Sunday, March 19, 2023

The Words We Use for the Truths We Seek

Lately I’ve been pondering the words we choose, when writing and talking about wine. Notably, I have seen a burgeoning use of words like curated, gifted, humbled, blessed, privileged, literally and journey. And let’s not forget “my bad.” Along with that, we’re seeing more first-person representations. In other words, there’s a lot more of me and a lot less of thee.

Sunday, March 12, 2023

An Italian wine lover's incessant love affair with (lithe and sexy) Trebbiano

Recently, the Italian wine producers have been hitting the road. Tre Bicchieri and Slow Wine road shows, along with an agglomeration of small producers, importers, p.r. firms and producer consortiums, have been traversing the globe, once again. Even with our pandemic hangover still lingering in mind, if not in deed, the world must not stand still. And so, I ventured to a local tasting of the Slow Wine Tour, here in my home base of Dallas, Texas.

The day would be crowded with other obligatory duties. My son was scheduled to get an elective procedure (snip, snip) and he needed me to drive him to and fro, which constituted crossing several urban centers in our metroplex, a round trip of about 100 miles. In addition to that, the weather was dotty. Rain was in the forecast, and in Texas, in March, that could mean anything from a light downpour to an F5 tornado.

Sunday, March 05, 2023

Two white Sicilian wines that are worth seeking out

With all the hubbub over local grapes these days, one can easily go down the rabbit hole in the Italian wine journey. Even once considered mundane and common grapes are getting restyled as unique wines. Sicily, historically a bastion of quantitatively produced wines, is where we land today. And Grillo is the grape, appropriate for the rabbit hole as the grape is loved and sought after by the local rabbits. On one island, Mozia, the sole producer there had to suspend production of their wine, as the furry little mammals nearly decimated the vines due to their insatiable hunger (and thirst?) for the grape.

Fortunately, Sicily has many more vineyards where the grape thrives.

But today we’re looking for quality, not quantity.

Which leads me to my latest venture, which will be a bit more pedestrian than my usual naval gazing expeditions into Italy and Italian wine.

Two such bottles came to my attention recently, as they were sent to me by a firm trying to get the word out on the renaissance that Grillo is witnessing. These two wines, by no means, are the only word on such revolution. But they happened to land on my front doorstep. So, I thought to pop the corks and drive them around the kitchen for a few days, getting to know them better, tasting them, drinking them, trying them with several kinds of foods, and hoping to find something to like.

I did!

Sunday, February 26, 2023

If buying wine were like buying an airplane ticket

Over the past week or so, I’ve been ensnared in the rabbit hole known as buying an airplane ticket. It has been awhile since I last flew, not like when I was working and on the road constantly. Then it was just something I had to do, suffer through it, get the ticket, the car, the hotel, and move through my week. Rinse and repeat. Now I travel if I want to, not because I have to. It changes the dynamic somewhat. The sense of urgency isn’t there. And the need to be somewhere, at some time, exactly, just isn’t as pressing.

But I do have somewhere to be, and for that I need to catch a flight.

While I was going through this exercise, I imagined if every time we wanted a bottle of wine, what it would feel like to have to jump through the hoops one must jump through when arranging a flight.

Let’s take a bottle of red wine from Tuscany, for example. And let’s say I am buying it online directly from the producer.

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Dino Illuminati – Once in a Lifetime

A little boy, nine years old, raised by his grandfather after losing his mother at a young age, is walking along the Tronto river, picking up reeds and brushing them against the other reeds, bushes, the stream, anything. It’s a normal day in June of 1940. Except it isn’t. It’s the day Italy enters into World War II, allied with Germany. For the young boy, Dino Illuminati, it would be another in a series of transformative events in his life, one which would see Italy changing like it had never changed in all of its history. And little did he know that he would be a history maker in his own right.

Dino grew into a young man and became a produce merchant. He was known for his broccoli, dubbed the “King of broccoli” when he was in the zenith of that stage of his life. He was one of the first in his region to plant kiwi. And his region, which straddled Marche and Abruzzo, took to kiwi as did all of Italy. Dino did well.

But he didn’t always fare so well. He knew hunger. And loneliness. And tragedy. But he was resilient. And just a little bit stubborn. Dino wanted more than to be the king of broccoli or a kiwi pioneer.

So, he took to his roots – grapevines.

Sunday, February 12, 2023

The Perfect Italian

From the archives...
I was sitting at the bar of a restaurant, don’t remember where. It could have been Columbus, Ohio or St. Louis, Missouri. Or Yountville, California. I travel alone most of the time, so often I sit at the bar of a restaurant and order from the food menu. It’s kind of like work, in that I see what is going out to the folks, libations and wine, and get an idea of where I am at.

This time another solitary traveler sat nearby. She started up a conversation, found out I was in the wine business. When I told her my area of concentration was Italy, she perked up. “Oh, I love Italians, the wine, the countryside, the men; it's all so gorgeous.” She was younger than me; I don't think she was coming on to me. Or at least I wasn’t picking up that vibe. No, she was just talkative and I am a good listener. So I listened.

Sunday, February 05, 2023

The Valuable and Unanticipated Lessons Ballet Taught Me About Wine

Ballet troupe performing at San Francisco's Cathedral of St. Mary
This past week, when the outside world was covered in ice, and we were marooned on our little island, I started going through boxes to purge old belongings. Along the way I ran into all my old ballet notes. Ballet, you ask?

Yes, it seemed that the art department in college was a little short on men for the ballet troupe, so I was “volunteered” by the department head to suit up and hit the barre.

I learned a few things along the way, some of them pertinent to wine appreciation.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

[Whereabouts = Abruzzo] [Topic = Montepulciano] [Endeavor = A Meditation]

here is it in Italy that really grabs you by the heart and flings you around, as if you were dancing and loving and young forever and all was well with the world, as it always has been?

A tall order, without doubt. And a difficult one, for those who have traversed the length and width of Italy. After all, there is so much to  love in almost anywhere in Italy. Just plop oneself down and spin around and where you stop, you head forward in search of magic and miracles.

But if you had to pinpoint one spot, one place, one grape, one region, what would you choose?

One to consider, and a long shot at that, for most people, might be Abruzzo.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

The Master Class, the Masterpiece & the Porn Cycle – A Consideration

Well, the default world is back upon us. Everything is opening back up. And the merrymakers are back at it. That’s right folks, we’re going back, not just in time, but in deeds.

Three years ago, we looked out over the precipice with little to go on. We were in uncharted waters. Incertitude abounded. Fear, as well. But we were moving forward, creeping slowly at that, but one foot in front of the other. Towards an indeterminate future.

We left many behind. They didn’t make it. Family. Friends. Followers. Cohorts. The world changed beyond question. Many of us questioned where we were going.

Some of us traveled to new lands. Some of us stayed put. Some of us froze. Some of us changed.

Now, three years later, what is this world? For some of us, the comfort of returning to things the way they were has been an irresistible temptation. So, here we go again. Wine dinners. Scores. Reviews. Junkets. Competitions. The inevitable master class. Back at it, again.

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Italian Mountain Wines, Friendship and a Good Night’s Sleep

Why most of you came here was to find out about Italian wine. And, over the years, I’ve written a lot about that. I’m not stopping, wine is just a part of everyday life these days. But good wine, and the occasional great wine, make all the difference in the world.

For that, I’ve been focusing on Italian wine made in mountain climes, from Liguria to Piedmont, to Alto Adige, to Valtellina, to Valle d’Aoste, to Etna, and anywhere and everywhere wine making becomes just a little more challenging to make. Heroic? Sure, why not?

One need to just go there, try and drive there, hike there, and see how challenging it is. I’ve more than once lost my breath, my balance and my equilibrium once I got on top of a mountain (or even a tall hill) and looked across the horizon. Never down. Yeah, right. Unfortunately, I did look down, and it was hard going to get me off that mountain top. But ultimately, I descended. After all the cellar usually is somewhere lower, and one must complete their research, n'est-ce pas?

Sunday, January 08, 2023

MMXXIII – An Italian quandary – delving into Italy’s past (and present) and looking into the possibility that Italian cultural appropriation, in food and wine, has occurred - and what to think (or do) about it.


cul·tur·al ap·pro·pri·a·tion

   the unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc. of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society.

    "His dreadlocks were widely criticized as another example of cultural appropriation"

Open an Italian cookbook or history of Italian cooking, and in the early chapters one might find a recounting of ingredients brought back to Italy from the likes of Marco Polo and Columbus.

Polo introduced Italy to new spices and exotic foods. Columbus and his cohorts brought back tomatoes, potatoes and cocoa from the Americas. Ice cream, so ubiquitous all over Italy as gelato, is said to have been introduced into Italy by the Saracens, who got it from the Hindus, who got it from the Chinese.

Were these inappropriately adopted by Italy? And if so, what is one to make of that?

Regarding wine, we hear talk of French varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. In the Maremma, these varieties are thriving. Are Cabernet and Merlot the dreadlocks of Tuscany?

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

On the Wine Trail in Italy's Lucky Number "17"

When I was seventeen 
It was a very good year

Yes, it has been seventeen (17!) years since I started this wine blog. I mean, who blogs anymore? It’s so “flip phone” of anyone to still be hanging onto a medium that has passed, or at best, been passed over, by faster, newer, shinier things on the internet. But the readers keep coming (Thank you!) and it’s still kinda-sorta fun. So, Happy Birthday to On the Wine Trail in Italy!

Sunday, December 18, 2022

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

from the archives
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.

Sunday, December 11, 2022

The Inexorable Fiasco of Trying to Turn Back the Clocks to 2019

The past few weeks I’ve gone to a couple of wine and spirit dinners, a b2b wine tasting and an art talk at a gallery. All of these events were well attended, and in this quasi-post-Covid era, this is what I observed.

For one, many people are just glad to be out and about. Not all. One fellow I talked to said he got along just fine, during the height of the pandemic. He is an introvert, working from home and really had time to fix a lot of things, slow down the pace of his life and take stock of his life. “My partner and I were going out every night, always on the go. It was exhausting. I know the horrible parts of the pandemic and I don’t mean to make light of it, but I was so relieved to get off that carousel.” And here we were, again, in a large group, a crowded dining room, with noise levels so high you could not hear the person across from you. Had we not learned a goddamm thing?

Sunday, December 04, 2022

No Time for La Bella Figura

From the archives - posted 06/15/10

While the wine world wrestles with the issue of what makes a wine natural, I am pointing my camera in another alley. I love natural wines, women and songs. But today I focus on the pressing issue of how Italians approach wine with regard to the impressions that surround those wines.

The standard definition (and one which can be debated for hours) for la bella figura is “to cut a good figure - to make the right impression - to look good.” But that’s more a jumping off point for where I am taking this post.

No, the alley I am walking into is lined with ideas and desires, an italo-centric view of the way things work - Italy as the center of the world. Egotistical? Could be. Fantastical? Without a doubt. Harmless? Absolutely not!

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