Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Rape of the Veneto

“What happened in Montalcino earlier this month was horrendous, but as bad as it was, it paled in comparison to what has been going on in the Veneto. They have virtually raped the land, stripped it of any character in pursuit of dollars. The popularization of Prosecco has had enormous effect on people, on farming, on the earth.”
In review of events that have transpired in Italy this year, the perversion of Prosecco persists. Enormous growth year after year has people chasing after more and more profit, pushing the land, changing laws, reducing the Veneto to a mere factory for the whims of folks who no longer want to spend money on Champagne and sparkling wine of character.

Many of us were struck by the harshness of the act that one man perpetrated early one morning in December in Montalcino. It was horrid, indeed. But the systematic dismantling of tradition in the Veneto, from Valdobbiadene and Conegliano, on the gentle slopes that humankind has lovingly nurtured - that is tragedy of legendary proportions. Culture, tradition, quality, values - all receding like the arctic ice in the Polar zones.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Goodbye to this world – Friends we won’t be seeing in 2013

Odd, that on the 7th birthday of this blog I would be writing about death. What started out as a simple little blog has almost taken over my life. Hundreds of blog posts about any number of things, awards, travel, meals, talk of a book, and what am I doing? Staring at the past. For a moment. A moment of silence and reflection and respect for those who have gone before us, those who made a difference on my little life in this wine business. Likely I have forgotten someone, maybe even someone of importance. There will be others to call them up, I’m sure. Cerberus will see to it that we will know everyone who has passed, will relay the info to the poodles above ground. In the meantime, here go before us:

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Not a fan of Fruitcake? Then you haven’t had my mamma’s!

I don’t know why folks hate fruitcake so much. Guess they never had one made with love. My mom turned 98 in May and this year she sent me not one but two fruitcakes. I think she didn’t get around to it last year. She had a pretty hectic schedule last holiday season. This year she got out in front of it and made up for it.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Feast of the 7, uhh 8, umm 9, make that 10 Fishes

From the "chefs can't count" dept.

When Christmas rolls into town, inevitably, among Italian-Americans, there is talk of the fabled Feast of the Seven Fishes. Folks more astute and studied on this subject have had their say, essentially to note this is an American invention with vague references to meals prepared in Southern Italian homes, notably, Campania, Calabria and Sicily. Because we Southern Italians were so doggone poor, our utilization of everything we caught infuses our culture and our DNA. Like my friend Paolo Librandi reminded me at another great meal this year in Calabria, “This is the poorest of cuisines. This food is made from things nobody in the city hungers for, wild onions, herbs, parts of animals that get discarded, skins of plants no one would think were edible. Throw away food.”

Likewise, nothing from the sea gets thrown away.

While the meal we had this week in Dallas was not likely anything that would ever be discarded, historically some of the elements were considered little more than food for poor people and animals. Chef John Tesar reanimated his memories from the Northeast, an area rich in Italian-American cultural drippings. John channeled his inner Italian with a meal, one of the best meals I have experienced in 2012 – and I have had some amazing meals this year (post coming). Special thanks to Maria for letting me know about this meal and getting our motley crew in.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Everything I know about wine I learned from Catholic school - Part I

It all started when I was tasting wine with a friend, Damon Ornowski, who is a master sommelier. We were taking apart some wine and I mentioned that I smelled ink. Damon looked at me knowingly, but we hadn’t yet made the connection. “You know like the ink in the Sheaffer Skrip ink cartridges we used to use in school?” Bingo. It was at that moment I realized, everything I know about wine I learned in Catholic school.

I’m talking grade school, 1st through 8th grade. I lived in the desert, in Palm Springs, California. It was a quiet life. But it gave me everything I would need in my adult life to muddle through a career.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Cheap Italian Wine for the Holidays

These wines can be found fairly easily and usually for under $10 – not usually what I blog about, but knowing there are folks looking for values – Italy has ‘em – snag ‘em up and enjoy yourselves in a safe and responsible manner. Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

♫ Blame it on the Cosa Nosta ♫

An arrest is made in Montalcino - a lone man acting in revenge against Soldera

Screen shot from the Daily Beast

Soldera saga unfolds in an unfettered and unfiltered manner.

This story by Barbie Latza Nadeau really cuts to the bone. Recommended reading. No punches pulled. And no words of mafia (or mafioso) involvement, nor “the money behind big Italian wine” uttered in the story. How refreshing to see someone actually took the time to see who really did this. Journalism isn’t dead.

There are some real doozies in this piece, quite juicy and tasty ones. Some of the quotes below. Please refer to the whole story HERE. Nice work, Ms. Nadeau.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Liquidation of Innocence

You are a young child of three. You hear the phone ring in the night. Your father answers. Your mother screams and then starts to sob. For hours and hours. Your father’s cousin’s husband was shot in his bed from outside the house, through the stucco. The wife, his cousin, survived. The unofficial explanation was that the husband had gotten mixed up with the wrong group and he was eliminated.

Your grandfather and his friend are sitting outside, under the grape arbor, cracking walnuts and reminiscing. They speak of a mutual friend of theirs who, all of a sudden, disappeared, car and all. Years later, as Los Angeles grew out, and subdivisions were developed, the car was found, rotted out from being buried in lime. There were no signs of their friend, who was never heard from again.

An aunt in the last years of her life, telling stories about her childhood. Her father was mercurial. At times they would live in two story homes and drive long black cars. At other times, the family was so poor some of the kids were farmed out to orphanages. The father’s brother was a promoter of sorts. One day, in South Dallas he was found with a new pair of fitted concrete shoes, several feet under the Trinity River.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

10 Best Italian Wines To Go With Seafood

Louisiana Gulf Oyster fired up "Chuckwagon Style"
Living in landlocked Dallas, Texas, I've found the evolution of seafood restaurants in the last 20 years to be nothing short of a revelation. Likewise, witnessing the onslaught of attractive Italian white wines to match up with the branzino, mussels, crab and monkfish that are arriving daily and fresh. It’s an Italian wine seafood lover’s paradise.

Some of the wines that I have enjoyed lately in conjunction with some of the delicious seafaring food are:

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Love and Death in the Marche

In the Spring of 1999 we visited a vineyard in the Marche. When I saw this vineyard, I thought to myself, “What a wonderful place this would be to rest for eternity.” I wasn’t at all feeling maudlin, although things back home would escalate in the next two years in ways which I could never have foreseen. No, it was Spring, the weather was perfect, we’d just tasted some wonderful white and red wines from our friend Aldo Cifola at La Monacesca. Life was good. It just struck me that this was just about the most perfect place I had ever come across in my life.

So it goes in Italy. Since then I have had to find a resting place for a loved one and many other strange and wonderful and happy and not so happy things have happened under the sun and the moon in this special place we call Italy. I will always love Italy, and this little spot in the Marche will always be one of my favorite resting places, in this life and the next.

written and photographed by Alfonso Cevola limited rights reserved On the Wine Trail in Italy

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Thursday, December 06, 2012

The Day the Vines Cried

When appalling events trigger knee-jerk drama

Caronne Ste Gemme after the attack
Earlier this year, after Vinitaly, I went to Bordeaux for the en Primeurs tastings. One of our hosts, Francois Nony, looks after Château Caronne Ste Gemme, which had just been the target of severe vandalism in the vineyards. Described by Tom Stevenson as “a superb island of vines on a gravel plateau south of St. Julien estates,” the property is one of those little gems that has been enjoying an upsurge in quality and popularity. Below are excerpts from the report on the vandalism of the property in March 2012 by Jane Anson in Decanter:

About 2,000 young vines have been vandalised causing tens of thousands of euros damage at a Medoc estate.

The plot of Merlot vines at Chateau Labat, a 7-hectare cru bourgeois estate in AOC Haut-Medoc, was attacked on Friday night, possibly by a gang, the owners suspect.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Calabria: Time Will Tell

It had been 25 years since I’d last been in Calabria. I was expecting at least 25 years’ worth of change. What I found was far from that.

In many ways Calabria is a time capsule. Nothing exemplifies it better than the vineyard Nicodemo Librandi and Attilio Scienza arranged. Circular in design, Librandi and Scienza scoured Calabria for the forgotten native grapes and laid out 160 plus varieties as a living museum to a place many consider the ground zero of Italian viticulture.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

10 Dining and Plate Trends You Won’t Find in Italy

“Don’t play with your food,” our mothers and grandmothers and aunts and nuns used to tell us. That was then. America has a whole new order and the kids are now the quartermasters at the asylum. Italy looks to America for all kinds of inspiration, but some of the plate trends that refuse to die in American kitchens, one would be hard pressed to find in the heart of the Italian kitchen. Some of those plate trends we now have to come to America to witness and enjoy are:

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Dallas: A tale of two J.R.’s

Dallas circa 1966 (Photos by author)
As a youth living in California I often heard about Dallas. Dallas, the town where my father was born. Dallas, where my mother grew up. Where her sister still lives. Dallas, where JFK was assassinated.

When I moved to Dallas 15 years after the JFK assassination, the town still smoldered under the ashes of the deeds of November 1963. I say deeds, because the shame didn’t stop on the 22nd. There was a serial quality to the events that would culminate in Dallas on November 24th. That was the day J.R. shot Oswald. No, not “that” J.R. This J.R., Jack Ruby was small time compared to J.R. Ewing, the fictional hero/villain of the TV show that would surface in the 1980’s, named Dallas. No, Jack Ruby was the dark side of Dallas, steamy and noir and unspoken, like all those bottles of whiskey hidden in the homes of prominent Baptist leaders of Dallas. Yes, Dallas has secrets, like any town. Save for the viewing on the TV screens for all the world to see.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

An Ancient Olive Orchard in Old Calabria

At first glance, it appeared to be just an orchard of ancient olive trees. We arrived on a day when there had been a lot of rain. The soil was soaked, the sky was muted, the trees glistened from the saturation. We drove around and I took several pictures. My friend and host, Paolo, told me about one of his Scandinavian importers, who whenever he visited the winery, asked to be brought to this place and left alone for several hours. This orchard was planted at the beginning of the Renaissance, when much of Italy was flourishing in the arts, architecture and music, resulting in scores of works of art. Here in Calabria, the Renaissance left less of an imprint. But nature would see to it that Calabria wouldn’t be ignored.

These trees, a family of hundreds, planted on this escarpment overlooking the Ionian, never to leave, never to see the wonders of Florence, Venice or the Vatican. Left out in the sun, the wind, the heat, the cold, the snow, the silence.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Stellar Italian Food Experience in Calabria

Every once in a while, on the wine trail in Italy, I find a place that redefines what Italian food is for me. While there are the tried and true dishes that we fall in love with, and there are those who push the limits of what it known and expected, there is also this: out of this world food that comforts and nourishes and is so delicious. I had one of these experiences in the hilltop town of Ciro in Calabria this week.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Making a small fortune in Montalcino *

Richard Parsons is a wildly successful fellow. He’s made a lot of money, and he has risen to the top of the Wall Street summit. Forbes reported in 2008 he made over $10,000,000. And in the last four years he probably hasn’t done too badly for himself. Yeah, there have been a few bumps along the road, but now he’s sitting pretty under the Tuscan sun at his Il Palazzone estate.

A smart guy; belongs to the “best and the brightest” club. Great at finance and media and knows how to sell with the best of them. And that’s the way we reward folks in America. When they’re the best at what they do.

So when a recent article came out on Bloomberg News about Parsons’ Montalcino project, why, oh why didn’t someone check the quotes? I know of the wines of Il Palazzone; their social media person Laura Gray is affable and plugged in. I reckon she’s trying to figure out how to tweet herself out of this.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

First-Timer's Guide to finding the best bathrooms at Vinitaly

Over the years, Vinitaly has grown. When I first went there in 1984, there may have been 6 pavilions in use. Now there are 17. The crowds have swollen and the infrastructure has been tested at times. The search for a clean, dependable bathroom is a necessity. Hours of standing, tasting, spitting, drinking water to wash off the tannins and the tint, an espresso every couple of hours and you get the picture. When you gotta go, you gotta go. But some places are better than others. And so, dear readers, for the very first time, I am offering first-timers (and crusty veterans) my Guide to Finding the Best Bathrooms at Vinitaly.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Vinitaly International Wine Competition 2012 : Day 1

Just a quick post as we run out to day 2. This is the 20th year for Vinitaly Wine Competition and this marks the first year where they hold the judging at a time other than the fair. This makes sense, in that the fair organizers and the competitors can properly promote the opportunities. A couple of quick observations (after the jump):

Sunday, November 11, 2012

There’s a place for 'us'

Life has these funny little connections. I’m sitting is a sorry little corner of the Frankfurt airport and tweet, “With #DavosDuVin & #EWBC done there's still #MeranoWineFestival. Me? I'm heading to Verona 4 Vinitaly Wine Competition

A few minutes later Luca Currado (@vietti_vino ) replies, “ @italianwineguy ciao Alfonso .... Me too in Frankfurt ... But on my way to go home! Ciao.”

Just like that Frankfurt isn’t some cold place that I have been walking around trying to find the right terminal for the last hour. One of my pals is here. The world gets smaller and more connected.

There was a  recent article in the NY Times about an island of Greeks who boast incredible longevity of years. One of the elders asked what might be the secret to such long life. He answered, “It’s not a ‘me’ place. It’s an ‘us’ place.”

More and more it is becoming an ‘us’ place. To be sure, there still are plenty of 'me’s' on this swirling little orb, but in the wine business one grape doesn’t make a wine.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Ab Urbe Ad Rura : A Byzantine Procession

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Thursday, November 08, 2012

Premature Jubilation

Sunday, November 04, 2012

The Last Bottle

In 1980 I bought my first case of wine. It was a 1976 Johnson’s Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. The sommelier at the Italian restaurant I worked at, Il Sorrento, thought it was a good wine and she was selling it off the menu. I tried it and liked it and so she arranged for me to get a case. Thus started my road to wine collecting. Over the years I would open up a bottle and try it. And the years just flew by, 32 of them. And then there was only one bottle left.

It was from the same year my son was born. And November 4th is his birthday. I invited him and his lady friend over tonight for homemade meat balls. I bought some good bucatini from Jimmy’s and made my own sauce and meat balls. And we had an old-fashioned Caesar salad. And the last bottle of the 1976.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Thanks for a Rockin' October!

October was an especially busy time on the wine trail in Italy. Traffic was up 28% from October of 2011. Before the wine blog awards were announced I had been thinking about taking the blog posts down from 2 a week to maybe 1. No reason in particular, just a busy life. But I kept plugging away. In October I posted 19 times, something I hadn’t done since May of 2010 when I was in Sicily. So thanks all for reading and keeping me motivated. For those of you who have been too busy or those who have told me, “You are posting too darn many times, I can’t keep up with them,” I will list the posts from the most popular on down. I have had a huge week of travel with wine dinners every night this week, in Dallas, Austin and Marfa. And with no end in sight for the foreseeable future.

So read on, if you care to. I will be posting as I care, too. Probably a little more than I should, but the tap has been turned on. There’s very little I can do about it.

October's posts in order of popularity: ( after the jump)

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Gathering of Tomatoes, Olives and Harvest Songs in a Little Corner of Tuscany

The sad and abandoned tomato patch was enduring the last few warm days of the year. Tomatoes were hanging on, with little hope, as the house had been closed for the season. Thanks to the olive harvest it was briefly re-opened to feed and shelter the scant army of olive pickers, of which I was one. After four days of visiting wineries in Piemonte and gorging ourselves on white truffles, these few days under the sun in Tuscany’s hilly Maremma area would be a good way to balance the life. The olives were ready to become oil, but what of the tomatoes?

Federico, one of our band of brothers in the olive harvest went out to the patch and rescued the survivors. “I will make a nice tomato sauce for lunch,” he declared. And so it was, the life of the tomatoes in that scrawny little patch would not be for naught.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

What’s Old is New Again @LaScolcaWines

Giorgio Soldati is a very lucky man. Famous for a white wine in red wine country, dancing to the beat of his own drum, making memorable wine against the tide of fashion, and staying true to a vision that he has cast aside in favor of an easier way. And though the years are catching up with him as they do with all of us, he has an energetic daughter, Chiara, who not only has the past emblazoned in her veins, she sees the future and is very much heading towards it with no fear or reluctance. Chiara is one of a burgeoning cadre of women in Piedmont who are a force of nature unto themselves and will not relent to a kitchen and an apron and a basket of laundry. The tale of Gavi is ongoing, and as a white wine lover, I am very much in favor of this continuing crusade.

How many times have a driven through Alessandria and Gavi, on my way to another place? In the past five years though, this has begun to nag on me. “Why aren’t you stopping at Gavi? How is it you’ve been selling and serving the wines of La Scolca for over 30 years and you’ve never made the time to visit the Villa?” No one needed to guilt me about this; my childhood Catholic sense of guilt did the job well enough. Finally, I got off my high horse and made the appointment.

Friday, October 26, 2012

A museum in Nizza Monferrato: the life and times of Arturo Bersano

Carrozza Siciliana ~ Emozioni Tantrici
Often when visiting wineries in Italy they will have a space set aside for a museum. This past trip we visited no less than three such museums. The most interesting one though was at the Bersano winery in Nizza Monferrato. One of a handful of historical wineries in Piedmont that are grandfathered in to make Barolo and Barbaresco, even though the winery is in the Asti province, Arturo Bersano was a forward thinking man and one with many eclectic interests. His Print museum is a fascinating place to linger and peer into the mind of an early 20th century collector. Many passions, a fair amount of personal wealth and power, Bersano is a fascinating study of a Piemontese wine baron. His widow still lives above the building, is past 90, and let us in to look over the dusty collection, which is interesting beyond any of the panegyric attempts we read so often on the internet, often describing the most mundane and insignificant things.The museum, created before the hype of the 21st century, is a trip back into a silent world of thought and emotion. Quite a wonderful experience.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

My Tuscan Family Reunion

Teresa (Scalora) Borgia and grandson Andrea Farru with picture of her parents in 1921
It appeared to be just a coincidence. We were out picking olives, trying to stay away from the stinging calabrone, when one of the neighbors pulled up in his truck to help. Giovanni owns the sheep farm next door. “My wife’s mother comes from Sicily.” Giovanni came here from Sardegna with his brothers Mario and Bernardo. The terrain is conducive for raising sheep (resulting in great pecorino). Giovanni’s brother Mario also appeared. Mario was more gregarious and joined in the conversation. Mario asked me where my parenti were from. When I told him Sicily and Calabria, he shouted out, “You are terrone, cento percento.” Even in his Tuscan/Nuorese accent, I knew what he meant. He qualified it by saying, “but all of us, we are all terroni in purezza.” Where had I heard that before?

When we delved deeper, we come to find out Giovanni’s mother-in-law came from the same village as my paternal grandparents, Piana degli Albanese. “You must come to Sunday dinner,” Giovanni urged. “Come meet your cousins.” It was an offer I couldn’t refuse.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

"James Suckling is dead"

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a hundred times in America. But in Italy, it’s very different story. One would think, from an American point of view that James Suckling committed career suicide when he decided to go out on his own. What we Americans didn’t calculate into the equation are the relationships Suckling has developed, from Italy to France, California to Hong Kong and Havana.

Here in the last week in Italy I have been hearing that he still is relevant to the Italians. More so than Gambero Rosso, which under their present guardianship there is a cloud of concern regarding their impartiality and even their relevance. “No, Suckling has never made any doubt about his motives. He helps us, we help him,” one winemaker replied. “Yes, he has made a good living off of us, but we too, gained. When one of our wines gets 90+ points, we sell it. Maybe not as much in America, but in the global market, Suckling still has pull.”

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Secret to Buying Real White Truffles from Alba

"Location, location, location" 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tajarin and white truffles with @JuventusFC ~ this time with Barolo

How does the taste of fresh white truffles differ when having them with Barolo versus Barbaresco? In a rare confluence of coincidence, we had the opportunity to gauge the pros and cons, at a private dinner with the Torino soccer team, Juventus, and their executive management team.

Monday, October 15, 2012

“The Last of the ’90 Paje’ ~ The First of the Tartufi Bianchi” – Aldo Vacca

Ovello to Novello redux

Our first stop this Monday on the Langhe Harvest Trail was Barbaresco. Aldo Vacca, director of Produttori del Barbaresco, had just finished the harvest and the wines were fermenting. I’ve never seen a more relieved Aldo. “2012 harvest is safely tucked in the tanks – let’s go eat lunch.” Not one to argue with Aldo when his winery is across the street from one of my favorite trattorias in Italy, Antica Torre.

Over an impeccable plate of carne cruda (with no truffle oil, America) and followed by a plate of tajarin with shavings of white truffles, Aldo started us with a bottle of his 2011 Langhe Nebbiolo. If that wine is any indication of the harvest we are in for a treat when the classic Barbaresco is released followed by the crus.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Marziano Abbona Sulfite-Free Langhe Rosso - "No Amphora, No Nomblot, Just the Moon"

Marziano puts an un-sufured cork in it
A wine I wasn’t expecting to try, as I started my lap around the Langhe, was the ZEROSOLFITI Langhe Rosso of Marziano Abbona. After a stellar lineup of Arneis, Viognier (don’t cringe - there’s a story - for later), a Dogliani DOCG Cru, a Barbera from Alba and a host of uber-delicious Nebbiolo wines from Barolo and Barbaresco, Marziano’s daughter pulled out this red wine. “We only make a little of it, to see how far we can try to take the wine without sulfur.” She explained the rites: painstakingly and excruciatingly rigorous denial of sulfuring in the vineyards, in crushing and wine-making, in the aging and in the bottling, including in the barrels and the bottles and even going so far as to wash the vines off after copper preparations. Wow, I’m tired writing this, let alone all the work that went into it.

Kinetic Graffiti and Sunburnt Sicilian Orange Wine in Milan

Near the Porta Genova
How does one explain “orange” wine to friends outside the natural wine cabal? Last night, I had a free night in Milan and met up with a fellow I had been wanting to meet ever since I read about him in the New York Times. Carlo Bevilacqua is a photographer who is of the great tradition of shooters from Italy who witness the world that most of us walk right through. But the world through his lens is a richer place and one he is willing to share with all 100% of us.

One of my favorite indulgences is to wander a place alone with a camera. I slip into my invisible clothes and take to the streets without map, GPS or a destination. I’ve done it in Rome, Venice, Palermo, Naples, Torino, Florence, and not just Italy or the cities. The cities are fecund with the amalgam of the human condition. Milan is a working laboratory for all those little heartbeats that fill the canvas. I’m not sure if the graffiti that infects the city acts as a de-sensitizing buffer or as a Rosetta stone to its greater understanding. As an outsider I find it immensely interesting, a palimpsest of visual imagery that makes me dizzy drunk. And that’s before I’ve even had a sip of wine.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Difference between a Secret and a Lie

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Friday, October 12, 2012

Harvest Trail 2012 - First Stop - Piemonte

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Hoja Santa Harvest in Dallas - One Down- Three To Go

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Do you want to be a Master Sommelier? Fast-Track it in Italy for as little as €1044

Alma Wine Academy, which is part of the Alma Scuola Internazionale di Cucina Italiana, whose tagline on their web site is, “the world’s leading international educational and training centre for Italian Cuisine,” claims you too can be a master sommelier.

As unbelievable as it sounds, this school, in collaboration with the Associazione Italiana Sommelier (AIS), is offering a Master Sommelier Alma-AIS diploma. I was alerted to this by a blog post that Josko Gravner forwarded to me via Facebook, entitled, My Master Sommelier Thesis: "Josko Gravner's Ribolla gialla and the orange wines in the U.S. market." 

Monday, October 08, 2012

Columbus Day in America and Corruption in Calabria - 100 years later

I’m not sure why my grandfather from Calabria initially left the region without his wife and son for America over 100 years ago. I know where he came from, Reggio Calabria, there had been a massive earthquake. But where he lived with his wife in Bucita, it was away from the city, the corruption and the terremoto. Maybe he was looking for new opportunities, following in the path of Columbus. Maybe he just wanted to get away from it all. I know the feeling.

100 years later, folks in Calabria are facing continuing corruption and a retreat from the promise of affluence that Italy, north of Rome, has had greater access to. An article in the New York Times reports the latest trials and tribulations from a part of Italy I love and am tied to, and which causes me no little anguish. Friends of mine who live in Calabria face these issues daily. One friend told me,"We have to mark our steps very carefully when we walk out of our home. Calabria is more like Syria than Siena.”

Saturday, October 06, 2012

What the world needs now is better tasting wine

“The natural wine movement is for culturally affluent Americans with too much time and money on their hands,” remarked an overheard Italian who is more concerned with larger, pressing issues. Hard as it may seem for proponents of the instinctive wine cabal in America, right now Italy is struggling with a crisis of economics and a larger, existential confrontation of identity and direction.

“Everywhere you go, people talk of the ‘crisi’ in our everyday lives. The cost of energy, of food, of transportation, of looming taxations and many Italians fear the shadow the European community ministers have cast over our country will spread even further.”

Friday, October 05, 2012

No more talks with Catholic wine rebels: Vatican official

Thursday, October 04, 2012

A full-bodied approach to natural wine-making

Open topped fermenters lined by animal pelts, amphorae, concrete eggs – what else? If some folks have it their way, they next wave of grass roots wine-making will be done in recycled Etruscan sarcophagi.

It’s not that far fetched. Etruscan stone coffins litter the Tuscan countryside, making it difficult to develop the land when they are discovered. Being wine country, Tuscany has a ripe opportunity to cash in on eno-tourism. Winemaking, from the cradle to the grave.

One observer was noted as saying, “This is win-win for all. We can’t move the things. And many of them are resting in underground caves. It would be the perfect place to make small-batch artisanal wine the likes of which the Georgians, the Friulans and the French terroirists can only dream of making.”

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

No two tastes for wine (or women) are alike

These gents are about as far away from each other as anyone can be. One is an American country singer and songwriter and the other was an Italian filmmaker and poet. Some folks like one and not the other. Some folks like them both. Some hate ‘em equally. So what?

The “so what” is, there are tastes in art and food and film and song and woman and wine and everyone’s tastes aren’t the same as everyone else’s. And if you read about something and then try it and don’t like it, don’t worry about it. Move on.

Didn’t like the recommendation? Keep moving. Try another one.

I’ve been trying scads of wines from Abruzzo this year and thought there was one benchmark wine I would always put at the top. Know what? I tried a few others and like them as well or better.

There were also one or two I didn’t like. Couldn't enjoy 'em. Wouldn't sleep with them if they were the last women on earth.

We can have different tastes in wine (and women) from our friends and colleagues, even from the experts.

Hey, I still like Merle and Pasolini though…

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Sunday, September 30, 2012

An awakening in the desert

There was this moment, many years ago, when a young woman awakened me to the outside world. We must have been on the cusp of the teen age, for I remember the year. My mom or my teacher had convinced me to sign up for a Cotillion night; learn how to dance the fox trot, the samba, the cha-cha, the waltz and so on. I remember dressing up: shined shoes, pressed shirt, tie. It was spring in the desert; I remember the sage and the wildflowers that perfumed this particular area where I lived in Palm Springs.

The Cotillion was in the Las Palmas neighborhood, down the street from the synagogue many of my Jewish pals went to. Across the street from one of the Catholic churches we would go to when our local parish priest got to talking too much about money, which was often. Eventually that priest ran away with a young woman.

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