Sunday, February 18, 2024

The Day After - A World and a Lifetime Ago

Yesterday morning, very early, I had this odd sensation. I remember lying in bed, as I have done for the past month, recovering from full-knee replacement surgery. I hadn’t been sleeping well for that month, so I just figured it was part of the process, wailing and flailing and general discomfort.

And then I heard an ancient song, by the Shangri-las, whispering lyrics to their hit song, “Remember”:

(Remember) walking in the sand

(Remember) walking hand-in-hand

(Remember) the night was so exciting

(Remember) smile was so inviting

(Remember) then she touched my cheek

(Remember) with her fingertips

Softly, softly we'd meet with our lips

And then, I remembered.

The same day, a Saturday, 23 years ago to the day, February 17, 2001, I got a call from the care center where my wife Lizanne was. It was 5:30 AM. “Mr. Cevola, you need to come. Your wife doesn’t have much more time.”

So, I got up, fed the cat, got dressed and headed out to say good-bye to my dear wife.

Sunday, February 11, 2024

My Italian Bucket List – Version 2024

After having been to Italy multiple times for work and play, since 1971, one would think someone like me might have ticked off all the boxes of an immersive and exhaustive Italian experience. It seems though, on further contemplation, that there are a few boxes remaining to be filled in. So, here goes.

  • Visit Sardegna – Of all the regions I haven’t been to there remains one – Sardegna. I’d love to visit the island, find the wild parts, hug the coastline, eat lamb, drink Cannonau and discover what it is about the island that makes it unique and wonderful.
  • Drive or ride around Italy in a Ferrari – True confession: I have never driven or rode around Italy in the fabled motorcar. Or anywhere, for that matter! I’d like to break that spell and take a ride (short or long, fast or slow) in Italy in a Ferrari. Simple enough, yes?
  • Wineries to visit that I have never been to – those would be Roberto Conterno, Angelo Gaja, Edoardo Valentini, Biondi-Santi and Sassicaia. These are iconic wineries and their wines. Although I have tasted and enjoyed many times, I have never had the pleasure, or privilege, of visiting ad locum.

 


Unfortunately, there is one thing I will never be able to check off. And that would have been to travel in Italy with my mom. We talked about it, even tried to plan it, but my wife Liz, at the time, was too sick. So, it never happened. Happily, my mom was able to go to Italy with my two sisters and a grand-daughter. It was a “girl trip.” And they had a great time. But I missed out on being one of the girls.

Really, on reflection, there isn’t much I have missed in regards to my Italian journey. I’ll probably get to Sardegna, not sure about the other things on the list. But I have no complaints. Italy has been very kind and most generous in sharing her bounty and her beauty with me in my lifetime. And for that, I am most grateful.

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W

Sunday, February 04, 2024

What makes up Italian wine now?

As one looks over the evolution of Italian wine, one can find one consistent factor – change. Nothing stays the same, whether it be technological, tastes or styles. Today's bright star was yesterday’s smoldering nebula, just waiting to appear in time. Wines that were thought to be the “end of the world,” in 1980, are now conscripted to the dustbin of history. Not that this jives with quality or value. In fact, some of what propels Italian wine is this contrarian philosophy, a stubbornness to accede to whatever has become dominant, to maybe even become suppositious of that success.

“Every generation re-invents the wheel,” as the saying goes. And in wine, as in Italy, re-invention is part of the culture. “One cannot take chances in the shallow end of the pool – you must dive into the deep end, the unknown, with both dangers and rewards awaiting.”

How can it be that Italian wine, from 1946 until 2000 blazed a trail towards dominance in the wine world with incredible speed and accuracy, only to give it away to the new generation?

Sunday, January 28, 2024

I Left My Heart in Barbaresco

[from the archives while our blog monster is out on medical leave]

High on a hill, it calls to me

What is it about a place that marks one’s soul? When a place seems more than recognizable the first time one walks in that place, although one had never been there? And that the spirit of the place infuses upon that soul and being, a sense of belonging, of an intimacy that transcends mere time and place? Such is the effect Barbaresco has had upon me for the greater part of my adult life. And it surprised no one more than myself, this attachment, this passion, for a place and its wine.

Sunday, January 21, 2024

Embracing Classic Italian Wine While Becoming Your Authentic Self

ed. note: Alfonso is out on medical leave and he is letting one of the young’uns take the reins of the blog until he comes back.

What a kick, it’s 2024! If not now, when? I will make this the year I become the most authentic me I can be. I will curate myself to a more genuine person. And along with that I will embrace classic Italian wine culture. No more orange wine, no more col fondo. Arrivederci, Etna. Hello Tuscany!

Yes, this will be the year, for me, when we go all resto-mod with Italian wine. I want to embrace the tried and true, not the trite and banal fashion imperatives of my ever so au courant contingent. I’m stoked! 2024 is gonna be such a bitchin’ ride! It’ll be the most sui generous saga I’ve been looking to broker, all my short-lived life - I’m ready and raring to go!! On my way to being an epic polyhistor!!

Sunday, January 14, 2024

Making Sense of Today’s Italian Wine Lists

"Everything that is done in the world is done by hope." - Martin Luther

I’ve been checking out some of the new Italian spots in my region, as this area, North Texas, has become one of the most dynamic economic sections of the country. And with commercial development and growth comes the hope of diversity in the new restaurants that have been opening up lately. Further down the rabbit hole, though, is the discussion of what an all-Italian wine list should look like. And because my recent forays in town have offered up a plethora of new choices in Italian wine lists, my quest for the optimally curated wine list is what this post is all about. So, let’s dig in.

Sunday, January 07, 2024

The Small, Small, Small, Small World of Italian Wine

“Compared to what?”

The land mass of Italy figures out to be 0.2% of the world, similar to Poland, Ecuador, New Zealand and Vietnam. In regards to wine production, though, Italy is often the largest producer, occasionally swapping with France, depending on the harvest. How such a small land mass became to account for such a large amount of wine production is a fascinating thought. The reality, is that Italy, like France and a few other select areas of the world, is uniquely situated to produce large amounts of fine wine. A miracle one might even say. However, that miracle took a long time to create and it was not without its share of purgatorial tribulations.

Still, as one observes today on the social media platforms, one might think it to be one giant movable feast. The young generation who’ve inherited it from this point surely make it out to be a well-tanned cake walk, with the commensurate high-toned tastings in exotic places from Bangkok to Miami. Along with that, the four and five star stays at hotels in fascinating spots like Dubai and Singapore, poolside moments notwithstanding, as well as sumptuous dining experiences at all hours of the day and night. One might think the essence of Italian wine was just one long glamorous ride on a magic red carpet, like something out of One Thousand and One Nights. Were that it was as simple as that.

Sunday, December 31, 2023

Walking on Frozen Water

“When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate. When life is bitter, say thank you and grow.” — Shauna Niequist

Often, I sit down at the desk here and just start typing, as I am doing now. And then the words appear, maybe making sense, and sometimes not so much. After eighteen years doing this, at least once a week, often more, I’m resigned to seeing where it takes me, and you, if you’re still with me.

About 85% of you will not make it to this sentence and new paragraph. So, it goes. We want it in small bites, and we want the punch, the energy and the electricity right from the get-go. No time to waste.

Knowing more acutely about that aspect of time at this point in life, I empathize. There is precious little to waste.

Sunday, December 24, 2023

We’ve Come So Far, So Good

Looking back over the past year, if I were to assess it as a grape-into-wine harvest, I might say this:

We started with a late but mild spring. Rainfall was average, with little to no hail or tornadoes. Once summer arrived, in June, the heat went up and stayed there for months. And months. And months. For humans, as well as grapes, it made for a difficult growing season, as there was no recovery available during the night. Often temperatures never went below 90⁰F, even at midnight! It was a brutal summer, the second in a row.

Still not as brutal as the summer of 1980 or even 2011. In 1980, it was just plain hot for hundreds of days, temperatures over 100⁰F the whole time. And 2011 also had extreme drought. Thousands of cows died from lack of water and relief. So, 2023 wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

And if a wine were to come from a harvest like that?

Sunday, December 17, 2023

What do you call home?

Having migrated to Texas from California 45 years ago now, I have been occupied with two things: the next chapter and the meaning of home.

Years ago, I read a book, Gods, Men and Wine. Somewhere in it there was a passage about how humans and grapes traveled together through time and history. Making home where they landed and hopefully thrived. Italy was surely a good move, for both grapes and humankind.

I’ve wondered if 45 years has been enough for me in Texas. And I’ve gone to other places to research uprooting and transplanting myself. It’s getting late for these old vines, to be sure, but what if? I grew up in California and spent my early years and most of my youth there. I loved it. But that was then, and the California of my youth no longer exists.  To quote Yogi. “Nobody ever goes there anymore — it's too crowded.” It’s also too expensive now.

Sunday, December 10, 2023

Where in Heaven's Name?

This past week I’ve been racking up miles across the great Southwest looking for the future. The journey has taken me to Santa Fe, New Mexico, a place I hadn’t been to in more than 25 years. It used to be a place I went to often, for work and for play. I even went there once for a honeymoon. So, there are plenty of good memories in that place.

This time, while on other business I managed to go to a few wine shops and restaurants. I was happily surprised to see Italian wine thriving there. Mind you, you could fit Santa Fe into one of the new developments in Dallas or Houston. But the place attracts artists, intellectual and the very well healed. Some of the folks in Santa Fe have another home in Tuscany, from the conversations I was privy to. The Italian connection is alive and well.

Sunday, December 03, 2023

It All Depends on You

Jackson Pollock Salmon
It is so very entertaining observing from the edge of the river. Swimming along are the young fish, all bright and shiny and determined to show the world just what great swimmers they are. And aren’t they beautiful? Along with that, regulated by the river and depending on the fish, they might just be swimming somewhere to save their species, as members of their group have done for countless generations.

Likewise, it is a similar swim, on land with the up-and-coming crop of wine tradesmen and women. They’re all suited up and shimmering in the bright room, say, at a wine tasting. I love to study their movements in the room, who they talk to, what they talk about, which wines they are drawn to, and the people they connect with. We all did it, consciously or otherwise. It’s part of our humanity.

Sunday, November 26, 2023

The Right Time to Open That Bottle

The clock of time is a wild child...” - Priyansha Vashi

Lately, as it seems I have a lot more time on my hands, although it is somewhat abbreviated compared to 30 years ago, I often muse upon the logistics of when to open a bottle. During the recent holiday, I wanted to find something red and with a little bit of age on it, maybe 10 years. Along with that, I needed a crisp fresh white wine to complement the foods we were serving along with the preferences of the other folks enjoying the wine with me. Both wines needed to be opened at the right time. In the case of the white wine, that was a little bit easier. But in the case of the red, a 2013 Barolo, I wondered just what I might be getting myself into. No, not anything dramatic. More of a desire to pinpoint the right bottle at the right time kind of thing. And if it didn’t work, well, there are plenty more willing participants in that cold, dark room, where they huddle in peace waiting for their moment to shine.

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Pivoting While Whirling

Recently, longstanding and noted wine bloggers have been declaring. Things like:

“I don’t suppose I have many of you checking this site daily for updates…” - Vinography

“I have in fact been blogging without a break about every two weeks for more than a dozen years now, and I would be less than honest if I didn’t admit to feeling a little stale at it…and (will) take a brief sabbatical from this blog” - Tom's Wine Line

“…the blog will end its 16-plus year run on Jan. 15…sadly, I don’t think it’s relevant anymore.” - The Wine Curmudgeon

And while I have noticed the world of blogging in general doesn’t seem to have the oomph it once had in the world (it’s no longer the bright shiny thing in the corner) my take on anyone who might be having an existential moment (we don’t need another crisis) in regards to their relevancy is an optimistic one.

Sunday, November 12, 2023

The Most Important Wine Harvest of All Time

How many times have you read it? The harvest in process and the ensuing data regarding the weather, the quantity and the quality that inevitably leads to an initial prediction that this year will be the wine of the decade? Wine of the century? Greatest of all time?

Recently I looked back over a slew of articles, going back forty years, and read something similar to that. At the time, I’m sure many of the journalists thought, indeed, that they were reporting an accurate assessment.

What I find curious, though, over time, is that the “lesser” vintages, the ones not thought to be so great, actually delivered wonderful vinous experiences. That probably indicates that my interaction with the wine might have had less to do with the climatological conditions of past than the present conditions of my perceptual and emotional being.

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