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.

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W

Sunday, August 05, 2018

On the Road Again: What I Did On My Summer Vacation

The past two months have been a blur. Travel like I’ve never had. Criss-crossing the United States. Seattle. Atlanta. Austin. Kansas City. Portland. New York. San Antonio. St. Louis. Connecticut. Denver. Vail. Dallas. Chicago. New York (again). This is how I’ve spent my summer, so far. I need a vacation.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

5 of the Most Important Patron Saints of Italian Wine You’ve Never Heard About

In Italy, where the seat of the Catholic Church sits in Rome, many souls have drifted away from the sacred to the secular. But there is a cultural attachment to a spirit of place that has been cultivated in the Italian soil for over two millennia. Christianity developed in Italy aspiring towards ascetic and self-sacrificing virtues. When stirred into the pot with an ages-long foment from the cults of the Greeks and the Romans for wine and all things pleasurable, the inevitable consanguinity between the gods and the saints created a genesis of devotion that has been somewhat hidden from the public at large. But over those two thousand plus years, there are saints in Italy that wine lovers and winemakers depend on to get through every harvest and bottling. Here are five of the most important patron saints of Italian wine you’ve never heard about, from recently discovered ancient writings, by a botanist researcher, in the Jesuit Vatican archives in Rome.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

The "New" International Style in Winemaking Veers to the Left

Angelo Gaja had this thing for Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux. And so, he planted it in Piedmont in the 1970’s. Pio Boffa went to Napa Valley in the 1980’s and fell in love with the place and with the wines of Robert Mondavi. And he came home "a changed man." Piero Antinori set up shop in the early 1990’s, above the fog line in Napa Valley, bringing with him his winemaker Renzo Cotarella, and proceeded to invest, plant and make wine from Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. It was a prescient influence for changes that would be made in their Italian wines, back home. Renzo’s brother, Riccardo Cotarella made a name for himself (and a small fortune) interpreting Merlot in the unlikeliest places, like Lazio, Molise and Campania, in the late 1990’s early 2000’s. These were just a few of Italy’s winemaking giants who were moved by outside influences and who shaped the then-International style of wine in Italy. It was a movement that went long and deep, and it took years to see above the fog of high scores, blinded by seductively lush, drinkable fruity and powerful wines, often deeply oaked and intoxicatingly alcoholic. The critics, and the buying public who soon followed, couldn’t get enough of these wines – to drink, to larder away and to showcase in their trophy cellars. And those cellars filled up quickly with the force of a tsunami that has had mixed results for the collectors.

And then, it pirouetted. And everything changed.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Judgement of Paros – The Greek Paradox

From this view on the perch, Greek wine should be winning more than it appears to be. The Greek wine importers and government agencies are investing heavily in bringing many in the American wine trade to the vineyards. Greece is a Mediterranean epicenter (très chic these days). The people are great. The food is fresh and healthy. The wines are better than ever. As we say in Rome, Quo Vadis?

I say this as an Italian neighbor, but also as one who has much Greek in his family and in his blood, over the ages. I ache for Greek wine to achieve their place in the pantheon of great wine. Indeed, the culture has already secured their spot in immortality. And wine being hotter than ever, with boat loads of visitors who infiltrate the Greek islands (and mainland) this time of the year, one would think this would bleed over into life after vacation.

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Old Vine Vs. Old Wine: A Modern-Day Dilemma

In today’s hyper-rarefied clime in which the world’s wine elite bask, for most folks the access to ancient and great old wine can often seem unreachable. If you peruse the many impressive sights, whether it be on Instagram, blogs, paywall-protected wine websites, or pertinent Uniform Resource Locator’s on your phone, tablet or laptop, you might think the world is one giant wine library of Alexandria, waiting for the next abecedarian to enter.

Sunday, July 01, 2018

July 1, 2043: No More Tattoos, No More Natural Wine

An unexpected, but inevitable, missive, from Last Gen
(translation by devinchi’s Submarine)

It’s so odd to be writing this note to people who are probably already dead, if it weren’t for the fact that we found a back door in the time-space continuum. So, while most of you have less life in you than the tartrates at the bottom of a barrel of Krug (Boomers) or just plain shaggin-old (X’ers and Millennials), from where I transmit this communiqué, I know this is reaching most of you while you are alive, and still very much full of yourselves.

I am a mid-century somm. Well, we don’t call it that anymore, but the word we use would be meaningless to you (and devinchi can’t translate it anyway), just like the word sommelier is to us in 2043. I was born on July 1, 2018, and am turning ⓴❺ today. Happy birthday to me, ĿǦĕĕ. My device just snapped a holo of me and sent it to my 3 million followers. Instantly I received a holo-cake back with 3 million candles on it. My personal assistant, ĂĬ, “blew” out the candles for me. A good time was had by all. So they tell me.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

So, you think you love wine. But do you like wine?

This month, while traveling in Connecticut, I was in a little wine shop in Madison, chatting with a salesperson. She was a self-described millennial, a mother of two young children, and the daughter of a woman who was feted by her religion for selling the most Upanishad books in airports, and, most likely, in the world. “I can’t stop thinking about wine," she told me."Wine! Wine!! Wine!!! It invades my mental space, I can’t get it out of my head and I can’t get enough.” I don’t think she was complaining. Lamenting perhaps, as the demands of motherhood dictates that she also attend to her little ones. But clearly, she has been afflicted with a vinous virus. I’m sure her devout parents might have already counseled her in becoming too attached to worldly objects. And wine is from this world. But is it of this world?

Earlier this week, I’m in the hill-country of Texas, going down a most wonderful rabbit hole of conversation about wine. The young sommelier at the table was bright, energetic and engaged (he reminded me of a younger version of Charles Curtis, who, if you don’t know of him, still has a child-like enthusiasm and wonder about wine). As our conversation veered left and right, the young somm suddenly uttered, “I know many of our colleague’s love wine, they love to study about wine and pour over maps and charts. But I am beginning to wonder which of them really, truly like wine!”

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Bi-Coastal Post-Retirement Italian Wine List Report

In the last two weeks, I’ve been on both sides of the northern corners of America. It must be my busy time of retirement. And it appears the demands of time upon my schedule will be like this until the end of September, when I can really put my feet up and read a book by Ursula LeGuin or Philip Roth again.

Odd, that I’d mention these two writers, as I have been scouting around their respective regions, the Pacific Northwest and NY Metro. The weather in both was cool and pleasant, in contrast to the already balmy and searing heat of a North Texas Spring that has been hijacked by Summer. Both areas abound with plenty of natural beauty, but also with enough of an urban presence to give the Italian wine lover a place to go to, and with a wellspring of choices from the Italian wine palette.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Can (or Should) a Wine Be Life-Changing?

The Flying Wallendas
Life-changing. It’s a pretty tall order. I’ve had some things that have happened that were life changing. Two years ago, almost to the day, I was in the back seat of a car in Sicily. My pal, Eric Asimov was driving. We had just finished an assignment for the NY Times (he the writer, I the photographer) and were heading to the Catania airport. Then, out of nowhere, a somnambulist in a vegetable truck ran a stop sign, T-Boned the car and knocked us unconscious. Out. Just like that. Life-changing.

When my wife Liz was in the end-stage of Multiple Sclerosis, on her last day, as her life energy slipped away and she died, that was life-changing. For both of us. And while she bore the greater brunt of that experience, it changed me forever in this life.

When my son Rafael was born at home, and the mid-wife didn’t show, and outside, storms were raging and lights were flickering on and off, it was also a life-changing moment. To see life appear in front of you, under candlelight, is one of those life-changing events. One I will always be grateful for.

So, can, or even should, a wine be a cause for a life-changing event? A mere wine?

Sunday, June 03, 2018

Getting All Caught Up in the Tangle of this Grape Thing

It’s 4:00 AM and I’m staring at the ceiling in bed, eyes wide open. And I’m thinking about wine. Wine, wine, wine. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. I was supposed to be retired, and to move on, to putter in the garden, travel a bit, to ply about in the darkroom on my photo portfolio, hang out with the animals, ride my bike, and get off the freeway of the wine world. And this work thing. I’m still trying.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

The Long Green Mile – An Enduring Life in Italy

It is not without the slightest tinge of envy, that I read the many people who work so hard to taste wine, write about it and share their notes with others as to the color, the aromas, the taste, the feel, the quality and ultimately some kind of appraisal. Somewhere along the line, that chromosome dropped out of my being. Instead, I have been sentenced to walk a long green Italian mile, camera in hand, occasionally with wine glass, maybe even a pencil and paper. But I fail the written test, ultimately. This thing is too big, too much of a thing, for my little brain to adequately quantify. I will never be a Cernilli, or a Galloni, or even a Suckling. I am too distracted by the movie that is constantly flickering in front of me. And in front of me is often the boundless array of nature, in which wine serially steps in front of the camera and makes its brief cameo.

Monday, May 21, 2018

A Grand and Beautiful Italian Dilemma

I’ve been in Italy for three weeks now. It has been more than 40 years that I have spent this much time in Italy in one, uninterrupted period. As a result, my perspective on Italy is shifting.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Valdobbiadene: The Spirit Center of Italy’s Wine World

A million years ago, KPFK in Los Angeles aired a story about the Rolling Stone performer, Brian Jones, who found a tribe of master musicians in Morocco, that he became very close to. Jones was searching for the beginnings of music on earth, and it was his realization that the musicians of Joujouka were a large part of that story, embodying a tradition of music that went back hundreds of generations. It was a tale I never forgot, so much that I longed to go to hear the music myself. But life, la vita, found another way to divert me in my search for something rare and ancient, towards my own tribe of the vine.

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