Sunday, December 27, 2015

Adventures on the Wine Trail in Italy – Ten Years After

Somewhere in time I read "one who seriously endeavors in an activity really has nothing to say for the first ten years". It’s all pretty much “chopping in the woodshed.” Looking back, it gives me comfort, in that the years ahead might mean that I can start telling the stories I have been practicing at these past ten years.

Martha Graham once said, “'Age' is the acceptance of a term of years. But maturity is the glory of years.” Again, words of solace. But the way ahead awaits. And so onward, looking for the really great tales.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

“What do you want from me?” – Conversations with an old friend in a wine cellar

Peering into my wine closet, I shut the door behind me. Cool, quiet, removed from the world of traffic, frustration, angst. Just me and my bottles, staring each other down. They, sleeping on their sides, some for decades, some for weeks. I, looking for the right wine for a meal, a gift, an occasion. I pull one out, then another. Maybe that old bottle of Merlot from Napa Valley? Maybe that Meursault? How about a Mosel white? And then I spot an Italian red wine, crouching, hiding, stealthily trying out an air of silence and invisibility. But I saw it and pulled it out. Stood it up and wondered if this was the wine for tonight.

And then the most amazing thing happened. As it stood there it talked to me. And asked me the question, “What do you want from me?” Whereupon we bantered back and forth for what must have been just a few minutes.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Carry On Wayward Son

There are those days in one’s life that mark a moment that is more than just a day. This day is such a one. I don’t talk about it much anymore, but when I was younger, in my 20’s, I was faced with a decision. Looking back, I have no regrets. But like anyone from the perspective of time looking back at the fire of youth, I see it with many more layers now than I did then.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

The Barone who traveled from the 19th Century to make wine in the 21st

No matter how crazy and out-of-control the world seems at times, there has to be a balance in one’s own life. This past week, I drove 1,000 miles in service of the Barone Sonnino. Let’s leave the pressing problems of the world behind, just for a moment; let’s spend a few minutes with the Barone and his wines from Montespertoli.

This was Barone Sonnino’s second trip to Texas this year and still we had no wine in Dallas for him to show. I took it upon myself to arrange to have some of his wine ready at my distributor's dock in Houston and went there from Dallas to fetch it. 30 or so cases fit snugly into my little wagon and with a lower than usual profile, I drove it back north.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Old Nebbiolo’s Influence on Napa Valley and New California Wine

“I think it’s safe to say I drank more Nebbiolo on my last visit to Napa Valley than Cabernet. And that’s beginning to be more the rule than the exception.” There’s more to that quote than the mere act of opening bottles of Barolo and Barbaresco. We're witnessing a minor revolution in California and it is one that has enlisted winemakers, sommeliers, importers and restaurateurs.

Last week, while in wine country for meetings, my friend Dan Petroski arranged for an informal wine get together in the home of Chef Sarah and sommelier Jason Heller. There were a dozen of us, and we all brought various bottles of Nebbiolo, some aged and some newer, like those of us in the group. And yes, we ate crazy good food, including white truffles and fresh tajarin (from Chef Sarah) and we drank ridiculously awesome wines. And I’d like to tell you about that, really, just for the bragging rights. But there’s something else going on, something much more important than one great meal with some of the most iconic wines on earth. Would you like to know?

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Dear Dad, Happy 100th – If only you could have been here

We spent much of the weekend moving a 100 year old man. His wife recently died and his family wanted him to be closer to them. He’s a pretty mellow fellow – likes to eat good food, drink a little wine, read the papers and get a good night’s sleep. He doesn’t get too riled up about anything – always pretty much an even keel fellow. He told me yesterday, “I have to get my mind back in working order.” In January he will be 101.

I talked to my mom today. She’s already 101. She told me today, “I’m 101 and ½.” She’s slowed down somewhat, but her mind is still going 100 MPH.

My dad would have been 100 today. He was born just down the street from where my son lives. Today my son and I worked in the garden, readying it for the winter. He talked to me about his life, his love and his ongoing search for meaning and happiness in life. It wasn't unlike the conversations I had with my dad in days long past.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Blood, Sweat and Tiers - Speading a Wine Culture in America

From the “my world and welcome to it” dept…

GOVERNMENT WARNING: According to the Surgeon General, women
and men who enjoy Italian wine, run the risk of becoming happy.
“That was one hell of a week,” I thought to myself as I landed in rain-soaked Dallas late Friday night. Earlier in the week I’d driven from Dallas to Austin in the fog, and then again the next day from Austin to San Antonio (again, in the fog). After two days of work in the streets with salespeople, I drove home that same day. 700 miles in two days. And then on a plane to New Orleans, for two more days of the same. It was in the French Quarter that I had one of those wonderful epiphanies about the wine business. I mentioned it to my colleague, that at this very time all over the US, people like us were doing the same thing – showing wine to restaurateurs and wine shop owners – and people like us had been doing this for years and years. To me, it was a most wonderful moment, a realization that we are many who are devoted to elevating the culture of food and wine in our world. We, reviled members of a three-tier system. It was revelatory and wonderful.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Will the real Franciacorta please stand up?

I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news. The good news is that young, urban wine lovers are really enjoying Franciacorta. The bad news is, many folks still don’t know what exactly Franciacorta is, including some producers.

First off, Franciacorta isn’t Champagne. And Franciacorta isn’t Prosecco. And Franciacorta isn’t something in between Champagne and Prosecco. I’ve heard all of those recently in tastings, and I cringed more than slightly.

Let me dip my pole in the pond and see if we can muddy the water even further.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

New York – The Center of the Wine World – for Some

I’ve been to New York three times in as many weeks. They’re getting to know me by name at Aldo Sohm Wine Bar. Some folks in Texas have even asked me if I’ve moved back there. But after all these years, I know my place.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Sixteen little eggplants that made a grown man cry

from the "tears of happiness" dept.

Alfonso and Rafael in Assisi - October 1977
Getting to a weekend where there are no obligations, no travel, no “must-do’s” during the October-November-December holiday season is a rarity. But this is exactly where I found myself this weekend. So, I’m taking a little time to “mommy-blog.” I’ve been working at a pretty hard and fast pace, so please bear with me. There may or may not be enough bloggy Italian wine stuff on this post. But this needs to be written.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Youth - Not Wasted on the Young - Not This Time

It’s never easy to stare into the barrel of time. That’s a showdown that time always wins. We may make it for 60, 80, even 100 years, but the time comes when we all must give the stage over to the young talent. Fortunately there are always more of us coming. And in the last week, I have been overcome with young Italians coming to America after harvest to spread the word and help make the world safer for Italian wine. We are truly in the Golden Age of wine and these young Italians are working to extend that era.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Five Italian wines every 29 year-old should own

This past week I was doing wine service at a wine dinner with a younger salesperson. I poured a glass of wine, the 2011 Felsina Chianti Classico and handed it to her. She took a sip and smiled. “This is wonderful, what is it?” she asked. I showed her the bottle and then said, “This is something you should collect a case of to drink over the next 20 years.” She raised an eyebrow, Spock-like, almost as if to say, “Collect? 20 years?” I reckon, to a 29 year-old, being 49 is akin to staring into an infinite abyss of eternal nothingness. Nonetheless, this millennial took it in good stride.

It got me to thinking about wine I have “collected” over the years and how those years just rolled along, with no consideration toward me regarding their velocity. Hopefully I gathered a few good ones for the long, fast ride. But for a 29 year-old, that is, if I were 29 years old, here are a few wines I would recommend to myself to buy a case of and enjoy over the next 20 years. This is also applicable for 39, 49, 59 and 69 year-olds, providing you are mindful of your health, diet and don’t set foot in a crosswalk when the driver of a truck is texting.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Cannubi Conundrum ~ If 15 was 30

Still life with glass of Lambrusco at Aldo Sohm Wine Bar
Although harvest is in full-swing in Piedmont, the folks who sell the wines have hit the road. This week found me in New York City and Frisco, Texas for a barrage of Barolo events.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Wine – made by dead people – for people not yet born

With autumn’s beginning, Italian winemakers are now home from the beach and the mountains, and busy working in their wineries. Gone are the long dreamy days listening to the lap of the sea. Faint are the memories of lunch that went from 1:00 until 4:00 PM, and which included a nap after that. Distant are the long nights, sipping frizzante wine and eating fresh fish, pasta and fruit at a nearby chalet way past midnight. Now is the time for no-sleep, meals on the fly and little time for reflection. Oh Daniele boy, the grapes, the grapes are calling.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

"Hare Today - Gone to Merlot" or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Shelf-Talkers

While many wine lovers are trekking off to exotic lands to experience the grape harvest, I am deep into the holiday selling season. The traditional O-N-D (October-November-December) selling season has added an “S” (for September), and now it is the “S-O-N-D” season. Every year I get wound up and this year is no different. But for some reason, I sense when this one is put to bed, it will mark an important crossroad in my work life. I don’t want to miss a moment. I love the competition, I love to win, still have fire in my belly, even though to many of the young’uns around me, I am pretty much invisible. That’s OK; I know how to do invisible real well.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

“I just want wines reviewed by Parker”

While in one of my favorite little Italian wine shops near my home, I ventured over to the Tuscan section to see how the owner’s Labor Day sale was going. Earlier in the week I had arranged the Brunello section (for about five minutes, before the various distributor reps decided they didn’t like where their placements had been configured). A 50ish man was looking at one of the bottles. “Can I help you with anything?” I asked him. I figured, having just organized this section, and researched the critical acclaim various wines received, I was about as versed as anyone regarding what was what. As well, I had tasted nearly all of the wines, so I could give him my blow-by-blow. “No thanks, I’m just looking for wines rated by Parker,” he said. I wanted to ask him, “Would you like the reviews of Italian wines from Parker by Daniel Thomases or the ones by Antonio Galloni (now with Vinous) or the ones now being done by Monica Larner (once with the Wine Enthusiast). And if you liked those, let’s say in the time when Galloni was reviewing, why wouldn’t you like to look at his reviews now and consider those (on Vinous) with as much credibility that you imbued his reviews when they were on Parker?” But I started with “Oh well, there are plenty of wines rated by Parker’s writers here, so that shouldn’t be a problem, if that is what you are looking for.” He gave me this look, as if I didn’t know what he was talking about and then he shouted out, “No, I just want wines reviewed by Parker.”

Sunday, August 30, 2015

A summer night in a backwater berth in Ohio where dining in America was transformed

The view from the Lagoons at Vermilion, Ohio is a bit intimidating. Sheltered from Lake Eyrie, this bedroom community of Cleveland is one of those places in America that if people who don’t live here they probably don’t think about. There’s a million of these places in the States. What makes it so intriguing is that people live their lives here, cut their lawns, take their boats out to the lake, on the 4th of July, on Labor Day weekend, and live as though they are the center of the universe. Which indeed, they are. As we are all, living within our very own microcosms. Peaceful, placid, bring your boat up to the dock, park it and come in for a multi-course wine dinner. Why not?

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The End of Summer Vacation ~ The Beginning of Autumn Harvest

It happens like this every year. It’s been a great month at the beach. Now we must pack up our belongings, shut down the cabana and head back to the vineyards for harvest. Summer vacation is over.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

A World Beyond Wine Blogging ~ Musings on a Ferragosto Evening

(L-R) Louis, Alfonso, Mary & Julia Cevola - Palermo ca. 1919
I’m stealing time right now. There’s a 2,100 word, multi-segment piece on the desk that needs polishing, with a deadline in a few days. And another two stories in the works, with a third to come. And there’s the day job, which isn’t the Monday to Friday kind. Along with that, my family has an inordinate amount of elderly folks to check in with, ages 97-101. And we lost one this week.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

TEXSOM through the ages

TEXSOM and On the Wine Trail in Italy have something in common - we both started about the same time - and hopefully those who noticed such things have seen growth in both of them. I for one, now have a reason to enjoy August in Texas. That's more than enough. But as well, the conviviality, the friendships, the dedication to wine and the people involved make this a must-attend event for me.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Italy and their Wine Debt to France

Photograph by Pierre Jahan/Archives des museés nationaux
For as long as I can remember there have been oblique encounters between Italophiles and Francophiles. In years past, it seemed there was always that expert in French wine who wanted to display his prodigious erudition for all to see. It was more oppressive than impressive.

Recently the tides have turned. Barolo is the new Burgundy. Brunello is getting its groove on, and raincoated and umbrella’d Bordelaise sniffle and sneeze in response to their sunny Tuscan cousins. It’s a bit of a parlor game for the ruling class.

My first foray in France was preceded by a harrowing road trip from Italy. Venice, Tuscany, Cinque Terre, all things bright and beautiful about Italy and wine were laid before me and I took the bait. And then I was dragged to Southern France.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Sardegna and wine - a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma

By chance, I’m sitting in a restaurant and nearby me is a table of four. Urban dwellers, well-traveled, by the looks of their garb and little snippets of conversation that float into the dining room for all to hear. One in the group starts talking about wine and Italy. The usual suspects are cited – Rome, Florence, Venice, The Amalfi Coast, Cinque Terre. And then someone mentions Costa Smeralda in Sardegna. By this time the wine has been flowing, social lubrication amplifies the voices and one in the group states, for all to hear, “I love the Costa Smeralda, the beaches are great, the seafood holds a candle to no one and the people are friendly. But honestly, I don’t get Sardinian wine.”

It was one of those moments. In a busy dining room it was as if time had stood still. A conversational lull in the room had occurred at that time, and the last statement, “I don’t get Sardinian wine” bellowed throughout the room and careened off the walls. Had the wine gods issued a dispatch?

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Hidden Calabria and the dawn of a new day

Feral, untouched, wild, unknown – Calabria is a wine frontier. Long passed over by wine connoisseurs in favor of Piedmont and Tuscany, Calabria is part of the grand excuse people make for not getting into Italian wine more because “they are just too complicated and unpredictable.” And those folks have a point – wines from Calabria are not for the conventional set - they require an open and adventurous spirit. But for those who delve into the dark heart of southern Italy, there are some amazing wines awaiting you.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The California Drought Report: Déjà vu and other ramblings while driving on the Silverado Trail at midnight.

It was déjà vu. The tinderbox conditions we were sitting in must have made it seem like it. It was an early summer night, just like before. And there was the same warm breeze that cooled as the sun disappeared behind the mountain range. We were sitting outside at the restaurant attached to the Solage resort in Calistoga. And the subject of the drought came up. I made the comment that it seemed a lot like 1976, which was the first of two drought years that produced some good wines. “I remember being here; the conditions seem the same.” A guest at our table asked me what Solage was like 40 years ago. “I wouldn't know. I was parked nearby in a lot near the fairgrounds; my wife was 6 months pregnant and she and I and her daughter were sleeping in the ‘62 Falcon wagon, hoping not to be awakened in the middle of the night by the local police.” A stretch from the luxe setting of Solage.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

A little bit of Americana for our friends in Italy

A pictorial journey through West Texas on July 4th weekend

Three weeks ago, I was sitting in a basement in Bari judging Italian wine made from any number of indigenous grapes. Today, I’m in West Texas, eating chicken fried steak and drinking Prosecco. Life is strange, ain’t it? But for my Italian friends, these past few days are the kind of experience I know many of them would give their I-teeth for. Imagine a 4th of July weekend in West Texas. For some it might seem foreboding. But it all depends on who you’re hanging with.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Lucania ~ As I See It

From the Radici del Sud notebook

Forget anything you know about Basilicata and Southern Italy. Disregard anyone telling you this is the poorest region in all of Italy. What I’m about to tell you, I hope, will change what and how you think about this region and the South.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Radici del Sud ~ An Emotional Pilgrimage to One’s Origins

One soul's radical search for the ideal on an imbalanced planet 

Bucita, Calabria ~ 1977
Do you have a lifelong quest? What about life in this world lights up your spirit? Is there some thing, whether it be objective or subjective, that keeps your heart pumping blood through your veins? I hope so, for your sake. We’ve seen too much in this world, lately, of souls who have no greater purpose. And when those dark things happen, our world stumbles.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Master Class in Indigenous Wines ~ As Taught by a Donkey, a Rooster and the Spirit of Place

There are aspects to life that don’t travel so well on the road. One of them is the lack of interaction with creatures other than humans. Maybe it is a pet, or the birds in one’s back yard, any number of life forms that constitute the daily connections one has, sometimes not even thinking about it. The other, if one is so inclined, is the interplay one has with nature, the grounded lifeforms that don’t move. Maybe it is a tree, or a bush, a plant with fruit or vegetables. And while traveling, those elements that form part of the identity of one’s life, be it only an inner one, they aren’t able to be packed into the suitcase.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

What the World Needs Now is Passerina, Sweet #Passerina

Rome, if anything, is a mirror of all that is good and bad in the world. From my first trip here, in 1971, and with all the times I have come into this city, it has eternally stayed the same. Rome is simply a reflection of the humanity that inhabits present time and space.

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.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sacrificing the Basics for Babel

This weekend I listened to a panel of chefs from Texas who brought national attention to Southwest cuisine. They were Robert Del Grande, Dean Fearing and Stephan Pyles, and we were at the Buffalo Gap Wine and Food Summit at Perini Ranch in West Texas.

Robert Del Grande, who hails from Houston, said something that caught my ear. He said, “In the beginning, we were looking for ingredients that you couldn’t find in the supermarket.” Things like red bell peppers, chayote squash, heck, even cilantro, they couldn’t be found in the large stores. Here we were, a chef talking about a time 30+ years ago, telling us he was looking for something no one else had.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

What young Americans can learn from an old German ~ The Rudi Wiest register

Rudi Wiest will turn 79 this year. But as he likes to say, “I have a long ways to go to catch up with your mom. She’s going to be 101 this year, yes?” Older people have a different conception of time than younger ones. The younger ones have been young all their life, and they likely think they will be for the rest of their time on earth. “I used to think that too,” my almost 101 year old mom once told me. “And then I turned 40. And then 50. 60. 70. 80. And so on. And now I have been older for most of my life than young. That’s just the way it is.” And so it was this last week, I tooled around Texas in a very large SUV with two young guys and an even younger soon-to-be 79 year old

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Making the Case for Darker Rosė Wines ~ Countering the "Brangelina" Effect

In no small way, we all need to thank the Perrin family (and Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie) for resuscitating the rosė wine category. Before the phenomenon of Miraval, rosė wines were in the crapper. More often than not, aged rosė wines sat in warehouses and on store shelves dying a slow death. No matter how many articles that came out, in blogs, in magazines, and in newspapers, the numbers didn’t look good.I know, because I was tracking them. And it wasn't pretty.

Then Perrin (and Brangelina) said “Let there be light.” And it was a game changer. Now wineries all up and down France and across to Italy, in Spain, in California and all over the world are chasing the ethereal, elusive onion skin color for their wines. And for good reason. Miraval is kicking ass in the sales department.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Meditations on the '51

Sooner or later we encounter the mirror. As much as we try, with makeup, with dye, with dark glasses and soft focus, time ultimately wins the race. The young ones look upon the older ones as something that is in the way or will ultimately be neutralized and discarded. Invisibility is a step along the way to annihilation. What the young ones don’t know (or don’t want to realize) is that they are on the same path as the elders who are taking up space in the cellar. So it goes.

We all have our ideas of what a unicorn wine is. That is, a wine that is rare, maybe not the greatest of the great, but when one encounters such a creature, it is a special moment. I had such an meeting last month in the Langhe, in Barolo.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Penetrating Magic of Burlotto

Running into Fabio Alessandria in the Piedmont Hall at Vinitaly, he called me by my name. How he remembered I cannot imagine. But in such a hectic place and day, it was a welcome salutation. We made plans to come by his family winery, Comm. G.B. Burlotto in Verduno, when we arrived back to the Langhe after the wine fair.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Why this might be our last Vinitaly in Verona: A Dear Giovanni letter to Veronafiere

Dear Veronafiere,

We have been coming to Verona and Vinitaly since 1967. We have watched it expand over the years and have endured the labor pains of growth along with many other long persevering Italians, as well as people from around the world. But we are seriously considering not coming back to Vinitaly in Verona.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Wine to Come: Observations from the Langhe on the First Day of Spring

Photo: European Space Agency
A well-dressed group from around the world milling around an open courtyard in the Langhe on this first day of spring. A motion to move inside to the winery for a presentation. Above, the moon, already moving, in a short coup against the sun. Winter, trying one last time to forestall the onslaught of growth of the new season. And so this was the augur of the new day.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

"Vineyards Barolo lovers should seek out, without getting bogged down in tar and roses."

When I recently took a week off, it was to take time from work so I could get caught up on a few writing projects. One that I am particularly proud of, Barolo's Greatest Vineyards Ranked, was just published on (It's circulating quickly on Social Media).

During the process I came to terms with collecting Barolo and how to go about it simply. It’s now my working template for future Barolo acquisitions.

Read about it on

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W

Sunday, March 15, 2015

"Venice was the Dubai of the 13th Century"

On a nippy winter night, while having a quiet meal in a dining room in Venice overlooking the Grand Canal, the subject of Dubai arose. A city of two million souls in the United Arab Emirates, Dubai is something of a fantasy, a miracle and a conundrum. Without a doubt, it has captured the imagination of many Italians I work with.

Around our table that evening, the Italians likened Dubai to another city that has, over many hundreds of years, also enchanted many a traveler. At our perch, in the still of a winter night, it taxed the imagination to draw parallels between Venice and Dubai. Perhaps it was the wine, or that we had all had a long day. But upon further conversation, the notion that Venice was the Dubai of the 13th Century was parsed, aided by further bottles of wine.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

On the Wine Trail in Italy in other places – Solid advice for Italians looking to enter the US market and a primer on Italian wine for young sommeliers

In the almost ten years that I have been writing this blog, there has been, more or less, a natural development of it. My blog voice, I’ve been told, has a tendency to be idealistic and often somewhere in the cloud between reality and “the way I really want it to be.” I realize some folks actually come here, from time to time, for solid information. So, let me share several pieces that might help those who are looking for those things.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

The Master Class

Opportunities abound for learning about Italian wine and culture. All it takes is time. There is no fast-track. No amount of cramming, memorization, jumping the queue, none of it will make up for the one thing we all hate to give up – our time. There you have it, the little secret. Not that knowing it will all of a sudden land you on the steps of some amazing gate that changes your life. No, your life’s time will take care of that.

I say this because this time of the year there are all manner of hopefuls taking tests and preparing to enhance their career, their life even, with certifications, post-nominals and status. To those who have that constitution, I say, travel safe. Because you might find after you’ve sailed solo around the world in pursuit of your goal, you got want you wanted. But you didn’t find what you were looking for.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Comfort me with Nebbiolo

The waking world is fraught with disappointment, large and small. From the land mine of the news cycle to something as simple as overexposure to tannins. And so it was, last week, bundled up in my warm little cabin on the side of a hill in California wine country, that I eagerly awaited a night away from the fears and the pains of everyday life.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

An Italian-American mantra: "My grandfather made my life possible today."

To Kalon "I" Block
Coming home from a week at the 11th annual Symposium for Professional Wine Writers at Meadowood Napa Valley, I missed my plane and caught a later flight, and was wired, tired but also inspired. To wind down, I crashed on my ancient green couch and veged out on TV. PBS is running a series on Italian Americans, so I watched a segment.

It prompted me to think about the arc of my family, in that both my grandfathers came to America for different reasons. One, my mother’s dad, Attilio, was trying to escape the most abject of poverty. He was married and left his wife (a “white widow”) and young son. Eventually they joined him, and after four more children were born, they separated. He went on to other pastures.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

France by way of Italy

Avignon - 1985
When I was coming up in the wine business, there was this invisible wall between France and Italy, put there mainly by wine snobs who thought France was the epitome of all that wine was meant to be. In those days I would often hear things like “Oh, you are an Italian wine-lover. I never thought all those grapes and wine were worth much of a fuss.” and “Who needs to look any further than France, with the wines of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, the Rhone, the Loire and Alsace?” I would be made to feel like my love was a second-class affair, that I could never rise to understand and appreciate wine with my limited Italian prism like those with expertise in French wine.

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