Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sunrise, Sunset

How wonderful this world of wine can be, if only in our mind’s eye. Earlier this month I was leaving wine country in California, heading back to the airport. It was early morning, the dew on the vines twinkled light Christmas lights. There was a dense but beautiful fog that isolated figures in the landscape. One of the old majestic eucalyptus trees, a farm house, a fruit stand, a tractor. It was was so deliciously lovely that I almost stopped my car to take some pictures. There was this unforgettable fog caressing the foothills, leaving Yountville and heading south on Hwy 29. I don’t know why I didn’t take the time to stop.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

What New World Sommeliers Need to Know About Old World Italian Wine

This came up last week over a bottle of Nebbiolo. I was in discussion with industry folk and the Old World/New World subject came up. With a recent surge of young people into the world of wine and with many of them advancing up the ranks of the business, especially on the floors of restaurants, someone asked me what I thought were the key markers for the new crop and asked for suggestions that they might implement for a happy, healthy and meaningful career in the wine business, especially in the Italian wine list-making department.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Wine After Death

Bibere umanum est, ergo bibamus

He knew her early on. Every year or so they’d meet, usually around a dinner table, sometimes with friends or family. He met her when they were both young and fell for her right then and there. He never considered that she would have others elsewhere who felt the same as he. Poor old Mario, she always made him feel like he was the only one.

That’s what you think when you are full of the imperviousness of youth. Like a new wine; bracing, often rough around the edges, but so full and ready to jump in.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Fruit-Bomb

Last month I was communicating half-way across earth to New Zealand with my editor at Wine Searcher. We were going over ideas for a feature. Kicking around a few thoughts on Amarone, she casually suggested that it would be better if to write about something that I liked. I don’t know what it was in my emails that she caught on to, but it must have seemed like “Big Red” wasn’t my favorite Italian wine. I reassured her that I could write about Amarone like I enjoyed it. And then I went to work trying to figure out if I liked Amarone or not.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Our Selfies, Our Wines

Can a wine cellar full of 90+ point wines make your life more meaningful? Will a 30+ year vertical tasting of an iconic wine make you happier? Could any wine make one’s life better? If you believe what you read and see on the eno-blogosphere, you might think that your life isn’t complete if you haven’t had these singular experiences.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Last Parmigiana

Looking out my back window, I see all the plants that were alive last week are now dead or dying. Winter has arrived. Before the brutal but inevitable onslaught arrived, I gathered all the last of the eggplants that were hanging. Some were ready, some were not. They were all harvested; gathered for one last Parmigiana of the season.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Pippo, We Hardly Knew Ye: In Memory of Philip di Belardino

The world is a little less safe for Italian wine today. Dear friend Philip di Belardino has left us.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Annus Horribilis - Looking Back On the Toughest Harvest in Years

It must have been back in August. I was looking out over my garden, thinking about how wonderful everything was growing. My prize crop, the Hoja Santa, was poised to be one of the best and largest harvests I’d had in 10 years. Picture perfect. Rain when we needed it. Never enough, but Hoja Santa was used to living in the Southwest.

And then the hail storm hit. It was on a Sunday night in September. I heard a light rain, and then a heavier rain came. By the time I got up, I could hear a light tapping on the roof. Hail. I prayed it wouldn’t last too long. It didn’t. But it lasted long enough to lay waste to my prized crop.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Opposites Attract ~ My Evening with Fettuccine Bolognese, Sous Vide Steak and Mittelmosel Riesling

Silly rules. Someone makes up something about which wine with which food and over time it becomes Gospel.

Last night I was at a dinner, sipping on a white wine. I thought to myself, “This needs a little more acid, a little more peach and a little more lemon for it to be just right.” The wine was a Sauvignon Blanc from Napa. What I really wanted it to be was a Riesling from the Mosel.

Friday, October 31, 2014

A Serene Patch of Merlot in a Noisy World of Pinot Noir

His is a world very few of us get to enter. Yet the Count lives, some would say he thrives, in his world. I say it this way not to disparage his world. I know not his world. I only know him through his wine. And his wine is Merlot.

One might say, “Merlot? In these times? How 20th century.” And you might be right. For we live in another time for another wine. Right now it might be the time of Pinot Noir. But when the Count redid his vineyards he didn’t know about Sideways and the effect it would have on American tastes. The Count is a Venetian. He lives in an ancient villa, dines every Friday night at Harry’s. Not the Harry’s we tourists know, but the Harry’s for the Venetian insiders. The Count is definitely a Venetian insider.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

When Wine Isn’t Enough

We all have things that propel us forward. For some it is money, power or fame. Even in our little rarefied world of wine, we all have those reference points that give us meaning. Maybe it is a good vintage. Maybe it is finally making Sangiovese taste like Sangiovese. Maybe it is getting to a point where one’s influence is felt outside of one’s own sphere. Whatever it is, our search for meaning on this orb takes up the better part of our life after we have figured out how to get the basics taken care of. Mind you, these are first world issues. In most of the world, folks are trying to find potable water, a dry place to sleep and maybe enough food to get through the night without feeling the gnaw of hunger.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Why older men prefer higher alcohol wines and younger women

Over lunch, I was talking with an older friend. He’s a fan of California wine, really loves Pinot Noir. He’s not a beginner, heck he pulled a 30 year old bottle of wine from Napa out of his wine closet and gave it to me. It was 12.5 percent in alcohol. But he likes wines with more power, more flesh, more alcohol.

Earlier in the day I read an interview with Dave Ramey that Blake Gray did. In the interview, Ramey said, “The middle road is the better path. 15 percent is not high for ripe Cabernet. It's what Bordeaux will be in a ripe vintage. It's what some white Burgundies will be in a ripe vintage. You get these guys making 12.5 percent wines now. There's a reason that people in Burgundy have been chaptalizing for all these years. The alcohol adds pleasure to the mouthfeel.”

Two times in one day, older guys were waxing about their affection for higher alcohol wines. In another vein, three of my oldest male friends have started second families with women half their age. It got me to thinking, wondering if there was something akin to those older men who turn to younger women, this whole pleasure aspect. Was there a correlation? Why do some older men prefer higher alcohol wines and younger women?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The “New” New Yorkers and the “New” Californians ~ Leaving Jurassic Park for the Aquarian Era

Living in flyover country does have its benefits. You can get to either coast in a matter of hours. A recent weekend in San Francisco, I was able to spend time with the wine community there and get a gauge on their current sensibilities. This past week in New York also afforded me a quick douse into full-immersion of where they’re at right now.

A couple of things. Dining here and there. The Wine Spectator Experience. And the latest rising star in the wine bar scene. Let's jump in.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

High Cotton Uber-Dining in Gotham City

Posting from the road. In NY, the rain followed me from flyover country. Fortunately that wasn’t the only wet thing in my path.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

10 of my favorite off-the-beaten-path places to eat in Italy

In preparation for an interview, I was looking up places I have really enjoyed eating in Italy. Many of these places don’t even have a website, or a sign. I was lucky enough to be taken there be locals. They represent some of the best eating and drinking I have experienced in Italy. And while most of them are not fancy places, the cooking in these spots have been some of the most memorable meals in a restaurant setting. I eat a lot around the farm table and am lucky to have home cooked meals. They’re great. But if you’re looking to go to Italy that won’t help you. These following 10 spots are open for anyone. It helps to speak Italian, for sure. But it’s Italy; anyone with a little passion can communicate to most Italians.

Note: don’t go looking for spaghetti and meatballs, pizza, lasagna or grilled chicken breasts. Expect the unexpected. Donkey ragù, tiny snails, entrails, tiny piquant sausages in a fiery broth, raw things from the sea (not just fish) and that’s just for starters. You should be adventurous. And not be looking for the best hits from Italy. This is how Italians eat. I love it. If you are lucky enough to find these places, you might find you will too.

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