Sunday, December 26, 2021

On the Wine Trail in Italy – Sweet Sixteen

How long does a butterfly live? 

Dear reader,

You’ve endured my ongoing screeds about the relevancy of wine blogs for almost as long as I’ve been writing them. They are an artifact of an era which won't be known for longevity. At this point, I’m prone to considering wine blogs akin to Tales from the Crypt, sans the gratuitous horror. Bored to death? Well, maybe we’re just not paying good enough attention. However you may look at it, I'm celebrating anyway. It’s sweet sixteen for this old wine blog.

I don’t look on the passage of time with as much surprise as I once did. Time has one speed. We have our own perceptions of the momentum, and that often changes in one’s life. For now, I’m just strapped in and riding along, as we zip through the solar system, galaxy and universe. I’m surprised I’m not dizzy, or nauseated, or just plain pooped, from the jaunt. But I’m actually enlivened and activated, having survived, so far, this life and the ride. So, let’s take a gander at where this blog went in 2021, before I tell you where we’re going in 2022.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Are you dying to go to Italy?

“Per me si va nella città dolente, per me si va nell'etterno dolore, per me si va tra la perduta gente.” - Il canto terzo dell'Inferno di Dante Alighieri *

On March 8, 2020, when we were just entering the tunnel of Covid19, I wrote a post and posed the question, “Should you go to Italy right now?  Now, 642 days later, as we end 2021, I am posing it again. But this time, with the benefit of the last 642 days’ worth of history, I’m looking at it differently than I did then. Of course, one could say that about almost anything in the last 21 months.

I’ve lost two winemaker friends in Italy, with countless other friends having contracted the virus, in Italy and America and around the world. I’ve lost a handful of friends here in America along with a relative. As well, a handful of my relatives have gotten the virus, some worse than others, requiring hospitalization and long recovery times. So, it has not been a hoax or a conspiracy to me. It has been real, and at times, very painful.

So, why am I asking if we should go to Italy? Well, for one, I’ve seen scores of pictures and posts from friends and acquaintances who have gone overseas. And every time I see one, I ask myself the question, “Would I go to Italy now?” But I also ask myself why I would want to go to Italy. Do I need to go to Italy?

Sunday, December 12, 2021

A Cautionary Tale - The Insolent Sommelier Pt. VI (finale)

“All things must pass, none of life's strings can last.” – George Harrison

Forwarding to the present day, where we must end this story, for now. Segundo is no longer there; he was let go, claiming he is still “consulting.” For all we know, that’s just a cover for his inability to admit it’s over. Saving face. OK, let him have his little charade. It can’t hurt anyone except himself.

What concerned me was that he used Italian wine, in his role, to assert his personal power over others. It wasn’t like he was the first person to do that (how could he be – he is Segundo!), but the way in which he used people and power to populate his social network, it seemed misguided. I’ve seen others who’ve gone against the wine gods, and it usually didn’t end well for them. Remember, we’re in the service industry. We’re here to serve. We did our best to serve Segundo, but his heart was closed and his motivation always seemed to be adumbral. He was insecure, and he projected his fears and doubts upon those of us who came to present and provide. Talking about biting the hands that feeds you!

Sunday, December 05, 2021

A Cautionary Tale - The Insolent Sommelier Pt. V

“We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.” ― Benjamin Franklin

I could see the horizon approaching more rapidly. It had been almost 40 years since I’d started in the wine trade, and the time was coming when it would end. I had my team in place. They’d take it from here, and carry on as ambassadors of Italian wine. I had other directions I wanted to go towards, and was ready to move on.

Years ago, I’d read a piece about how Italian restaurateurs were ambassadors of food and wine to the world outside of Italy. Savvy Italian vintners enlarged the scope of the mission to include the wine trade, from the importers to the distributors,. We were all working to uplift Italian wine and food, and in the last 40 or so years amazing strides had been made. When I first moved to Texas, it was nearly impossible to find an espresso, a decent mozzarella, artisanal pasta from Italy and fresh white truffles. Now, it takes a lot of effort to make a bad espresso (although there are those stalwarts who still insist on making a crappy ristretto). But, by and large, we’re in a golden age of food and wine right now. Who knows if it will last? But we got here with the tireless dedication of thousands of players, working days and nights to bring a better interpretation and experience of Italian food that once was only found in Italy. Now you can find it in New York, Seattle, Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles, hell, even Las Vegas. Italy has taken root in America. It has been a great victory and it was wonderful to watch it all unfold and be part of it.

And it was for that reason that I didn’t give up on Segundo. I just couldn’t believe his heart was so dark and hard that he couldn’t understand the bigger picture. In other words, I was naïve and unwilling to accept defeat.

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