Mosel white? And then I spot an Italian red wine, crouching, hiding, stealthily trying out an air of silence and invisibility. But I saw it and pulled it out. Stood it up and wondered if this was the wine for tonight.

And then the most amazing thing happened. As it stood there it talked to me. And asked me the question, “What do you want from me?” Whereupon we bantered back and forth for what must have been just a few minutes.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Carry On Wayward Son

There are those days in one’s life that mark a moment that is more than just a day. This day is such a one. I don’t talk about it much anymore, but when I was younger, in my 20’s, I was faced with a decision. Looking back, I have no regrets. But like anyone from the perspective of time looking back at the fire of youth, I see it with many more layers now than I did then.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

The Barone who traveled from the 19th Century to make wine in the 21st

No matter how crazy and out-of-control the world seems at times, there has to be a balance in one’s own life. This past week, I drove 1,000 miles in service of the Barone Sonnino. Let’s leave the pressing problems of the world behind, just for a moment; let’s spend a few minutes with the Barone and his wines from Montespertoli.

This was Barone Sonnino’s second trip to Texas this year and still we had no wine in Dallas for him to show. I took it upon myself to arrange to have some of his wine ready at my distributor's dock in Houston and went there from Dallas to fetch it. 30 or so cases fit snugly into my little wagon and with a lower than usual profile, I drove it back north.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Nizza: The Long Tail of Italy’s 74th DOCG and the Waiting Game

It seems ridiculous to still be in limbo over this proposed 74th Italian wine DOCG, held hostage by the governing EU body, waiting, for their final approval. It isn’t as if they have more important things to worry about. Why don’t they just stamp the document and let the winemakers of Nizza get on with their lives? What exactly is holding them up in Brussels? It’s a scandal, this waiting game; let’s just get on with it.

Ah yes, our little insular world of wine, where the whole world waits on our next proclamation, revelation, inspiration. We got the world through another Thanksgiving holiday, matching wine for their turkey, ham and pumpkin pie just in time. Again. So why doesn’t the world give us what we want? What we need? We need this 74th DOCG; we really, really need it.

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.

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