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 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) 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.”

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Obsession and Intention - A Magnificent Tango

Wine as an obsession seems a bit odd to me these days. As I recede from the shores of the wine trade, the daily activities, the desires, the fears, the needs (are they really?) all seem to look less important to me. Does that mean I no longer love Italian wine, or even wine in general? No, not at all, but I do feel like the obsessive behavior I had, and which I see all around the wine world, might be misplaced energy. At least for me.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Umbria - From the Stalls to the Stars

Assisi - Eremo delle Carceri (St. Francis' Hermitage)
As one might be expected to do in the later chapters of life, I’ve been cleaning up my study. Actually, it feels more like prepping a dead man’s home for an estate sale. At the very least, I am (heaven forbid my use of the “C” word) curating the collection of a wine man. A traveler. A photographer. A father. A husband. A son. A brother. And a primate on earth. And therefore, some things have been bubbling up to the surface, like an ancient vat of Sagrantino, done the old way, with lots of dried fruits and a healthy dose of residual sugar.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

California Dreamin’ - Chardonnay Sidebar 1. - The Fighting Chance

California Chardonnay. An odd phrase. Round and chunky in sound, those two words. A little shushy, followed by an ay! Why not? What did I have to lose? I was working on the commercial side, a little ultra-fine wine company trying to find something that the clients would need, so we could go by the account more than once every 21 days. And we were going pretty good with a white demi-sec from France, Cotes de Bergerac. But people’s tastes were evolving drier (or so they said) and California didn’t have exchange rate issues. The wines could be had by truck and train, and transported to flyover country quickly, and often, to ease on the cash flow for the owner of the fine wine company.

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Italian Wine in America - An Array of Abundance

Dallas, Texas - 1979 - Il Sorrento Old World Italian Cuisine
Let’s hop on the Wayback Machine, to 1979, on search of the state of Italian wine in America. Forty years ago. A blink in the eye, in geological time, but an epoch for Italian wine. How do I know? I’m old, man. I was there and on the floor, serving and sommeliering, in Italian restaurants.

The choices were slim. There was Ruffino. And Bolla. Chianti. And Soave. And Frascati, from Fontana Candida. And Corvo, both red and white.

A brash young upstart, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, appeared on the horizon. Red wine with a little bit of fruit. It was refreshing.

There was a little Barolo and Barbaresco. The Barbera that showed up usually “aged” in the warehouses, or the warm racks in the restaurants, and was virtually useless. And there were attempts by other regions, Emilia Romagna, but usually with their sickly sweet Lambruscos. Oh, and there was Asti Spumante. Oh joy.

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