Can you be Cannubi? A great post on how the subzone designations are applied in Barolo Cannubi

best barolo cannubiPosting from the road today in Boulder, Colorado, where I spoke at an in-store Franciacorta tasting yesterday at the Boulder Wine Merchant and where I’ll be leading a formal seminar and tasting of 11 Franciacorta wines today for trade and consumers.

But I just had to share this post by my new client in Piedmont, Tenuta Carretta: “The importance of being Cannubi (and its subzones).”

In it, the winery’s CEO (and my friend) Giovanni Minetti shares his insights into why it is virtually impossible to determine how many bottles of Cannubi and subzone-designated Cannubi are produced each year.

Alfonso had written a fantastic post on this very subject a few months back and now we’ve published Giovanni’s take on the situation.

Giovanni is a former president of the Barolo consortium and you might be surprised at what he had to share and say about the situation (one of the most hotly debated issues in Barolo today).

It’s a must-read for anyone trying to wrap their mind around Cannubi.

Check it out here.

I am a man who goes into women’s bathrooms in Houston

houston equal rights amendmentAbove: at the airport in San Diego, the city where I grew up, there are three options at each bathroom station — one for people who identify as men, another for people who identify as women, and one for people who identify as transgender.

I identify as a man. I live in Houston and identify as a Houstonian. And I regularly use women’s bathrooms.

Yes, that’s right, I regularly use women’s bathrooms in Houston, my adoptive city and the city where voters yesterday rejected a city ordinance that would have allowed — among other things — for trans- and pan-gender persons to use the bathroom of their choice.

The 2014 Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, or HERO as it is known, was repealed by voters in Houston yesterday. I am one of those voters (my wife and I early-voted a week ago Monday) and I can now be thrown out of women’s bathrooms by restaurateurs and office building doorpeople and superintendents etc. 

Mostly I use women’s bathrooms in Houston when I visit restaurants. There is a good reason for that.

Actually there are two good reasons for that: Georgia P (nearly age 4) and Lila Jane (age 2), our daughters, can’t yet “go to the potty” by themselves.

So when we eat in restaurants after our Saturday and Sunday visits to the zoo, NASA (the “real astronauts” as it is known in the Parzen familiar lexicon), or the Natural Science Museum (the “dinosaurs” and “butterflies”), I often take both of them into women’s bathrooms for Georgia P to go tee-tee (she’s potty trained) or to change Lila Jane’s diaper.

Generally, the women I meet in Houston bathrooms are very sweet to us and greet us with a smile. As a matter of fact, ever since we moved to Houston a year and a half ago and ever since Georgia P potty trained and she began using the “big girl” potty, no one has ever complained about us using the women’s bathroom. But, evidently, that’s no longer kosher in the city where we live.

I’ve also taken the girls into men’s rooms. But now, without the protection of HERO, we could be thrown out of those, too!

I’m not sure where the new state of equal rights leaves us. Squatting behind our minivan in the parking lot? Occasionally, I need to go to the bathroom when I’m out with the girls, too. They really don’t (self) identify as anything at this point but I know that other Houstonians identify them as females. I can only imagine what people are going to think when they see me urinating on the street because I can’t take them into the men’s room and they can’t be accompanied by me in the women’s room now.

I’m sure that most Houston restaurateurs won’t mind when I take them into the women’s room or they come with me into the men’s room.

I guess at this point our girls and I will just have to take our chances…

Will “big” marijuana go the way of “big” wine?

This just in:

Please have a look at Alfonso’s provocative post on Franciacorta here.

Details for my Franciacorta tastings this week in Boulder (Weds. and Thurs.) here.

marijuana ohio ballotImage by Ryan Williams Photography.

When I read this New York Times article about a ballot measure in Ohio that would create a marijuana growing monopoly, it hit me like a brick of weed: will “big” marijuana in the U.S. go the way of “big” wine?

In the era following the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, the U.S. federal government basically told states that they could decide internally how they wanted to regulate the production, distribution, and sale of wine and alcohol.

Intended to hamper monopolistic and unfair business practices in our country, the Interstate Commerce Act (1887) would continue to apply to nearly every other commercial category. But alcohol would remain a matter for states to decide.

As a result, every state of the union has its own laws regulating the distribution and sale of alcohol.

More than 80 years after the end of Prohibition, this anti-system had led to the rise of virtual monopolies in many states. Just last month, a new merger of family-owned wine distribution companies in the U.S. created yet another behemoth among behemoths of wine sales. According to Tom Wark, a California-based marketer and wine blogger who has devoted much of his career to battling the forces of “big” wine in this country, “five companies (families) [now] control well over 50% of the alcohol box moving business in the United States.”

Today, as I write this, voters in Ohio are deciding whether or not to pass an amendment that was “bankrolled by wealthy investors [who have spent] nearly $25 million to put it on the ballot and sell it to voters. If it passes, they will have exclusive rights to growing commercial marijuana in Ohio” (New York Times).

The parallels are uncanny.

As more and more recreational marijuana comes online in this country, the wine and spirits industry has been paying close attention.

In September of this year, Republic National Distributing Company, one of the biggest distributors in the U.S., published a report on marijuana’s effect on wine sales in Colorado (recreational marijuana became legal there on January 1, 2014).

According to the author of the study, marijuana sales have had a positive effect on wine sales.

Republic (as it is known in the trade) isn’t the only “big” wine company to look carefully at marijuana sales. I know of least one other major U.S. wine and spirits distributor who has received state funding for marijuana sales feasibility studies (you might be surprised by the state government that funded the research but that’s a story for another day).

Currently, marijuana is completely legal in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington. Today, Ohio could become the fifth state to legalize marijuana and at least six other states — including California — are considering legislative paths to legalization.

However you feel about the issue, there’s no getting around the fact that marijuana prohibition is rapidly coming to an end in our country.

When Prohibition was repealed in 1933, Americans were still a long way from the current fine wine culture.

During Prohibition, wine and spirits were produced and sold legally in the U.S. as tonics, in other words, medicine — another uncanny parallel with historic marijuana in this country.

In the more than 80 years since the end of Prohibition, the wine and spirits industry has grown into a major force in the luxury product industry. It’s possible — and in my view likely — that marijuana will follow the same path.

Will “big” wine be the model for “big” weed? We’ll see…

Costa di Bussia, a sleeper Barolo and a child-of-a-lesser-god Barbera

costa di bussia baroloNearly every week, I get an email from an importer, export manager, or publicist asking me if I can meet and taste with a traveling sales rep from Italy who will be visiting Texas. I try to accommodate as many as I can when my schedule aligns with the rep’s and I always try to post my notes somewhere.

After all, even though there are those who have proclaimed that wine blogging is dead, the rest of us regular punters continue to slog through the workaday toil of posting our tasting notes.

In the spirit of such resilience, I’m happy to report that the 2010 Barolo by Costa di Bussia (above, rigth) was showing gorgeously the other night when I tasted it with a rep who insisted that we meet at 10 p.m. (because that was the only time convenient for him).

Honestly, I’d never tasted the wines before and was super geeked to discover that they were old-school (almost) all-the-way.

Costa di Bussia (literally, Bussia slope) lies, as you can probably imagine, in Monforte d’Alba, a literal stone’s throw from Aldo Conterno’s famous rows in Bussia (which is pronounced boos-SEE-ah, btw). This is Serravallian Nebbiolo, austere and umami-driven.

The wines are aged in large-format cask: this is the Nebbiolo that I’m looking for, in part because the earthy style appeals to me; in part because at around $50 a bottle (at least according to what I can see on makes the wine accessible to me.

The wine is very young and still very tight but I thought it was great and it will make for a fantastic wine to enjoy readily in another five years or so.

The Barolo was a winner in my book but the traditional-style Barbera was a champion. This is the Barbera that Tracie P and I crave: zinging acidity, brilliant fruit, restrained alcohol. I really, really loved this wine and although I can’t find any pricing on it, I image that it weighs in for less than $25 — ideal for a Saturday night wine at our house (at around $50, the Barolo is a nicely priced special occasion wine at the Parzen household).

The only disappointment was the winery’s “important” Barbera, which, as you can imagine, is aged in barriques. It’s perfectly understandable that wineries like this continue to make “modern” style, “big” Barbera. After all, many fat markets, like the U.S. and Germany, for example, love these wines. Very well made wine and very focused in terms of its raisin d’être (excuse the pun). But not for me. These wines, with their restrained acidity, always taste flat to me and lack in varietal expression. But I can see the appeal for drinkers and the allure for producers.

Whenever a rep tells me that this is our “important” Barbera, it makes me think that the “other” Barbera must be a child of a lesser god. Almost invariably, I like the “unimportant” wine more.

So there you have it. Another wine blog post by a lesser, average punter wine blogger who happens to like logging, slogging, and sharing his tasting notes.

The good, bad, and the cute: Parzen family update

the-refBetween travel, Tracie P’s birthday, and the myriad wines we’ve tasted this month, I realized that I haven’t posted about our girls in a while. So I wanted to share these photos here.

They see their mommy and daddy suit up (whenever we can) to go running and Georgia P expressed an interest in “exercise.” So a few weekends ago we went and got them their now beloved soccer balls.

We’ve started kicking them around when we go out for walks and in our front yard. Although Georgia P (above, left) sometimes seems more interested in her referee’s whistle and Lila Jane (right) in her accessories.

georgia lawn chairAside from the storms last weekend, the weather has been really nice in Houston. That’s Georgia P (above) in the backyard of the house we rent here in Westbury in the southwest corner of the city.

She’s been enjoying her pre-school where she attends three days a week.

Next week she’ll be getting her new ballet shoes and starting her first ballet class (and she doesn’t know this yet but we’re taking them to see their first Nutcracker in December; Houston has an awesome ballet, btw).

Just look at those long dancer’s legs! She’ll be four in December.

lila jane voteLila Jane started her first year of pre-school this fall. She goes two days a week.

It seems that she has a language explosion nearly every single day and her vocabulary and the clarity of her enunciation have been really impressive (at least from the perspective of her adoring parents!).

She turned two in July. That’s her outside our early polling station (where her mommy and daddy voted). She just loves that soccer ball.

butterfliesOne of our favorite things to do on weekends is to visit the Cockerell Butterfly Center at Houston’s Natural Science Museum.

Walking through the “tropical rain forest” atrium with them is a truly magical experience and they love to pretend to be butterflies and bees when we reach the honeycomb landscape at the end of the exhibit.

They’re both going to be butterflies for Halloween tomorrow (unless they change their minds and decide to be Elsa and Anna, although Lila Jane has toyed with the idea of being Wonder Woman).

Both girls are so sweet and they bring so much joy into our lives.

Thanks for letting me share them with you here. Have a great (and safe) Halloween weekend!

Bitter pills: a note on recent coverage of Franciacorta by Alice and Walter

From the department of “all views expressed here are my own”…

walter speller franciacortaAbove: Lake Iseo in the heart of Franciacorta (Brescia province, Lombardy).

As a freelance contractor working for the Franciacorta consortium and as the author of its English-language blog, it would have been counterproductive for me to ignore recently published coverage of the appellation by two high-profile wine writers who leveled stinging criticism at its members.

It wasn’t easy for me to write a post about their articles. But my silence would have run counter to the spirit of my work.


When the Franciacorta Consortium first asked me to take on this year-long project, I decided to call it “Franciacorta: The Real Story.”

I was so tired of seeing so much misinformed coverage of the appellation and the wines that I set out to tell the real story of the place, the people, and the wines as I have come to know them over the seven years since my first trip to Franciacorta in September 2008.

With the title “real story” comes the obligation and the responsibility to tell the whole story.

Click here to continue reading…


Drink what Tracie P and I will be drinking for Thanksgiving this year.crivelli ruche castagnole monferratoAbove: the Crivelli Ruché (different vintage) is one of the wines I selected for this year’s holiday six-pack. Italian wine lovers will geek out on it and the non-Italophilic folks will be surprised by its freshness and unique character. Such a great wine.

Do Bianchi Holiday Six-Pack 2015

Struzziero 2014 Falanghina (white)
Nanfro 2013 Insolia (white)
Caprari NV Lambrusco Colcer (red sparkling)
Carbone 2011 Aglianico del Vulture (red)
Crivelli 2014 Ruché (red)
Camossi NV Franciacorta Rosé (rosé sparkling)

$130 (including tax) plus shipping & handling
($22 average bottle price)


Wines will ship via FedEx on Monday of next week,
in plenty of time for delivery before the holiday.

California residents only.

I regret that I no longer accept AMEX.
But you can pay by Visa, MC, check (preferred) or Chase QuickPay.

Struzziero 2014 Falanghina

As always, I conceive and list the wines in my recommended pouring order as if for a dinner party for six persons. I’ve been loving everything I’ve tasted this year from the Struzziero winery in Taurasi and this Falanghina is fresh and bright in the glass, a perfect wine to get things started. My favorite pairings for this would be real buffalo-milk mozzarella (a classic) and olive-oil cured raw anchovies (my mouth just watered as I wrote this). One-word tasting note: sexy.
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“We are here to serve the place”: Jean-Charles le Bault on the legacy of Corton-Charlemange

jeremy parzen wine blog“We are here to serve the place,” said winemaker Jean-Charles le Bault of Bonneau du Martray (above, far right) at a sold-out dinner celebrating his wines at Frasca on Saturday night.

On Sunday morning, before a sold-out crowd of more than 80 people at the Boulder Burgundy Festival, he talked at length about how he sees himself as just one the many “stewards” of Corton-Charlemagne, a cru and a hill that produces one of Burgundy’s most coveted wines.

He’s just one chapter, he explained, in a legacy that spans more than 1,200 years.

“I am just a small part” of the story, he told the rapt audience who tasted seven vintages of the wine: 2013, 2011, 2009, 2007, 2005, 2003, and 2001.

burgundy best bookWhat a thrill for me to share the podium with Jean-Charles (the sweetest man!) and friends and colleagues Ray Isle and Paul Wasserman!

In coming days, I’ll be posting notes from all the tastings and events (including the seminar with Jean-Charles) over on the festival blog.

Right now, Tracie P and I are just catching our breath and catching up with our girls, whom we’ve missed terribly over the long weekend.

Today’s a day for butterfly wings, tutus, and crayons… Corton-Charlemange will just have to wait.

best wine burgundy

Tracie P, beautiful wife and life partner, I love you…

jeremy parzen wife blogTracie P, you looked so lovely last night when we sat down for the Bonneau du Martray wine dinner at Frasca in Boulder (one of our favorite restaurants in the country).

At the end of a spectacular meal, I said to winemaker Jean-Charles le Bault that the only thing more wonderful than tasting a vertical flight of his Corton-Charlemagne was watching my wife enjoy the wines and sharing them with her.

One of the wines last night was the 2008. This morning, when I awoke next to you with the best kind of hangover (yes, there is such a hangover, as I’ve discovered since I met you), I thought about how that wine was harvested the same year that we met and came together.

best burgundy wine valueSo much has happened, has changed in our lives since you and I first commented on each other’s blogs back in the summer of 2008.

Our e-mance, our long-distance relationship, my move to Texas, our engagement, our marriage, our beautiful daughters, our business…

What a lucky and blessed man I am! I couldn’t have asked for more loving, gentle, and beautiful partner in life and in love.

At every step of the way, you have believed in me and supported me in my aspirations, hopes, and dreams as we have built a life and family together.

This long weekend at the Boulder Burgundy Festival marks the longest period (four nights) we’ve been away from our girls and alone together the way we were before they came into our lives.

It’s been fantastic to get away with you and to watch you draw that precious wine to your lips.

I love you…

Hubert Lignier 2000 Clos de la Roche, wow what a wine!

richebourgWhat a thrill for me to get to taste the above flight of “old and rare” Burgundy that Master Sommelier Jay Fletcher had selected from the Guild of Sommeliers for the Boulder Burgundy Festival 2015! Check out the wines and the vintages in the image below.

Even with such an embarrassment of riches, I still had some favorites in the line up: the Hubert Lignier 2000 Clos de la Roche and its layers of fruit and spice really blew me away.

Not much time to post this morning as I head out to yet another day of tastings and meals. Today starts with a “Paulée-inspired” lunch at the Flagstaff House and ends with dinner at Frasca and a vertical of Bonneau du Martray.

Stay tuned…

jay fletcher master sommelier aspen