Sunday, January 30, 2011

My Dinner with Carmen: The Sequel

People love stories. And I’m no exception. I adore a good story, especially from a master storyteller, like my pal Carmen Castorina. I love his energy, his sense of wonder in things, his early adopter mentality. In fact Carmen is one of the few people I can talk to about things as diverse as politics, wine, photography, technology and talk and talk for hours. We don’t argue, we talk. And talk. And I love to listen. Who can resist when the stories being told are so damn entertaining?

So when we met again for the second year in New York for Vino2011 I knew we were going to have dinner together. Anyone who read the entry from last year, My Dinner with Carmen, might already know a little about the guy. But this year, we aimed to blow it out. And blow 2010 away. And we did.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Great Whiteoutpocalypse of 2011

Despite the foul weather (after all, it is January and winter!) this week in NY has been another great week of networking and celebrating all things Italian. The Italian Trade Commission took it “over the top” this week, with a stellar lineup of seminars and superstars to present. Their web site is "fully socialized” and the young (and young at heart) who ran that part of the event really get social media and all the new stuff that very few people get. But like breathing or blood pumping, it comes pretty naturally for them and for all the early adopters of all ages. Great wines more than make up for foul weather, non e’ vero?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

How to sell your wine to America

This week in New York during the Italian Trade Commission event, Vino 2011, there will be many folks, from Italy and the USA, converging for several days of intensive Italian wine learning, tasting, and hopefully, selling. In the spirit of this event, this piece is posted in the hopes that I will be able to send folks to a place to answer the question, “How do I get into the American market?”

I keep getting emails from Italian wineries and their agents who seem to think that just having good wine is enough. Once again, I am going to lay out the roadmap for them with how I think they should approach selling wine in America. In this post, in no way am I attempting to disrespect anyone in Italy. Actually I am attempting to give you a million dollars’ worth of advice from one who deals with this on a daily basis and has done so for many years. The main fault with this advice is that is it unsolicited and it is free. And as everyone knows, volunteered advice at no cost carried with it is of no value. But I am an idealist and, if for no other reason, I can direct the hundreds of people who knock on my door (or blast me with email) if the conversation should go beyond the delete button.

You have a beautiful wine. It has hundreds of years of tradition. It embodies innovation. It belongs to a wealthy or powerfully connected family in Italy that has influence in its society. In other words, it is a bulletproof formula for success. Right?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

3 Days, 2 Towns and a "Biblical Commute"

On and on and on and on and on the Italian trail again - Photo by Teresa Rafidi

My barking poodle buddy, Ron, likes to lampoon my blog name. I know it’s all in good spirit. If I didn’t feel that way I would have called my cousin Calogero in Sacramento to pay old Hostradamus a visit. But fortunately, for all of us, we didn’t have to go there.

No instead, I headed back onto the road this week, this time to Arkansas. I’ve been working my way up to New York and Friuli with forays into New Orleans and Little Rock, La Place and Fayetteville. This week was a great week, but cold, and snowy, and lots and lots of ice on the wine trail. That part wasn’t so fun.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Three Glasses

"Spill the wine ~ take that pearl"

The holidays have barely ended. It was a long work up from August until Dec 37th. And then back onto the road. This was the first week of many more to come, to work on growing the Italian wine business so many more folks may sleep well at night knowing there are those of us who are working long hours to keep the world safe for Italian wine. No matter how the Italians will manage to change direction in the next year or so.

Right now the Euro is relatively stable. People are coming out and eating and drinking and spending a little more, even in economically depressed areas. This past week I spent time in and around New Orleans. The smell of oil from the spill has gone, but the sting of the event lingers. People in this region are hurt. And they are emotional. You can tell by driving on the streets, if you are a cipher to those emotions, which, for better or worse, I am. But the spirit of the folk in this region is indomitable. Lots of resilience here. And a joy for life, even as we are on this little orb hurtling as some unimaginable speed through space as we are scattered in another direction at another totally unbelievable speed, by the galaxy whose teat we suckle at. And this, with the faint hint that in 5 billion or so years all will be nothing, not a grain of sand, not a speck of pepper. Wow, how’s that for an upbeat intro with a side of nihilism?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Aristocrat Sauce, Ubiquitous Alfredo & Pleonastic Paradoxes

"First introduced" in America ~Photo by Teresa Rafidi
During the holidays, many of us take to the country, to visit grandfathers and other relatives. One of the odd things about living in America is that wherever you go you will usually find a Chinese, a Mexican and an Italian restaurant. And last weekend, we did indeed find an Eye-talian restaurant in the unlikeliest of places.

Krugerville (population 903) is a bedroom community of Aubrey, which is a suburb of Denton, which is a little north of Dallas. We were invited to a birthday party for lunch and made the 45 minute trek from town.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

One of the best meals I had in Dallas in 2010

...wasn't Italian

At the end of the year, a small group of wine and food lovers gathered at one of the hottest scenes in town. Nosh? Close, but no cigar. La Fiorentina? I wouldn’t stake my bet on that guess. Lucia? Nice try, but that’s a half-baked guess.

No, this was an adventure into the French countryside, compete with oysters and Champagne, a duo of roasted ducks with winter root vegetables, a bevy of cheese and desserts and French wines, starting with Champagne. And while I love all the aforementioned restaurants that made their debut in 2010, this meal made a serious stab at five-star dining.

Friday, January 07, 2011

But they still lead me back...

...To the long and winding road.

In the real world, New Years day was almost a week ago. In the world of making numbers and getting everything taken care of, yesterday was the end of the year, December 37th.

This has been a long, long O-N-D. It started in August and finally ended, days into January. We are tired, but happy. Happy to see it over. But knowing it will start all over again. In fact I am packing my bags and will be on the move for the next few months.

Sunday, January 02, 2011


What is it about a person, or a wine, that makes them weather all kinds of adverse conditions? Why do some bounce back? Why do some fold? What makes one survive, while another, with possible lesser challenges, gives up, backs down, goes away?

I saw it yesterday with a friend. He is a little older than me, and his life hasn’t been the one people dream of. But it hasn’t been a total disaster either. He had a bad marriage, always working, away from the wife and kids. They didn’t know him as well as his clients. And one by one they drifted away from him. But it wasn’t an incurable situation.

I was steeped in incurable, ten years ago. My wife was days away from death, years had passed where she underwent all manner of disappointments. And then she was taken away. My life hasn’t been one people dream of either. Unless they were having a nightmare. But somehow, through that and other tests, here I am. Not bitter. Not spent. Not yet.

Real Time Analytics