Sunday, January 20, 2008

5 Days, 4 Cities, 3 Hotels & 3,700 Miles

The Empire State Building @ 3AM

What a week this has been. The wine trail has ventured from Dallas, Texas to New York and back to Dallas in 24 hours. Then, a day in Dallas for a trade tasting and a sold-out dinner for 61. Get up the next morning and drive to Houston for a trade tasting and a dinner for the distributor managers. Get up the next morning and drive to Austin for a trade luncheon and a final dinner with the Italian winemakers. And get up the next morning, drive to Dallas for another event a holiday party for the Texas office of the company I work for.

This morning I awoke from a night of strange dreams. I remember two parts. The first part was me floating over a large body of water, tracing the path of giant luxury liners from above with my finger. Sharks were swimming in the sea and when I flew too low they tried to lure me into their jaws of death. The other part of the dream had to do with going somewhere. I was glad to be home and happier to wake myself up from that confusion of a dream. Probably meant to make me feel not so regretful of the travel.

And I’m not. This week has been a week of stories to write about. I have met some very nice folks, the young Italian wine community who are taking the reins from the older generation. That is a good thing to see.

Would you buy a Bonzarone from this man?

New York
The tasting at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square was to recognize the producers of the import company, Vias, and their 25 years of business in the U.S. Vias is a confluence of Americans and Italians that has put together some very nice properties to bring here. It is run like an Italian company, which is to say, there is always a little bit of improvisation. It’s quirky, but it seems to work for them. There are smaller importers who probably look at Vias like they are some kind of middle-of-the-road company. But I sense there is still a good amount of passion for the little, artisanal winemakers. When Northwest manager Chris Zimmerman mans a booth with wines named the Lambrusco Grasparossa, Pignoletto and Bonzarone there is an indication that the flame still burns brightly.

Look Ma, no wrinkles

Blogger ConfluenceAs I wrote earlier last week saw a coming together of some of the bright lights of wine bloggerdom. Alice and Keith were there and it was a moment to actually talk, not type, to each other. I will probably come back to the NY apartment in May for a week, so we can properly taste wine and maybe even share some ideas.

I'll have a glass of Adelmo Rosso, please

Un Quartino
Back in Dallas, we had two events, both at Jimmy’s. How I wish every town had a Jimmy’s. Here’s a place where the proprietors want only Italian wine and are not afraid to put them on the shelf. Owner Paul DiCarlo hosted the winemakers for a trade event that was packed for three hours. Folks like Chef Sharon Hage from York Street showed up, Charlie Palmer sommeliers Drew Hendricks and Brandan Kelley made an appearance, as did blogger David Anderson and his Italian wife Rafaella.

The spawning migration of the Anjou Pears

And when it was over, Paul & Co. turned the room around in an hour and set it up for 61 people. Chef Lisa Balliet prepared a wonderful meal and the eight wineries had each a wine in the meal. The meal went for three hours and all but one person stuck around for the whole event. The pears for the dessert were a welcome sight at the end of a large meal. Good idea, fruit for dessert. Well done, all.

Houston, we have lift-off
After a cold front moved on (the one that was supposed to cripple the Northeast?) and an early morning drive to Houston, I met up with the winemakers at Catalan. Sommelier Antonio Gianola and Chef Chris Shepherd hosted the event, which was classy and well paced. Blogger Tracie B joined us. One winemaker, Thomas Romanelli of Riseccoli, remarked that he thought she was a very good palate. Tracie has come back to Texas, perhaps to immerse herself in the wine world. We will see. She speaks Italian very well; even if some of the Northern Italians think she does it with a Neapolitan accent.

Afterwards, a not so short dinner with the distributors managers at a local Italian place. And though some of the winemakers were starting to get restless, I convinced the young ones to go have a drink and meet up with Tracie and her friend Talina to see some belly-dancing.

Italians can sometimes be reticent about new experiences. But once they get into the soup they mix in well.

Austin – T.G.I.F.Again, after a late night I rose and drove through rain and fog to Austin. There would only be one official event, a two hour tasting and lunch at Zoot. This one was well attended by most of the wine cognoscenti of Austin, folks like Austin Wine Merchant’s John Roenigk , wine merchant and blogger Greg Randle, friend Chuck Huffaker, sommelier Devon Broglie and many more friends and colleagues. The distributor representatives from Austin and San Antonio also came.

Who says Barolo is King?

Austin was cold and wet, but the vibe is always welcoming. People just “get” Italian wine in Austin. Nice finale.

Later that evening we took the Italians for BBQ and beer. What a trip, all of us Contadina and Count alike, gnawing on bones and popping jalapenos. Meat lovers, these Italians are. And Texas can put out a spread of meat.

Meat brings everyone together

Saturday Morning, we did our farewells, and “See you at Vinitaly” and we all spread our wings and headed home. So after 5 Days, 4 Cities, 3 Hotels & 3,700 Miles, I am home in my cocoon and reflecting on the past week.

The young people are embracing this wine business both in Italy and in America. They are smarter, they speak each others language, and within this next generation we’ll see a further evolution of the appreciation of Italian wine and culture in these here United States. Stay tuned.

Today's mixed-up youth: Tracie, Talina and the 2 Luca's

Pictures from the tour HERE


Anonymous said...

you are a professional traveler...stop having fun!
Ready for next trip of TX?

Italian Wine Guy® said...

The Minivan is warmed up and ready to roll...

BK said...

Lisa Balliet is still around?! I remember her from when she sub'ed Noel's kitchen at the Cock 'n' Bull in the late 90s. Best "cheap" gourmet in East Dallas at the time. Glad to see she's still here.

Minivan? Does it have soccer balls in it?? ;-)

Italian Wine Guy® said...

Bocce balls...

TOR Hershman said...

You have a most interesting blog.

tracie b said...

that was a great day, ace! and i thank god for grainy pictures...

Real Time Analytics