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.

With all of this said and understood, there are things apart from the wine trail that tug on me hard. Today it really hit home when I watched a short film about Joel Meyerowitz. He is a street photographer and these films, one when he was in his 40’s and a recent one (which can been seen here until November 10th - password: joelmeyerowitz01).

I’d heard about him; probably saw him on the streets of Manhattan a time or two. Or paths haven’t crossed purposefully, although we have some of the same influences, Robert Frank, among them. The difference is Joel has devoted his life to photography, and to a large extent, street photography. I on the other hand, have kept my little obsession under wraps.

What is it about street photography? I really don’t know. Maybe it was the freedom to take in all that was in front of one and find a pattern, meaning, even beauty in the random assemblage of humanity. I’m terribly introverted and to go out amongst them can be difficult. This last trip to NY, after 36 hours, I’d seen more eyeballs than my energy could process. And I had 36 more hours to go.

It really has been Italy, and specifically Palermo, where my love for street photography has been projected. I love nothing better than to take an hour or two and wander. In the past, it might have been with a handful of film. Now it is endless. I’m not really shooting any differently, though. I’m looking, but for what I do not know. But I’ll know it when I see it. This last trip to Palermo, I maybe got one or two good shots, maybe. Out of hundreds.

Other cities, New York, LA, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Palm Springs (not really a city - see below), Dallas, New Orleans, Rome, Paris, Milan, Venice, Frankfurt, Cartagena, Auckland. Every time just an hour or so to wander and look for something decisive.

In no way am I in the same league as Joel Meyerowitz or Robert Frank or any number of great street photographers. But I belong to the same tribe as them. I see the urban street as a palate for modern life and how we are working our way through time. I have learned to be invisible, not too hard for introverts in any case. I have seen things, some of which I cannot show here right now.

Next year marks the beginning and the end of something in my life. In 1965 I took up photography and photography took me around the world over and over again. It seems wherever I have been I have been there with my camera. Not an iPhone or an Android, but a real dedicated instrument for the purpose of recording visual moments in time. 50 years, five decades. Next year starts decade number six. In the next twenty years I look forward to working though the first 50 years of images in the catalog and making even more. I love wine and the wine business, but when wine isn’t enough, I have the streets. And that makes me very, very happy.






wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W

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.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Ancient Italy and the New California ~ An Auspicious Convergence

I had some unused vacation time and thought it might be a good idea to head out to California and “do” a wine dinner or two. I’m writing this as I am mid-week in a series of three wine dinners back home. What could have gotten into me that I would take the time and expense to go to California and do on my vacation time what I do weekly?

Friday, October 03, 2014

Sicilian White Wines ~ Feeding the #HeatWave in the Cities by the Bay

Welcome to the New California
If you had asked me, so very long ago, when I was a student in the Bay Area, trying to figure out what the hell to do with my life, if many years later I’d be in Oakland talking about Sicilian wines to a new generation of servers and wine lovers, I’d probably have said then “And what pill did you just take?” But as the future moves like a river, happenstance and fate brought me to A16 in Oakland in the Rockridge neighborhood, not too far from Berkeley at the invitation of Shelley Lindgren. Shelley started A16 and SPQR in San Francisco and a little more than a year ago opened up A16 in Oakland.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

On the Nature of Being Sicilian in the Wine Business

Lest you think this will be the obligatory paean to all things Sicilian, after these last days spent on the island, many things are simmering. Yes, it is a Sunday, and to the millennials this might sound like a sermon. Pity.

How does one explain the blood in the veins? How does one look at a street, year after year, and still struggle to recognize what is right in front of one’s eyes? How much analysis is required to decode the Sicilian passeggiata of the last 40 years? I am obsessed with this. This is my mental mistress, never letting me inside the private chamber, ever tempting me with the promise of understanding, of clarity, of revelation.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Drinking Our Way Through Sicily ~ 2014

Just so you don’t get the wrong idea, we didn’t drink and drive, and when we did, we always had a designated driver. But we always, always, had food with our wine. Unless we were tasting. Then we had little food stuff around. And it always wasn’t wine. There was lots of coffee, but more about that at the end of this post.

It was harvest time in Sicily, so there was a lot of activity. With that in mind, we were able to unearth the scared and the profane, the common and the rare. Nothing was off limits; there was no agenda, no dogma to follow. Sicily doesn’t care about all the little games we play in America to bring balance to our life. Their life is pretty darn good, all things considered. And wine is a huge part of the life.

Please enjoy this short eno-log, my version of the slide show, with brief comments from time to time.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Eating Our Way Through Sicily ~ 2014

Indulge me. Or rather, let me indulge you, dear reader, and share some of the plates we were offered on this recent trip to Sicily. While Palermo would be enough in terms of gastronomic ecstasy, we didn’t stop there. We made our carousel around Sicily and along the way we had some of the most glorious food on earth.

Note: I don’t think of Sicilian food as Italian. It takes its cues from anther muse. There are similarities: pasta, tomatoes, wine, sweets, seafood. But as with all things Sicilian, the interpretation is different. Not necessarily better than on the peninsula, but a thinking about the products and the interplay of ingredients that I have found to be unique in Sicily. Even our lowliest meal, at a fast food cafeteria in Piazza Armerina, the vegetables were to die for. Unfortunately I didn’t photograph them.

Let’s stop talking and start gawking, shall we? First stop, Sambuca di Sicilia.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Sicily ~ Thinking Outside the Boot

I’m nothing, if not overwhelmed, when I step away from Italy and into Sicily. I am also liberated. Freed from thinking things are as they are, because Sicily has its own interpretation for everything.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sicily ~ The Oldest Kid in Italy

Of all the places in Italy, Sicily is the one that scares me the most. I have cancelled trips to Sicily because I was afraid something was going to happen. I have gone to Sicily when my bones were sore from a car wreck. I have driven a car in the streets of Palermo and Catania, which is questionable for an able bodied person. I have stared at dead people, their skin dry, their eyes missing, their bones falling off their skeletons. I have walked on mosaic floors that were laid thousands of years ago. I have gazed up at ancient temples, the sun glaring back. I have walked the streets in the heat in the dark with a bum leg, with the legs of youth and with the gait of one who is no longer young. And all through it ancient Sicily kept getting younger.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Texas Turd-Floater in Passopisciaro (#Etna) Sicily

2014 has been a crazy year for weather patterns. There seems to be controversy brewing over the quality of the 2014 vintage in Italy. It’s too early to tell, but there are some things that have been happening that are not advantageous to the growers in Italy. One is the unseasonably cool weather in the summer. Another is accompanying rain. Doubtless there will be growers who will have great conditions, but the quantities are down. Here in Sicily, everyone is telling me their harvest is anywhere from 15-30% lower than last year. After two years of double digit increases, perhaps this year is Nature’s way of slowing down. Sicily is still a warm and sunny place, most of the time. But today, following a visit to the Tascante farms, we ran smack dab into a Texas turd-floater.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Sicily 2014: Palermo "Full Immersion" ~ Wine

Posting on the fly as we head out of Palermo on our carousel around Sicily. While Palermo was mainly about food and the evolving multi-cultural experience of a very old city, wine plays a part on the table. We visited one winery, Cusumano. Today our journey takes us to more. For now this is what we’ve tasted with the foods we’ve had. Enjoy. More to come…

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