Thursday, September 30, 2021

By the Bottle: Brian Cronin

Wine lovers on wine and the vinous life.

Antarctica 2021

I think it was at a Society of Wine Educators conference where I first encountered Brian Cronin. Since then, I’ve followed his path. He’s deep into wine education, but not limited to wine alone. An accomplished sommelier, chef, photographer (all the photos here are his), a long-distance runner (@runningwineguy) and a world traveler. Brian’s segment here is probably the one most similar to the By the Book segments that I read every Sunday in the NY Times: Concise and to the point – no bullshit. Please welcome Brian into the wine cave.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Wine Jars Filled With Silver – Bolgheri’s 25th Anniversary Fête de Compli

It’s quite easy to consider the time we are living in is somehow unique. A world-wide health crisis, both physical and psychological. Fluidity among many people in regards to their version of events, and truth itself. Reverberations felt when encountering ostentatiousness. Reluctance, or perhaps apprehension, to return to a state of being where all the present dangers and fears cease to exist. And restlessness, the urge to get back on the dance floor, to wander among strangers, to sit, to talk, to eat, to drink, to commune. All of this swirling about many of us, those of us who are not fighting for our life on a ventilator in Boise or Belluno. All this desire to reclaim what was lost, to catch a glimpse of hope, to dream in real time. To return to “things the way they were.”

Thursday, September 23, 2021

By the Bottle: Jeff Siegel

Wine lovers on wine and the vinous life.

Jeff Siegel is the Rubik’s Cube of wine writers. Every time I think I’ve getting close to having the colors lined up, the next move flips me back into chaos. Jeff is a bit of a puzzle to me, and that’s kind of why I like him. You never know what’s going to pop up. Oh sure, he says he’s “someone who has made cheap wine his life’s work and isn’t embarrassed about the choice.” But he loves the expensive stuff too. It’s just not his beat. As the Wine Curmudgeon, Jeff has carved out a niche, and has actually monetized his blog, something most bloggers have failed to do. He also has a book, which proves that not just Jamie Goode can get a wine book published these days. Anyway, I digress. Let’s welcome the man who questions what really makes a wine “great” but is a stickler for it having to be “honest.”

What wines do you have standing up right now?

Almost all my wines are standing up. When one writes about wine that people buy in supermarkets to drink that night, there’s not much need to put anything down.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

50 years ago ~ notes from Rome ~ September, 1971

It had been almost a month since I’d first arrived into Italy. I’d crisscrossed the country - down, then up, then down again - and now back up to Rome, to ultimately catch my flight back home to California. I’d wasted a little time on trains, and in Florence and Positano. But I also relaxed a little bit and got into “Italian time.” I imagined, that if all went well, I’d be back someday. I didn’t feel the need to “see everything” and “do everything,” an affliction which inculcates most American tourists. I’d find a way. Little did I know then, that fifty years later I had been able to devise a life and a career which took me back to Italy, on average, more than once a year for fifty years.

What Italy did to me on that first visit, my baptism of sorts, was to let me know there was a world outside of California, that was every bit (and then some) worth my time. Or not, if I chose not to. It was all up to me to pursue Italy. She wasn’t going to chase me. I knew that drill. I got it. I’d be back, someday.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

By the Bottle: Esther Mobley

Sunday, September 12, 2021

50 years ago ~ notes from Positano ~ September, 1971

Positano ~ 1971
It had been several weeks since I’d first landed in Italy. I’d seen Rome, I’d seen Florence, I’d visited my family and seen lots of Sicily. I needed to see some water, to swim in the sea, and to kick back before going home. Positano called.

Thursday, September 09, 2021

By the Bottle: Carmen Castorina

Wine lovers on wine and the vinous life


I’ve known Carmen for awhile now. He’s one of the best storytellers in the wine biz. He knows everybody. He’s been around for ages, so he has “all the dirt” on almost anyone who's anyone. Not that he’d ever go down that road. No, Carmen is a guy who loves life, family and wine. In 2014, he retired as the chief storyteller for the Gallo family. And before you put your high-hat on, don’t. We all started out somewhere, and in the early days the paths were fewer and far between. But he navigated through a large family company during one of the most historic epochs for wine, and especially wine in California. That said, Carmen isn’t the man in the grey flannel suit. No, he’s more of a stretchy polo and linen shorts guy now, especially in North Texas, where we are still enduring high 90+⁰F days, blistering sun and heat, heat, heat. And you wonder why we drink so much white (and rosé) wine down here? Anyway, I am a huge fan of Carmen, and now you can be too, if you so desire.


What wines do you have standing up right now?

As I continue to purposefully “drink down my cellar”….

Peter Lehmann The “Mudflat” Shiraz 2000, Fontanafredda Barolo 1974, Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon 1988, A. Rafanelli Zinfandel 1997, Clarendon Hills Romas Grenache 2006, Summus 1997, Benanti Serra Della Contessa 2001.

Sunday, September 05, 2021

50 years ago ~ notes from Florence ~ September, 1971

Saying goodbye to my Sicilian family at the dock, I got on the boat and returned to Naples. From there I took a train to Florence. I was an art student (mainly photography, but a well-rounded course of classes), and Florence seemed like a good place to visit. The Italian holiday was tapering off, people were returning to their towns and villages, so I did as well. I had two more weeks in Italy before I had to be back at class in Santa Clara.

Looking back now, probably the best thing would have been to stay in Sicily, and dive in deeper. But I didn’t want to take too much advantage of my relatives’ hospitality. And I knew I’d be back. Florence called.

Thursday, September 02, 2021

By the Bottle: Emily Huang

Wine lovers on wine and the vinous life.

I met Emily in Barolo a few years ago, where we were both attending Collisioni at the invitation of Ian D’Agata. Emily lives in Taiwan, and on social media her nom de plume is @unpoalticcia. She radiates a quiet serenity, or as we used to say in Rome a couple of millennia ago, “Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi.” She is essential to the future of wine and Italian wine. I learned some new things from our exchange below. So glad she contributed and participated in this series, please give Emily a warm welcome.

What wines do you have standing up right now?

I am having a Freisa from G.D. Vajra. I found it most interesting is the spark between the wildness in Freisa and the elegance from Vajra. Theirs is a bigger wine with darker fruit accents than usual, but that like all Freisa wines ages extremely well and expressing aromas and flavours with age that are remarkably similar to Nebbiolo’s.

To be honest, I am so obsessed with Italian native grapes and Freisa is really one of the greatest, but the simple truth is that the country has just so many great wine grapes, many of which most wine lovers have never even heard of, it is nothing short of amazing.

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