One crazy ass psychedelic wine shirt

September 30, 2009

Casual was the call for attire at the wine dinner I hosted on Saturday night at Jaynes Gastropub and so I decided to don the above psychedelic vintage 70s disco shirt (recently unearthed in a box that arrived with my library from my Manhattan storage). I’ve never really been able to figure out what it means. On the back, a bunch of grapes transforms into silver balls. On the front, silver balls reveal a convex image of a wine bottle and one of the balls falls to the ground and bursts. There is an upside down dessert sunset that lines the bottom of the shirt (from the wearer’s POV, it looks like a sunset).

I’ll post more on the dinner tomorrow so stay tuned: Australian wines I like! Yes, I actually found some!

In other news…

Tom, I thought you’d never ask! Tom over at Fermentation posted my BloggerView interview yesterday. Tom’s blog is currently the number 1 most-visited wine blog in the world and I was thrilled that he asked me to do an interview. I had a lot of fun with it and was flattered by Tom’s generous words. Click here to read.

Even more thrilling was the revelation of what will become my new tag line: “Guitar slingin’ somm and scholarly scribe of vinous humanism Jeremy Parzen.” Thanks, McDuff, for the new epigram and thanks for the generous shout out.

Lastly, due to an editing error on my part, one of my favorite wine blogs ended up on the cutting room floor of Tom’s interview: Wayne Young’s blog The Buzz is most definitely one of my daily reads. Sorry about that, Wayne!

In other other news…

Check out this way cool Austin slide show and profile in The New York Times Travel mag. It features the Broken Spoke where I’ve been playing some gigs lately.

Who knew that Austin was such a great place to live? ;-)

I moved here for LOVE. :-)


Best definition of “orange wine” out there?

September 29, 2009

There really is no exact nor canonical definition of “orange wine” out there. But the best attempt to define the often murky and cloudy stuff was scribed by the inimitable Thor Iverson here.

Eric was at the same dinner described by Thor, as was Alice.

One thing you can say for certain about orange wine is that even though there is no succinct, clear cut definition of what it is, you definitely know when you’re drinking it!


Vin Santo: an overlooked “orange” wine? (and a more likely explanation of its name)

September 29, 2009

vin santo

Above: Ale posted photos of grapes (Trebbiano and Malvasia) being laid out to dry on reed mats for the Vin Santo that he and his father are making this year.

Scanning my Google Reader feed this morning, I came across these posts by my friend Ale in Sant’Angelo in Colle. He and his father grow Sangiovese and make Brunello di Montalcino for one of the oldest — and one of my favorite — producers in the appellation, Il Poggione.

vin santo

Above: The mats are then hung in the vinsantaia, an attic used especially for the drying of the grapes. Windows on either side of the space allow for ventilation that helps to limit humidity during drying.

Reading his descriptions of harvesting and drying grapes for the production of Vin Santo, it occurred to me that Vin Santo is an “orange” wine. There is no canonical definition of “orange wine,” even though a new “orange wine” movement has clearly emerged among European winemakers, mainstream wine writers, fringe wine bloggers (like me), enthusiasts, and lovers. Vin Santo is generally not made using skin contact during fermentation (one of the fundamental techniques employed in the production of orange wine). But there is no denying that Vin Santo is orange in color.

The rich orange color of Vin Santo is created by the drying of the grapes and by intentional oxidation of the wine.

vin santo

Above: Specially sized caratelli (literally, “small casks”) are used for aging. Many believe that the size of the barrels is one of the keys to the unique flavors and aromas of Vin Santo.

The earliest documented printed reference to Vin Santo is found in Giovanni Cosimo Villifranchi’s Oenologia Toscana (1773). In 1605, Sir Robert Dallington mentions a wine called Zibibbo, which was “dried for Lent” and could possibly be a reference to Vin Santo (see his entire description of grape growing and winemaking in Tuscany here).

Many claim that the name Vin Santo (literally, “holy wine”) was coined in the 15th century when Greek humanist Basilios Bessarion tasted the wine and compared it to the wines of Xantos (see also this entry on Bessarion in the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia). Supporters of the theory maintain that he liked it so much, he exclaimed “Xantos!” and those present understood him to say “Santo!” But I doubt this is the case.

I’ve heard some say that the name is inspired by the fact that Vin Santo can go through a second fermentation in the spring when temperatures rise in the vinsantaia. Like Christ, the wine “rises again.” I doubt this is the case but Dallington’s reference to Lent leads me to believe that dried grape wines were associated directly or indirectly with Easter in his time.

In 1773, Villifranchi writes: “The name that is given by us today to this ‘Vino di Santo’ is believed by some to be owed to Ancoret saints* and the Monks of Soria [Spain] who originally made wine in this manner.” He adds that “others believe that this name derives from the fact that the grapes are typically pressed during the period of the Christmas holidays.”

Whether you call Vin Santo an orange wine or not, it would seem to pass muster with the natural wine dogmatists. Using a “mother” yeast to start fermentation is a sine qua non of Vin Santo production: after pressing, sediment is scraped from a cask from a previous vintage and then added to the newly pressed juice to initiate fermentation. That’s how they’ve been making Vin Santo for centuries (or at least since Villifranchi first described methods of vinification employed in his day).

The only difference is that in Italy, they don’t call it “natural wine.” They just call it wine.

Look for more on Sir Robert in upcoming posts and check out this cool video posted by Ale on his blog today:

* “The recluses of the East in the early Christian centuries” (OED).


The idioblog and the inner light (a food and wine blog for one)

September 27, 2009

Above: This photo of super-sized okra in Arkansas is just one of the many idioblog posts I receive every week.

One of the notions that intrigued me the most when I studied language was that of idiolect: “The linguistic system of one person, differing in some details from that of all other speakers of the same dialect or language,” from the Greek idios, meaning own, personal, private, peculiar, separate, distinct (OED).

In linguistics, the term idiolect is often used to denote a language spoken by only one person. In the twentieth century, for example, as western culture pervaded their nations, elderly South Pacific islanders sometimes found themselves in the peculiar condition of being the last living speakers of a their island’s language. In the moment there is a sole speaker of a language, that language becomes an idiolect.

Poets are very much interested in idiolect: the greatest achievement of any poet is that of creating a new language (at the moment of its creation, it is an idiolect, a language spoken by only one person).

I wonder if other food and wine bloggers share this experience: I often receive emails from authors of what I have come to call “idioblogs,” i.e., blogs read by one sole individual and one individual alone (namely, me). I’m not sure why friends and family — sometimes folks I don’t even know! — feel compelled to author these “blogs for one” but I, for one, enjoy them immensely. (In all fairness, sometimes a few other addressees are included but never more than three. These are not technically idioblogs but rather what I call Three Musketeer blogs, dispatches composed in the spirit of “all for one, one for all.”)

Here are some of the more thrilling reports recently dispatched. From France, New York, Los Angeles, and Arkansas.

Arkansas idioblogger weighs in with:

    check this out….it’s my okra…10’9″…..and still growing!! [see photo above]

A texting idioblogger gives realtime dispatches of his meal at Milos in NYC:

    @ milos right now. Balada and chenin blanc. Super good

    [Thierry] Germain Saumur Chenin Blanc excellent value

One of the more idiosyncratic of the idioblogs is authored by a Hollywood aesthete and epicure. He idioposts anonymously but I think I’m on to his identity:

    Green beans hazelnuts mustard

    Shrimp tacos from La Taquiza; Soave from Suavia (via K&L)

But the top idioblogger is a rock star whose Herculean dispatches are as mimetically inspirational as they are enviable. The following idioblog post was accompanied by the above image of frogs legs.

    there was “K” from Dard et Ribo

    somewhere in there, around the time of the K, the incredible chef, who is from Benin, served up bowls of frogs’s legs cooked in persillade that n***** and i tore into with wild abandon. so delicious and soulful.

    laughs were plentiful, glasses were broken… a real party.

Okra in Arkansas, balada and Saumur in NYC, shrimp tacos and Soave Classico in LA, and frogs’s legs and Dard et Ribo in Brussels… As George Harrison once wrote:

    Without going out of my door,
    I can know all things on earth
    without looking out of my window,
    I can know the ways of heaven.

    The farther one travels
    the less one knows
    the less one really knows.

    Without going out of your door,
    You can know all things on earth
    without looking out of your window,
    you can know the ways of heaven.

    The farther one travels
    the less one knows
    the less one really knows.

    Arrive without travelling,
    See all without looking,
    Do all without doing.

Happy Sunday ya’ll!


Thou shall not take thy white fish for granted

September 26, 2009

Above: My great aunt Lillian lives in Houston. We had a chance to visit the other day when I was there for work. She’s 94 and looks great. She attributes her good health and mental acuity to playing bridge.

Saturday morning finds me in San Diego, where I’ll be speaking and pouring at a wine dinner at Jaynes tonight. And as much fun as it is to see my friends when I’m in town and as happy as I am to get to connect with mama Judy, my brothers, and their families, it’s still never easy to say good-bye to my lovely Tracie B — even if for just a few nights.

Above: The white fish salad at Kenny and Ziggy’s deli in Houston was as good as it gets. Man, I hadn’t had good smoked fish in so long! And I’ve learned my lesson: thou shall not take thy white fish for granted.

But besides my Tracie B, I’m also missing something else from back home — my new home — in Texas: the excellent white fish salad and smoked salmon that I ate the other day in Houston. Who knew there was such good smoked fish outside of New York? I didn’t believe it but it’s true.

If Marshall McLuhan ever wrote about smoked fish, he would surely agree that his now aphoristic motto applies here: the medium is the message. It’s easy to find good quality smoked fish but it’s all about how its sliced, prepared, and dressed.

Above: Has the mimetic desire kicked in yet? If you’re salivating, then the answer is yes!

The folks at Kenny and Ziggy’s sure know how to do it right. I highly recommend it. (And I know good white fish, believe me.)

Above: My cousin (second cousin?) Marty, Lillian’s son, is a professor of law at Thurgood Marshall in Houston, an expert in civil liberties and minority rights… and man, let me tell you, does this guy know his smoked fish!

Thou shall not take thy white fish for granted! Thanks again, Marty, for turning me on to such great stuff!

And thanks for reading…


The story behind La Licenziana vs. Vicenziana Barbaresco

September 25, 2009

Silvio Giamello 2005 Barbaresco Vicenziana, made from grapes in the Ovello cru of Barbaresco. Vicenziana is a named place (a lieu-dit, in French) in the cru and lies in the northernmost area of this famous growing site. Photo by Tracie B.

We depend so much today on the immediacy of the internet for information and today, more than ever, there is so much information available to consumers on wines, wineries, and wine prices — via blogging, chat rooms, bulletin boards, and subscription archives like WineSearcher and CellarTracker.

I was thoroughly impressed when I tasted the 2005 Barbaresco Vicenziana by Silvio Giamello the other day but deeply disappointed when my Google search for info about the wine proved fruitless. So I figured I’d do things the old-fashioned way: I decided to call Silvio and looked for his number at PagineBianche.it. But this dude’s not even in the phone book!

I finally found another Giamello who owned an azienda agricola (literally a farming estate or farming company) and called him in the hopes that they were relatives (there are a lot of Giamellos in Piedmont!). He didn’t have Silvio’s number but he gave me just enough geographical information to find the winery. Sheesh!

So here’s the story behind this wine…

The estate, Silvio told me, is called La Licenziana. It was planted to Nebbiolo and Dolcetto by Sivlio’s grandfather and it lies in the northernmost part of Barbaresco in Ovello (one of the famed Barbaresco crus), just a few rows in the western part of the cru, with south-eastern exposure. Silvio’s father used to bottle small amounts of the wine but sold most of the fruit to Langa négociants and also made some bulk wine. About ten years ago, Silvio decided to start bottling Barbaresco and when he researched the origins of his family’s growing site, he consulted municipal records and discovered that the name Licenziana was a dialectal corruption of Vicenziana. In antiquity, the estate was owned by a Roman noble named Lolio Vicenziano (I was able to find some info on Lolio but not much and I imagine his Latin name was Lollius, but I’ll have to get to the bottom of that later). According to Silvio, the estate was called Villa Gentiana in antiquity: villa means farmhouse in Latin and my hunch is that the designation gentiana might have been derived from gens, which means race, clan, or house, and often denotes Roman upper-class Roman citizens. In other words, it probably meant noble farmhouse. Somewhere along the way, Villa Gentiana became Vicenziana, according to Silvio.

I liked the wine so much that I bought a bottle and Tracie B and I drank it last night with a little sausage ragù that I made.

This wine was all earth, mushroomy and savory, my favorite style of Barbaresco, what I like to call “rustic.”

Silvio told me that he employs integrated farming practices and vinifies (no surprise here) in a traditional style (large old-oak cask aging).

His maximum production is around 5,000 bottles and he made roughly 3,000 of the 2005.

When I mentioned to him that there is very little info available about his wines on the internet, he said that he likes it that way: “I’m in no hurry to let people know about my wines,” he told me. It reminded of the story that Maria Teresa Mascarello told me about how her father, the legendary Bartolo, didn’t want a phone in their home. When the young Teresa complained, Bartolo finally relented and told her she could have a phone but it had to be registered in her name.

Silvio does have an email address and he promised to send me info on the 2009 harvest… but only when they’re done picking the grapes. I guess I’ll just have to wait!

Great wine, highly recommended for the pricepoint.


Best BBQ on 290: City Meat Market, Giddings, TX

September 24, 2009

Posting hastily this morning from the road. Currently in Houston to speak at a wine event last night and meetings this morning but here are some images from my new fav bbq joint, where I stopped for lunch yesterday: City Meat Market in Giddings, TX (Giddings is a small town on highway 290 that leads from Austin eastward). I haven’t tried every place on 290 yet but so far this is the best.

BrooklynGuy would love this place. It’s the real deal. You’re served your meal on butcher paper (it’s also a butcher) and everything else is served in styrofoam.

What are old bottles of Gallo cooking vermouth good for? Yes, you guessed it: homemade hot sauce. I asked the owner how he likes to use the sauce: “I just pour it on a piece of bread and eat it,” he said. I tried it and it was great.

I’m glad I didn’t step in it! Locally produced spicy seasonings and rubs.

Highly recommended.

On deck for tomorrow: a new Barbaresco cru? I finally got to the bottom of the Vicenziana designation…


Waiter, waiter: I’ll have what Eric’s having…

September 23, 2009

Above: Last night, Tracie B and I opened Puffeney’s 2006 Trousseau, one of those “original” wines that we couldn’t stop talking about. Photos by Tracie B.

The wines from the Jura first came to my attention at one of my favorite restaurants in the world, L’Utopie in Québec City when my band Nous Non Plus was on tour there a few years back. Thirty-something owner and sommelier Frédéric Gauthier has an amazing palate and his list has always delivered something unusual and exciting to my table.

So when I read Eric’s preview of his column on the “Unusually Good” wines from the Jura at the end of a long workday for both me and Tracie B, I decided to cork a bottle of Puffeney 2006 Arbois Trousseau that we had picked up here in town at The Austin Wine Merchant.

At a talk on modern vs. traditional wines he gave in New York a number of years ago, Angelo Gaja discussed what he called “original” wines: wines that “surprise” you, he said.

The Trousseau, like nearly everything I’ve tasted from the Jura, was one of those “original” wines: it’s one of those wines that could only be made in that place, by those people, using the grapes, the techniques, and the terroir that belong uniquely to them. It was light in body but with some confident tannin, with berry fruit and brilliant acidity. Tracie B and I couldn’t stop talking about it: one of those wines that surprises you and speaks of a little mountainous utopia in France along the Swiss border where they make truly wonderful wines.

We loved it and I also highly recommend Eric’s column today in the times. Wine Digger digs these wines, too, as does McDuff. And here’s a little background on Puffeney’s methods.

Get it at The Austin Wine Merchant. Enjoy!


A post dedicated to mama Judy

September 22, 2009

From the di mamma ce n’è una sola department…

judy parzen

Above: That’s mama Judy visiting Christo’s Gates in Central Park in 2005.

Today is my mom’s birthday and so this post is dedicated to her. Last year, we held a special party for her in the La Jolla Cove Park but now that I’m living in Texas I can’t be there on her actual birthday and so I wrote a special arrangement of Happy Birthday and recorded it on my Mac using GarageBand and made a little slide show movie, with all of her children and grandchildren, including the newest arrival, little Oscar.

Mama Judy likes to drink wine when she throws her famous dinner parties. Like BrooklynGuy does for his parents, I keep her cellar (well, her closet actually) well stocked with good wine. Most recently, she’s been liking the Lini Lambrusco (the rosé in particular), Borgogno Barbera 2007, and her all-time favorite is probably the Chablisienne village Chablis.

Happy birthday, mom!


Banfi 2004 Brunello, I cannot tell a lie (and other notes and posts on 04 Brunello)

September 21, 2009

Tracie B snapped the above pic of me using my Blackberry the other night, when she came home with an open bottle of Banfi 2004 Brunello di Montalcino in her wine bag (when not otherwise occupied being knock-out gorgeous, Tracie B works as a sale representative for a behemoth mid-west and southeastern U.S. wine and spirits distributor).

The moment of truth had arrived: it was time for me to taste the wine with my dinner of Central Market rotisserie chicken, salad, and potatoes that Tracie B had roasted in her grandmother’s iron skillet.

The wine was clear and bright in the glass and had bright acidity and honest fruit flavor. The tannin, while present, was not out of balance and the wine had a slightly herbaceous note in the finish that might not please lovers of modern-style wines but that I enjoy. If ever there were a wine made with 100% Sangiovese grapes, I would say this were one — tasted covertly or overtly.

According to WineSearcher.com, the average retail price for this wine in the U.S. is $65. I can’t honestly say that I recommend the wine: it’s not a wine that I personally look for at that price point. I did not find this to be a great or original or terroir-driven wine but I will say that it is an honest expression of Sangiovese from Montalcino.

Anyone who reads my blog (or follows news from the world of Italian wine), knows that Banfi has been the subject of much controversy over the last year and a half. But fair is fair and rules are rules and I cannot conceal that I enjoyed the 04 Brunello by Banfi. (Btw, Italian Wine Guy, who is Glazer’s Italian Wine Director, recently posted on 04 Brunello, including a YouTube of Banfi media director Lars Leight speaking on the winery’s current releases at a wine dinner in Dallas.)

Above: Facing south from Il Poggione’s vineyards below Sant’Angelo in Colle, looking toward Mt. Amiata.

Despite the will of some marketers to make us think otherwise, 2004 was not an across-the-board great vintage in Montalcino. In my experience with the wines so far, only those with the best growing sites were able to make great wines in the classic style of Montalcino and wines that really taste like Montalcino.

Btw, in all fairness, it’s important to note that the Banfi vineyards lie — to my knowledge — primarily in the southwest subzone of the appellation, one of the historic growing areas for great Sangiovese. When you drive south from Sant’Angelo in Colle, you see signs for the Banfi vineyards on the right. Earlier this year, my friend Ale over at Montalcino Report posted this excellent series on understanding the terroir of Montalcino using Google Earth. It’s one of the best illustrations of why the wines from that part of the appellation are always among the best, even in difficult years. (Ale’s killer Il Poggione 04 Brunello, which I tasted for the first time at Vinitaly in April, received such glowing praise from one of the world’s greatest wine writers that it caused near pandemonium in the market, prompting wine sales guru Jon Rimmerman to write that it “may be the most offered/reacted to wine I’ve ever witnessed post-Wine Advocate review.”)

Above: Facing north in Il Poggione’s vineyards, looking at the village of Sant’Angelo in Colle (literally, Sant’Angelo “on the hill”).

Franco recently tasted 93 bottlings of 04 Brunello at the offices of The World of Fine Wine in London and wrote of his disappointment with the wines delivered by even some of the top producers. Here are Franco’s top picks and straight-from-the-hip notes, posted at VinoWire.

In other news…

One of the greatest moments of personal fulfillment in my life was when my band NN+’s debut album reached #6 in the college radio charts so I guess that stranger things have happened: a colleague in Italy emailed me last week to let me know that my blog Do Bianchi was ranked #9 in the official (?) list of “top wine blogs.” Who knew?

Thanks, everyone, for taking the time to read Do Bianchi. The blog has been such a rewarding experience for me and it means so much to me that there are people out there who enjoy it.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,129 other followers

%d bloggers like this: