Boulder Burgundy Festival has begun! #BBF14

master sommeliers boulderWhat a thrill for me to get to sit in on the Guild of Sommeliers “Old and Rare” Burgundy tasting this morning, the first event of the Boulder Burgundy Festival, where I’m earning my keep as the event’s official blogger.

I’ve only had time to post a few photos and notes on the festival blog.

Check them out here… and stay tuned, more notes and images to follow tomorrow and throughout the weekend.

The first day alone has been entirely awesome, between the above-my-pay-grade wines and the lovely people I’ve met. More to follow tomorrow.

On my way to Burgundy via Boulder

robert bohr sommelierAbove: yep, I’ll be hanging with Robert Bohr and Raj Parr this weekend, drinking ridiculous Burgundy and munching on pizza at Bobby Stuckey and Lachlan Patterson’s Pizzeria Locale in Boulder this weekend.

It’s a tough job but someone has to do it… tomorrow I’ll be heading to Boulder, Colorado where I’ll be attending the fourth annual Boulder Burgundy Festival.

Back story: in spring 2014, Master Sommelier and owner of Boulder Wine Merchant Brett Zimmerman (one of the nicest people in the trade) asked me to blog for his shop and for the festival.

Italy is my signora but Burgundy is my mistress. While I’m often invited to taste rare Italy, I’m rarely asked to join in tastings of upper-tier Burgundy. So you can imagine how exciting this is for me.

Here’s the schedule of events/tastings.

But the thing I’m most looking forward to is getting to hang with the amazing cast of wine characters who will be in attendance.

The festival begins tomorrow and I’ll be posting throughout the weekend on the tastings and meals.

Thanks for being here and please stay tuned!

Produttori del Barbaresco 2005 Asili & Tracie P’s ragù for brother Tad

best barbaresco 2005 asiliIt’s not every day that we get to visit with my older brother Tad, who still lives in the same neighborhood in La Jolla, CA where we grew up.

So when we sat down to dinner last night with Tad and cousins Joanne and Marty, I pulled all the stops corks: Bele Casel Prosecco Colfòndo, Camossi Franciacorta rosé, Borgo del Tiglio 2011 Collio (blend), and Produttori del Barbaresco 2005 Barbaresco Asili.

The Asili, which I opened about 20 minutes before serving it (I did not decant), was rich and powerful in the glass, with dark red fruit becoming brighter and brighter as the wine aerated.

best ragu recipe meat sauce pastaThis wine has many years ahead of it but I was pleasantly surprised at how approachable it was after just ten minutes. And even in this warmer vintage for Barbaresco (one of the infamous “American” harvests from the aughts), the acidity in this wine was electric.

It paired beautifully with Tracie P’s ragù (above), which she served over rigatoni.

On a very chilly night in Houston, Asili and the bolognese filled the house with wonderful, cozy aromas.

brother tadThat’s brother Tad with Georgia P this morning after breakfast.

It was such a treat to have him here. He’s on his way to Austin later today and then to southern Texas for work (he’s an education expert and consultant).

And it was such a joy to watch him interact with the girls, who couldn’t quite figure out why he looks so much like their dad!

Thanks again, brother, for being here.

It meant the world to us. Travel safe…

Do Bianchi Thanksgiving Six-Pack 2014

I regret that the Thanksgiving 2014 Six-Pack is entirely sold out. Thanks, everyone, for your support!

If you’d like to join my mailing list for future Do Bianchi six-pack offerings, please click here (I’ll be doing another one mid-December for the Christmas holiday).

My Thanksgiving 2014 Six-Pack is almost sold out but there are still a few left. To order please just click the link below to email me.

Thanks for your support…

E buon weekend, yall!

Above: this year’s six-pack includes the 1999 Bonci Verdicchio, one of the most stunning wines I’ve tasted this year. Old white wine? It’s what makes our world go around at the Parzen household!

Bele Casel NV Prosecco Colfòndo
Bonci 1999 Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Le Case Riserva
Ronco del Gelso 2012 Isonzo Bianco Latimis
Caprari NV Lambrusco Reggiano Colcer
Fatalone 2005 Gioia del Colle Primitivo Riserva
Produttori di Carema 2009/2010 Nebbiolo Classico

$125 plus shipping & handling
($21 average bottle price)


Wines will ship via FedEx on Wednesday of next week
in 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 or Chase QuickPay.

Just as in years past, my Do Bianchi Thanksgiving Six-Pack offering is made up of wines that Tracie P and I actually drink ourselves.

I’m particularly excited about this year’s Thanksgiving offering because it includes a couple of wines “with some age on them.”

The 1999 Bonci Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, in particular, is one of the most stunning wines I’ve tasted this year and I managed to get it at a low enough price that I could include it here.

And just as in years past, the wines are ordered as I recommend serving them with your Thanksgiving meal. I put the 1999 Verdicchio at the beginning because I feel it should be served early, when palates are still fresh. It’s still youthful in its evolution but it’s also very light and nuanced. Try not to serve it too cold.

Thanks in advance for your support! And happy Thanksgiving! My notes on the wines follow…

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Thank you Franciacorta, thank you @SilvanoBrescian, thank you @TerraUomoCielo

vittorio fusariOver the last few years, Brescia and Franciacorta have become my home away from home in Italy.

That’s me (above, far right) with Ben Shapiro (with camera) nearly two weeks ago now, interviewing Chef Vittorio Fusari of the Dispensa Pani e Vini, a focal point for the appellation and the people who grow and make the wines.

Chef Vittorio, you are an inspiration to me in so many things and your cooking is as wholesome as it is thrilling each time I visit.

Sharing a glass of Franciacorta with you on my last day in Italy was a highlight of my trip. Thank you!

silvano brescianiniThat’s me with Silvano Brescianini, left, my friend and client, general manager of the Barone Pizzini-Pievalta winery group and vice president of the Franciacorta Consortium.

Silvano, thank you for your generosity and all that you’ve done for me. I love working with you.

And most of all, I admire and thank you for your pioneering work in organic and biodynamic viticulture.

I really and truly believe that you are making the world a better place for our children and Tracie P and I love your wines (the rosato in particular!).

nico danesiThat’s me with Franciacorta winemaker and consultant Nico Danesi, left, my friend and enologist behind some of my favorite expressions of Franciacorta.

Nico, thank you again for treating us to the extraordinary dinner at Lido 84. A few days after you took us there, I’m sure you already know, the restaurant was awarded its first Michelin star.

It was a great and thoughtful choice and we all enjoyed it merrily. I’m looking forward to when you come back to the U.S.

giovanni arcari franciacortaAnd that’s me with my bromance Giovanni Arcari, left.

Giovanni, what can I say? Our friendship has opened up a magical window into the wonderful world of Brescia and Franciacorta.

Your generous hospitality and your fierce loyalty mean more to me than I could ever express. You are part of our family’s life here in Texas, you know and love my children and my wife, and you are the best friend anyone could ever hope for.

I can’t wait to do a shot of whiskey with you in a Texas honky tonk and take a drive up the coast in California wine country listening to wistful Burt Bacharach.

Thank you, Franciacorta. I’ll be back soon…

Truffles like pennies from heaven paired with 04 Giacosa @TonyVallone

From the department of “nice work if you can get it”…

alba truffles best priceWhen a Texas wine colleague suggested that we have dinner at Tony’s last night, I knew it would be a great experience as always. But I had no idea that Tony — my dear friend and client — would treat us like pashas.

The truffles are so good this year: the rainy, cool summer in Langa (Piedmont) delivered a generous bounty.

When the waiter presented and remove the lid from the rice-lined truffle dome, it was as if a cartoon smoke hand gestured toward me saying, “come hither!”

I’ve had the great fortune over the years to taste Alba truffles on many occasions but this is definitely a stand-out crop, with powerful aromatic character and rich flavor.

Tony served them over a dish of homemade taglierini tossed in Parmigiano Reggiano.

And what better to pair them with than ten-year-old Giacosa Barolo Croera di La Morra (below), a wine from a great vintage when Bruno Giacosa was still working closely with Dante Scaglione. It showed beautifully imho and has many years ahead of it.

Tony, my goodness, thank you! You are too generous! That was one of the best meals of my year… unforgettable! Thank you!

giacosa 2004 white label barolo

Fantastic Roman ruins in Brescia, once a hub of the Empire

capitolium brescia brixiaI just had to share these photos of the fantastic Roman ruins at Brescia, which was once a major hub of the Empire.

That’s the Capitolium or Capitoline Temple, above. It was constructed under Vespasian (first century C.E.). It sits today on the city’s Via dei Musei or Museum Row. It’s part of a UNESCO Heritage designated site, “Longobards in Italy: Places of Power.”

Brescia is arguably more famous for its Longobard artifacts (which can be viewed in the superb Santa Giulia Museum there).

But its Roman ruins, including the Capitolium, Forum, and Theater, are considered northern Italy’s most important Roman archeological site.

roman inscriptions bresciaDuring my recent stay in Brescia, I had the great fortune to be led on a guided tour by my friend Laura Castelletti, the city’s deputy mayor and superintendent of culture.

Over the course of her tenure in city government, Laura has worked tirelessly to reopen the ruins to the public. It’s one of the achievements she’s most proud of, she told me.

That’s the lapidarium, above.

teatro romano theater brescia brixiaThat’s the theater, above.

Brescia isn’t always the first destination that comes to mind when planning a “grand tour” trip to Italy. But I highly encourage you to check it out next time you’re in that part of the country.

It’s a very easy city to navigate, medium in size, with a beautiful city center (the Via dei Musei lies on the northern edge of the historical center).

Check out the Brescia Museum Foundation website, which includes an excellent English-language version.

The NEW Chicken Asiago Taco! Available exclusively in Brescia

asiago grating cheeseAbove: I brought handmade tortillas, canned salsas, pickled jalapeños, and black beans with me on my recent trip to Italy. The quality of the photo reflects the brio of “taco night” at bromance Giovanni’s house in Brescia.

From a cultural perspective, Mexican and Italian cuisines have a lot in common. Both are “world” cuisines. In other words, they both represent gastronomic traditions that have traveled beyond their original borders and woven themselves into the fabric of cookery across the globe.

When I first moved to New York City in 1997, it was tough to find a decent taco there. But today, Mexican restaurants — high concept and fast food — are as ubiquitous as pizza by-the-slice.

Despite its popularity throughout the world, la cocina mexicana still hasn’t caught on in Italy, except for a spattering of low-quality pseudo-Mexican joints that cater to foreign students in university towns there.

With two trips to Texas and California under his belt, my bromance in Brescia Giovanni Arcari has had the opportunity to sample some of my favorite authentic Mexican as well as Tex Mex and Mission-style cookery.

So it was only natural that I would pack some handmade flour tortillas from Central Market in Austin, cans of my favorite commercial salsas (Herdez), pickled jalapeños, and black beans in my bag to share with my friends in Brescia where I stayed for five nights.

ferdinando principiano baroloAbove: what did we pair with our chicken Asiago tacos on a chilly night in Brescia? Giovanni’s Franciacorta and Ferdinando Principiano’s Barolo, of course!

For the taco filling, Giovanni griddle-fired chicken breasts and he sautéed some onions.

But because we didn’t have access to the appropriate queso, we decided to grate up some Asiago. And we were pleasantly surprised by how well it worked with the dish.

I couldn’t help but think of the “NEW Asiago Ranch Flatbread Grilled Chicken Sandwich” from Wendy’s fast food that I lampooned last year for one of my clients.

On hand to enjoy the new Chicken Asiago Taco were Brescia deputy mayor Laura Castelletti, who also serves as the superintendent of culture for the city, and sommelier, novelist, and journalist Adua Villa.

My time spent with Laura and Adua in Brescia was extraordinary and I have much to report on our conversations and visit.

But for now, I’ll merely reveal that Venezuelan-born Adua and I share a passion for la música ranchera and we ended the night listening, despite Giovanni’s protests, to multiple versions of “Canción Mixteca.”

What a night it was!