Christmas Letter 2010

A lot to be thankful for in 2010

The 2010 Parzen vintage has been an amazing year for Tracie P and me and we have a lot to be thankful for.

Family is all healthy (knock on wood). Work has been great, with my marketing business thriving and growing. And we even sold a song to Google (a big one for our music publishing business)!

Our vegetative cycle (to carry the vinous metaphor a step further!) began in the winter with our beautiful La Jolla wedding (thanks again, Rev. and Mrs. B!), our thrilling honeymoon, and our first home together, located serendipitously (and I’m not making this up!) at the intersection of Alegria and Grover streets, an allegro corner in the Groover’s Paradise — Austin, Texas. Summer ripening brought professional challenges, too much work travel, and all-night writing sessions that not only led to some of the work I’m the most proud of but also some of the greatest professional rewards of my career as a writer and marketing consultant. The fall harvest was no bumper crop but its fruit was healthy, with balanced sugar and acidity in the berries (read hope and reality in each grape). Now as the cold of the Texas winter has set in, our wine is in the cellar and we can finally rest our tired but not weary heads in the glow of our little Christmas tree in the living room.

When I met Tracie P in 2008, I still wasn’t sure where life was taking me and where I was headed. Since she came into my life, supporting me with her love and warmth and inspiring me with her beauty and brilliance, so much has come into focus for me. 2009 was a good start (man, the first six months of my life in Texas and the job I took hawking wine were not fun!). But 2010 has rendered satisfactions — professional and personal — that I never would or could have imagined when I left New York in 2007 bound for California.

Tracie P and I have a long way to go (particularly in building our financial future) but we are embracing our dreams for the future with the energy and spirit they merit and we’re keeping our fingers crossed (and sucking a lime), hoping that 2011 will deliver the gifts of life for which we aspire.

To all the folks who have supported Do Bianchi Wine Selections, THANK YOU! Having my own wine retail business has been a longtime dream for me (reaching back to 2005 when I began working in wine retail in New York). Words cannot express my gratitude. I love hearing your impressions of the wines and I love the new friendships I’ve made (and the old friendships rekindled) through our email correspondence and our happily inevitable sips and chats when I deliver the wines to you.

Lastly, I want to use this opportunity to thank my sweet Tracie P for bringing so much joy into my life and inspiring me to reach greater personal heights than I ever thought conceivable. I love you with every fiber of my being and my heart is filled with hope and joy as we turn the page and close the chapter in our lives that was 2010. It feels like 2010 just flew right by, doesn’t it? I’m so glad that we have a lifetime ahead of us and I will cherish every moment, every breath, and every I love you.

Thanks for reading, everyone, and thanks for your support in 2010! We wish you a wonderful holiday season and a healthy and happy 2011.

Where Italian wine and high tech meet (happily)

You may remember that when I first moved to Texas, I took a job hawking wine for one of the many wine “brokers” here (in the bizarre, anachronistic, archaic, and labyrinthine system through which wine is sold in this good ol’ boy state, where bowling shirts, deals made in strip clubs, and dry counties shape the topography of the business). I certainly don’t regret leaving that job (which I took to learn the lay of the land), nor do I regret the friendships I forged during that “hunker down and move forward” (à la Johnny Cash) time of my new life here.

Apulian winemaker Paolo Cantele, pictured above playing Chicken Shit Bingo at Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon with me and Tracie P in April 2009, is one of those friends. Paolo is a true humanist winemaker and our conversations in the time we spent together ranged from wine to Pasolini to politics to music to European literature to fine art (ask Paolo to tell you the tale of his hilarious encounter with Italian actor Ninetto Davoli).

A few months ago, Paolo asked me to give him a hand with a new and ambitious social media and technology project (in Italian, German, and English). One of his recent innovations (among many other high tech tools employed for marketing) is his new QR codes, which will appear on the back labels of his new vintages. How cool is that? But unlike the handful of northern winemakers who have begun using QR codes to send you to their corporate home page, Paolo’s link sends you to media created especially for each wine, including a video with Italy’s young, hip sommelier dude Andrea Gori and lots of other juicy info and images. Very cool stuff… Check it out here. (You can grab the code using your mobile device from the screen, btw.)

QR codes are the future and will soon begin to redefine the fabric of our consumerist lives in the U.S. (they already have in Asia and are beginning to take hold in Europe). And now they represent what is perhaps the newest form of wine writing!

I created the QR code below to link you to one of my favorite posts (use your smart phone to find out which one).

Divine tortellini in brodo made from leftover bollito misto

I’ve been having a lot of fun writing Tony’s blog but the true reward came in the form of his excellent tortellini in brodo when I visited with him this week in Houston.

The pasta was perfectly toothsome and the filling and broth came from Tony’s Saturday night bollito misto, including his vintage bollito misto trolley.

Word on the street is that he is going to be doing bollito misto every Saturday until year’s end, hopefully with tortellini to follow…

Wouldn’t be Xmas without Prosecco, Produttori, and Pandoro

Cartizze

The Do Bianchi Christmas Six-Pack offering is live at 2Bianchi.com (my wine club for California residents).

This month’s offering features Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Crede by Bisol. That’s Matteo Bisol atop the Cartizze cru in Valdobbiadene in a photo I snapped back in April 2008.

Veneto woman

Using my camera, I “grabbed” this image of a “Veneto costume” from a poster at Matteo’s family winery.

There’s lots of good stuff in this month’s offering and gift ideas as well, including magnums of 06 Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco.

After all, it wouldn’t be Christmas without Prosecco, Produttori, and Pandoro, now, would it? ;-)

THANKS TO EVERYONE FOR SUPPORTING DO BIANCHI WINE SELECTIONS IN 2010! MEANS SO MUCH TO ME! :-)

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… :-)

Mark does Madeira

It just doesn’t sound as good as “Debbie Does Dallas,” does it?

One of the sexiest new old wines of 2010 is Madeira. Ever since December of 2009, when Eric the Red reminded us that Madeira was historically served as a pairing for savory foods, to be consumed throughout the course of the meal, people have been paying attention (again) to this high-acidity, groovy, funky, nutty stuff.

Down at Trio in the Four Seasons Hotel in Austin, where Austin’s sexiest sommelier Mark Sayre serves up “‘a voyage in a glass,’ poured nightly along the banks of Lady Bird Lake,” you can do a flight of the Rare Wine Company’s “historic Madeira series.”

Reasonably priced and utterly delicious. So perfect IMHO for Chef Todd Duplechan’s Texas smoked rib-eye there. How cool is that?

My band in a pretty major Google ad campaign launch today

Yup, that’s me playing a Telecaster…

Whenever I hear one of our old songs in a license or film (and thankfully, that happens often), it always brings back powerful memories of being in the studio and recording. I even remember the sautéed pork chops deglazed with white wine that I cooked for the band the night that we tracked “Allô Allô” in my friend Mike Andrews’s Hollywood Hills studio!

Back then, the band was still called Les Sans Culottes (before the infamous on-stage fish taco fart, the inevitable split in the wake of the fart, the lawsuit, and the dawning of the NN+ era) and since we tracked that song, I must have played it a thousand times live (we used to and still will open the show with it).

Jean-Luc Retard and Céline Dijon wrote the song back in New York City and we recorded the rhythm track in one take. That’s me playing guitar: I played one of Mike’s 70s Telecasters through a Fender Champ (small amps are always the best in the studio). Jon Erickson of Jaynes Gastropub engineered the session and that’s how he and I become friends.

For those of you so inclined, you can hear other tracks from those sessions (Fixation Orale, Aeronaut, 2004) and purchase “Allô Allô” from ITunes by clicking here.

Allô Allô (Hello I Love You) - Fixation Orale

Tracie P and I had have a pretty amazing year professionally, and, wow, this license is the icing on the cake. Suck a lime: I have a whole lot to be thankful for this year.

So many of my dreams have come true in life — opening for Ringo Starr in New York City (!) and a top-10 college radio album have been musical highlights for me… When I left NYC, I thought that all of that joy was behind me. But since I met Tracie P back in 2008, it sometimes feels like the whole world is smiling at me.

Maybe that’s because I’m standing next to a beautiful girl…

Thanks for reading and listening and thanks for all the support for our music over the years!

Roberto Stucchi: Chianti “shouldn’t be fattened by Merlot or Cab”

Above: Roberto Stucchi, one of Italy’s leading winemakers, among the first, historically, to bring “Californian” technology to Tuscany after studying at UC Davis (photo via B-21).

Our recent VinoWire coverage of the Chianti producers association decision to allow IGTs (read “Super Tuscans”) at the body’s annual vintage debut event and its subsequent sea change (retracting the option for participating winemakers), really touched a nerve.

Over in a thread on my Facebook, wine writers Robert Whitley and Kyle Phillips (who argued for the inclusion of IGTs) squared off with Italian wine taste-makers Charles Scicolone and Colum Sheehan in a gentlemans’s however testy exchange on this sensitive issue. (Click here to read the entire thread, which includes comments from a number of interesting wine folks.)

In the spirit of Italian par condicio, I wanted to share the comment below by leading Chianti Classico producer Roberto Stucchi, who reported his notes from the meeting where it was decided not to allow the IGTs:

    I was at the assemblea [assembly]. There was little discussion about the IGT wines at the Anteprima [the annual debut of the new Chianti Classico vintage, held in Florence each year in February] at all. A few criticized it, but that’s it. The main topic was the reorganization of the C[hianti] C[lassico] appellation, and the one thing that came out very strongly was the rejection of the proposal of a “light young C. Classico” to help in this difficult economic time. The majority (but there where no votes) spoke in favor of reviving the riservas, and re-qualifying [re-classifying] the whole appellation. Also a mostly favorable opinion on the idea of sub-appellations by comune [township], but with very differentiated ideas about how to do it.My opinion about IGT at the Anteprima: why not? Many are pure Sangiovese. And unfortunately some Chianti Classicos are Bordeaux-like.

Here at Do Bianchi, he noted:

    As a C[hianti] Classico producer that has always worked only with Sangiovese, I’m not scandalized by the proposal to present IGT’s at the Anteprima. After all many are entirely from Sangiovese grapes.

    I find a lot more questionable that the rules have gradually increased the amount of non-traditional grapes allowed in the blend (now that’s a slippery slope to me).

    The Chianti “Bordelais” lobby keeps pushing to increase this percentage, the last proposal was to allow up to 40%. (It failed for now.)

    I need to make clear that I’m not at all against growing other varietals in Chianti; quite the opposite, I think that the Classico appellation should allow wines from other varietals to be called Chianti Classico, with a varietal appellation added.

    It’s just that CC alone shouldn’t be fattened by Merlot or Cab. It would be nice if things were more transparent, with things clearly stated on the label.

    I love CC from Sangiovese for its elegance, finesse, food friendliness, and for how the light penetrates it and gives it brilliance.

    What really bugs me is when an overly concentrated and heavily oaked muscular wine pretends to be a Sangiovese.

Above: I found this photograph of Roberto (from the 1980s, I believe) on a Russian site.

Parzen Hanukkah (WARNING: CONTAINS EXTREME FUN)

After being trapped for 1.5 days in the Parzen family web of food, wine, music, and fun, Alfonso was in fine form.

This girl may have grown up in East Texas, but, man, she was born to cook up some mighty fine Jew food!

First things first…

Tracie P’s latkes are amazing… paired SO GOOD with the salty flavors of the newly arrived 2009 Santorini by Sigalas.

Not every Texas brisket is destined to be smoked. Tracie P truly outdid herself last night… served with kasha and lentils…

and fried parsnips… (Jeremy Parsnip?)

And adding a classic dish for Hanukkah from Israel, Tracie P made jelly-filled doughnuts! YES, JELLY-FILLED DOUGHNUTS! Paired with Domaine Cady 2007 Chaume. (Traditionally, fried foods are served during Hanukkah to celebrate the miracle of the oil that lasted 8 days… jives well with Texas cooking!)

Château Pajzos Esszencia 1993 was friggin’ BRILLIANT, our wedding gift from Comrade Howard.

From the Château Pajzos website:

    On top vintages, Chateau Pajzos produces the mythical Esszencia.

    This absolute rarity, gained from the free-run juice of the aszú grapes, is a unique nectar with a honey-like concentration.

    Only 1 liter is produced by 3 tons of aszú berries which represents the production of 10 ha. This wine is the rarest in the world a bottle of 10 cl is the results of one whole hectare.

This wine was one of the most intriguing wines we drank in 2010, with incredible petrol notes on the nose and nutty, earthy tones on the palate, and one of the most captivating finishes I’ve ever experienced in a wine. Incredible… Thank you, again, Comrade Howard, for this amazing gift, shared with people we love…

Happy Hanukkah ya’ll!

Zampone! @ the Parzen Christmas party

Alfonso and SO Kim drove down from Dallas last night for a weekend of cooking, eating, and opening some bottles that I’ve been saving for this holiday season.

Don’t ask me how it got to our house (or how it got into this country) but last night I cooked one of my favorite Italian delicacies: zampone, a pig’s trotter stuffed with head cheese and then boiled. (@TWG you would love this stuff!)

Tracie P stewed some delicious lentils (which are traditionally served with zampone in Italy on New Year’s eve), aligot, and spinach. And I made a salsa verde (flat-leaf parsley, anchovies, garlic, and extra-virgin olive oil) and prepared some kren (grated horseradish with a touch of vinegar and sour cream) as condiments.

Alfonso brought a pandoro (which Tracie P and prefer over panettone) and we paired with OUR FAVORITE MOSCATO D’ASTI by Vajra. Man, that shit is good!

It’s going to be hard to top the sheer fun factor from last night but we’re going to try again tonight: Tracie P is making Jewish delicacy brisket and potato latkes for our Chanukkah party!

Stay tuned…