Dale DeGroff & scenes from the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival

When “Master Mixologist” and “King Cocktail” Dale DeGroff (right) leans into the bar to tell you something, you LISTEN… That’s Master Sommelier Virginia Philip (center), wine director at the historic landmark Breakers Hotel in Florida, and Heath Porter, wine director at the equally storied national landmark Greenbrier resort in West Virginia and one of the coolest people I hung and tasted with at the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival over the weekend.

“We don’t need mixologists,” said Dale. “We need BARTENDERS!” Great Bartending is as much about personality and hospitality as it is about palate and creativity — as he told us and illustrated by example. He was mixing classic Margaritas at JCT Kitchen

Dale is simply one of the coolest dudes on the planet. What a treat to get to hear him chat about bartending today, his fav bar in Midtown NYC, and even tell an accordion joke! HA!

I thought the shrimp and grits from Dogwood (Atlanta) was elegant and delicious. It was interesting to get to taste so many different interpretations of grits over the span of a day and a half.

The charcuterie by Table (Asheville, NC) impressed me. From what I saw down here, these dudes in the Deep South may lack the panache of the salumieri in NYC, SF, and LA, but they got the substance… Maybe it’s in the meat and not the motion after all?

Was geeked to hear Anthony Giglio’s talk on Grenache. I’ve known him since my early NYC days thanks to the Scicolones. He and his wife are so sweet and he is a JEDI MASTER at this shit. He had his crowd in the palm of his hand…

Ummm… didn’t taste this… Predictably, lots of Bourbon presenters (a lot of them topflight but all commercial) and even crappy Texas Vodka. You know which one…

This lady was awesome. No marketing schtick whatsoever. Just her trailer and her teacakes. “My trailer’s gonna blush with you taking so many pictures of her,” she said. “No one’s ever taken so many!” She blushed.

My seminars were super fun and so many nice folks came out to taste and riff on wine with me. Food and wine buds Eat It Atlanta and fra’ Aronne came to my afternoon tasting and we ended up eating an early and amazing dinner at Empire State South before I hopped a train, plane, and automobile back to the River City.

But more on our remarkable dinner later…

Dante Scaglione to return to Giacosa!

Above: Enologist Dante Scaglione, left, with Bruna and Bruno Giacosa (photo via Franco Ziliani).

Posting in a hurry this morning in Atlanta, Georgia, but just had to share the good news that enologist Dante Scaglione will be returning to Bruno Giacosa. My partner over at VinoWire Franco was able to confirm the rumors today. Here’s the link for the post at VinoWire.

Una gran bella notizia! Great news!

Fried Chicken at South City Kitchen in Atlanta, the “New South” cuisine

Just had to start with South City Kitchen’s Caesar Salad after being tempted by “grit croutons” (breaded and fried grit cubes) and fried okra.

I’m sure the bartender had pegged me for an out-of-towner even before I ordered the fried chicken but I just had to have it. Must say, it was perfect. The “New South” cuisine may not be so new but it’s going strong. Thoroughly enjoyed this recommendation made by Eat It Atlanta — my number-one go-to blog for when I come to “the A” as he calls it (this is the first time, btw). @EatItAtlanta, thanks again, man, you ROCK!

Italian sayings: buona visione, buona degustazione, e buon weekend

It’s been a busy week here at Do Bianchi.

The other night I spoke about Fellini’s Notti di Cabiria and my semiotic approach to Fellinian wine pairing (semiotic or “Econian” as Vintuition pointed out) at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin.

I wish the weekend at home with Tracie P were in the cards for me but — ahimè, alas — today I’m heading to Atlanta where I’ll be leading two wine tastings and seminars tomorrow at the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival.

It’s been a long week and it’s going to be even longer. And as I head off to another working Saturday, I’ll wish you all a buon weekend (a great weekend) with a list of Italian optatives… (Briciole and Avvinare, which ones am I missing?)

Work/Study

Buon lavoro = may your work be fruitful.
Buona lettura = enjoy your reading.
Buona lezione = may the lecture/class be fruitful.
Buon seminario = may the seminar/class be fruitful.
Buono studio = may your study be fruitful.

Senses

Buon appetito = enjoy your food.
Buon ascolto = enjoy the music [listening].
Buona degustazione = enjoy the tasting.
Buona spaghettata = enjoy your spaghetti [pasta].
Buona visione = enjoy the movie.

Travel/Recreation

Buona continuazione = enjoy the rest of your day/activity.
Buona domenica = enjoy your day of rest [the day of the Lord].
Buone feste = happy holidays.
Buon fine settimana [buon weekend] = have a great weekend.
Buona permanenza = enjoy your stay.
Buon proseguimento = enjoy the rest of your stay/activity.
Buone vacanze = enjoy your vacation.
Buon viaggio = have a safe trip.
Buon volo = have a safe flight.
Buon weekend [buon fine settimana] = have a great weekend.

Health/Rest

Buona guarigione = I wish you a speedy recovery.
Buon riposo = sleep well [get well soon].

Greetings/Salutation

Buona giornata = have a great day.
Buon giorno = good day [greetings].
Buona notte = good night [good-bye].
Buon pomeriggio = good afternoon [greetings].
Buona sera = good evening [greetings].
Buona serata = have a great evening.

Stone crab porn and cousin Marty’s doing great :)

The best thing about the Florida stone crab last night at Tony’s in Houston was watching cousin Marty scarf it down with gusto!

I was in town for a Ribera del Duero tasting and he let me crash a celebratory dinner for his research assistant, who just landed a fancy schmancy federal court clerkship (mazel tov!).

He’s not quite done with his treatment but, man, it was great to see that panache that we all love him for… You should have seen him munching on that crab knuckle (in the foreground)!

Pairing wine with Fellini

You can imagine how excited I am about tomorrow night’s screening of Fellini’s 1957 Notti di Cabiria (Nights of Cabiria) and wine pairing tomorrow night at the Alamo Drafthouse (Ritz) in Austin — perhaps the only city in the world where someone would be crazy enough to pair wine and film on the big screen! I’ll be speaking before the screening about the wines and why I selected them. (Here are the details for tomorrow night’s event.)

Here are my pairings and what inspired them. Hope to see you there! Buona visione!

Château Moncontour Sparkling Vouvray

The one wine the characters of Cabiria drink in frame is Champagne. In the late 1950s in Rome, Champagne denoted a wide variety of sparkling wines with a wide range of provenance (although true Champagne can only be made in the region of Champagne in France). This dry sparkling wine is made from Chenin Blanc grown in the Loire Valley and is made using the méthode champenoise, where the wine is fermented a second time in bottle.

Domaine des Terres Dorées FRV100

The overarching theme of Fellini’s films is characters who find joy and revel in the beauty of life (la dolce vita) even in the worst imaginable situations. Cabiria is a classic Fellinian creation and she inspired the selection of this sparkling Gamay from the low-rent district of Beaujolais because it is as joyful as she. The winemaker is a fan of Fellini and mentions him as inspiration on the label of this bottle. The wine is named FRV100, rebus (in French) for effervescent.

Regillo Frascati

Frascati is the classic white wine of the Roman castle district, where popes and princes still make their homes and vacation villas to this day. In a time when table wine was nearly always produced locally, bright fresh and food-friendly Frascati often graced the tables of Rome’s colorful trattorie, where the rich and famous dined side-by-side with the proletariat. While we remember our parents’ cheaply produced commercial Frascati, this wine is farmed biodynamically (chemical free) and represents a true expression of this wonderful however humble appellation.

Ca’ del Monte Valpolicella Classico

Long before Barolo or Barbaresco, Brunello or Chianti, or the now ubiquitous and falsely crowned Super Tuscans were adored by the privileged class, Valpolicella was considered one of the great red wines of Italy. In the 1950s, you were apt to be poured Valpolicella in one of the swank restaurants of the Via Veneto, the elite thoroughfare that appears in many Roman films from that era. Indeed, Fellini’s characters are served a Valpolicella in his most famous (however misunderstood) film, La Dolce Vita — set against a swinging Via Veneto cast of players. Look for the minerality and the savory flavors in this excellent expression of Valpolicella.

Vitovska: Italian Grape Name and Appellation Project

CLICK HERE FOR ALL EPISODES

This week’s episode of the Italian grape name and appellation pronunciation project is devoted to a variety that I simply cannot drink enough of, Vitovska, a grape grown primarily in the Carso (Eastern Friuli) and Slovenia, a grape that produces bright white-fruit wines with low alcohol and high acidity, and a variety that has become a flagship for orange-wine (skin-contact) producers like Vodopivec and Zidarich — two of my all-time favorite wineries and wines.

Above: The Zidarich winery is one of the most amazing sites I’ve ever seen in all of my vinous travels. It was constructed using only locally found materials, like “Carso Onyx,” the red limestone of the Carso in Eastern Friuli.

Above, you can hear and see Benjamino Zidarich (BEHN-yah-MEE-noh ZEE-dah-reech) speaking the ampelonym Vitovska, with the rapid rhythm very commonly found among speakers in the Carso (the dialectal inflection of nearby Trieste is famous for this signature of its prosody). I visited Benjamino and his amazing winery back in September of 2010. Even though we’d never met, we share some very close friends (the uncle of a very good friend of mine is the architect who designed his incredible facility). We both remarked about the fact that he and I both have Old Testament names: his family has a long-standing tradition of giving its children names from the Hebrew Bible.

Above: Every element — including the artistic — in the Zidarich cellar is an expression of Benjamino’s respect for nature and his deep sense of spirituality inspired by her, like the four bas-reliefs on the columns supporting the ceiling, each of them representing one of the four seasons.

One of the things that impressed me the most about Benjamino and his winery was his deep sense of spirituality, expressed not only in the way he spoke about his wines but also in the cellar itself. The facility was built using only materials found locally in the Carso and it includes many artistic elements that depict nature and its balance. I don’t think Benjamino would disagree with my observation that he has built a temple consecrated to nature and Natural wine.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how the biodynamic movement in America rarely includes its spirituality — one of the very foundations upon which it rests. However much they may disagree, the one thing that ties nearly all of the European producers of Natural wine together is their spirituality and quasi-religious devotion to what they do and how they speak about their wines and nature. Benjamino is one of the most deeply spiritual I know.

Above: In the U.S., we almost only see Vitovska vinified with skin contact as an orange wine. And the wines are DELICIOUS! But when I visited Benjamino, I got to taste his entry-level Vitovska, vinified as a lighter-style white wine. Man, I could drink that wine every day…

Eric the Red wrote a wonderful however short piece about Vitovska last year and Alder over at Vinography is a huge fan as well.

Natural wine and LSD

Yesterday, when Lewis Dickson poured me a glass of his recently bottled 2010 Du Petit Lait, a saignée of estate-grown Merlot and Black Spanish, I couldn’t help but be reminded what my friend downtown Michael told me the other day, as we sat in his office overlooking the San Diego Harbor and chatted about the vicissitudes of Natural wine.

“When you taste Natural wine,” he said, “it’s like you taste the fruit in technicolor.”

There was a pause. We looked at each and I think we both knew the thought that was going through the other’s mind.

“It’s like you’re high on LSD,” he said, beating me to the punch.

Here’s my tasting note for Lewis’s juicy, technicolor, and super delicious rosé:

Picture yourself in a boat on a river,
With tangerine trees and marmalade skies.
Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly,
A girl with kaleidoscope eyes.

Cellophane flowers of yellow and green,
Towering over your head.
Look for the girl with the sun in her eyes,
And she’s gone.

Lewis, who grows and makes Natural wine about an hour and a half’s drive south of where Tracie P and I live in Central Texas, had come to town to partake in Pink Fest 2011 (a rosé wine tasting at our fav local wine bar and my client Vino Vino) and he brought a bottle for us to taste with him. Lewis, the inimitable Bill Head , and I also really loved the Zoë rosé by Skouras (Greece), made from mostly Agiorgitiko with a smaller amount of Moschofilero.

Tasting Lewis’s rosé reminded me of those countless times that we’ve offered a glass of a Natural wine to someone who’s never tasted one before. It’s always followed by a wow, I’ve never tasted anything like that before, that’s DELICIOUS

As I headed back to my desk and the piles of work that awaited me on an otherwise gorgeous Saturday afternoon in Austin, I couldn’t help but ponder the notion that Natural wine may not be for everyone… Maybe it’s only for those of us who are ready to open their minds and walk through the the doors of perception

Buona domenica, yall!

LOVING the list at Fonda San Miguel…

The list at one of me and Tracie P’s FAVORITE restaurants in the world, Fonda San Miguel (Austin), is OFF THE CHARTS ROCKING right now. Earlier this week, a close friend treated us to dinner and a bottle of the 2000 Gravonia white by López de Heredia. Man, that wine is INSANE right now. Wonderful fruit, great acidity, and the oxidative note that takes those wines over the top. Great pairing with the queso and the sopecitos.

Next we paired the 09 Produttori del Barbaresco Langhe Nebbiolo with our entrées. I had the carne asada tampiqueña… A match made in heaven (I wrote about it today over at the Houston Press for my “Odd Pair” rubric).

Produttori’s 09 Langhe Nebbiolo is one of the more light-bodied vintages in recent years and its bright fruit and acidity were fantastic with the dish and stood up beautifully to its intense flavors and spiciness. Seriously, one of the best meals of the year so far…

How cool is that? The best Mexican restaurant in the U.S. and they have Produttori del Barbaresco on their list! Love it…

Buon weekend yall…

Nous Non Plus forever…

Björn Türoque emailed me the photo above last night after he emceed the 2011 Air Guitar Championship regional finals in Chicago at the Double Door (he took the photo in the men’s room). We played there about 5 years ago, touring in support of our first album under the new name.

You probably already know the story of how and why we changed the name of our band to Nous Non Plus (and if you don’t, here’s the link).

We’re going to begin mixing our new album week after next and our record label is talking about a November release. I can’t wait: it’s our best record yet…

NOUS NON PLUS FOREVER!