Sunday, November 11, 2018

Restoring the "Master Class" for the Wine Trade

It is very fashionable these days to call something a master class. Do a search and you will find any number of master classes, with famous folks like Martin Scorsese, Dan Brown and Oprah Winfrey presenting a path to mastery. But what really is entailed in a master class about wine? Who is qualified to lead such a class, and how should those classes be structured? These are some of the questions I have been pondering of late, in my search for the paths to mastery.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Aging vs. Evolution (In Old Wine and Young Humans)

In a recent article for Antonio Galloni’s Vinous, Ian D’Agata made a case for age worthiness in regards to a white Italian wine, Verdicchio. Being a lover of Verdicchio I devoured the article (link here, subscription required). While digesting the piece over the last week, I’ve put my mind to the concept of wine as it ages. Along with that, there is, in my mind at least, an inevitable comparison of those factors of ageing in wine with those human beings face as well. The grape and the hominid have closely trod the same path for eons. And while that journey is far from over, for both of us, hopefully, we do share some of the same challenges and opportunities in our stages of life.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Zombies and VR, supermarket bargains and wine shop $100 gems – what I’m writing, off the wine trail in Italy

While this site is primarily my web log of thoughts, emotions and observations from the wine trail (mainly in Italy), since I have “retired” I’ve written a few pieces for the Dallas Morning News. If you missed them, here they are. I’m doing more of these and enjoy the creative process. Currently working on a piece about natural wine. And no, it isn’t controversial. But it will be informative and will offer helpful guides along the way. Look for it, in the future, in the Dallas Morning News. Thanks for reading.



Wine treasure hunt: How we found some of the best $100 deals in Dallas
https://www.dallasnews.com/life/wine-spirits/2018/10/25/wine-treasure-hunt-found-best-100-deals-dallas


Sunday, October 28, 2018

The Fate of Italian Wine in a Strange, New America

All across Italy there is an army of souls standing over fermenting tanks, hoses running everywhere, with the ubiquitous sweet-sour scent of fermentation, laboring long hours in the annual miracle of grapes into wine. And thousands of miles away, their largest market, America, is shattering day by day, self-destructing in a miasma of fear and rancor. To the farmer and the winemaker, it is like being a chef on a luxury liner that is heading towards an iceberg, preparing dinner for a room full of people who might never see dessert. And still they hover over the barrels in ancient chambers, in the dark, hoping to husband this fermenting mess of must into something miraculous and wonderful. And for whom? For these new American barbarians? While this is nothing new to the Italian culture which has often been between Scylla and Charybdis, this does nevertheless present a present-day dilemma, which has concrete, material implications. But it also advances a metaphysical plight. How does one expect to nurture and grow their business among their largest audience when that audience is undergoing a societal seppuku?

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Tocai Friulano - For every funeral there is a second line (and a silver lining)

From the Native & Indigenous Italian Grapes Series

It was April of 2007, in Verona. Colleague and dear friend, Andrea Fassone, called out. “Come outside, there is a procession at Vinitaly. They are giving a funeral for Tocai!”

Sure enough, there was a line of horns, bellowing out a dirge for a wine which was losing its name, a victim of EU regulations. Tocai from Friuli was no longer to be called Tocai, in deference to Hungarian Tokaji. From that day forward in Italy it would now be known as Friulano. Period. The end.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

The Rise of The Italian Wine Specialist in America

An O-N-D Pep Talk

For the past four months I've felt like the mother of all road warriors, in service of Italian wine. I really thought I was finished. I really did. But the wine gods back home in Italy have their ideas. And I had my marching orders. So it was, one more time, around and around America, with sword and shield.

In the wine trade, October, November and December (O-N-D- for short) has been considered the busy time of the year. I've put in 37 O-N-D’s. I’m done with that, my O-N-D having been supplanted by a J-J-A-S (June, July, August and September) with a short October coda thrown in for good measure. Along the way, I experienced something that is very encouraging for the Italian wine trade – and that is the rise of the Italian wine specialist in America.

Sunday, October 07, 2018

The Unbearable Lightness of Being… Fiano di Avellino

From the Native & Indigenous Italian Grapes Series

Vesuvius in Eruption by Joseph Mallord William Turner
In flyover country USA in the 1980’s, finding decent white wine from Italy was a gamble. As I’ve written countless times on this blog, the Italians were digging out from a devasting world war, and technology was creeping forward. There were more important things than making white wine palatable for Americans. I remember a Florentine trattoria owner once told me, “Americans, what do they know?” Along with that there was this affection for the older style of white wine – more robust, with all manner of flavors and sensations – from spritzy to roughly textured, from oxidized to “marsalato.” The older folks (typically, men) loved them and saw no reason to change to cleaner and leaner. Those wines would fit in well today in wine bars below 14th Street and in places like Williamsburg.

But a trip to Fort Worth, Texas changed all that for me.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Wail Watching in the City of the Angels

Another week, this time in my native place. As a native Angeleno (and Californiano), the circumstance of my birth was preceded by the dreams and desires of my grandparents. It was the American Dream they were seeking, their El Dorado. I just happened to come along when I did.

Because of those fortuitous strokes I witnessed the procession of Italian-American life on a stage where there were limitless horizons, no boundaries, no walls. America was a place where anyone could dream big.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Things I’ve learned about wine and life on the road in America

Taking a break from my latest series on native & indigenous Italian grapes.

They've all come to look for America
What can be a finer fast-track to peek into the present state of the wine trade than going door-to-door, store-to-store and restaurant-to-restaurant, talking to wine buyers? During the last 100 days, I’ve traveled around America - to New York, San Francisco, St. Louis, San Antonio, Atlanta, Portland, Kansas City, Seattle, Austin, Chicago, Denver, Washington DC, Dallas, and into the urban jungles and suburban communities in states like Connecticut, Northern California (Silicon Valley), New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, Colorado and Texas. These are a few of the things I’ve learned. Call it a refresher course on the state of the wine trade in America.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

The Old Fool's Guide to Erbaluce

Inside my office there is a closet, a ramshackle affair, with whatever I haven’t yet figured out how to deal with. On the middle shelf there is this bulging box of wine labels, which has become my personal Jumanji. Within these slips of paper, there are any number of memorable moments, immortalized by removing them from their earthly chamber. These labels are the closest thing to timelessness in a world in which labels are digitized, scanned and then cycled into the bin of data in “the cloud.” But these labels talk to me, they stalk me in the present, and call to me from the past. One, notably arose to the occasion last week, when I was rummaging for Trebbiano labels in the box. It was a simple label, printed on thin paper and was Spartan in appearance. There was nothing sexy about it. But once my eyes saw it, a floodgate of memories surged forth like the ninth wave. So, I put on my flippers and rode it to a faraway shore.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

In praise of Trebbiano Abruzzese - a short personal history


Dino Illuminati, me and Daniele Spinelli,- 30 years ago
Without a doubt, the one indigenous Italian white that I have the most experience with over the years is Trebbiano Abruzzese. Because of that, I have a fondness for this wine. When I mention it in conversation I often get raised eyebrows before the verbal comments. I know what’s coming, and I brace myself. I’ve been repeatedly flogged with that whip over the years. It doesn’t hurt anymore.

Sunday, September 02, 2018

A short personal history of Arneis

Arneis is an indigenous grape variety found in Piedmont that is enjoying a wave of popularity in this moment. Many people are discovering the charms of the little rascal. But it wasn’t always so. I know, because I was there, one of the early donkeys carrying the (Italian) water up the hill, in hopes of advancing the popularity of wines like Arneis.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Surf, swell and tides on Verdicchio Island – Matelica, the monster wave.

I first encountered La Monacesca in the late 1980’s – My friends Eugenio Spinozzi and Sam Levitus (partners in Tricana) imported it into the USA. The wine was in a long, renano (Riesling shaped) bottle and was capable of good aging, developing secondary attributes and becoming a different wine, evolving into something deeper, more than just a run of the mill white wine from Italy.

Matelica - how does it differ from Castelli di Jesi? Matelica and Castelli di Jesi are like two siblings. They resemble one another but they have their own unique personalities. Generally speaking, the Matelica aromas are more towards wildflowers than the peppy citric two-step of Jesi. Matelica has a longer, more stretched-out body of the wine. The topography in Matelica is higher up, more spread out, arranged differently in regards to the nearby coast. And the soils are a world apart.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Ferragosto Forever

Onward through the fog...

What must it be like, for everyday to be the 15th of August? To be lulled into semi-consciousness by the steady patter of the waves upon the shore? To awaken only slightly as the large fiery orb above moves around the umbrella, interrupting your cool breeze with a shout of sunlight? To walk the long, hot sandy mile up to the chalet for a platter of freshly grilled gamberi, or a pasta with fresh clams and a nice bright, crisp, glass of Vermentino or Verdicchio? To nap, under the umbrella, with only the care of wondering what to eat, when the sun finally sets? This is the life of Ferragosto forever.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Gone Fission...



Going off the grid for a bit. Nothing's wrong, just need to step away from the world and dip my pole in cooler waters - the rods have heated up and we're approaching critical mass.

...back soon.


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