Jon Stewart’s “race sommeliers” & America’s sommelier saturation

Csaba Chubby OvegesAbove: Little Nell sommelier Csaba “Chubby” Oveges, who has achieved “advanced” standing in the Court of Master Sommeliers, was one of the wine professionals who volunteered to pour at the Boulder Burgundy Festival last month.

About five minutes into his monologue on Monday night, Jon Stewart was riffing on claims by certain talking heads that the current unrest in Ferguson, Missouri had been incited by “racial arsonists.”

You have your “your race grifters, your race counterfeiters, your race financial advisors,” he told his audience, and then quipped: “your race sommeliers. What’s wrong with a nice white?”

(Here’s the clip. The joke comes about five minutes in.)

Tracie P and I couldn’t help but reflect on how the term sommelier and the notion of fine wine service have become interwoven in the fabric of pop culture today (we’re fans of the show).

jay fletcher master sommelierAbove: Volnay producer Guillaume d’Angerville (left) and Master Sommelier Jay Fletcher, who was recently profiled by Aspen Peak magazine. Many current and aspiring Master Sommeliers cite Jay as a mentor.

One of the things that impressed me the most at the Boulder Burgundy Festival last month was a comment by Master Sommelier Jay Fletcher, who spoke at the event’s “Old and Rare” tasting, which featured wines from the cellar of the Guild of Sommeliers.

“This year,” he said, “the Court of Master Sommeliers has more than 600 applicants” who want to join its ranks. “We simply can’t handle the number of applications.”

Five years ago, he told me, the number of applicants was around 150.

I was reminded of this yesterday when a reader of my blog wrote me to say that she was sorry that she’d be missing a tasting in San Francisco where I’m pouring in a few weeks.

“I’ll be at the Montage in Laguna,” she wrote, “for [my] Court Certification test.”

Her message, I’m sure, was intended as much to express her regret as it was to update me on her progress in obtaining a coveted post-nominal.

Six years ago, when I moved to Texas, few could have envisioned the pervasive nature of this new fine wine culture and the saturation — as Jay observed — of wine professionals in our country.

Yes, the 2012 film “Somm” played a significant role in disseminating the archetype in American pop culture. But the wine professional tsunami was already in motion when it inspired the movie.

The fact that Stewart could so readily use the term sommelier and elicit a hardy laugh is a gauge of just how familiar the term — and concept — has become among Americans.

Now, whether or not Stewart’s joke was in good taste is another question — a question of taste for the sommeliers to decide.

Yesterday, I posted notes from the extraordinary D’Angerville seminar on the Boulder Burgundy Festival blog.

Taste with me Dec. 17 in San Francisco at one of my favorite wine shops @Biondivino

jeremy parzen hotdogAbove: no, we won’t be tasting any Chicago chardogs on December 17 in San Francisco but Biondivino owner Ceri Smith has a wonderful surprise pairing to go with the Bele Casel Prosecco Colfòndo that I’ll be pouring.

I’m thrilled to share the news that on Wednesday, December 17, I will be pouring Bele Casel Prosecco Colfòndo at one of my favorite wineshops in America, Ceri Smith’s Biondivino in San Francisco’s Fillmore District (Green at Polk).

I’ve known and admired Ceri for many years now: she’s one of our country’s leading experts on Italian wine and I have loved and enjoyed her selection of mostly Italians since we first met back in 2008.

She’s been a fan of one our favorite wineries and my client, Bele Casel, since it first came to this country. Bele Casel’s Prosecco Colfòndo — an undisgorged, metodo ancestrale, old-school Prosecco — is a wine that we pour by the glass at Sotto in Los Angeles (where I co-author the wine list), a wine that I regularly offer to my wine club, and a wine that Tracie P and I drink gladly in our home.

It’s salty and crunchy, wholesome and refreshing, and I’m entirely stoked to be sharing it with San Fransiscans week after next. Details follow… Hope to see you there!

Bele Casel Prosecco Colfòndo Tasting
Wednesday, December 17, 6-8 p.m.
Biondivino
1415 Green St
San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 673-2320
Google map

best prosecco san francisco

Scenes from the Boulder Burgundy Festival Grand Tasting

rajat parr burgundy wineAbove: super cool Rajat Parr (right) and his sales manager Natalie Vaclavik (from Texas!) poured Rajat’s Burgundy négociant project Maison L’Orée.

The wines at the Boulder Burgundy Festival Grand Tasting a week ago Sunday were off-the-charts in terms of quality, price, and exclusivity.

But that’s not what impressed me the most about the event.

Check out my post for the festival’s blog here.

I’ll be posting throughout the week on my experience there. Thanks for following!

A very special guest for Thanksgiving 2014 (and possibly the best pairing ever)

thanksgivingIt was a very special Thanksgiving for the Parzen family this year.

We celebrated the holiday in Tracie P’s hometown, Orange, Texas, on the Louisiana border, with all the traditional fixings.

Uncle Tim made the turkey: he added a can of orange juice concentrate to his brine, he told us, and the sweetness of the fruit juice added a nice zest to the meat, which was tender and moist throughout. It was one of the best un-split roast turkeys I’ve ever had (many gourmets will separate the breast from the dark meat to allow for different cooking times, thus ensuring a moist outcome).

barone pizziniFor the wine pairings, I brought along a couple of wines from my clients.

The Barone Pizzini 2008 Franciacorta Satèn was outstanding and I am now convinced that Franciacorta is the perfect wine for the Thanksgiving feast, with the meal’s wide range of aromas, flavors, saltiness, and sweet.

It was the rich fruit in this wine that really won me over as a pairing. As a Franciacorta big wig recently put it, Franciacorta is a wine first and a sparkling wine second. The wine’s “vinous” character just worked so well at the table, delivering white and stone fruit with the savory meat but also zinging acidity that held its own with Tracie P’s homemade cranberry sauce.

The other hit was Cantele’s 2009 big and bold Amativo.

Tracie’s dad Rev. B. loved its dark fruit character and structure and it worked great as a meditative wine to pair with Thanksgiving football (the Cowboys played, of course). Uncle Tim loved it so much that I sent him home with a bottle!

jeremy parzen familyBut the biggest treat this year was a visit from my mom, Grandma Judy.

She’s been out to Texas to spend time with the girls on many occasions. But this was the first time that Georgia P could really “connect” with her.

Georgia, who will be three years old in a few weeks, is chatting up a storm these days and she and her grandma spent some really wonderful time together, talking about favorite books and singing songs (Georgia now sings the entire score to the musical “Annie” — no joke).

Mom, I know all too well what a pain it is to travel these days and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you braving the journey to visit with us.

To hear Georgia P say, “Where are you, grandma? Let’s read a book!”, was sweet music to my ears.

In other news…

Check out Alfonso’s post on Amarone 101: “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Fruit-Bomb.”

Great post and great to hear people talking about Amarone.

In other other news…

Did you see that Joe Bastianich has published a new book in Italian, Giuseppino [Little Jospeh], co-written in Italian with one of Italy’s top food bloggers, Sara Porro (who is super cool and talented).

In it, he tells the story of “his return home” to Italy and talks about why he spends more time in Italy these days than in the U.S.

Many here don’t realize what a huge star he is in Italy. His role on the stateside “MasterChef” has made him a national attraction here as well. But in Italy, where “MasterChef” is one of the culinary-minded country’s most popular shows ever, he is a megawatt celebrity.

Happy Thanksgiving from the Parzen Family & wishes, thoughts & prayers for Ferguson

jeremy parzen wifeHappy Thanksgiving from the Parzen Family.

This year has been one of the highest highs and the lowest lows.

I flew back to Houston yesterday afternoon from Boulder where I attended the Boulder Burgundy Festival and mingled with leading wine professionals, winemakers, and wine scene glitterati.

After Tracie P and I put the girls to bed, she made me a wonderful risotto alla parmigiana and we opened a bottle of our favorite Fiano d’Avellino.

She was eager to hear about the festival but we were both riveted by the unfolding events in Ferguson, Missouri.

I hadn’t even been born, I thought to myself, when the Watts Riots in Los Angeles gripped the nation’s attention.

Here we are, I said to Tracie, nearly fifty years later, and it doesn’t seem like we’ve come far.

Grandma Judy is coming to Texas from La Jolla today and we’ll be heading to Orange, Texas to celebrate the holiday with Rev. and Mrs. B. and the Branch-Johnson families.

We have so much to be thankful for this year: health, prosperity, and the good fortune to experience some of the greatest pleasures in life through wine and food.

But this weekend, the folks in Ferguson will be on our minds and in our hearts and prayers.

Thanks for being here. I’ll see you next week…

Understanding EU restrictions on internet marketing for wine & FIVI’s call for civil disobedience

monforte alba barolo langhe piemonteAbove: Monforte d’Alba is a village in the “Barolo” appellation. It lies in the “Langhe” hills of the “Piemonte” region. EU regulations restrict a Monforte-based producer of Barolo from mentioning “Langhe” or “Piemonte” in online and other marketing materials because of a perceived conflict with the “Langhe” and “Piemonte” appellations.

This morning, a client asked me to post on the brewing controversy in Italy over the EU’s restrictive regulation of regional references in internet marketing and other promotional media.

The story’s not exactly news: it first came to light in early October when FIVI, the Italian Federation of Independent Grape Growers, called for civil disobedience in the face of the restrictions.

But when Slow Food founder and activist Carlo Petrini published an online op-ed on the controversy on Friday, the story was picked up by English-language media.

Read my report here.

Op-Ed: the Venice roller suitcase ban & why it makes sense

best hotel venice grand canalWriting in a hurry this morning as I head out of Boulder on my way back to Texas.

But I did find time to post my op-ed about the Venice roller suitcase ban and why it makes sense over on the Bele Casel blog.

It’s been an incredible weekend here at the Boulder Burgundy Festival. I’ll be posting more images and notes after the Thanksgiving holiday.

Thanks for being here and please stay tuned…

O dem crazy sommeliers: a quick recap of yesterday’s lunch at Flagtaff House, Boulder #BBF14

better scallopIt’s been quite a ride and it ain’t over yet.

The dish above was the pairing for the Chardonnay that was poured so liberally yesterday at the amazing Flagstaff House.

I’m on my way to the “Chablis Brunch” at the über-hip Kitchen in Boulder. But I still managed to get a post up on the Boulder Burgundy Festival blog, despite a late night with the festival’s volunteer sommeliers at Pizzeria Local.

How many Master Sommeliers are here? I’ve lost count.

Check out my post today on yesterday’s “Paulée-inspired” lunch at Flagstaff House (incredible!) and stay tuned for more.

Notes from the @GuildSomm “Old & Rare” tasting, Boulder Burgundy Festival

master sommelier boulder coloradoHere are my personal highlight wines that were poured at the phenomenal “Old & Rare” tasting by the Guild of Sommeliers yesterday:

Domaine Jean Collet 2004 Chablis Valmur Grand Cru
Domaine Paul Pernot 1998 Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru
Louis Jadot 1990 Chapelle-Chambertin Grand Cru

I’ve just posted notes from the tasting over on the Boulder Burgundy Festival blog.

I’m about to head out for the “Paulée-inspired lunch” at the Flagstaff House.

Holy shit, right?

Stay tuned…