96 Giacosa Rabajà, 90 Struzziero Taurasi, 82 Antinori Chianti Classico, holy crap

From the department of “that’s what friends are for”…

Lots of good folks came out last night to share well wishes and good thoughts on my last visit to Los Angeles and Sotto for the year.

Schachter pulled out all the stops, reaching deep into his cellar for his last bottle of 1996 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Rabajà (white label) — honestly one of the best bottle of wine I’ve ever had. True to the legacy of the Rabajà cru, this mighty wine — from what many believe to be the greatest vintage of that decade — delivered aromas of mint and tar and earthy, savory flavors before revealing delicate, sublime fruit…

Keep smiling, keep shining, knowing you can always count on me, for sure.

Later in the evening, Anthony, Lars (who was in from Chicago), and Dan came in for a late-night dinner at the end of my shift.

Dan brought a number of incredible bottles, including the 1990 Taurasi Riserva by Struzziero (classic blended Aglianico with no vineyard designation). I’d only ever tasted Struzziero back to 1993 (which we have on the list at Sotto) and I was blown away by the elegance and the balance of this wine, still so fresh and with the vibrant acidity that traditional Aglianico can deliver. Another best-ever wine, with gorgeous ripe red fruit and an ethereal earthiness that prompted Lars and me to call this top wine in the flight.

And now there’s so much more I see, And so by the way I thank you.

Although no show-stopper like the Struzziero Taurasi, the 1982 Chianti Classico Riserva by Antinori was fantastic — a wine, we all agreed, from a time before America, California, and Parker, a wine from a time when Antinori still made wine. Classic Sangiovese, with impressive acidity for a wine this old and delicious plum and red stone fruit flavor. It was a fantastic pairing for the sous-vide Wagyū tongue that chef Steve sent over to our table. Loved this wine and the now forgotten era of Tuscan winemaking for which it spoke to me.

My goodness… From my baby shower to all the hugs that the staff gave me before we said good-bye, from the camaraderie, solidarity, and thrilling wines to the wishes that our friends shared with me on this last trip to Los Angeles… I know that I never would have emerged from the darkness of my life before to reach this magical, blessed moment… what a year it’s been… someday I’ll tell Baby P all about it…

Oh and then for the times when we’re apart, well then close your eyes and know, the words are coming from my heart.

Giacosa 1999 Barbaresco (classic) and a gig tonight

From the department of “somehow, someway, I get to taste funky ass wines like every single day”…

Comrades Howard and Mary Beth came to visit me on Saturday night at Sotto in Los Angeles, where I was “pouring wine on the floor,” as we say in the wine trade.

Comrade Howard graciously and generously shared the above bottle of 1999 (classic) Barbaresco by Bruno Giacosa. (Howard was elected vice president of the Writers Guild of America last week, btw. Mazel tov, comrade!)

Great Barbaresco always inspires equine metaphors in me and this wine, powerful and muscular, asserted a masculine beauty tempered by feminine grace, a young mare whose strength was still countered by its youth.

Earth and stone dominated the fruit as the wine began to reveal its nature but dark and red fruit emerged as the wine spent some time in the glass.

Barbaresco by the hand of Giacosa never fails to invoke equine wonder in those of us lucky to experience the wines and his 1999 vintage continues to thrill me, often rivaling the perhaps more graceful 2001 with a combination of power and to kalon.

Thank you again, comrades! Avanti popolo!

In other news… All work and no play would make me an otherwise dull boy…

My friends at Jaynes Gastropub have asked me to sit in with them at tonight’s battle of the Chef Bands 2011 in San Diego. The charity event supports domestic violence awareness and takes place tonight. The Grapes (our band) go on around 9 p.m. Last night’s rehearsal featured some excellent 2007 Lafarge Bourgogne Passetoutgrain.

A most remarkable urban Riesling and 01 Giacosa Santo Stefano

From the “run don’t walk” department…

If Snoop Dogg were a wine blogger, he’d might just say,

    Some how, some way, I just keep tasting funky assed shit wines like every single day…

For those of you concerned that there is no good wine to drink and taste in Texas, please be advised that you can sleep soundly tonight knowing that Tracie P and I are keeping the state safe for great wine.

Last night, we were joined by one of the most fascinating and talked-about figures in the U.S. wine biz, Paul Darcy (see Eric the Red’s post here and Alice’s post here).

Paul is an amazing cat and he tasted us on a fantastic flight of wines grown in the city of Vienna… yes, truly urban wines… I’d read about them and was blown away by the aromas and flavors and the price points of these super food-friendly wines. I was also intrigued to hear his first-hand account of the de facto cooperative system of growers and bottlers that has developed there in the modern era (i.e., from the late 19th-century onward).

But the wine that I can’t stop thinking about, that I wanted “to call the next day,” was Jutta Ambrositch’s Nussberg Riesling (above). Monosyllabic tasting note: Wow… Never tasted anything like that… a truly original and thrilling wine…

Navigating the internets, I’ve found her story recounted best by David Bowler here and I found a photo of the Nussberg cru here. And Paul just weighed in with this remote post via email:

    Jutta works her own vineyards. Most of the vineyards in Vienna are not owned by wineries. They are leased. She took over the lease of her first vineyard, Oberer Reisenberg, from her friend, Fritz Wieninger. Fritz is the largest producer in vienna with about 56 hectar. Some owned, some leased.

    The wines were made at Fritz’s winery. Now they are made at Stefan Hajszan’s winery. Fritz has been expanding so quickly, he didn’t have room for her any longer.

    The riesling from last night comes from the Nussberg. That is the hill. I think one of the best hillsides in Austria. Certainly the most exciting in Vienna. The small vineyard where these grapes are grown is called Ried Preussen. It is one of the oldest in the city. Maybe 600 years old, but I’m guessing here. This planting is from the mid 50′s.

    That flavor profile comes mainly from the terroir. Tons of calcium sea shell deposit. Limestone and light clay. Limestone for the minerality and clay for fruit. She farms biodynamically. By herself with her Jack Russel.

    In the winery, the wines sit on the lees from October to April in stainless. Fermentation is always spontaneous, despite how much that used to bug Fritz. He was always frightened fermentation wouldn’t start and wanted to start with a culture. Most of the growers in Vienna use local yeast as a starter, then the indigenous takes over.

    The terroir is interesting here. It never lets the wines become too weighty. Even though harvest can go as late as early November, the wines maintain an elegance that I haven’t seen so many places.

    Certainly one of my favorites. Funny though, no one paid much attention to her back home until Alice wrote about her. Now she has quite the cult following.

My advice: seek and check it out.

O, and, yeah, we also drank 01 Giacosa Barbaresco Santo Stefano white label, thanks to our new friend Billy, whom we met through our super good friends at Trio at the Four Seasons, where we dined last night.

The Santo Stefano cru produces one of Langa’s greatest expressions of Nebbiolo and one of the greatest wines in the world. Some call it “Baroloesque,” perhaps because it is one of the Barbaresco crus where savory aromas and flavors prevail over fruit. At 9 years out, this wine is extremely young and I loved the meaty chewy texture of the tannin, like eating a blood rare steak with a wonderful relish of berry fruit on top… Beef in a glass… A wonderful experience (thanks again Billy!)…

Some how, some way, me and Tracie P just get to drink funky assed wines like every single day…

Life could be worse… :-)

Endless Valentine (and more notes from Giacosa on their way)

The Endless Valentine: Tracie P (née B) and I still feel like we’re in a dream. Ever since our wedding day, it seems like everywhere we go, someone wishes us well for our marriage or makes something special just for us, like this heart-shaped desert that Francarlo Negro served us just last week at his Cantina del Rondò in Neive (a stone’s throw from Barbaresco). Remember him? He was the author of “The Smell of Money Guides the Evolution of Taste,” which I translated here before leaving for Italy a few weeks ago.

For Valentine’s Day yesterday (our first as a married couple!), we decided to go to one of our favorite spots here in Austin, Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon.

Man, Dale Watson and the Lone Stars were on fire yesterday. Sunday is chicken shit bingo day at Ginny’s and the place was packed!

It was our first time going out since we’ve returned from our honeymoon and our first time “on the town” as a married couple. Ginny was so sweet and insisted that our money was no good at Ginny’s. Lonestar beer never tasted so good…

An Austin honkytonk, chicken shit bingo, and chili dogs (above) are a far cry from the sunsets of Tuscany, the Langa hills of Piedmont, and the Vatican museum in Rome where we were just a few days ago. But, man, it sure feels good to be home with my beautiful bride. The endless Valentine makes it feel like the honeymoon hasn’t ended…

In other news…

It’s been a busy Monday morning over here at Do Bianchi Editorial: I just spoke to Giacosa enologist Giorgio Lavagna and I’ll be posting answers to Ken Vastola’s questions regarding my previous Giacosa post tomorrow.

Stay tuned (and thanks for reading!)…

Giacosa and Mauro Mascarello spar over 2006

Above: A recent photo of iconic Langa producer Bruno Giacosa.

Over at VinoWire, Franco and I have posted a preview of Franco’s article on Bruno Giacosa’s controversial decision not to bottle his 2006 Barbaresco and Barolo (to appear in the February issue of Decanter Magazine). But you’ll have to click over to VinoWire to get it. It marks the first time that Giacosa has spoken directly to the English-speaking world on the polemic move. You might be surprised by what some of his peers and interlocutors have to say about the vintage.

In other news… from the “just for gastronomic fun” department…

It’s that time of year again when we spacciatori di vino (wine pushers) hit the streets and start showing our wares again. It’s been good to reconnect with a lot of folks I only see when I’m on the road, like my good friend Josh Cross, who always has something fun on the menu at his awesome restaurant Oloroso in San Antonio. Josh and I both worked in the New York restaurant scene during the better part of the last decade and so we have a lot of friends in common.

He’s open for lunch now and so he treated me to one of his lunch specials, a take on “pigs in a blanket” (above): housemade venison sausage, cased in a runza dough kolache bun, served with a fig mustard and piquillo pepper relish.

I really like his sous chef Ernesto Martinez’s take on the German and Czech historical presence in Central Texas. How’s that for fusion?

Today, I’m on my way from Dallas to Houston, where I’ll be speaking at a wine tasting tonight. In less than a week, my beautiful Tracie B and I will be leaving for San Diego and the final preparations for our wedding. I wish ya’ll could see the grin on my face as I write this from a Starbucks in Ennis, Texas! :-)

Birthday-anniversary week part I: 99 Giacosa Barbaresco Santo Stefano

NEWS FLASH This just in: we’ve posted the list of wines we’ll be pouring at the first-ever San Diego Natural Wine Summit on August 9 at Jaynes Gastropub. On Weds. and Thurs. next week, I am the guest sommelier at Jaynes. Please come out to see me and taste together if you’re in town!

Above: My favorite way to enjoy great Nebbiolo is with cheese. At Central Market, a block from my apartment, I found Robiola, Toma, and Castelmagno (each from Piedmont) and a Val d’Aosta Fontina. The Castelmagno hadn’t been handled properly but the others were good, especially the Robiola. It’s remarkable to think that these moldy creations find their way to central Texas.

Tuesday night’s birthday celebration centered around a gift of 1999 Giacosa Barbaresco Santo Stefano (white label) that my true love gave to me for the occasion. She saw me eyeing the bottle a few weeks ago in a San Antonio fine wine shop. I hate to give away one of our best-kept secrets down here in Texas but, as Italian Wine Guy noted the other day, there are lots of shops here and in the Midwest where wine connoisseurs have collected great European wines without the inflated New York, Los Angeles, and Napa/Sonoma/San Francisco prices (I actually know a great place in San Diego, too, but I’m going to keep that best-kept secret to myself!). At this particular retailer in San Antonio, you can find a lot of older Nebbiolo at prices only marked up slightly from the release price (like a 2001 Faset by Castello di Verduno, one of my favorite producers, picked up for a song). The other element that makes things interesting is that few — if any — of these shops put their inventory online (in part because — and I don’t mean this in a disparaging way — they are Luddites when it comes to anything intraweb-related and in part because anachronistic blue laws prevent/impede them from selling their products online or via email). As a result, the inventories are not picked over by internet surfers: you have to visit the store in situ to peruse the wines.

The day that Tracie B and I happened to visit the store in question, everything in the store was 20% off (in fact, the owner gives 20% off on the entire stock every Friday and Saturday). I’m not saying this to attenuate the value of the wonderful gift she gave me but let’s just say — moral of the story — that we didn’t have to break the bank to enjoy a truly extraordinary bottle of wine.

Tracie B made me a blueberry pie with fresh blueberries for my birthday, a tradition started a long time ago by mama Parzen.

I have always detested the Mao Squires/Parker disciples who squeal and scream that opening a bottle like this is “infanticide.” That’s just hogwash. It’s always interesting to open great Nebbiolo and see where it is in its evolution and it’s ridiculous to think that we all have to be like them and drink wine in freezing wine bunkers (the way they do, hence their blue blood) and wait for every single bottle to be at its peak when we drink it. This 10-year-old beauty (made in a vintage when Giacosa didn’t make a Santo Stefano reserve) was stunning. It was one of those wines that left both of us speechless, with gorgeous fruit and earthy flavors. (Btw, Ken Vastola authors an excellent registry of the wines of Giacosa here).

It’s been such a special week for me and for me and Tracie B — with all the well wishes and congratulations. Thank you, everyone, from the bottom of my heart…

@Trace B thanks for sharing such an incredible bottle of wine for my birthday. I already felt like the luckiest guy in the world… :-)

On deck: Part II, 1991 Nicolas Joly Coulée de Serrant… amazing wine and a crazy story of how we got it… stay tuned…

Gone fishin… Giant squid taco anyone?

Above: Tracie B gave me a pair of Fender Stratocaster head-stock cuff links as an early present for my birthday this year. The last year has been one of the best of my life… Meeting Tracie B and moving to Austin… but more on that tomorrow… :-)

Today is my birthday and so I’m taking the day off… goin’ fishin’, so to speak.

In the meantime, I’m going to relish every last drop of anticipation for the 1999 Barbaresco Santo Stefano by Giacosa that Tracie B is treating me to tonight to celebrate…

In other news… holy giant squid taco Batman!

In all my years growing up in La Jolla, I never saw anything like this. The video below was shot just a stone’s throw from where I lived as a kid and not far from where my mom and brother and his family live still. Amazing…

Drinking great at the G8? No great moment in history without Spumante

tony the tigerYou might remember my post White, Green, and Red All Over: Obama to eat patriotic pasta at G8 from a month ago. The G8 summit began today in L’Aquila in Abruzzo and the Italian press is relishing the Obamas’s every move with great gusto.

As Franco pointed out today at Vino al Vino, there was even a post today at the ANSA (National Italian Press Association Agency) site that includes not only the official schedule for today but also the official bottles of wine and spirits to be given to Italy’s “illustrious” guests. G8 members will receive a “magnum of Amarone Aneri 2003 in a wooden box on which the initials of each of the presidents or prime ministers present has been engraved. All official lunches will begin with a toast with Ferrari spumante, [a wine] which is never missing at great appointments with history [sic; can you believe that?]. As an official gift for the illustrious guests, a highly rare ‘Ferrari Perle’ Nerò has been chosen [sic; the wine is actually called Perlé Nero], together with ‘Solera’ Grappa by the Segnana distillery. 1-3 p.m.: working G8 lunch on global economy.” (The post at ANSA’s English-language site did not include the wines or plugs.)

The American press doesn’t seem to be taking the G8 Summit and Silvio Berlusconi’s carefully choreographed hospitality as seriously as the Italian press corps. “Inexcusably lax planning by the host government, Italy, and the political weakness of many of the leaders attending, leave little room for optimism,” wrote the editors of The New York Times today.

With more humble tone, I was forwarded an email from the Dino Illuminati winery announcing that one of its wines had been chosen as the official wine for the luncheon and another for the closing dinner tomorrow. “We are sure You’ll like to enjoy,” it read, “the very good news with us: Our wine ZANNA Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane DOCG 2006 has been choiced as official red wine for the G 8 lunch of Wednesday July, 08. Besides, our wine LORE’ ‘Muffa Nobile’ will be the dessert wine for the G 8 dinner of Thursday July, 09.”

I guess Dino didn’t make the ANSA deadline.

In other news…

Check out our post today at VinoWire: Barbaresco producers speak out on Giacosa’s decision not to bottle his 2006. Giacosa claims that the rains of September ruined the vintage but our post reveals other points of view.

Tasted: 2006 Giacosa Nebbiolo d’Alba

bruno giacosa

Above: Tracie B has a deft and steady hand with my little Sony Cyber-Shot camera. She snapped this pic last night as we tasted 06 Barbera and 06 Nebbiolo d’Alba by Bruno Giacosa with Mark Sayre — aka the Houston Coalminer, one of Austin’s top palates — at Trio in Austin.

“Giacosa’s 2006 Barbera d’Alba Superiore Falletto was the best he’s ever made,” friend and collector David Schachter told me when I called him yesterday, asking him to refresh my memory on the wine we had tasted together last year. He and I tasted a lot of Giacosa from his impressive collection last year and he knows the wines intimately.

giacosa

Above: Ex-winemaker and Giacosa protégé Dante Scaglione with daughter Bruna Giacosa and winemaker Bruno Giacosa in 2004. In March 2008, Dante left the winery.

Last night, Tracie B and I tasted the 2006 Barbera d’Alba (the blended Barbera, not the single-vineyard Falletto) and the 2006 Nebbiolo d’Alba by Giacosa with top Austin sommelier Mark Sayre: we agreed that, while the vintage may not have been the best for everyone, Giacosa’s 2006 was outstanding.

bruno giacosa

So, why did Giacosa decide not to bottle his 2006 Barolo and Barbaresco? The plot thickens: read Franco’s editorial at VinoWire.

On deck for tomorrow: the second of 31 Days of Natural Wine at Saignée.

Mourvèdre envy (and more on Giacosa)

Mourvèdre envy in Freudian psychoanalysis refers to the theorized reaction of a wine lover during her or his oenological development to the realization that she or he does not have access to old Bandol. Freud considered this realization a defining moment in the development of palate and oenological identity. According to Freud, the parallel reaction in those who have access to old Mourvèdre is the realization that others have access to old Nebbiolo, a condition known as Nebbiolo anxiety.

Above: Tracie B and I drank the current vintage of Tempier Bandol Rosé — made from Mourvèdre — by the glass with our excellent housemade sausage tacos at the Linkery in San Diego. Jay Porter’s farm-to-table menu and his homemade cruvinet are hugely popular. The food is always fun and tasty. Jay was one of the first San Diego restaurateurs to use a blog to market his restaurant.

Tracie B and I have had our share of great Mourvèdre lately: we were blown away by the flight of old Terrebrune Bandol — rosé and red — we got to taste last month in San Francisco at the Kermit Lynch portfolio tasting. As the Italians might say, we’re “Mourvèdre addicted.”

Above: Jayne and Jon serve Terrebrune Bandol Rosé in half-bottles at Jaynes Gastropub in San Diego — a great summer aperitif wine and a fantastic pairing with Chef Daniel’s scallop ceviche. I was first hipped to Terrebrune by BrooklynGuy: it shows impressive character and structure and costs a lot less than Tempier.

So you can imagine how I began to salivate like Pavlov’s dog when I read BrooklynGuy’s recent post on a bottle of 1994 Tempier Rouge that he had been saving. Like Produttori del Barbaresco, Tempier represents a great value and the current release of the red is generally available at about $50 retail — the upper end of my price point ceiling. In other words, it’s a wine that even the modest wine collector can invest in with fantastic results. Despite the acute case of Mourvèdre envy that he gave me, I really liked BrooklynGuy’s profile of this “natural wine” producer and his tasting notes.

Nota bene: BrooklynGuy and I are both slated to appear in Saignée’s 31 Days of Natural Wine series. My post is schedule for June 20 and you might be surprised at what I had to say. Thanks again, Cory! I’m thrilled to get to participate with so many fantastic bloggers and writers.

In other news…

Above: That’s my lunch yesterday at Bryce’s Cafeteria in Texarkana on the Texas-Arkansas border. Chicken fried chicken steak and tomato aspic stuffed with mayonnaise. Tracie B is gonna kill me if that gravy doesn’t… They sure are proud of their tomatoes in Arkansas and tomato season has nearly arrived.

So many blogs and so little time… I’m on my way back to Austin from Arkansas (where I’ve been hawking wine) and I wish I had time to translate Franco’s post on Bruno Giacosa’s decision not to bottle his 2006 Barolo and Barbaresco, the infelicitous manner in which the news was announced by the winery, and how the news was subsequently disseminated. Upon reading Decanter’s sloppy cut-and-paste job, one prominent wine blogger tweeted “note to self, don’t buy 2006 Barbaresco.” My plea to all: please know that 2006 is a good if not great vintage in Langa and please, please, please, read betweet the lines…