A letter to my daughters on my 48th birthday

new binocularsGeorgia P and Lila Jane, my sweet girls.

Today is my forty-eighth birthday.

I wish I were at home with you today to celebrate. But I’m traveling for work this week in California, where I grew up and went to school. We’ll celebrate together when I get back.

It’s so incredible to think about how much the world has changed from the time I was your age until now.

When I was your ages, we had rotary-dial telephones, vinyl record players, and televisions.

Today, we watch music videos of astronauts on the International Space Station and listen to our favorite songs on high-resolution smart phones that are thinner than a chocolate bar.

The first astronauts to reach the moon landed there when I was about Lila Jane’s age and 8-track tapes hadn’t even been invented yet!

The world has changed a lot in the nearly half a century since I was born.

And today, even in the short time since mommy gave birth to you, the world continues to change at breakneck speed.

Over the last few weeks alone, our family has witnessed some remarkable cultural and social milestones in our country that neither mommy nor I could have even imagined when we first met each other in 2008.

Affordable health care for the less fortunate among us; marriage equality that will help bolster family life and remove a stigma from many of our sisters and brothers; and a new dialogue on racism in our country that — mommy and I hope — will make our country a much better place to live for all people.

I’m more proud of being an American than I ever have been. You are Americans, too. And I’m glad that you two are growing up in a world more tolerant than the one that mommy and I grew up in.

Our family and our life together make me think a lot about how the world has changed and how it is changing every day.

You are changing and growing, too: every day you surprise mommy and me with new vocabulary, new games you like to play, and puzzles you solve. And every weekend, when we play music and sing in my office, you amaze me with how quickly you learn new melodies.

But more than anything else, you both amaze mommy and me with your sweetness and your empathy. We’ve seen both of you take care of one another when you’re hurt or sad. And we love the sweet kisses, caresses, and pats on the back that you give us to show us that you love us.

Today, I’m forty-eight years old and I couldn’t be more proud to be your father. You fill our lives with light and joy and I can truly say that these years, since you were born, have been the very best of my life. I never could have imagined the change that you would have brought into our lives. And every day, I know I am blessed to be here with you and mommy.

Thank you for the best birthday I’ve ever had, sweet girls. Thank you. I love you.

Daddy

binoculars for kids

Taste Liguria and Franciacorta with me next week in California

best ligurian winesMy series of Franciacorta Real Story tastings continues next week in California with events in San Francisco (Weds.), Los Angeles (Fri.), and San Diego (Sat.), including a consumer Franciacorta tasting at Jaynes Gastropub in San Diego (see details below).

And on Monday night, I will also be pouring and speaking about Ligurian wines at Sotto, where I curate the wine list (see flier above).

Looking forward to tasting Franciacorta and Liguria with you next week!

LIGURIAN DINNER AT SOTTO MONDAY

The Sotto dinner is part of the restaurants ongoing “Sopra” series, where Chef Steve and guest chefs venture beyond Southern Italian cuisine. It should be a fantastic dinner. Check out the menu here.

FRANCIACORTA REAL STORY TASTINGS

PLEASE NOTE THAT JAYNES GASTROPUB HAS ADDED A CONSUMER TASTING TO THE FRANCIACORTA EVENT ON SATURDAY WITH FOOD PAIRINGS CREATED ESPECIALLY BY JAYNE AND HER TEAM IN THE KITCHEN.

To RSVP for any of the Franciacorta trade events,
please shoot me an email by clicking here.

San Francisco
St. Vincent
Wednesday, July 15
11 a.m.

Los Angeles
Sotto
Friday, July 17
11 a.m.

San Diego
Jaynes Gastropub
Saturday, July 18
2 p.m. TRADE
3 p.m. CONSUMER

jaynes gastropub san diego

A story about the old The Ten Bells and the best thing I ate in NYC

best organic prosecco“The problem [at The Ten Bells] is not the list,” wrote one natural wine advocate on my Facebook yesterday. While my bartender was not very helpful when I visited this week, I did drink this groovy, crunchy, organic, and undisgorged Prosecco. I liked it a lot.

Over on my Facebook, a lot of people commented on my post about a disappointing experience that I had this week at The Ten Bells.

Most agreed that The Ten Bells isn’t what it used to be. And many natural wine advocates encouraged me to revisit it. One guy told me to kill myself (for real; I blocked him).

In the wake of all the comments and the many wine professionals who bemoaned the service but praised the list there, I wanted to share a story from my own experiences there over the years.

The Ten Bells opened the last year I lived in New York, 2007. And I immediately became a fan. And even after I left New York (after living there for ten years), The Ten Bells became my number-one go-to when visiting. I loved the place. I loved the ex-owner Fifi. I loved the anti-Beaujolais nouveau festival. I loved the pâté (which was superb with the Beaujolais). I went there for business, I went there for pleasure.

One time when I visited, I sat down at the bar and asked the bartender if he had any Maule Garganega, which I had drunk there before.

He said that no, he didn’t have any at the moment.

“I’m so bummed!” I told him. “I was so looking forward to pairing some oysters with that wine. I love it so much.”

He looked me in the eye.

“Anyone who loves Maule and oysters so much needs to have some,” he said smiling broadly.

“I actually have one bottle of Maule. Let me get it for you.”

And he didn’t charge me for the oysters or the wine.

Not long after that, back in California (where I was trying to figure out what the next chapter of my life would be; this was before I met Tracie P), a good friend and natural wine lover asked me for New York City recommendations.

I told him to go to The Ten Bells and order Maule and oysters.

When he returned to California, he told me that not only had he sat down at the bar and ordered Maule and oysters, but the bartender had refused to charge him.

My friend recounted that “the guy at the bar said, ‘Anyone who loves Maule and oysters so much needs to have some. It’s on me.'”

It’s unbelievable. But it’s 100 percent true. I swear.

I don’t know that bartender’s name but I can see him in my mind’s eye.

And I will revisit The Ten Bells when I come back to the city this fall.

In other news…

clams black bean sauce recipeThose are cherrystone clams with black beans at Fuleen Seafood in Chinatown, where I had dinner with some of my best friends in the wine trade last night.

What a great dinner! That’s the duck below.

As much as I loved the pasta at I Trulli and the burger at the bar at Keens Steakhouse, last night’s was the best meal of the trip.

Now it’s time to get my butt back to Texas where there are three ladies that I need to squeeze tightly, tightly, tightly…

peking duck recipe

Oaky and buttery Chardonnay at The Ten Bells? WTF? And in good news, a groovy new Italian beer importer

the ten bells wine barAbove: the once awesome Ten Bells on the Lower Eastside, once a favorite wine bar, is now a graveyard for forgotten bottles of soulful natural wine.

When the mustachioed, tatted, pierced, and semi-Mohawked bartender at the Ten Bells wine bar on the Lower Eastside approached me yesterday as I sat at the bar during happy hour yesterday, I asked him about a by-the-carafe wine from a Provence estate called Domaine de la Patience.

“Do you mean the white or the rosé?” he asked me sullenly.

“I was wondering about the rosé but what’s the white like?” I said. “Is it by-the-carafe as well?”

“Do you like oaky, buttery Chardonnay?” he queried.

Nonplussed by his deadpan line of questioning, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud.

“You’re kidding, right?” I said as I began to realize that it wasn’t a joke. “Is it really ‘oaky and buttery’?”

“It is,” he answered, tersely by this point.

“May I please just have a glass of the Prosecco?” I solicited, hoping solely to appease him.

Domaine de la Patience, it turns out, is an estate imported to the U.S. by Jenny and François Selections, one of my favorite purveyors of organic and biodynamic wines from Europe.

I still haven’t tasted the wine but knowing the importer, I can’t imagine that it’s “oaky and buttery” or even remotely “Napa Chard” in style.

Has it come to this? The Manhattan restaurant and wine landscape continues to evolve rapidly. But did everyone’s favorite natural wine bar on the Lower Eastside have to sink to this level?

Maybe, as my friend Ed McCarthy (a favorite wine writer and one of the greatest tasters I’ve ever known), wrote on the Twitter: “He thought you were an oaky, buttery kind of guy, you know, the average clueless American.”

And in much better news…

natural italian beer importsYesterday, before I headed to the Ten Bells for a business meeting, I popped into the East Broadway Mall in Chinatown to taste the above flight of super groovy Italian beers with Chris Leo and his partner Laura Marchetti.

They’ve recently launched a new importing business called the Maritime Republic.

Super cool folks, super cool beers. Check it out…

Christie Brinkley, you ain’t got nothing on this Nebbiolo! An extraordinary flight of Langa wines…

Thank you to everyone who attended my Franciacorta Real Story tasting yesterday at I Trulli in Manhattan and thanks to owner Nicola Marzovilla and the restaurant staff for making it such a seamless event. Click here for information on my Franciacorta tastings to be held in SF (July 15), LA (July 17), and SD (July 18) next week…

67 good year italy vintage wineAbove: note how different the Giacosa label was in 1967.

In many ways, Robert Parker Jr.’s Wine Advocate “bulletin board” — originally launched in 2001! — gave us an early glimpse into how social media would reshape the wine connoisseur landscape and dialectic in the U.S. in this decade and the last.

One of the virtual communities that emerged from the board, which was closed in 2010, was a small band of Nebbiolophiles led informally by one of the most wonderful and generous persons I’ve ever met through wine social media, Ken Vastola, a computer and electric engineering professor by day and author of Fine Wine Geek, a blog devoted to chronicling his passion for the wines of Piedmont.

Yesterday, Ken and a handful of collector friends — Iggy, Ben, Mark, and Carl — treated me to an extraordinary flight of Nebbiolo over lunch at I Trulli (following my seminar and tasting).

That’s the Giacosa Barbaresco from 1967 (above), my birth year. It had passed its prime, all agreed, but it still had some life in it. I enjoyed it a lot and it’s always fun to have a birth year wine.

christie brinkleyAbove: the 1979 Giacosa Barolo Le Rocche di Castiglione Falletto (not to be confused with Giacosa’s Le Rocche di Falletto, a vineyard in Serralunga) was the top wine of the lunch. Man, what an incredibly pure and gorgeous expression of Langa viticulture! I was blown away by its clarity and vibrancy.

And it also inspired Ken to utter one of the most beautiful observations on the fine wine tasting experience that I’ve ever heard.

90 pora barbarescoAbove: the 1990 Barbaresco Pora by Produttori del Barbaresco. Dayenu! It would have been enough to taste just one of the wines in the flight. The 1990 Pora, at least in this instance, is probably at the peak of its evolution and expression. What a gorgeous wine!

As we tasted through the wines, Ken recalled a remarkable evening of tasting and scoring rare and old bottlings of Nebbiolo with a top Piedmont expert and other similarly minded collectors.

His fellows were surprised when he didn’t give his top ranking to a bottle of Giacomo Conterno’s Monfortino. Evidently, everyone else in the group felt it was the best wine of the night.

borgo del tiglioAbove: “Nebbiolo heads,” as Ken refers to his loosely knit band of tasters, can’t live by red alone. What a thrill for me to taste the 2010 Collio Studio Bianco by Borgo del Tiglio, one of my favorite producers! As it opened up in the glass, it revealed layers and layers of stone fruit and minerality. This will be such a great wine to revisit in 5-10 years imho.

“Think of a top model,” mused Ken yesterday as our meal came to a close, “like Christie Brinkley, for example.”

“Yes, it’s true,” he noted, objectively “Christie Brinkley may be more beautiful than my wife by some abstract standard. But I love my wife and she is the most beautiful woman in the world to me.”

The Monfortino, he remembered from that evening, “may have been a Christie Brinkley. But it wasn’t my favorite wine of the night.”

Ken’s brilliant and tender observation aphoristically unraveled one of fine wine’s most deep-seated conundra. Let me frame it using language borrowed from the field of symbolic logic: in a finite universe, is there a wine that is superior to all others?

lasagneThe housemade pastas at I Trulli were superb as always.

The answer is yes, of course, at least if you believe that the universe is finite.

But we mustn’t allow that quasi-mythical wine to elide the wines that we like best.

Ken and his cohorts have been so generous in sharing their wines with me. When I thanked the group yesterday, they all told me that they are always looking for an excuse to dig into their cellars and open some of their favorite wines.

I feel extremely fortunate that I’ve met such generous and gentle souls through wine social media. They taste wines of this caliber every month. I get to do it — mostly thanks to people like them — a couple of times of year.

Yesterday, Ken reminded me that the point isn’t to discover the “best” wine in any given flight.

The point, as he so eloquently put it, is to taste the wines together and to remember that our favorite wine — like the persons we love — may not be the best wine but rather the wine that we love best.

Maybe Robert Parker, Jr. was on to something with that bulletin board after all…

Thanks to Ken, Iggy, Ben, Mark, and Carl, for an unforgettable tasting. What a wonderful experience for me!

Taste Franciacorta with me TODAY in Manhattan (11 a.m at I Trulli on 27th)

jeremy goodThere is still room available at today’s 11 a.m.- 1 p.m. walk-around tasting at I Trulli on 27th St. (between Park and Lexington) in Manhattan.

Please join me if so inclined and taste 16 expressions of Franciacorta.

Information for today’s event and next week’s three tastings in California follows.

To RSVP for any and all of them, please shoot me an email by clicking here.

The tastings are open to all but I do need to get a rough headcount. So please do send me a message if you’d like to attend.

Looking forward to tasting Franciacorta with you!

New York
I Trulli
Monday, July 6
11 a.m.

San Francisco
St. Vincent
Wednesday, July 15
11 a.m.

Los Angeles
Sotto
Friday, July 17
11 a.m.

San Diego
Jaynes Gastropub
Saturday, July 18
2 p.m.

UPDATED: Franciacorta tastings begin next week! FREE to all…

panorama franciacorta medium sizeAbove: Franciacorta as seen from Mount Orfano in the southernmost tip of the appellation. Click the image for a high-res version (spectacular). In the image, you can see Lake Iseo slight to the left of center.

The response to my Franciacorta tastings in NYC, SF, LA, and San Diego has been fantastic. THANK YOU to everyone who will be coming out to taste and talk Franciacorta with me.

We’re expecting a healthy crowd at each of the events (below) but there is always room for more. So please feel free to share the invite and information with anyone you like (trade especially).

FYI: we have changed the time of the San Diego tasting from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

WE WILL BE TASTING MORE THAN 12 EXPRESSIONS OF FRANCIACORTA AT EACH OF THE GATHERINGS.

And I will give a short talk on the appellation, its history, and the people and places that make the wine before opening the walk-around event.

To RSVP for any and all of them, please shoot me an email by clicking here.

The tastings are open to all but I do need to get a rough headcount. So please do send me a message if you’d like to attend.

Looking forward to tasting Franciacorta with you!

New York
I Trulli
Monday, July 6
11 a.m.

San Francisco
St. Vincent
Wednesday, July 15
11 a.m.

Los Angeles
Sotto
Friday, July 17
11 a.m.

San Diego
Jaynes Gastropub
Saturday, July 18
11 a.m.
2 p.m.

(Big bold red) wine and the BBQ renaissance

best barbecue houstonAbove: beef and pork ribs were superb at Roegels Barbecue Co., one in the new wave of independent bbq joints in Houston.

A few weeks ago, Houston Chronicle barbecue columnist J.C. Reid (a good friend of ours) published a story, “Barbecue and wine: The final frontier,” about a recent visit to Napa where he was pleasantly surprised to find a solid and intelligent barbecue restaurant with a 400+ lot wine list.

The restaurant is called “Bounty Hunter Wine Bar & Smokin’ BBQ.” Almost sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it?

“The Bounty Hunter menu,” he wrote, “offers no less than five wine ‘flights’ or pairing combinations to go with the ‘Smokin’ BBQ Platter’ which features heaping portions of pulled pork, sliced brisket and pork ribs.”

(You can read his complete review here. And he regularly posts subscription-free links to his column on his personal blog. For my money, Chris — as he is known to friends — is the leading bbq writer in the country today and he often travels beyond Houston and Texas for his column.)

His story about Bounty Hunter, the growing interest in bbq across the U.S., and how it’s opened up a new dimension in wine pairing echoes something he wrote a few weeks earlier.

In “Have we reached peak barbecue?” he noted that “more than any other time in American history, barbecue — and specifically Texas barbecue — is truly a cultural phenomenon. And it’s not limited to the U.S. — as I’ve reported, Texas barbecue joints are opening in cities such as Paris, Berlin and Rome.”

“I’ve come to call this cultural and media frenzy over smoked meat ‘peak barbecue.'”

Over the last five years, I’m sure he would agree, Houston, a city previously not known for its bbq, has become one of the epicenters of the bbq renaissance. Today, smokers like Killen’s and Cork Screw in Houston regularly appear in “best bbq” listicles published throughout America.

denner dirt worshiperAbove: the smoky, bacon fat character of the Syrah in this wine by Denner worked well with the Roegels spread. This cult Paso Robles wine had nice acidity and restrained, elegant wood. I liked it. But at 15.6 percent alcohol (holy cow!), you couldn’t really call the wine balanced.

On Saturday, he invited us to an informal wine tasting at Roegels in Houston, one of the city’s latest entries in the new wave of bbq here. There were roughly 15 people in attendance and a handful (including me) brought wines to share.

When I saw the bottles lined up, it struck me: aside from a bottle of Champagne (that worked brilliantly with the meal), I was the only person who brought wines other than red (I brought a southern France rosé made from Mourvèdre, a macerated white from Campania, and a Negroamaro).

As Texas bbq culture continues to seep gush into gastronomic hegemony, it was only natural that wine-loving Americans would want to pair their favorite bottles with a new favorite cuisine.

And Americans still love big, bold red wine like the Denner, above.

denner wineryAbove: reading the back label for the Denner, it’s clear that the people who make it put a lot heart into delivering an outstanding expression of Syrah. At roughly $50 a pop, it’s indicative — in my view — of where American wine tastes continue to focus.

For many people, big and bold is the only way to go with bbq, a cuisine based on intense aromas and flavors (my clothes and hair smelled so strongly of smoke after we visited Roegels that I took a shower after we came home from our meal; not unusual when you visit a genuine bbq joint like Roegels, which I enjoyed immensely).

I always prefer leaner, lower-alcohol, and higher-acidity wines with bbq. I like the way they work as a counterpoint to the fattiness and heavy and often overwhelming flavor of the smoked meats. When I pair with bbq, I look for freshness and present but balanced fruit. Sparkling wine is ideal, I find, especially because of the generally judicious alcohol (the heavy saltiness of the Texas rub makes you thirsty and so you tend to drink more wine when eating bbq).

But as Saturday’s gathering reveled, my taste in this case falls outside today’s canon for pairing with Texas-style smoked meats.

The Bounty Hunter’s wine director likes to pair “Pinot” [Noir] from Napa and Zinfandel, wrote Chris in his review. When Tracie P and I packed up the kids on Saturday, there was still a half bottle left of the rosé I had brought.

Few bbq joints serve alcohol and many of them encourage byob. I remember a surprised manager at Cooper’s in the Texas Hill Country who said he’d never heard of anyone bringing a bottle of wine (as opposed to beer) to the restaurant.

“As long as it’s not whiskey,” he said, “I guess it’s okay.”

That was seven years ago, when I first moved to Texas.

On Sunday, the owners at Roegels didn’t even raise an eyebrow when patrons arrived with ice chests filled with expensive, big and bold California wine.

We sure have come a long way, baby. But we still have a long way to go…

Nicolas Joly and Angelo Gaja to face-off in “natural vs. unnatural wine” debate

angelo gaja barbarescoAbove: Piedmontese grape grower and winemaker Angeleo Gaja in New York in 2012.

Biodynamic pioneer Nicolas Joly and trailblazing winemaker Angelo Gaja are to face-off in a roundtable discussion entitled “Around the table with Natural Wine… and Unnatural Wine,” to be held on July 12 at the Italy pavilion of EXPO in Milan.

The event has been organized by gastronomic entrepreneur and Eataly founder Oscar Farinetti and it will also include spirits and natural wine importer and distributor Luca Gargano, Italian Federation of Independent Grape Growers co-founder Walter Massa, Merano Wine Festival founder Helmut Koecher, and enology professor Vincenzo Gerbi from the University of Turin.

A preview of the gathering was posted yesterday on the Italian food blog Cronache del Gusto.

More than two years after the editors of Gambero Rosso published a controversial op-ed by French wine writer Michel Bettane in which he railed against “an invasion of so-called ‘natural’ wines,” the debate over the merits of natural winemaking continues to command the attention of the Italian wine world.

But many Italian wine trade observers also seem to have grown tired of the discussion.

“I’d rather attend an evening gathering devoted to household cleaners,” wrote enologist and publisher Maurizio Gily on his Facebook today.

“Not only is this an idiotic debate,” opined Montalcino winemaker Stefano Cinelli Colombini in the comment thread to Gily’s post, “it’s outdated and stale. Wouldn’t it be better if there were a discussion of the real issues instead of terms and definitions?” he asked.