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.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

A Cautionary Tale - The Insolent Sommelier Pt. IV

"Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance." – Confucius

My boss, Brad, convinced the powers that be to let me hire a trio of Italian specialists, as our Italian wine business had mushroomed in the past 10 years. Where it was once hard to sell Italian wine across the board, now Italian wine was tres chic, even with some French dining establishments. So, I went about the business of putting a team together. It went well, even if it took longer than my boss had wanted. I had the business of a tonsillectomy that got in between interviews and negotiations. But once we had that all sorted out, I had a good, solid, team.

Part of the mechanism of ramping up the validity of the team and their street cred was to enroll them in the Italian wine specialist program at Italian Wine Central. The head education honcho in my company wanted as many credentialed specialists as we could muster. It was so mandated. And the team got after it and jumped through the hoops. It was, and is, a terrific program, and one I recommend highly for anyone wanting to further their skills in understanding Italian wine at a higher level.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

A Cautionary Tale - The Insolent Sommelier Pt. III

“Ah, how the seeds of cockiness blossom when soiled in ignorance.”― Steve Alten, The Loch

Back from a working trip to Italy, I invited Segundo to a wine tasting. We had a winemaker in town and I was told he liked to rub shoulders with celebrity vintners. He accepted.

I knew enough to leave him alone when he was tasting. He usually brought a consort with him, to provide cover. I observed they liked to keep to themselves, to draw little attention to any observations they made about the wine, the venue or the other wine buyers in the crowd. Segundo’s lack of confidence saw to it that he was duly shielded from anyone who might know more about Italian wine, or wine in general. He usually avoided me in those situations. I would ease the sail in order to provide him with ample room for his maneuvering comfort.

Sunday, November 14, 2021

A Cautionary Tale - The Insolent Sommelier Pt. II

“The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about.” -  Wayne Dyer

For whatever reasons Segundo Sguattera ventured into the wine buying world, he did so without the proper preparation. I say this because everything he learned from the chef at Le Chant du Coq was based on a truculent foundation. Several of the veterans in the wine trade tried to welcome Segundo into a more amicable world, the one which many of us experienced, from the vineyard to the importer to the distributor. We were all part of a team, pulling to make sure the farmer’s efforts at the source wouldn’t be for naught. After all, the vigneron has to deal with the weather, with labor, with inflation, with competition, and with the changing economic and physical environment. At the end of the supply line, we want to give the producer a soft landing.

But Segundo would have nothing to do with it. I believe at the basis of all of it was his insecurity and ignorance. Which is folly, for who starts knowing everything? Or anything, for that matter? Segundo was a wounded creature from the get-go. His history and his ingrained maladies only served to further nourish a burgeoning inferiority complex, resulting in a boundless spate of anger, mistrust and furtive behavior. As I said, he wasn’t a pleasant person to be around. I reckon he, as well, felt that about himself. And his buying process reflected that.

Sunday, November 07, 2021

A Cautionary Tale - The Insolent Sommelier Pt. I

This is a tale about a most miserable wine steward

When Primo Sguattera first saw his son, Segundo, in the hospital, he couldn’t recognize any similarity between him and the newborn. He was so small, and remained that way into adulthood. Primo thought Segundo might not be his son, more likely the pairing between his wife and the weather-beaten scarecrow out in the corn fields outside of Tijuana where they lived.  But his wife swore she’d had no other man, even if Primo was less than the most desirable choice for a husband and a father. Fate had it that way.

Segundo’s mother, Maria Teresa, was a mother and a martyr. She had been named by her grandmother, who had the ability to sense the future. So, she prepared Maria Teresa for her future, giving her a name that would explain, in two words, her life to herself. That made for little happiness, if indeed at least there was some clarity to it all.

Sunday, October 31, 2021

And the Beat Goes On – A Propitious Epiphany in Trento

For Roger…

There are those moments that sneak up and drop a lifechanging effect on you. It might be something as simple as the change of the light upon a tree you look at every day. And then suddenly, as summer merges into autumn, it’s as if you’d never seen it with such clarity. Or it could be a simple sniff of a wine that transports you back to when you were a teenager, sitting in a darkened theatre next to your first girlfriend. All of a sudden, your arm is around her shoulder and the two of you are getting ready for your first kiss. All from a dessert wine from Friuli, or Denmark.

So it was, one spring evening in the town of Trento. I wasn’t looking for it. But something was stalking me, waiting for me at the bar where I eventually sat down at.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Your Ice Cream is Melting

I’ve wandered so far off the island, at this point, for those of you who are still stopping by, here goes nothing.

I’m fixated on this relationship thing, post-career. And along with that, the transactional piece of those relationships we thought possibly more than they were.

It has hit home more than once in the last year or so. I’ve allowed for the epoch we find ourselves in: pandemic, social striation, a general turbulence in the balance of things on earth. Probably not something new, in geologic time. But for those of us in the here and now, it can be a bit disconcerting. Oh, and also, our ice cream is melting.

So, when I saw this post from an erstwhile associate, it gave me pause.

“Community. It’s a concept that is lost on a lot of people these days. I have been a part of many communities but none so important and fulfilling as the amazing people I have met in my life in food, wine and hospitality. A special bunch they are. I have always appreciated how people in the biz would genuinely applaud other people’s successes. You don’t find that in all industries.”

I know that feeling. Probably there are some reading who do, too. It felt real. It was real. Then.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Wine, Women and Watches – Gathering Joy in the Long Lunch

I’m kinda in a mood. Not the Glenn Miller kind. More of a Billie Eilish/David Byrne kinda mood. I’m played out with wine writing. Can’t read it. Can barely write it myself, these days. I’m so doggone burnt out with stupid words and clichés, and drama and asinine tasting notes, and the same old repetitive crap, all the blasted time, parading as wine (and food) writing. Who in hell cares what anyone drank (or ate) in Jackson Hole or Bucaramanga? The narcissists and cliché curators have taken over wine and writing about it, at least on the open internet. It’s done, they’ve killed the “thrill” of it for me. And, from the notes I get from others, I’m not alone. Not that it should matter. I am an introvert, after all. In the past two years, I’ve learned to live in relative solitude.

That’s why my weekly lunch, outside the home, is probably a good idea for my mental health. It’s like going to confession, but with food and wine.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

What makes a wine great?

From the archives

"They say that life itself is really just the dead on vacation." - Tom Waits

Over the years my ideas about wines have changed a little. A lot less than I would have thought. Looking back over 35+ years of seriously tasting wine, there have been moments when I tasted greatness. What was it about those moments? Was it the stage the wine was in, a moment coinciding with its peak? Was it the season? Was it my physiology? Was it a magical confluence of all the above and more? Or was it just dumb luck?

What makes a wine great? It’s in the back of my mind all the time, a touchstone sought and rarely found. Not that the pursuit of great wines is my primary task. I must constantly taste and evaluate wines for my work that needn’t be great. They just need to be good enough, or good values, or in-offensive. Not all days are vacation days. But this is not the time for that discussion. Today, I am pursuing greatness. So what is it that evades these pages, darts about, zips off the screen like a dragonfly or a refraction from a light source? Where does one find this greatness factor?

Sunday, October 03, 2021

Are You Collecting or Connecting?

From the archives

As I look through the wines in my closet, or study a wine collection from a deceased doctor or lawyer that the widow is trying to make sense of, I wonder about the nature of one’s relationship with wine. Odd to say it that way, as wine isn’t a person, how can one have a relationship with it? What one can examine, though, is one’s way of relating to wine and the people and places that make up the story of wine.

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.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

50 years ago ~ notes from Palermo ~ August, 1971

After booking passage on the ship from Naples, I spotted the bay of Palermo, the Conca d’Oro. My family was supposed to be meeting me at the dock. I felt like Vasco da Gama, or Amerigo Vespucci, in reverse.

My grand aunt and uncle were there with their family, welcoming this young, gawky Americano in jeans, carrying a back pack. I must have been a sight.

They spoke very little English, the younger ones more conversant than the elders. I spoke a smattering of Italian. But we were family! We can do this!

In fact, learning Italian by immersion works. I’m not saying it worked on me then, but I was thrust into a culture and a language and I had to find oxygen. I had to speak Italian.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

By the Bottle: Darrell Corti

Wine lovers on wine and the vinous life.

In my mind, Darrell Corti embodies that often-quoted motto from Joseph Campbell, “The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” He is one of my heroes. We share California as our native state and Italy as our place of ancestral descent. He knows almost more about anything, food, wine and otherwise, than I or many of us will ever be able to comprehend. Underlying all of that is a kindness and an openness that imprint Darrell as incomparable. I cannot tell you how happy this makes me to have him on our series, and in our world.

What wines do you have standing up right now?

Most of the samples that I have received. During the summer, wines with deposit are really not interesting.

What’s the last great wine you drank?

What do you mean by great? Expensive? There are not many really great wines around, but a lot of expensive ones!

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

Again, what do you mean by “classic?” I can imagine what you mean, but perhaps there are not so many “classic” wines around. Classic to me, may not be “classic” to someone else.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

50 years ago ~ Postcard from Naples ~ August 22, 1971

From the archives
Dear Mom and Dad,

Well, I'm in Italy. I finally made it to Rome. The last week has been warm. Hotter than where I came from. Rome was miserable. And empty, save for a few Americans who actually had lire. Wartime in America. Nixon devalued the dollar the day I arrived in Rome to get more European countries to buy things from us. We need the money to pay for the war in Vietnam. And it looks like we are going into a recession that could last for years.

I got to Naples from Rome on a train. I have a day before the ferry takes me to Palermo. I have a day to kill.
Now, I'm walking.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

By the Bottle: Eric Asimov

Wine lovers on wine and the vinous life.

  I first met Eric in Napa Valley, California. Since then, we’ve traveled, supped and opened a bottle or two in New York City, Austin, Texas and Sicily. Eric has the distinction of being one of the most influential wine critics today, a position he doesn’t take lightly (nor would he probably admit to it). Nonetheless, it is what it is. He’s riding that tiger. Let’s jump on board with him and take a spin, shall we?

What wines do you have standing up right now?

Most of the time, what I’m planning to drink is a function of what I’m planning to write about. I will keep that private other than to say I’ve just enjoyed some excellent bottles for my Wine School unit on dark rosés.

What’s the last great wine you drank?

I prefer to think of “greatness” in terms of context, expectations and fulfillment rather than on some universal scale in which the great wines are profound examples of historic terroirs or estates. With that in mind I would say a Château de Béru Chablis Montserre 2018 was a great wine. I love Chablis, though I’m not a particularly a fan of the 2018 vintage. Nonetheless, this wine was beautiful, intense in the way of the vintage yet full of characteristic Chablis minerality rather than fruitiness, pure and unmediated. I loved it.

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

I can’t think of any sorts of wine, though I can think of plenty of legendary bottles that I’ve never had, and probably never will. Cheval Blanc 1947, for one.  

Sunday, August 15, 2021

My 50 year anniversary, or Nozze d'Oro, with Italy

It was on this day, August 15th, in 1971, that I first landed in Italy. It was a 20th birthday gift, with a little help from my friends. The plane flight from Los Angeles International airport to Aeroporto Internazionale di Roma–Fiumicino "Leonardo da Vinci" cost $900.00 (about $6,0000.00 today). No small sum for a college student then. But I wanted to visit the birthplace of my grandparents, and see the country where it all started for this young student, budding photographer and eventually, an Italian wine lover.

Once I landed, I decided to walk to Rome. Not thinking it that far away, and trying to conserve my money, in addition to the fact that I didn’t have many lire on me, I headed outside.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

By the bottle: Anthony D'Anna

Wine lovers on wine and the vinous life.

Anthony and I met in Italy and fast became pals. Hailing from Melbourne, Australia, he and his family have made wine, and especially Italian wine, a priority in their corner of the world. Endowed with a youthful vigor and a curious mind, I’ve really enjoyed getting to know Anthony, and I hope the rest of you will also take pleasure in his insights, his impeccable taste and his exuberant joy about wine and life.


What wines do you have standing up right now?

One of the few benefits of lock-down in Oz has been a lot more time at home. That has meant I have had the opportunity to drink wines that have been cellared for 10-15 years and are now ready to be drunk. Over the last few weeks I have had a good look at 2006 Barolo with the highlights being Borgogno Barolo Classico 2006 and Piero Benevelli Ravera di Monforte Barolo 2006. These 2006 are in a great spot right now.

Sunday, August 08, 2021

On photography, personal passion and a significant occurrence

his past week I’ve been out of pocket at a photography workshop retreat in northern Wisconsin bordering Lake Superior. The weather was cooler than it was in Texas, but warmer than normal (for Wisconsin). But I wasn’t there for the climate.

Thursday, August 05, 2021

By the Bottle: Joanie Bonfiglio

Wine lovers on wine and the vinous life.

Joanie Bonfiglio is the epitome of hope wrapped inside a bundle of energy that could power the city of Las Vegas. I’ve tasted, supped and enjoyed wines with her in Italy and California, and am always overjoyed at the questions she asks, the wines that show up at the table and her enduring effort to polish that giant chunk of marble we call life. Joanie is young, female and undaunted – perfect for the 21st century wine trade. We need more Joanie’s in this world, but for now I am overjoyed we have her in our midst, taking us into the future. I can't wait for our next dinner together. [all photos by Joanie – she is also an accomplished shooter!]


What wines do you have standing up right now?

There are so many wines to open right now. I just started a new role as a national sales manager (in the West) for Kermit Lynch, so I have been happily working my way through the portfolio trying to get a feel for all the producers.  Leaning about and tasting all the new wines has the be the most fun part about a new job in this industry.

Sunday, August 01, 2021

Gone Shootin'

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W

Thursday, July 29, 2021

By the Bottle: Walter Speller

Wine lovers on wine and the vinous life 

Walter Speller is one of the top experts in Italian wine. He writes for Jancis Robinson as well as managing his wine consultancy, Hunt & Speller. Reading his writing is like looking at a very calm sea after a huge storm. You know there is a lot going on there, for when the storm was raging, our boat almost sank and we were almost lost at sea. But who would know it now?

Walter is a deep current. He has learned to convey peace and calmness, but he knows things. Life isn’t neat. And his writing ferries one across depths. When I read about a wine that I think I know very well, when Walter writes about it, it’s like I’d never tasted the wine before. And he makes me want to open a bottle right away, to see what he sees, feel what he feels. He’s a fabulous influence on me in my wine life. I learned new things with this interview. That’s how it is with Walter, always learning something new. Please welcome him to our little series.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

There is no box wine in Heaven. Or is there?

don’t know what gets into me. I was reading an obituary and it just sent me down a rabbit hole. Maybe it’s because my ice cream is melting and I’m getting closer to the abyss. Ah, whatever! I’m not sure, when I no longer breathe, wine will mean much to me (or anything at all, for that matter), but this line from the obit a few weeks ago really lit me up, in a good way:

“On July 2, 2021, Betty Kuhne Sawyer Hitchings, 93, marched through the gates of Heaven and immediately asked for directions to the River of Boxed Chardonnay.”

[Read Betty’s obituary, it really does sound like she had a wonderful life, regardless of her choice in wine]

What I do know is this: If I’ve been a good boy and minded all my P’s and Q’s, there better be something better than Franzia waiting for me at the Pearly Gate Café.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

By The Bottle: Zachary Sussman

Wine lovers on wine and the vinous life.


Zachary is one of the bright young stars rising in the world of wine writing. Not yet 40, he has a list of accomplishments that folks at 60 would love to brag about. He is a Brooklyn-based wine writer, educator, and consultant whose work has appeared in Saveur, Food & Wine, Wine & Spirits, The World of Fine Wine, and The Wall Street Journal Magazine, among others. He is a regular contributor to PUNCH and was formerly named the Champagne Louis Roederer Emerging Wine Writer of the Year. A thinker’s writer and a humanist as well, Zachary’s latest book (along with the editors of Punch) is The Essential Wine Book: A Modern Guide to the Changing World of Wine, with another one coming, hard on the heels, in November, Sparkling Wine for Modern Times: A Drinker's Guide to the Freewheeling World of Bubbles. At this rate, if he keeps going, he’s likely to out-write Hugh Johnson. Please welcome Zachary and enjoy a perspective from someone I admire and enjoy communicating with. 

What wines do you have standing up right now?

I’m cooking a chicken tagine for a dinner party tomorrow and pulled a few bottles from the wine fridge that I thought might make interesting pairings:

2013 Recaredo Corpinnat Terrers Brut Nature

2016 Château Lapuyade Jurançon Sec "Cuvée Dentelle"

1996 Ridge Zinfandel “Pagani Ranch”

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Batti il Ferro Finché È Caldo! *

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W

Thursday, July 15, 2021

By the Bottle: Dan Petroski

Wine lovers on wine and the vinous life.

I first met Dan in Napa Valley, where he is a winemaker at the historical winery Larkmead and also has his own label, Massican, which focuses on Italian grapes, among others. Dan is an inquisitive soul, constantly searching into corners of the winemaking (and greater) world, looking for answers. A really generous person, I’ve tasted Italian wines with Dan in Napa Valley that I’ve never seen or had the opportunity to taste in Italy. Really glad to have him on these pages today with his perspective and passion.


What wines do you have standing up right now?

I don’t have any standing up, but I do have a lot lying down.


What’s the last great wine you drank?

As we are deep into the summer here in Napa, drinking white wines is top of mind and always topped-up in my glass. And the greatest so far has been the Clos Saint-Joseph Blanc 2019 from Villars-Sur-Var. Ugni Blanc (Trebbiano), Rolle (Vermentino) and Semillon. A perfect wine! I could drink this everyday this Summer.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

On Turning 35 – The Wine, Women and Song Version

“Overall, the 1986 vintage was lackluster for much of the world but some regions got lucky.”

“A very good if slightly underrated vintage.”

“Largely good but stopped short of excellent.”

Looking on my wine closet, there are some stragglers still hanging on from 1986. One red wine from Friuli, a couple of reds from California, a Colheita Port and “from way out in left field,” a Texas red. No more Bordeaux, Burgundy, Tuscan or Piedmont wines. All gone, drunk up. I mean, look at what the experts said?

Thursday, July 08, 2021

By the Bottle: DLynn Proctor

Wine lovers on wine and the vinous life.

I first met DLynn in Dallas, when we both lived there. I’ve had the pleasure to open bottles with him in Texas, in Napa Valley (where he now lives) and in Italy. Presently he is the director of Fantesca estate and winery in St. Helena. He is also an actor and producer, known for SOMM (2012) and SOMM: Into the Bottle (2015) and Uncorked (2020), a film loosely based on the life of DLynn and his journey to become a Master Sommelier.

And because he needs only 2 hours of sleep a night, in 2020 DLynn co-founded (with Martin R. Reyes MW, Mary Margaret McCamic MW) Wine Unify, a platform that champions diversity and inclusion for underrepresented minorities in the wine industry. Armed with three initiatives – to welcome, to elevate, and to amplify underrepresented minorities – Wine Unify seeks to create more visibility and opportunity for people of color.

DLynn has forged a path in the wine world that is uniquely his. He constantly updates and reinvents himself.

Sunday, July 04, 2021

Open Letter to Graduates: The Wine Trade Could be Injurious to Your Health

…with apologies for length 

Dear Grad,

Greetings! I’ve been meaning to write this for awhile. But you know how it goes, one gets busy and forgets about things. Oh, and the last 16 months or so have been extraordinary. I’ve dusted off my notes and am now sending this long overdue letter. Feel free to share it publicly with any potential (or current) members of the wine trade. It might save them a lot of time and trouble.

Where to begin? How about in the beginning? You saw those folks at that fancy Italian restaurant, having a leisurely lunch with several bottles, talking to the wine buyer and tasting, clinking glasses, in what looks like a scene where everybody is having a good time? Well, looks can be deceiving. Let’s dig in.

Thursday, July 01, 2021

By the Bottle: Christy Canterbury, MW

Wine lovers on wine and the vinous life.

Photograph by Michael Seto

I first encountered Christy Canterbury at a wine symposium in Texas, where she originally hails from. She now makes her home in Brooklyn’s DUMBO neighborhood with her husband Kirk Tashjian. Christy was the 7th woman in the US to earn the MW (Master of Wine) title. If Christy were a Texas tornado, she’d be at least an F3 - Christy is a force of nature!

What wines do you have standing up right now?

Pierre Gimonnet 2012 Champagne Oger Grand Cru Special Club

F.X. Pichler 2005 Durnsteiner Kellerberg Riesling

Pierre Matrot 2010 Meursault Perrieres 

Domaine de Montille 2002 Volnay La Carelle Sous La Chapelle

Bruno Giacosa 1998 Barbaresco Gallina

Château d'Yquem 1996

My husband and I are having over friends this weekend for the first time since right before COVID hit, and we're in a mood to splurge!


What’s the last great wine you drank?

That's easy! Last week I had the Tio Pepe Quatros Palmas Amontillado (2020 Bottling). It was exhilarating in complexity and only four casks remain of this "museum solera". Definitely history in a glass.

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