Sunday, April 26, 2009

Just What the Doctor Ordered

The pace of life after Vinitaly has been brisk. The Italians have been flooding the landscape to work with us in our hand-to-hand combat. Welcome to my weekly round-up. Alfonso has gone from ranting to mommy-blogging today.

What does the first picture say about the state of affairs, here in backwater country? A clean cut American male holding a bottle of Dr. Pepper in one hand(the real thing, from Dublin, Texas, made with real cane sugar) and a glass of Brunello in the other? The clean cut American is a hard working farmer who supplies restaurants with some great produce. But he was needing some “Pepper love” so he asked for a bottle of the sweet, unctuous soda so beloved by Texans. At first I thought, “WTF?” and then I thought about what Tim Hanni said about people’s taste buds. The good farmer was just looking for something to balance his meal. Did he drink it with the Italian wine? Yes he did, side by side. And he was, in his own way, a happy camper. Leave him alone, he’s a hard worker. At least he was also enjoying Brunello from Lionello Marchesi.

Lionello worked one whole week across Texas, week before last. Dinners in Dallas and Houston, showing his Chianti, Morellino and Brunello and telling his riveting rags-to-riches story. Lionello understands American marketing and he is, at 72, one hard working son-of-a-gun. Lufthansa had to create a new category of frequent flier as he smashed all records for accumulating miles. By the way, did you know that Lufthansa frequent flyers can trade miles for wine through New Vine Logistics? Lionello however needs "no mo" wine, as his three properties produce a sufficient amount.

In the last week, here in Dallas, we have sold a ton of wine, thanks to Mike and Paul DiCarlo of Jimmy's. Paul hosted Lionello Marchesi, Paolo Cantele and Guy Stout to sold-out houses back in the wine room, the Circolo del Vino.

In one of those seemingly all too often après-wine dinner moments at Adelmo’s, Lionello hosted Paul and some of the local guys for a lunch. Adelmo made his famous steak tartare, which went exceedingly well with Lionello’s Morellino di Scansano.

This week wine luminaries were lining up to work like jets at DFW airport. Monday, Seth Allen, the founder of VinDivino came in with his crew to blitz across the state. I caught up with Seth over a plate of BBQ and Shiner Bock. VinDivino is back up and running with renewed vigor. A few months ago Seth and company parted ways with the Marc de Grazia folks. After 20+ years it was a painful decision, but the economics of the world and the wine industry just don’t leave a lot of room for the super-premium wines. Good luck to Marc de Grazie and his suppliers, some who remain friends after all these years. As for VinDivino, the Italian and Austrian portfolios are lean and ready to go. We had some Gruner face time this week; I think Ms. B will be posting about that at a later date. Suffice to say, I am chilling a bottle of the Loimer Estate Gruner Veltliner "Kamptal" 2007 to go with Bubba's fried chicken and a Beatle’s cover band on Thursday. Good times!

Paolo Cantele spent a week in Texas covering Dallas to Houston and points in between. On Tuesday we were able to get the Apulian wine wonder kid to slip into Texas before the heat, showing his Chardonnay, Fiano, Primitivo and Salice Salentino wines, along with his Amativo, an homage to modern times. The sold-out crowd at Jimmy’s loved Paolo and snatched up his wines with a frenzy only the wine impassioned can exhibit.

Wednesday Pio Boffa from Pio Cesare accompanied Gregory Balogh, the suave and elegant President/CEO of Maisons Marques & Domaines to Texas. Pio is another road warrior who has been on the road for the last 25 years. He is an undaunted ambassador for Piedmont and her wines. When I asked him about the loss of Teobaldo Cappellano, Pio was emotional. “We didn’t agree on politics, but on wine, we were brothers. I loved that man and will truly miss him.” I also asked Pio what he thought of the new Minister of Agriculture, Luca Zaia, he boomed, “I love what Dr. Zaia is doing for Italy!” Well, there you go, another fan of this new Italian coalition government. Today, pineapples and kebabs. Tomorrow, tomatoes and potatoes?

Pio spoke to a throng of fans at the Sigel’s’ Elite wine shop, selling and signing wines for local wine enthusiasts. Afterwards, Steak and Champagne at Nick & Sam's, a local steakhouse, which was packed with steak-eating, Bourbon-swilling, Bordeaux and Barolo and Napa decanting wine drinkers. Speaking of potatoes, if you have never tried them, the fries at Nick & Sam's are some of the best I have ever had. Top notch service and great steaks, we compared the 2004 Château Magdelaine and the Pio Cesare Barolo, a really tough assignment. But glad to be of service!

Thursday - Daily-Double. Serena Bonacossi flew in for a meeting and the annual pilgrimage to Adelmo’s for lunch. I met with her and her local manager and all around nice guy, Ed Kukol, for a round of tastings of the Capezzana wines. Several years ago I went to the estate and met with Serena and her family. Her grandfather Contini Ugo Bonacossi is an amazing fellow. He was manning the booth at Vinitaly this year, an octogenarian who works every day. Lovely family. Serena wanted to show her latest Carmignano and Ghiaie della Furba, which I have a soft spot in my heart for. Great wines from an historic property . Wine was first made there in the year 804.

Later that evening we had to “gear up” for another sold-out dinner at Jimmy’s, this time with Master Sommelier Guy Stout. Guy was only to happy to strike a pugilistic pose for the camera.

The lineup of wines was eclectic, from Franciacorta by Contadi Castaldi to Verdicchio di Matelica from a beloved producer, La Monacesca. I was able to taste with owner Aldo Cifola at Vinitaly this year, and am happy to report the wines are stunning. The 2006 La Monacesca didn’t disappoint the crowd at Jimmy’s’ By the way, those tastings at Jimmy’s, always (at least) two women for every man. I need to get some of my lonely single men friends to these dinners, there were a lot of women carrying out boxes of wine that night.

One of my favorite gals who I like to talk wine with brought her beau. I snapped this shot of them and told him not to screw up or he’d be dealing with the Italians if he broke her heart. I think he got the message.

Red wines? Teroldego, Brunello, Barolo and Amarone, followed by a late harvest Moscato from Sicily. We ran out of wine, sold so much Mike Di Carlo ran out of register tape. More good times!

Guy and Paul, now here are two fellows I’d like to have with me in the dark alleys of life. Nobody’s gonna mess with these boyz. That night we broke records for wine sales, as Jimmy’s is a retail store and we made everybody a deal they couldn't refuse.

One thing Guy, the back room, we refer to it as the Circolo del Vino, not the Goombah Room. I know you worked hard getting to where you are and all that, but a little respect for things Italian, ok? I don’t want to tell you twice.

Nah, really all in fun, Guy was great and we had a ball. And those diners were Jimmy’s stimulus program that night. Business is picking up. The key to success, is to stay in the game and keep on swinging, day in and day out.

Speaking of swinging, the weekend brought me my afternoon meeting with my Italian guru, the iconic Mario Messina, godfather to almost every Italian restaurateur in Dallas. Mario, at 92, was making a light lunch of zucchini and halibut. Whenever I need to talk to someone with a world of experience I head over to Mario’s house for a café’ and some conversation. Mario, you got me started in this Italian crusade, you helped to steer me to a career that I have loved for over 30 years. Thank you, Padrino!

And that leaves me to the end of two really busy weeks on the wine trail. Friday night we took some of the great old wines out of the wine cellar and shared them with our young friends. But that’s a post for another day from some other bloggers. Take it away, Ms. B. Have at it, Dr. J.

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