Sunday, March 01, 2015

Comfort me with Nebbiolo

The waking world is fraught with disappointment, large and small. From the land mine of the news cycle to something as simple as overexposure to tannins. And so it was, last week, bundled up in my warm little cabin on the side of a hill in California wine country, that I eagerly awaited a night away from the fears and the pains of everyday life.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

An Italian-American mantra: "My grandfather made my life possible today."

To Kalon "I" Block
Coming home from a week at the 11th annual Symposium for Professional Wine Writers at Meadowood Napa Valley, I missed my plane and caught a later flight, and was wired, tired but also inspired. To wind down, I crashed on my ancient green couch and veged out on TV. PBS is running a series on Italian Americans, so I watched a segment.

It prompted me to think about the arc of my family, in that both my grandfathers came to America for different reasons. One, my mother’s dad, Attilio, was trying to escape the most abject of poverty. He was married and left his wife (a “white widow”) and young son. Eventually they joined him, and after four more children were born, they separated. He went on to other pastures.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

France by way of Italy

Avignon - 1985
When I was coming up in the wine business, there was this invisible wall between France and Italy, put there mainly by wine snobs who thought France was the epitome of all that wine was meant to be. In those days I would often hear things like “Oh, you are an Italian wine-lover. I never thought all those grapes and wine were worth much of a fuss.” and “Who needs to look any further than France, with the wines of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, the Rhone, the Loire and Alsace?” I would be made to feel like my love was a second-class affair, that I could never rise to understand and appreciate wine with my limited Italian prism like those with expertise in French wine.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

The Disneyfication of Barolo - The Queen of Jelly and Her Cannubial Bliss

For this observer, Italy is a source of endless fascination. They take rugged, sun scorched stone and turn it into a timeless beauty. They take a land that has for years been revered by the people living on it, and turn it into a parody of modern day life. I love it. There are no barriers, no boundaries. Good taste lies down next to the tasteless. The sacred sleeps with the profane. Italy is humanity’s perfect mirror of our evolution, for better or worse. And now, in the land of Barolo, in the historic Cannubi vineyard area, again, the mirror is pressed to our face. Our existential selfie, once again, is revealing what we value, what kind of a people we are.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Amarone at a Crossroads

This past week I have been in the Veneto as a guest of the Valpolicella Consorzio. The occasion was Amarone Anteprima, an annual event showcasing the release of the latest vintage of Amarone, in this case the 2011. During the week I tasted hundreds of wines going back to 1998, and visited scores of estates, large and small. And while this has been a brief week of exploration into the wines of Valpolicella, of which Amarone is a main player, it has served to give me a deeper understanding and appreciation for this often misunderstood and misinterpreted wine.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Confessions of an Invisible Man

When talking with my friends in Italy, I realize how little down time I take. Somewhere in August of last year (or maybe it was the year before) I got into battle mode. After that, free time disappeared. Not because of any mandate from above. This was totally self-imposed, getting myself into the position where one is always working, always in uniform. For what? To make the world safer for Italian wine? We all know the world is far from safe, and a little more (or less) Italian wine isn’t going to move the needle so much. With that in mind, in the last few weeks I have been stealing time for myself.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

No Country for Old Wines - The Paradox of Young vs. Old

Just hours on the ground here in Italy. I’m spending what’s left of the weekend in Venice, which tonight is the most serene of republics. January is a time when the tourists go elsewhere, like Cuba or Thailand, when Venice is usually damp and cold. But there is a warm front and the weather, though misty, isn’t bone chilling.

Over a bottle of Grand Cru Champagne and some cicchetti (small plates) my host and I talked about everything under the sun. Bordeaux, Paris, the price of West Texas crude oil, the house of Saud, anything and everything. The subject of aged wine came up. My friend has a deep cellar and long experience with the great wines of France and Italy. “I think right now a Barolo or a 3rd growth Bordeaux, about 15 years old, would be just perfect to drink,” he said. The idea of drinking older wines vs. enjoying them younger, it's something that I have been going back and forth with lately.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Burgundization of Barolo - An Imminent Sea Change in the Langhe

This past week in New York, I sat down in front of a microphone with Levi Dalton. And talked. And talked. Not so easy for this born-again introvert. In particular, Levi asked me what changes I’ve seen in the Langhe over the last 30 years. That podcast is available here. And while my interview deals more with my Pollyanna version of history, it feels, on the ground in the Langhe, like an impending change is on the horizon.

A week or so before, he asked a similar question to Antonio Galloni (that podcast here), who has been going there since 1997. Antonio expressed concern that the wines and the social climate of Barolo (and Barbaresco) might be shifting towards the more exclusive and limited (and expensive) world of wine in which Burgundy finds itself. Not at all the least because both of these wine producing areas are rather small compared to Bordeaux or Napa Valley. But the tendency for wealthy collectors to gravitate towards the rare and unobtainable is something we probably won’t see going away, unless there is a worldwide pandemic. At which point, who will care about wine of any kind?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Italy declares war against … radical Prosecco

The heart of Europe is marching in Paris today in solidarity against the horrendous atrocities witnessed in the City of Lights this week. Italian politicians are waging their own smaller war – against Prosecco on tap.

And while this might seem minute in comparison to more important events unfolding in Europe, this is our smaller march on the wine trail in Italy today.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

5 Italian Wine Regions to Watch in 2015

Italy with her endless array of wines and wine styles is poised for a resurgence. The wine business is relatively healthy driven by the big movers, Chianti, Moscato, Pinot Grigio and Prosecco. And the fringe wines are picking up momentum, the col fondo, orange and barrique-free ones.

What does that mean to this crystal ball gazer on the Blackland Prairie? The buffalos have long disappeared, as have the anthropophagic bipeds that once roamed these lands. Replaced by Escalades driven by soccer moms, the envisagement within the murky sphere points to Italy. And this is what I see.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Top 10 posts for 2014 and direction for 2015 ~ Year 10 of blogging on the Wine Trail in Italy

2014 has been a year in which I have done the least amount of blog posts since I started this blog on this day nine years ago. On the positive side, this has been part of a plan to produce less but to raise the quality of the writing. When I first started this blog (on this day 9 years ago) I sought to write three blog posts a week. About four years ago I made the conscious decision to narrow that down to two posts a week. Now I have taken it down to one a week. Is writing fatigue the problem? Hardly. I am writing in other places (and being compensated for it) and I have taken on more responsibilities in my work.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sunrise, Sunset ~ Life and Death on the Wine Trail

How wonderful this world of wine can be, if only in our mind’s eye. Earlier this month I was leaving wine country in California, heading back to the airport. It was early morning, the dew on the vines twinkled like Christmas lights. There was a dense but beautiful fog that isolated figures in the landscape. One of the old majestic eucalyptus trees, a farm house, a fruit stand, a tractor. It was was so deliciously lovely that I almost stopped my car to take some pictures. There was this unforgettable fog caressing the foothills, leaving Yountville and heading south on Hwy 29. I don’t know why I didn’t take the time to stop.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

What New World Sommeliers Need to Know About Old World Italian Wine

This came up last week over a bottle of Nebbiolo. I was in discussion with industry folk and the Old World/New World subject came up. With a recent surge of young people into the world of wine and with many of them advancing up the ranks of the business, especially on the floors of restaurants, someone asked me what I thought were the key markers for the new crop and asked for suggestions that they might implement for a happy, healthy and meaningful career in the wine business, especially in the Italian wine list-making department.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Wine After Death

Bibere umanum est, ergo bibamus

He knew her early on. Every year or so they’d meet, usually around a dinner table, sometimes with friends or family. He met her when they were both young and fell for her right then and there. He never considered that she would have others elsewhere who felt the same as he. Poor old Mario, she always made him feel like he was the only one.

That’s what you think when you are full of the imperviousness of youth. Like a new wine; bracing, often rough around the edges, but so full and ready to jump in.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Fruit-Bomb

Last month I was communicating half-way across earth to New Zealand with my editor at Wine Searcher. We were going over ideas for a feature. Kicking around a few thoughts on Amarone, she casually suggested that it would be better if to write about something that I liked. I don’t know what it was in my emails that she caught on to, but it must have seemed like “Big Red” wasn’t my favorite Italian wine. I reassured her that I could write about Amarone like I enjoyed it. And then I went to work trying to figure out if I liked Amarone or not.
Real Time Analytics