Thursday, March 17, 2011

Blitzing with Barbaresco

What goes with BBQ besides Babaresco? How about a little 1990 Ridge Montebello for starters?
You’ve gotta love a guy like Aldo Vacca, who gets off a plane straight from Italy, and heads right into a situation that requires him to be “on”. Not that being at my home on a Sunday is exactly something you have to shine your wing tips for, but nonetheless, there he was, at the front door with bottles of his 2005 single vineyard Barbarescos, ready to get after some Texas BBQ, classic Caesar salad and King Ranch chicken casserole.

The idea for the week was for Aldo to come into Texas and swing his way from Dallas through Austin (right smack dab in the middle of SXSW) and ending up in Houston. By now he is readying to go to Colorado, but an intense few days it has been for one of the hardiest working men in the wine business.

Aldo answering Larry and Betty Mendiola's question @ Jimmy's
I love how Aldo goes from place to place, answering what must be the same questions, with zeal and enthusiasm. And real information. On Monday, at our usual watering hole, the Circolo del Vino (the back room of Jimmy’s) a sold out room peppered Aldo with intelligent, thought provoking questions. About Barbaresco! I thought I had died and gone to Heaven, thinking about all the years I have been plowing these fields wondering if we were ever going to get a crop. Well, the consumers, the end users, the folks who drink the stuff, they are there. Thank God. I was just thinking it was time to ask for a transfer to West Texas to work the Alpine-Marfa-Presidio route.

What goes with single vineyard Barbaresco? Meatball sliders, of course!
I know it pains Sausage Paul a little when I get touchy feely with him. But as we were settling up on a few matters the other day, I had his attention. Between the recent dinner for Aldo and the folk music night a week ago, this little vortex called Jimmy’s makes it all the reason more for me to want to come home from my more than occasional travels. I got a little misty eyed and had to stop talking to catch my composure. Paul got a little nervous, said maybe I shouldn’t talk about it. But I pressed on, it was important for me to show the people I care about how much, how really, really much, all this means to me. To have a place where people come, gather, for God’s sake wait in line, to listen, to sip, to eat, to celebrate, to revel in the joy of Italian wine, man there aren't many places like that in my world. So again, a huge thank you to the Di Carlo family for this wonderful little place in the old ‘hood.

At Pogo's, with old friend and owner Harris Polakof

Centennial's super sommelier, Scott Barber intensely engaged in Nebbiolo-speak with Aldo

Nonna's Italo-centric Sommelier, Sergio, feeling the Old-World wine love

Grailey's - Owner Simon and super-blogger AJ getting their Moccagatto groove on
Earlier in the day we made the rounds visiting many of those interested in wines like these. All very receptive, all very interested. Planting seeds. It is Spring after all.

But the night before was magical too. It was one of those perfect Texas evenings, where we could keep the doors open and we wouldn’t be invaded by flies or mosquitoes and we could just enjoy the gentle breeze. The BBQ was awesome, the King Ranch chicken casserole was iconic and the Caesar, although it probably isn’t as classic as the way they still make it down Tijuana way, it sung. One of my guests, who owns an Italian spot (that recently received the highest accolade from a restaurant reviewer with the highest expectations in a restaurant), she went back for seconds and thirds. And as in the case with any leftover greens, my son took the remainder home, presumably to share with his gorgeous lady. I’m sure she went after the casserole, as Rafael usually doesn't like to share his veggies. Really love that guy. My spinach-loving son.

Michael Flynn and Brad Murano - boy's night off
The ever-affable Michael Flynn from the Mansion on Turtle Creek (another 5 star review from, you know who) was also on hand with his (and our) buddy Brad Murano, the Italo-American media whiz kid and food (and scene) lover par excellence. These two guys make a room calm and excited at the same time. Great energy.

Guests David and Jennifer Uyger  ( who actually had a day off) brought their calm and bubbly sides too as well as a delicioso hunk of homemade salumi to go with the Barbaresco. I know it’s a cliché but, Good Times!

And while I do love me some Barbaresco (and Ridge Montebello) with my BBQ, sometime there’s nothing better than an ice-cold beer. At the end of the day, we are in Texas.

Thanks everybody for a memorable couple of days. It was awesome. Buon lavoro, Aldo, grazie 1000! See you next month in Italy.

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