Wednesday, December 13, 2006

For a Fistful of Dollars

Last week, I waxed about the glories of the Viviani Casa dei Bepi Amarone. A friend who is a sommelier, wrote back, saying that he “giggled” when he decanted the wine. Ah, the enthusiasm of youth.
But what a wonderful thing to have happen. And to those folks who dine there, they will put out $157.00 for that bottle. That's less than what it is retail in SF/LA/NYC. A real deal.

A far cry from what I ran into this week farther up the highway.
Day 1) Out west, an “Italian styled” place was setting up staff seminars. Would I take a look at the list?

Would I like a tooth pulled without numbing it first?

A list that is 70 % California (read: Silver Oak, Silver Oak, Silver Oak.) Umbrian wines from Tuscany, Campanian wines from Tuscany. And when they do get it right, aside from the only three regions that matter for red wine in Italy (that would be Tuscany, Piedmonte, not my spelling, and Veneto), then they just put the wines into the “Miscellaneous Reds” section. Like mystery meat. Treating Aglianico as if it were Spam.

And who out there have ever heard of a Valpolicella d'Abruzzo? It was on the list, in the Veneto section.

A wine that costs $6.00 selling for $10.00 a glass or $38.00 a bottle, that’s just wrong. And a Brunello that costs $35.00 going for $120.00, as if we all have that kind of discretionary income, what’s wrong with these knuckleheads?
Day 2) Another foray into an Italian spot for lunch. Asking the server about the wines, he delivered “we have Merlot, Cabernet, Chianti, Shiraz, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay. Which one would you like?” How about telling me who made them? Forget it, I walked behind the bar myself to see the death of the Italian restaurant in middle America. There was barely an Italian wine by the glass, between California, Australia and Chile, and the lone Italian wine was a pitiful Chianti. Not as good as the one you can buy in a market in Italy for less than 2 Euros.

What in the hell is wrong with these restaurateurs?
And the salespeople who call on these places?
And the diners? Where is the outrage?

Day 3) I have gotten my prescription refilled and had my rage medicine re-adjusted. And also went to the woo-woo Doctor to have my chakra’s re-aligned. Really. Not joking.
Some of the restaurant owners remind me of the guy in the picture, lots of gold and glamour. But really, do they ever look at their world? I know some folks do, my friend who gets excited over a bottle of Amarone that he will sell as a great value (and at $157.00 it’s 5 times the wine Silver Oak is, but there are only 6000 bottles of it made and there are 50,000+ cases of S.O. being made). But for every one of the excited ones there are guys out there who would rather not deal with it, buy it for $6.00 and sell it for $38.00. And you don’t want to ask if the fish is farm raised or wild. Or which kind of mushrooms they use. (Hint: they aren’t porcini).Who’s putting who on? This is a what a gentleman today called a scherzo. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. More is coming to this industry, assaults are coming from all directions, and friends for years can no longer share ideas and move things forward as easily. I haven’t seen something this disjointed since I last had a barrel fermented Pinot Grigio.
If these were the good old days and restaurants were Mama Leone’s I would understand. But when Mama Leone’s wine list from the 1960’s begins to look like something I wish I had seen these past few days, then we definitely have run aground.

I’m not interested in attending another funeral. If Chianti is dead, along with the future of Italian wines in restaurants, then maybe moving to Oaxaca and tending a mezcal field might not be such a bad idea.

This industry has invited anarchy to the table. Bring it on. Make my day.


david said...

Sometimes I wonder how you keep your calm...

IWG said...

yoga... in a room. that's heavily padded...

Tracie said...

hey alfonso! i wanted to leave a comment, but i'm having a hard time with's what i tried to leave:

we tried the viviani amarone in my class today (2003)...

ok so let's do the "which one doesn't fit" game: merlot, cabernet, chianti, shiraz, pinot grigio, and chardonnay

did you ask them where the grape chianti comes from?

please keep up the fight, how else will people learn?

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