Sunday, October 18, 2020

Where my father's footsteps end

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Dino Illuminati: A Remarkable 90 Years in the History of Italian Wine

(photo, courtesy of the Illuminati winery)
This whole cycle of life thing here on earth, it’s a peculiar one. It goes slow, then it speeds up, then it slows down, and then it seems there just isn’t enough time to finish anything. I cringe when a memorable character in Italian wine dies – and with it an outpouring of obituaries. Sometimes they read like a resume, and sometimes they take their cues from the perspective (and biases) of the scribe.

But why wait for someone to die to celebrate their life? Why not beat the drum while their heart is still beating some of that fine red Italian blood?

Which brings us to a figure whose life in Abruzzo has most definitely left its mark for the better. That person is celebrating his 90th birthday, Dino Illuminati.

Sunday, October 04, 2020

Palate Pressure: Which Wine Will Suffice?

Lately, I’ve been creating spreadsheets. Lists of things I’ve done or collected. Like food in the freezer. Trips to Italy. Master photo-files. And, of course, wine I’ve gathered over many years. I do not lack for anything in the wine department, although I’d not turn down anything from Burgundy. But I have some to enjoy. Piedmont has a strong lobby in my cellar, as does Tuscany. But it’s not about what I’ve amassed. Rather, I am more concerned about what I’m going to do with this stuff. Look, this is not Marvin Overton’s cellar we’re talking about. Or Ian D’Agata’s. But I find I’m just not putting a dent into the red wines in the cooler and the cave.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

A Passage from the Dead Tree Scrolls

There’s a wine article sitting on my desktop that is going on four months overdue. It’s almost finished, just needs a little editing. It will generate revenue if I go the last step. It is destined for a newspaper; you know the kind a little boy used to get up early in the morning to deliver on his bicycle? But, for the life of me, I cannot find my way to finish it.

I have run up against a wall. Call it relevance. Or maybe timeliness. During this period which we find ourselves collectively in, I just find it hard to justify writing about something like a particular wine when there are so many more things swirling above us, this amplitude.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

I waited for you at the train station, but you never showed up. So, I guess I’ll go to Tuscany without you.

It was a long shot, for sure. We had casually talked about meeting in Rome and taking the train to Tuscany. It was over a couple of bottles of wine. And then we stayed up late. And then? Do you remember? I think I do, but it could have just been a dream besotted by too much Frascati. If it was a dream, it was lovely. If it wasn’t, why aren’t you here?

The folly of youth. Of hope. Of expectation. And the letdown. It was a pattern for much of my 20’s. Probably much longer. But all those years now melt into one passage of juvenescence. And when it comes to Italy, it’s tinged with a romanticism that either wasn’t there in the first place, or if it was, it was only in my imagination. Now, in 2020, those fanciful anticipations have been rendered inappurtenant by larger forces of destiny. We’re in a social hurricane and firestorm the likes of which we have no idea when it will die down. So, we barrel down and go in, deeper inside. Where it is cool and dark, yet still filled with light and hope. The hope of innocent youth as re-imagined in this timeworn biped vessel.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

A letter, found in an abandoned home, next to a stream of unconscious and constant agitation

[Editor's note: this letter was unsigned inside an envelope on the desk of the empty home. It could be the letter was written by the owner of the home. But we have no idea who lived there as all records disappeared after the Great American Passage in 2021.]

Dear Italy,

What I am about to write to you might not be welcome. After all, I am merely an imperfect American. And we all know now that Americans are finally being leveled by their own foolish acts after all these years. Finally, the chickens have come home to roost.

And that is what I am writing about to you today – home. Yours. And ours. Let’s start with yours.

Sunday, September 06, 2020

Dismantling the First Mountain

The life of a career. It’s a curious ascent. One spends so much energy in getting to the top of the mountain. To be the best. Number one. To master your craft. And to represent all that you stand (and climb) for the best that you can. To spend years climbing to the peak. To sacrifice any number of things, material and personal, in order to behold the sunrise at the summit. And then?

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Everyone’s gone to the moon (or “We’re here and they’re not”)


As we beat the month of August, once more, to death, September howls like a newborn that was cast away into a dumpster. No one hears her little cries to a universe unprepared and unattended. For Italy, as for much of the world, has been abandoned.

How many times can one walk the beach between Alcamo Marina and Castellammare del Golfo in the shortened summer days of September and feel any of the hope one felt in May or June, when the Linden trees were in bloom on the Adriatic? Now, in New York City, at Fifth Avenue and 54th Street, at noon, an eerie and similar scene mirrors Sicily. An unattended world. Where has everyone gone?

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Italy, a beacon for continuity in the realm of magical thinking

Yesterday a young friend called me from Italy. Not just anywhere in Italy, but one of my favorite places in Italy – San Benedetto del Tronto – on the Adriatic coastline. And not just anywhere in San Benedetto del Tronto, but from the bar at the Excelsior Hotel. And there he was with a dear old, friend, Piero, the bar manager. He was alive. He was well. And he was reflecting the sunny life of summer in Italy. It made my day.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

A most unusual Ferragosto

Ever since I have been decamping to Italy, almost 50 years now, the middle of August (Ferragosto) signaled a time to recharge, rest, play, sun, eat, drink and love. I cannot remember a time in my life when that cycle has been interrupted for so many Italians, and really, anyone who is in Italy in this moment. 2020 - It has been a most unusual Ferragosto.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

#TBT - Master Class in Indigenous Wines ~ As Taught by a Donkey, a Rooster and the Spirit of Place

#TBT - from the archives

There are aspects to life that don’t travel so well on the road. One of them is the lack of interaction with creatures other than humans. Maybe it is a pet, or the birds in one’s back yard, any number of life forms that constitute the daily connections one has, sometimes not even thinking about it. The other, if one is so inclined, is the interplay one has with nature, the grounded lifeforms that don’t move. Maybe it is a tree, or a bush, a plant with fruit or vegetables. And while traveling, those elements that form part of the identity of one’s life, be it only an inner one, they aren’t able to be packed into the suitcase.

Sunday, August 09, 2020

Taking one's place along the river

“All we are not stares back at what we are.” - W.H. Auden

What are we looking for? Whether it is in a vineyard or a desert? In a lover or in the mirror? On the road or self-quarantined? What do we expect to find? What has been lost? Where is this all leading to?

You’re staring at a TV screen for months and the story is laced with fear and woe. The next day, you’re sitting behind a windshield, and the landscape of the great American West is cascading by you at 60-70-80 miles per hour. Inescapable though, is the hope that “the crisis” is far away. The land, the great healer, is now weaving the tales, and it is long, and hot, but endurable. I say this with gratitude, that one can witness this other side of the world we live in.

Sunday, August 02, 2020

The valley between the mountains

"Gone to look for America"

The assistant at the hotel reception desk in Farmington was Navaho. He bore familiar marks of his tribe, even shielded by a mask. He was friendly, asked me where I was from and where I was going. “Made it here from Texas. Dallas. Heading to the Pacific Northwest. Hoping to make it as far as Elko, Nevada today. Ruby Valley nearby, great place.” His attention had wandered after Dallas. Maybe he had other things on his mind. In New Mexico, where Native Americans are 9 percent of the population, they make up 75 percent of the state’s deaths. And with Covid19, that number wasn’t decreasing anytime soon, from what I witnessed the day before.

I was in for a long haul today and needed to get on the road. I had several states to plough through.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Looking for another mountain

"Gone to look for America"


Driving through the Texas Panhandle seemed interminable. Speed up, slow down, pass through a little town. Bogdanovich redux. And repeat. Until the border. The further north and west one goes in Texas, the more red-hot it gets. And flat. Not to say there’s no life out there. There must be some life worth preserving, why else would everyone need a gun, as the endless billboards proclaim? That part of Texas is locked in a scenario that time has passed by. Every town is portraying their version of Mayfield. Everyone’s parents are Ozzie and Harriet. There is no pandemic. There is no need for a mask. Move along, nothing to see here. Leave us alone. Go back home. Leave it to Jesus.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Finding a new Italy while "gone to look for America"

It must have been on the last leg of my road trip around America, when I realized the Italy I was missing was passing by me at 75 miles an hour. How could it be? I wasn’t in Piedmont or Tuscany, Sicily or Abruzzo. I was somewhere between Utah and Colorado. It was the American West, not the Old World. There were no ancient buildings. But there were scores of ancient rocks, mounds, mesas, mountains. It was a bit disconcerting. There were no plethora of wineries, although there were the occasional ones.

No, it was something else I had tapped into. It was the road. The trail. The journey.

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