Monday, December 28, 2020

Happy Birthday to the Dinosaur ~ On the Wine Trail in Italy Turns 15

If only this blog were a young girl who was turning into a woman. It would surely be more apt for these times. But a quinceañera it is not going to be for this old dinosaur of a blog, on the wine trail in Italy.

Fifteen years in most cases is a relatively young age. But for a wine blog? It’s ancient. Some would say passé. Lord knows, I’ve tried a lot of different things to keep it upright and sailing right along. But It is work. No doubt about it. Although it is also a labor of love.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

The Alacrity of Hope

Sunday, December 13, 2020

5 of the greatest Italian wines (that I want to drink in 2021)

Sunday, December 06, 2020

The current state of Italian wine in the world

I remember as a kid, going to a birthday party. I was living in the desert of Southern California, Palm Springs. And the parents of the birthday child were proud Mexican-Americans. The food was great (they had a fabulous restaurant), the music was cheerful, it was a fun, fun party. And to top it off, after the birthday girl opened all her presents, we all took a swing at a stuffed piñata shaped like a donkey.

When all the kids took their swing, the poor creature finally burst opened and all manner of shiny and sweet things flew about the field and we all scrambled for the treasures. I don’t know why, but that memory reminds me of 2020 and Italian wine.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Everyday Italian Wines for Everyday People in Extraordinary Times


For some, this is a way with a deep-seated furrow. The road often taken. The commonplace. The not-so-out-of-the-ordinary. But predictable? Not necessarily so. Wine is a living, breathing, evolving thing. And with that, even an ordinary wine can act extraordinary in these unprecedented times.

That was how I started out with this odd holiday, Thanksgiving. Like Columbus Day, Thanksgiving has come under fire by some who see it as having racist origins, representing a celebration of the conquest of Native Americans. I get that. I also know we, as a country, need something to unify us in this time of discord. I don’t think cooking a bird or smoking a ham will save us, I’m not that naïve. But I do see people finding ways to make moments for peace and serenity. And if celebrating Thanksgiving in the old way that the story was told to us is behind the times, can we not shift from that to a less highly charged observance? We cannot go back and undo what the Anglo-western world did to the indigenous souls here in America. But we can recast the day with thoughts of gratitude and clarity. No, we Americans aren’t the greatest nation the world has ever seen. We aren’t even handling something like this pandemic as well as many other nations on the planet. We have failed miserably. But we cannot shirk away and pretend that all that came before didn’t. We must admit, even concede, that we are not great again, and we must start over again, with the hindsight that we didn’t do it right, all these years. We must change now.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Doctor Notti on Italy, wine and the intergalactic dust storm of 2016

Sunday, November 15, 2020

An introvert’s guide to Italy (and Italian wine) in the era of Covid-19

Sunday, November 08, 2020

How to die with an empty wine cellar

Sunday, November 01, 2020

A life in wine, interrupted

Sunday, October 25, 2020

The man who visited every winery in Italy

Thursday, October 22, 2020

We Asked 13 Winos: What Will You Be Drinking on Election Night?

A playful spoof on a popular post and series, meant only for fun

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Where my father's footsteps end

In my dotage, I’ve become a bit of a numbers guy. How many bottles of wine in my cellar? What time remains of summer? Days left until the election? And so, I looked back to see my father’s life, and the days he had on earth. And a couple of days ago, the days in my life surpassed his.

Now, I’m in now way claiming victory. It was a relief of sorts. Just like when I turned 34, and chanced upon living longer than Jesus. No, I’m not comparing quality or sizing myself up against a messiah. I am just noting, in the course of my life, those moments when it seems to be a milestone. And when I became older than my dad would ever be, it stirred the compost.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Dino Illuminati: A Remarkable 90 Years in the History of Italian Wine

(photo, courtesy of the Illuminati winery)
This whole cycle of life thing here on earth, it’s a peculiar one. It goes slow, then it speeds up, then it slows down, and then it seems there just isn’t enough time to finish anything. I cringe when a memorable character in Italian wine dies – and with it an outpouring of obituaries. Sometimes they read like a resume, and sometimes they take their cues from the perspective (and biases) of the scribe.

But why wait for someone to die to celebrate their life? Why not beat the drum while their heart is still beating some of that fine red Italian blood?

Which brings us to a figure whose life in Abruzzo has most definitely left its mark for the better. That person is celebrating his 90th birthday, Dino Illuminati.

Sunday, October 04, 2020

Palate Pressure: Which Wine Will Suffice?

Lately, I’ve been creating spreadsheets. Lists of things I’ve done or collected. Like food in the freezer. Trips to Italy. Master photo-files. And, of course, wine I’ve gathered over many years. I do not lack for anything in the wine department, although I’d not turn down anything from Burgundy. But I have some to enjoy. Piedmont has a strong lobby in my cellar, as does Tuscany. But it’s not about what I’ve amassed. Rather, I am more concerned about what I’m going to do with this stuff. Look, this is not Marvin Overton’s cellar we’re talking about. Or Ian D’Agata’s. But I find I’m just not putting a dent into the red wines in the cooler and the cave.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

A Passage from the Dead Tree Scrolls

There’s a wine article sitting on my desktop that is going on four months overdue. It’s almost finished, just needs a little editing. It will generate revenue if I go the last step. It is destined for a newspaper; you know the kind a little boy used to get up early in the morning to deliver on his bicycle? But, for the life of me, I cannot find my way to finish it.

I have run up against a wall. Call it relevance. Or maybe timeliness. During this period which we find ourselves collectively in, I just find it hard to justify writing about something like a particular wine when there are so many more things swirling above us, this amplitude.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

I waited for you at the train station, but you never showed up. So, I guess I’ll go to Tuscany without you.

It was a long shot, for sure. We had casually talked about meeting in Rome and taking the train to Tuscany. It was over a couple of bottles of wine. And then we stayed up late. And then? Do you remember? I think I do, but it could have just been a dream besotted by too much Frascati. If it was a dream, it was lovely. If it wasn’t, why aren’t you here?

The folly of youth. Of hope. Of expectation. And the letdown. It was a pattern for much of my 20’s. Probably much longer. But all those years now melt into one passage of juvenescence. And when it comes to Italy, it’s tinged with a romanticism that either wasn’t there in the first place, or if it was, it was only in my imagination. Now, in 2020, those fanciful anticipations have been rendered inappurtenant by larger forces of destiny. We’re in a social hurricane and firestorm the likes of which we have no idea when it will die down. So, we barrel down and go in, deeper inside. Where it is cool and dark, yet still filled with light and hope. The hope of innocent youth as re-imagined in this timeworn biped vessel.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

A letter, found in an abandoned home, next to a stream of unconscious and constant agitation

[Editor's note: this letter was unsigned inside an envelope on the desk of the empty home. It could be the letter was written by the owner of the home. But we have no idea who lived there as all records disappeared after the Great American Passage in 2021.]

Dear Italy,

What I am about to write to you might not be welcome. After all, I am merely an imperfect American. And we all know now that Americans are finally being leveled by their own foolish acts after all these years. Finally, the chickens have come home to roost.

And that is what I am writing about to you today – home. Yours. And ours. Let’s start with yours.

Sunday, September 06, 2020

Dismantling the First Mountain

The life of a career. It’s a curious ascent. One spends so much energy in getting to the top of the mountain. To be the best. Number one. To master your craft. And to represent all that you stand (and climb) for the best that you can. To spend years climbing to the peak. To sacrifice any number of things, material and personal, in order to behold the sunrise at the summit. And then?

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Everyone’s gone to the moon (or “We’re here and they’re not”)


As we beat the month of August, once more, to death, September howls like a newborn that was cast away into a dumpster. No one hears her little cries to a universe unprepared and unattended. For Italy, as for much of the world, has been abandoned.

How many times can one walk the beach between Alcamo Marina and Castellammare del Golfo in the shortened summer days of September and feel any of the hope one felt in May or June, when the Linden trees were in bloom on the Adriatic? Now, in New York City, at Fifth Avenue and 54th Street, at noon, an eerie and similar scene mirrors Sicily. An unattended world. Where has everyone gone?

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Italy, a beacon for continuity in the realm of magical thinking

Yesterday a young friend called me from Italy. Not just anywhere in Italy, but one of my favorite places in Italy – San Benedetto del Tronto – on the Adriatic coastline. And not just anywhere in San Benedetto del Tronto, but from the bar at the Excelsior Hotel. And there he was with a dear old, friend, Piero, the bar manager. He was alive. He was well. And he was reflecting the sunny life of summer in Italy. It made my day.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

A most unusual Ferragosto

Ever since I have been decamping to Italy, almost 50 years now, the middle of August (Ferragosto) signaled a time to recharge, rest, play, sun, eat, drink and love. I cannot remember a time in my life when that cycle has been interrupted for so many Italians, and really, anyone who is in Italy in this moment. 2020 - It has been a most unusual Ferragosto.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

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

#TBT - from the archives

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, August 09, 2020

Taking one's place along the river

“All we are not stares back at what we are.” - W.H. Auden

What are we looking for? Whether it is in a vineyard or a desert? In a lover or in the mirror? On the road or self-quarantined? What do we expect to find? What has been lost? Where is this all leading to?

You’re staring at a TV screen for months and the story is laced with fear and woe. The next day, you’re sitting behind a windshield, and the landscape of the great American West is cascading by you at 60-70-80 miles per hour. Inescapable though, is the hope that “the crisis” is far away. The land, the great healer, is now weaving the tales, and it is long, and hot, but endurable. I say this with gratitude, that one can witness this other side of the world we live in.

Sunday, August 02, 2020

The valley between the mountains

"Gone to look for America"

The assistant at the hotel reception desk in Farmington was Navaho. He bore familiar marks of his tribe, even shielded by a mask. He was friendly, asked me where I was from and where I was going. “Made it here from Texas. Dallas. Heading to the Pacific Northwest. Hoping to make it as far as Elko, Nevada today. Ruby Valley nearby, great place.” His attention had wandered after Dallas. Maybe he had other things on his mind. In New Mexico, where Native Americans are 9 percent of the population, they make up 75 percent of the state’s deaths. And with Covid19, that number wasn’t decreasing anytime soon, from what I witnessed the day before.

I was in for a long haul today and needed to get on the road. I had several states to plough through.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Looking for another mountain

"Gone to look for America"


Driving through the Texas Panhandle seemed interminable. Speed up, slow down, pass through a little town. Bogdanovich redux. And repeat. Until the border. The further north and west one goes in Texas, the more red-hot it gets. And flat. Not to say there’s no life out there. There must be some life worth preserving, why else would everyone need a gun, as the endless billboards proclaim? That part of Texas is locked in a scenario that time has passed by. Every town is portraying their version of Mayfield. Everyone’s parents are Ozzie and Harriet. There is no pandemic. There is no need for a mask. Move along, nothing to see here. Leave us alone. Go back home. Leave it to Jesus.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Finding a new Italy while "gone to look for America"

It must have been on the last leg of my road trip around America, when I realized the Italy I was missing was passing by me at 75 miles an hour. How could it be? I wasn’t in Piedmont or Tuscany, Sicily or Abruzzo. I was somewhere between Utah and Colorado. It was the American West, not the Old World. There were no ancient buildings. But there were scores of ancient rocks, mounds, mesas, mountains. It was a bit disconcerting. There were no plethora of wineries, although there were the occasional ones.

No, it was something else I had tapped into. It was the road. The trail. The journey.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Gone Fission....



Going off the grid for a bit. Nothing's wrong, just need to step away from the world and dip my pole in cooler waters - the rods have heated up and we're approaching critical mass.

Gone to look for America...back soon.


wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W

Sunday, July 05, 2020

What a Jesuit priest, a Zen monk and a Yaqui shaman taught me about life, wine and Italy

From the archives

“There is a crack between the two worlds.” – Don Juan Matus

In time, the perception of things as they are and as they seem are two sides of a wall. Spending one’s life piercing that wall is the work of ones who aspire to a simpler existence. People run around looking for all manner of things they think will fill their life with meaning, from fame and acceptance to wealth and material objects, from power and influence to a total abnegation of the corporeal and worldly. Three influences during my time of earth helped to re-shape and reinforce an inner sense that I was instilled with at birth. And as I walk the wine trail in Italy these influences have been instrumental in directing my attention towards destinations that these teachers intended.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

The love of your life

Well, here we are. Some of us are alone. Some of us are riding this out with others, maybe our loved ones, friends, family. It doesn’t look like we’re going anywhere for awhile. Well, actually some of us have already vacated the premises. But for those of us who are still keeping the faith (and believing the science) let’s go back in time, back to Italy or wherever your heart desires. For this is about your heart’s desire. This is about the love of your life.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

A Gen-Del Futr’spatch from Italy, Post-SARS-CoV-θ: "We Made It Through!"

Dateline June 16, 2080 – Father’s Day

Dear great-great grandfather,

I am writing this to you (or it is meant to seem like writing) because when we learned we could travel in time, or rather we could go back in time, not forward, or rather we could send things back in time, not ourselves (yet), this seemed like a good time send this communiquést.

First, Happy Father’s Day, for without you, I wouldn’t be here. Secondly, thanks to the advances that have been made in the last 60 years, we’ve been able to finally get past COVID-79 and hopefully a few years of breathing space.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

A Pool, a Piano and a Painting

The times have a way of changing what one thought was important, once upon a time. Now, more than ever, the highly charged and emotional turmoil we find ourselves immersed in has illuminated abstract concepts, like legacy, fairness and respect. Along with more mundane things, like a pool, a piano or a painting.


Sunday, June 07, 2020

The short answer? Not right now...

The longest period of time that passed between trips to Italy was in 1997. I hadn’t been back since 1992. Now, it has been a little more than a year, but who knows when we can return?

Looking at pictures from a livestream of Venice, it appears almost like it was in the 1700’s. Not many people, no large cruise ships in the water. A quiet, lilting kind of image, Venice has gone back to being La Serenissima. I’d love to see it like this. But not now.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Lost & Found - A letter from great-grandfather in 1920

During this down time, I’ve had the opportunity to go through boxes and papers, organizing my office. One of the packets I ran across were papers from my dad. My mom gave them to me before she died. In this packet there was a letter written to him in 1920 from my great grandfather. It was in Italian and was written in a beautiful script. His handwriting was meticulous. I gave the letter to a friend to translate. This is what it said:

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Under the Influence...

#1,500
We’ve all had lots of time to think. I’ve written a dozen dystopian blog posts in my head. And I’ve pondered over Italy and what it means to me and others. And still, I can’t help thinking, how have these past three months influenced what Italy means to me, going forward?

Sunday, May 17, 2020

The top 10 destinations for Italian wine exports in 2019? Once again, China wasn’t one of them. In 2020, Quo Vadis?

Young Italian wine professionals had been posing wistful pictures on their Instagram and Facebook feeds, when travel destinations such as China, Taiwan, Korea, Thailand and Singapore were de rigueur for building their Italian wine business. From first blush, one would think there’s a lot of business for Italian wine in Asia. I’m looking at the numbers from 2019 and prognosticating upon what the possibilities for growth in 2020 are.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

When darkness falls on the island

“It can’t always be sunny, even in Texas!” I remember hearing momma shouting out to me, many times. She would know, having been born a few years before the 1918 Pandemic, and living the early years of her childhood, in Texas, in an orphanage, because her father had abandoned her mother and five children, one a baby boy.

Nonetheless, my mom was extremely resilient all through her almost 102 years on this earth. I often wonder how she’d deal with this “where we’re at right now” moment. It would be her very own take on things, and no doubt, she’d survive.

Sunday, May 03, 2020

Life on the Island - The World As It Is

For Marco Moltinomi

Lately, I’ve been watching Italian movies by Cristina Comincini, notably “Follow Your Heart” and “Latin Lover.” We’re back in an Italy that once was, the scenery, the subjects, the people sitting together at a table, eating, drinking and talking, sometimes arguing, crying and laughing. It’s a scene many of us have witnessed or experienced numerous times, all around the world. And for the time, that world has stopped.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Life on the Island – When This is Over – Promises to Keep

Palermo - Isola delle Femmine
If there is a theme to what has been scrolling past my screen lately, it is that there are many of us who want to do it a little differently when this wave passes. And while there are as many hopeful iterations for the future as there are of us, my thoughts today are with the hopeful and affirmative ones who understand that resilience is an unbounding strength, not only in these times.

So, how will things be different, when this is over? What does your crystal ball reveal to you? Here are some of the musings I’ve gathered.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Life on the Island - À grands maux, grands remèdes

Every time I start to write something down for a blog post, I stutter. Who cares what we’re drinking or who we’re drinking it with? Or if we’re alone or with another? Or if it matches with the food we’re having? Or if the wine was made by someone who is suffering from this virus, or maybe even died from it? That level of omphaloskepsis in times like this seems a bit inane. It may be your life, what you do. Wine. But in the meantime, there’s been a seismic shift on earth.

So, I’ve come up with my plan, here on the island where I am marooned for the time being. These are my remedies in this era of the great ailment.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Life on the Island - Love, Sex & Death in Sicily

From the archives
Una Favola
Mozia 

Quali volti nell’aria?
Pirati o mercanti, maghi o scienziati
con formule e amuleti scendono sulla riva?
Quale incantesimo ferma a Mozia
il fluire del tempo?
Forse un vento del Libano
senza memoria ridesta visioni
di un sogno d’Oriente.

Nel Tofet bruciano incenso e timo.
Tanit splende con vesti di porpora
e seni di lino.
Caste fanciulle danzano sulle brezze del mare.
Pan ha sepolto il passato con vigne, alberi e capre.
Nelle luci, nelle ombre tra vasi, anfore e steli
riaffiorano sempre canti orientali.

Oh tu,
feniceo o plebeo, che adagi i tuoi passi
nella piccola isola sospesa e sognante
in remoti millenni,
volgi il pensiero a Colei, fanciulla,
che forse bruciò per te in sacrificio a Tanit.
- Vittorio Cimiotta

“Don’t go to Mozia looking for answers,” my Sicilian friend advised, “You’ll only find more questions. But by all means, go.” Those were her parting comments to me as we hugged goodbye. It would be a world far from the hazy blur of Vinitaly. But it was a must see.

Sunday, April 05, 2020

Life on the Island - The Resurrection of Italian Wine

From the archives
It is truly a miracle to consider what we humans do to the land and the resilience that land exhibits. We pour chemicals on it, stir them up and grind them in. Then we put more poisons on the plants that grew up from that chemical baptism. When the leaves send their shoots and the flowers send their fruits, we then trim them, shave them and cast them to the ground.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Life on the Island - Swept Away by an Unusual Destiny in the Perilous Sea of 2020

Photograph © by Michael Housewright
It wasn’t that long ago. It was 1987. And then it was 2001. And then, 2016. But each sojourn left its mark. And along with it, beauty, solace, pain, joy and relief. Longing for a world, which is momentary, to allow one to linger just for a few more moments. Is that too much to ask?

Fortunately, our memories have pictures to help us through the dark, lonely nights. Waking up in a cold sweat, wondering if the shadow on the sliding glass door is the caller, calling me to another realm. But it passes with the rising sun.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Life on the Island - in 2020

In writing this post, I want to be mindful of the pain and suffering any of us might be having or will be having in the future. So as not to trivialize the bigger phenomenon we are all collectively experiencing, I will attempt to keep what it is we are involved with in our lives and our careers in the wine trade in perspective to larger events shaping our world.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Life on the Island - A Personal Punch-List for the Quarantined

With all respect...
Right about now, 60 million Italians are most likely climbing the walls, with the Spaniards and the French lining up to do the same. Warm blooded Latins, emotional and often uber-extroverted (well, maybe the Italians and the Spaniards). With a lot of extra time on their hands, what can I offer them, from the perspective of one who about two years ago stopped my world and got off?

I got to thinking what would be a healthy and affirmative blog post in which my brothers and sisters in the wine biz in Europe could be doing right now to get through their time of isolation. So, let’s dig in.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Sunday, March 08, 2020

Should you go to Italy right now?

Yesterday I had the idea to poll friends and colleagues in the wine trade, around the world, with the question, “Should I go/come to Italy right now?” I received a dozen or so responses, all across the board. But within hours, their answers were rendered moot. Later that afternoon, Italy announced they were quarantining 16 million people on the north and restricting travel to and from the designated areas.

So, I put on my creative thinkers’ hat and pondered “What kind of response would be appropriate, considering the circumstances and lightning fast speed this outbreak has been traveling at?”

Thursday, March 05, 2020

Intervista nel Futuro

#TBT - from the archives


From the 23rd Century, near a place in Tuscaremma, called Montalcinapaia.

Q. Montalcinapaia has changed, so it seems. What is the most important change, in your opinion, in wine in the last 200 years?
A. For one, we are a dry area, very arid now. Ever since the Wind War of 2059-69, this area has relied more on natural species for their survival skills than for their elegance. But we have found out that if we work in this minimal environment, we can coax a lot out of the soil.

Sunday, March 01, 2020

Italian Wine and Love - At this Point in Time

Breaking: Vinitaly is postponed until June.

“It was inevitable,” so the introduction goes. Here I am, on an early Sunday morning, the wind outside is howling, pushing leaves, swaying branches, and offering an eerie air to the day. What will we hear today? We’re, all of us, on this giant cruise ship, earth, is there nowhere to go, nowhere to hide?

That’s the status, for now, here in flyover country, where everyone hopes it will fly over us. But we’re also in the global Petri dish, adapting a wait-and-see attitude. Meanwhile over in Italy…

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Interview with the Ancients

#TBT - from the archives
Imagine taking a walk in a quiet place. In it, there were many souls from ancient times. They were from Greece and Italy, Sumeria and Egypt, Persia and Etruria. The voices were silent but the souls were coming through loud and clear, on a Friday afternoon on the eastern edge of Central Park.

I had just interviewed a gentleman about his life, his book and things Italian. But we didn’t quite make a connection. How could you do anything in 15 minutes, except perhaps to size each other up like two bulls in a ring? Not that it was that kind of encounter. I left feeling the need to reconnect with my roots, so I hopped on a subway and headed back a couple of thousand years, to interview the ancient ones.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

On the brink of a pandemic – how will it affect Italian wine?

Photo from eturbonews.com and Getty images
I was on the phone Friday with an Italian colleague, who asked to remain unidentified, and he sounded worried. “It’s starting here,” he said, his voice shaking. “I’ve cancelled, indefinitely, any trips to mainland China.”

I asked my friend about all the Italians coming to America. We have the Slow Wine Tour already in motion in America, and the James Suckling Wine Tour will be here in my hometown on Wednesday. These are Italians who usually travel freely around the world. Places like Chengdu, Seoul and Tokyo are commonplace visits for many jet-setting Italian wine celebrities, whose wines routinely garner high 90’s scores from the many publications who tout the 100-point system. It’s a familiar 21st century occurrence to be in a Shanghai on Friday and an Austin on Monday.

Where have they been? Where are they going? Is it safe to be exposed to them?

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