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.

All those long, hot, lazy days, lounging in the hammock, while the scirocco caresses a sunburned leg. Falling asleep in the middle of the day, because I can. And because, in the next few months, I’ll be working overtime. There’s the harvest and the winemaking and then I must get on the road, to America, to Sweden, to China, to India - to sell the wine. Wine dinners, wine tastings, hotel rooms, airplanes, these will come soon. But not before the harvest.

Such is the life of the modern winemaker in Italy. Gone are the preparations for the winter, putting up the tomatoes and the fruit preserves, hunting for one more boar or maybe something bigger, to put away meat for the winter. Now we must hunt for our customers, as the world for selling wine has become ever so much more competitive and cutthroat.

But for one more evening, let me open another bottle of rosé, let the breeze come up from the south or the north, or wherever it is coming from; let me linger over this bottle of wine while the sun sets. One last time.

Summer is ending. Harvest begins. So it goes. And so we go with it. As always.





wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W

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.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Radici del Sud ~ An Emotional Pilgrimage to One’s Origins

One soul's radical search for the ideal on an imbalanced planet 

Bucita, Calabria ~ 1977
Do you have a lifelong quest? What about life in this world lights up your spirit? Is there some thing, whether it be objective or subjective, that keeps your heart pumping blood through your veins? I hope so, for your sake. We’ve seen too much in this world, lately, of souls who have no greater purpose. And when those dark things happen, our world stumbles.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Master Class in Indigenous Wines ~ As Taught by a Donkey, a Rooster and the Spirit of Place

There are aspects to life that don’t travel so well on the road. One of them is the lack of interaction with creatures other than humans. Maybe it is a pet, or the birds in one’s back yard, any number of life forms that constitute the daily connections one has, sometimes not even thinking about it. The other, if one is so inclined, is the interplay one has with nature, the grounded lifeforms that don’t move. Maybe it is a tree, or a bush, a plant with fruit or vegetables. And while traveling, those elements that form part of the identity of one’s life, be it only an inner one, they aren’t able to be packed into the suitcase.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

What the World Needs Now is Passerina, Sweet #Passerina

Rome, if anything, is a mirror of all that is good and bad in the world. From my first trip here, in 1971, and with all the times I have come into this city, it has eternally stayed the same. Rome is simply a reflection of the humanity that inhabits present time and space.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Death of a Loved One

From the "not quite back on the wine trail, yet" dept.

In a world where there are so many tragic events  ̶  from the father who lost his wife and daughter when he was 30 and raised his two sons as a single parent, only to lose a son when he became a grown up, to a young boy who, at 5, lost his father to tribal warfare in Ruanda ̶  what does the loss of one tree matter?

Earlier this month, crisscrossing Texas by car, time and again, I recall the morning I was driving from Dallas to Houston and saw a large, mature oak tree in a field that had toppled over from the rain. I was going 65-70 and as I saw the newly fallen giant, I felt a sharp pain inside. Still green, still hopeful from a Spring filled with energy, this tree wouldn’t see another autumn.

A few weeks later, driving by the same spot, the tree was brown and lifeless now. There was none of that “It‘s still green, it might just be sleeping on its side” pretend one does to internally forestall the inevitable reality of death.

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.

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