Hillbilly rhythm and blues: JD Souther in Austin

JD Souther

One of the great things about living in Austin is how much great music comes through this town and how accessible it is.

Last night Tracie B and I went to see songwriting great JD Souther do an acoustic set (photo by yours truly from the fourth row). If you don’t know his music, you might be surprised at how many songs by him you do know.

He even played our favorite song, “White Rhythm and Blues,” which appeared on Linda Ronstadt’s 1978 double-platinum Living in the U.S.A. (lyrics below). We had a blast…

JD Souther

Tracie B warned me not to get the chicken fried steak but I am always a sucker for anything listed on the menu as “world famous.” She was right and I am pretty darn lucky and glad to have somebody in my life “who cares when you lose” and some “hillbilly rhythm and blues.” :-)

*****

White Rhythm and Blues
—JD Souther

I don’t want you to hold me tight
Till you’re mine to hold
And I don’t even want you to stay all night
Just until the moon turns cold

She said
All I need is black roses
White rhythm and blues
And somebody who cares when you lose
Black roses, white rhythm and blues

You say that somebody really loves you
You’d find her if you just knew how
But honey, everyone in the whole wide world
Is probably asleep by now

Wishin’ for
Black roses, white rhythm and blues
And somebody who cares when you lose
Black roses, white rhythm and blues

You can close your eyes
And sleep away all your blues
I’ve done everything but lie
Now I don’t know what else I can do

Oh, the night time sighs and I hear myself
But the words just stick in my throat
Don’t you think that a man like me
Might hurt much more than it shows

Just send me black roses
White rhythm and blues
And somebody who cares when you lose
I need some white rhythm and blues

I need Black roses, white rhythm and blues
And somebody who cares when you lose

Just play a little hillbilly rhythm and blues

Petrarch and the unbearable thought of life without the wines of Burgundy

From the “Sunday poetry” department…

Above: In this Renaissance illuminated manuscript (painted book), Petrarch and Laura appear on the banks of a river. Laura, the river (the Sorgue), and the laurel tree (also depicted) are central to Petrarchan iconography. Petrarch knew the wines of Burgundy well but he liked the wines of Italy better.

Petrarch (1304-1374) knew the wines of Burgundy well. He spent most of his early life in and around Avignon, where his father followed the Babylonian exile of the papal court, and where the wines of the Côte d’Or already enjoyed considerable fame. It wasn’t far from Avignon where he first saw Laura, for whom he would write 366 poems, later gathered in his Rerum vulgarium fragmenta (Fragments of Vernacular Things, the title he gave to his Canzoniere or Song Book). Their first meeting took place in Vaucluse in 1327 (according to his own mythology).

Petrarch spent much of the latter half of his life trying to bring the papacy back to Rome. After one of his appeals to Pope Urban V, some of the cardinals argued that a return to Rome would be unthinkable: how could they survive, they told the pope, without the health-enhancing properties of the wines of Burgundy? Petrarch responded with one of his most famous political letters and a passage, often cited but seldom revisited, in which he chastises the gluttonous cardinals. But in the same stroke, he invites them to experience the wines of Italy:

    Is it not a puerile ambition to malign the many types of wines, so plentiful, found in all parts of Italy? … Let them come and see for themselves — all those for whom life would be unbearable without the wines of Burgundy! They will find copious amounts of grain, olive oil, wines, plants, and fruits. Here there are fruits unfamiliar to you and unknown in your [colder] climate. The woods, beasts, wild animals, game, and food and spices are so abundant that no one dies of hunger…

    Seniles 9, to Pope Urban V, August 1366 (translation adapted from Aldo Bernardo)

In last week’s Sunday poetry post, Petrarch flowed the rivers of the world together in verse. Laura is absent and he longs for the river where she appeared: no other river, he cries, could quench the fire burning in his soul.

In this week’s post, he happens upon Laura by a river, innocently washing her veil. She is more beautiful than the huntress goddess Diana who turned Acteon’s dogs upon him when he happened upon her bathing nude in a river.

Magridal 52 is one of the most exquisite compositions in Petrarch’s Rerum. As summer temperatures rise here in Texas, there is a someone special in my life, too, who can still make me “tremble with a chill of love.”

    Not so much did Diana please her lover when, by a similar
    chance, he saw her all naked amid the icy waters,

    as did the cruel mountain shepherdess please me, set to wash a
    pretty veil that keeps her lovely blond head from the breeze;

    so that she made me, even now when the sky is burning, all
    tremble with a chill of love.

    (translation by Robert Durling)

    Non al suo amante più Diana piacque
    quando per tal ventura tutta ignuda
    la vide in mezzo de le gelide acque,

    ch’a me la pastorella alpestra e cruda
    posta a bagnar un leggiadretto velo
    ch’a l’aura il vago e biondo capel chiuda;

    tal che mi fece, or quand’egli arde’l cielo,
    tutto tremar d’un amoroso gelo.

What would the Iron Baron Ricasoli say if he were alive today?

In a 1989 show entitled Le balene restino sedute (Whales, please stay seated), the Bolognese comedian Alessandro Bergonzoni (left) noted that if Sigmund Freud (center) were alive today, he would say: “Well, I sure have lived for a long time.”

Above: The Sala delle Armi or Armory Hall in the Brolio Castle in the township of Gaiole in the heart of Chianti.

Reading Carlo Macchi’s post about yesterday’s conference on the Ricasoli-Studiati Papers, held at the Ricasoli family’s Castello Brolio in Chianti Classico, I couldn’t help but wonder what would the Iron Baron Bettino Ricasoli (1809-1880, above right) say if he were alive today? Among other significant entries on Italian unification, Italian national identity, and the importance of agriculture and winemaking in the forging of a new Italian nation, the correspondence between Ricasoli — Italy’s second prime minister, one the architects of its independence, and a champion of Sangiovese — and Pisan professor Cesare Studiati contains the famed letter in which the Baron described his experimentation with “every grape variety” in his vineyards and his conclusion that Sangiovese — or Sangioveto, as it was called in Tuscany then — was the ideal grape to grow in Tuscany. (You can read my translation of the letter here.) Many claim erroneously that the Iron Baron wrote a formula or recipe for Chianti. He did not. But when he tore out international grape varieties from this vineyards and replanted with Sangiovese, Canaiolo, and Malvasia, the land holders of Tuscany followed suit. If you read the series of letters between the two men during that period, you will discover that he was trying to create (and he ultimately succeeded in creating) a fine wine that could be shipped abroad. He realized that Italian wine could help to fuel the nascent national economy if and only if it could be shipped abroad. And through his experiments, he discovered that Sangiovese grown on Tuscan soil was ideal for this purpose.

According to Carlo, who attended the event yesterday, the discussion — moderated by megawatt Italian television personality Bruno Vespa — centered around the controversial expansion of the Chianti appellation. Would this have concerned the Iron Baron? Perhaps. But if he were to taste the Chianti produced by the “40 or so winemakers” who attended the celebrity-studded event, what would he say? Would he recognize his beloved Sangiovese in those wines, now dominated by Merlot and Cabernet?

I’ll let you fill in the blank…

The “seventh” bullet in my wine bag

Adam Spencer

Above: Adam Spencer aka “Adam Spence,” one of the Clanton Cowboys Gang and one of the meanest sommeliers ’round these parts, faced off with the San Diego Kid (that’s me) in the outskirts of San Antonio yesterday at Saloon Pavil. He was ready for me but he didn’t count on the “seventh bullet” in my six-shooter wine bag.

Dusty and tired after a long day hawking wine in San Antonio, the San Diego Kid had a harrowing brush with death at Saloon Pavil where Adam “Spence” Spencer nearly sent him to his grave. Spence is one of the fastest hands around these parts and one of the best sommeliers the Kid’s ever met on the mean streets of Texas. His wine list is compact, studied, intelligent, original, and surprising. And his palate is as sharp and his wine service as polished as they come. The Kid’s French bottlings were no match for Spence but the Clanton Cowboy wasn’t counting on a 2001 Barbaresco Ovello that the Kid happened to have in his six-pack wine bag — the “seventh bullet.”

Cooper's BBQ

I cannot tell you how good that wine tasted — it had been open all day — with the tender pork loin and pork ribs at Cooper’s. The tannin, the fat of the meat, the gorgeous fruit, and the tanginess of the BBQ sauce made a long day of hawking wine all worth while.

Boy, was the San Diego Kid lucky to get out of San Anton’ alive! Delivered from danger once again by the skin of his teeth and the seat of his pants, he headed out to Cooper’s Old Time Bar-B-Que in New Braunfels where they allow outside wine “but no hard liquor.”

Cooper's BBQ

Above: Cooper’s in New Braunfels. Folks say that the Cooper’s in Llano, Texas is the best one but this one was purdy darn’ good.

The San Diego Kid then made his way to I-35 and sure was glad to get back to the loving arms of his Squaw in Austin.

By now, he knew the way from ol’ San Anton’ to Austin. Riding north from central Texas on his trusty horse and faithful companion Dinamite, he couldn’t help but hum a lil’ new country diddy he’s been working on:

GPS may get you where you wanna go/but it sure as hell don’t get ya’ into heaven…

In other news…

If you visit Do Bianchi, you know how much I love Produttori del Barbaresco. I’ve been collecting my Produttori del Barbaresco posts in a new opera aperta or open work blog called “My Own Private Produttori del Barbaresco”: if you’d like be a contributor, just send me an email and I’ll make you an author (you’ll need to register with WordPress.com first). The idea is that it will be an open blog where we can collect stories, anecdotes, tasting notes, and reflections on Produttori del Barbaresco. Content doesn’t need to be new, either… Thanks for reading!

White, red, and green all over: Obama to eat patriotic pasta at G8

Lately, there’s been so much chatter in the blogosphere about the Obamas’s culinary fondness for Blue Hill in NYC and Five Guys in D.C. that I thought I do a post on a story that’s making waves today in the Italian blogosphere on what Obama will be eating at the G8 Summit in July.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi recently changed the location of the summit to L’Aquila in Abruzzo to raise awareness of the tragedy of the April earthquake there.

According to a report widely circulated today, Berlusconi’s personal chef Michele Persechini will serve a “triptych” of pennette: al pomodoro, al pesto, and ai quattro formaggi — red, green, and white, as in the colors of the Italian flag (no translation necessary here, I imagine).

Above: That’s where Obama will be staying in L’Aquila. “It’s barracks for Obama,” reported the Guardian a few weeks ago, noting that some world leaders may be disappointed about the venue change. You gotta love the Brits’s sense of humor!

In Carlo Verdone’s 1981 film Bianco, Rosso, e Verdone (produced by Sergio Leone), Verdone plays three Italians who each make road trips to their places of birth so that they can vote. (That’s the Roman character, Mimmo, in the image above, left.)

My favorite is the Italian immigrant Pasquale who’s lived in Germany so long that he’s become Teutonified but hasn’t lost his Italian identity. He doesn’t speak for the entire film, except for in the very last sequence when he finally votes and “vents.” You don’t need to understand Italian to watch the clip below: Pasquale’s monologue is nearly unintelligible even for Italian speakers. It is a hilarious but true portrayal of Italian voters’s frustration with their country’s politics and its politicians.

The score is by Ennio Morricone: I love the music in this sequence, its references to the Italian national anthem and the line played by the mandolin.

Guilty pleasure: Brunello and Burritos (and mazel tov, Ale!)

guilty pleasure

Above: Mexican food ain’t always pretty but it sure pairs well with traditional-style Sangiovese from Montalcino. The 2004 Brunello di Montalcino by Il Poggione is killer — its tannin, natural fruit flavors, and bright acidity a great match for the rich, intense flavors of cheap Mexican. Popping a top bottle like that with a pork burrito is one of my guilty pleasures.

The other night when Tracie B let me indulge in one of my guilty pleasures — Sangiovese and greasy Mexican food — I had no idea that I was drinking Antonio Galloni’s favorite bottling of 2004 Brunello di Montalcino.

I was very geeked this morning to read Antonio’s high praise for Il Poggione’s 2004 Brunello di Montalcino at Ale’s blog this morning. Not everyone made a great Brunello in 2004 (remember Franco’s editorial?) but of all the 04s I’ve tasted, Il Poggione’s has been a true stand-out.

    One wine stands out… The 2004 Brunello di Montalcino from Il Poggione is awesome. This finessed, regal Brunello flows onto the palate with seamless layers of perfumed fruit framed by silky, finessed tannins.

    —Antonio Galloni

Mazel tov, Ale! Your 2004 Brunello is killer and I’ve also been digging your series of posts on understanding Brunello terroir using Google Earth.

Food porn: cod cheeks, rabbit loin, and tannic Gamay in San Antonio

Above: “If a French cook and an Italian cook met at the border on the coast what would they cook? Cod cheeks with arugula, fingerlings, house-cured pancetta, and saffron aioli.” That’s how Josh Cross describes one of his favorite dishes at Oloroso in San Antonio.

If you read Do Bianchi, then you’ve heard me say it before: of all the cities I’ve visited in Texas, San Antonio is by far the most gastronomically exciting, as in the case of Oloroso, where I hung out the other day and paired some cru Beaujolais — Côte de Brouilly by Château Thivin — with my friend, chef, and owner Josh Cross.

Above: Josh’s signature rabbit includes all the innards, the rabbit “fajitas” (in the foreground), and the loin, extra rare.

Although I’ve always been a lover of French wine and I’ve sold a lot of French wine on the floor of Jaynes Gastropub in San Diego, I’ve never had the opportunity to spend so much time professionally with French wine and I’m loving it (the company I work for represents the Kermit Lynch portfolio in Texas). I snagged a bottle of the Thivin (which I sell) the other day and popped it with Josh at the end of a work day. It’s amazing how tannic Gamay can be in its single-vineyard expressions and the wine had just the right lightness to go with Josh’s cod and enough structure to pair perfectly with his rabbit. (Eric did a series of posts and a column on cru Beaujolais last year, definitely worth checking out.)

Life could be worse…

Showdown in Tuscany? Franco and James to face-off this summer

From the “after all, we write about wine not politics” department…

Above: Franco (pictured last September when we tasted together at Ca’ del Bosco) and James haven’t always been on the best of terms but collegiality has happily prevailed in their most recent exchange.

Addendum: if you missed the first part of the exchange, click here for the initial dialog between these two giants of wine writing…

In case you don’t subscribe to the Wine Spectator Online (as I do), I’ve cut and pasted the most recent exchange between Franco Ziliani and James Suckling below. It seems that collegiality has prevailed in an otherwise rocky relationship. (And here’s the link to the original post.)

Their shared insight and opinions regarding the 2006 Langa vintage are definitely worth checking out…

    User Name: James Suckling, Posted: 05:33 PM ET, May 29, 2009

    Your English is perfect Franco! I have always found Mascarello’s Barberas and Doclettos a little unclean. But the Barolos are generally fine, although lighter in style.

    User Name: Franco Ziliani, Italy Posted: 06:56 AM ET, May 30, 2009

    James, I agree (and I’m very surprise for this) with your perplexities about Barbaresco (and Barolo?) 2006. And I said this after a tasting, at Alba Wines Exhibition (why don’t you attend to this tasting with many Italian and international wine writers?) of 60-70 Barbaresco 2006, many among the most important wines of this Docg. The choice of Bruno Giacosa who decided not to bottle his Barolo and Barbaresco 2006 is very significant about the difficulties and the problems of this vintage, but in my tasting I have find at least 15-20 Barbaresco 2006 well made with great personality, richness, elegance and complexity. A question: why we debate about Giuseppe (Mauro) Mascarello wines and an hypothetical “volatile acidity” in his wines in a post you dedicate to Barbaresco 2006? I hope to have sometimes the possibility to meet you and taste with you so to confront our different point of view about Piedmont (Nebbiolo) wines. What do you think? Franco

    User Name: James Suckling, Posted: 09:43 AM ET, May 30, 2009

    Franco. That would be nice one day. May be this summer? As for trade tastings like the Alba Wines Exhibition, I prefer to taste the wines blind in my office in Tuscany. I too found numerous 2006 Barbarescos with elegance and complexity — ie 90 points or so — but I was just a little underwhelmed because I thought there would be more top wines.

    User Name: Franco Ziliani, Italy Posted: 11:29 AM ET, May 30, 2009

    OK for this summer James, in your office or, better, in Langhe region. When you decide that we can meet for discute about Barolo & Barbaresco and taste together, you can contact me at cannubi@gmail.com but don’t forget your promise…

In other news…

There’s another — and in this case, very real — showdown brewing in San Antonio.