Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Spirit of Wine

From the There I go, there I go, there I go, there I go department:

Has this ever happened to you? You are visiting a winery and the guide takes you through the stainless steel tank room, and then a barrel room or two and maybe the bottling room or even the board room. Have you ever been in that situation and someone said,” You’ve seen one stainless steel tank room, you’ve seem them all?” And then as you go into the tasting room as the first wine is poured all those tanks and barrels and executive tables and chairs didn’t seem as important as that tiny little precious liquid that you were getting ready to taste?

Somewhere between the spirit of wine and the soul of humankind there is a connection. It is different for some people and maybe others just don’t get that sense. But with a little imagination those little tastes can take one on amazing trips in time. Think back to the oldest wine you ever had. If it was 30 or more years old, most likely someone involved with the wine has passed on. For one brief moment we can connect with the work and life of a soul who is on the other side. Isn’t that a wonderful benefit of immortality? At least for those of us who remain. I think this often, whenever I open an older bottle of wine.

Sometimes one needn’t wait that long, unfortunately. The wines of Gravner have the touch of the young son who perished this year.

I think of the time I was in Pio Cesare’s cellar. Way down below the ancient Roman wall we came to the end. There, staring at me was a wine as old as I was. This winemaker, someone my father’s age, was long gone. But we met, for that brief moment, in front of the wine he had given birth to. How can one not love this business?

In truth, we descend the staircase daily, looking to bring up wines from the past. Wine is really all about a moment in time, frozen and preserved for people in the future to enjoy. It is a confluence of the ancient with the modern, the dead with the living. It is a mystical connection to souls beyond life.

I have a friend who passed away four years ago. In a linen closet I found a bottle he must have left when he was staying here. It was a simple Sangiovese from the Marche and it was marked in his handwriting as a sample to try. That is probably one of the most precious wines I have in the house. It is a connection to the life and work of a soul who gave everything to wine and the business of wine. Just like those ancient Chaldean winemakers 4500 years ago. These are markers in the life of the spirit of wine that renew my joy for this calling.

Aside from the deep belief that we must bring forth the vital energy of the fields to the new lands, it goes into an even deeper section of the cellar. It is because when you do have those beyond time and grave experiences with wine you really do get signed up to an ancient army of the wine god. And then there is no turning back. From the ancient winemakers in 2500BC all the way to the importer in the 21st century, we have burned the boats. There is no alternative to anything short of carrying out the wishes of the spirit of wine and the souls who have gone before. There is no direction home. You have arrived to the Promised Land.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Calabria: The Epiphany

There has been discussion in Italy about the future of wine in Calabria. In brief, there are two camps: one to maintain a more traditional use of the native grapes for the wines of Ciro and one which seeks to elaborate the appellation with the use of more international grapes.

Calabria is where my mom’s mom came from. She left a poor region, which had just been devastated by a terrible earthquake, early in the 20th century. Calabria has been abused by organized crime and tribal urges. It is a beautiful place. The wines are hard to sell, but when someone tastes a Gaglioppo or a Montonico they become enthralled with the fruit and the texture and the echo of the earth from where they spring.

Can Cabernet help bring wealth and fame to Calabria? Who knows? When a wine like a Ciro or any number of wines from Calabria tries to make it in America, it is a combination of energies. When the Statti’s or the Librandi’s come to America, the wines are well received and people love them. And surely these two wines often represent different styles and philosophies of winegrowing in the region. The connection isn’t always because of a review or a score. Sometimes it is the personal touch that these people bring to the selling game. So it’s not as easy as Cabernet or no Cabernet, native yeasts or designer yeasts, French barrique or chestnut botti. It’s just all simple and black and white.

When I first went to Calabria in 1977 and visited my family in Bucita, it was harvest time. I’ve written elsewhere about that experience on the blog. I didn’t elaborate on the experience but now I would like to do so.

Many have had a wine that was an epiphany. If you haven’t yet had it, be patient, you will. In the past, when someone would ask me what my epiphany wine was, I’d search back and come up with all kinds of examples. The 1964 Monfortino. The 1935 Taylors Port. The 1974 Heitz Martha’s. The 1961 Lafite. The 1953 Petrus. The 1928 and 1929 Haut Brion. The 1928 D’Yquem. The 1968 Sassicaia. And so on.

But the wine that really was the one that turned the light on for me had been put up in a used beer bottle with a crown cap. It was in the wine cellar of my family, the one at the top of this post. My cousins brought me down in the evening after the meal, when the children had been put to bed and the women upstairs were busy (always) making something. We’d go into the cellar and empty bottles so they’d have them for the new vintage. They were not wealthy, but there was a lack of raw materials, so nothing was ever wasted. They weren’t poor. They had a washer and a dryer. Back home in those days, we didn’t. And they had a better car than I had. And a TV. We didn’t have TV because we didn’t want one. But the cars were old 1962’s, a Corvair and Falcon wagon. So to me my cousins were doing well. They just didn’t have enough bottles.

We sat down and after drinking a couple of demijohns of stout red wine, about 5 of us, one of the cousins went to a cabinet and brought out this little bottle of golden, murky wine. It was a Greco or a Moscato, I don’t remember the grape. But it was a late harvest dessert wine. My family loves sweet things. Those wonderful figs that are baked in their leaves, the cookies, chocolate and fruits, dripping with honey-sweetness. And by the way they unlatched the little cabinet and brought out the wine, I could sense this was important.

I loved how they accepted me. All too often everyone is too darn busy or angry to give a damn about anyone except for themselves. But in 1977 things were different. Things were slower. Not as many people lived in their own little reality bubble. No phones, no email, no blog rage, no tweet-spies. Just the sun in the morning, a day of work, two meals, a nap in the afternoon and in the evening after the last meal and the occasional passeggiata, a venture into the wine cellar. And here we were.

The wine: I still remember the smell. It was like the flower of a jasmine. Sweet, honey, a little edge of bitter, and the floral blousy exposure. The last thing I smelled something that wonderful was the perfume on the neck on my girlfriend when we were fourteen.

The taste: was a wisp of fruit, not enough acid to matter, but nothing awkward or out of balance. This was a wine pure and natural as it had been made for hundreds, if not thousands of years. It connected me to all of the people that had come before and made me feel like finally I had been born to something that I was meant to do, something I loved. It was my entrance interview that the god of wine had arranged with my cousins. It was test and celebration, certification and baptism all rolled up in one. It was the choice that was being given to me for a vocation of a lifetime.

And now, entering into the fourth decade of this work. All around us there is tension and stress and warehouses and wineries filling up with wine. Where will it go? Who will drink it? How will we ever get it all out of the cabinet in the cellar and turn on the light for all those many souls for whom the epiphany awaits?

As it has been since the days of the Chaldeans making wine for the Egyptians, so it is 4,500 years later. One precious bottle at a time.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Wine Guise

About once a month I get together with “the guys.” These fellows are successful, well connected members of the business and political community in my city. I don’t know how I got invited to join their group; I think it was my friend Hank who was trying to load up with another Italian American. And I occasionally have “access” to good wine. But these guys didn’t need me.

At first, I wondered about the get-togethers. It usually centered around a wine theme. Bordeaux, Chilean reds, Burgundy, Barolo, Napa Cabs, and so on. And while in any given day I might taste up to 100 wines and the last thing I might want to do is sit around and drink more wine, for some reason I just gave in to this monthly ritual. I’m glad I did.

Hank - Entrepreneur and world adventurer

Hank is the instigator of this gathering. Not quite a salon, and not just a bunch of horny old men talking about good looking younger women, although that isn’t off limits. No, I have been trying to figure out why we really get together. Oh we eat well and drink good wine. We, or rather they, talk about local politics and business. It has been an education for me to listen and learn about the city I have lived in for 30 years. A city which I barely know. And a city which doesn’t have the slightest idea about me. So very odd to write these words and very hard to acknowledge the truth in them. But it is so.

Phil – Restaurateur and land mogul

These guys are a gut check for a certain rhythm that this city puts out.

Neal – Enigmatic urban revitalizer

When I was younger, I saw this city as a haven for opportunity and freedom. It has been that. For the guys in my group they have probably been a bit more astute in realizing and pouncing on these opportunities. Fortunes have been made and lost and made again.

Dave – Hospitality, marketing and media "diviner"

I think that is what attracted me to Dallas, an “anything is possible” attitude. Yes, I know folks in bigger cities or in more ecologically sensitive or more beautiful places might look at a city like Dallas and shake their heads and think this here place is bright and shiny and shallow. Yes, it does look like that from the outside. But things aren’t always as they appear, especially when gift wrapped so handsomely.

Hank left today to go on a three month adventure to that starts in Riga, Latvia, and ends in New Delhi, India, on September 14. He'll be blogging here about it. He and his brave wife will go to Uzbekistan, Kyzgystan, Western China, the Taklamakan (translates to “go in and you won’t come out”) Desert, following The Silk Road to Tibet. They will cross the Himalayan Mountains to Nepal, and finally travel to India and home to Dallas.

I asked Hank why he chose Dallas. He can live anywhere, and for most of the year he does. Hank is a straight talker, no b.s. kind of guy. Simply, he said Dallas was small enough to have friends and large enough to find whatever he needed when he wasn’t exploring the world. A great place to come home to.

Me, I'm tackling the wine trail in Italy and Hank is taking on the Taklamakan Desert, the Silk Road and the Himalayas. I’ve got nothing to gripe about.

When the wine guys get together, drinking a vertical of the Old Hill Zin from Ravenswood going back to 1991, with that marvelous Lasagna al ragu Bolognese from Nonna followed by a three meat platter from Cobb Switch BBQ, I know it isn’t always about the wine. Or the food.

But I don’t see us resorting to drinking 2 Buck Chuck and eating a Whopper when we get together. We all like good things too much. What I have found, in this short time together, is something very hard to find in today’s modern world. It’s a group of men who have taken pleasure in the conviviality of brotherhood, under the guise of wine and food.

And that has been a gift that this city has given to all of us fathers, not just on Father's Day.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Learn to Forget

You have a wine placed before you. You might be a judge in a competition. Or you might simply be ordering a wine in a restaurant. In either case the wine is poured. Then, what do you do?

Most people look at the color and then move on to the aroma and the taste. But somewhere inside many of us is this little mental punch list. On it is memories, likes, dislikes, markers, highs and lows. Somewhere along the line many of us have gotten that punch list down to a narrow spectrum of what we like and are looking for in a wine. Just like people and foods and music.

With Italian wine, there is a fork in the road. One way says, stick to the tried and true (whatever that is for each person). The other way is this wild beach party where anything goes.

A man walks into a bar and the bartender hands him a taste of Barbera. The man pulls up his mental punch list:
• deep red color with intense violet hue
• raspberries, blueberries, strawberries blackberry, black cherries
• good acid structure
• low astringency
• lower level of tannins

The wine cannot seduce him, taunt him or convince him that it will be different. If so, it might come off as a flaw. And the dance is over.

“Your brain seems bruised with numb surprise,” the ancient song goes.

Just once, try and approach a wine you think you know really well and imagine you have lost your memory of it. Maybe that is the essence of blind tasting. But instead of trying to find markers, imagine this is the first time any wine has ever passed your lips.

Learn to forget.

It goes counter to what many Italian wine experts think they should do. They prefer to “speak in secret alphabets” as the same song continues. It’s the battle of the prefrontal cortex, memory vs. attention.

I’d love to know what someone like Roberto Paris might think about this. At this time Roberto is in the middle of a 10 day meditation retreat in India. I reckon it probably isn’t high on his punch list right now. But the clarity of his mind, after ten days, yes, I’d like to know his thoughts.

Suggestion: Next time you open a bottle of Chianti or Valpolicella, any wine really, instead of trying to figure out what it is and how it fits into those neat little boxes inside your mind, turn your mind loose and let it wander over the wine. Imagine the experience that wine might be, if you could learn to forget.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Bittersweet Memories

Eight years ago, I spent several weeks in Pantelleria. I had once been invited to the island in 1971 but never made the trip. In 2001 I finally made it. I rented a dammuso, one of the thick stone houses that characterize the island. I had a motor scooter and a supply of wine from a friend who had a winery there. My wife had died a few months before and I was verklempt from the battle she waged for three years and the ultimate loss. She had the real MS, multiple sclerosis. I cannot tell you how much I despise that disease. More than anything.

I had wine to drink and a little kitchen to cook in. I spent the days tooling around the island looking at the vineyards and other natural sights. In all, it was as good a way of mourning Liz’s loss as I could muster. There was a funeral on the island when I was there; a young person had lost their life in the sea. We were all sad that day.

The island had great seafood and ice cream. I started jogging there. I still eat seafood and ice cream. And I still jog. And of course, the Passito di Pantelleria is a very special wine to me, because of the bittersweet memory of the time I spent on the island.

I heard this song the other day on the Prairie Home Companion, by the Australian alt-country duo Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson. The song is an old American country one, called “When we're gone, long gone.”

Trouble, we have known trouble
In our struggle just to get by
Many times the burden's been heavy
Still we carried on side by side

And when we're gone long gone
The only thing that will have mattered
Is the love that we shared
And the way that we cared
When we're gone, long gone

And when we're walking together in glory
Hand in hand through eternity
It's the love that will be remembered
Not wealth, not poverty

And when we're gone long gone
The only thing that will have mattered
Is the love that we shared
And the way that we cared
When we're gone, long gone

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A Handful of Fun - DOCG Dessert Wines from Italy

I’ll admit that of the eleven twelve DOCG wines that can be sweet...

• Recioto di Gambellara
• Recioto di Soave
• Montefalco Sagrantino Passito
• Elba Aleatico Passito
• Brachetto D'Acqui
• Moscato d'Asti
• Moscato di Scanzo
• Colli Orientali del Friuli Picolit
• Ramandolo
• Barolo (Chinato)
• Albana di Romagna Passito
* Recioto della Valpolicella (New)
...three I have never delighted in having.

The Elba Aleatico Passito and Moscato di Scanzo are the newest of the DOCG dessert wines. I regret to say that those two along with the Recioto di Gambellara I haven't had the opportunity to pop the corks on.

Which ones have you had?

Actually there are wines that have never made it to DOCG status that I have had and loved. The Sicilian wines from Marsala, Pantelleria and Lipari are favorites in my house. I also love the Vini Maculani such as Torcolato and Dindarello, from Vespaiola and Orange Moscato grapes. And the oddities that pass my way, from the sherry like Passito from Chambave to the botrytised whites from Abruzzo. What else? Anyone lucky enough to get inside the ancient caves below Orvieto will find the original Orvieto, done up in a thick syrupy style. And of course the Vin Santo from Tuscany and beyond.

It seems that almost everywhere one goes in Italy there is a winemaker who has a hidden barrel of something dolce e delicioso. The Italians love sweet wines, which explains how almost 25% of all DOCG wines are.

I have written elsewhere of wines that are now dry which started out thick and rich and high in residual sugar. Amarone and Sagrantino first come to mind. Amarone has kept the older tradition alive with their Recioto and Sagrantino has a Passito version also available. It is wonderful to drink this wine and to contemplate the Italians drinking those 200 years ago, a nice way to time travel from the lazy boy in the living room.

What dessert wines have you had from Italy that you love? Give us a holler, leave us a note.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

OOPArt: Food & Wine Marriage Celebration

An out-of-place artifact (OOPArt) is a term coined by American zoologist and cryptozoologist Ivan T. Sanderson for an object of historical, archaeological or paleontological interest found in a very unusual or seemingly impossible context, according to the ubiquitous Wiki.

This week, we enlarged that definition to include culinary/agricultural objects, at least for the case of the post.

I spent a day working the market with a young man with Hollywood good looks, Andrea Lonardi, who along with being director of winemaking for Gruppo Italiano Vini, also fancies himself a dashing musketeer in la cucina (I had more than one woman come up to me that day who wanted to invite him over to their place to sharpen their knives; sorry ladies, he’s married). 

Andréa was in town to kick off the release of his special project in Puglia, Castello Monaci. We had the NegroAmaro Rosé, called Kreos, the regular NegroAmaro, Maru and a duo of Primitivos.

But we got to talking about the Romanesco artichoke salad that Sharon Hage is making at York Street from locally supplied chokes. I have read that most artichokes grown in California are variations on the Globe variety. During forays into Southwestern Louisiana, locals have told stories of legendary artichoke plantations. Now in Dallas, we have a local source and Sharon matches it up with fennel and arugula. Wonderful dish. I was lamenting that artichoke is a hard food to match with wine. Andrea pops up and says, the Bianco Basilicata from Re Manfredi, an unusual blend (for the South) of Muller Thurgau and Traminer aromatico, is a great match. And voila, out of the wine bag the bottle of white appears. You know what? He was right. I have long been a fan of this wine and now with the food, I have found one of the great wine and food matches of 2009. So see, there is good news coming out of this year. And all from this juxtaposition of a seemingly out of context food with grapes grown also in a place where they aren’t thought to come from.

The younguns' like to eat; how do they stay so slim?

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Making Dining Out "In" Again

In the wine and food business we are a little like social anthropologists. There is something about the search for the best pizza, the ripest peaches, the home cured salumi and the perfect little café in the neighborhood. When it really gets down to it, the fancy wine list and the latest trend, from molecular gastronomy to collision cuisine, what I really want is a great bowl of pasta with a bottle of wine that I can enjoy and afford to drink regularly.

Easy enough to find in Italy. But we live in America. Ok, so we take it home and do it there. Yes, we can. But, but, but we all want to go out and have a nice time. A little recreation time at the table. Maybe that is what’s wrong with the way we look at dining in America. It started out as a special occasion and chefs and restaurateurs just keep trying to outdo the next guy. I see it all the time. Out in the suburbs a shopping center has erected a building to look like a gambling casino, complete with the fancy limo in front. The message is, “You cannot get this at home. Don’t even try. Sit back let us take care of you. Relax. You deserve it.”

Is that the direction Americans are going these days?

So where are we going? Everywhere you look, you see the words local and sustainable and organic and artisanal. Good ideas that have become buzz words to bandy about in building a brand that has no center. What good is it to get grass fed beef if the line cook over salts it? Organic peaches that find themselves in a perverse ménage à trois with blood oranges and jalapeno chutney? Why?

Talking with a couple of food journalists recently and the idea of the young chef came up. And the question was, “Does the young chef have anything to say with their food if they haven’t gotten enough life experience to be interesting with their creations?” Dining out wasn’t intended to be a reality show (unless it’s Hell’s Kitchen). The little CAFÉ sign I found on the street at midnight in Old East Dallas, oh how I would have loved to go back in time and see what was going on in that kitchen. This time, culinary archeology. And I find in the conversations around the table with friends, here and in Italy, we are looking for that wonderful Carbonara, that simply perfect Margherita, the espresso that one finds so easily in gas stations in Italy. Why is it so darn hard?

Wine lists. Working with several clients over the last few weeks, and really finding some very different opinions. But more and more I am seeing restaurant people rethinking the way they serve wine in their places. Less popular is buying a wine for $17 and reselling it for $65. The wave I have been seeing, in Houston, in Dallas and Austin, is that same wine on a blackboard for $39. You know at $39 a party of four will buy two bottles. At $65 they might nurse that bottle of wine. So the establishment sells one bottle and had $48 in gross profit. Selling two bottle for $39 and they have $44 to work with. A smaller profit? Yes. A happier clientele? Most assuredly. And most likely to return sooner. This is a wave that is coming from San Francisco, from Southern California, New York, and Texas is right there, too, with these ideas. This is exciting stuff for the wine producers back in Italy who have a storeroom full of wine right now.

Maybe that young couple who bought beer with their pizza or took it to-go to have with their Chianti at home can now have a reason to sit down in their neighborhood café and have wine instead of beer, dine-out instead of take-out. Maybe dining out might just come back in.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Seersucker, Foie Gras and Amarone

To celebrate the end of May, which was an hellacious month for the wine world, Paul and Annette DiCarlo graciously opened up their home in East Dallas for a Sunday afternoon of eating and drinking. Summer is bearing down upon us, a time which we find ourselves embroiled in heat and heated debate about almost anything. Tempers flare, lines are drawn in the sand, swords are sharpened, clocks are set. But not before one last meal. One last great meal.

Sausage Paul had called me. “You coming?” I reply, “Hi Paul. Yeah, I’m coming. What? Where?” I was dreading that I had forgotten a tasting or an appointment, so I was ready to bolt out the door, one week in advance. I happened to be in Way west Fort Worth, so I figured I’d show up late and make an appearance. “Next, week, the Amarone dinner. My house.” The line goes dead. My friend Paul, isn’t one for long good-byes.

But I was spared. It was in a week, so I had time to get back (and over) the meal I had just had, which was this larger-than-life chicken fried steak. You had to be there, it was one of those road-house food places that are rapidly disappearing in Texas and probably anywhere else.

One week, later, I have had time to prepare. Exercise, fasting, high colonic. Hey, you don’t go to Paul and Annette’s house and “pick” at eating. You feast. And in today’s time when everyone is trying so hard to be frugal and inauspicious, this would be a little over the top. It always is. Some of the best chefs and restaurateurs in town would be there, so this wouldn’t be a time to say no.

We get there in time for a round of sparkling rose wine from the Veneto, all the rage now that they have saturated the market with Prosecco. I brought a bottle of Gruner just to be a contrarian. I figured after I blasted it in the last post, and some of the somms were chiding me for hating on the Gruner. Actually I like Gruner. And Zweigelt. But that’s another post.

Anyway, we get to the house and Sharon Hage of York Street is heating up a skillet for the foie gras. We were eating those things like catechumens sucking up Necco® wafers. We were getting ready for the miracle of the wine, so why not?

Major Domo Adelmo was modeling his newly acquired seersucker shorts, which showed off his tanned and muscle-bound legs, gained from his early morning walks (stalks?) in the neighborhood. Adelmo is irreverent to anything that has been established as a custom. Wine in a wine glass? Why? When it is so much more fun to pour a rare Casa dei Bepi Amarone in a jelly glass? It was Sunday, these restaurant owners work, work, work all the time. Son of a gun never rests. Let him be.

The room was getting crowded what with the short ribs and the foie gras and the pasta course all heating up the kitchen, which is where everyone was congregating. The AC unit was on overload, set at 60. The room felt like 80+. Seersucker was a good idea, after all.

So after the foie gras apps and all the other salumi scattered around the room, we head straight into the pasta course, some funny looking maccherone with those wonderful baby tomatoes from the south. Simple and good food. Great with the Valpolicella lined up in pole position, waiting for their moment. Also waiting for those Amarones to chill down a little, nestled in the fridge with the dessert wine and the Dublin Dr. Pepper (after all, we are in Texas).

About the Amarones: Quintarelli '97 and '98, Dal Forno '01, Tedeschi '03, Masi '01, Viviani 'Casa dei Bepi' '01.

Good Lord!

We started with the Masi Mazzano 2001. What, do you want a tasting note?
It was a good start. Kind of that old memory of Amarone from 30 years ago when the wines made were rustic with a little stink. Not too ripe, the funk was in check. How can I say it? Attractive but not sexy.

The Tedeschi Amarone "Fabrisieria" ’03 was more like a Recioto than any of them. This reminded me of the wines I read about in the past about Amarone, really a time trip. I would have like o try this wine when it was winter and we were eating polenta and a big slab of meat. But it was good.

The 2001 Viviani “Casa dei Bepi” was among my faves. Maybe because the folks are familiar. But the wine had nice body, solid flavors, some elegance, the wood was subdued (thank God) and it complimented the food. Deelish.

The Dal Forno 2001. It reminded me of a Pontiac GTO that restaurateur Van Roberts once bought and had the engine stoked up to 600 horsepower. Lot’s o’ pony in that bottle. And definitely a show pony. And a high maintenance one at that. At $400 a pop, yeah it is. Thanks loads to Paul for ponying up and sharing it.

And the twin vintages of Quintarelli, the ’97 and ’98. Now that was the moment of meditation for me. Everybody loves the ’97, the fruit, the power, the big balls. I get it. Or rather, I don’t get it for me. It was all that and a bag of chips, but the wine of the night, for me, was the 1998 from Quintarelli.

There are far better places to compare and analyze the two vintages, 1997 and 1998. For me, having them both there, sitting and staring at me, was great. Wonderful. I just found the 1998 to have this restraint, you know like when a gorgeous woman comes in to the room and she so seductively doesn’t show you her body with the way she dresses but you nonetheless get stirred up? That was what the 1998 did to me. ‘Nuff said.

Ok, so this has been a bit of a mommy blog with seersucker and expensive wines thrown in. Not bragging. Celebrating. May was a tough, tough month for the wine business. We’re going to need more than a new set of tires to get ourselves dusted up and back on the wine trail, in Italy or Texas.

Pass the tiramisu, per favore.

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