Tuesday, July 31, 2012

An Encounter in the Bardo - The Mentor and the Longtimer

Walking along a hiking path, on the edge of the continent and from the neighboring northward country, the longtimer came upon a glen. The temperature was a cool 66° F. The breeze blowing from the straights that separated the two countries was refreshing but brisk. The glen offered a perfect lull from the rigors of hiking and the possibility of a little, stolen nap. After all, the old hand had worked many years and this was kind of a vacation. It would also be a point of reckoning.

Once ensconced upon a picnic blanket, and after a light meal and a sip of fresh rosé wine, he slumbered. And the dream came. And inside the dream the messenger appeared. And as with all messengers, there was a dispatch. It was meant to review the old timer’s working life, this life in wine, and deeper inside the world of Italian wine than all the other wines. And as it was a dream, there would be no escape, until all the material had been transmitted. It was more like a Grand Jury.

The courier took the form of a mentor, long gone, but one who had a similar trajectory, only the generation before. So, while it was meant to be unfiltered, it wasn’t unkind. But it was frank, this review of one’s life in work.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Priority Access

Last night I found myself in a most wonderful predicament. High in the hills of Marin County for a small concert, with people I didn’t know. Artists and musicians, many from the once-upon-a-time Soviet Union. Totally out of the realm I usually find myself in Texas, even though there are probably like-minded folks in my home town. It’s just that I don’t often run into them.

Musically, the evening was magical. It’s the kind of experience that makes me long for the California of my lost years, although I am realistic enough (or is it a Frank Zappaesque cynicism?) to imagine if I really lived here I wouldn’t feel quite the same way. That aside, in the moment, I loved it.

One of my host’s friends, who was working the video camera, came up to me. Light conversation ensued. I was a little gun-shy, as the last person I went up to, let’s call her Anna (she had reminded me of Alice) tolerated me for a while until she psychically dismissed me (or her introversion had had enough of being "outdoors"). In any case, with the new person in front of me, let’s call her Tina, I was polite and responded.

Something about writing about wine came up. “What is there to write about wine?” I don’t believe she meant it in a rude or defensive way. More out of curiosity. I then proceeded to channel my inner Gerard Asher.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Home Remedy, Bottle Variation and the Voice of the Master

From the "Two Geralds are better than one" dept.

Upon setting foot on the west coast, the 2nd time in a month, I am in awe of air that isn’t blisteringly hot. The California I knew as a child, the embracing breeze off the Pacific, is a welcome relief. When we talk about the maritime climate of Italy aiding the growth of the vines and making for conditions which the grapes can thrive, I look back to my childhood place, California, and am thankful for the home remedy that it is to me in this time.

The wine god is alive in California. Upon setting foot back here, one of my internet pals, Gerald Weisl, fetched me from the hotel. I am here for a Society of Wine Educators conference, and tomorrow I am giving a seminar, Deconstructing DOCG. Trying to make peeling paint interesting. Wish me luck.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Last Italian Wine I Drank

Last night, over a wonderful dinner, our host brought out two dessert wines, a Sauternes and a Vin Santo. The Sauternes was a famous one, Chateau d’Yquem. The Vin Santo, from the heart of the Chianti Classico region, was actually a declassified Vin Santo. It was 2002 and the d’Yquem was 2003.

Folks around the table were curious to taste the French wine. After all it is famous, perhaps one of the most famous (and expensive) wines in the world. And yes, we tried it and it was lovely. But it didn’t fit the night. Where we had come and where we were going, with the food and the preceding wine, the Vin Santo was the more appropriate wine. And for the evening it was more delicious.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

What has become of our land?

Tonight in front of a sold-out crowd in the back room at my favorite Italian store I led the group through a tasting of Italian wines. There were a lot of new folks there so I told them my story. And for the first time I realized how tied I am not to one, but three places. First is California, which is where I was born and grew up. Next is Italy, which is my wellspring for inspiration. And lastly, there’s Texas, which in its basic natural state, can affect a gravitational pull. All three of these places share a commonality – they are being altered radically from the vision I have of them inside my heart of hearts.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Fine Line

An Italian Wine Blog
It doesn’t happen that often. You’re planning a meal at home and choose a wine. The wine turns out to be the wrong choice. No big deal. You find another and move on. That happened to us recently.

The problem? The initial wine wasn’t one I would normally select. A 15.1% Santa Rita Hills Chardonnay. The wine aged exclusively in French Oak (75% New Barrels) is not available to the public. It is only available, as a gift, to select members, restaurants and fine wine shops.

I was intrigued. So I opened a bottle and tried it. Within minutes I was repulsed by the imbalance of the wine. I am a California native – there are Californian wines I like. The other night I opened a 2006 Rafanelli Cabernet with a steak. It was perfect with the food. The wine was rich and oaky and delicious with the meat.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Ultimate Wine

That by which you can taste, but that which you can never taste

As with all things, there is always the Unobtainable. No wealth, no power, no amount of influence matters. Race as we may, looking to try this bottle or that rare vintage, some things cannot be held. Sometimes it is just beyond the human experience.

Sound odd to you? "What is that you are claiming?" you might ask? Less of a claim than a reality. The reality of the Ultimate Wine.

The Ultimate Wine doesn’t exist. Not for mere earthlings. Or at least for the tainted adults on the planet. The wine is possible, even probable. But no one has ever tasted it and reported back. No score, not 100 points. That would be bringing it down quite a ways out of its higher range. No lofty purple prose to describe it. Words, really? Again, that would be a pity to cut it down that way.

At best a wine like that could be an aspiration for a wine lover. But a destination? Sure tragedy. For to achieve an appreciation of something like the Ultimate Wine one must have Higher Powers. And wings not secured by wax.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

The Summer of Zibibbo

In June of 2001 I went to Pantelleria for two weeks by myself. My wife had died four months earlier and I was grieving her loss. It was summer and I just wanted to go away. Thirty years earlier I had passed on an invite to go to the island. This time I just went, alone.

I ran a lot and swam and rode a scooter around the little island. I went down to the market and bought fresh vegetables and fish and cheese and cured meats. And wine. Being not far off from Sicily there were few choices. But one of the wines I bought, a dry Moscato Zibibbo, was one I still remember fondly.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Carrying water, waiting for the wine

Wine, frozen in time, that’s what all those bottles in the cellar turned out to be. And like our friends and family and life in general they are subject to a constant barrage of elements resulting in a permanent state of change. Think of a wine cellar (or closet) as a laboratory of change in which the wines stored will surprise, delight, disappoint and occasionally be opened at the very perfect moment they were meant to be.

Like my fig tree outside in the back. Three days ago some of the figs were ready. Now some other ones are. But the ones that were ready three days ago and didn’t get picked, now are suffering, oxidized and cooked from sitting under high temps for days. Then under a leaf in the blazing noon day a little fig will poke their head out and you will pick it and it will be cool inside. Much like wine.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

The Sign of a Great Wine

Sometime ago I remember reading about a person who was learning to do an activity and the teacher was emphasizing that to really arrive at mastery one had to stop trying, thinking and hoping and then when all that happened the person and the activity would fuse seamlessly. Maybe it was a Castaneda book or Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Or some other book. It doesn’t matter. But last night after a long day of scrubbing windows and cleaning up a place to ready it to sell, we gathered around the grape-picking table with some Texas BBQ and all the accoutrements of a meal in that genre - potato salad, coleslaw, some fries, pickles and hot peppers - and we went after it. Tagged the two meat, two potato platter. And along with that the wine.
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