Thursday, October 27, 2011

"In Texas you still live in a happy country."

Two-stepping across Texas with Marco Bacci

Marco Bacci with Damian Mandola near Austin, Texas

How does one top a week of Italian wine in New York? How about piling in a car with an Italian and his wine and traveling across the state from Dallas to Austin, and then to Houston and back to Dallas, in four days? That was my mission this week, back home in Texas with the Tuscan Marco Bacci and wines from two of his properties in Montalcino and the Maremma.

I have just about resigned myself that as long as I deal with Italian wines I will be dealing with Tuscany. And I say that not with a sense of resignation, although it sounds that way, but as an inevitable acceptance of the realities of the wine business in Italy. Tuscany has a lot to say about the way wine from Italy is perceived and they represent a huge portion of the wine made in Italy that comes to America and the rest of the world – correction – Fine wine made in Italy – because Tuscany is a leader and they have a pole position in the high stakes race to make Italian wine seen and thought of as the finest wines in the world.

Dallas - Oak Cliff - Lucia's
It doesn't take a lot of convincing for me to know Italy is an important player in the world of wine. And while I hear a lot of nonsense, from wine buyers to salespeople to folks on the floors of restaurants claiming that Italian wines are too complicated for most people, some of those same people can wax the glories of Diamond Mountain versus Spring Mountain. Talk about making a mountain out of a molehill! None the less, those who really discover their love for wine cannot afford to sweep Italy under a rug – or if so, they do it at their own peril, for Italy is not that complicated – it just takes a little patience and understanding of the subtle nuances that are packed into every nook and cranny in the vinous landscape of Italy.

Marco Bacci is now safely on a plane back to Italy as I write this, but I wore his Tuscan behind out this week in Texas, driving him across Texas and putting on 1,000 miles in four days. Along the way we hit the various cities, met with buyers , took some of them to lunch and then went on to do the dreaded winemaker dinners. 14-18 hour days, with little room to rest. Wine, dine and sign on the dotted line. We came to taste, to sample and to sell, baby sell! Because it is O-N-D and that’s what wine warriors do.

Dallas - sales meeting
Marco was a good sport, submitting to my form of hazing those who want to work the market. I’ve done it dozens of times with market hopefuls, from reps to owners, from winemakers to counts – no class escapes the “week in a car with the Italian wine guy” rite of passage. Resistance is futile.

To top it off, this week Texas is all aflutter with the World Series – possibly for the first time in history a Texas baseball team has a chance of winning it. So there have been a few distractions – Texas is all about Beef, Baseball and Beer – and we were out there this week trying to make Texas all about Beef, Baseball and Brunello.

Dallas - Oak Cliff - Lucia's
Day 1 Dallas- Monday night – the Texas Rangers won their third game – meanwhile 30 friends and clients enjoyed the wines of Renieri and Talamo paired with David Uyger’s cooking at Lucia. Stellar performance by all; the Rangers, Bacci’s wines and Lucia’s comestibles. Day one was veddy veddy good to us.

Austin - Four Season's - Trio
Day two- After a very early breakfast meeting in Dallas, Marco and I hightailed it to Austin for a pre-lunch appointment and tasting, followed by a luncheon at Trio in the Four Seasons. Once again several of the superstar sommeliers were not in attendance (ahem, Mark and June, I have come to your town many times lately, and you all have been regular no-shows – what? Didn’t you get the invites?) . Meh, those who showed up, we had a marvelous time. My old pal John from the Austin Wine Merchant didn’t let me down – old friends know what their old friends need- thanks John and all the young’uns who showed up too. Great wines paired with Todd Duplechan's cooking – Day two – all veddy veddy good, so far.

Austin - Vino Vino
After a happy hour for our local sales team ( you guys rock!) at Vino Vino in Austin, Marco and I mad-dashed it through the Austin rush hour traffic to Driftwood Texas and a wine dinner by Damian Mandola’s team at the Trattoria Lisina. An impressive array of salumi, pasta and carne awaited us – the trifecta of a perfect wine dinner – and we were well out of the snares of any baseball fever – it was all about the wine and food – Marco was starting to get the idea that there is life – big time – outside of Tuscany.
Driftwood, Texas - Trattoria Lisina

Day three – I found Marco near the UT campus drenched in sweat at around 7:30 AM. “We have to leave in 30 minutes, Marco. We have an appointment at 11 in Houston with Marcy at the Houston Wine Merchant. I do not want to be late.”

Highway 290 was a flash in the rear view mirror – knowing that we were going through BBQ Mecca didn’t make it any easier. “Hey, Marco, there’s City Meat Market,” I noted as we rolled though Giddings. City Markets signature meat is the pork Boston butt and the pork ribs smoked over post-oak wood. Too bad it was so early and we were running late. Another time.

Houston - Coppa
Houston – We make it to Marcy and HWM and taste – then on to Coppa for a small wine lunch – Guy Stout just flew in from Cincinnati on his way to Dallas. During lunch, Marco was talking to the salespeople and the clients and remarked, “In Texas you still live in a happy country." It takes one from another place to remind us of our fortune, eh?

Houston - Spec's
We broke bread. And emptied glasses. And sold some more wine, before heading out for more appointments (including a visit to Spec's and Joseph Kemble, the Italian wine buyer for the chain) and a happy hour with our sales team in Houston. Busy days.

Cooper's in Llano - sadly missed this time
At days end, I promised I’d find Marco some BBQ and an outdoor seat, so we could enjoy the balmy autumn weather in Houston. So-so BBQ (compared to where we just drove through earlier that day) but it had some outdoor seating and ashtrays (for the Havana’s he brought with him). Houston was buzzing with a new crop of mosquitoes, who feasted upon my garlic laden skin. Only fair, as I have been feasting all week in Texas and the week before in New York.

Marco and I sat outside and talked over our week. It had been a busy one, and we still had to drive back to Dallas. In the meantime, we noted our many appointments; the many assurances made to us and how we were going to come up with all the wine that folks had promised us they were going to buy. Only a 14 hour day this time. Let’s see, Monday was a 16 hour day, Tuesday was 18 and Wednesday only 14. That’s 48 hours in three day – about right for O-N-D.

Tasting in Dallas
Day 4 Houston to Dallas – slept in didn’t have to leave until 8:45 for a Dallas lunch and then Marco to the airport – Piece of cake. All in a week’s work

And they say we have the life. I say yes – we have the life we chose. I hope you chose the one you wanted – as for me, this week, pulling corks,  I made the world safer for Italian wine this week. Now to plan next week’s victories.


tom hyland said...


A very entertaining post- Marco is a great guy and his wines are first-rate. Excellent photos throughout, especially the one of Marco and Damian.

Alfonso Cevola said...

thanks, Tom!

Tracie P. said...

i'm worn out just reading that! glad you survived, it's rough out there.

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