Future Vinitaly and Vini Veri attendees (how sweet it is to be home)

how do you get passes for vinitalyMy goodness, what a wonderful feeling to be reunited with Tracie and the girls again!

I’m so lucky to have so many great friends in Italy who take marvelous care of me when I’m there (Giovanni, thanks again, man. You’re the best friend that anyone could ever ask for!).

But there’s nothing like our daughters’ kisses, hugs, and snuggles… Hello Kitty blankets and “real” astronauts and polka dot dresses…

Georgia P and Lila Jane had fun wearing my laminates from the fairs this morning. Future fair-goers?

I have many photos, tasting notes, and impressions to share here on the blog.

But today, I just had to share the joy of being reunited with my girls in Texas.

Stay tuned for more notes from the road in Italy next week… Now it’s time to squeeze those girls tight!

Goodbye Vinitaly, goodbye Italy

best champagne italyIf you read my blog, you probably also read Alfonso’s.

But in case you missed it, his f*&%-you letter to the Vinitaly management was a much-talked-about post during the last day of the fair, which ended yesterday in Verona.

I was there all four days of the event and I also attended the second day of Vini Veri in Cerea (also in Verona province).

No matter where you stand or which side of the aisle you sit, you really can’t argue with any of Alfonso’s grievances with the Vinitaly organizers.

vinitaly tickets bigliettoThis year’s fair wasn’t really any worse or better than previous.

The cellular service actually worked a lot better than it usually does (which made it a lot easier to coordinate visits with colleagues etc.).

But the thing that really got to me this year was the availability of the restrooms.

Maybe it’s because I spent more time this year in the Franciacorta pavilion. It’s such a popular destination for consumers that they have to post security guards and velvet ropes to control the influx of laypeople.

The women’s bathrooms there were so crowded that a lot of women opted to use the men’s bathroom. I’m not so shy about urinating in public but I felt terrible for the women, most of whom were dressed in business attire.

It was degrading, to say the least. And to those who argue that Italian women aren’t as squeamish about sharing an open bathroom as American women, I’d like to point out that there are also many American wine professionals who attend the fair.

Has the dysfunction of Vinitaly reached a point where we all have to queue up — women and man — and piss, fart, and shit together?

It made me feel like we were all being de-humanized.

Despite all the challenges of the fair, I had a really positive experience and some great meetings and tastings.

I’m looking forward to sharing my tastes and my highlights next week.

Right now, I just can’t wait to get back to Houston and squeeze those Parzen girls as tightly as I can.

Thanks for tagging along for the ride. See you on the other side…

Brescia beef HOLY COW, Franciacorta vs. Champagne, IPOB preview & I’m still standing #Vinitaly

mexico bresciaJust to had to share these images of steaks that Giovanni picked up at his local butcher in Brescia yesterday for our supper.

Arianna grilled them to perfection.

best beef italyJust look at the marbling in the top photo!

Brescia province has always been famous for the quality of its beef and its beef markets. Last night’s dinner of steak, salad, and Franciacorta was extraordinary.

Thank you, Giovanni and Arianna! You ROCK!

champagne franciacortaI don’t have time to write up my notes from yesterday’s Franciacorta vs. Champagne tasting.

Honestly, I thought the whole thing was a really dumb idea but it turned out to be really interesting.

The Intravino dudes had gathered a smart group of top Italian writers and tasters and I was stoked to get to taste and interact with them. Notes to come…

In the meantime, please check out my Houston Press preview of the IPOB tasting that will take place in Houston on Monday of next week.

It’s the first time that Jasmine, Raj, and co. are presenting the wines in the U.S. beyond San Francisco and New York. Kinda a big deal for the Bayou City.

And lastly, in case you’re wondering, yes, I’m still standing.

Some years, I do an “easier” fair. But this year, between my clients, my gig with the Franciacorta consortium, and the wines that I want to taste for my own betterment, I’ve had a pretty intense fair.

Two more days to go. Wish me speed and thanks for being here!

Thank you to everyone who came out for yesterday’s Franciacorta Crawl. That was rad.

And thank you brother Nathan for the photo below…

jeremy good

‘Cue Franciacorta Crawl TODAY (Mon. March 23, 1:30)

cue crawl texas barbecueI’ll be in Verona today, tasting wine — mostly Franciacorta — at Vinitaly, the annual Italian wine trade fair.

So why is there a photo of my cousin Ben Rosenberg holding a bunch of smoked meats wrapped in butcher paper above?

I took that photo of my cousin in Lockhart, Texas, where we were enjoying a longstanding Lone Star tradition: the “‘Cue Crawl,” in other words, a [Texas] barbecue crawl.

Lockhart is known as the [Texas] barbecue capital of the world and smoked meat lovers regularly gather there to eat at all three of its mainstay smokehouses on the same day, one after another. We were at Kreuz Market, for the record, when I snapped that image.

Today, the focus of our study won’t be gelatinous marbled brisket but rather Chardonnay and Pinot Noir as they are expressed in Franciacorta, the classic method wine from Brescia province, Italy.

We’ll start at the Franciacorta Consortium stand in the Franciacorta pavilion (see details below) and we’ll work our way through as many producers stands as possible.

Hope to see you there! And just like a ‘cue crawl back in Texas, ANY and ALL are welcome.

Franciacorta Crawl
with Franciacorta, the Real Story
Monday, March 23, 1:30 p.m.
Franciacorta Consortium Stand
PalaExpo B/C16 (Vinitaly)

Everyone is welcome to join: Our goal is to taste as much Franciacorta as possible as we “crawl” through the Franciacorta pavilion at Vinitaly. We’ll start at the Franciacorta Consortium stand and work our way down the line…

NO REGISTRATION NECESSARY.
PLEASE JUST SHOW UP AND JOIN US.

Buona degustazione a tutti!
Enjoy the tasting, everyone!

correct glass franciacorta

Being there: a super fun day at Vini Veri in Cerea

Please don’t forget: everyone is welcome to join me Monday, March 23, at 1:30 p.m. at the Franciacorta Consortium Stand at Vinitaly (PalaExpo B/C16) for a “Franciacorta Crawl.”

antonio di gruttolaJust wanted to share a couple of photos from Team Do Bianchi’s day yesterday at Vini Veri, the natural wine fair held each year in Cerea (Verona province).

That’s Antonio di Gruttola (above), winemaker at Cantine Giardino (Avellino province, Campania), one of our favorite wines to pour at Sotto in Los Angeles (where I co-author the wine list with colleague and friend Christine Veys).

That’s Christine (below, left) with importer Giovanni Pagano, a friend to Sotto and a natural wine lover whose devotion and palate I admire greatly.

christine veys giovanni paganoTeam Do Bianchi — Christine, Christopher Barnes, Giovanni Arcari, Nathan Smith, and I — had a truly delightful day at the fair.

I was reminded that as important as it is to taste as much as possible at the wine fairs, half of the equation is just being there.

We’re about to head out for our first day of Vinitaly in Verona. Wish us luck and wish us speed… and if you want to say a prayer for a parking place, we’ll take what we can get!

boiling grape must: making a pied de cuve

Just had to share this short video from the other night: the beginnings of a pied de cuve (literally, the “tank base”), a fermentation starter that will be used to provoke fermentation in the production of a classic method wine (in this case, Franciacorta, of course).

I shot it after dinner at the Arici winery in Gussago in Brescia province.

Asparagus gone wild

wild asparagus asparagi selvatici italyWhen it rains it pours.

I’ve only been in Italy for a few days but I already have so much to tell. And the frenetic, chaotic windup to the fairs has already begun.

Team Do Bianchi is about to head out from Brescia for Cerea, where we’ll be tasting at the Vini Veri fair.

But in the meantime, all I can think about is the wild asparagus (above) that we were served at a wonderful home-cooked dinner in Franciacorta last night.

It’s one of those foraged delicacies that come around only once a year.

How to describe their delicate flavor? They taste like spring…

Another highlight last night was meeting the acting priest of Gussago village, a young fellow.

“Enough with your Latinorum!” I wanted to tell him (I’ll buy a bottle of Franciacorta for the first person who can name the novel that inspires my joke).

I didn’t, of course. But it was fun to meet him and trade notes about religion. He was super nice.

Thank you again, Arici family, for hosting us. The tagliatelle tossed in salmon and cream, the spit-roast rabbit, the zero dosage Chardonnay… everything was fantastic.

But those wild asparagus? Unforgettable.

Barolo: getting the story right. My post on the Roberto Conterno purchase of Arione for @WineSearcher

price conterno wine monfortinoI learned of Roberto Conterno’s purchase of the historic Barolo cru Arione via Kerin O’Keefe when I met her at a dinner in her honor hosted by Chambers St. Wines owner Jamie Wolff a few weeks ago at Maialino in NYC.

After reading one too many sensationalist reports on the transaction (and their xenophobic subtext), I called the various parties and set the record straight for WineSearcher this week.

Here’s my post.

Just landed in Brescia… Man, I’m fried and I miss my girls terribly. But I’m glad to be in a place where everyone knows my name.

Let the games begin!

Franciacorta the movie: a film by Ben and me

ben shapiro director filmAbove: Ben (center) and I interviewed Chef Vittorio Fusari (left) in October of last year at his Dispensa Pani e Vini in Franciacorta, one of my favorite restaurants in the world.

It all began in September 2008. I was on my way to Italy for a business trip as I was just beginning to launch my new marketing consulting company. And Ben, who lives in New York City, wanted to get out of town for a few weeks.

We were both single at the time. And so we went on our own personal Sideways.

It was an amazing trip, with some incredible producer visits and meals. And by the end, Ben, who is a journalist and filmmaker, suggested that we return someday to Italy to make a short movie.

In October of last year, six years after that fateful and unforgettable trip, we set out for Italy again but this time with Ben’s camera (check out Ben’s most recent full-length feature film, “Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters,” here; Ben is a longtime producer and journalist for NPR and he teaches journalism at Columbia, among other things).

It was on the same 2008 trip that I met Giovanni Arcari for the first time. Since then, he’s become one of my best friends and he’s the reason that Brescia and Franciacorta have become my home-away-from-home when I travel to Italy.

I love the wines and I cherish the friendships I have made there. And so, it was only natural that Ben and I would make our first film together on Franciacorta.

Looking back on it now, I realize that when we started out on the project, we imagined that the growers would be the ones to tell the story of Franciacorta. But in the end, it was the chefs who really captured the spirit of the place.

I hope that you enjoy our short film as much we enjoyed making it. Buona visione! And thanks for watching.