Thursday, February 26, 2009

Back To The Garden

West of Napa ~ East of Eden

After spending a week in Napa Valley, we headed over the hill to Sonoma. Destination: Occidental, California. The sun that had been our companion for two days headed back behind the clouds. Driving, I was reminded of the John Mayall song, California.

Going back to California
So many good things around
Don't wanna leave California
The sun seems to never go down

I remember that song playing in the eight track player of my Fiat sport coupe as I discovered the California of my youth. The saxophone solo, the guitar, the flute, the raspy, bluesy voice of Mayall.

There is something about the way the air of California caresses me. I grew up with it in southern California, but on a good day in the north, there was only one thing better for a California youth. I have never felt it in New York or Texas or Italy. It is unique for me in California. The place is a huge visceral caress.

Maybe that was why my son asked me to come visit him in Occidental. He was looking into a possible position with the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center. What was once, in my time, the Farralones Institute, is now what I call a “think-farm”.

California - that is a good place for home
California - I'll be back there before long

As we drove through the hills from Sebastopol to Occidental, getting a little lost along the way, there were signs of the early Italian immigrant. With names like Piezzi Road and Rossi Road, Mancini Road and Cuneo Court, I could feel the souls who had passed through Ellis Island and ended up eight miles from the Pacific Ocean. They had found their Paradise. Grapes, figs, apples, nuts, land, mud, sun, salvation.

“I don’t think I can live in a city right now, Pop.” My son is searching for his place in the sun, somewhere away from the big tree, so he can grow in his own right. There was no arguing, this was a beautiful place. Organic gardens filled with the most wonderful and edible plants. Tradition born from the dawning of the new age. I recognized what he was looking for was something our Italian ancestors had been looking for all the way back to Columbus.

California - there is a good place to be
California - that's where I'm feeling so free

After a week in the high concept of Napa, which I admit openly that I love, here we were in this little pocket, this vortex of a place that is an original part of California. Grapes are everywhere, as are young women with long hair and long dresses. Such a departure from the day before, when we went to a special tasting of new releases on Howell Mountain. The new ultra-modern green building, a state of the art facility, a Leed certified winery on its way to becoming Leed Gold. The winemaker, from an Italian family that settled in Lodi.

Lodi, where in a week I will find my way from an airport, via a rental car, back on the road for this journey, retracing the steps of the Italian immigrant.

Some people may treat you ugly
Some treat you beautiful too
That's the way life is all over
So look for the good things for you

Later that night in the City at a little eight table café, Weird Fish, with my son and his sister (ladies, visit her great fashion site, Cutiemus), we rediscovered a little wine we first had in Paris, bought from our local wine store in the 14th where our apartment was. Domaine de la Garreliere Cendrillon, a Savignon Blanc and Chenin, bio-dynamic and a fair $36. A thrilling match with the buffalo girls - seitan with buffalo sauce and veganaise and a sustainable harvested steelhead with a lemon-caper tapenade.

The next morning, Sunday, as we headed out of Sebastopol on our way to catch a plane in San Francisco that never showed up, I silently wondered if I would ever get back to the garden.

California - I'll be back there before long
I'll be back there before long
I'll be back there before long
I'll be back there before long

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Italian Prerogative

I have spent the last week in the company of Napa Valley wines. Hundreds of bottles have been opened. I have pages of notes. Along with that I have a slew of ideas for articles and more information for my latest research on the influence of the Italian immigrant on California viticulture.

Being a native Californian, I understand these wines on a visceral level. We are both products of the same world. But I have also been critical of many things California has spawned. Maybe it is part of the reaction to the power of the place. California tries to force a control of individuality over me. From a distance, I look back at my native state, at hands length. California can still enthrall and influence me, but it doesn’t hold sway over my every thought and action.

It is like the first love. Young and beautiful. Desirable. Meant often for another. She has a solar gaze that shines over we trembling ones and we all want to be loved by her. But she cannot love just one; she has been created to break hearts with her beauty. And she does, often.

During this time I tasted many Cabernet and Merlot wines. A little Pinot Noir. An odd and out-of-place Nero d’Avola. Some Sauvignon Blanc and barely any Chardonnay. I remember only one or two Zinfandels and a few Syrahs. There was a wonderful Petite Sirah that I couldn’t finish. Not because it was undrinkable, but because I was tired.

Saturday, during a barrel tasting of probably 200 wines - after about 20 my tongue felt like I had just taken a razor to it. It was finished. So I walked over to the dining area at Greystone, which is the kitchen for the Culinary Institute of America. There I found rigatoni Bolognese, gnocchi and polenta. There was also baccala, wonderful green salads with frisee and avocado. Cioppino in little cups had shrimp floating on the surface. Dutch ovens of risotto Milanese, done properly. It could have been Italy, easily. The sensibility in the kitchen was overwhelmingly Italian.

Italy is a force, even for California. I’m don’t see the wines where the food definitely is. When will the winemakers realize what has happened to the cuisine of California? The marriage of the Italian sensibility, so long ago, among others, cultivated by the Italian women of Napa. Could it be that the food has been under the influence of the female energy, that California recognizes so readily, but the wine is still be held hostage by the masculine vigor? Taste many of the rich and powerful red wines of Napa valley. It begs the question of who they are making these wines for. An $80-300 bottle of wine made for a blood-rich chunk of meat, whose California does that belong to anymore?

Last Friday I was sitting, parked in front of a beauty salon in St. Helena. Parades of elderly Italian-American women were coming out of the shop, their grey hairs all arranged in perfect order. My 94 year old mom and 92 year old aunts also have this ritual. It’s a little rite they perform, to strike a balance with their well being and the way they present themselves to the world.

California has been good to the women and the women have transmitted the sacred energy of the table onwards to the next generation. I look forward to the day when the man and their wines dance again in harmony with their ladies and their cuisine, when the Italian influence returns to the winemaking in my home state.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Take My Wifi, Please

I’m taking a few days in Napa for the wine writer’s symposium. Inside the cellars the blackberries and I-phones don’t work. We’re on our own, just like in the good ‘ol days. Lots of storytelling going on, so nothing to worry about.

Wolfgang Weber, the Wine & Spirits Italian Wine Guru, snuck some Movia into the Trinchero barrel room, as an aperitivo. Before long, bloggers Eric Asimov, Tyler Coleman and Alder Yarrow were coming by for a sniff or a sip. Poor Alder, Wolf didn’t see him before the bottle was empty. Alder was talking to another symposium attendee, coincidentally about Movia, when they looked down the table and saw a bottle that looked strangely familiar.

Wolfgang also brought a stellar bottle of 2002 Calera Reed Pinot Noir. As if we didn’t have enough to drink at the table, with wines supplied by the Napa Valley Vintners. But we wine bloggers are a greedy and avaricious lot. Why have 15 wines when you can have 17?

Earlier in the day one of the seminars was about breaking the news with Cyril Penn, Corie Brown and the venerable Frank Prial. I had just had lunch with Frank and we shared stories about Old Napa Valley, old wines and young Beaujolais. To sit with someone whose writing has recharged me over the years was a righteous treat.

Speaking of treats, the chickpea fries with Romesco sauce at Ubuntu in Napa is right up there for Best of in 2009. Maybe I should do a Best Chickpea Fries post. Something to ponder.

While we're schlepping our Best Of’s, the hanging duck and bacon at Koi Palace in Daly City was our Sunday entertainment, as we made our way through the Dim Sum service. San Francisco is a Mecca for Chinese food and Koi Palace is a landmark for dim sum.

We mommy blogged our way through the City on Sunday, stopping in Japan town for some tea and chimes and then finally to Biondivino. Ceri Smith was there with an open bottle of Frappato and a fancy heater-guitar gizmo. Biondivino is a great stop along the Italian wine trail, and Ceri’s knowledge of Italian wine is only surpassed by her infectious enthusiasm. There is a future in America for Italian wine and folks like Ceri are the reason.

And of course along with the better angels of our nature we also have to tag the bad boys. Everybody loves the bad boy, and these two are doing their part to make the world a better place for Italian wines. Thanks, gents.

It has been a long day and thus my mommy blog will have to suffice for the time being. More later when I get a breath.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Trouble with Tribalism

What are the Italians thinking? Here we have this major sea change in America, along with a world economic crisis, and they start getting down on their friends and neighbors? We have seen some far-out Italian politicians in the last 30 years, but this Luca Zaia, what planet is he from? This is whom the Italian wine industry has to lead them in the 21st century, to boldly go?

In December, Dr. Zaia said,” We must launch the pineapple strike and of all those products that have nothing to do with the Italian agriculture. Yes, therefore, to zampone and cotechino. And no, instead, to the non seasonal products, that do not belong to our tradition and that, often, are cultivated in countries where it is still possible to use insecticides."

But it's OK to employ the wide use of pesticides in Italy, such as Cirtoxin, Decis, Tramat Combi and Lasso Micromix.

On Brunello, the Minister said back in July, with an announcement that the agriculture ministry's department of inspectors will certify the authenticity of the premier Italian wine, "With this act we have not only reinforced our system to guarantee the utmost protection of the consumer, but also restored the image of Brunello, which is a symbol of Italian excellence not only in the United States but the whole world.''

And then 96% of the Brunello producers voted in favor of continuing to use 100% pure Sangiovese grapes for the production of Brunello. After much hasty debate, of which there was much talk about allowing in other varieties.

I asked a producer friend, why the flip flop? Asking not to be identified, he replied, "What does it matter? They (the Brunello producers) are going to do whatever they want to do, like they always have. They feel like the scandal has passed and anyway, some feel entitled to produce a wine that will sell in the world market."

And a month later the Italians were banging the drums that they were the number one producer of wine in the world. For the world! The French had been defeated in the fields. So they felt emboldened. Even Dr. Zaia took time out from his anti-alcohol campaign to slurp some swill among the vines.

I don’t know what to make of his anti-pesticide/anti-alcohol/anti pineapple/ anti cauliflower posits. Zaia eschews kebab in favor of cotechino, cauliflower in favor of broccoli and pineapple in favor of kiwi. Huh?

This pineapple strike in December: Zaia said he was concerned about the environmental impact of shipping pineapples over long distances. But he has campaigned vigorously to sell Italian kiwi’s to China. Just one month ago the Beijing opened the doors wide for the Italian kiwi. Dr. Zaia took the podium, "After ten years of intense diplomatic and technical work from the Italian ministry of Agriculture, we obtained a great result for quality produces in our country. By opening the Chinese market to Italian kiwifruit, a range of new significant possibilities of development for the Italian fruit and vegetable sector is thus displayed."

America has a new president, elected by a large margin, some would say overwhelmingly. His childhood home is Hawaii, and Zaia is throwing down on the national fruit of our president’s homeland. Meanwhile kiwi - which is native to China – is being sent from Italy to China. Whose carbon footprints are all over that?

“What business do I have posting my editorial on Italian or even Lucchese “ethnic food” policies? None, aside from my knowledge that Italian cuisine became a universal gastronomic language thanks to its absorption and incorporation of foreign culinary traditions. Dried pasta? From the Arab world (yes, the Arab world). Tomatoes? From the New World. Corn for Zaia’s beloved polenta (I love polenta, too, btw)? From the New World. Stockfish (baccalà)? From Norway.”

“No polenta e baccalà? I can’t imagine a world without it nor do I know of another country where these two foodstuffs could be brought together so deliciously!”

And if we are going to toe the line in Italy, what about coffee? I don’t imagine Dr. Zaia driving a Fiat or even a Lancia. My guess would be a BMW. But, hey, they don’t grow coffee in Italy and they don’t make BMW’s in Italy either, so it’s OK. It's also OK to use (non-local) Mid-East oil to run the car. And (non-local) Russian natural gas to heat the corner office.

Or they could all go back to riding horses in Italy, like we all do in Texas. Then Dr. Zaia could show off his horse-whispering mind-meld talents. Another 60 million horses in Italy wouldn’t have too serious an impact on global warming. It’s only 60 million methane producing mini-factories. Maybe they could feed espresso beans to the horses and the Italians could harvest them after they passed through the horses digestive systems, like the civets in Indonesia. Then it could be considered truly Italian.

Why am I so angry? It’s because I see politicians not understanding the way the world is going and not wanting to lose their power - their gravy train - so they work to keep people down by fear and ignorance. Don’t buy pineapples because they are not local, but let’s sell a non-indigenous kiwi to a country where the kiwi originated from, which just happens to be halfway across the globe. Then the rest of us have to clean up the politician's messes.

I recall what I once heard Bucky Fuller say. He said, “You take a spaceship and load up all the politicians and take them on a round trip around the sun, no one back on earth skips a beat. You take that same spaceship and take all the farmers on that same trip and guess what, we all starve in 6 months!”

Next thing he’ll be wanting to ban chocolate.

Beam him up, Scotty.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Otto anni fa...

Happy Valentine's Day, wherever you are...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

I'm Your Man

Do we ask too much from any wine? With the grapes long ascent through time, asking nothing from man, except to be held and loved and partnered in a glass, maybe with a little cheese and bread. But we want to triangulated it and take it apart, stem by stem. Both camps, the terroirists and the wine-stylists, want wine to be what they think it should be. But what does a grape made into wine really want? Maybe it just wants to be your man.

Swimming in wine and spirits, my kitchen, my home, my world. There are so many expressions of the magic. Small harvests, droughts, spinning cones and tuning forks, I ready myself for a trip home.

No, not to Italy, but to the place my grandfather brought my father and made their home, in the New World. Part of the youthful rebel inside turned me around, back to the Old World. And so it has been like this, walking, walking, all these years, back away from home. I strayed, but never got too far.

So I took the last thirty years in the service of the Old Country and her wines. Along the way, fashion led Italy to take on the mantle of the New World, only to cast it off as the fashions change. And those of us who never went to med school, but were expected to perform surgery in the field, without anesthetics, what was in store for one whose life took them in that direction?

All the many Italians we piled into our cars, and the French and the Germans and the Australians. They piled into the Mercedes and the Volvo and the Infiniti and now the Silver Bullet. They all came to look for America, searching for Eldorado.

Dallas today, tomorrow Atlanta. Chicago next week, followed by Denver, Phoenix and San Diego. Drive to Los Angeles; fly to San Francisco and down to Miami and back up to Boston, D.C. and New York. Every inch of America.

The cycles, the trends, the oak, the concrete, and every autumn the grapes would ripen and souls would pick them and squeeze them and let the fateful mystery cling to those rotten bunches and make diamonds appear. In the New World, a master of wine and war would fantasize in the darkness of the sunset, thinking about his Old World home and the maidens in the field busy with the grapes being born and dying. Planting by the cycles of the ocean and harvesting by the fullness of the moon. Grab a horn and blow the walls down. Dig a hole and drop the precious liquid inside it. And wait. Three months, six months, nine months or more.

And to what end? To end up on a wine list in some rotating bento box 600 feet in the sky, waiting for someone to pay $195 for a meal? Or $120 for a bottle of wine? And we send our best and our brightest up to man those stylites, fending off diners pleas for white zinfandel as if they were the advances of Satan?

And still we aim the Silver Bullet to the next call, to the Italian kneading the dough waiting for the fire to heat up the oven. Still hoping, still breathing, wishing for the light we saw all those many years ago as we entered the tunnel to expose us to the greater light within the clusters shining on the vines dripping with dew. I’m your man, yes I am.

Lyrics by Leonard Cohen

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Dead of Winter-view

Interview by Beatrice Russo

Alfonso seems to be a bit distracted lately, what with his new gig as a clogger, the accolades and the busy travel schedule in his future. What does he think? That he’s the rock star? I was back home this week, gathering some of my stuff, doing taxes and hanging with friends. Before I head back to South America to work the harvest, I sat down with him over an ancient bottle of Sassella, and picked his brain. He apparently thinks he has something to say to his 3 loyal readers, so he is getting a little help before this shill is gone.

BR: So catch me up on what’s going on lately AC? Have you found a way out of the corner that you painted yourself into?

AC: I see you haven’t lost your lust for snark, young grasshopper. Thanks for caring. I decided against getting out of the corner in the traditional way and just broke on through the wall.

BR: A while back it seemed you were whining about how much this Italian wine blog was taking your energy. How goes it now?

AC: I cut down to two posts a week, and proceeded to get some of my life back. I really don’t know how I did three essay length posts a week for almost three years. But now with only two a week, it seems like a walk in the park. Readership is still strong, my posts are still those non-linear stream of consciousness genre-bending rants, but I’m ok with them now. Many of my friends and readers are thanking me for that too. They were telling me they couldn't keep up with the posts and were getting frustrated with my proclivity for providing posts so prodigiously.

BR: Wow, glad I asked. Good to see you got your confidence back. So you put your Italian wine blog on a diet, what do you do for fun now?

AC: I was looking for a way to make money with this blogging thing, so I proposed to my work that I get together a team and start a blog, one for the industry and corporate types along with all the rest of the folks who surf on by.

BR: I remember you mentioning folks like Eric Asimov and Jon Bonne, who have wine writing gigs but also do the blog thing, you called it clogging?

AC: Yeah, corporate blogging. So, we worked up a name, The Blend, something that would encompass wine and spirits, and the synthesis of flavors and interests.

And hey, it's not just the superstars doing it; there are other folks around the country doing this too, like Dave Buchanan and Steve Bachmann.

BR: Ok, you just went into crypto-talking points on me. What are you talking about, Senor Viejo?

AC: I see the Latin language is suited to your temperament, young bumble bee. Let me elucidate. Our industry is changing rapidly. Companies are merging; wineries are shifting their allegiance to other forms of delivery, whether it be outside of the three-tier system or by incorporating new ways to lure folks to try their products. I think the world I live in has been successful to a point. But now those existing frameworks are being challenged and folks are storming the castle, in a manner of speaking. Look at what someone like Gary V has done to bring new wine drinkers into the fold. Well, I’m not looking so much at the new folks, in this case, as in giving the established people in the conventional networks an opportunity to peer through their window and see where the change will be taking them, and all of us. That said, if I can make the folks aware, those who built the industry into such a large behemoth, perhaps they can get on the Change Train and help move our industry forward. In other words, be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

BR: and you think you are going to do this with a blog? Dude, what have they been putting in your Añejo?

AC: Bea, look, I’m not Moses. I’m not John the Baptist. At least I hope I’m not. I’m the Invisible Man. Everyone says everything around me and asks me not to say anything. I often forget most of it, because it is rumor, not true or at best, wishful thinking. But what I get in the deal is people speaking their minds to me and those are pretty valuable indicators in these days. From the customer on the retail (or restaurant) floor to the Executive VP on the Sixth floor with a view and a clear shot. People talk to me. And because of that I can be a better shape-changer of the industry by seeing where we are going, trends and otherwise, and letting anyone who wants to know, know about it. Open access, free exchange of information, linking up, sharing ideas. The sum greater than the parts, that kind of thing.

BR: So you want to play God in the wine business.

AC: Nah, nah, that’s what we have Bacchus for. No, I’m just sounding the trumpets.

BR: OK, Joshua, but God told your friend Jeremiah, "You will go to them; but for their part, they will not listen to you".

AC: Funny girl, I see you’ve been reading something other than Glamour and Seventeen, Bravo! All kidding aside, it’s just an experiment to see if we can bridge the gap between the Twitterers and the Corporate Jet set. Everything has a life cycle and our country is experiencing a sea change.

BR: Are you telling me you’ve gone back to being a vegan?

AC: I never went that far, but you’re on to something. Our business must develop sustainable sales programs that don’t rely on the few wine drinkers to keep it propped up. The era of rampant consumerism is over. Over. Now we must expand the bench, widen the field and bring more wine drinkers, drinking a little bit more wine everyday.

BR: Were doing our part in Argentina.

AC: Yes you are, along with eating grass fed beef when you do eat meat, which has a smaller carbon imprint. Bravo to you and your new country.

BR: What else is rolling around in your head, AC?

AC: The idea that restaurant prices are too darn high. I saw a Zenato Amarone on a wine list for $168 the other day and almost had a heart attack. That just doesn’t make any sense at all. Those days of 3x, 4x, 5x markups are over, too.

That and the reality that a lot of the larger company salespeople have so much on their plates lately, along with just not being into wine and the career of wine. All these cool and groovy wines that we search out for our customers, those customers never hear about them from our people on the streets because they are too busy doing other things. It’s not a secret; I had this conversation with a sommelier the other day. I told him that when I look at a wine-by-the-glass list or the sommelier special wine selection list, I rarely see products from the company I work for, even though I know we have the same level of products. Organic? We have ‘em. Biodynamic? We have them, too. Small farmer, small production, no oak, no ML, not plastered all over retail? We have them. In fact they are so not available in any retail that it is a punishment to see a list and not have one or two of the really wonderful wines that we all go nuts over. I don’t want to go into a restaurant and only drink our products, but I'd sure like to see the ones that we have offered as well. And that ain't happening enough.

BR: Didn’t mean to raise your hackles, AC. Remember your shingles. So where you off to lately?

AC: I just got back from NY and later this month I’ll be heading to Napa Valley for the wine writers symposium.

BR: And Italy? Anytime soon?

AC: I have a trip planned for April. Some big things shaking and I'm excited. 2009 will be a year to remember. I hope I’m still working in a year, what with downsizing and the economy as it is. If I’m not, I might just head on down to Argentina and work the fields with you, how would you like that?

BR: AC, you're like a dad to me, so I don’t want you as a Facebook friend or anything like that, but you’d be more than welcome to join us south of the border. But I don’t think you have to worry. Just keep stirring the cauldron, you’ll be fine. What else, any last thoughts?

AC: In a perverse sort of way, I have been researching the 2008 Bordeaux harvest and am fascinated with the way the wine trade in France is going to sell this vintage. I have been asking all kinds of experts for their opinions on the vintage. It’s all over The Blend if you want to read about it. Having been in Tuscany for the 2008 harvest, I think we can all benefit from the way the Bordelaise spin their web. Those folks in Montalcino especially, could learn from their French cousins. But we’ll see. Right now I’m trying to figure out how to get folks to buy the 2005 Piedmont and Tuscan red wines, especially the higher end ones like Barolo and Brunello. Folks like Giacosa, Tua Rita, Dal Forno, Roberto Voerzio, to name a few in my world, these winemakers have lost their market in America. And I’m not sure they know what to do with us. They’ll probably have to look elsewhere until we get to a place where a $300+ bottle of wine isn’t a stretch. I’m not sure when we’ll see those days come back, if ever.

BR: Well, on those uplifting notes, I have to meet friends for beer, AC, so thanks for taking the time to rant and rave with me. And thanks for the yummy Sassella.

Images provided by the Italian cinema. The movie? One of you rock stars out there knows, for sure.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

One Sommelier's Quest for Fire

Sometimes on the wine trail we veer into restaurants. Actually, often. I feel like the old Wells Fargo delivery man, with my pack of information going from outpost to outpost. On the rare occasion there is a kindred soul at the inn.

Last night I ran into one. I had forgotten he had landed at the newly refurbished hotel in downtown Dallas. My first meeting with him was in a large retail chain. You know the kind where they furnish the employees with some kind of apron with a kitschy logo of the owner or the store, which usually has some goofy name? I remember we were in the pinot grigio section and he wanted to show me what he had in Italian wines. The young man kept telling me he wanted to be on the floor of a restaurant as a sommelier, you could really tell it was his dream. Eventually he made his way into the cellar of a renowned hotel, an entry level cellar rat kind of job. But he had ditched the apron.

I kept in touch with him via email over the next few years. Through time he made his way up the ladder out of the cellar to another new and bright hotel as an assistant to the head sommelier. He was moving on up. When a nearby hotel went looking for a sommelier for their renovated restaurant he applied and got the position as their sommelier. In less than a few years he went from dusting bottles in a chain store to acquiring great wines for an elegant room with a young chef and a new direction.

When I saw him last night, in his brown pinstripe suit and his certified sommelier pin on the lapel it really did my heart good. He is following his dream and getting to his promised land. And that’s not an easy thing in today’s world. Looking around the room at 9:00 PM, there were few guests dining on this night, I could see his disappointment that he couldn’t offer his services to the people in the seats because the seats were empty. And who knows when they will fill up again? On this night I was with a group of writers and p.r. folks. It was the normal activity that hotels and p.r. moguls do to get the word out.

One combination our sommelier put together with the chef was unusual and inventive. It was a salmon carpaccio with mascarpone and thinly sliced (shaved?) fennel. Our somm paired this dish with a young Vernaccia di San Gimignano. The pairing of the three elements with the wine was perfect, not that I was looking for that. I’m over perfect matches; life just isn’t that way most of the time. But once in a while, the lightning strikes and it‘s magic. When the young somm asked me what I thought of the pairings I mentioned the Vernaccia. I didn’t remember it at the time but rolling around in my head was a paraphrase of what Michelangelo once remarked about the wine, that “it kisses and caresses you, it bites and throws you!”

I could see from the inner glow that the young somm was pleased that someone had noticed that he tried very hard to make the whole greater than the sum of the parts. I was looking at his brown suit and flashed back to a day thirty years ago when I donned a brown suit and went to work as a sommelier in the same city. It was one of those restaurants which rotate high above the city. I digress for a moment, excuse me. I remember going into the wine room to get the umpteenth bottle of white zinfandel (it was a destination restaurant for tourists) and upon coming out of the room I lost my table. Of course they were just twenty or so feet from where they were when I went in to get the wine. But it so disoriented me (and I have a little fear of heights anyway) that after a few weeks of that I took off my brown suit and went on to my next job. Now that restaurant has also been renovated and there is another young somm up there, which is another story. All this to say, we have come a long way, but the situation still requires diligence and devotion. We still have to get them in the seats and make them feel good.

Maybe it was the glow from the wines, or the homemade limoncello or the Madeira, but when I left that dining room I really wished that these young people, chefs, servers, sommelier, will be able to get everything they want from their livelihood in that dining room. If you are in the wine business you know what I am talking about. We need the business to once again flourish and thrive. OK, I've gotten schmaltzy, I’ll stop now.

Go find a sommelier and help them keep their fires burning.

Real Time Analytics