Sunday, December 03, 2023

It All Depends on You

Jackson Pollock Salmon
It is so very entertaining observing from the edge of the river. Swimming along are the young fish, all bright and shiny and determined to show the world just what great swimmers they are. And aren’t they beautiful? Along with that, regulated by the river and depending on the fish, they might just be swimming somewhere to save their species, as members of their group have done for countless generations.

Likewise, it is a similar swim, on land with the up-and-coming crop of wine tradesmen and women. They’re all suited up and shimmering in the bright room, say, at a wine tasting. I love to study their movements in the room, who they talk to, what they talk about, which wines they are drawn to, and the people they connect with. We all did it, consciously or otherwise. It’s part of our humanity.

Sunday, November 26, 2023

The Right Time to Open That Bottle

The clock of time is a wild child...” - Priyansha Vashi

Lately, as it seems I have a lot more time on my hands, although it is somewhat abbreviated compared to 30 years ago, I often muse upon the logistics of when to open a bottle. During the recent holiday, I wanted to find something red and with a little bit of age on it, maybe 10 years. Along with that, I needed a crisp fresh white wine to complement the foods we were serving along with the preferences of the other folks enjoying the wine with me. Both wines needed to be opened at the right time. In the case of the white wine, that was a little bit easier. But in the case of the red, a 2013 Barolo, I wondered just what I might be getting myself into. No, not anything dramatic. More of a desire to pinpoint the right bottle at the right time kind of thing. And if it didn’t work, well, there are plenty more willing participants in that cold, dark room, where they huddle in peace waiting for their moment to shine.

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Pivoting While Whirling

Recently, longstanding and noted wine bloggers have been declaring. Things like:

“I don’t suppose I have many of you checking this site daily for updates…” - Vinography

“I have in fact been blogging without a break about every two weeks for more than a dozen years now, and I would be less than honest if I didn’t admit to feeling a little stale at it…and (will) take a brief sabbatical from this blog” - Tom's Wine Line

“…the blog will end its 16-plus year run on Jan. 15…sadly, I don’t think it’s relevant anymore.” - The Wine Curmudgeon

And while I have noticed the world of blogging in general doesn’t seem to have the oomph it once had in the world (it’s no longer the bright shiny thing in the corner) my take on anyone who might be having an existential moment (we don’t need another crisis) in regards to their relevancy is an optimistic one.

Sunday, November 12, 2023

The Most Important Wine Harvest of All Time

How many times have you read it? The harvest in process and the ensuing data regarding the weather, the quantity and the quality that inevitably leads to an initial prediction that this year will be the wine of the decade? Wine of the century? Greatest of all time?

Recently I looked back over a slew of articles, going back forty years, and read something similar to that. At the time, I’m sure many of the journalists thought, indeed, that they were reporting an accurate assessment.

What I find curious, though, over time, is that the “lesser” vintages, the ones not thought to be so great, actually delivered wonderful vinous experiences. That probably indicates that my interaction with the wine might have had less to do with the climatological conditions of past than the present conditions of my perceptual and emotional being.

Sunday, November 05, 2023

Remember Me? I'm Your Brother

From the archives: Grappling among the Offshoots ~ Gaglioppo and Nerello Mascalese

I’m the one who played tag with you and listened to you sing and play the piano. I’m the one who fell, more than once, sometimes just to the earth and sometimes out of sight. I’m your brother.

In the vineyards, when the grapes were full, you called from afar to pick the ripe ones for wine. You made pasta and poured red wine and gave shelter for the time. And when the harvest was over you bid adieu, until the next time you were in need. You paid just enough to make it through the winter.

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Bidding Adieu to a Longtime Friend

Lately, on the blog and IRL I’ve been opening up elderly bottles from the wine closet. Part of that stems from an analysis I did of the wines in the closet, and found that 25% of the wines in there were over 25 years old. While that might be magical words for some wine collectors, to me it caused a sense of dread on two fronts. Firstly, that old wines tend to get even older if not opened. And as we see from elderly humans, not all get old in the same way. Secondly some of those wines 25 years or older (especially from the 1990's) I remember putting them in there on release and wondering when and if they’d ever be ready.

Well, did I get a wake-up call on that! Seems that a majority of red wines 25 years and older are either ready, sick or dying. Or already dead. And it happened faster than I thought it would. So much for my glorious wine collecting aspirations from youth. These bottles are like tattoos. Some of them worked and some of them didn’t. But all of them were an oblique reference to an earlier me and my state of mind. Fortunately, an off bottle of Barolo is easier to dispose of than a faulty tattoo of Jerry Garcia.

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Interviewing Italian Wine - The Moment When Everything Changed

Italian culture is a timeless and ongoing revolution. Wine has been swept up in that benevolent maelstrom. Thus, it seems like a good time to revisit our old friend, Italian Wine, and interview them. Over several long lunches and a myriad of bottles opened, young and old, this interview has been streamlined for today’s attention span deficient society. However, this process has been going on for hundreds of years. Glad for you to dip in.


Q: Ciao, and thank you for joining us.

IW: Niente, you’re most welcome.

Q: Let’s jump right in. Did you notice an inflection point, a moment of illumination, internal/external, when your awareness changed (when you awoke to the meaning/ direction in your process), was there an event that changed or was there something that took place, internally, that happened?

IW: Wow, a long question with not a short answer. But I will try and explain. As you know, we’ve been around for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, in some form or another. But realistically, it wasn’t until the 20th century that wine, in general, took on a more rapid evolution. It seems to have coincided with the technological changes the world was undergoing. But there was also a new energy coming from the earth, a novel expression of life, that was being captured in the vines. It was as if the earth was awakening from a long sleep. And Italy is more than blessed to be an epicenter of the world’s energy, or so the Italians like to think. And maybe that is so. In any case, the momentum right after World War II gave impetus to the most rapid set of changes in Italian (and I daresay the world) wine creation. Technology, rebuilding a world that was destroyed by war, economic investment, more rapid and efficient forms of communication and transportation, and the desire to get back to life and living, by the humans, gave us hope in the ground. The long sleep was over and a new dawn was upon us.  So, I hope that begins to answer our question, although there could be a book written about that subject.

Sunday, October 15, 2023

The Battle for Wine – Symbolic vs. Economic Value

“When, and under what emotional pressure, does a memory shift from being a reliable account of something to a story that we tell ourselves about what we wish had occurred?
– Anthony Lane reviewing the film, “Anatomy of a Fall” 

As with almost anything on planet Earth these days, wine is also experiencing conflict. Mostly from dueling perspectives and accounts about what wine is. Throw in a dollop of virtuousness, a sprinkle of inexperience, a teaspoon of youthful confidence and a cup of the shifting of cultures, and right before your eyes all the tried and true, the mainstays, the fundamental market movers, shift in their relevance.

A young writer friend who I admire put it this way: “I sometimes feel like there’s the actual wine market and what moves it, and then there’s the tiny bubble that a small number of cool kids in NYC and LA think is cool. Which has symbolic value, but actual economic value? Not so much, I guess!”

Sunday, October 08, 2023

What I learned about wine writing from a Black female science-fiction author

When I graduated from college I moved back to the town where I was born, Altadena, California. Unbeknownst to me, one of my neighbors was a budding science-fiction writer. She lived one street above us, and she was on her way to becoming one of the greatest science-fiction novelists of our time.

I was working various jobs. In the morning I would head up the hill to work making custom furniture. After lunch, at our home workshop I would work on custom frames. And in the evening, I would drive to Pasadena or Hollywood where I worked as a waiter. We were starting a family, we were broke, the economy sucked, and I still entertained visions of becoming a great photographer. I had a full plate in my 20’s. So did my sci-fi neighbor, as she was also in her 20’s and no one had any idea the greatness she could achieve. Except for her. She was on a mission. Her name was Octavia Butler. And she changed my world.

Sunday, October 01, 2023

A Remembrance ~ Anisetta in Palermo

revised from the archives... 
I remember that sinuous ceramic floor, on top of the building on Via Roma. Of all things, why that floor? Perhaps the floor was the safe, the repository for all the memories stored up on the roof overlooking Palermo. All the long dinners, late lunches, cups of coffee in the early morning looking out over the water, watching the ships pull into the harbor. Looking at Monte Pellegrino in the afternoon, in the aperitivo moment. For whatever reason, that odd squiggly tile floor pulls me into the shots. Most of these people are family in some way, most of them are now gone. But here it is, Memorial Day, and one of their kin is remembering them, channeling them, looking back into the past peering into the magic mirror of images my grandfather brought back.

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Countdown to Zero

There’s this sci-fi novel about the end of the world. In it, the people of earth are trying to figure out how to get all the people on earth off. And with that there are those in denial who think it’s just some kind of fake news. Suffice to say, some get off and some don’t. Those who do are shepherded to another planet, similar to earth, far, far away in another corner of the galaxy. And those who don’t, well we the readers never find out.

That’s kind of how I see Texas now. It’s almost October here, and the temperature today is 99⁰F. And coming off two of the hottest summers I’ve experienced here in nearly 45 years. In other words, I feel like one hell of a slow-braised rump roast.

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Celebrating Two Giants from California

Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – 1968 Charles Krug and 1983 Far Niente

This past week, in Texas, we've experienced with mixed results. For one, the weather has finally cooled down to mid-80’s, from a summer which saw an endless assault of 100+ degree days. Literally made me sick.

The other, not so welcome, was the expected outcome of the impeachment proceeds of our Attorney General. Acquitted on all counts, but it came as no surprise. Why would overwhelming evidence of corruption and unethical behavior (I watched the proceedings) necessitate an impeachment, when the political landscape here is so broken beyond repair, in my estimation. I’ve been here 45 years now - a stranger in a strange land.

That said, to end the week, a dear couple celebrated their 30th anniversary and we were invited. A generous wine couple I should say, with a rich and deep cellar. So, why not celebrate being alive and well, with maybe a cool evening, regardless of the celebrations that were probably going on (and most likely at taxpayer expense) in Austin.

Sunday, September 10, 2023

A Very Difficult Buyer

Social media has become the sound of a Band-Aid being ripped off with abandon. Last week, a friend of mine who has a wine shop in California posted a funny picture of a car that had landed on a roof, for a friend and colleague. Just something funny. That friend had a “friend” on Facebook, who commented about the poster. “A very difficult buyer.” And then proceeded, in later comments to remark that said buyer also had other enduring qualities of a toxic nature. This from someone in the wine trade, a supplier rep, commenting in a public forum, about a buyer, and not in a positive or affirming way.

Sunday, September 03, 2023

The Invisible Wine

“Sometimes the older ones, the ones that have been in there a long time, they get forgotten. They become invisible."

It had been a month of Sundays since I last updated my cellar list. Over the years I managed to work up a spread sheet. It was far from perfect, but at least it provided me a list with what I had collected over the course of a life and a career in the wine trade. Sometimes it was in multiples – of three, of six, even twelve. And often it was a lone solitary bottle, stashed away for that perfect dinner, or celebration.

And sometimes, a bottle would get away from me. Maybe we only had eleven and drank all of them. Maybe we actually drank the twelfth and I forgot to mark it off the spreadsheet. It happened from time to time. But when I’d do a full inventory, those stragglers usually showed up and were put back on the list.

This wine was different. It was, well, let’s just say, one of a kind. It was old and dark and from an odd vineyard. Not terribly fashionable with the snotty somm set that beat their drums loudly over every pét-nat and grower’s champers, or an ancient Barolo from Mascarello or Conterno, Aldo or Roberto.

No, this was a wine that had gone out of style around the turn of the 21st century. You could imagine where it came from.

But first, it had to reveal itself to me.

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Leading From Behind

Recently I watched an absorbing and compelling documentary about the musician, Ron Carter. A giant in the jazz world, Ron is now 86 and still playing. Or working, however you might see it. I was fortunate enough to see him perform in 1968 at UCLA, when he was part of the Miles Davis Quintet. He’s a master, not one who passed a written test or a blind tasting. He mastered his art as he journeyed through time and his world, slowly, often painfully. But he succeeded. In the documentary, towards the end, he talks about what success is:

"I think success involves more than me. I’m sure that I could have been successful a lot sooner and maybe a lot longer. I thinks success is a difficult word to define, because it means different things to different people. Does it mean that you work all the time, is that successful? Does it mean that you walk onto a street and everybody knows who you are without your instrument? Does it mean you get paid on time? Being able to fill a house with my name being the band leader? Call three or four guys and say, ‘Hey, now, I got this gig, can you make it?’ They all say yes ‘cause I called? Is success going into the bank and they know you’re not going to rob them? I mean, what is success? I don’t know. I’m not sure how I would determine success 'cause I'm still trying. I haven’t gotten to the place where I necessarily see me as being successful, given all those possible definitions. Having said that, I like where I’m going. My last efforts have been honest. I have meant every note that I have played.”

The man is 86 and he likes where he’s going. If that isn’t success, I don’t know what is. Or at least, that explanation struck a chord in me.

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