Sunday, February 05, 2023

The Valuable and Unanticipated Lessons Ballet Taught Me About Wine

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 were 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!

Sunday, November 27, 2022

The Big One is Coming! Hurricane, Cyclone and Typhoon Season in Italy

Over the past 50 years I have been an avid Italy watcher. In time I became an active participant in the wine trade. In the boat, either rowing or rocking it, depending on my role at the time, navigating the sea of Italian wine has been a vigorous and spirited undertaking. But now that I have debarked, I observe from the shore. As we go into the month of December, the world is collectively gasping a sigh of relief, as the hurricane, cyclone and typhoon seasons are winding down.  But the way I see it, for the future of Italian wine, there is a storm season coming, a big one. And for those on the wrong side of the squall, there will be an unprecedented jolt. For the way of Italian wine is undergoing, once again, a tectonic change. People get ready!

Sunday, November 20, 2022

There Are No Sick Bees Here

From the Archives ~ Nov. 18, 2007

I have been back in Texas less than a week. During the first half of November, I visited six regions in Northern Italy. These were wine producing areas that were mountainous. There was usually a temperate valley included, for the grapes. We visited wine producing areas such as the Valle d’Aosta, Valle de la Roya, Valtellina, Valpolicella and the Valle Isarco.

Today I worked in my garden. It is past mid November and the figs on the trees are ripe, the basil is still growing and I harvested a 5 pound cucuzza squash. There are dozens of baby cucuzzas that probably won’t survive the coming cold spell later this week. The oregano and the rosemary will, though.

I don’t know how to go about telling stories about the wine valleys we visited. They were intense visits, lots of climbing and probably too many appointments. But what diversity there is between the regions. Is this Italy? Happy to report, it is, although it will be difficult to find many of the wines, and the food to go with it, in Italian restaurants here in the US.

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Stanley Tucci, I really, really hate you!

Like many of us who follow such things, Stanley Tucci’s Searching for Italy has grabbed our attention. Those of us who haven’t gotten on a plane and traveled to all of Italy’s 20 regions in the last couple of years might have reason for just a tiny bit of jealousy directed towards Signore Tucci. Maybe even a small smattering of resentment. And being humans, that would be totally understandable. But that is not why I harbor any small amount of rancor towards him. After all, he is showing us parts of Italy we cannot reach, may never reach, couldn’t even find the places if we tried for a reach, right?

No, that’s all good. What caused me to twinge here and there while watching the series was a couple of other things.

Sunday, November 06, 2022

My Last Trip to Italy

It had been a while since I was in Italy, so when the chance came to go, I grabbed the opportunity. This was not a junket, or even a free press trip. Which was fine. Everything I’d seen on social media with regards to those trips showed the same old people. It was as if they had their own cruise line, a semi-circle of acquaintanceship.

No, I was on my own, in a way. I wasn’t alone, but this wasn’t going to be a social event, the kind that junkets have become, especially now that covid resurrections are being lifted.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Blame It On The La Cá Növa

from the archives My first time visiting Piedmont was over a generation ago. At the time a winemaking revolution was in its infancy. The Italians had discovered small barrique and higher prices. New wineries were going up. It was the beginning of a cycle that only now is starting to make full circle. It was an exciting era for Italian wines and Piedmont. And they were getting world respect for their wines, like their cousins in Burgundy.

That initial visit we toured Barolo, Castiglione Falletto, Serralunga d'Alba , Diano d'Alba, Grinzane Cavour, La Morra, Monforte d'Alba and Novello. I also met winemakers and tasted in Neive, Treiso and Barbaresco. Somewhere between Bricco Faset and Rabajà I got religion. But it wasn’t until several years later that they let me in the church.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Friendship, Alcohol & Your Best Life

uring the past three years, it seems as if time has slowed down. I know that’s not scientifically possible, but still something has changed. And as the world comes out of its self-imposed confinement, our values have shifted, at least for some of us. In the wine world, and most likely beyond, how we relate to one another, to material items, and our quality of life, they are all intertwined.

Three aspects are occupying my attention of late:

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