Sunday, December 08, 2019

“喜劇結束了” - The State of Italy - Wine, Culture, All of It - in 2120

“Italian investment of time and resources in importing wine to China will ultimately turn out to be a big mistake. The Chinese will eventually get their production to a level where they can be seen as prestigious as the first growths of Bordeaux (the French are complicit in helping them get there, and along the way, have sold their souls for a buck). And when the state media of China convinces Chinese (or compels them) to be loyal to their homegrown wine, which is better than anywhere else in the world, "La Commedia è finita" [ 喜劇結束了]. Italian wine will have been pared down to miniscule levels, and will be so rare and exclusive as to be the private domain of billionaires and NPC apparatchik. You and I will be dead then.” – Luisa Parker-Ragg in 2020


Assisi - February 14, 2120 A.D.

Where to start? As everyone knows by now, around 2040, things got tough for Italians in these parts. The Chinese population alone in Tuscany was nearing 500,000, displacing many generations of Tuscans. Along with that, the birth rate declined so extensively that it was hard to keep some of our industries going. Native manufacturing all but disappeared. And farming wouldn’t have survived if not for AI. Vineyards began to shrivel, with no one to work the land. And then, as if overnight, we found out that China owned 58% of Italian land and industry. We had been invaded, overrun and taken over by our own hubris and inertia. Now we are a colony.

Friday, December 06, 2019

Altamont, December 6, 1969 - The end of the '60's or, simply, childhood's end?

Altamont was dubbed “the end of the ‘60’s,” but for some of us it was simply childhood’s end. For this child of the 60’s it was a time when I left the safe confines of my desert village and moved to college, to the city. But it was outside of that city that the urban darkness descended on a typically bright and sunny California day.

What I saw, not heard - for there was a concert providing a soundtrack to all of this - was not just restless youth living in an uncertain time. It was as if the curtain of civility was being pulled back, just a little, much like what a carnival barker does to entice innocent bystanders into his tent. But this onlooker had his camera, so he stepped in and started shooting.

Sunday, December 01, 2019

A late-night dispatch from a tired and wary Italian wine export agent in China

[ Imagine a scenario where Italian wine exporters, winemakers and their agents make their twice (or thrice) yearly pilgrimage to China in search of trade and success. And imagine, if you will, one of those agents sending a note in the middle of the night. It has happened many times, and as such, this one emanated from one of those cold, dark, lonely rooms, overlooking a pop-up city of millions in the middle of the night.]


Dear A,

It’s 3 A.M. and I got into my room two hours ago. I’m writing to you because it’s afternoon where you are, and back home in Italy people have sat down to their Sunday dinner. They have other, more important things on their mind than my travails in the Middle Kingdom.

I’ve just come in from another wine banquet, this time in Zhengzhou. Course after course, some recognizable, some as foreign as the Chinese characters on the signs. And wine, Italian wine. Multiple vintages of this wine or that wine. In my case, it is our Brunello, which goes back many years. How our hosts found the 1955, I’ll never know. We don’t even have it in our cave back home. But that seems to be the way it is in China. One can find things seemingly lost to history. On the other hand, one can find that here the past is shunned, forever lost. At least the truth of history. But that’s what it must be like when you live under the rule of a leader who had himself voted ruler for life. God, what I’d give to have a plate of spaghetti con peperoncino aglio olio right now, to settle my stomach and to rid my palate from the taste of smoked duck and soy.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

The Absolutely Last (and Final) Wine Dinner I Will Ever Do

[Stardate -303142.8]

“It was bound to happen, eventually,” he said to himself. “After all, having done more than 600 wine dinners, what more can one say or do about Italian wine in front of a group of juiced-up bacchants on a Saturday night, getting their drink on and rushing through the courses, so the deejay can turn down the lights, turn up the noise and get them to dancing their derrières off, into the wee hours of the morning?”

And so it was, not with a bang but a sniffle that he shuffled off the dais and proceeded to eat his cold pasta on some long-abandoned table, wondering why, why did he fall for it again?

Sunday, November 17, 2019

[For what it’s worth] Who do you think you are?

There's something happening here, what it is ain't exactly clear

It really seems, to this fool on the hill, that the routes that wine follow, there’s a groove that has become very, very important. I’m going to break it down into the different articulations, from the source to the terminus, and offer my observations. And yes, we’re talking about wine, and how it’s intersection within our culture has changed how we see it, how we place ourselves within that context and how everything that was taken for granted 30 years ago, have pretty much been assailed in these here times. Change is constant and inevitable. And to quote, once again, a distant cousin, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, “If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.” It’s not all bad news.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Young French professionals take the lead in the wine trade

Alice Paillard and Victor Coulon
When one looks back at a career and all the people and occurrences in the span of the last 40 or so years, there is overwhelming evidence that we have been in a Golden Age for wine. But as one backs away from the precipice and the younger generations take their turn grabbing the brass ring, the idea of legacy emanates.

Sunday, November 03, 2019

5 Italian Wine Buyers (that I wanted to challenge, gag and thank)

Over the length of my career in the fine wine distribution channel, I encountered a few wine buyers that “took the cake,” and I mean that in every sense. In sales, as in service, the customer is king. So, I had to learn to accept, reflect and occasionally deflect. It wasn’t all half-glass stuff, though. There truly were (and hopefully still are) some exemplary buyers of Italian wine in restaurants and fine wine shops. The following five are examples of archetypal Italian wine buyers - the good, the bad and the ugly - that I had close encounters with on the wine trail in Italy.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

In the Blink of an Eye

Tornadoes, Fires and Lynchings...

The path of destruction from the Dallas tornado on October 19, 2019
Everything seems to be moving so fast. Maybe it’s the contraction of time you experience as you have more of it behind you than in front of you. Perhaps it’s the residue of all the moments in the present pressing forth upon those moments in the future. I don’t know, really, but what I do know, is that things can change in the blink of an eye.

When I was in Sicily in 2016 and woke up in the back of a car that had been hit by a truck, I was dazed and confused. “Where am I?” where the first words I remember uttering. “Sit down!” was the response. Good idea. I had several broken ribs, a knee that was bulging with a hematoma and a concussion. Not to mention various neck and musculoskeletal pains since. But we were alive, we made it through.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

The Weight of Time - An Ancient Tuscan Family and Vineyard

On a cool Friday afternoon in North Texas, autumn finally reached us. Time to put on the long pants, even socks. Maybe a jacket. Or pull that black Italian suit out of the closet and wear it. It fits now. After a year away from constant dining, wining and being part of the ever-so-involved wine world.

Now, it’s a different season for yours truly. But it is one I am digging in and rooting around. Not like there will be that much time, but we’re here, now. So, what is one to do?

How about a casual Friday afternoon lunch with a few friends, Italian and otherwise, all very nice, warm and cordial souls. And our hosts from Fonterutoli in Tuscany.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

The Elite Cabal and Their Conspiracy for the Future of Wine

90 was the first one to arrive, always early, always ready to please. He took a seat, at a table set for twelve, and waited patiently.

He always did well in school, and afterwards, in graduate school, he didn’t finish because he wanted to get right into the swing of things. 90 is action oriented, favorite quote is, “Let’s make something happen.”

91 followed, looking a bit dazed and confused. She looked like she hadn’t slept in days, but she arrived in starched blouse and pressed trousers, no slouch was 91. Her biggest problem was that even though she excelled among her peers, she didn’t rise to the level of excellence that she was once thought capable of. But really, this was the same with 92, 93 and 94. They were good, very good. But not great. And great is what the world of premiumization is looking for. 92, 93 and 94 arrived and sat down on the other side of the table.

Sunday, October 06, 2019

Are Wine Ambassadors Worth the Time and Money?

(This one is)
Is the role of the wine ambassador in the era of social media an experiment that has yet to see its star rise or has that sun already set? With wholesale consolidation approaching event horizon and with sales force automation becoming more prevalent, how do you get the drum beat, the cheerleader, when historically that was left to the distributor’s sales force?

This commentary is directed primarily towards companies (importers, wholesale distributors, wine regions and consortiums, and well-financed wineries) but if you are a wine ambassador or are considering to become one, there are some relevant points here for you as well.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Wine writers and their most faithful followers

For those perched inside the balloon of the wine world, a self-contained orb, there’s little to worry about an expanding universe. The problems of string theory or quantum mechanics matter not, to those vying for their spot on the head of the pin, placed strategically in the middle of the balloon. Little concern there is, as well, for any possibility that the sharp end of that needle might pierce their tiny world and all will be lost. Wine writers live in an alternate cosmos. There aren’t the normal repercussions that normal writers must face. The book writer, and hopeful publisher, gnash about in the trendy nosh parlors of Shoreditch, swirling their Manzanilla, while cobbling their strategy to sell 1,000 books. It’s perfect. It must be the alcohol, which casts that euphoric fog.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Oh, The People You’ll Meet! (at a wine media luncheon)

Since decamping from the day job, I’ve had more than my fair share of invites to wine media luncheons. For the most part these have been pleasurable social events. If lucky, we actually received information and inspiration. I’ve come to recognize some of the archetypal characters that populate these events. Here are a few that have stood out along the way.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

The Scandal that has Shaken the Universe of the Masters of Ŝophisticated Ҫannabis

Dateline: April 20, 2049
It’s been nearly a year since 420 anxious Cannabis Sommeliers amassed at the Hotel Zig-Zag in Portland, Oregon. The purpose? To accept a challenge to pass the most rigorous testing to become one of a handful (now standing at 1937) of Masters of Ŝophisticated Ҫannabis (MŜҪ) in the world – fewer than have traveled to Mars.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Asprinio - a Ramble, a Recollection, a Revelation

“Summer will end soon enough, and childhood as well.” – George R.R. Martin

In my den, on an oak table, bottles of wine are lined up to be tasted. Wine from Sicily, from Chile, from Napa Valley, waiting. I should open them, taste them, make notes and find a way to tell readers what they’re like. But a newly aroused narrative has jumped the queue, an anamnesis, long ago filed and forgotten. And cadaver-like, it pops up, resurfaces, and appeals for its story to be told, before it is consigned once again to oblivion on the battlefield of memory.

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Fury, Indignation, Outrage – Seeking Asylum from the Blitz Against Bliss

…and the wine we’ve been opening up lately, on the island.

Three years ago, I came up with this scenario that, quite possibly, the earth passed through a field of cosmic dust of unknown elements that caused a large part of the population to have experienced a mind-altering state, and not necessarily in a good way. Not a mass hypnosis (which doesn’t exist), maybe just a slight shift in the collective consciousness? Or maybe, mass psychosis? But if that possibly happened, to those who weren’t affected by the dust storm, it seems all kind of crazy was unleashed. But this is about wine, and Italian wine, so let’s get after it.

Sunday, September 01, 2019

Burning Man At 50 - Five Gen ΑΩ Women Who Are Changing Wine and the World

Reporting from Black Rock City, August 31, 2036...


This is Leia Rippley; I am now 85. And as they say, 85 is the new 30, thanks to nano-extenders and the little solar generator that keeps my heart pumping. With global warming, there is plenty of sun, and Black Rock City, with its average temperature, this time of the year, at 125°F, my heart has another 40-50 years. That is if Terra does. Fortunately, I also had a vortex personal cooling rib-cage installed in 2025, and have only had to rebuild it three times. But, it’s all good, I’m cool.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Regarding Wine, Writing and “Influencers”

With time comes reflection. What makes a life? What are the influences, positive and negative? What shapes one’s thoughts, preferences, aspirations? What gives one greater fear, or the occasional gloomy feeling? What offers greater clarity and purpose? How does this little microcosm relate to the larger, more immediate world of the everyday? What is it about wine and writing about wine that fills one’s butterfly net?

The bubble of the wine world and the words that swirl about in that rarified atmosphere are but a metaphor for life’s greater meaning. This is my view. It, and the role of the influencer, are the basis of this personal essay.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Knowing Your Place

from the archives...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.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

The Emotional Roller-Coaster Life of a Wine

...from the archives

I’ve been sitting in his wine closet for close to 20 years now. In the dark. Freezing. Once in a while he comes in, turns the light on and picks another one. The other, always the other. What must I do to get out of here?

I have spent the best years of my life in this small, dark room, with the others. Sometimes for weeks, he doesn’t come in; we don’t know if he has abandoned us totally. And then all of a sudden, he opens the door, turns on the light and squeezes in a few more of the others. This is sheer torment. When will I get out of here?

Sunday, August 04, 2019

The top 10 destinations for Italian wine exports? China isn't on the list


From the looks of young Italian wine professionals Instagram and Facebook feeds, one would think China is their top market. Add to that the obligatory posts from Kuala Lumpur, Phuket, Bangkok and Phnom Penh, one would think there’s a lot of business for Italian wine in Asia. Let’s look at the numbers.

According to Istat data, 2019 (From Italian Wine Central) of the 20 top destinations for Italian wine exports, 2018, China isn’t even in the top 10. Yes, it’s a country with good growth potential and 1.2 billion inhabitants. But is the investment in time and travel worth it?

Sunday, July 28, 2019

The 2nd Most Important Book About Italian Wine – Ever

Ian D'Agata's latest book, "Italy's Native Wine Grape Terroirs"
If you are a lover of Italian wine, it is inevitable that you will become enmeshed in the arms of grape-laden vines. And it helps to have a good memory, preferably an encyclopedic one. Most of us aren’t possessed of such attributes, but thankfully there is a doctor in the house.

Ian D’Agata’s latest tome, “Italy’s Native Wine Grape Terroirs,” serves as a worthy companion to his groundbreaking work, “Native Wine Grapes of Italy.” Similarly named, with an additional word, terroir. Which is important to wine aficionados, as terroir is the vital link to understanding the wines from the grapes (a full explanation emanates from the book).

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

"Leave poetry to poets… I want to know whether I'll like a wine or not"


The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio, c. 1602

"Wine writing is horrendous. I am a relatively young (in my mid 30s) and a neophyte to the world of enjoying wine, and the vocabulary of wine criticism is all but useless to me. Only about 5 of these terms convey anything remotely concrete about the way a wine tastes, smells and feels. The rest are hazy evocations of the emotional state of the author and so subjective that they completely fail to communicate anything. Leave poetry to poets, and write clearly and simply about wine. I want to know whether I'll like a wine or not, and the layers of abstraction and mystery pushed in guides like this make it impossible for me to know what to actually ask for and identify why I liked another bottle. I appreciate that we must rely on metaphor and simile to communicate some of the nuances of flavor and odor. However, unless it's being shot out of a spray gun into my mouth, it's hard to see how wine would feel propulsive. Wine is not a mystery, and rhapsodizing about it as a transcendental mystical experience and not a (humble, delicious) drink just leads to people like me thinking we lack the capacity to understand and enjoy it. Telling me a wine is tense, precise, energetic and alive tells me everything about you, and almost nothing about the wine" - Max – NYC - July 15

In a recent piece in the New York Times, Eric Asimov penned, “15 Helpful Words for Talking About Wine - Here is a practical lexicon that helps to describe the elusive characteristics of wine, without eliciting eye rolls and forehead slaps.” Inevitably, there were eye rolls, head slaps and comments. Max’s comment (above) was one of the top comments in terms of the readers choice for “likes, recommends and replies.”

In the same comment section Nandini Sankar from Mumbai asked, “How about an article on 15 words to use when you are asking about wine? I stumble a lot here, despite having some pretty specific likes and dislikes, and am always lost at a wine shop!”

Nandini is asking for practical advice in the form of words. Eric is offering a thought piece, as he sees it, and Max, well, Max is being Max. None of these folks are wrong. All are seeking a simple solution to understanding and, hopefully, loving wine.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

"There are no interlopers in my vineyard - they all are indigenous living things"

Pt. VII

All we knew was that they were grown above in the vineyards in their native state. And they were made in a natural way. Not in the prepossessed way of the present in which every wine maker, merchant and marketer who wants to be seen as “in” make statements with regards to their sustainability, their non-interventionism, their indigenous yeasting, their no sulfur regimen, all the trigger words to mark that one has “arrived” in the world of real wine. None of this was stirring in these dark, cool, quiet rooms.

I arrived Monday morning and Daria met me at the door. “Signore, Diana is still asleep. She had a rough couple of nights. Maybe a stomach flu. She’ll eventually be up. Come in and have some coffee and we will wait a few minutes.”

Diana had sidestepped a brief encounter with cancer some years ago. She was clear of it, but as it happens with things that age, something always comes up. The goal isn’t to live forever, no one can do that. It’s just to steer clear of as many infirmities as one’s constitution (and resilience) will allow. Diana was tough. But even the strong stumble. We would wait.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

From the "News" Desk - and a Little Personal Business

Quick post here before I sign off from the miasma we call the internet these days. And do a little celebrating.

Two new pieces about wine, which coincidentally have Italian wine in them. In the Dallas Morning News.

Dallas entrepreneur launches Crazy Beautiful Wines brand in big 1-liter bottles

The University of Dallas makes wine? Try this new red from vineyards on the school's Italian campus

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Cracking Open the Corycian Cave (and the Key to Peace)

Pt. VI

"This was my revolution. Italian wine, in 1957, was not so delicious. It had alcohol, lots of dried earth flavor, but it was lacking life. I wanted the wine to be young and vibrant, youthful. Not tired. Not vinegar. Not brown. Red, like my blood. White, not brown. Like the clouds. And golden yellow, like a sun setting. I was totally immersed in this dreamworld, and there was nobody telling me to stop. And so, I ventured forth, and began my symphony of wine in 100 movements."

Daria let me in, it was barely sunrise and Diana was in her little study. As I approached her, I noticed the dog-eared book she loved so much was open to this passage:

“When it is understood that one loses joy and happiness in the attempt to possess them, the essence of natural farming will be realized. The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.” ― Masanobu Fukuoka, The One-Straw Revolution

I was not a philosophy buff in college, tending more towards the arts, with a sprinkling of theology and mythology in my courses. I took a non-western course of studies, and words were not the emphasis I was being directed towards. It was a visual path: painting photography, filmmaking, ancient cultures. And to my introverted being, that was just fine. But here we were, in this little room, with these words. Perhaps words could be an artform too? In the hands of someone like Masanobu Fukuoka, this was a certainty. I’m not even sure my last sentence is defensible within philosophical discourse. I went into the kitchen; I needed some coffee.

Sunday, July 07, 2019

A Symphony of Wine in 100 Movements

Pt. V

Who could we get here to help us, help this amazing woman who was unknown, outside of Tuscany and Florence, but, in my mind, was one of the greatest winemakers the world has ever known?

As it turned out, my career back home took a turn. In fact, everything changed, and in some ways, for everyone. The stock market crash, the fall of the Berlin wall, the end of the old order and the dawn of an age that humans weren’t quite prepared for – the internet age. But that was a good 10-15 years away from reaching its out-of-control momentum that we are now (in 2019) only realizing. Facts, reality, the cliff ahead, careening in a driverless vehicle, pedal to the floor, with no bridge and no parachute.

Meanwhile the consolidation of the wine trade in America saw me jobless for the first time in my adult life. I was adrift, floating and in Italy. And there was this treasure trove of wine, made over the decades by this amazing winemaker, Diana. Even though she was an elder, she showed no signs of stopping in the foreseeable future. It appeared that fate had bound me to the mast of this ship, for now.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Creating Your Own Current in the Sea of Life

Pt. IV

“Diana pulled out a small bottle, a dessert wine. It was amber and smelled of cloves and honey and celery. Odd creature, but quite pleasant with the wedge of aged pecorino we were polishing off. “I don’t recall a time when I didn’t think about freedom… All I could think of was freedom. Freedom from these chains.”

Several years later, when I was in Florence, I was having a glass of wine with my friend. “Have you heard about Diana?” Thinking he was about to tell me something terrible, I shuddered. “No, it isn’t that. Perhaps we should go out and visit her this week?”

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Living Free in a World of Chains

Pt. III

“So, my journey took me to the field and through the vines right in front of the grapes. And there they were, everyone a story, all these little passages they made, sacrificing their life for something bigger, something hopefully greater than their singular, globular being. And my task, my calling, was to listen and try and understand all their little lives and put some sense of order, and beauty, to them. That has been my odyssey. And I never even left my little località.”

Our host, who asked not to be identified, invited us to return in January, when she was pressing some dried grapes for a vinsanto. “You will return?” Of course, we promised. It would be up to us to hold true to that promise. We’d found Eldorado in the hills of Tuscany. I couldn’t imagine not going back.
What is it in the span of 100 days that could alter one’s life, sometimes radically and inextricably? After a week at the vineyard of this amazing woman winemaker, my head was spinning. And it wasn’t because we were trying all here wines. We were that, but it was more of an exercise, dare I call it an ongoing master class? I needed a breather. I went to the mountain. I sat in the cave with the master. And now I had to go home for the holidays, back to America. I ran to the plane, would have run all the way to California. Something inside me moved, was changed. And I didn’t recognize the tectonic shift that had taken place.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

In Tuscany, Leaving it all Behind, for the Odyssey of a Lifetime

Pt. II
“What this person is asking, is what are we doing here? Have we come to help?” my friend translated.
We were tired, we were thirsty, and we were idiots. But we were here already, so why not help? We were young and who knows where this would lead? Of course, we were hoping to grab some enlightenment from this wise old winemaker, and maybe even taste the wine, which in Florence, was the stuff of legends. Only one restaurant had even had the wine on the list and in those days was reported to be on the list for ₤90,000 (with ₤880 = US $1.00 at the time). Of course, no one in our circle had ever seen the wine, let alone taste even a sip of it. We had to do whatever it took to get closer to that wine. We were so close; we didn’t even see the blood on the doorstep.

As we made our way to the voice, I noticed hundreds of lucciole flittering about in the fields, as if choreographed to the music of the cicadas. This place was alive! My mind raced. Who was this person we were heading towards? What strange power did he or she have over these creatures? And did it bleed over into the plant world? Or was this just a lucky happenstance? Many questions.

We finally made it to the center of the field where our mage was directing a couple of pensioners. “Good, I’m glad they sent you. We need help.” We were handed a pair of ancient wooden handled grape knives and told to “Follow me.”

Sunday, June 09, 2019

A natural Italian wine that reminds me of a cousin

I found this wine in a care package, the person who provided it was very excited for me to taste this wine. And seeing as I respect this person’s opinion, I told him I’d try it as soon as possible.

The wine is the 2017 Tenuta di Valgiano Palistorti Bianco, a Toscana IGT blend of Vermentino 50%, Trebbiano 16%, Malvasia 16% and Grechetto 16%. On the neck band there are two markings, Demeter and Vignaioli Independenti. This is a northern Tuscan estate in the Luccan Hills.

Sunday, June 02, 2019

An Epic Journey in Pursuit of the Evolution of Native Wine

Pt. I...in loving memory of Al Pasquino

I was living in Florence for a brief time. And at the macrobiotic mensa a friend had made mention of this mythical figure of a winemaker in the nearby hills. He suggested we go visit this person, as they were old and who knew how much longer he or she would be alive. Yes, so fabled that we didn’t even know if it was a man or a woman!

We were young, which is to say we were broke. Why else would we be taking our meals in a mensa? Oh yes, we were not carnivores, that was a fact then. And the mensa provided us with what we took to be our daily nutritional needs during a meal, at the time. Imagine, being a vegetarian (albeit la lacto-ovo one) in a world of Bistecca alla Fiorentina! And those amazing roast chickens one gets out on the country tables. But, alas, we would have to be content with our fields of greens, cicoria and rucola, and the many types of squash. And of course, eggplant. And potatoes! And tomatoes! Yes, one could see it through the day without eating the flesh of another creature, even in Tuscany. And yes, one could have “regularity,” if one were so afflicted with the inability to “let go” of things. And there were always figs.

So, we borrowed a car and headed for the hills, on our journey, in search of the mage of the Colli Fiorentini.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Salumi, Dolcetto and Sophie

...from the archives

With one of my long standing friends, I was having one of those conversations. No filters. Carne cruda. Maybe it’s a guy thing, no maybe about it. It’s a guy thing. Men love to hunt wines down and conquer them. Women like to get “into” a wine. I know, I know, gross exaggeration, but to my point with my dear friend, we were talking about our two favorite things, women and wine.

“It’s that whole thing you have about the dumb DOCG list. Ace, who cares?” My friend had me. I don’t know why I followed something that was destined to be a dead end. I had to remind him that was exactly what he had done with the last three women in his life. Yep, we like to throw ‘em hard and right into the middle of the strike zone.

“So what is it, are you going to try and sell me that our tastes in wine and women are parallel?” He was going somewhere with this. I hadn’t quite thought of it that way, but my pal was on to something.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Let's wait a month. If you still care, let's talk about it.

One of the most compelling things I heard this week, were those twelve words, strung together, to make me take a break from the constant barrage of information we are getting bombarded with, seemingly, all the time. In wine. In interactions with our friends and family, peers and foes. And, in general, in life.

Life, from the sidelines, post-career, should be a little bit slower, n'est-ce pas? Drama shouldn’t be a 9-to-5 thing, or a 5-to-9 one either. There should be reflection, introspection, and minimal provocation. But wherever I turn these days, whether it is driving in a city in the car, reading something on the internets, or even simple interactions with people, things appear to be over-fraught with emotion. I don’t know about you, but I’m kind of tired of it.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Ramato – call it rosé or call it orange wine - the realm has gone gaga for it

Pinot Grigio is like this well-worn football that keeps getting kicked and keeps staying in the game, wanting to play. Wine trekkies have long embarked from those shores to the lands of Friulano, Erbaluce, Carricante or Timorasso, but Pinot Grigio keeps reinventing itself. Or, rather, we keep thinking it is. In reality, Pinot Grigio was cool before it wasn’t. And now it’s cool again. For some folks.

For those who have a definite thing against fresh and light and fruity and popular, Pinot Grigio is a super-villain. But it also wears another cloak, with a caliginous umbrage. But fear not, it’s not some shadowy creature lurking in a dark alley, lying in wait to steal your soul. It’s part of the cool kids club now, because it’s also having a renaissance moment - It is once again ramato - which depending on which cool kids club you shower in, is either a rosé wine or an orange wine. And that makes all the difference in the world. We all need something to go with our pineapple pizza, dontcha know?

Sunday, May 05, 2019

Personal thoughts about life after the wine business (*with tasting notes at the end)

...no longer selling water by the river

I am one who has recently been emancipated from the fatal attraction of the wine business, but one who still appreciates a good glass of wine, regularly. I no longer have to go into a restaurant and make sure the list is compliant with the wishes of some vice-president who lives 10 hours a day in a windowless cell looking at spread sheets and regularly attends yearly review meetings. I no longer have the need to spend money in an account, for the sake of spending money in an account. I now go out to eat, and drink, because I want to. If not, I am just as happy at home raiding my wine tomb, searching for a long-lost bottle of Nebbiolo or Montepulciano, Sangiovese or Nerello Mascalese. They’re all there, resting in the cool darkness of the catacombs. Wine, you see, is no longer an obsession or a mania for me. Or, I’d like to think so.

In reality, it is damn hard to pull the cannula out of the arm and walk out of the asylum. It is after all, part of one’s identity, n'est-ce pas? And the big world out there, it isn't becoming kinder or gentler in the last decade or so, especially in the cities.

So here are a couple of things that I’m working on.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

The wine that tried to kill me

Oh, how we’ve aggrandized wine to a beatific eminence. It is the alpha, the omega. It is sexy. It is alluring. It is dangerous. And it’s a killer. Or at least, on one occasion it tried to kill me. No, I’m not talking about excessive intake of alcohol, getting into a car and heading down the tollway, on the wrong side, at 2 AM. This attempt on my life was imbued with further nuance than that.


Sunday, April 21, 2019

From the Archives - My Consigliere of Consciousness

Originally posted December 28, 2008

When I was thirteen I thought I was going to grow up to be a photographer. I spent endless hours in the darkroom and carrying my cameras everywhere I went. Being shy, it was the perfect date for me at a youth dance. I could take pictures of the action and go into the darkroom later that night to print them. Often folks would come into the darkroom (it was at the same place the dance was, usually) and see what I was doing. Photography was a social magnet.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

The Best Day of My Life

For an Italian wine lover, or for anyone, the idea of having something like the best day ever in this life is a ponderous matter. Not heavy, let’s not go there. But could such a day revolve around one’s life in wine in Italy?

Can we have more than one best day in a life? If so, the day my son was born is a day I’ll remember as one of those days. But can wine elicit such an emotion that it will be remembered for decades through the passage in time and give that day a place on the best of days in one’s life?


Monday, April 08, 2019

How tall is your mountain? How important are you? How do you rank?

Life, after years of work and a "career," is an unknown until you get there. Just like life after school, or life after an eventful course of certification. For many of us, we just don’t know what lies ahead in our future heres and nows. What I do know, here and now, is that mountain climb we call a career is just that, “a” mountain climb. Not all mountains. Just one. Maybe a tall one, maybe not the tallest. And not the only mountain on earth.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Where is the epicenter of the wine world today?

In these moments, social media sites are ablaze with folks making their yearly pilgrimages to wine fairs. A few weeks ago, it was to Germany and Prowein. Right now, the faithful are walking from shrine to shrine in Bordeaux for Primeurs 2018. I’ve done it a handful of times, it’s a great event. And in a week, over in Italy, the 53rd Vinitaly will commence. All three of these events in the Western World, could easily qualify as being in the epicenter of the wine world today. If you are fortunate enough to attend one or all of them, consider yourself one of the lucky few. And if you are not there but you are right here, staring at the screen, as I am, right now, that’s the new epicenter. And that is perfectly fine by me.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Carema - “Strong and Likeable as the Sun and the Stone”

Image courtesy of Cantina Produttori Nebbiolo Di Carema
Imagine families, perched precariously on the side of a mountain, working the land, generation after generation, tending their vines, to make a wine from their grapes. And imagine, on the other side of the planet, nary a person knows about the many souls who have poured out their life’s effort, their heart and soul, for a wine that is virtually unknown. This is one of the existential problems facing the winegrowers and winemakers in northern Italy who make the wine from Nebbiolo grapes called Carema.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Grignolino and its Indomitable Illuminance on Individuality

“Do you want to know how good a winemaker in the Langhe or Monferrato is? Try their Grignolino. If it’s a good one, chances are their other wines will be as well.” Thus spoke The Maestro, at a recent gathering of chefs and writers at the food and wine workshop, Gastronomix, where we gathered in the Monferrato and Canavese areas of Piedmont.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

So you think you want to import Italian wine?

While I have, more than once, addressed the challenges of selling one’s Italian wine to America, it seems I haven’t touched enough upon the complexities of importing Italian wine into America. Since I am no longer “ITB” (in the business), I have gotten a barrage of emails from people looking to “get into the business,” from both Italy and America. It’s probably time to go over some things in relation to the realities, in 2019, of pursuing that path.

Sunday, March 03, 2019

Erbaluce, where have you been all my life?

There’s nothing more enjoyable and illuminating than to rediscover a wine, a grape or a region as if I’d never had an iota of exposure to them. Such was the case with Erbaluce di Caluso from Piedmont last week while there for the food and wine workshop Gastronomix. It’s a spin-off of Collisioni, with Ian D’Agata directing the education.

I’d had some exposure to Erbaluce in my past life in the wine trade, but never went much deeper than dipping my toes in the lake. This was full immersion, with a real master class, taught by one with mastery of the subject, and over several days.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

My long history with Ruchè

Sometime around the late 1990’s I was working with an Italian importer and one of the owners brought up the subject of alternative red wines from Piedmont. We’d ventured into Barbaresco with La Ca’ Növa, in Barolo with Cascina Bruni and Cordero di Montezemolo, and in Gavi with a wine from Roberto Bergaglio. As well, we had a steady producer of Nebbiolo, Dolcetto, Barbera, Arneis and Freisa from Cascina Cheirello. But this new red wine, this Ruchè, from Crivelli, was a different beast.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

From the Archives - Finding Your Wine

Originally posted Nov. 14, 2007


Vallee d'Aoste ~ Vigne de Torrette
One day on the highway in Liguria, it hit me. We were driving up and down hills, into one valley and then on to another. All along the way I was meeting people, some who were winemakers and some who simply liked to drink wine. In Italy, it is easier to find a single wine that you can enjoy over a lifetime. A visit to a winery in your neighborhood, and there you go. It might be a crisp white wine or a mellow, rich red. But along the wine trail in Italy, I keep meeting people who have found their wine. So what is wrong with us in America? Or maybe the question should be, have you found your wine?

Sunday, February 10, 2019

The veil of un-knowingness over Southern Italian wine

Tasting notes are a cinch. How does one tell the tale of Southern Italian wine with a single photograph?

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Finding your guide to natural wine

Assisi 1977
The wines of the natural world are something I do not take on lightly as a self-assigned subject of current interest.

As I see it, natural wine is not a meme, nor is it trending on Instagram in my life. It’s not a tweet or a Facebook rant, nor does it dominate every beat of my heart. It is part of my life, as it has been for 40+ years. It’s not a fad. It also isn’t a mania. It is interwoven as well as it can be, in this world of disruption that we find ourselves living in.

One of the reasons I was so interested in Birkenstock sandals, in 1976, was because I could go down to the local health food store and buy sole replacements for those sandals. I could repair my own shoes, not discard them when they wore out. It was a small step towards self-sustainability.

Near that store we had friends who raised chickens and we ate their eggs. A local dairy produced very nice raw milk and cheese products and we enjoyed them.

This article, which I wrote for the Dallas Morning News, is geared for folks, who live in my area, and are not in an inner cycle of knowledge or fashion. They might just be wanting some straight up info within their orb. It isn’t about “the debate” about natural wine. It’s here. And it didn’t just arrive with the latest iPhone-carrying generation. And it isn't going away.


Article link HERE




wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W

Sunday, February 03, 2019

A brief history of a working father in the wine industry

Regular readers of this blog have known for some time that I am retired from a working life. What many do not know, are the details of a life that arrived to this point. And specifically of a working father, a single father, in the wine trade in America.

While it is fashionable these days, with influencer marketing, to dump on established channels (and institutions) of wine commerce in the US, there were, and still are, many people who are simple, honest working folk. They just happen to be slinging Chardonnay or Vodka to the local restaurants and retail establishments, rather than coat hangars or auto parts. The notion of progress, not perfection, becomes readily identifiable once one has an extra mouth to feed, a mortgage and a car payment.

As a single dad and devoted to being the best dad I could be in a family-fractured world, I was also wrestling with the “What do I want to be when I grow up?” notion. However, I figured adaptation along with a measure of resilience would probably see me safely for a few years of adjusting to a more extroverted life. After all, selling isn’t for the shy. And lots of rejection. By then, I hoped I’d be “all grown up.”

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