Chag Pesach Sameach! Wishing everyone a good Passover!

I dunno why but there’s nothing quite like the flavor of Premium Gold Gefilte Fish in Jellied Broth by Manischewitz paired with fiery horseradish. Seriously… I’m not kidding. It’s just one of the memories from childhood whose deliciousness can never be replaced.

Serve with a fresh California rosé (that’s what we’ll be doing).

Chag Pesach sameach, everyone! Happy Passover!

Happy Easter, too!

Enjoy the holidays. See you next week!

cognà (cugnà) my latest obsession, Piedmont’s cheese friend

One of the perks of teaching at a gastronomic sciences university in the heart of Piedmont wine country is that the food and wine aren’t bad.

Add to that mix the fact the town(ship) where the school is located is also home to the Slow Food movement and an acute interest in wholesome and traditional foodways. It’s a recipe for a whole lotta deliciousness.

After returning from a winery visit in La Morra (Barololand) yesterday following class, one professor settled into his favorite local dining spot, Ristorante Battaglino in Bra (the toponym Bra comes from the late Latin/Longobard braida meaning farm or countryside btw). Following a repast of tajarin with sausage ragù and a glass of Ferdinando Principiano 2014 Barolo, he leisurely nibbled at a selection of cheeses accompanied by crusty bread and cognà or cugnà in the local patois.

It’s a cheese friend that falls somewhere between jam and relish.

Made from freshly crushed grape must (the main ingredient) with the addition of other fruits like apple, pear, and quince (depending on the recipe), hazelnuts and walnuts, and figs (dried or fresh), it’s one of those if it grows with it it goes with it dancing partners for cheese and Nebbiolo (or Dolcetto as the case may be).

Said instructor is no stranger to the wonders of the triptych cheese-Nebbiolo-cognà. Unsurprisingly, he had enjoyed a similar confluence the prior evening, save for the fact that the enoic component was Dolcetto.

Wise and informed humans also report that cognà marries superbly with Piedmontese-style bollito misto as well.

Corte Giacobbe Soave, a wonderful discovery at this year’s Vinitaly

You spend so much time schmoozing and taking tasting notes at Vinitaly that sometimes you forget to look out for new discoveries.

Every year, I try to take time out each day of my fair to taste as much “undiscovered” wine as humanly possible.

Yesterday, thanks to my friend Marco Tinello, one of the best sommeliers and tasters I know in Veneto, I was introduced to the fantastic wines of Corte Giacobbe by the lovely Dal Cero family.

Their old-school-vinified, single-vineyard-designate Soave wines were mineral and savory in character (sapidi, as they like to say in Italian), with rich nuanced fruit and the nervy acidity they’ll need to evolve as they age.

Great wines across the board and a wonderful personal discovery for me.

Empson is bringing them to the U.S, I was told. I can’t wait for them to reach me in Texas. I know that Tracie P. is going to love them, too. They’re “our kinda wines.”

If you’ve ever attended Vinitaly, you know that it can often be compared to a Dantean “circle of Hell,” as one of my colleagues put it yesterday. It’s always a jumble of information and sensation. It can make your “brain hurt like a warehouse,” to borrow a line from Bowie. But every once in a while, the magic happens: thanks to a friend and colleague like Marco, you stumble across a wine you’ll love for a lifetime.

Wish me luck, wish me speed. Tonight after the fair, I head to the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Piedmont where I’ll be teaching this week and next. Thanks for being here.

Close your eyes and I’ll kiss you…

Close your eyes and I’ll kiss you
Tomorrow I’ll miss you
Remember I’ll always be true
And then while I’m away
I’ll write home every day
And I’ll send all my loving to you

I’ll pretend that I’m kissing
the lips I am missing
And hope that my dreams will come true
And then while I’m away
I’ll write home every day
And I’ll send all my loving to you

All my loving I will send to you
All my loving, darling I’ll be true

I miss them already. Wish me luck, wish me speed. See you at Vinitaly…

Heading to Vinitaly in Verona, capital of Italy’s culture wars.

This week, thousands of American wine professionals will travel to Verona, Italy for Vinitaly — the Italian wine trade’s annual fair.

They will represent the U.S. citizenry in all of its walks of life and gradations: from the fat-cat CEOs and managers of behemoth importers and distributors to average punters who hit the streets each day with a wine caddy in tow.

Between the long days of tastings and meetings on the fairgrounds and the bacchanal parties and dinners hosted by wineries throughout the city every evening, few of them will take time out to experience Verona’s cultural riches.

And even fewer of them will have any inkling that Verona is now the bona fide capital of Italy’s fascist resurgence and the backdrop for Italy’s pitched culture wars.

On Thursday of last week, Jason Horowitz, the Rome bureau chief for the New York Times, published this excellent piece about Italy’s current political climate and Verona’s status as the epicenter for regressive policy and institutional racism and sexism: “Italy’s Right Links Low Birthrate to Fight Against Abortion and Migration.”

(Anyone headed to the fair this year should read it. And I also highly recommend following his feed.)

In his article, he offers an overview of Verona’s openly fascist local government (a eye-popping primer on who’s in charge of the city and what they stand for). And he obliquely references a recent and frightening episode that took place at a Verona city council meeting last year.
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The influencer instascam is a scourge. Restaurateurs deserve better.

These are true stories.

Last year, at an “influencer” dinner hosted by a popular restaurant in a major American city, a so-called “restaurant critic” writing for a high-profile food blog insisted that the organizer give her cash for the valet parking — including tip.

Earlier this year, at a similar event for social media users, a guest ordered a bottle of wine that wasn’t included in the menu for the evening. He was indignant when the restaurateur presented him with a bill.

A few weeks ago, a well-known and well-liked restaurateur in an affluent American market received the following request from a social media user from a different city (paraphrased for anonymity’s sake): I would like to surprise my significant other with the following menu and wine from your menu at your restaurant. Will you organize the dinner and pick up our tab in exchange for Instagram posts? I have a lot of followers.

It happens all across America every day, from metropoles and megalopoles to small towns in the heart of farmland: Food-focused social media users ask restaurateurs to pick up their tab in exchange for content.

Few restaurateurs are willing to discuss it openly — for fear of retribution and ostracism. But they are bombarded incessantly by brazen requests for free food.

Whenever you cross the threshold of a restaurant’s entrance, whether you are the New York Times restaurant critic or an Instagram user with a handful of followers, you enter into a social compact with the restaurateur, the restaurant employees, and the other diners.

Today, I penned and published the following post for the Houston Press: “Influencer or Freeloader? 10 Tips for Social Media Users Who Expect a Free Lunch.”

I hope it will give aspiring influencers new perspective into the insidious but sadly all too common practice of extorting restaurateurs and their employees.

There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.

Welcome Paco! The newest member of the Parzen family…

Welcome, Paco! The newest member of the Parzen family!

Little Paco (above, left) came into our lives two months ago, first as a foster dog and then as our officially adopted chihuahueño.

He’s super sweet with the girls and he’s been wonderful for our chihuahua mix rescue Rusty, who is still a bit neurotic and skittish but a lot less so now that he has a pal (they are best friends, even though Rusty can be a little jealous of his daddy).

Paco was a rescue, too: he was abandoned by his family when they moved to a new house. They took their other dogs but not little Paco! We don’t know why.

In keeping with Parzen family tradition, the Parzen Family Singers wrote and recorded a song for him. That’s Lila Jane and me, with a few cameos from Georgia and mommy, in the track below. (Lila Jane and I recorded our vocals in one live, improvised take. I’m so proud of how she’s taken to the recording arts. Here’s the song she wrote for Rusty.)

Enjoy the music and the cute chihuahua pics! Thanks for being here and sharing our joy.

Buon weekend a tutti! Have a great weekend, everyone!

A better translation for barbatella: Italian-English wine glossary updated! (includes multiple new entries)

Here’s an updated link for a free download of the 2019 Slow Wine Guide (the previously link is now stale because so many people used it fyi).

Wondering why this post preceded by an image culled from a (public domain) vintage poster for the 1968 science fiction classic “Barbarella”? Read on.

Ever since the Italian-English wine glossary was first launched here, Maurizio Gily — a leading Italian agronomist, writer, publisher, and professor at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Piedmont – has lent a hand in fine-tuning the entries.

Most recently, he shared the following note from a California grower, who points out that barbatella can be translated in a variety of ways in English depending on context.

The entry has been updated accordingly and Maurizio has graciously and generously added a number of new entries as well (thank you, Maurizio!).

In case you’ve never seen a barbatella — a rooted cutting (otherwise known as a bench graft) — here’s a video shot at Vivai Cooperativi Rauscedo, the famed Italian nursery that provides bench grafts to wineries and growers across the world (it’s in Italian but it shows how the rooted cuttings/bench grafts are prepared and shipped etc.).

Thanks for being here and thanks for speaking Italian wine!

Hi Maurizio,

There are a number of different names we use depending on whether the vine has been rooted and how old the vine is. Here is a link that explains it fairly well:

In my experience, I have heard “greengrowers” used for grafted vines that have been planted in pots with soil and “bench grafts” used for dormant scion/rootstock grafted vines.

Here is little more in-depth information:

All that being said, I like the name “barbatella” much better.

Reminds me of a young Jane Fonda for some reason… she starred in a movie back in the 1960s called Barbarella.

a giropoggio vines planted across a slope (along the contour of the slope; compare with a ritocchino)
a ritocchino vines planted up and down a slope (from peak to valley, as it were; compare with a giropoggio)
acciaio [inossidabile] stainless-steel [vat/tank]
acinellatura millerandage [alt.: shot berrieshens and chicks, or pumpkins and peas]
affinamento aging
alberello head-trained bush vines
allegagione fruit set
allevamento training
apice vegetativo shoot tip
argilla clay
arresto di fermentazione stuck fermentation
assemblaggio blend
azoto nitrogen
barbatella rooted cutting/bench graft
barrique barrique [small French oak cask]
bâtonnage stirring on the lees
biodinamica biodynamics/biodynamic
biologico organic
botte traditional large cask
bucce skins
Cabernet [Sauvignon] Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Franc Cabernet Franc
calcare/calcareo limestone/calcareous [limestone-rich]
capo a frutto fruit cane
cappello sommerso submerged cap maceration
chioma canopy
chiusura grappolo bunch closure
cimatura hedging
cocciniglia mealybug
cordone cordon
cordone speronato cordon-trained spur-pruned [vines]
cru vineyard designation/single vineyard
cuvée Blend
délestage rack and return
diradamento dei grappoli pruning/thinning grapes/dropping fruit/green harvest
diradamento di germogli shoot thinning
diraspare/diraspatrice de-stem/de-stemmer
diserbante termico weed torch/weed flamer
DOC DOC [designation of controlled origin]
DOCG DOCG [designation of controlled and guaranteed origin]
DOP PDO [Protected Designation of Origin]
doppio capovolto double-arched cane [training]
drenaggio drainage
esca esca [alt.: black dead arm or black measles]
escursione termica [diurnal] temperature variation
femminella lateral shoot
fermentazione arrestata stuck fermentation
filare row
flavescenza dorata grapevine yellows (flavescence dorée)
follatura punching down
forma di allevamento training system/trellis system
galestro galestro [a marl- and limestone-rich subsoil unique to Tuscany]
gemma bud
gemma dormiente, gemma d’inverno dormant bud
germogliamento budbreak, budburst
giropoggio vines planted across a slope (along the contour of the slope; compare with a ritocchino)
grappa grappa
grappolo cluster/bunch
grappolo spargolo loosely clustered grape bunch
Guyot Guyot
IGP PGI [Protected Geographical Indication]
IGT IGT [typical geographical indication]
inerbimento sward management of the soil
innesto graft
interfila inter-row
invaiatura veraison
lievito naturale native/ambient/indigenous/wild yeast
lievito selezionato cultured yeast
limo silt
macchia mediterranea Mediterranean maquis [shrubland]
maestrale (vento di maestrale) north-westerly wind
malolattica malolactic fermentation
marna/marne marl
marza scion
maturazione ripening
monovitigno single-grape variety [wine]
mosto must
oidio oidium [powdery mildew]
pedicello pedicel
peduncolo stem (peduncle)
pergola pergola / overhead trellis system
peronospora peronospora [downy mildew]
pied de cuve pied de cuve [native yeast starter]
pigiatura crush/crushing
pirodiserbatore weed torch/weed flamer
pirodiserbo weed torching
pollone sucker
portinnesto rootstock
pressa press
pressare to press
quercia oak
rachide rachis
raspo stem
rimontaggio pumping over
ritocchino vines planted up and down a slope (from peak to valley, as it were; compare with a giropoggio)
sabbia/sabbioso sand/sandy [sandy soil]
Sauvignon [Blanc] Sauvignon Blanc
scacchiatura shoot-thinning
scheletro very fine gravel
seme seed
sfogliatura leaf plucking
sgemmatura disbudding
siccità drought/drought conditions
sistema di allevamento training/trellis system
sottofila under-row
sottosuolo subsoil
sovescio cover crop/green manure
sovramaturazione over-ripening
spalliera (vigneto a spalliera) vertical shoot positioning of the shoots (VSP)
spargolo (grappolo spargolo) loosely clustered (grape bunch)
sperone spur
spollonatura (disbudding and suckering) de-suckering
stralciatura shoot-thinning
stress idrico hydric stress
sulle bucce skin contact [macerated on the skins]
sulle fecce nobili lees aged [aged on its lees]
sur lie lees aged [aged on its lees]
svinatura racking (devatting, drawing off)
terreno/terreni soil
tessitura (del suoolo) soil texture
tignola della vite vine moth [Eupoecilia ambiguella] European berry moth
tralcio shoot/cane
tramoggia hopper/feeder
tufo tufaceous subsoil [porous limestone]
vasca vat/tank
vento di maestrale north-westerly wind
vigna/vigne vine/vineyards
vigneto vineyard
vinaccia/vinacce pomace
vinacciolo seed
vite vine
viticcio tendril
vitigno grape variety

FREE download Slow Wine Guide 2019

Here’s an updated link for a free download of the 2019 Slow Wine Guide to the Wines of Italy, Slovenia, California, and Oregon (the previously link is now stale because so many people used it fyi).

Above: California urban winemaker Bryan Harrington (left) with Slow Wine editor-in-chief Giancarlo Gariglio at the Slow Wine Tour tasting in San Francisco earlier this month. Bryan’s bottlings of Nebbiolo and Mission really impressed our editors this year at the event.

The editors of the Slow Wine Guide 2019 are pleased to share the news that the book is now available to download for free.

Click here for senior editor for California Deborah Parker Wong’s post on this year’s guide (including the link for the free e-book).


Buona lettura! Enjoy!