Teroldego: Italian grape name pronunciation project

February 28, 2011

CLICK HERE FOR ALL EPISODES TO DATE.

After I read a — how can I put this gently? — not flawless transliteration of the ampelonym (grape name) Teroldego in Eric the Red’s recent article devoted to the grape variety, I felt that something needed to be done (and because Eric is a friend and a blogging colleague, I knew he wouldn’t mind).

My first thought was to record my own voice speaking the grape name and post shortly videos on YouTube. After all, I do possess a Ph.D. in Italian, I lived for many years in Italy, I travel there 3 or 4 times a year, and my Italian colleagues acknowledge that I speak Italian with native-speaker proficiency (however with a Padua accent).

But then it occurred to me: wouldn’t it be cool if I could get native Italian grape growers and winemakers to record themselves pronouncing the names of native grapes?

My first call was to Elisabetta Foradori, arguably the most famous producer of Teroldego and the subject of Eric’s article. I have never met her but she was kind enough to take my call and she laughed warmly when I described my idea to her. A few weeks later, she sent me a recording of her enunciating the ampelonym. The video above is the first in a series of the “Italian Grape Name Pronunciation Project” that I will post on YouTube and archive here at Do Bianchi.

I hope that this project will serve as a useful tool to wine professionals and wine lovers all over the world.

IF YOU ARE AN ITALIAN GRAPE GROWER OR WINEMAKER AND WOULD LIKE TO APPEAR IN THIS SERIES, PLEASE FEEL FREE TO EMAIL ME AN MP3 OR ANY OTHER KIND OF AUDIO FILE (OR VIDEO) OF YOU PRONOUNCING THE NAME(S) OF NATIVE GRAPE VARIETIES.


Diana Ross (!) at the new Austin City Limits theater

February 28, 2011

Tracie P and I went with Aunt Holly and Uncle Terry to see Diana Ross at the brand-spanking new Austin City Limits theater last night.

Great venue, GREAT show… Austin just keeps getting cooler and cooler by the day…

Thanks again, Holly and Terry, for dialing that in! Super FUN… :-)


Magliocco, swordfish, and Gossip Girl

February 28, 2011

That’s the inimitable Shawnté Salabert, writer, voiceover artist, and song plugger for Sugaroo (my band NN+’s licensing agent). She’s the one who got our track “Catastrophe” (click to listen to preview) into Gossip Girl tonight. (Hey, I know it’s not Master Piece Theatre but if the teenage female American demographic digs my music, I ain’t complaining!)

“Catastrophe” is one of my favorite tracks: I wrote it in NYC with Céline Dijon back in 2007 (seems like a lifetime ago). Tonight’s episode also features another song I wrote and recorded with Céline in New York many years ago, when we played in another now unmentionable French band together. It’s called “Les Sauvages.”

I got to meet and thank Shawnté in person on Thursday when I went to visit the mother office and have dinner with my old friend and music biz veteran Michael Nieves, who cooked up a delicious swordfish steak, which we paired with a bottle of 2009 Terre di Balbia Balbium (I had tasted it earlier that day at a trade tasting and swiped the bottle from the rep).

This 100% Magliocco from Calabria, raised by Venica & Venica, is one of the most exciting wines from Southern Italy that I’ve tasted this year (and I’ve been tasting a lot of southern Italian wines recently for a new consulting gig).

From what I understand, some (or all?) of the grapes are briefly dried in the vineyard before vinification. I was blown away by the freshness of this wine, its balanced alcohol (a little higher than I like but nicely settled in the wine), and its juicy cherry and plum flavors and bright acidity. Extremely yummy wine, excellent with Michael’s roast swordfish steak dusted with paprika.

Thanks again, Michael and Shwanté: for the placement and the rocking piece of fish!


Natural wine and (good) pooping

February 25, 2011

Above: The wines of Angiolino Maule (La Biancara) are impeccably Natural. We tasted with him in early February at the winery in Gambellara. Note how his label reports the amount of “anidride solferosa” (anhydrous sulfur dioxide or SO2) and note how the label reports “NON CONTIENE SULFITI” (“does not contain sulfites”). Not all of his wines are unsulfured (I’ll devote an upcoming post to how he obtains his unsulfured wine).

Invariably, when a group of food and wine professionals gets together, they will talk about food, wine… and poop. Naturally, the three phenomena go — how can I say this? — hand in hand.

Such was the case on Wednesday night at Lou on Vine when Zach (whose new restaurant will be opening shortly in Los Angeles) described his pooping issues while working at a restaurant in Italy and subsisting on a diet of boiled salame, polenta, and potatoes. He only managed to “liberate” himself (so to speak) once a week, he said.

Above: I really dug this 2009 Manzoni Bianco by Foradori that I tasted at a trade tasting yesterday at the top (and coolest) wine shop in Los Angeles (in my book), Domaine LA. (The label is smudged because it had been in-and-out of the rep’s wine bag all day.)

When I told him that I thought that Natural wine could have helped him, even Natural wine fanatic (and in my opinion, authority) AW was incredulous.

On the Twitter, he wrote: “stop the presses! @dobianchi officially claims: natural wine good for eliminative function’.”

Maybe because of my ethnicity (you know why it’s called IBS don’t you? Isaac Bashevis Singer syndrome), good pooping is very important to me (come on, it’s important to everyone, isn’t it?). One of the first things Tracie P asks me when we message each morning while I’m on the road is: “how’s your pancia today?” (pancia means belly in Italian and is our euphemism for life’s daily miracle).

Above: Some might argue that Villa Bucci is not a Natural wine producer. And, in fact, sig. Bucci probably wouldn’t use the term “natural” to describe his wines. But the wines are grown using chemical-free healthy farming and vinified using native yeasts. Either way, I can tell you that it’s a good wine for pooping. Also tasted yesterday at a trade tasting. One of my all-time favorite wines.

The bottom line is this: I have no hard data (aren’t you glad for that?) but I can report anecdotally that when I drink Natural wines — even when accompanied by heavy foods, as they often are — I nearly always poop well the next day.

Why is this? Probably because the wines aren’t packed with chemicals and the alcohol tends to be more balanced. The generally higher acidity certainly helps with digestion (the same way acidity in wine can tenderize meat when used to marinate). And everyone who has tasted wine while still active (i.e., with active yeast, still fermenting) knows that if you drink to much (even a healthy glassful), the wine acts as a purgative.

If you don’t believe me, take it from the 2,000-year-old man, another correligionary of mine. To what does he attribute his longevity? He never touches fried food, he never runs for a bus… and he drinks natural wine.


08 Cos Nero di Lupo: o my UNBELIEVABLE Nero d’Avola! (no one night stand)

February 24, 2011

In Los Angeles this week for a series of business meetings for a new and thrilling restaurant project (more on that later) and a working dinner with one of NN+’s (my band’s) agents… and NO trip to LA is complete without a visit to the BEST WINE BAR on the planet (IMHO): Lou on Vine (with AW, of course).

As always, Lou poured an incredible flight of wines for our tavolata… but the wine that simply annihilated me with its goodness was the 2008 Nero d’Avola “Nero di Lupo” (a toponymic designation), vinified in amphora and cement… and, in this case, open from the day before !!!… think blood sausage and sour cherries and volcanic rock in a glass… unbelievable wine… So fresh, so focused, and so beautiful in the glass… Highly, highly recommended and even better, Lou said, the day after… This is definitely a wine that “you call the next day, no one night stand…”

Lou is predominantly Francophile but Italy — and southern Italy in particular — is his mistress… We also drank…

So young but showing so gorgeously right now…

Can you hear the Stevie Wonder in your head?

And though you don’t believe that they do
They do come true
For did my dreams
Come true when I looked at you
And maybe too, if you would believe
You too might be
Overnoyed, over loved, over me

(How’s that for a pun, Thor?)

Lou called it “a little farty” at first and didn’t pour it until it had aerated for about an hour. It’s so hard to find Overnoy in this country and I was thrilled to get to taste the 07 (which we drank at the end of flight… a perfect closer…). I love the mouthfeel of these wines (at once light and heavy), with that nutty oxidative note balanced by apricot and honey… utterly delicious…

Rebbe Lou presides over what is IMHO the best wine program in the country. Perhaps a little radical for some but always right for me: thrilling, delicious, and always something I haven’t tried yet… If only we could clone Lou and have him open a Lou on Vine in every major American city… we’d have a brighter and stronger next generation of young wine professionals…


Why does In-N-Out Burger taste so good when you’re depressed? (And please be nice to government workers.)

February 24, 2011

Missing Tracie P terribly and feeling down-in-the-dumps after discovering a boneheaded clerical error was going to cost me a pretty penny, I tumbled headfirst into the darkest depths of gastronomic moral nihilism and ate at one of California’s landmark In-N-Out Burgers. There’s no excuse for this aberration and abjuration of my culinary ethics. Even though folks often say that In-N-Out is the “less bad” of the fastfood franchies, it’s still junk food and it’s still bad for you. But, man, like a junkie putting that needle back into his arm, the first bite of that Double Double brought with it refuge and solace from my pain — however short-lived, false, and futile.

In the end Tracie P cheered me up with a phone call and the SUPER nice lady at above-mentioned government office emailed to say that she had managed to clear up the whole issue and that my penalty would be refunded.

We’ve all read about it in the news: government employees are under so much stress these days and who can blame them for not having a great day. In the midst of a budget crisis, California state employees are no stranger to the stresses of the current economic climate. I was very lucky to find a generous person who gave my case some extra attention and resolve my issue.

So please remember to be nice to our public servants. They deserve our support — now more than ever.


Vini Veri and VinNatur 2011 fair dates (public service announcement)

February 23, 2011

Above: Last year’s Vini Veri producers.

I’m still undecided as to whether or not I’ll be attending this year’s “Natural” and “Real” wine fairs but the lineup for both is always a who’s who of my favorite Italian producers.

Vini Veri will be held this year on April 7-9 at La Fabbrica AreaExp in Cerea (near Verona).

Here’s the link to the fair’s post (not exactly user-friendly for those of us among us who are not Italophiles).

Here’s a link with tasting details in English (thanks Marisa!).

VinNatur will be held April 10-11 at the Villa Favorita near Vicenza. Here’s the link, including ticket and location info (great site with excellent translations for the solely Anglophone among us). Hopefully my friend Ruggero Robin will be playing!


Good things I ate in San Diego

February 23, 2011

The campechana (marinated seafood salad, with octopus, squid, shrimp, et alia) was off-the-charts good at Bay Park Fish Co. in Mission Bay, San Diego.

So were the grilled halibut fish tacos. Seafood in San Diego ROCKS!

Couldn’t resist the new tortilla soup at Jaynes Gastropub, where I caught up with the crew and drank some killer wines. The crumbled queso fresco and spritz of lime took it over the top… Highly recommended…

Almost sunset from mama Judy’s window, looking out toward the La Jolla Children’s Pool


Tasted any Ramandolo lately?

February 22, 2011

Northeastern Italy’s rich tradition of dried-grape wines stretches back to the height of the Roman empire, when the acinaticum of today’s Soave, Gambellara, and Valpolicella reigned as one of Western Civilization’s earliest “celebrity” wines.

With all of today’s talk of and favor curried by so-called Natural wines and their “back-to-our-heritage” ethos, we often forget that the earliest paleo-European wines to emerge with celebrity cache were among the most manipulated of that era. The purposeful desiccation of fruit intended to obtain a more concentrated wine with higher alcohol content and greater levels of residual sugar cannot avoid (however obliquely) reminding the informed observer of the “dropped fruit” and “hang time” employed by the Californian chemists who produce Ovaltine-inspired grape-flavored beverages with 17+% alcohol.

The roughly two dozen (yes, that’s it, count ‘em) producers of Ramandolo cannot trace their roots back to Roman times but they can point to documents scribed in the high middle ages when their sweet, dense wines were coveted and praised by at least one Roman Pope (Gregory XII). Centuries before the villages of Cialla and Corna di Rosazzo would earn their fame for the production of fine white wine, Ramandolo (which only recently joined the Colli Orientali del Friuli consortium) was renowned for its unique confluence of warm maritime ventilation, a natural shield from inclement weather (the Alps), chilly winters that naturally and gently stabilized the wine, and a sturdy and industrious townsfolk who express the hardships of mountain living in perseverance and patient enology.

On the last day of our Colli Orientali del Friuli blogger project, we traveled to the appellation of Ramandolo (in the northernmost, isolated subzone of the appellation) and got to taste 12 wines by 12 producers (roughly half of the entire body of wineries), all wines I had never tasted before, of which none (to my knowledge) has representation in the U.S. market.

Production levels are extremely small here. Eyeballing the anecdotal figures given to us, the average surface area planted to Verduzzo (the main grape variety) per winery is 4-5 hectares, with most weighing in with 1-2 hectares.

What sets these wines apart from their relatives in the Veneto (or their very distant relatives in Tuscany) is the fact that Verduzzo is an intensely and uniquely tannic white grape. While the majority of labels we tasted that day were dominated by invasive toasty oak (imparted from barrique aging), the best wines allowed the bitterness of the tannins and the sweetness of the residual sugar to play a gorgeous counterpoint harmony in the glass. Where I often find even some of the best dried-grape Moscato to be one-dimensional (think Sicily, think Piedmont), these wines — when done right — show depth and seductive character.

My favorites of the 12 wines tasted were Daniele Gervasi (my top wine), Maurizio Zaccomer, and Andrea Comelli, who also tasted us on an experimental botrytized Ramandolo (in one instance accidental and in another induced by wetting the grapes and covering with cellophane).

Like Rumpelstiltskin, the producers of Ramandolo seem to have awaken only recently to discover that the globalization of wine and globalized tastes might afford them a space in the market to sell their wonderful wines for the high prices they demand. They’ve got a long way to go but our experience on the ground there seemed to indicate that they are working together toward a shared goal of launching the Ramandolo “brand” on the international market. With such small production and such a tightly knit small community of winemakers, their solidarity is surely the only path toward that objective. I hope they make it because the wines can be stunning.

Tasted any great Ramandolo lately? I have…


Tracie P’s amazing pot stickers

February 21, 2011

Anyone who has had the good fortune to dine in the home of Michele and Charles Scicolone has heard the ritornello before.

“I am truly blessed,” says Charles when asked what it is like to live with one of the first ladies of Italian cuisine in the U.S. today, author and Italian food authority, the lovely Michele, one of the best cooks I’ve ever met.

I couldn’t help but borrow Charles’s mantra last night at dinner, when I tasted Tracie P’s pot stickers, stuffed with minced pork, scallions, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, and Napa cabbage.

They were unbelievably delicious… The dough was light in body but rich in flavor (imparted from the filling) and the filling maintained its integrity and cohesive texture when you bit into the dumplings after dunking in the soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sugar dipping sauce.

It’s been so great to relax at home with my beloved Tracie P… sitting around in our PJs until noon, cooking, and eating… and just hanging out… I love her so much and she’s SO good to me…

Lot’s more to say about the last Italy trip, with many more posts to follow… but for the time being, I just want to relive those pot stickers and a bottle of Taittinger NV La Francaise one more time… aaaaaaa…


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