By now our wine waltz across Texas has taken us back to Dallas. In less than 100 hours we’ve gone from Dallas to Houston to Austin and back to Dallas. But as the proverb goes about the month of March which comes roaring in “like a lion”, so the wine biz is as well. Long hours- eating, tasting, meeting with clients, friends, little sleep, rush to another town, another appointment. Where did we put our guitars?
People say all the time, “Oh, what a great job you all have.” It is. And the hours are long. But the time spent is rewarding.
The time spent. Where do those hours, days, week, years go?
Almost 100 years ago, my grandfather Alfonso, and my dad Luigi, stood on the corner of St. Paul and Pacific in downtown Dallas. My dad was barely two and my grandfather was all of 22, running his shoe shop.
This afternoon Stefano Illuminati are I are standing 100 feet from the spot where they stood, waiting to go into a new restaurant to have lunch with friends and clients.
A couple of us go back, not quite 100 years, with the Illuminati wines and their history in Texas. Guy Stout, long time friend and colleague, has been uber-passionate about the wines of Abruzzo. Guy and Dino share a love for wine and the table. Both love to eat. And wine? Dino and Guy are legendary for their prowess in the drinking department. But all for the love of the grape.
In making appointments for Vinitaly, which is coming up soon, I am noticing that I’m going to be spending more time this year in the Abruzzo pavilion. Is this Abruzzo’s moment? Has the sun, which has shined on the Tuscan world all these years finally turning its light toward Abruzzo? If Illuminati and the other winemakers from Abruzzo are asked, they will tell you “it’s time.” I would say it’s about time.
But isn’t it all about time?
A generation ago, Stefano and I, lean and dark haired, stood outside the burgeoning winery in one of many trips to Abruzzo.
This collection of essays which have appeared here as part of what I call On the Wine Trail in Italy often take us back to Italy. But in real time I haven’t been to Italy in a year. This past year has been one to mark on the road, surely, but back in the trenches, in the American market, shoring up the business. The last year has been a tough one for business. There is a lot of fear - fear of loss. I’ve had my share of emails from winemakers, importers, managers that have expressed trepidation.
The harvest from fear doesn’t make a good wine. Looking back at the picture of my grandfather, I see his stained clothes. It tells me that it is time to stay busy; to get some dirt under the nails is not a bad thing. The harvest of many years of friendship and camaraderie produces a joy, an esprit de corps, that doesn’t improve from the centrifugation of anxiety.
And while it does look glamorous in a rock star kind of way, all this traveling, eating, drinking wine, fancy clothes, the whole panorama of the wine trail, the reality is (as my friend Sam Levitus likes to say) that for at least the next 100 weeks we have a lot of work to do to bring the markets back up. And that will involve a lot of sweat, a lot of dirt under the nails, to set the next generation, and the next 100 years, on a course where the waltz of life will harvest the Dream that America was, and still is, to this Italian soul.