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 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.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Our Selfies, Our Wines

Can a wine cellar full of 90+ point wines make your life more meaningful? Will a 30+ year vertical tasting of an iconic wine make you happier? Could any wine make one’s life better? If you believe what you read and see on the eno-blogosphere, you might think that your life isn’t complete if you haven’t had these singular experiences.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Last Parmigiana

Looking out my back window, I see all the plants that were alive last week are now dead or dying. Winter has arrived. Before the brutal but inevitable onslaught arrived, I gathered all the last of the eggplants that were hanging. Some were ready, some were not. They were all harvested; gathered for one last Parmigiana of the season.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Pippo, We Hardly Knew Ye: In Memory of Philip di Belardino

The world is a little less safe for Italian wine today. Dear friend Philip di Belardino has left us.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Annus Horribilis - Looking Back On the Toughest Harvest in Years

It must have been back in August. I was looking out over my garden, thinking about how wonderful everything was growing. My prize crop, the Hoja Santa, was poised to be one of the best and largest harvests I’d had in 10 years. Picture perfect. Rain when we needed it. Never enough, but Hoja Santa was used to living in the Southwest.

And then the hail storm hit. It was on a Sunday night in September. I heard a light rain, and then a heavier rain came. By the time I got up, I could hear a light tapping on the roof. Hail. I prayed it wouldn’t last too long. It didn’t. But it lasted long enough to lay waste to my prized crop.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Opposites Attract ~ My Evening with Fettuccine Bolognese, Sous Vide Steak and Mittelmosel Riesling

Silly rules. Someone makes up something about which wine with which food and over time it becomes Gospel.

Last night I was at a dinner, sipping on a white wine. I thought to myself, “This needs a little more acid, a little more peach and a little more lemon for it to be just right.” The wine was a Sauvignon Blanc from Napa. What I really wanted it to be was a Riesling from the Mosel.

Friday, October 31, 2014

A Serene Patch of Merlot in a Noisy World of Pinot Noir

His is a world very few of us get to enter. Yet the Count lives, some would say he thrives, in his world. I say it this way not to disparage his world. I know not his world. I only know him through his wine. And his wine is Merlot.

One might say, “Merlot? In these times? How 20th century.” And you might be right. For we live in another time for another wine. Right now it might be the time of Pinot Noir. But when the Count redid his vineyards he didn’t know about Sideways and the effect it would have on American tastes. The Count is a Venetian. He lives in an ancient villa, dines every Friday night at Harry’s. Not the Harry’s we tourists know, but the Harry’s for the Venetian insiders. The Count is definitely a Venetian insider.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

When Wine Isn’t Enough

We all have things that propel us forward. For some it is money, power or fame. Even in our little rarefied world of wine, we all have those reference points that give us meaning. Maybe it is a good vintage. Maybe it is finally making Sangiovese taste like Sangiovese. Maybe it is getting to a point where one’s influence is felt outside of one’s own sphere. Whatever it is, our search for meaning on this orb takes up the better part of our life after we have figured out how to get the basics taken care of. Mind you, these are first world issues. In most of the world, folks are trying to find potable water, a dry place to sleep and maybe enough food to get through the night without feeling the gnaw of hunger.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Why older men prefer higher alcohol wines and younger women

Over lunch, I was talking with an older friend. He’s a fan of California wine, really loves Pinot Noir. He’s not a beginner, heck he pulled a 30 year old bottle of wine from Napa out of his wine closet and gave it to me. It was 12.5 percent in alcohol. But he likes wines with more power, more flesh, more alcohol.

Earlier in the day I read an interview with Dave Ramey that Blake Gray did. In the interview, Ramey said, “The middle road is the better path. 15 percent is not high for ripe Cabernet. It's what Bordeaux will be in a ripe vintage. It's what some white Burgundies will be in a ripe vintage. You get these guys making 12.5 percent wines now. There's a reason that people in Burgundy have been chaptalizing for all these years. The alcohol adds pleasure to the mouthfeel.”

Two times in one day, older guys were waxing about their affection for higher alcohol wines. In another vein, three of my oldest male friends have started second families with women half their age. It got me to thinking, wondering if there was something akin to those older men who turn to younger women, this whole pleasure aspect. Was there a correlation? Why do some older men prefer higher alcohol wines and younger women?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The “New” New Yorkers and the “New” Californians ~ Leaving Jurassic Park for the Aquarian Era

Living in flyover country does have its benefits. You can get to either coast in a matter of hours. A recent weekend in San Francisco, I was able to spend time with the wine community there and get a gauge on their current sensibilities. This past week in New York also afforded me a quick douse into full-immersion of where they’re at right now.

A couple of things. Dining here and there. The Wine Spectator Experience. And the latest rising star in the wine bar scene. Let's jump in.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

High Cotton Uber-Dining in Gotham City

Posting from the road. In NY, the rain followed me from flyover country. Fortunately that wasn’t the only wet thing in my path.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

10 of my favorite off-the-beaten-path places to eat in Italy

In preparation for an interview, I was looking up places I have really enjoyed eating in Italy. Many of these places don’t even have a website, or a sign. I was lucky enough to be taken there be locals. They represent some of the best eating and drinking I have experienced in Italy. And while most of them are not fancy places, the cooking in these spots have been some of the most memorable meals in a restaurant setting. I eat a lot around the farm table and am lucky to have home cooked meals. They’re great. But if you’re looking to go to Italy that won’t help you. These following 10 spots are open for anyone. It helps to speak Italian, for sure. But it’s Italy; anyone with a little passion can communicate to most Italians.

Note: don’t go looking for spaghetti and meatballs, pizza, lasagna or grilled chicken breasts. Expect the unexpected. Donkey ragù, tiny snails, entrails, tiny piquant sausages in a fiery broth, raw things from the sea (not just fish) and that’s just for starters. You should be adventurous. And not be looking for the best hits from Italy. This is how Italians eat. I love it. If you are lucky enough to find these places, you might find you will too.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Ancient Italy and the New California ~ An Auspicious Convergence

I had some unused vacation time and thought it might be a good idea to head out to California and “do” a wine dinner or two. I’m writing this as I am mid-week in a series of three wine dinners back home. What could have gotten into me that I would take the time and expense to go to California and do on my vacation time what I do weekly?

Friday, October 03, 2014

Sicilian White Wines ~ Feeding the #HeatWave in the Cities by the Bay

Welcome to the New California
If you had asked me, so very long ago, when I was a student in the Bay Area, trying to figure out what the hell to do with my life, if many years later I’d be in Oakland talking about Sicilian wines to a new generation of servers and wine lovers, I’d probably have said then “And what pill did you just take?” But as the future moves like a river, happenstance and fate brought me to A16 in Oakland in the Rockridge neighborhood, not too far from Berkeley at the invitation of Shelley Lindgren. Shelley started A16 and SPQR in San Francisco and a little more than a year ago opened up A16 in Oakland.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

On the Nature of Being Sicilian in the Wine Business

Lest you think this will be the obligatory paean to all things Sicilian, after these last days spent on the island, many things are simmering. Yes, it is a Sunday, and to the millennials this might sound like a sermon. Pity.

How does one explain the blood in the veins? How does one look at a street, year after year, and still struggle to recognize what is right in front of one’s eyes? How much analysis is required to decode the Sicilian passeggiata of the last 40 years? I am obsessed with this. This is my mental mistress, never letting me inside the private chamber, ever tempting me with the promise of understanding, of clarity, of revelation.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Drinking Our Way Through Sicily ~ 2014

Just so you don’t get the wrong idea, we didn’t drink and drive, and when we did, we always had a designated driver. But we always, always, had food with our wine. Unless we were tasting. Then we had little food stuff around. And it always wasn’t wine. There was lots of coffee, but more about that at the end of this post.

It was harvest time in Sicily, so there was a lot of activity. With that in mind, we were able to unearth the scared and the profane, the common and the rare. Nothing was off limits; there was no agenda, no dogma to follow. Sicily doesn’t care about all the little games we play in America to bring balance to our life. Their life is pretty darn good, all things considered. And wine is a huge part of the life.

Please enjoy this short eno-log, my version of the slide show, with brief comments from time to time.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Eating Our Way Through Sicily ~ 2014

Indulge me. Or rather, let me indulge you, dear reader, and share some of the plates we were offered on this recent trip to Sicily. While Palermo would be enough in terms of gastronomic ecstasy, we didn’t stop there. We made our carousel around Sicily and along the way we had some of the most glorious food on earth.

Note: I don’t think of Sicilian food as Italian. It takes its cues from anther muse. There are similarities: pasta, tomatoes, wine, sweets, seafood. But as with all things Sicilian, the interpretation is different. Not necessarily better than on the peninsula, but a thinking about the products and the interplay of ingredients that I have found to be unique in Sicily. Even our lowliest meal, at a fast food cafeteria in Piazza Armerina, the vegetables were to die for. Unfortunately I didn’t photograph them.

Let’s stop talking and start gawking, shall we? First stop, Sambuca di Sicilia.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Sicily ~ Thinking Outside the Boot

I’m nothing, if not overwhelmed, when I step away from Italy and into Sicily. I am also liberated. Freed from thinking things are as they are, because Sicily has its own interpretation for everything.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sicily ~ The Oldest Kid in Italy

Of all the places in Italy, Sicily is the one that scares me the most. I have cancelled trips to Sicily because I was afraid something was going to happen. I have gone to Sicily when my bones were sore from a car wreck. I have driven a car in the streets of Palermo and Catania, which is questionable for an able bodied person. I have stared at dead people, their skin dry, their eyes missing, their bones falling off their skeletons. I have walked on mosaic floors that were laid thousands of years ago. I have gazed up at ancient temples, the sun glaring back. I have walked the streets in the heat in the dark with a bum leg, with the legs of youth and with the gait of one who is no longer young. And all through it ancient Sicily kept getting younger.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Texas Turd-Floater in Passopisciaro (#Etna) Sicily

2014 has been a crazy year for weather patterns. There seems to be controversy brewing over the quality of the 2014 vintage in Italy. It’s too early to tell, but there are some things that have been happening that are not advantageous to the growers in Italy. One is the unseasonably cool weather in the summer. Another is accompanying rain. Doubtless there will be growers who will have great conditions, but the quantities are down. Here in Sicily, everyone is telling me their harvest is anywhere from 15-30% lower than last year. After two years of double digit increases, perhaps this year is Nature’s way of slowing down. Sicily is still a warm and sunny place, most of the time. But today, following a visit to the Tascante farms, we ran smack dab into a Texas turd-floater.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Sicily 2014: Palermo "Full Immersion" ~ Wine

Posting on the fly as we head out of Palermo on our carousel around Sicily. While Palermo was mainly about food and the evolving multi-cultural experience of a very old city, wine plays a part on the table. We visited one winery, Cusumano. Today our journey takes us to more. For now this is what we’ve tasted with the foods we’ve had. Enjoy. More to come…

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Sicily 2014: Palermo "Full Immersion" ~ Food

Eggplants at Mercato di Capo - Palermo
Full immersion is just what it means. We land in Palermo and drop the luggage at the hotel and hit the streets. First La Vucciria and the Capo open markets. A trattoria and an osteria, and a small event with elevated street food. And that’s just the food.

This is complete vanity. Palermo is a fascinating place. These are the highlights. The wine will follow. But there is a saying in Sicily, “Porta cu tia e mancia cu mia” (Bring the food and eat with me).

Without food, wine is incomplete.

Palermo is a walking city and walk we did. All around the old historic center, two of the important open markets, a special selection of local spots and a trip to a macabre spot, the Catacombe dei Cappuccini. It’s always good to remember we will not be here forever, regardless of our wealth or our station in life.

That said, these last two days were a dream. Every time I thought I was near someplace I was looking for it was a matter of a block or two away. My life as a tour guide, albeit a short one, is looking good so far.

For now we are on our way into the country of Sicily. Harvest is on. We are here also for the wine. For now, feast your eyes on the food, some of the most glorious food in Italy. But we are in Sicily, which is another reality. You must come.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Wine Blog Death Watch: Two wine blogs that are bright lights in a forest of darkness

photo from Tim Gaiser's blog
Brooklyn Guy has turned off the tap. Alice has her newsletter. Reign of Terroir has hit a drought. Eric is safely entrenched within the pages of The Gray Lady. Joe Roberts thinks the wine blogging community might be a joke. Is wine blogging dead? In the word of the inimitable Hosemaster, “No one has any damned idea who is reading a blog.” Who cares if it dead, alive or on life support? As HMW says, “it's a solitary sport. We blog at home, at all hours, in our underwear, drunk, or avoiding our real life.”

Yes, it's been a long, dreadful summer. That said, there are two newish blogs that deserve our positive attention. They are:

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Native (Italian) American

As we get more science on exactly who we are and where we came from via DNA mapping, we often find out we aren’t who we think we are. In my case, I found out I am 51.6% Italian. I also found out I have a small percentage of East Asian and Native American.

Since my grandfathers and grandmothers came to America over 100 years ago, their descendants have multiplied. In a paternal lineage that will most likely stop. We will have had roughly 150 years of being in America by those sets of measurements.

What does it matter? There are 7 billion of us right now, a small portion of the roughly 107 billion who have been born on earth. Staggering numbers. Even more staggering is how each and every one of us thinks 1) we’re the center of the universe and 2) with a little luck we might not die.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Postcard from Naples ~ August 21, 1971

Dear Mom and Dad,

Italy, I finally made it to Rome The last week has been warm. Hotter than where I came from. Rome was miserable. And empty, save for a few Americans who actually had lire. Wartime in America. Nixon devalued the dollar the day I arrived in Rome to get more European countries to buy things from us. We need the money to pay for the war in Vietnam. And it looks like we are going into a recession that could last for years.

Naples from Rome on a train. Walking. I have a day before the ferry takes me to Palermo. I have a day to kill. I start walking.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Wild Figs and Ancient Chants

From the archives ~ April 8, 2007

Fishermen from Calabria, Italy - Alan Lomax
I turn on the music, and Albanian chants from Calabria flood my jet-lagged skull. “We’re not through with you yet. Take this back with you. Forget about filling up your suitcase with brochures and bottles of wine. Forget about the ties and the shirts and the socks. Do not forget us.”

“We are the ancient, the local, the thread in the core of the soul of this land. Get out of bed. You’re not sleeping anyway. Wake up and hear the clarions calling like so many souls from inside you.”

I was sitting in a palace near Lake Garda talking to a woman and her husband. They had been living in Istanbul for the better part of their adult lives. Her childhood home was just downhill from the villa, but she, like me, had found another way, another place to call home. While we all come back to visit and stay, there are those of us who must return to a place not where we came from.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Vacating Italy ~ Ferragosto 2015

Odd how time reshapes things. In another era, one could not get anyone on the line, start (or finish) any kind of business or move anything in Italy during the month of August. This week I reached out to several folks for info. For the most part, I got a response within an hour. They may be on the boat in Corsica or taking a nap on a warm summer afternoon in Pontignanello, but they are responding better than they ever have.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Franciacorta's "little" problem

“I just don’t get Franciacorta,” the tall lady muttered to her friend at a recent reception. Her friend was pouring all manner of cool wines from Germany, Austria and France. Grower Champagnes chilled in iced trays, alongside Franciacorta. I wondered why she said that, but I was in full-introvert mode, and was in no shape to investigate her motives.

Friday, August 08, 2014

10 Years of Texsom ~ 2005-2014

It was the winter of 2004-5. We were sitting at a table, myself with Guy Stout, Drew Hendricks and James Tidwell. I hadn’t yet started this blog. Guy, Drew and James were months away from becoming master sommeliers. And they were kicking around this idea about starting a conference to encourage wine professionals from around Texas to become more involved in wine, in attaining certifications and in being better at their trade. That’s how I remember it all starting. Ten years later, Texsom is huge. Drew and James are still running the thing, but there has been a quantum leap in the quality, the engagement and the momentum of Texas wine professionalism and, indeed, wine professionalism from all over the country. Now there are scores of master sommeliers, masters of wine and other highly engaged folks from the wine trade who invade Texas at the peak of summer, to teach, to learn and to enjoy what it is about wine that attracted us to it in the first place.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Wine Spotting Selfies – Narcissism or Simply Sharing?

On the Social Media sites, Facebook, Twitter, Delectable and so on, I encounter a lot of images of wine bottles. Folks seem to love posting pictures of the wines they are enjoying. I wondered how folks in my world thought about it and posed these questions on Facebook and elsewhere:

What are your thoughts on looking at other people’s photos of the fabulous wines they are enjoying, on blogs, on FB, on Twitter, on Delectable, etc.?

1) Do you enjoy this?
2) Does this annoy you?

The responses were varied:

Thursday, July 31, 2014

My Problem with Pinot Noir

There’s an unspoken protocol around the water cooler at work. Whenever someone starts extolling the glories of another Pinot Noir, they look around to see if I am near and whisper in hushed tones, “Don’t ever talk to him about Pinot Noir, especially from the Russian River Valley.”

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Oh, The People You’ll Meet! (wanting help with winery visits in Italy)


For the last few months I have gotten a barrage of notes from folks who are heading to Italy for visits. Most of the time they are asking for places to visit. After all these years, I have begun to notice patterns. Without making too much fun of them, I’d like to share some of the distilled versions of these archetypes.

Friday, July 25, 2014

A Midsummer Night’s Scream ~ Italy at the Tipping Point

“You’re either going up or you’re going down,” an old political saying goes. And while it was meant for worlds larger than ours, here we are in the middle of summer and where are we going? I don’t really know. Perhaps this is where two weeks on the beach is the best solution.

Friday, July 18, 2014

In pursuit of the (Italian) American dream

..and other tales told while riding inside the sommambulance

I keep having this dream over and over again. I’m in a restaurant. Pretty paintings on the wall, Bocelli crooning though the speakers, the lights are low. The waiter comes to seat me. He puts me in a corner and brings me a menu and a basket of hot steamy bread.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

My Dear John Letter to Moscato

It was bound to happen sooner or later. This was never meant to be forever. It’s 3AM and I don’t even know where to send this, you’re not at home. You haven’t been home in ages. You’re on the constant prowl, looking for new places, new people, new conquests. You don’t need me anymore. And quite frankly, I have moved beyond you, little Miss Moscato.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Bursting the Bubble - The Battle for the Luxury Sparkling Wine Market

July. Slow period. Vacations. Nothing much happening. Right?

If you think this is the case, then go right ahead. But right now major campaigns have been launched to capture a share of the lucrative sparkling wine market. I came across two wineries with similar looks to their rebranding efforts. It got me to thinking, “What is going on here?

Thursday, July 03, 2014

John the Apostle Talks with Jesus: on Water, Natural Winemaking and Large Gatherings

One of the most misunderstood winemakers in all of time is Jesus Christ. After his miracle at the marriage feast of Cana, criticisms of his wine style stirred the temple. Jesus, a man born to love, was reviled. But what about his wine? Was it the ultimate supernatural wine?

Jesus’ mercurial behavior, like the time he went ballistic in the marketplace, have contributed to his reputation as a flesh and blood being, only to be balanced with the events at Cana and subsequent actions with Lazarus.

Criticism of Jesus seems to outpace his actions, many of which have changed history. Denial of his importance in the world of wine and natural winemaking, especially, was common throughout the Roman Empire. After winemaking shifted to Italy, it was as if Jesus the winemaker never existed.

Monday, June 30, 2014

When a DOCG isn't a DOCG - and when that's not enough

Thursday, June 26, 2014

“We have become accustomed to constant change and instant boredom.”

"The business of wine buying is being handed over to a bunch of fireflies and their life span matches their attention span. It’s no longer about good or even great wines. It’s all about the next wine. Forget about the last wine, even if it was a quixotically unpronounceable and profoundly delicious wine like Txakoli."

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Sex and the Cittadella

From the "You've come a long way, baby" Dept. of Satirical Prognostication

One of the wonderful aspects about writing about Italian wine, life and culture lies in the Italians ability to stir things up. I might get tired of writing this wine blog (or wine blogs in general) but I never tire of the Italian sense of keeping things interesting.

In this recent case, I was sitting at a dinner table with friends, one who is a winemaker in Tuscany. This person had just gotten an email about a recent promotion for Chianti Classico in a convent in Radda. The accompanying image was in stark contrast to the normally secular interpretation one gives to a religious house. It appears the Chianti Classico Consortium has been involved in the restoration of the (former) convent of Santa Maria al Prato for ten years. The newly named “House of Chianti Classico” will have educational events, cooking courses, art, music and other events in which to showcase the wines of Chianti Classico. I’m good with all of this.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Do Americans love and drink Italian wines more than Italians?

There is a pattern I have noticed lately when talking to Italian winemakers about their production and where they send their wine. That is, the domestic market for selling Italian wine (in Italy) is a mangled mess.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

How to bring your Italian wine to the American market

No matter which party is dominant in Washington, no matter if the Dow is 16,000 or 1,600, no matter if we are in an unpopular war somewhere in the world, no matter if it all seems like the earth is a big fat match getting ready to be struck on the side of the matchbox, no matter – people want to sell their Italian wine to America. The dream of America is still alive in Italy. Let’s take a look at some of the routes to market.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

When Wine Experts Aren’t Always Right

I’m sitting at my table with a dear old friend. We’ve traveled around Italy, France, California. You name it, we’ve been there. If you live long enough, it can happen.

Tonight, though, we’re at home. Or rather, I am. He’s still 250 miles from his bed and his pillow and he has a 10PM appointment with a bunch of young sommeliers to talk about and taste Bordeaux wines. Yes, we’re lifers.

So, I talk to him about something that we witnessed last week in California. Long story short- we were judges at the state fair in California and to warm up our palates, our hosts sent us ( all 73 of us) a glass of something and asked us to identify it. No clue as to where it came from. Nothing.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

California Wine Report ~ 1st Rosé of the Season ~ Everything Starts Over @ 100

Celebrating 100 years, before flying to Dallas, with a glass of Provence Rosé
This past week, the wine trail had me in home state of California judging State Fair Wine Competition. When the week ended I flew down to Newport Beach to pick up my mom, who just turned 100, and we headed back to Dallas for another round of celebrations. Wine bloggers have their weaknesses - @HawkWakaWaka has Jr, @Steve! has his Gus and @Hosemaster has his Lo Hai Qu. I have a centenarian mom who walks faster than me and as I write this, I’m trying to figure out how to tire her out so I can take a nap! Good luck with that. Wine blogging might be dead, but wine blogger’s moms, at least this one; she isn’t showing any signs of slowing down.

At the airport we had an hour or so, and we shared some of the new rosé of the season, the 2013 Domaines Ott from Provence. I had just found out from a DNA report that my mom is related to Marie Antoinette (and my dad is related to Napoleon Bonaparte!) so we celebrated 100 years with a glass of French wine before we got on the plane to Dallas. Mom says she doesn't remember having rosé wine recently. "Everything starts over @100", I once heard.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

In Praise of Funky Wine

or, 7 ways to keep squirrels from drinking your wine

Sacramento, California – I am sequestered these past two days with 70+ wine experts for the annual California State Fair Wine Competition. My Italian connection has given me wines from California made with Pinot Grigio, Sangiovese, Barbera, along with Zinfandel, red Italian-esque blends (SuperTuscans), Carignan and white Rhone varietal blends.

A couple of things right up front. While I learned to drink wine growing up in California, my palate has migrated towards Italian (and European) wines. That said, I am not against California wines. Far from it. But I believe I do pass wine through the filters of my preconceptions (as we all do, all of us, except maybe Dan Berger).

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Merlot, the most hated grape 10 years running, finds a home in Italy (and in my heart)

It doesn’t seem that long, but in 2004 the movie Sideways was released. In the film, Pinot Noir was lionized, and to this day, the sales of Pinot Noir are still roaring. Merlot, on the other hand, was excoriated. The character Miles had a famous line in which he said, “If anyone orders Merlot, I'm leaving. I am NOT drinking any f***ing Merlot!” Ironically, the last wine he was seen drinking at the end of the movie was a Cheval Blanc 1961, which is a blend, predominantly, of Cabernet Franc and Merlot.

I am one of those people who disavowed any allegiance to Merlot. I shunned it; I avoided it at all costs. I refrained from drinking it. I loathed it. Or so I thought.

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