Sunday, December 29, 2013

The O-N-D Winelovers Diet

Hint: Eat lots of fruit
The wine and food industry can take its toll. Days of tastings followed by lunches, dinners and more tastings. No one’s complaining but after 30 years the wines (and the pounds) add up. The high selling season known as O-N-D (October-November-December) represents the lion’s share of wine and spirits sold during any year. Those of you who have followed this blog have been subjected to posts about O-N-D and the various intricacies. Hey, I don’t have scads of beautiful babies to show off. O-N-D is my baby.

And as any mother will tell you, losing weight after giving birth to one of those beauties is no small task.

On September 29, I’d had it. The scale was tipping in a direction I swore I’d never take. I tightened my resolve and took the plunge.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

A Milestone on the Wine Trail in Italy

Dec 28, 2005, eight years ago, I started On The Wine Trail Italy. There weren't a lot of wine bloggers back then. Hell, electricity had just been discovered a few years before and the internets were still in diapers. But here we are now, 1,100 blog posts and millions of hits later. Thanks, Tracie, for being my first commenter. Now you have a husband and two kids because of it.

Thank you all for reading, encouraging and putting up with my twice weekly posts all these years. I'm not done yet. Not by a long shot.

Just getting warmed up over here...

And yes, I will post Italian Wine in 2014 - Personal Strategies for Collecting - Part II, next week.

After I write ( and post) The O-N-D Winelovers Diet.

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Italian Wine in 2014 - Personal Strategies for Collecting - Part I

Im very worried. The world is getting flatter. And with that folks, in every corner are finding out about wine. And they are collecting it. Until now, many of the collectors have been collecting classified growth Bordeaux, grand marque Champagne, small production Burgundy and thoroughbred Napa Valley reds. But pricing and availability of those wines have headed into the stratosphere. They have become wine for the 1%.

This isn’t news. I remember a mentor who once lamented that he when he got into the business he could get a bottle of Chateau Lafite-Rothschild for $4.00. A few days after he told me, I spied a half bottle of 1982 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild for $25.00 and thought “my how times have changed.” Yeah, and how they keep changing.

I’ve had my share of 1% moments. You won’t find me crying in my beer. Over the years I have sold, collected and tasted the wines of Gaja, Giacosa, Conterno's Monfortino, Sassicaia, Solaia, Biondi-Santi, Case Basse di Soldera, Dal Forno and Quintarelli. These are the some of the wines several friends have told me are starting to surface in the auction houses, some with possible questionable provenance. One friend went so far as to tell me that there is a place deep inside China where these labels are being reproduced at an alarming pace. I shudder to think, but I am not surprised. Reports say the recent trial and conviction of Indonesian wine dealer Rudy Kurniawan is just the “tip of the iceberg.” And while much of the report centers on wine other than Italian, the day will come when we hear more Italian wines surfacing from God knows where.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Mystery of Italian Wine

Recently I spent a day with some of the brightest mystery writers in America. Long a fan of the Judge Dee series and the Inspector Montalbano mystery series (tip of the hat to Eric Asimov, who turned me on to them), I admit Italian wine can be a bit of a whodunit as well. Mystery writers understand setting and plot better than most. While there is no shortage of either in the Italian landscape, better writing about Italy and Italian wines is getting harder to sort out among the constant noise of the internets.

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Old California Wine

From the "What's old is new again" dept

Holidays are the perfect time to bring out the wines you’ve been saving for a special occasion. Food, relaxed times, friends and family; what are you saving it for? Many of us who have been drinking wine and collecting the stuff have these little time bombs waiting top go off in our glasses. Open some of them this year.

This week, after our recent trip to far North Texas, my pal Hank offered to open some of the wines we found at my pals place. It was a Petite Sirah (and Syrah) night with some of the regular guys that I taste with in a relaxed, un-academic setting. In other words we sit around, drink and eat and talk about women, not wine. The good news, I am the youngest guy in the group, the baby. Which is rare these days.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Chianti: An Elusive Arrangement, Wrapped in a Fiasco, Inside a Conundrum

How is it classic wine regions like Bordeaux, Napa, the Mosel, are relatively easy to follow but Tuscany’s Chianti zone is still baffling to me and others? This question has been one I have asked for decades. I’ve read every book I could get my hands on. Traveled to the region countless times. Tasted, tasted, tasted, year after year. And still the idea of Chianti has yet to set up in my mind in a way in which I actually can say “I get it.” Is this my grail?

Friday, December 06, 2013

“The world belongs to those who let go.” - Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

Late in posting, due to winter storm.

Yesterday in Austin for a Chianti class I was putting on for the trade. Great crowd, young trade folk and some of the brightest sommeliers in Austin were on hand to gather insights about Sangiovese, etc. Really happy we did it, even with the crazy weather heading towards Texas. Thanks, all who came.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

From the Cellar of a North Texas Gentleman

Imagine if you will, the autumn of 1981, when I got my first job in the wine distribution industry. I had a young son and needed to be home during normal hours. I left the restaurant side and came over to the wholesale world. One of my first managers, an old guy (probably younger than I am now), his name was Lee High. He was a by-the-book sales manager, had seen it all. A pretty nice guy and very well experienced in the business. He told me a couple of things I never forgot. The first one was that this business was cyclical and as the year unfolded there would be sequences that one could see and these patterns would pretty well much replay every year. More or less. The other thing he told me was that December 1 was traditionally the busiest billing day of the year for wholesale.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Hyperindividualism in Italy and the Obstruction of the Collective Well-Being

It seems everywhere we turn, someone is shoving it in our face. Maybe it is part of the price we pay for this hyper-connectivity. Perhaps some needy souls are just not ready to share the stage with their brothers. However it plays out in our time, for now, the world of the hyper-individual seems to be controlling the remote.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Dallas and JFK – 50 years later

Dallas, Texas
November 22, 2013

Unlike the scene 50 years ago, when it was bright and brisk and shiny, the scene was dark, windy and cold, with flashes of lightening threatening to spill buckets of water. For 50 years, Dallas and the world have cried rivers of tears over those fateful seconds when a deranged soul let his rage boil over onto Elm Street.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

"Well I’ve never been to Heaven but I’ve been to Bufalina"

Frank Cornelissen's Etna Harvest 2013 wrap party in Austin

Etna Nov 11 - Photo:
Is wine and pizza a divine combination or a marriage of convenience? That debate is ongoing while America is enjoying a pizza renaissance as evidenced by landmark places like Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix, Spacca Napoli in Chicago and Kesté in New York. And while I personally enjoy a good beer with pizza, there is a surge of dedication to matching the best pizza one can make with some of the best wines on the planet.

Little old Texas, always a few years behind the trends, has been doing a fabulous job of catching up. One of the rising stars on the pizza (and wine) scene is Bufalina in Austin. Bufalina has a limited (but pristine) menu of pizza and a noteworthy wine list, which focuses on wines from Italy, France (yes, France) and California producers who hail from the natural wine school. Proprietor Steven Dilley is building a reputation as one of the most serious pizza meccas in Texas, if not beyond.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

One Word to Sommeliers (and Chefs): Travel

Colline Teramane
If there is any one thing that can expand your world, it is simply stepping away from your familiar (and comfortable) surroundings and immersing yourself in another world.

For years now, I have taken this advice, foisted upon me at an early age by a teacher and mentor who told me I had to step outside of the world I thought I knew. At first it was intimidating and scary. Going to a place where you don’t understand the language and the culture, it challenges all the preconceptions one has about the world on the inner screen of the mind. The realm one thinks is real.

How I wish every wine director I meet would take this advice. How much easier my job would be. Let’s drill down a bit.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Remembering Dad, Dallas, JFK & a bottle of Thunderbird

Today would have been my dad’s 98th birthday. How the world has changed since he left us in 1985. I was thinking about that as I was driving past Dealey Plaza and the Texas Book Depository yesterday, while in downtown Dallas on business. Dallas, the place where so many things happened that affected me, my family and ultimately our country.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A last supper with an old friend

The internets are rife with social media sites where folks post great wines they just had. This is not one of them. This is a story about an old friend who has been living with me for thirty years. We celebrated his passing with a meal fitting his life, his character and his destiny.

I first met Morello in a cellar in Florence in Piazza della Santissima Annunziata. It must have been 1984. I remember the area because years before I had spent three weeks above in a pensione. I remember we didn’t have the budget for warm water in the bathroom, but I found a way to turn on the water heater when we showered. We were traveling with our two children, one 8 and one 11 months. Wine was still a few years off in the distant horizon.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Etna Harvest 2013 Report from Salvo Foti - Images from VignaBosco

The latest note from Salvo Foti on Mt. Etna is a series of images - They pulled fruit off the old vineyard the Vignabosco (elev 1300 mt.) on Nov 4. The Bosco vineyard is 100+ year old field blend of bush-trained Alicante, Grecanico, Minella and other minor varieties in the area of Bronte, where the great pistacchios come from. This is a grand-mother vineyard of Etna, in my estimation. Great fruit. Great farmers. Solemn and holy place for a Sicilian. The wine being made, as we witness, is the Vinudilice, a rosé beloved by the Etneans and those lucky enough to have tried it. According to the Quincunx site, “It is cultivated by hand and with the help of Ciccio the mule. No refrigeration, yeasts or filtration are used in the wine making process. Decanting and bottling follow the phases of the moon.”

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Remember Me? I’m Your Brother

Grappling among the Offshoots ~ Gaglioppo and Nerello Mascalese

I’m the one who played tag with you and listened to you sing and play the piano. I’m the one who fell, more than once, sometimes just to the earth and sometimes out of sight. I’m your brother.

In the vineyards, when the grapes were full, you called from afar to pick the ripe ones for wine. You made pasta and poured red wine and gave shelter for the time. And when the harvest was over you bid adieu, until the next time you were in need. You paid just enough to make it through the winter.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Etna Harvest 2013 Report from Salvo Foti & "I Vigneri"

This just in from my winemaking friend Salvo Foti. Salvo is bringing in the last of the harvest from his Etna vineyards and this is a report, word for word, from his letter. Sharing it with you, dear reader.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

An Italian Exodus

It seems wine isn’t the only thing that is trying to get out of Italy. Her people are looking outward again. All this while less fortunate ones risk their lives to get into Italy, many often dying in the process. What does this global diaspora mean for Italy, for America and for the world at large?

These are pretty big questions for a Sunday night. Earlier in the day I went to see my friend Mario. He just turned 97, and he’s slowing down. I wanted to talk to him about something he witnessed during World War II. He was in the battle of Hürtgen Forest, where over 60,000 soldiers perished. Mario was captured and taken prisoner by the Germans. He spent the rest of the war in a P.O.W. camp and lost 40 pounds. He never took food for granted after that.

But Mario didn’t want to talk about that. He wanted to reminisce about his father and mother and my grandfather and grandmother; they had come over from Sicily about the same time, and they were friends. Their lives were intertwined and they looked out for each other. When I came to Dallas, my dad called Mario and he looked out after me, gave me a job and essentially helped to start me out on the path, this wine trail that has led me back to Italy so many times.

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Changing Face of Italian-American Food and Wine

After the seemingly endless exercise of packing on a Sunday night and heading out to the airport on a Monday morning, I found myself at home wondering what to eat. I’d been in restaurant after restaurant, been fed this Carbonara and that Carbonara. I’d narrowly escaped truffle oil but still had to deal with crappy balsamic vinegar and overly cooked malloreddus drowning in cream. My veins were crying out for simple; for sustenance, not recreation. I gathered up some fresh vegetables, a nice protein and a bottle of Chianti I knew wouldn’t disappoint.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Everything I know about America I learned from Sergio Leone

Some of the characters I encounter, ones who want to sell their wine to America, have some of the darndest ideas about this market. I get all kind of inquiries, probably enough to write a book about, or at the very least a textbook. But the one that intrigued me was when I met with a winemaker from Italy who thought America was more or less like the way it was portrayed in films like “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” and “For a Fistful of Dollars.” Fascinated by this history-cultural slant and feeling like this deserved further elaboration, I have taken said interpretation to the edge and imagined what our world might have been if Italian wine had come west with the great expansion in the 1800’s.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Death of Rosé

I remember my first time. It was summer. I was in Tuscany. Invited to dinner at the Villa San Michele in Fiesole. I drove my little car up the hill from Florence. Somewhere along the way I got a little lost and stepped out of the car to ask for directions. The town I stopped in was having a party. They were having some kind of Marxist celebration. Wine was flowing; someone pressed a glass of rough red wine into my hand and tried to get me to dance with them.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

For Us, There is Only the Trying

And so each venture
Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate,
With shabby equipment always deteriorating
In the general mess of imprecision of feeling,
Undisciplined squads of emotion. And what there is to conquer
By strength and submission, has already been discovered
Once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope
To emulate —but there is no competition—
There is only the fight to recover what has been lost
And found and lost again and again: and now, under conditions
That seem unpropitious. But perhaps neither gain nor loss.
For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.
                                                                                 -T.S. Eliot

Unable to post on Thursday; travel, work, distraction, exhaustion. Sometimes it happens. It’s only a blog, not some heraldic solution to the world’s problems. Life gets in the way, princess.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Five Hot Italian Wines to Bag for Autumn

Someone turned off the summer switch and turned on the autumn one. To celebrate these cooler days and our procession to the holidays, I have found five wines from Italy that I’m bagging up and taking to the celebrations. They are:

Thursday, October 03, 2013

2007 – The Second Tuscan Coming

How many times has it happened to you? You’re in some place where you are just backed up against a wall and have nowhere to go but straight on through it? In the wine business, we’re in the “O” of O-N-D and already it seems like we’ve been at this for a while. We’re backed up against a wall and we still have three months to go.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

I’ll Have What She’s Drinking

Imagining the perfect wine

In our everyday world, at the end of a day, many of us go home, change into something more comfortable, look in the kitchen for something to cook and pop a bottle of wine. Like breathing, we do it often. And as is often the case, we don’t think too much about it. And for all intents and purposes that is usually more than adequate.

This morning I read an article in the NY Times, I'll Have What She's Thinking, about scientific inquiry into the nature of spontaneous orgasm. In the haze of an endorphin high and while eating a delicious breakfast, I poured over the article. One graph caught my attention:
“The finding was significant in that it challenged a common stereotype — that men achieve orgasm more readily than women. Now science was suggesting that, at least for some women, all it took was a vivid imagination.”

Thursday, September 26, 2013

An Italian Sommelier’s Diary: The Nightmare Table

The scene is an urban setting somewhere in the Western half of the United States. A wine waiter is working a large party of folks who are celebrating. Maybe they have just come from the Emmys. Or perhaps the stars aligned to have all these people in a room at the same time, partying. Our sommelier is called over to a table of seven, four women and three men. At which point I will yield to the wine steward, who will relate the following events in his own voice.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Obsessed with Eggplant - by way of Israel - via Calabria, Sicily and New Orleans

Most of the past week was spent in New Orleans. It’s the closest I can get to Sicily, and the food culture there is somewhat of a recharge for me. The people are relationship driven and the wine and cocktail scene there is bristling with life. It’s my kind of place and it’s in my back yard, so I am very happy to go there.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Future of Italian Wine in America

If there is one thing in our American’s DNA, it’s our tendency to look forward. We had a brief fling in the 1960’s with being here and now but that passed. And though now we are obsessed with our yoga-ramen- food truck pageant of life; that too will pass. What will never pass is that which we can never have – the stuff out there in front of us that we constantly reach for. And that, dear readers, is where Italian wine is sitting at a little table in a busy piazza, having a caffè macchiato and waiting patiently for us to show up.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

One Last Harvest

They told me I’ve been here long enough. Time to make room for new growth. Told me to prepare for my last harvest.

It used to be that an old-vine vineyard was prized, revered. Something in it had the depth of meaning more profound than just terroir. Dirt plus wisdom. Now, those attributes are no longer prized. The owners want bigger numbers. And their analysts tell them they need new and shiny.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Finally! A Refosco to Love

It was a late night and looked to be an even earlier morning. Shutting down the evening with a wine dinner, singing Neapolitan songs with my pal Luciano, I scurried home to pack and sleep for a few hours. 4:30AM arrived sooner than I had hoped. It was Sept. 11 and I was getting on a plane, this time to Houston.

Arriving at the first account at 10:00 AM, my colleague opened up two bags with Italian wine, Barolo, Barbaresco, Sauvignon, Tuscan, rosato, you name it, we had it. And there in the middle of the pack was the Refosco.

I’m not one you can count as a fan of Refosco. I find them too nervous, too blue. They remind me of the dead finger trick, where you put your finger next to a friends and then rub them with your other hand, one finger on each side, to give one the sensation of touching a dead finger.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Little Tony of Italy, Bressan of Friuli and the chasm of cultural chauvinism

A woman ventures out from her familiar surroundings with her daughter and her camera. The era is the 1930’s. An unusual act in those days. Or so the story goes. A series of books ensued, covering stories of children in different countries, from Mexico to Canada, Sweden to Italy, comprising the "Children of America" and "Children of All Lands" series. A friend and a mentor left me a copy of one of the books when he died, one “Little Tony of Italy.”

I put “Little Tony of Italy” on the bookshelf and there it sat. And then last month when the mess in Friuli with Fulvio Bressan hit the internets this book fell into my lap. I thumbed through it and started thinking about racism.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

An introvert’s guide to Italian wine

I’m a devout introvert. Ten minutes in a NY subway and I can’t wait to get upstairs, where there are even more people. Naturally shy as a kid, I spent a lot of time by myself. It was easy, living in the desert. But when I went to Italy the first time, and landed in Rome, I had no choice. I had to earn to live with the others.

Back home, in the span of a week, I've come across a lot of people looking for wine. It is my job to try and make that wine Italian.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

The “Other” Italian Wine Guy

Joe Piccola just landed in Rome. This will be the first of two trips in the same month to Italy. Joe just became a grandpa, his personal life has gotten reinvigorated, he’s lost 50 pounds and he’s spending more time in the vineyards of Italy. And those of us at home couldn’t be any happier for him.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Alessandro Masnaghetti's Mission to Chart the Greatest Barolo Vineyards

The hierarchies of the great wines of the Langhe are still a mystery to me. After 40+ years, I look over the panorama and am baffled over the process of how specific wines of Barolo and Barbaresco came to be regarded by experts, enthusiasts and Italian wine lovers. I posed this quandary earlier this week on Antonio Galloni’s Vinous site and there ensued some lively discussions. But as I pushed away from the table, I felt unsatiated. How is it after all these years, I still struggle to understand what is arguably the greatest red wine region in Italy, if not the world? I’ve been there countless times, walked the hills, met the players, and still I cannot explain, in a simple manner, what is going on in the Langhe to a young wine lover. As one in the industry there is a whole new classroom of students and salespeople thirsting for guidance. I feel we must find some way to point them in a direction. The next generation deserves that, at the very least.

In the past, people have tried to map the great vineyards of the Langhe. Renato Ratti’s was the one we used for many years. Burton Anderson gave it a try as well. And countless regional Italian pamphlets and booklets tried to organize the vineyards of the Langhe. One of the best one in recent times is A Wine Atlas of the Langhe. Still,  the concentration of the area and the Italian sensibility to endlessly discuss things has mired the process.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

You Can't Go Home Again

“Make your mistakes, take your chances, look silly, but keep on going. Don’t freeze up.”  -Thomas Wolfe

The past few days in New York, walking paths I used to walk when I was 23 and New York was a much older place. Bleeker Street in January, it couldn’t get any direr for me. Walking past the Chelsea Hotel on my way to work, looking at the plaques of the dead writers, many who never made it to 40. At 23, that was almost half a lifetime away, but the winter of ’75 was a bitter halfway point.

Today on Bleeker Street, it was bright and breezy, a perfect 80°F, just the day for the last of the rosé wines, a Donnas from the Valle d’Aoste and a Rossese Rosé from Liguria. Add two glasses of Trebbiano Spoletino to go with the artichokes alla giudia for good measure. Almost 40 years later, New York is manageable. But as Thomas Wolfe said all those years ago, you can’t go home again. Not to New York. Not to California.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Canaiolo’s tale of love lost

From the dies canulares storybook

It had been a brutally hot summer. Sangiovese came up to me and announced, “I can’t take it here anymore with you. There’s too much tradition, it’s too provincial and it’s just too damn hot. I’m heading to the coast to live with Cabernet. I need someone strong and vibrant, and I need to feel the cool sea breeze between my leaves.” And just like that, she was out of my life.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Knowing Your Place

The social hierarchy of vines

Among the many hundreds of Italian vines there is a pecking order. Some are more important than others. Often, the ones in power don’t shy away from letting the subjacent ones know who is on top.

In Italy, Nebbiolo and Sangiovese are the Chairman and the CEO. But not just any Nebbiolo or Sangiovese. The Nebbiolo must come from the Langhe, preferably Barolo or Barbaresco. And Sangiovese, while prolific, must be from the right neighborhood, Montalcino. Everywhere else is the other side of the tracks.

If you are Montepulciano or Nero d’Avola, what are the chances you’ll make it to the ruling class? You might have breeding and pedigree, but location is paramount. You have to come from the right place. And knowing one’s place in Italy’s viticultural society is vital to one’s status.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Ferragosto 2013: What I'm drinking

Lighting the fire balloon at Ferragosto
Many Italians have spent the day at the beach, in mirthful play. Back home, work proceeds. It’s hot in Texas and many people have put aside leisure for the responsibilities of ambition. Some must work so others may play. So it goes. But even after a long day in the trenches, one must recharge and re-balance the wheels of life, yes?

My choice to get me on the right path is this little red wine I found from Tuscany. It is a bit of a conundrum to me, because when I saw the grape varieties and the ownership, my pre-conception lever was pulled.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Breaking the Code of Silence on Italian Wine

Echoes from the archives  - posted 1/10/13

From the “Om mani padme om-erta” dept.

The single most asked question I get, on a regular basis, is still “How do I figure out Italian wines?” I have to deal with it in work, on this blog, in educational situations, in sales, and in almost any situation I get into when the subject of Italian wines is brought up among normal people. I say normal, because in the wine geek world, those folks are more interested in how many DOCG’s there are or the difference between Cannubi and Bussia. But that’s rarified air for folks who are just trying to unlock the key to understanding Italian wine for their purposes, those being immediate drinking pleasure. So this isn’t an academic exercise, although many folks in that arena struggle with this as well. Maybe that’s why the book, Italian Wine for Dummies, is the one many of us recommend to folks who are trying to simply sort it out.

But there has to be an even simpler answer. Not everyone is going to read a book. Too bad we can’t go the route that Mimmo Siclari chose, selling cassettes of Calabrian crime songs from the rear of his car. And as risky as that was, and it was, much more of a risk than I am attempting, the stakes are even higher with regards to cracking the code on Italian wine.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Bad children in the seat behind me in the plane

Sometimes it just seems things aren’t meant to work out exactly like one wants them to. I have this propensity to attract bad behavior on an airplane. Children behind me tap drum solos on their tray tables, while the sweaty, balding, skin-flaking guy in front of me puts his seat back as far as he can, when no one else on the plane is reclining their seat. I’m lucky that way.

Monday, August 05, 2013

What to Drink When Italy Takes a Vacation

Great Italian wines for everyday enjoyment (and one special occasion wine)

It’s August and I’m on a plane to Indianapolis. I had a brief weekend layover in Dallas from a week in Orlando. I’m surrounded by heat, humidity and ambition. Meanwhile, thousands of miles away and in another time zone, Italians and other fortunate ones have taken the month off. The government in Italy is in shambles, the government in America is in gridlock and the stock market is set to wobble on its axis. I’m up before the sun rises, but in Italy folks are walking back from the beach, getting ready for a long, leisurely lunch.

I imagine them in shorts and swim suits. The sun is warm, but the breeze off the water cools the skin. Somewhere on the coast (we are more in the south than in the north) fishermen have brought in the fresh catch. There are any number of tasty crustaceans, some small fish for frying and some medium sized fish, sweet meat and ready for the human participants who have planned a civilized afternoon with their carcasses. In Italy, for a fish the afterlife is as good as what preceded it, provided the chef is caring and intuitive.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Running a little behind on my regular posting - lots of travel and not enough time to gather thoughts. A post is forthcoming, just a little later than usual. Thanks for reading...

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Are “The Best Italian Wines” the Best We Can Do?

I thought we might have dodged the bullet. You know, the one whereby all the wines of the country are judged by a few? France has had that moment a time or two. Lately it’s been in China, where Lafite ruled. Now it’s Domaine de la Romanée-Conti’s turn.

Italy, ah Italy, land of wine for the everyday person. Maybe in Italy. But in the rest of the world, has Italy managed to escape the curse of the wine snob?

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Italian Restaurants in America with Great Italian Wine Lists

Rainbow over the Tanaro
I got a call recently from a pal in back home. He was going to try out a new Italian spot and would report back to me.

A few hours later he texted me. “I called the owner over, complimented them on the food. Said I won’t come back on (account of) the wine list. There are many great Italian wines in the $40-60 range. With entrees at $25, a wine at $100 isn’t a balanced list.”

He then called me to give me the blow-by-blow. The bottom line was the owner asked him which wines he wanted on the list. My friend said it wasn’t a matter of which individual wine; it was a matter of having a better balanced wine list. He remarked to me, in closing, that he didn't think the owner of the restaurant got the message.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Familiar Faces: California Vines ~ California Wines

California is my kind if déjà vu. Wherever I go, there is a memory. When I talk to someone from California, we share commonalities, whether it be the schools we went to, the wines we grew up drinking or the ways we think about planet earth. It’s a great place for aspirations, especially in a world where, it seems, politicians are constantly reverting to gridlock and breaking things down. Sure, California has their share of extremists, like anywhere, but the state is so large, one can almost believe there is a place where others feel and think like oneself.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

What does a native Californian drink in California on his birthday?

There’s nothing like breaking one’s obsession by going in a totally opposite direction. Thusly, I headed for Napa Valley this week, leaving Sicily behind. I’m not a Napa Cab basher, per se, but I’m pretty picky. I am also an unrepentant white and rosé wine lover. For it to be red it has to rub me like fine grain sandpaper – nothing coarse and heady. That said, we mixed it up pretty good this week. I managed to get a few Italian wines in, but I was there to taste what was in front of me.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Wherever the wind shall take me....

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Stuck on the Island - My Sicilian Obsession

The ferry is closed, rough waters in the Strait of Messina. Airplanes cannot fly in and out of Catania airport, too much ash from Etna. And the long anticipated bridge has yet to be built. I’m stuck on the island.

I’ve been home two weeks now and am going away again, soon. But I am obsessed with Sicily. I fear I need an intervention.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

La Muntagna – Etna’s influence beyond Etna

In trying to comprehend what Etna means, to the area, to Sicily and to the world beyond, one visit will not reveal much. There are those whose lives have been swallowed up by the mountain, so many willing Empedocles. But as an outsider, I can only observe, listen and hope to transmit the energy that is reverberating throughout the island. Believe me when I tell you, the energy is there. All that is necessary is for one to silence their chattering monkey brain, set it aside for the time being, and breathe in deep. The mysteries of the fiery mountain are available to all with open ears, eyes and hearts. It’s that simple.

What isn’t simple is trying to decode the striation of activity, both physical and metaphysical, that hovers right below the delicate topsoil. There are a few places to look for guidance, our own personal Don Juan Matus, if you will. Actually, La Muntagna has no shortage of shamans to guide one in the ways of the volcano.

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