Sunday, March 24, 2019

Carema - “Strong and Likeable as the Sun and the Stone”

Image courtesy of Cantina Produttori Nebbiolo Di Carema
Imagine families, perched precariously on the side of a mountain, working the land, generation after generation, tending their vines, to make a wine from their grapes. And imagine, on the other side of the planet, nary a person knows about the many souls who have poured out their life’s effort, their heart and soul, for a wine that is virtually unknown. This is one of the existential problems facing the winegrowers and winemakers in northern Italy who make the wine from Nebbiolo grapes called Carema.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Grignolino and its Indomitable Illuminance on Individuality

“Do you want to know how good a winemaker in the Langhe or Monferrato is? Try their Grignolino. If it’s a good one, chances are their other wines will be as well.” Thus spoke The Maestro, at a recent gathering of chefs and writers at the food and wine workshop, Gastronomix, where we gathered in the Monferrato and Canavese areas of Piedmont.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

So you think you want to import Italian wine?

While I have, more than once, addressed the challenges of selling one’s Italian wine to America, it seems I haven’t touched enough upon the complexities of importing Italian wine into America. Since I am no longer “ITB” (in the business), I have gotten a barrage of emails from people looking to “get into the business,” from both Italy and America. It’s probably time to go over some things in relation to the realities, in 2019, of pursuing that path.

Sunday, March 03, 2019

Erbaluce, where have you been all my life?

There’s nothing more enjoyable and illuminating than to rediscover a wine, a grape or a region as if I’d never had an iota of exposure to them. Such was the case with Erbaluce di Caluso from Piedmont last week while there for the food and wine workshop Gastronomix. It’s a spin-off of Collisioni, with Ian D’Agata directing the education.

I’d had some exposure to Erbaluce in my past life in the wine trade, but never went much deeper than dipping my toes in the lake. This was full immersion, with a real master class, taught by one with mastery of the subject, and over several days.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

My long history with Ruchè

Sometime around the late 1990’s I was working with an Italian importer and one of the owners brought up the subject of alternative red wines from Piedmont. We’d ventured into Barbaresco with La Ca’ Növa, in Barolo with Cascina Bruni and Cordero di Montezemolo, and in Gavi with a wine from Roberto Bergaglio. As well, we had a steady producer of Nebbiolo, Dolcetto, Barbera, Arneis and Freisa from Cascina Cheirello. But this new red wine, this Ruchè, from Crivelli, was a different beast.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

From the Archives - Finding Your Wine

Originally posted Nov. 14, 2007

Vallee d'Aoste ~ Vigne de Torrette
One day on the highway in Liguria, it hit me. We were driving up and down hills, into one valley and then on to another. All along the way I was meeting people, some who were winemakers and some who simply liked to drink wine. In Italy, it is easier to find a single wine that you can enjoy over a lifetime. A visit to a winery in your neighborhood, and there you go. It might be a crisp white wine or a mellow, rich red. But along the wine trail in Italy, I keep meeting people who have found their wine. So what is wrong with us in America? Or maybe the question should be, have you found your wine?

Sunday, February 10, 2019

The veil of un-knowingness over Southern Italian wine

Tasting notes are a cinch. How does one tell the tale of Southern Italian wine with a single photograph?

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Finding your guide to natural wine

Assisi 1977
The wines of the natural world are something I do not take on lightly as a self-assigned subject of current interest.

As I see it, natural wine is not a meme, nor is it trending on Instagram in my life. It’s not a tweet or a Facebook rant, nor does it dominate every beat of my heart. It is part of my life, as it has been for 40+ years. It’s not a fad. It also isn’t a mania. It is interwoven as well as it can be, in this world of disruption that we find ourselves living in.

One of the reasons I was so interested in Birkenstock sandals, in 1976, was because I could go down to the local health food store and buy sole replacements for those sandals. I could repair my own shoes, not discard them when they wore out. It was a small step towards self-sustainability.

Near that store we had friends who raised chickens and we ate their eggs. A local dairy produced very nice raw milk and cheese products and we enjoyed them.

This article, which I wrote for the Dallas Morning News, is geared for folks, who live in my area, and are not in an inner cycle of knowledge or fashion. They might just be wanting some straight up info within their orb. It isn’t about “the debate” about natural wine. It’s here. And it didn’t just arrive with the latest iPhone-carrying generation. And it isn't going away.

Article link HERE

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Sunday, February 03, 2019

A brief history of a working father in the wine industry

Regular readers of this blog have known for some time that I am retired from a working life. What many do not know, are the details of a life that arrived to this point. And specifically of a working father, a single father, in the wine trade in America.

While it is fashionable these days, with influencer marketing, to dump on established channels (and institutions) of wine commerce in the US, there were, and still are, many people who are simple, honest working folk. They just happen to be slinging Chardonnay or Vodka to the local restaurants and retail establishments, rather than coat hangars or auto parts. The notion of progress, not perfection, becomes readily identifiable once one has an extra mouth to feed, a mortgage and a car payment.

As a single dad and devoted to being the best dad I could be in a family-fractured world, I was also wrestling with the “What do I want to be when I grow up?” notion. However, I figured adaptation along with a measure of resilience would probably see me safely for a few years of adjusting to a more extroverted life. After all, selling isn’t for the shy. And lots of rejection. By then, I hoped I’d be “all grown up.”

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Obsession and Intention - A Magnificent Tango

Wine as an obsession seems a bit odd to me these days. As I recede from the shores of the wine trade, the daily activities, the desires, the fears, the needs (are they really?) all seem to look less important to me. Does that mean I no longer love Italian wine, or even wine in general? No, not at all, but I do feel like the obsessive behavior I had, and which I see all around the wine world, might be misplaced energy. At least for me.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Umbria - From the Stalls to the Stars

Assisi - Eremo delle Carceri (St. Francis' Hermitage)
As one might be expected to do in the later chapters of life, I’ve been cleaning up my study. Actually, it feels more like prepping a dead man’s home for an estate sale. At the very least, I am (heaven forbid my use of the “C” word) curating the collection of a wine man. A traveler. A photographer. A father. A husband. A son. A brother. And a primate on earth. And therefore, some things have been bubbling up to the surface, like an ancient vat of Sagrantino, done the old way, with lots of dried fruits and a healthy dose of residual sugar.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

California Dreamin’ - Chardonnay Sidebar 1. - The Fighting Chance

California Chardonnay. An odd phrase. Round and chunky in sound, those two words. A little shushy, followed by an ay! Why not? What did I have to lose? I was working on the commercial side, a little ultra-fine wine company trying to find something that the clients would need, so we could go by the account more than once every 21 days. And we were going pretty good with a white demi-sec from France, Cotes de Bergerac. But people’s tastes were evolving drier (or so they said) and California didn’t have exchange rate issues. The wines could be had by truck and train, and transported to flyover country quickly, and often, to ease on the cash flow for the owner of the fine wine company.

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Italian Wine in America - An Array of Abundance

Dallas, Texas - 1979 - Il Sorrento Old World Italian Cuisine
Let’s hop on the Wayback Machine, to 1979, on search of the state of Italian wine in America. Forty years ago. A blink in the eye, in geological time, but an epoch for Italian wine. How do I know? I’m old, man. I was there and on the floor, serving and sommeliering, in Italian restaurants.

The choices were slim. There was Ruffino. And Bolla. Chianti. And Soave. And Frascati, from Fontana Candida. And Corvo, both red and white.

A brash young upstart, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, appeared on the horizon. Red wine with a little bit of fruit. It was refreshing.

There was a little Barolo and Barbaresco. The Barbera that showed up usually “aged” in the warehouses, or the warm racks in the restaurants, and was virtually useless. And there were attempts by other regions, Emilia Romagna, but usually with their sickly sweet Lambruscos. Oh, and there was Asti Spumante. Oh joy.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

What does it take to be a lover of Italian wine?

Everyone has their idea about what it means to be a lover of Italian wine. Some folks love to go for the rare, the old, the soaring Pegasus wines that are clever and coveted and so very desirable. Others are content to sip on a simple quaff, night after night, with their pappardelle Bolognese or trofie con pesto, maybe a glass of Montepulciano D’Abruzzo or Vernaccia di San Gimignano.

A middle-aged man walks into the little Italian store in my neck of the woods, looking for a Cabernet. A young woman is also here on a mission to find a Pinot Noir. We are in a store with only Italian wine, it can be a challenge. Sure, I can point the man to a Veneto Cab or even a throatier version from the Maremma. And likewise, I can put a nice bottle of Pinot in the young lady’s cart, from Alto-Adige or Piedmont. But there are so many other wines with the texture, the flavor, the pleasure that they can derive, that they don’t have to be stuck in the Cabernet or Pinot Noir box, when it comes to Italy. Save it for France.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

The Native and Indigenous Italian Grapes Series Round-up

Over the summer I was motivated to produce a mini series on Native and Indigenous Italian Grapes. This is a round-up of those posts, in case one or two slipped past your feed.

The seven posts are:

These are personal recollections, not necessarily mementos, although there is a little bit of history. Moreover, my intent was to enliven the discussion about native and indigenous Italian grapes beyond a PowerPoint presentation and a tasting lineup. While those are also a necessary evil in today’s time-crunched world, I thought it important to tell a back story for some of these grapes, to give them light and life, and to highlight the impact they’ve had on me and those of us who walk on the wine trail in Italy. And, by the way, this post marks the completion of the 13th year of this blog.

Enjoy, happy perusing and Happy New Year!

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