Sunday, November 06, 2011

Finally, they are here.

This all started in 2005. Roberto Bava was in town and for some reason we were hanging out. I’m not really sure how we met, but I liked that he was interested in all the things around wine besides just trying to get me to buy a bunch. After all, his wines are from Piedmont, and in 2005 that category wasn’t exactly tearing it up. The events of Sept 11, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the worsening world financial slump, in its early stages then. Oh, and a miserable 2002 harvest and a hot, over ripe 2003. Along with that prices were rising, for less than perfect vintages, the demand was off and let’s just say Barolo and the other reds of Piedmont weren’t a hot commodity. But Roberto Bava was unphased.

But unphased not in a “Hey, we have a great tradition, and our wines are the best in the world and we are from ancient royal lineage” way. No Robert was interested in music, in visual patterns, in seemingly unmatched intangibles making a new expression of art or culinary achievement, or a new sound. Anything but Barolo. Or so it seemed.

He was cool about it, though. Never pushy. After our first visit, sitting around the kitchen table, drinking someone else’s wine, talking about politics and art and God knows what, he went back home. A year or so later, I visited him in Italy, on my way through Piedmont for a harvest visit. We met in Asti, had dinner, drank some of his wines. He didn’t have an established importer anyway, at the time, or that whole thing was in flux. Whatever. I wasn’t in a buying mood, yet. So he let out more line, gave me some space.

For the next three years I would visit Roberto at his booth at Vinitaly. As busy as that event is for me (5 days isn’t enough) I would always find time to spend 30 minutes with Roberto. I like him, we’d talk about art or food or jazz or anything under the sun; Roberto is nonlinear, so am I. We connected on that basis, an ethereal link but one which friendships are forged from. Every year he would show me a new cocktail from his famous line. One year it would be a Cocchi Americano, the next he would be doing something with the Chinato. His aperitvii concoctions are the current darling of the mixology set. Very trendy, very cool, just like Roberto. After a day or two of tannic, high alcohol Nebbiolo or Sangiovese, or worse, Merlot, a stroll into Pavilion #9 for a sip of something light would actually recalibrate my palate. And then there was always the conversation with Roberto, who would always make you feel like you were the only person in the world worth talking to. Never selling. Never. But doing all the right things to close the sale. Very cool. Very smart. Marketers, take note (Take 8 minutes to look at this wonderful film for even more insight into Roberto and how he interacts his wines with the rest of the world).

Roberto Bava and daughter Francesca
So when a mutual friend was putting together a new Italian restaurant with investors, and he had a little wriggle room with the wine list, he simply put all of Roberto’s wine on his list. And then proceeded to tell me I needed to order the wines of Bava. Simple as that. Roberto never had to ask for the order. One of his friends did that for him. Very, very cool.

Last night I went into the place, here in Dallas. A little spot, maybe 15 tables, maybe seating 60 people, max. Saturday night, 8 PM. The place was jumping. Standing room only. Somehow we got a table, a deuce by the wine room. And we ordered a couple of things to eat, after we ordered a bottle of the Libera Barbera. $38 on the list. A bargain.

A few months ago, I was in Milan and Roberto found out I was there, probably via Facebook. He messaged me to come up to the winery. They were celebrating 100 years. I was with a couple of colleagues and was slated to do other things. But I was sorry to have missed the event. Roberto is a conductor; he puts together people and events like a symphony. Unfortunately that night it rained, but I am sure he had an alternate plan. Anyway, I missed it. Last night I had my own celebration off to the corner of a new little Italian spot in an obscure corner somewhere in flyover country. But I could have just as easily been in Asti or Verona or New York, with Roberto. Because he doesn’t sell his wine, his wines speak to me in much the same way he does. They don’t scream. They talk in audible terms. They aren’t flashy, but they are full of style. I like them. And last night we finally welcomed Roberto Bava and his wines into our world, after six years of preparing and relationship building. Finally, they are here.

Real Time Analytics