Sunday, June 13, 2021

2021-The future of wine wholesale distribution – Post Covid 19

Thursday, June 10, 2021

By the Bottle: Alder Yarrow

Wine lovers on wine and the vinous life.

I made Alder’s acquaintance through wine blogging, and have spent time with him in Napa and Italy. Alder is considered one of the pioneers of wine blogging with Vinography, and
has been a columnist for Jancis Robinson, since 2011, at He has traveled the world, to quench his thirst for wine and beyond. Alder is moved by wines that “have distinct personalities, strong voices, and reveal themselves in layers."


What wines do you have standing up right now?

At the moment I’ve got a bottle of 2019 Sandlands Red Table Wine in the fridge preserved with the new Coravin Pivot system, which is proving to be quite a handy device for keeping weeknight bottles fresh. In any case, Tegan Passalacqua has been making such wonderfully delicious wines under his Sandlands label, and this old-vine field blend from Contra Costa county is deliciously gulpable. It’s 55% Carignane and 45% Mataro and weighs in at only 12.8% alcohol. I like to drink it with a slight chill on it, and man, is it great.

In addition to that bottle, I’ve got the dregs of a couple of press samples that have been sent to me lately, a white Pinot Noir from Anne Amie Vineyards called “Prismé,” and a Vermentino di Gallura from the Sardegna producer Surrau.


What’s the last great wine you drank?

I’m not fully vaccinated yet (10 days and counting), so I’ve been easing my way back into social dining. I have a group of friends that have all been very careful and are partway through their vaccination regime too, and so we decided to go sit outside at The Morris restaurant in San Francisco a week or so ago, and we ordered some lovely wines. The star of the night was a 2011 Domaine du Collier “La Charpentrie” Saumur Blanc from the Loire Valley. It was just singing.


Describe your ideal drinking experience (when, where, what, how).

There are few things better than a long afternoon sitting around outside with good friends and great wine. If we’re talking ideal, it would be Spring, where the air is cool enough to keep the wines from getting warm, but warm enough to be comfortable. We’d be in the shade, at a picnic table, with an epic view, maybe of mountains or of the sea, and enough to eat so that we can keep drinking without needing a nap or to break away for a big meal.

I think if you had asked me this question 2 years ago, my answer might have been more grand, but right now, what I really want to do more than anything is just enjoy the company of great friends with no other encumbrances or obligations.

Sunday, June 06, 2021

10 Wines that Forever Changed the How the World Sees Italian Wine

From 8½ by Federico Fellini
Italy was once a forlorn country, vinously speaking. The wines were made haphazardly. The flavors were sometimes off, especially the white wines. They didn’t “travel” well to foreign countries. And the producers and the importers thought, in order to get a foothold in the market, that the wines had to be cheap. So they were. And, in the immortal words of Rodney Dangerfield, they “didn’t get no respect.”

We’re talking the 1960-70’s here, which is a universe away from the world we live in now. But to get from there to here took a revolution that hammered away at the commercial, cultural, logistical and financial worlds that prevailed. It was a long, slow climb to the top, where now Italian wine enjoys a reputation as one of the great wine producing countries of the world. No longer is Italy in the shadow of France, as it was when I started out. But it took some dogged determination, and the blood, sweat and tears of a diverse group of producers (and importers) in order to pull this revolution off. Here are ten of those fomenters who created a new reality for Italian wine, and changed forever how all of us see wine from Italy.

Thursday, June 03, 2021

By the Bottle: Ian D'Agata

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Gone Fission...

Going off the grid for the holiday. Back Thursday with the By the Bottle series.

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W

Thursday, May 27, 2021

By the Bottle: Patricia Guy

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Saying Goodbye to Italy

“You may have the universe, if I may have Italy.” – Giuseppe Verdi

Rome - 1971

This year will mark 50 years since I first visited Italy. That alone is cause for dismay. The good news? Life in the last 50 years has been so much better, thanks to Italy.

But eventually one must say goodbye.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’m not bidding adieu just yet. But the sun is getting lower on the horizon.

Italy has been my mentor, my guide, my friend, and sometimes, my foe. I’ve loved Italy with all my heart. And at times, I’ve wanted to walk away and never look back. Italy has tried to kill me, at least once. And it has cured me, also, at least once. And I cannot tell you how many times I’ve experienced a rebirth, all because of Italy.

That’s a pretty tall order, to lay all of this off onto a peninsula in the middle of the Mediterranean.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

By the Bottle: Raffaella Guidi Federzoni

Wine lovers on wine and the vinous life.

This week we’re hearing from Raffaella Guidi Federzoni in Montalcino. She is, from time to time, my muse. But always a friend. She is fierce. She is charismatic. And a consummate wine professional. Raffaella is a thinker and, to me, the embodiment of the best of the modern Italian woman. Not that she or anyone needs my endorsement. But I admire her, and, hopefully do not idealize her too much. But maybe just a little. The world needs more Raffaella’s. And today I am sharing her story.


What wines do you have standing up right now?

Sangiovese Superiore Le Papesse 2019 and Sangiovese I Probi 2016, both from Villa Papiano. I am quite intrigued by Romagna’s wines, especially the ones made with Sangiovese. I know nothing about them and it is high time to start learning.


What’s the last great wine you drank?

I consider a wine great when it is – or is going to be - unforgettable for its qualities of balance, depth, personality, persistence, promise. In this case the last were actually two, both from the vintage 2017: the future Brunellos from Le Chiuse and Fattoria dei Barbi, tasted secretly and prematurely, one from the bottle and the second from the barrel.


Are there any classic wines that you only recently had for the first time?

If the concept of “recently” could be consider elastic in terms of time, as it happened a few years ago, I must quote the Cannonau made by Alessandro Dettori in three different crus: Tuderi, Tenores and Dettori. These wines struck me for being already totally classic.


Describe your ideal drinking experience (when, where, what, how).

In the evening, somewhere comfortable, two or three wines maximum, with the feeling of having all the time of the world. And, of course, with the right company which could consist in a small group of friends, or, myself and just one more person.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

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

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

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

Thursday, May 13, 2021

By the Bottle: Martin Sinkoff

Wine lovers on wine and the vinous life.

My next participant in the By the Bottle series is Martin Sinkoff. I first met Martin in 1980 in Dallas, where he had recently taken a job as the fine wine director for a small but growing wine wholesaler, Glazer’s (now SGWS). Martin brought the company into the world of fine wine and changed a lot of lives (including mine) as a result of the waves he created. He went on to start his own import company, Martin Sinkoff Wines, Inc. and a very successful wine label, Reserve, St. Martin. Martin sold the company to a budding importer, looking for a bevy of well-made and value-driven French wines. Not content to rest on his laurels, Martin was lured back into the world of fine wine by Richie Cacciato of the Frederick Wildman, where he helped redefine the company’s image and direction. He now heads up an international consulting bureau, Martin Sinkoff Associates, with offices in New York and Tel Aviv. And he moved to Tel Aviv, where he is a (still new) Oleh Hadash in Israel (almost two years). He writes a frequent wine column for the Times of Israel when he is not devoting time to enriching his cultural spirituality, studying the Torah. Martin is fluent in French and is now learning another language, Hebrew. He is the embodiment of a modern-day Renaissance person. [*Note: This "conversation" took place before the current violence. We are both wishing for peace and calm.]

What wines do you have standing up right now?  

Tzora Vineyards “Judean Hills” 2018 (Judean Hills, red); Chateau Senejac 2016 (Haut Medoc, red); Moulin de Gassac 2019 (Languedoc, red); Itay Lahat “Adom” 2019 (Galilee, red); Francesco Cirelli Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2019 (Montepulciano, red).

What’s the last great wine you drank?

Hmmm. Depends on the definition of “great”.  The last wine that took my breath away was Chateau Beaucastel served by Marc Perrin himself at my friend, Etienne Hugel’s, wedding, now I am guessing close to 10 years ago (maybe fewer).  Etienne is now no longer with us and so the wine and the event both remain in loving memory.

Are there any classic wines that you only recently had for the first time? 

Not classic but “up- and-coming”: several wines from Georgia (the country not the state). With thanks to my friends Lisa Granik MW (in the US) and Vova Diachenko (in Tel Aviv) for the introductions.

Sunday, May 09, 2021

What Italian winemakers can imbibe from their Swiss watchmaking cousins

Thursday, May 06, 2021

By the Bottle: #1 - Ole Udsen - a new series about winelovers and their tastes (and loves) in wine.

Wine lovers on wine and the vinous life.

I’m starting a new series, By the Bottle. It mimics the By the Book feature in the Sunday NY Times Book Review, which asks a series of questions to authors about books. This time, we’ve turned the tables on wine lovers, winemakers, and all kinds of folks in the world of wine. It’s all for fun, with the hopeful expectation that we might gain insights into friends and colleagues in a lighthearted and easygoing way. Expect more, not consistently, but from time to time. Usually on Thursdays.

Kicking this off with Ole Udsen, a wine merchant, wine writer, senior oil industry negotiator and commercial innovator. Ole is a dear friend who lives in Vedbæk, a community on the coast 20 km. north of Copenhagen, Denmark. Ole is one of the most learned people I have ever met in regards to Italian wine, and southern Italian wine in particular. He has an ecumenical thirst for knowledge for wines from all over the world and is one of the most open-minded people I have ever met. But he is no pushover; which is probably why we get along so well. Thanks for launching the ship, Ole! See you at dinner.

What wines do you have standing up right now?

Many. Some Albillo and Garnacha from Sierra de Gredos, a 2011 Hunter Valley Sémillon, a 2007 Pfalz Spätburgunder, and about 10-15 others.

What’s the last great wine you drank?

Barolo Prapò 1996, Az. Agr. Bricco Rocche / Ceretto.

Describe your ideal drinking experience (when, where, what, how).

I don’t have any. Great drinking experiences come in many guises.

Sunday, May 02, 2021

What is wine worth to you?

Now that many of us are getting back up, not quite running yet, but moving forward, some are looking at the value of things. Keeping in mind that health and sanity are paramount above all material objects, the idea of a wine's merit is something that is as varied as our genetic makeup. I cannot speak for all, but I will lay out what I think it means if asked to me - What is wine worth to you?

Sunday, April 25, 2021

The Deciders vs. the Influencers – A saga for espousing wine in the new era

There are voices out there, in the ether of the internet, who are pushing the idea of the demise of the old guard. “The decider class is dying,” they clamor, hurling salvos about the decrepitude of the voices that have guided many folks into the world of wine. “It’s all over now, the blue bloods no longer tell us which red wines we should buy, with their 100-point scales and bloviated tasting notes. It does nothing for me, tells me nothing about my experience, my relationship with the wine I choose.” It’s risen to more than a gentle ferment. The young lions want the silverbacks to “get the blazes out of our world.”  Is the age of the authority done with? Or is the new blood punching the upper crusts out of the way, hustling out the Decider Class and ferrying in the Influencer Squad? Is it really a new age, or is this merely a successive approximation, dolled up to look hip and dope?

Sunday, April 18, 2021

The wonderfully complicated and all too brief (and happy) life of Pio Boffa

A fond remembrance

There are moments in life when a particular event happens, that sends ripples across the water.  Such was the moment yesterday when I heard about the passing of a friend in Italy, Pio Boffa. Pio was just 66 years old, and another victim of the relentless Covid19 virus.

How does this happen, a little over a month after another friend, Barone Alessandro de Renzis Sonnino, passed away at the age of 62, also from Covid?

Right now, Michigan and New York states are posting higher daily new cases than Italy, with half the population. Italy has imposed greater restrictions than those states, but the grim reaper is still harvesting souls in the motherland.  

Unfortunately, Pio’s life was one of those. And what a wonderfully complicated and all too brief life it was.

But what a time to be alive and in the business of Italian wine!

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. In other words, 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

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?

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.”

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?

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

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)

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

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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