Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Death of a Loved One

From the "not quite back on the wine trail, yet" dept.

In a world where there are so many tragic events  ̶  from the father who lost his wife and daughter when he was 30 and raised his two sons as a single parent, only to lose a son when he became a grown up, to a young boy who, at 5, lost his father to tribal warfare in Ruanda ̶  what does the loss of one tree matter?

Earlier this month, crisscrossing Texas by car, time and again, I recall the morning I was driving from Dallas to Houston and saw a large, mature oak tree in a field that had toppled over from the rain. I was going 65-70 and as I saw the newly fallen giant, I felt a sharp pain inside. Still green, still hopeful from a Spring filled with energy, this tree wouldn’t see another autumn.

A few weeks later, driving by the same spot, the tree was brown and lifeless now. There was none of that “It‘s still green, it might just be sleeping on its side” pretend one does to internally forestall the inevitable reality of death.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

On turning 100 +1: How many times do you get to say this and it really happens?

You hear it all the time at the Italian table. Someone has a birthday and everyone picks up a glass of wine to toast them. Someone else shouts out “Cent’anni!” and it is followed by the volley “e uno!”

One hundred years. And one.

And this time it really happened. To my dear mom.

In all likelihood, we would be celebrating her 100th today. For years she thought she had been born in 1915. But when she went to get her passport, mom had to dig up a birth certificate. She was born in Tobasco, Colorado, which is now a ghost town. What a surprise it was to mom when she found out she was one year older than she thought she was. Oh well, it wasn’t like she was cheated out of that year.

“It seems like I just turned 100. Where did that last year go?” Where do they all go, mom? We’re in the boat with you, even the young ones. Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin', into the future.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

“All Italian White Wines Taste Alike”

I’m sitting at a table, in a restaurant, with a seminal figure in white wine. The beverage director comes up to us to say hello. A few pleasantries are exchanged. After all, we are guests, even if we are part of the “trade.” Our money spends as well.

We’re talking to the beverage director about which wines do and do not work in his place, which is seafood centric. We come to find out that in this place of his, he says his best-selling category is Cabernet Sauvignon. We are close to a huge body of water; the city is cosmopolitan and diverse. The clientele is well-heeled. The menu is seafood. And Cabernet is the big hit here.

We then approach the subject of Italian wine. I’m beginning to think this fellow isn’t a white wine drinker. But he confirms it when he declares “all Italian white wines taste alike.” He then went on to remark that he had never had a memorable one.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Counter-Lust in Austin: A Seductive New Dining Spot in Texas

No Tables. No Servers. No Tipping.

Let’s see, where have I been? Monday, it was in San Francisco. Tuesday, back in Dallas. Wednesday? Houston. And Thursday found me in Austin, Texas. Hopping around from city to city via plane, car and Uber, I’m playing road warrior again this month. My travel schedule is insane, but right now being on the road feels like the right thing. And occasionally (actually, often) I find myself poised in front of brilliance. Whether it is listening to Darrell Corti, Tim Gaiser and Shelley Lindgren wax eloquently about Chianti Classico, or Alois Lageder explain with a deeply back-lit gleam in his eye about his transformation from grower to bio-dynamic guru, right now I feel like one lucky fellow. But those are vanity posts for another day. I’m currently smitten with a little new place in Austin, and one you should get yourselves to, A.S.A.P., before it becomes the hardest seat to get in Texas. And I’m betting it won’t be long before that happens.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Chianti for the Commoner

“When will you talk about it?” My friend was pouring me a Sangiovese, in purezza, leaning in. “You and I discussed it over a year ago. Isn’t it time yet?” Raffaella, my Tuscan confidant in purezza, was pressing me to come in out of the rain and spill it.

“Ok, I promise to get into it at the next possible opportunity.” But I wasn’t looking for a fight or controversy. I’d had enough of that from the Vinitaly debacle. It really should be something more intimate, like a letter. After all it is a communication among friends. But it is a conversation that needs to be opened up to more than me and my Tuscan confidant. A letter form, that feels right. It’s more personal.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Italian Wine Appellations that are Downright Confounding

After having spent most of April crisscrossing Texas in my covered wagon to teach hundreds of people about Italian wine, there were a few moments when I was scratching my head, wondering why I was teaching some of this stuff. The scores of DOCG wines, hundreds of IGT (P) wines and even more DOC (P).

It was a simple comment in passing that started this. I was talking to an Italian and he said, “This Toscana IGT is a disaster. How can anyone make sense of it when you can have one for $4 and one for $400?” I noted the comment and moved back to my class presentation. But it stuck with me.

Let’s take a look at a few of the denominations that cause me their fair share of agita.

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