Sunday, May 29, 2011

Palermo: Baptism, Confirmation and Shotgun Wedding

The first Sicilian wines I had in Palermo were in restaurants. I have memories of being in a place with family and they brought a bottle of Corvo Rosso. My first taste of nerello. It was a wine from the 1960’s. At one point later in time in the 1990’s I had a bottle of the 1964. It was luscious. Corvo, luscious? You raise an eyebrow? Well, let me tell you in those days, most Sicilian wine was naturally delicious. Sun kissed, ripe and ready.

I had just turned 20, and was immersed in Sicily ala natural. Baptism, confirmation and shotgun wedding all at once.

Later on in the 1990's I would find a bottle of 1971 Gattopardo rosso in an enoteca on the Adriatic. It was as if 1971 was still trailing me, making sure I stayed on course, initiated in that gestation period in August, in Palermo, in 1971.

Yes, yes, yes. I wasn’t going to stray. My Sicilian godfather wouldn’t let me. I would be a good soldier for the wines from Sicily. And when they tasted like those early wines, it set my inner sensibilities in a way that cause me to keep looking for them today.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Midwives of Palermo

in search of Marsa Allah

Where did you go? We were worried about you!” My Aunt Vitina thought something had happened to me out in the streets of Palermo. And indeed it had. I witnessed my birth in an ancient bodega, filled with Marsala and surrounded by the midwives of Palermo. I was too invigorated to even speak; she must have seen the look on my face. “Thank God you are alright, if anything had ever happened to you, I don’t know what I would tell Alfonso and Giulia.”

I would slip out again and again. And for the next moments, months, years even, I would go back into that delivery room in the quiet little alley, filtered with shade and sunlight, and sit there, listening to the barrels tell me their history.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Palermo: The Invisible Prints

Love in the time of Catarratto

The front has been perched above the city for days now. Hot, humid, hovering. Stalled. All the while I have been locked in the time machine, trapped in another place and era, Palermo in 1971. And while I go back there to retrieve an image or a memory, this time I am walking the streets in August, alone, invisible, camera in hand. What will I bring back this time?

Pictures, poetry, imprints from a time that seemingly was just yesterday. As time will have it, it was nearly half a century ago, mind boggling to grasp something like that. But the tunnel of life shreds time as the wind blows hot and steady across the Sicilian plains.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Two Most Important Words

A package arrived today. Sort of auspicious. A gift from a secret admirer? A promo puff piece from a P.R. company trying to sell me on writing a blog post for a mango flavored vodka?

I opened the box. And saw two wordsNeiman Marcus - good start. Then I opened it.

And saw two more words - Armani Collezioni – even better. It was a beautiful shirt, black and grey pattern (which I am favoring these days) gorgeous shirt and one that I would never think of buying for myself. Not because it isn’t beautiful and wonderful. It is. I’m just a bit more frugal. But I’ll take it!

And then I saw the two most important wordsThank You – from a couple who recently traveled to Italy. I had the pleasure of setting them up on a dream tour of Piedmont – some of my favorite places – three days in Nebbiolo country with many wonderful doors opened – a tour I would have taken, gladly, if I hadn’t just been there. But my friends at the wineries stood up and took care of my new friends.

The couple, a doctor Phil (no, not that one) and his wife and their friends, another couple, asked me to set them up. Friends of the CEO of my company, and mellow cool, LA folks. But man, the card, with those two words, thank you, that really made my day.

I put together trips for folks all the time and once in a while I get a note. Or a personal thank you like I got the last couple of days from friends here in my home town who were just in Italy and visited places I set them up with. And I love to do it for my friends. But these kind folks, I really didn't know. And you never know how deep they want to go or how much the visit will mean to them. It looks like it really clicked this time. Which makes this Italian wine guy Very Happy. And I gotta say “Thank You” to Dr. Phil and his wife for the thoughtful gesture. And an even bigger "Thank You" to all the winery folks who made it possible.

And I am really loving the new Armani addition in the closet. I might even wear it next week in Austin for the big shindig.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Lionello's Brunello & Luigi's Limoncello

Have you ever wondered what it must be like to be someone else? In this case, that someone else being Lionello Marchesi, the globetrotting wine mogul, who doesn’t know a stranger, or isn’t shy about giving a pretty woman a hug or even a kiss.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Palermo and the Invisible Man

Passing through a cloud of unknowing

Notes from a journal, not about my grandfather, but my great grandfather. In Palermo. He died before I ever knew about him. But one day many years ago, in the family home on Via Roma in old Palermo I was introduced to him in a vision. It was August and all of Sicily was an inferno. The road outside my window was filled with noise and smoky little Vespas filling the air with all manner of intrusions. I was feeling queasy and disoriented. An omelet I had eaten near Alcamo hadn't set well with me. That, and the sizzling heat. My aunt would bring me water with anisette in it, cloudy, cool, refreshing, soothing. But my stomach was a mini Etna.

Montalcino Deja Vu: What a Difference a Generation Makes

From the Archives while the Invisible Man prepares the bandages

In 1984 Montalcino was a sleepy little hamlet

Sometimes, it seems I don’t throw anything away. There are some who would say I never let things go. From the tossing and turning the other night (was it the buffalo steak or the stake in the heart?) I couldn’t argue. But, with the grace of patience and the hope of wisdom, some of the bumps on the wine trail might eventually smooth out.

This has been a long, arduous month. I thought after Christmas we’d get a respite. But the history of January, in my life, hasn’t been one of rest and reflection. More like throw some more wood on the fire, let’s crank it up in here, 'cause we aren’t through yet.

So, there we are.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Mom, Apple Pie and Throwing the Italian Wine Goomba from the Train

So you make wine or you write or you bake and you think there is more. You think you want to take it from a hobby or an advanced passion to the streets. You start marketing your wine, you sell a piece here and there, you start selling your apple pies to the local cafe.

And then, late one night, you actually think you can take the giant step. Outside of your norm. Maybe even make the big change. Make a living doing it, full time. But you need a boost, a validation from something larger, something "out there." You think you need to win greater approval before you jump.

If you make wine or write or bake or engage in any activity, you might think to enter a competition. Or someone might nominate you for one. It happens all the time. Full time professionals are lauded all the time. The Nobel, the Pulitzer, the Oscars. People love to compete. And win.

How many times have wine-sellers in my field gone to their clients and told them, "It won a Gold Medal in the Orange County Fair"? How often I have looked to see which science fiction writer won the Hugo Award. Or the Nebula. Or if both, slam dunk into my shopping cart.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Salumi, Dolcetto and Sophie

With one of my long standing friends, I was having one of those conversations. No filters. Carne cruda. Maybe it’s a guy thing, no maybe about it. It’s a guy thing. Men love to hunt wines down and conquer them. Women like to get “into” a wine. I know, I know, gross exaggeration, but to my point with my dear friend, we were talking about our two favorite things, women and wine.

“It’s that whole thing you have about the dumb DOCG list. Ace, who cares?” My friend had me. I don’t know why I followed something that was destined to be a dead end. I had to remind him that was exactly what he had done with the last three women in his life. Yep, we like to throw ‘em hard and right into the middle of the strike zone.

“So what is it, are you going to try and sell me that our tastes in wine and women are parallel?” He was going somewhere with this. I hadn’t quite thought of it that way, but my pal was on to something.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

A 21st Century Gastaldi

Alessandro Masnaghetti
Readers familiar with these pages know I have a fondness for maps. One of my favorite links is Frank Jacob’s Strange Maps, a quirky and endlessly entertaining site. I love maps. My current afflication to note all the DOCG wines of Italy is matched only by the map made to cover this little piece of human folly by the brilliant Italian architect, Annito Abate, who has mapped all the current 65 Italian DOCG wines. Maps are the foreplay of travel. Maps often lead one to treasures. Once, when I was in the office of a lawyer I spied a map of the New World and took a look at it. On the map I saw my family name, Cevola, and immediately knew the lawyer would be able to help me. The area on the map covered parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. We found gold.

Real Time Analytics