Sunday, July 13, 2008

Under the Tuscan Stun

We’re deep into July now, the skin bakes well at 99° F. I might as well tell my sister not to print this one out for our mother, as she will just think I have lost my mind. And yes, I will digress.

Over the last week many wines were opened and tasted, in the course of duty and pleasure. Right now, I am tired of alcohol, but I am sure that will pass. Occupational hazard.

The coming week will be as equally challenging, with travel, tastings, a master class in Italian wine (in Austin), prepping the young pups for Texsom in August.

This whole wine thing, right now, has become such an obsession; it creeps into your life, your work, your closets, the fridge, under the table, another closet, a shelf with 20 years worth of Italian wine magazines. It really wraps itself around the saddle of your life and takes you on quite the ride.

Before you get to thinking this post is leaning towards the visually risqué, let me explain. The images shown have been created by the artistic duo known as Dormice. Dormice are Heinrich Nicolaus, born in Munich and Sawan Yawnghwe, born in Burma. Dormice live and work in Tuscany. I find their work compelling and I am fascinated with the way they pool their creative inspiration. They have a wonderful way with the use of color and form, and that is the simple reason why their work frames this post.

As the world turns, this time towards oblivion and that way towards exhilaration, I find this to be the stuff of summer and July. This month goes too fast for me; I could use two months of July. It sears my inspiration and keeps within me an overload of energy that fuels me deep into the late autumn- early winter time.

Tuscany, Tuscany, Tuscany. What on earth are they doing to you now? Earlier in the week I was sharing a bottle of a simple Chianti Classico from Melini, Il Granaio 2003, with three sommeliers. One, a Master-somm, who was in a great mood, replied something to the effect that this wine in it’s simplicity, how did she say it, something like it was so nice to just enjoy Sangiovese and Chianti like it is meant to be. I had to agree, not because I was trying to sell it to her and everyone else we had tasted that day. But it really was an epiphany to me, because here was this quiet little Chianti that had sat in the warehouse for many months, and it had blossomed into this pretty little wine. It wasn’t a stunner, but the experience was. Because, once again, you never know when the little wine god will creep up into a bottle and reveal itself, if you are quiet and fortunate and have others around you to help row the boat in the right direction. And those kinds of things are everywhere in this wine business.

Some time ago a salesman from a huge wine company called me up and asked me to please help him spread the word on their 2001 SuperTuscan. The wine was Alleanza, from Gabbiano. Usually that wine is not on the high priority list. There’s too little of it in any event. But when I took that wine home and tasted it during an evening, just by myself, again the midnight bloom arose from the bottle and beguiled me with its dance of seduction.

Over the years, another Chianti Classico, from Querciavalle and the Losi family, has been the reason for pause and reflection. This one comes with many visits and memories, something the over-inputted salesperson doesn’t have time for. Today as I was stretched upon the float in the pool, for one brief moment I was under anther sun, this time on the road near their winery going to the spot where their oak tree was struck down many moons ago. From that stunning moment, the raison d'être of the winery was forged.

Last week, another day, Gabrizia Cellai was in town to speak of her wines from Caparzo, La Doga and Borgo Scopeto. There was a moment when we were tasting Caparzo’s simple red, their Sangiovese. No Syrah, Merlot or Colorino, just straight Sangiovese. Again, here I was, at the altar, with something so simple and straightforward, just a blissfully uncomplicated come-across.

How is it a bee sting can be more significant than running into a wall? It might be because the bee pinpoints their focus on exactly one point. Running into a wall can be hard to spot, years down the road. Tonight I ran into a wall. At a friend house someone suggested I try the Silverado Reserve Merlot 1997. So I did. Just as I have tried many other wines lately from my home state. Somewhere I had a Russian River Chardonnay, and again I quizzed myself inside, wondering what it was I had missed. Oh please, California, look to the simple pleasures of wine and life. Less is more, really. Just as Italian food is characterized not by how much you can load into the dish, but rather how well you can work with three of four ingredients, isn’t time we looked to wines like that and celebrated them for their pure simplicity and the pleasure that it brings to us?

I walked away from the table after that ’97 Merlot. It was not something I would ask for with my last meal.

The other day of couple of older guys (older than me) came into a fine wine store where we were tasting the Chianti and they were asking for “big and bold Syrahs.” I really thought, at first, that they were liquor board guys; they had the “look.” I was disappointed when I heard them requesting the big Syrah like it was some kind of vinous Viagra.

So we have these characters looking to blow $60 on a big red lap dance and on the other end of the scale we have these jokers who come up and say something like this: “Anyone can find a great wine for a $100. It takes a real snoop to suss out the great ones for under $10. Yeah, that would have been a pretty fair way to go about it, back when the price of oil was around $14 a barrel. But now that snoop has fallen behind the reality of the times. Just like the restaurant that cuts back on the quality of the ingredients in their food, so there are measures that can be taken like that with wine. But why would someone continue on with such self deception? Younger generations don’t do that, in fact they see wines at $15-20 as a baseline. And yes, I have gotten off track.

What I am saying is that here we were with this little Chianti from Melini that has five years of age on it, sells for about $20, has some maturity to it, is balance, is simple, is correct. What else do you want? That’s the end of the rainbow. The lightning bolt. The Golden Fleece .


Marco said...

Let's beat up the poor with bottles of Silverado. I like their work.

Anonymous said...

Love the pictures!!!
That is what July does to me.....

Rich said...

I recently returned from an extended trip through Italy. I spent some quality time in the Chianti countryside and tried some of the wines you mentioned. I identify exactly with what you are saying and totally agree. I am increasingly opening Italian wines instead of Californians for the reasons you state. Our numbers are growing, so keep up the good fight.

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