Sunday, October 04, 2015

Five Italian wines every 29 year-old should own

This past week I was doing wine service at a wine dinner with a younger salesperson. I poured a glass of wine, the 2011 Felsina Chianti Classico and handed it to her. She took a sip and smiled. “This is wonderful, what is it?” she asked. I showed her the bottle and then said, “This is something you should collect a case of to drink over the next 20 years.” She raised an eyebrow, Spock-like, almost as if to say, “Collect? 20 years?” I reckon, to a 29 year-old, being 49 is akin to staring into an infinite abyss of eternal nothingness. Nonetheless, this millennial took it in good stride.

It got me to thinking about wine I have “collected” over the years and how those years just rolled along, with no consideration toward me regarding their velocity. Hopefully I gathered a few good ones for the long, fast ride. But for a 29 year-old, that is, if I were 29 years old, here are a few wines I would recommend to myself to buy a case of and enjoy over the next 20 years. This is also applicable for 39, 49, 59 and 69 year-olds, providing you are mindful of your health, diet and don’t set foot in a crosswalk when the driver of a truck is texting.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Cannubi Conundrum ~ If 15 was 30

Still life with glass of Lambrusco at Aldo Sohm Wine Bar
Although harvest is in full-swing in Piedmont, the folks who sell the wines have hit the road. This week found me in New York City and Frisco, Texas for a barrage of Barolo events.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Wine – made by dead people – for people not yet born

With autumn’s beginning, Italian winemakers are now home from the beach and the mountains, and busy working in their wineries. Gone are the long dreamy days listening to the lap of the sea. Faint are the memories of lunch that went from 1:00 until 4:00 PM, and which included a nap after that. Distant are the long nights, sipping frizzante wine and eating fresh fish, pasta and fruit at a nearby chalet way past midnight. Now is the time for no-sleep, meals on the fly and little time for reflection. Oh Daniele boy, the grapes, the grapes are calling.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

"Hare Today - Gone to Merlot" or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Shelf-Talkers

While many wine lovers are trekking off to exotic lands to experience the grape harvest, I am deep into the holiday selling season. The traditional O-N-D (October-November-December) selling season has added an “S” (for September), and now it is the “S-O-N-D” season. Every year I get wound up and this year is no different. But for some reason, I sense when this one is put to bed, it will mark an important crossroad in my work life. I don’t want to miss a moment. I love the competition, I love to win, still have fire in my belly, even though to many of the young’uns around me, I am pretty much invisible. That’s OK; I know how to do invisible real well.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

“I just want wines reviewed by Parker”

While in one of my favorite little Italian wine shops near my home, I ventured over to the Tuscan section to see how the owner’s Labor Day sale was going. Earlier in the week I had arranged the Brunello section (for about five minutes, before the various distributor reps decided they didn’t like where their placements had been configured). A 50ish man was looking at one of the bottles. “Can I help you with anything?” I asked him. I figured, having just organized this section, and researched the critical acclaim various wines received, I was about as versed as anyone regarding what was what. As well, I had tasted nearly all of the wines, so I could give him my blow-by-blow. “No thanks, I’m just looking for wines rated by Parker,” he said. I wanted to ask him, “Would you like the reviews of Italian wines from Parker by Daniel Thomases or the ones by Antonio Galloni (now with Vinous) or the ones now being done by Monica Larner (once with the Wine Enthusiast). And if you liked those, let’s say in the time when Galloni was reviewing, why wouldn’t you like to look at his reviews now and consider those (on Vinous) with as much credibility that you imbued his reviews when they were on Parker?” But I started with “Oh well, there are plenty of wines rated by Parker’s writers here, so that shouldn’t be a problem, if that is what you are looking for.” He gave me this look, as if I didn’t know what he was talking about and then he shouted out, “No, I just want wines reviewed by Parker.”

Sunday, August 30, 2015

A summer night in a backwater berth in Ohio where dining in America was transformed

The view from the Lagoons at Vermilion, Ohio is a bit intimidating. Sheltered from Lake Eyrie, this bedroom community of Cleveland is one of those places in America that if people who don’t live here they probably don’t think about. There’s a million of these places in the States. What makes it so intriguing is that people live their lives here, cut their lawns, take their boats out to the lake, on the 4th of July, on Labor Day weekend, and live as though they are the center of the universe. Which indeed, they are. As we are all, living within our very own microcosms. Peaceful, placid, bring your boat up to the dock, park it and come in for a multi-course wine dinner. Why not?

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The End of Summer Vacation ~ The Beginning of Autumn Harvest

It happens like this every year. It’s been a great month at the beach. Now we must pack up our belongings, shut down the cabana and head back to the vineyards for harvest. Summer vacation is over.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

A World Beyond Wine Blogging ~ Musings on a Ferragosto Evening

(L-R) Louis, Alfonso, Mary & Julia Cevola - Palermo ca. 1919
I’m stealing time right now. There’s a 2,100 word, multi-segment piece on the desk that needs polishing, with a deadline in a few days. And another two stories in the works, with a third to come. And there’s the day job, which isn’t the Monday to Friday kind. Along with that, my family has an inordinate amount of elderly folks to check in with, ages 97-101. And we lost one this week.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

TEXSOM through the ages

TEXSOM and On the Wine Train in Italy have something in common - we both started about the same time - and hopefully those who noticed such things have seen growth in both of them. I for one, now have a reason to enjoy August in Texas. That's more than enough. But as well, the conviviality, the friendships, the dedication to wine and the people involved make this a must-attend event for me.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Italy and their Wine Debt to France

Photograph by Pierre Jahan/Archives des museés nationaux
For as long as I can remember there have been oblique encounters between Italophiles and Francophiles. In years past, it seemed there was always that expert in French wine who wanted to display his prodigious erudition for all to see. It was more oppressive than impressive.

Recently the tides have turned. Barolo is the new Burgundy. Brunello is getting its groove on, and raincoated and umbrella’d Bordelaise sniffle and sneeze in response to their sunny Tuscan cousins. It’s a bit of a parlor game for the ruling class.

My first foray in France was preceded by a harrowing road trip from Italy. Venice, Tuscany, Cinque Terre, all things bright and beautiful about Italy and wine were laid before me and I took the bait. And then I was dragged to Southern France.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Sardegna and wine - a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma

By chance, I’m sitting in a restaurant and nearby me is a table of four. Urban dwellers, well-traveled, by the looks of their garb and little snippets of conversation that float into the dining room for all to hear. One in the group starts talking about wine and Italy. The usual suspects are cited – Rome, Florence, Venice, The Amalfi Coast, Cinque Terre. And then someone mentions Costa Smeralda in Sardegna. By this time the wine has been flowing, social lubrication amplifies the voices and one in the group states, for all to hear, “I love the Costa Smeralda, the beaches are great, the seafood holds a candle to no one and the people are friendly. But honestly, I don’t get Sardinian wine.”

It was one of those moments. In a busy dining room it was as if time had stood still. A conversational lull in the room had occurred at that time, and the last statement, “I don’t get Sardinian wine” bellowed throughout the room and careened off the walls. Had the wine gods issued a dispatch?

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Hidden Calabria and the dawn of a new day

Feral, untouched, wild, unknown – Calabria is a wine frontier. Long passed over by wine connoisseurs in favor of Piedmont and Tuscany, Calabria is part of the grand excuse people make for not getting into Italian wine more because “they are just too complicated and unpredictable.” And those folks have a point – wines from Calabria are not for the conventional set - they require an open and adventurous spirit. But for those who delve into the dark heart of southern Italy, there are some amazing wines awaiting you.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The California Drought Report: Déjà vu and other ramblings while driving on the Silverado Trail at midnight.

It was déjà vu. The tinderbox conditions we were sitting in must have made it seem like it. It was an early summer night, just like before. And there was the same warm breeze that cooled as the sun disappeared behind the mountain range. We were sitting outside at the restaurant attached to the Solage resort in Calistoga. And the subject of the drought came up. I made the comment that it seemed a lot like 1976, which was the first of two drought years that produced some good wines. “I remember being here; the conditions seem the same.” A guest at our table asked me what Solage was like 40 years ago. “I wouldn't know. I was parked nearby in a lot near the fairgrounds; my wife was 6 months pregnant and she and I and her daughter were sleeping in the ‘62 Falcon wagon, hoping not to be awakened in the middle of the night by the local police.” A stretch from the luxe setting of Solage.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

A little bit of Americana for our friends in Italy

A pictorial journey through West Texas on July 4th weekend

Three weeks ago, I was sitting in a basement in Bari judging Italian wine made from any number of indigenous grapes. Today, I’m in West Texas, eating chicken fried steak and drinking Prosecco. Life is strange, ain’t it? But for my Italian friends, these past few days are the kind of experience I know many of them would give their I-teeth for. Imagine a 4th of July weekend in West Texas. For some it might seem foreboding. But it all depends on who you’re hanging with.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Lucania ~ As I See It

From the Radici del Sud notebook

Forget anything you know about Basilicata and Southern Italy. Disregard anyone telling you this is the poorest region in all of Italy. What I’m about to tell you, I hope, will change what and how you think about this region and the South.

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