Sunday, April 11, 2021

Are you still here? [And when in hell are you gonna get off our grass?]

Looking through my wine closet I came upon a couple of bottles I’d forgotten. And probably for good reason. They’re old. They’re white. And when they were first released, they were, let’s say, a little over weighted in the testosterone department. Inotherwords, as the #NewGen's say, boomer wine.

One was a California (Napa Valley) Sauvignon Blanc, the other was a French (Burgundy) Corton Charlemagne. Both from the 1980’s. They’d both achieved a dark, golden, sunset-y color.

I have a place, high in my wine closet, which I call the bardo-balcony. It’s where I put old wines that have given up the ghost. But the labels might be pretty, or the wines might have a special meaning for me. Or a memory. So, I can’t quite throw them in the recycle bin. I’ll let those who come to clean up, after I’ve given up the ghost, deal with it (hopefully not for a while).

But it reminds me that every living thing on earth has a cycle. And wine, like people, can live for ages. Or it can leave a little earlier than the rest of us.

Sunday, April 04, 2021

Old Cheese Man Wine


L
ately, during this extraordinary era, I’ve been digging into ye olde wine cellar and pulling out crusty specimens that have arrived to an old age. It was a dream of youth, to have access to older, aged, mature wines. We’d read about it in Michael Broadbent’s book. A wine that needs 20-30 years to arrive at its peak. And now, I have scores of those bottles. And to magnify the situation, an even older friend of mine bequeathed me even more ancient bottles. A dream come true, ce n'est pas?

However, all the glitters isn’t the golden light off the cobwebs of these fossils. Here’s what I’ve been finding lately.

They are all starting to smell like old cheese man wine.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

A Tale of Two Tastings

Options for tasting wine in the last year have been somewhat curtailed by the events that we’ve all encountered. In-person tastings have not resumed, trade shows have been put on hold, and even larger get-togethers are on hiatus for now. So how does one keep their palate sharp in times like these?

I’ve found two ways to help one through these sparse times. This is how I’ve fashioned a survival strategy, of sorts, to get through these dark days.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Where we've become - And where do we go from here?


T
his is going to be a mish mash of stuff, as we’re kind of in the doldrums of wine blogging. Also, I have a few things I need to do to clear off my desk. So, here goes.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

10 of my favorite off-the-beaten-path places to eat in Italy

From the archives: Most of us cannot jump on a plane and go to Italy, and those in Italy might not have the mobility in 2021 that we had a year or two ago, especially now, as Italy has imposed a nationwide lock down. But we can always dream about the days to come, eh?

 

In preparation for an interview, I was looking up places I have really enjoyed eating in Italy. Many of these places don’t even have a website, or a sign. I was lucky enough to be taken there be locals. They represent some of the best eating and drinking I have experienced in Italy. And while most of them are not fancy places, the cooking in these spots have been some of the most memorable meals in a restaurant setting. I eat a lot around the farm table and am lucky to have home cooked meals. They’re great. But if you’re looking to go to Italy that won’t help you. These following 10 spots are open for anyone. It helps to speak Italian, for sure. But it’s Italy; anyone with a little passion can communicate to most Italians.

Note: don’t go looking for spaghetti and meatballs, pizza, lasagna or grilled chicken breasts. Expect the unexpected. Donkey ragù, tiny snails, entrails, tiny piquant sausages in a fiery broth, raw things from the sea (not just fish) and that’s just for starters. You should be adventurous. And not be looking for the best hits from Italy. This is how Italians eat. I love it. If you are lucky enough to find these places, you might find you will too.

Sunday, March 07, 2021

Barone Alessandro de Renzis Sonnino – “There was nobody in the world like him.”


T
hose were the words a close friend of his (and mine) said as he wept into his phone, recounting so many wonderful stories and such a rich history their friendship represented.  Barone Alessandro de Renzis Sonnino passed away last week, another victim of this fierce virus that has been ravaging the planet for over a year now. But his life was one which we should celebrate, not climb into the rabbit hole of despair. Suffice to say, he will be missed, sorely missed. But the life he lived, one for the storybooks now, was singular, unique, a bit naughty, and from a time that is rapidly disappearing, if it hasn’t already vanished in this new millennium, this new century. He was a big tree, a little twisted (he would say "A little? A lot!”), but a big tree nonetheless.

Thursday, March 04, 2021

The Dramas of Life

From the archives - Sunday, April 06, 2014 

This week in Italy, Barone Alessandro de Renzis Sonnino was taken from us by Covid-19. He will be sorely missed - he was "One of a kind."

Here in Italy, as in everywhere on Spaceship Earth, there are the daily dramas. We all have them. For each and every one of us, our personal dramas are often of utmost importance. After all we are the center of our universe. Our life is most important to us. Multiply that by 7,000,000,000 in this moment and probably another 7,000,000,000+ in time. A caveman searching for food for his tribe. An explorer discovering a new route to the Pacific Coast. A winemaker finding a better way to make Sangiovese in Tuscany. Nothing is missed. We are like ants, covering every minute detail of our lives as if the universe wasn’t the large expanse beyond which we could never imagine. And it is probably correct to think often in that way, for to veer into the abyss would surely lead to madness, or worse.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Wanted: Wine Tastemakers – Older White Men Need Not Apply?


Feb. 29, 2040

Dear Salem Morgon,

Thank you for your inquiry regarding the position we posted. We are currently screening the next level candidate for our wine tastemaker stint and you have made the cut. Congratulations!

As you know, we are currently recruiting candidates to form a dynamic new team for ViniVer§Ω as THE preeminent and never-before-seen #WineInfluencer Neoteric Eno-zine. The next step for us, with you, is to further ascertain if you will be a good fit, on our soon-to-be award-winning squad!

So, let’s get down to it, por qué no?

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Do you know what it means?


N
ew Orleans has been on my mind lately. Maybe because last week should have been Mardi Gras. Or perhaps I am just missing a place I got to know well. And it got to know me too. I love that place. It was my American Palermo, and if I had to, I could always fly there in an hour or take the longer scenic drive.

I’ll just admit it, I miss New Orleans. But also, Louisiana. Real bad. It was the only place in America I’d take my passport with me when I went. Well, that was more for practical purposes, as I once learned in Alexandria. I got a moving violation and the local gendarme took my license until I settled the whole affair (guilty until innocent in Louisiana – Napoleonic law). My friend further down by Lafayette excoriated me for paying the fine right then and there when I got it. “My friend, we have judge friends, you didn’t need to do that.” Lesson learned. But I took my passport with me, anyway, when I flew, just in case. I wanted to be able to get back home if it happened again.

And it was like a foreign country to me. Not like the rest of America, all 44+ states I’ve seen anyway. It was old. And slower paced. Like Italy. Wine and food were appreciated and understood in Louisiana, in ways I never saw in my travels for work or play, with the possible exception of Napa Valley.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

My Funny Valentine

Sunday, February 07, 2021

the Immerging Wine Writer of the Year

During a recent communique with a wine writer friend, I noticed this person sounded just shy of despondent. Knowing that, of late, many of us are dealing with loss and disruption, I hesitated to press further. But the feeling kept circling like a kettle of vultures, just waiting for the prey down below to take its last breath. “Ok,” I said, “let it out. What the hell is bothering you?”

My friends gasped as if I wasn’t there having the conversation with them. “Oh my God, I talk to myself so often these days, I forgot you, or anyone, were actually there, listening.”

“And?” I pressed.

“I just hope when I die that I can be reincarnated as a young, Black female,” my friend said with an air of resignation that such a thing would never happen in this, or the next, life.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Come back, Trebbiano, we miss you so

Dearest Trebb,

It seemed just like yesterday we were sitting by the beach enjoying each other’s company, the gentle waves lilting to the cadence of the soft Italian jazz music coming from Chalet Federico. Lordy, I miss you so.

It’s not that I haven’t tried to move on. I’ve tried almost everything in the book. I’ve tried your neighbor, Verdicchio. It just wasn’t the same. I’ve ventured further north, and tried Soave and Lugana, no luck. I even ventured to France and had a fling or two with Ugni Blanc. But I kept coming back to you, Trebb. There’s something about Trebbiano Abruzzese.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Will we ever get back?

In this period of sequestration, some have had time to peer into the well and reflect. What do we miss? What have we lost? What have we gained? Where do we go from here? Can we survive this?

More questions than answers. And that, coming from a world and a time when so many thought they had the answers right in front of them. And then the unimaginable happened.

The question, for so many of us, is how do we find our way through the fog? Will we ever get back?

Sunday, January 17, 2021

What Miles Davis and John Coltrane taught me about wine


L
ately, I’ve been organizing my musical recordings. I’m a big jazz fan. Somewhere along the line, during college, while I loved to listen to rock, especially the San Francisco style in the 1970’s, I veered over to jazz. There was a great FM radio station in Los Gatos, California, KTAO. But even before that, I was interested. I remember going to a Miles Davis concert in1967 at UCLA. It was his quintet, with Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Tony Williams and Wayne Shorter. Miles didn’t allow any photography, we had to take our cameras back to the car. But the music was brilliant.

Living in California after college, I got into all kinds of jazz. John Coltrane, what’s not to love? So, when I got a Miles/Coltrane CD for Christmas, I was really excited. And then I got to listening to the music.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

The Epiphany (and the room where it happened)


O
nce, on a fast run up the autostrada from Ancona to Verona, an old friend and I were talking about epiphanies. He’d had many in his life and had distilled it down to its essence. “It’s a bolt of lightning - Il Fulmine.” I’ve thought about those moments lately, as it seems we’ve been having more than our share of “Il Fulmine” in today’s world. And as we sail through time, many of us have those moments when our purpose is distilled in a flash, and everything is bright and clear, if only for that moment.

It’s much like a photograph. 1/100th of a second. And then something else. Not gone, but no longer there with the energy and the force it initially struck with. I guess you could say it’s a bit like those times when you are intimate with someone and for a moment everything disappears and there is only light and passion, and emotion and energy.

And while it wasn’t quite that dramatic when it happened, looking back on that day, I realize I was then bound to wine, it made an indelible impression. Let me tell you about it.

Sunday, January 03, 2021

How Italian wine will thrive in the 21st century

Transformational over Transactional


S
omething I am detecting, acutely, in these early days of 2021, are the relationships that were shaped while working in the wine trade. How many times did I sit at someone’s mother (or grandmother) table enjoying a home-cooked meal while tasting the wines they also made? What did they get out of it? Another meal for a bunch of American wine buyers. Another lost night. More free wine consumed, eating into the margins.

It’s something I ask a lot. Then, maybe it was because they knew I had buying power. But not now. I’m done with that. So, why, if at all, do some of those folks still stay in touch?

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