Sunday, January 13, 2019

California Dreamin’ - Chardonnay Sidebar 1. - The Fighting Chance

California chardonnay. An odd phrase. Round and chunky in sound, those two words. A little shushy, followed by an ay! Why not? What did I have to lose? I was working on the commercial side, a little ultra-fine wine company trying to find something that the clients would need, so we could go by the account more than once every 21 days. And we were going pretty good with a white demi-sec from France, Cotes de Bergerac. But people’s tastes were evolving drier (or so they said) and California didn’t have exchange rate issues. The wines could be had by truck and train, and transported to flyover country quickly, and often, to ease on the cash flow for the owner of the fine wine company.

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Italian Wine in America - An Array of Abundance

Dallas, Texas - 1979 - Il Sorrento Old World Italian Cuisine
Let’s hop on the Wayback Machine, to 1979, on search of the state of Italian wine in America. Forty years ago. A blink in the eye, in geological time, but an epoch for Italian wine. How do I know? I’m old, man. I was there and on the floor, serving and sommeliering, in Italian restaurants.

The choices were slim. There was Ruffino. And Bolla. Chianti. And Soave. And Frascati, from Fontana Candida. And Corvo, both red and white.

A brash young upstart, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, appeared on the horizon. Red wine with a little bit of fruit. It was refreshing.

There was a little Barolo and Barbaresco. The Barbera that showed up usually “aged” in the warehouses, or the warm racks in the restaurants, and was virtually useless. And there were attempts by other regions, Emilia Romagna, but usually with their sickly sweet Lambruscos. Oh, and there was Asti Spumante. Oh joy.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

What does it take to be a lover of Italian wine?

Everyone has their idea about what it means to be a lover of Italian wine. Some folks love to go for the rare, the old, the soaring Pegasus wines that are clever and coveted and so very desirable. Others are content to sip on a simple quaff, night after night, with their pappardelle Bolognese or trofie con pesto, maybe a glass of Montepulciano D’Abruzzo or Vernaccia di San Gimignano.

A middle-aged man walks into the little Italian store in my neck of the woods, looking for a Cabernet. A young woman is also here on a mission to find a Pinot Noir. We are in a store with only Italian wine, it can be a challenge. Sure, I can point the man to a Veneto Cab or even a throatier version from the Maremma. And likewise, I can put a nice bottle of Pinot in the young lady’s cart, from Alto-Adige or Piedmont. But there are so many other wines with the texture, the flavor, the pleasure that they can derive, that they don’t have to be stuck in the Cabernet or Pinot Noir box, when it comes to Italy. Save it for France.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

The Native and Indigenous Italian Grapes Series Round-up

Over the summer I was motivated to produce a mini series on Native and Indigenous Italian Grapes. This is a round-up of those posts, in case one or two slipped past your feed.

The seven posts are:

These are personal recollections, not necessarily mementos, although there is a little bit of history. Moreover, my intent was to enliven the discussion about native and indigenous Italian grapes beyond a PowerPoint presentation and a tasting lineup. While those are also a necessary evil in today’s time-crunched world, I thought it important to tell a back story for some of these grapes, to give them light and life, and to highlight the impact they’ve had on me and those of us who walk on the wine trail in Italy. And, by the way, this post marks the completion of the 13th year of this blog.

Enjoy, happy perusing and Happy New Year!

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W

Sunday, December 23, 2018

It's a Wonderful Life - with Buttercup, Coconut & Luigi

Baby Luigi
When I "retired" in April, I didn’t really quit working. But in the last month or so I’ve retroceded a bit more than when I first got into this stage of my life.

At first, I thought my friends and colleagues in the business would stay a part of my life. But folks in the fast lane don’t have time for those of us in the eddy. Out of sight = out of mind.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

La fille Américaine in France, making wine (naturally) in Italy - Pt II

Uncle Emilio’s wife, Serafina, sent Anne Marie a note. “Uncle Emilio isn’t doing so well. After his last fall in the vineyard, he just hasn’t been the same. I guess, after 63 harvests, he’s been very fortunate. But the grapes won’t wait for him to feel better. Is there any chance we could have you here for harvest?”

As it turned out, this was good timing for Anne Marie. The winery she worked in as a cellar rat in was changing. The owner was leaving the winery to his kids. They lived in the larger cities and were more interested in the value of the land. She felt the call of Italy.

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Les vins naturels – 2 new releases – one from France and one from Italy

Two new wines that have recently graced the dinner table. Both made with biodynamic practices and are Vin Demeter.

La fille Américaine in France, making wine (naturally) in Italy - Pt I

Anne Marie was from a new generation of global citizens. Born in America in the late 1980’s, from parents who immigrated from Europe, her mother was from France, father from Italy, and they met among the vast plains of West Texas. Both looking for space, for freedom from convention, for a patch of blue sky they could claim. Along the way they found each other, fell in love, settled down and gave birth to Anne Marie and her twin brothers.

Neither were farmers, the father was an engineer, the mother was a doctor. Both their families had roots in the farm and in grape growing. But that was a long time ago in an entirely different world. This was America and The Dream was still alive.

Sunday, December 02, 2018

The State of Natural Wine in Flyover Country

New series: "Au Naturel "       

While researching an upcoming article for the Dallas Morning News, I’ve had the opportunity to experience, first-hand, the state of natural wine here in flyover country. In a surprising turnabout from the often-contentious atmosphere found over the internet, what I’ve experienced has been a refreshingly open-minded and clear-eyed take on wine made in the various manners of what we have come to regard as natural. Without going into some of the information I will cover in the article (and really not the intention of this post), I want to explore how we got here, those of us in the middle of the country, who are often cast aside from the more seemingly progressive and undeniably trendy west and east coasts. And just for good measure, this is not an us vs. them piece. It is simply a snapshot of what I see and have observed over the past few months while working on the newspaper piece.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Who do we think we are?

After almost thirteen years writing this blog, observing the wine trade, from within and without, and folding those impressions into the culture-at-large, I have to say I have begun to wonder, who are we? What follows are composite, fictionalized characters, who have components of people I’ve encountered of late, as I explore mastery and the paths to it.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Are the French more interested in Italian wine than Italians?

My French cousins seem to be on a roll. They stand up to political bullies, they smoke when and where they want and they appear to be more curious about Italian wine than their Italian cousins. At least, that’s how it appears over here on the wine trail in Italy.

For years I have tracked who comes here and from where. And though this is an English language blog, and while most of the readers live in America, it comes as a bit of a happy surprise that my second largest readership comes from France. In fact, over the life of this blog, going on thirteen years now, French readers exceed Italians by double. Maybe the French just have more time to mull things over, even if it is in this crazy English language. Or maybe some of my English friends, living in France are also driving this? For whatever reason, this is intriguing. Who loves wine more – the French or the Italians?

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

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?

Real Time Analytics