Posting on the fly this morning on my way to mxp: check out my client Luca Ferraro’s response to a col fondo detractor, including my translation of the comment that sparked the debate.
The unbridled curiosity of youth took me to Europe in my twenties when I spent a decade alternating school years between Los Angeles, Padua, Pisa, and Rome. There was always a scholarship or fellowship (including the Fulbright) that delivered me across the Atlantic and there was always a summer gig in Proseccoland that fed me when the grant money ran out.
A decade in New York followed and so did the yearly trips to the old world. Those were years, too, when I regularly hit the road with rock bands. Back then, I’d drive to Cleveland or even Detroit from the east coast in a straight shot with a van-load of drums and guitar amps.
Today, the thought of departing for Europe fills me with unease.
Prosecco Colfòndo is always a great excuse to get together and reconnect. It was super fun to taste with you.
Of course, I tasted a lot of wines while out in California. Here are some of the highlights.
It was also great to see that Carolina Gatti’s Prosecco Col Fondo is now available in my home state. There are now a handful of Col Fondo wines in the U.S. and the number continues to grow. Hers fall on the crunchier side of the category and I love them (she’s also the sweetest lady and very active on social media).
San Diegans, please come out and taste with me tomorrow at Jaynes Gastropub, where I’ll be pouring five wines, including Bele Casel Prosecco Colfòndo. Click here for details.
That’s “yellow fin tuna, celery root hummus, blood orange oil, pomegranate, pistachio, mint, and purslane.”
It was like tasting Sicily, the Middle East, and Greece all in one plate. The purslane took it over the top for me.
I was also very geeked to finally taste the Massica Annia, a wine that so many people are talking about these days.
It’s not hard to understand why it’s been such a hit among the “in” crowd: freshness, clarity of fruit, zinging but balanced acidity, and restrained food-friendly alcohol.
Beverage director Taylor Parsons, one of the top wine people is LA in my book, is now managing the restaurant as well and man, it continues to thrill me each time I visit.
Chapeau bas, Taylor! You’re at the top of your game and I’m loving every minute of it.
Ok, gotta run now and taste some more wine. Thanks for being here. Come out and taste with me tomorrow in San Diego if you’re in town!
Above: the new Lou, the amazing Lou Amdur’s newly opened wine shop in Los Feliz (Los Angeles).
Yesterday, I braved two hours in grid-lock traffic to get from the westside of Los Angeles to Los Feliz to see Lou Amdur’s new wine shop. It’s getting tougher to get around in LA these days but I just had to make the pilgrimage.
Lou and his now closed and sorely missed wine bar/restaurant, Lou on Vine, have played a vital and vibrant role in the U.S. wine community and wine discourse (not to mention my own wine life).
And so, however pressed for time on this trip to California, I wasn’t going to miss a visit to the new shop, where the focus is on “natural and unusual” and value-driven, wholesome wines (I picked up a bottle of 2012 Nosiola by Castel Noarna for under $25).
During the short time we visited yesterday, he told his co-worker and me a story about a guest at the old Lou on Vine that brought us both to bittersweet-tasting tears with the narrative’s denouement.
I wish I had more time today to share our conversation and my impressions of his wonderful new shop. But I’m so slammed with work that I’ll just point you to his site and blog where it’s easy to get lost in the rabbit hole of his curious mind and sensitive palate.
Now it’s time for me to get back to the fleur de sel mine. Thanks for reading. Check out Lou’s shop next time you’re in LA.
After the tasting, which was super fun, a group of us — food and wine professionals and music trade folks — headed to the newish Chi Spacca across the street on Melrose (at Highland).
I really liked this latest Silverton-Batali-Bastianich concept, a pseudo-butchershop and salumeria affair: there were no celebrities, you could hear your dining companions speak, and the food was simple, pure, and wholesome.
I was geeked to find Ca’ Lojera Lugana del Lupo (from Turbiana or Trebbiano di Lugana) on the list at a reasonable price. Paired nicely with the delicious focaccia di Recco, a favorite dish among restaurant trade people, I learned.
Ok, gotta run and taste… Thanks for being here.
Angelinos, I’ll be pouring Bele Casel Prosecco Colfòndo at DomaineLA tonight from 6-8. Click here for details and please come out and taste with me if you’re in town.
One of the great things about working as an Italian wine blogger in Houston is that, more and more, the top names in the business are coming to this southeast Texas metropolis to see what all the wine buzz is about.
When a New York-based publicist reached out to me a few weeks ago to let me know that the self-proclaimed once-and-future king of Italian bubbly, Matteo Lunelli (above), would be coming to Texas, I jumped at the chance for a tête-à-tête meeting.
A former Goldman Sachs banker and now director of Ferrari, his family’s winery and one of Italy’s leading producers of classic-method sparkling wine, Lunelli made big news in April when he announced that he had acquired a 50 percent stake in Bisol, the historic Prosecco house and one of the appellation’s top names.
“I want to become the sparkling king,” he said in an interview with the Italian national daily La Repubblica at the time.
In person, Matteo was easygoing and down-to-earth. And even though he was in town to promote Ferrari, I was keen to ask him about his thoughts on the problematic Prosecco DOCG, which was created in 2009.
You may remember that earlier this year, I translated an excerpt of an interview with Matteo that appeared on an Italian-language wine blog.
“Unfortunately,” said Matteo in the post, “the uniqueness of the Prosecco DOCG has gone unrecognized and there are just a few brands that consumers identify with it and that they ask for by name. When Prosecco is perceived as a generic wine — ‘unbranded’ as they say in English — it focuses the competition solely on price. As a result, the value of the product is put at risk. We must work to build awareness of the Prosecco DOCG.”
He was referring to a mounting issue faced by Prosecco producers today, big and small. Whether in Great Britain, the U.S., or Australia, English-speaking consumers generally don’t differentiate between the Prosecco entry-tier DOC and the higher quality DOCG.
“They’re just going to buy the cheapest Prosecco,” conceded Matteo in our chat yesterday in the bar at Tony’s.
“We need to increase the awareness of the diversity of Italian sparkling wine,” he said. “I’m not against the [Prosecco] DOCG. But we need promote an understanding of the differences among U.S. wine lovers. There is space in the market for both [categories].”
I really liked Matteo and his fresh and honest approach to the challenges faced by Italian sparkling wine producers today.
In a world were pride and often arrogance can trump good business sense, his earnest voice is informed by a greater-radius outlook and by his experience working “on the ground” in the very market that he and his counterparts hope to dominate.
If this is the new “face” of the new Italian sparkling, then I’m buying what he’s selling.
Maybe because we’ve been eating out a lot lately and finding a babysitter can often be a challenge, offers to take her out to dinner of her choice had been rebuffed this year, although that changed (as you’ll see below).
And so I decided to surprise her with a catered picnic at our favorite park around the corner from our house.
Tracie loves the charcuterie and cheese plates by our friend Felipe Riccio at Houston’s hippest wine bar, Camerata.
I know he does some catering work and so I discreetly contacted him and asked him if he’d be game to make us a picnic.
Just look at that spread!
Tracie really didn’t expect a thing. But as Felipe was putting the finishing touches on the mise-en-place, a sudden Texas rainstorm arrived. After some frenetic, furtive texting (because it was a surprise), I asked him to come to the house. We decided to set it up in our girls’ playroom, which added to their excitement because food is not allowed in the playroom.
The frittata di pasta, a nod to her years in Naples (above, right), a Parthenopean classic, was rivaled only by the superb insalata di mare that he made.
Wholesome macaroni and cheese for the girls, housemade peanut butter, a berry-heavy fruit salad (they love berries)…
For mom and dad, mozzarella di bufala with a bottle of extra-virgin olive oil and fleur de sel, his expertly sliced prosciutto, his house-cured olives… And of course, it can’t be a picnic, as Nino Ferrer sings, without the cornichons!
(I highly recommend listening to the song while reading this post.)
It was outta sight! Thank you, again, Felipe! We LOVED it. And btw, the girls had more macaroni and cheese for dinner and we munched on the leftovers throughout the weekend.
I had taken the girls out all morning that day so that Tracie could sleep in and go on the nice, long run she had asked for for her birthday day. And for whatever reason, by the time they were ready for their naps, she decided that yes, after all, she did want to go to Tony’s for dinner for her birthday.
And thanks to our good friend Joanne Witt, aka “Food Princess,” a super cool lady whom I know through food writing here in town, we were able to find a last-minute baby sitter for the cost of a bottle of Venica Pinot Grigio. (THANK YOU AGAIN, Joanne! You are THE BEST!)
If you follow the harvest news from Italy, you know that this very wet vintage was extremely challenging for grape growers but outrageously good for truffle foragers.
Tony treated us to his Alba white truffle soufflé (above), which paired brilliantly with a somewhat tannic, meaty Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi by Garofoli.
Chef Kate and Tony, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Your food is truly extraordinaire. And we were thrilled by our excellent dinner. Thank you!
But nothing could compare to the kiss that we shared at the end of an unforgettable day of great food and our time together as family.
From the department of “nice work if you can get it”…
I just had to share this image of “Octopus Panna Cotta” from a work dinner last night at Tony’s in Houston, the namesake restaurant of my good friend and client Tony Vallone.
It was just so exquisite, delicate, and delicious and so beautifully plated.
It almost looked like a cake from one of Georgia P’s toy cookery sets and I have no idea how chef Kate (who’s also become a good friend) managed to create the pseudo-flower arrangement.
The tasting menu last night was one of the best meals of my year and I just loved its playfulness and juxtapositions.
A lot of people in Houston have been talking about how Tony’s dropped in the ridiculous top 100 hundred list put out by the paper of record each year (the unveiling event was held on erev Rosh Hashanah, Jewish New Year’s Eve, just to give you an idea of how out-of-touch the editors are; this is a majorly Jewish town and in case they didn’t notice, Jews like to go out to dinner, too, just not on their High Holy Days!).
The food at Tony’s has never been better. Period, end of report
It’s been quite a week here at the blog. Thanks for being here and following along. I’ll see you next week. Drink something great this weekend! It’s Tracie P’s birthday weekend, after all.
There are a lot of cool wine shops in LA: Wine House and WineExpo on the westside, Silverlake Wine and Wine Hotel toward the east are among my favorites.
But the place I feel most at home is at Jill Bernheimer’s DomaineLA, where the focus is on the natural-leaning and old-world style.
I visited Jill earlier this year and we had a long talk about her business and her brilliant (imho) social media marketing strategy.
Launching an aggressive, high-design online e-commerce platform in 2013, she said, was expensive and time-consuming. And the hoped-for online sales boom hasn’t materialized, she conceded.
But the ambitious project has paid off marvelously for her, she told me. Her information-heavy site, she explained, has helped to get her on the radar of leading wine writers in the U.S.
“The fact that writers can see what I’m doing and the style of wines I like,” she said, “has led to great coverage in the media.”
This year, for example, she was quoted in a high-profile article by Eric Asimov in the New York Times and she was featured in Food & Wine as a guest “sommelier.”
And that has led to increased business.
In my view of online wine marketing, Jill’s approach is a model and benchmark for wine retal anywhere.
Her investment in her site was risky, in terms of both cost and sweat equity. And it hasn’t delivered in the way she had expected.
But it has repositioned her brand and given her fantastic exposure in the national discourse in wine today.
And that, to me, is key: it’s not the direct correspondence of social media investment that drives sales but rather the indirect correlation of brand positioning that delivers the desired results.
By using social media, where she is very active, to express her brand’s ethos, she has connected with like-minded consumers across her market in a way that wouldn’t have been possible in the pre-social media era.
Jill is a super cool and very groovy lady — online and off — and I’m very proud to be pouring at her shop next week. I hope to see you there!
Details follow for my Bele Casel Prosecco Colfòndo tastings in Southern California next week, including my Tuesday evening tasting with Jill at DomaineLA. If you happen to be in that part of the world, please come out and taste with me!