Sunday, May 24, 2015

On turning 100 +1: How many times do you get to say this and it really happens?

You hear it all the time at the Italian table. Someone has a birthday and everyone picks up a glass of wine to toast them. Someone else shouts out “Cent’anni!” and it is followed by the volley “e uno!”

One hundred years. And one.

And this time it really happened. To my dear mom.

In all likelihood, we would be celebrating her 100th today. For years she thought she had been born in 1915. But when she went to get her passport, mom had to dig up a birth certificate. She was born in Tobasco, Colorado, which is now a ghost town. What a surprise it was to mom when she found out she was one year older than she thought she was. Oh well, it wasn’t like she was cheated out of that year.

“It seems like I just turned 100. Where did that last year go?” Where do they all go, mom? We’re in the boat with you, even the young ones. Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin', into the future.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

“All Italian White Wines Taste Alike”

I’m sitting at a table, in a restaurant, with a seminal figure in white wine. The beverage director comes up to us to say hello. A few pleasantries are exchanged. After all, we are guests, even if we are part of the “trade.” Our money spends as well.

We’re talking to the beverage director about which wines do and do not work in his place, which is seafood centric. We come to find out that in this place of his, he says his best-selling category is Cabernet Sauvignon. We are close to a huge body of water; the city is cosmopolitan and diverse. The clientele is well-healed. The menu is seafood. And Cabernet is the big hit here.

We then approach the subject of Italian wine. I’m beginning to think this fellow isn’t a white wine drinker. But he confirms it when he declares “all Italian white wines taste alike.” He then went on to remark that he had never had a memorable one.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Counter-Lust in Austin: A Seductive New Dining Spot in Texas

No Tables. No Servers. No Tipping.

Let’s see, where have I been? Monday, it was in San Francisco. Tuesday, back in Dallas. Wednesday? Houston. And Thursday found me in Austin, Texas. Hopping around from city to city via plane, car and Uber, I’m playing road warrior again this month. My travel schedule is insane, but right now being on the road feels like the right thing. And occasionally (actually, often) I find myself poised in front of brilliance. Whether it is listening to Darrell Corti, Tim Gaiser and Shelley Lindgren wax eloquently about Chianti Classico, or Alois Lageder explain with a deeply back-lit gleam in his eye about his transformation from grower to bio-dynamic guru, right now I feel like one lucky fellow. But those are vanity posts for another day. I’m currently smitten with a little new place in Austin, and one you should get yourselves to, A.S.A.P., before it becomes the hardest seat to get in Texas. And I’m betting it won’t be long before that happens.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Chianti for the Commoner

“When will you talk about it?” My friend was pouring me a Sangiovese, in purezza, leaning in. “You and I discussed it over a year ago. Isn’t it time yet?” Raffaella, my Tuscan confidant in purezza, was pressing me to come in out of the rain and spill it.

“Ok, I promise to get into it at the next possible opportunity.” But I wasn’t looking for a fight or controversy. I’d had enough of that from the Vinitaly debacle. It really should be something more intimate, like a letter. After all it is a communication among friends. But it is a conversation that needs to be opened up to more than me and my Tuscan confidant. A letter form, that feels right. It’s more personal.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Italian Wine Appellations that are Downright Confounding

After having spent most of April crisscrossing Texas in my covered wagon to teach hundreds of people about Italian wine, there were a few moments when I was scratching my head, wondering why I was teaching some of this stuff. The scores of DOCG wines, hundreds of IGT (P) wines and even more DOC (P).

It was a simple comment in passing that started this. I was talking to an Italian and he said, “This Toscana IGT is a disaster. How can anyone make sense of it when you can have one for $4 and one for $400?” I noted the comment and moved back to my class presentation. But it stuck with me.

Let’s take a look at a few of the denominations that cause me their fair share of agita.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sacrificing the Basics for Babel

This weekend I listened to a panel of chefs from Texas who brought national attention to Southwest cuisine. They were Robert Del Grande, Dean Fearing and Stephan Pyles, and we were at the Buffalo Gap Wine and Food Summit at Perini Ranch in West Texas.

Robert Del Grande, who hails from Houston, said something that caught my ear. He said, “In the beginning, we were looking for ingredients that you couldn’t find in the supermarket.” Things like red bell peppers, chayote squash, heck, even cilantro, they couldn’t be found in the large stores. Here we were, a chef talking about a time 30+ years ago, telling us he was looking for something no one else had.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

What young Americans can learn from an old German ~ The Rudi Wiest register

Rudi Wiest will turn 79 this year. But as he likes to say, “I have a long ways to go to catch up with your mom. She’s going to be 101 this year, yes?” Older people have a different conception of time than younger ones. The younger ones have been young all their life, and they likely think they will be for the rest of their time on earth. “I used to think that too,” my almost 101 year old mom once told me. “And then I turned 40. And then 50. 60. 70. 80. And so on. And now I have been older for most of my life than young. That’s just the way it is.” And so it was this last week, I tooled around Texas in a very large SUV with two young guys and an even younger soon-to-be 79 year old

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Making the Case for Darker Rosė Wines ~ Countering the "Brangelina" Effect

In no small way, we all need to thank the Perrin family (and Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie) for resuscitating the rosė wine category. Before the phenomenon of Miraval, rosė wines were in the crapper. More often than not, aged rosė wines sat in warehouses and on store shelves dying a slow death. No matter how many articles that came out, in blogs, in magazines, and in newspapers, the numbers didn’t look good.I know, because I was tracking them. And it wasn't pretty.

Then Perrin (and Brangelina) said “Let there be light.” And it was a game changer. Now wineries all up and down France and across to Italy, in Spain, in California and all over the world are chasing the ethereal, elusive onion skin color for their wines. And for good reason. Miraval is kicking ass in the sales department.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Meditations on the '51

Sooner or later we encounter the mirror. As much as we try, with makeup, with dye, with dark glasses and soft focus, time ultimately wins the race. The young ones look upon the older ones as something that is in the way or will ultimately be neutralized and discarded. Invisibility is a step along the way to annihilation. What the young ones don’t know (or don’t want to realize) is that they are on the same path as the elders who are taking up space in the cellar. So it goes.

We all have our ideas of what a unicorn wine is. That is, a wine that is rare, maybe not the greatest of the great, but when one encounters such a creature, it is a special moment. I had such an meeting last month in the Langhe, in Barolo.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Penetrating Magic of Burlotto

Running into Fabio Alessandria in the Piedmont Hall at Vinitaly, he called me by my name. How he remembered I cannot imagine. But in such a hectic place and day, it was a welcome salutation. We made plans to come by his family winery, Comm. G.B. Burlotto in Verduno, when we arrived back to the Langhe after the wine fair.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Why this might be our last Vinitaly in Verona: A Dear Giovanni letter to Veronafiere


Dear Veronafiere,

We have been coming to Verona and Vinitaly since 1967. We have watched it expand over the years and have endured the labor pains of growth along with many other long persevering Italians, as well as people from around the world. But we are seriously considering not coming back to Vinitaly in Verona.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Wine to Come: Observations from the Langhe on the First Day of Spring

Photo: European Space Agency
A well-dressed group from around the world milling around an open courtyard in the Langhe on this first day of spring. A motion to move inside to the winery for a presentation. Above, the moon, already moving, in a short coup against the sun. Winter, trying one last time to forestall the onslaught of growth of the new season. And so this was the augur of the new day.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

"Vineyards Barolo lovers should seek out, without getting bogged down in tar and roses."


When I recently took a week off, it was to take time from work so I could get caught up on a few writing projects. One that I am particularly proud of, Barolo's Greatest Vineyards Ranked, was just published on WineSearcher.com. (It's circulating quickly on Social Media).

During the process I came to terms with collecting Barolo and how to go about it simply. It’s now my working template for future Barolo acquisitions.

Read about it on WineSearcher.com



wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W

Sunday, March 15, 2015

"Venice was the Dubai of the 13th Century"

On a nippy winter night, while having a quiet meal in a dining room in Venice overlooking the Grand Canal, the subject of Dubai arose. A city of two million souls in the United Arab Emirates, Dubai is something of a fantasy, a miracle and a conundrum. Without a doubt, it has captured the imagination of many Italians I work with.

Around our table that evening, the Italians likened Dubai to another city that has, over many hundreds of years, also enchanted many a traveler. At our perch, in the still of a winter night, it taxed the imagination to draw parallels between Venice and Dubai. Perhaps it was the wine, or that we had all had a long day. But upon further conversation, the notion that Venice was the Dubai of the 13th Century was parsed, aided by further bottles of wine.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

On the Wine Trail in Italy in other places – Solid advice for Italians looking to enter the US market and a primer on Italian wine for young sommeliers

In the almost ten years that I have been writing this blog, there has been, more or less, a natural development of it. My blog voice, I’ve been told, has a tendency to be idealistic and often somewhere in the cloud between reality and “the way I really want it to be.” I realize some folks actually come here, from time to time, for solid information. So, let me share several pieces that might help those who are looking for those things.

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