Sunday, October 14, 2018

The Rise of The Italian Wine Specialist in America

An O-N-D Pep Talk

For the past four months I've felt like the mother of all road warriors, in service of Italian wine. I really thought I was finished. I really did. But the wine gods back home in Italy have their ideas. And I had my marching orders. So it was, one more time, around and around America, with sword and shield.

In the wine trade, October, November and December (O-N-D- for short) has been considered the busy time of the year. I've put in 37 O-N-D’s. I’m done with that, my O-N-D having been supplanted by a J-J-A-S (June, July, August and September) with a short October coda thrown in for good measure. Along the way, I experienced something that is very encouraging for the Italian wine trade – and that is the rise of the Italian wine specialist in America.

Sunday, October 07, 2018

The Unbearable Lightness of Being… Fiano di Avellino

From the Native & Indigenous Italian Grapes Series

Vesuvius in Eruption by Joseph Mallord William Turner
In flyover country USA in the 1980’s, finding decent white wine from Italy was a gamble. As I’ve written countless times on this blog, the Italians were digging out from a devasting world war, and technology was creeping forward. There were more important things than making white wine palatable for Americans. I remember a Florentine trattoria owner once told me, “Americans, what do they know?” Along with that there was this affection for the older style of white wine – more robust, with all manner of flavors and sensations – from spritzy to roughly textured, from oxidized to “marsalato.” The older folks (typically, men) loved them and saw no reason to change to cleaner and leaner. Those wines would fit in well today in wine bars below 14th Street and in places like Williamsburg.

But a trip to Fort Worth, Texas changed all that for me.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Wail Watching in the City of the Angels

Another week, this time in my native place. As a native Angeleno (and Californiano), the circumstance of my birth was preceded by the dreams and desires of my grandparents. It was the American Dream they were seeking, their El Dorado. I just happened to come along when I did.

Because of those fortuitous strokes I witnessed the procession of Italian-American life on a stage where there were limitless horizons, no boundaries, no walls. America was a place where anyone could dream big.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Things I’ve learned about wine and life on the road in America

Taking a break from my latest series on native & indigenous Italian grapes.

They've all come to look for America
What can be a finer fast-track to peek into the present state of the wine trade than going door-to-door, store-to-store and restaurant-to-restaurant, talking to wine buyers? During the last 100 days, I’ve traveled around America - to New York, San Francisco, St. Louis, San Antonio, Atlanta, Portland, Kansas City, Seattle, Austin, Chicago, Denver, Washington DC, Dallas, and into the urban jungles and suburban communities in states like Connecticut, Northern California (Silicon Valley), New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, Colorado and Texas. These are a few of the things I’ve learned. Call it a refresher course on the state of the wine trade in America.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

The Old Fool's Guide to Erbaluce

Inside my office there is a closet, a ramshackle affair, with whatever I haven’t yet figured out how to deal with. On the middle shelf there is this bulging box of wine labels, which has become my personal Jumanji. Within these slips of paper, there are any number of memorable moments, immortalized by removing them from their earthly chamber. These labels are the closest thing to timelessness in a world in which labels are digitized, scanned and then cycled into the bin of data in “the cloud.” But these labels talk to me, they stalk me in the present, and call to me from the past. One, notably arose to the occasion last week, when I was rummaging for Trebbiano labels in the box. It was a simple label, printed on thin paper and was Spartan in appearance. There was nothing sexy about it. But once my eyes saw it, a floodgate of memories surged forth like the ninth wave. So, I put on my flippers and rode it to a faraway shore.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

In praise of Trebbiano Abruzzese - a short personal history


Dino Illuminati, me and Daniele Spinelli,- 30 years ago
Without a doubt, the one indigenous Italian white that I have the most experience with over the years is Trebbiano Abruzzese. Because of that, I have a fondness for this wine. When I mention it in conversation I often get raised eyebrows before the verbal comments. I know what’s coming, and I brace myself. I’ve been repeatedly flogged with that whip over the years. It doesn’t hurt anymore.

Sunday, September 02, 2018

A short personal history of Arneis

Arneis is an indigenous grape variety found in Piedmont that is enjoying a wave of popularity in this moment. Many people are discovering the charms of the little rascal. But it wasn’t always so. I know, because I was there, one of the early donkeys carrying the (Italian) water up the hill, in hopes of advancing the popularity of wines like Arneis.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Surf, swell and tides on Verdicchio Island – Matelica, the monster wave.

I first encountered La Monacesca in the late 1980’s – My friends Eugenio Spinozzi and Sam Levitus (partners in Tricana) imported it into the USA. The wine was in a long, renano (Riesling shaped) bottle and was capable of good aging, developing secondary attributes and becoming a different wine, evolving into something deeper, more than just a run of the mill white wine from Italy.

Matelica - how does it differ from Castelli di Jesi? Matelica and Castelli di Jesi are like two siblings. They resemble one another but they have their own unique personalities. Generally speaking, the Matelica aromas are more towards wildflowers than the peppy citric two-step of Jesi. Matelica has a longer, more stretched-out body of the wine. The topography in Matelica is higher up, more spread out, arranged differently in regards to the nearby coast. And the soils are a world apart.

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.

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