Heading to Italy and Slovenia…

I leave today for Italy (where I’ll be attending the wine fairs and catching up with old friends) and then Slovenia (where I’ll be performing with Nous Non Plus). I’ll be taking a break from blogging but will post on my trip when I have internet access on the road and after I get back.

I recently had the good fortune to taste a flight of Fiorano Rosso going back to 1986, thanks to my dear friends Charles and Michele Scicolone. You can read about the wines at VinoWire and I’ve posted some pics from the dinner below. See you in a few weeks!

Over the last few years, I’ve drunk some great wine with my generous friend Charles Scicolone. A widely recognized expert on Italian wine, he’s taught me a lot of what I know — through the wines he’s opened for me to taste and his colorful anecdotes and memories of the many winemakers he’s known over the years.

Michele is a leading authority on Italian food and has published countless cookbooks and magazine features. I’ve been a guest in the Scicolones’ home a number of times but have never been served the same dish twice: Michele keeps a journal of her dinner parties, who attended, and what was served.

Michele made Anagni-style lasagne for the first course, a nod to the first red we tasted that night, Torre Ercolana 1990, which is made in Anagni near Rome.

Lamb — a quintessential spring dish — was served as the main course.

Michele blanched orange zest to create this elegant presentation.

Brunello Scandal

Ne nuntium necare, don’t kill the messenger: I’m sorry to report that the the long-hinted-at Brunello scandal is now official. Today, the Italian daily La Repubblica published the first account based on interviews with local investigators. You can read my translation on VinoWire. Rumors regarding the scandal have been circulating for some time now and VinoWire has also covered the Brunello Consortium’s confirmation and subsequent denial of irregularities.

People have been talking about the impending scandal in hushed tones since January. But it was my friend and collaborator Franco Ziliani’s post last Friday that prompted investigators to go public.

Another Brunello controversy has also recently made news in English- and Italian-language blogs and websites: the Brunello Consortium recently asked a Californian winemaker to stop labeling his wine as Brunello.

The U.S. government does not regulate the usage of European appellation names in the labeling of U.S. wine produced in the U.S. When my band Nous Non Plus played in Seattle back in 2006, I snapped the below pic of an old wine list (I can’t remember of the name of the wonderful Greek restaurant harbor where we ate that day; the list below wasn’t the restaurant’s current list but the owners never took it down — I would imagine for nostalgia’s sake).

Gauging from the script and the wine names, I imagine this list dates back to the 1970s. I love “Gold, Pink, and Red Chablis” and “Pinot Gregio.” Who knows what was in those wines?

It’s a bloggy blog world (and more on Mascarello).

Before my gig on Saturday night in Alphabet City, I stopped by Terroir on East 12th St. to connect with friend and polemical wine blogger Lyle Fass, author of Rockss and Fruit, for a glass of — yes, you guessed it — Riesling (Eugen Müller Rheinhessen 2005).

The post the other day on Mascarello the new Che generated a lot of feedback and so I snapped the above and below pics of the Terroir Mascarello T.

Terroir’s website is now online. I applaud the owners’ militant spirit but I feel that their “No barrique, no Berlusconi” motto/mantra is misguided. Mascarello’s famous Berlusconi label was released in a particular moment in Italian history and had a historical meaning within the context of contemporary Italian politics (remember: when the wine was released, Berlusconi was prime minister and Italian troops had been deployed in the Bush-legacy war). There’s a lot more to Mascarello’s wines and to the concept of terroir than just “no barrique.” I hope to see Maria Teresa Mascarello when I taste at Vini Veri next week and get her take on it.

Check out these images of the labels on collector Ken Vastola’s site.

Terroir sells the shirts for $25.

That’s Lyle and me in the above pic. Lyle’s one of many friends I’ve made through the blogosphere.

Terry Hughes, author of the controversial blog Mondosapore, is another friend I’ve made through the blogosphere. He and I grabbed a glass of 1989 Clos Baudin Vouvray yesterday evening at the bar at Gramercy Tavern.

One of the most rewarding things about my experience blogging is the interesting and caring people I’ve met along the way (look for more in upcoming posts about blogger/friends). If Snoop Dog had a blog, he would say that it’s a bloggy blog world.

That’s me and Céline Dijon at our show on Saturday night. We debuted our new song “Catastrophe,” about a relationship gone bad but a chance to start anew and make a better life — a reversal of a reversal, to put it in the context of peripeteia.

Our April 10 date in Ljubljana has been confirmed: I can’t reveal the name of the private club where we’ll be playing but if you’d like to attend, email me (jparzen at gmail) with the word “fidelio” in the subject line and I’ll send you the secret password together with the name of the club a few days before the show. As soon as our April 9 date in Gorizia is confirmed, I’ll post the info.

Feeling French this Weekend

I snapped the above pic the other night at Solex, a French and futuristic wine bar in the East Village. If Spielberg’s Minority Report would have featured a wine bar, it would have been Solex (my buddy Josh and I had the 2005 Nuits-St-Georges by Guillon, which was good although the warm vintage made it a little too hot for my taste).

If you’re in town this weekend and feeling French, don’t forget to check out Nous Non Plus tomorrow night at:

25 Avenue B, New York, NY
(Between 2nd and 3rd st.)
NNP @ 11pm

Photo courtesy of Gary Wexler.


It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

I got a couple of shouts-out in the blogosphere yesterday.

One was from top food and wine blogger McDuff, who wrote a no-holds-barred post on a recent De Grazia tasting he attended. I was really impressed with the candor of his post (and I am a regular reader and fan of his blog). (Another favorite blogger of mine, Brooklynguy, also wrote a powerfully honest and critical post on the Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri tasting in NYC. I’m planning to start a “Brooklynguy Amarone Fund” and will personally contribute a bottle of Le Ragose.)

The other came from masterful sage Messere Alfonso Cevola, who takes the art of wine and food blogging to a new level of style and substance. His humor is Pirandellian, his enologic insight Sciasciaesque, his writing style Lampedusian. And his hilarious post on the mishaps of would-be fine Italian dining brought some sunshine into my otherwise dreary and Woody-Allenesque Manhattan day.

Blog on, brothers, blog on….

Going to Carolina in My Mind

From left, Susannah Smith of A Southern Season (Chapel Hill, NC), Sophie Barrett (a Chapel Hill native) of Astor (NYC), and John McCarthy of The Country Vintner (Chapel Hill). One of the cool thing about blogging is getting to meet people you wouldn’t connect with otherwise. Also in attendance were Scott Luetgenau and Jay Murrie.

Yesterday I took the afternoon off to connect with my friend and wine professional Scott Luetgenau from Chapel Hill, NC, whom I met after he started commenting on my blog some time back. One of the coolest things about blogging is that you meet people from all over the world through the “virtual conversation” of the blogosphere. Scott wrote me last week saying he’d be in NYC for a trade tasting and would I like to join him and his friends for lunch at ‘inoteca.

Charcuterie and bruschette at ‘inoteca on the Lower East Side, owned by my friend and fellow native-Californian, Joe Denton — one of the coolest dudes I’ve met in the NYC restaurant scene.

I was really impressed with their wine knowledge and their interest in natural wine. John, who works for a major wine distributor based in Chapel Hill, told me: “I feel like it’s my responsibility to get out there and turn people on to natural wine. If I don’t, who will?” I dug every bottle he ordered from owner Joe Denton’s excellent list. Sophie has just moved up to NYC where she landed a job at Astor Wine and Spirits. Susannah and Jay work at A Southern Season, a food and wine shop in Chapel Hill that specializes in natural wines. They’ve got a pretty good thing going down there in North Carolina.

I really liked the 2006 Pavese Blanc de Morgex et de La Salle that John ordered. It was fresh and light in the mouth, with bright acidity and nice fruit.

It was raining yesterday in NYC and it’s still overcast today. So many good things have been happening for me and I have lots to be thankful for these days. But I’ve also been going through some pretty dark stuff lately. It sure doesn’t feel like the first day of spring up here in the big city. You must forgive me if I’m up and goin’ to Carolina in my mind.


In my mind I’m goin’ to Carolina
Can’t you see the sunshine
Can’t you just feel the moonshine
Ain’t it just like a friend of mine
To hit me from behind
Yes I’m goin’ to Carolina in my mind

Karen she’s a silver sun
You best walk her way and watch it shinin’
Watch her watch the mornin’ come
A silver tear appearing now I’m cryin’
Ain’t I goin’ to Carolina in my mind

There ain’t no doubt in no one’s mind
That love’s the finest thing around
Whisper something soft and kind
And hey babe the sky’s on fire, I’m dyin’
Ain’t I goin’ to Carolina in my mind

In my mind I’m goin’ to Carolina
Can’t you see the sunshine
Can’t you just feel the moonshine
Ain’t it just like a friend of mine
To hit me from behind
Yes I’m goin’ to Carolina in my mind

Dark and silent late last night
I think I might have heard the highway calling
Geese in flight and dogs that bite
Signs that might be omens say I’m going, going
I’m goin’ to Carolina in my mind

With a holy host of others standing ’round me
Still I’m on the dark side of the moon
And it seems like it goes on like this forever
You must forgive me
If I’m up and goin’ to Carolina in my mind

In my mind I’m goin’ to Carolina
Can’t you see the sunshine
Can’t you just feel the moonshine
Ain’t it just like a friend of mine
To hit me from behind
Yes I’m goin’ to Carolina in my mind

Goin’ to Carolina in my mind
And I’m goin’ to Carolina in my mind
Goin’ to Carolina in my mind

— James Taylor

Is Mascarello the new Che Guevara?

Above: waiter Lindsay Smith was wearing the Bartolo Mascarello t-shirt at Terroir Thursday.

During my junior year of college at the Università di Padova in 1987, dorm life (at Casa dello Studente Monte Cengio) required: 1) drinking sangria from a trash can; 2) knowing the words to Bob Marley’s “Stir It Up”; and owning at least one Che Guevara t-shirt (there were also certain skills that proved useful but we won’t go into those now).

I was blown away when I spotted a camouflage-green Bartolo Mascarello t-shirt reminiscent of the Che t’s we used to wear way back when (and still favored by college students across the world) at Terroir — a new, radical, and vehemently anti-Parkerization wine bar in the East Village (click through the website to read the owners’ manifesto).

One of Italy’s greatest winemakers, Bartolo Mascarello remained a steadfast defender of traditional winemaking and the concept of terroir as others in Barolo and Barbaresco moved toward a more modern style. He was a colorful character, beloved on both sides of the Atlantic, and he never shied from blending traditionalist winemaking, leftist ideology, and charged political views. One of his most famous labels read “No Berlusconi, no barrique” — an apt, poignant, and pungent analogy between the use of barrique aging (and those who favored it) and Italy’s richest man and then prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi (who once famously told journalist Enzo Biagi, “If I don’t enter politics, I will go to jail and become bankrupt.”). Check out Eric’s obituary of the great Bartolo.

My childhood friend and electronic performer extraordinaire Irwin (left) was in New York last week for a recording session and so we connected last Thursday at Terroir.

I asked chef and co-owner Marco Canora to talk to us about the restaurant’s concept and he launched into a zealous diatribe against Robert Parker balanced by a passionate elegiac on Mascarello. One thing that struck me about his harangue was that we, the lovers and defenders of terroir-driven and natural wines, are quick to rail against Parker, but we often neglect to champion and lionize our heroes.

The Che Guevara t-shirt phenomenon may be wrinkle free but it’s not free of irony: the ideals for which Guevara fought and died aren’t exactly embodied by the Andy Wahrolian reproduction of his likeness on t-shirts mass-marketed to naïve college students. But if a locally printed Mascarello t-shirt campaign can help to spread awareness of one of natural wine’s champions, then I’m all for it.

The wine list at neonate Terroir is short and young (Mark and waiter Lindsay Smith told me that it will soon be growing). I ordered the oldest bottle on the list, the 2001 Olek-Mery Chinon Cuvée Des Tireaux. It was fantastic: light in the mouth with earthly Chinon flavors. I also enjoyed a glass of Cicala’s 2005 Asprinio, a citrusy grape from Campania that you don’t see a lot in America.

Irwin and I were both really hungry and we ordered a bunch of stuff: the baccalà (above) had just the right amount of garlic in it and the meatballs were among the best I’ve ever had (Marco’s mother’s recipe) although its tomato coulis was too watery.

Now, if they could just get some older vintages of Mascarello on that list, I’d be sold.

Oscar Party

Above: brother Abner and cousin Amalia donned Groucho Marx glasses in honor of Oscar Riles Parzen.

The Riles and Parzen families gathered last Sunday to celebrate the arrival of Oscar Riles Parzen (January 18, 2008, 7 lbs, 14 oz). Held at the San Diego Yacht Club, the affair was dubbed the “Oscar Party” and included awards, commemorative t-shirts, speeches and readings (I read “Where the Sidewalk Ends” by Shel Silverstein),* and an Oscar piñata (left).

Marguerite, Micah, Abner, and Oscar Riles Parzen treated us to a sumptuous brunch of smoked salmon, eggs Benedict, roast beef with horse radish, and pastries. Bloody Marys and Mimosas were also served. Little Oscar slept through most of the festivities.

Many years had passed since I thought of “Where the Sidewalk Ends,” a poem I read and re-read countless times as a child. With all the talk today about global warming (and how global warming is or is not affecting winemaking), recession, war, and the pitfalls of politics, it occurred to me that little Oscar is one of the “children” who know “where the sidewalk ends,” who has yet to see the “pits where the asphalt flowers grow.” It will be sometime before his halo slips into Baudelaire’s fange du macadam or mire of macadam.**

I hope the world’s a better place when little Oscar grows up and I was glad to share this moment of blissful ignorance with him.

The Riles and Parzen families and family friends. Oscar is in the first row, fourth from left, held by his grand-mère Jane Riles.

Proud father Micah Parzen.

Marguerite created these nifty commemorative t-shirts.

* Where the Sidewalk Ends

There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.

Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.

Yes we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.

— Shel Silverstein

** “My halo slipped off my head and fell into the mire of the macadam,” wrote Baudelaire in his prose-poem “Perte d’Auréole” or “Loss of a Halo,” 1865. The macadam process for paving roadways was invented by Scottish road-builder John Loudon McAdam (1756 – 1836). The word tarmac is also derived from his name.