When I left my home Monday morning it was dark and foggy. I decided to head to the airport a little earlier in case the flights were being juggled around. When I got to the airport the fog had lifted and the sun was rising in the east. Another week on the road, one of many in the life of an O-N-D warrior. Last week it was Austin and Marfa, Texas. This week it is New Orleans. Tuesday there would be a national election. I had scheduled a full week’s worth of work before heading back to Italy this weekend. My bag is staying packed until Thanksgiving.
Tuesday night, my colleague and I were walking the streets of the French Quarter with a bag of wine. It was a beautiful evening. There were clear skies and a cool, gentle autumn breeze. Monday’s rain had washed the place down, it almost smelled clean. But New Orleans is thick with the feral terroir of an old urban center. It was what tagged the place so uniquely. Ragged flags could have been in New York, but Old Glory, what was left of her, fluttered in the wind. Inside R'evolution we met with Molly Wismeier, the spirited wine director. Her list is deep and wonderfully filled with old friends from all over the wine world. We sat and tasted Collio Pinot Grigio, Brunello, Lambrusco Grasparossa, and talked about Franciacorta Saten, Gavi dei Gavi and simple Barbera. Someone who “knows.” On the TV the pundits were starting to explode. I had to get away from the information overload. Enough of politics. Enough already.
Yesterday morning we headed out of the city. Looking out over the wilderness to the west of New Orleans, I wondered about the people who were living there, off the grid, away from the tubes and screens. Hunting for their food, daily. You know they are out there among the moss and the swampy marshes. There with the other creatures who keep themselves at bay, just slightly out of touch with the urban predators.
Our day took us across the Lake to the North Shore, to another haven for Italian wine, Acquistapace's. It appears to be a normal little neighborhood supermarket, but there is a wine department there with a million good wines. Adam Acquistapace is a new father, he is preparing for an EMBA, and every wine he brings in he analyzes how to market it. What is the best value, how does it fit into the set of the store? Is one area better suited to a particular product than another? All these question Adam asks. While there, what looked like a farmer couple, old man in denim overalls and his wife in a country dress, asked Adam for help. What could they be looking for? A little Tokay? Or some sweet Sherry? Turns out they drove all the way across the lake from Houma to Covington, 85 miles, to buy wine. And Adam was their trusted merchant. Wonderful paradox. Don’t judge the externals.
Last stop, wine presentation and dinner at a little local trattoria. Lots of opportunity, but one of the local (and dominant) wholesalers, their salesperson printed the wine list and went rogue on their competitor’s wine in the description. Whoever heard of a Gavi described as “fresh and fruity with lots of pineapple and green apple?” They also missed the origin by 6,000 miles.
written and photographed by Alfonso Cevola limited rights reserved On the Wine Trail in Italy
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