What to pour for Alice Feiring in Austin?

In a remarkable confluence of cosmic events, Comrades Howard and Alice both found themselves in Austin last night: he, to speak at the Austin Film Festival; she, to talk about Natural wine and her new book today at Whole Foods Market (Lamar) and tomorrow at Vino Vino.

When we all met for dinner last night at one of our favorite restaurants in the world, Fonda San Miguel, it was only natural that we would drink López de Heridia. After all, Alice wrote “the book” on the winery.

It may seem facile to pair Mexican cuisine with Spanish wine (for the overly obvious reasons). But the fact of the matter is that the attenuated fruit in the López oxidative style works gloriously well with the intense flavors of great Mexican cooking. The wine paired brilliantly with our mole, for example, where the gentle astringency of the wine played counterpart to the chocolate in the mole.

Tracie P and I are thrilled that Fonda San Miguel wine director Brad Sharp has continued to support these unique wines, even in a world where 99% of his guests ask regularly (and nearly exclusively) for Chard, Cab, Merlot, or Pinot.

After dinner, perhaps inspired by the brio of the evening, Alice insisted that we make a pilgrimage to the chicken coop out back behind Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon.

Last night was 100% irony-free at Ginny’s and Sarah and The Tallboys, a country outfit out of Chicago, played a smoking set (imho).

Ginny and daughter Sharon are so sweet to me and Tracie P whenever we visit.

But their wholesome Texas hospitality reached its limits last night when Sharon had to kick out a couple for getting to frisky! Never a dull moment at Ginny’s…

Chili cheese fries, Texas style, at 24 Diner Austin

Cousins Joanne and Marty were in town for the wedding of their close family friends but they snuck away from festivities for a few hours so we could visit at 24 Diner, where no one could resist the Chili Cheese Fries.

In Texas, the designation chili is highly codified, denoting chili con carne, a dish which rigorously and canonically excludes beans. The sliced jalapeño took this expression of Chili Cheese Fries, an American classic, over the top.

The food at 24 Diner is always solid and the atmosphere is fun. Great location, next to Waterloo Records, and across the street from Book People and the flagship Whole Foods Market.

Teenage fantasy come true…

I’ll never forget the first time I saw a CD that I played on in a bin at Tower Records on Sunset Blvd. That was many year ago but the thrill is always the same each time…

Tracie P snapped these photos today at Waterloo Records in Austin, one of the nation’s last independently owned record stores.

If your town doesn’t have a record store, you can buy the new record “Freudian Slip” by Nous Non Plus here (our band)…

And here’s the link to the Nous Non Plus site.

Thanks for listening!

Alice Feiring in Austin Sunday & Monday

It seems like a lifetime ago that Tracie P and I met Alice on our first trip to Europe together. Tracie P and I were in Paris to play with Nous Non Plus and Alice was there to write a piece on Natural wine and our paths happily crossed.

I’ve known Alice for more than 10 years and she’s one of our dearest, dearest friends. A big sister, a mentor, and one of the most fun people to be around on this planet, no matter what mischief we’re up to.

Alice has a new book, Naked Wine: Letting Grapes Do What Comes Naturally, and she’s coming to Austin for a few readings: Sunday at Whole Foods Market on Lamar and Monday at Vino Vino. Both events are being presented by the Wine and Food Foundation of Texas.

Tracie P and I will be at both events, of course, and I hope you can join us to hear Alice read from her new book and taste some Natural wines with us.

Beyond our deep friendship, I support Alice in her cause to spread the word about Natural wine not just because I enjoy Natural wines but because I believe that Natural wines and the people who make them (and drink them) can save the world from the ills of our increasingly industrialized food chain.

In other news…

I’m making one last trip before Baby P arrives: Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings of next week, I’ll be pouring wine on the floor at Sotto in Los Angeles where I’ve curated the wine list this year.

We’ll be debuting one last flight of wines for the fall before I take a break for daddy duty, including one of the best wines I’ve tasted this year… More on that later…

Thanks for reading and stay tuned!

Gaia Gaja’s cowgirl boots (and my first Alba truffles of the season)

Yesterday found me back in Houston where I had lunch with my friend and client Tony and Gaia Gaja.

To mark the occasion of her Houston, Texas visit, Gaia donned the cowgirl boots she had picked up on her previous visit (above). As the saying goes, you can take a girl out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the girl. After all, she does come from a town where they didn’t have running water until 1964.

As you can imagine, Tony pulled out all the stops for the luncheon: I’ve posted my complete notes on the meal and the wines over at his site here.

I wasn’t surprised by the Gaja 2007 Barbaresco: however strange (by virtue of the fact that there was no winter to speak of), the 2007 vintage was generous to Barbaresco and everything I’ve tasted so far has been great to phenomenal (remember when Tracie P and I tasted 2007 Asili and Santo Stefano with Bruno Giacosa?).

But it was Gaia’s family’s 2008 Barbaresco that really blew me away. In a challenging vintage, Gaja was blessed with very juicy, well ripened fruit. Green harvesting and southern exposure of their vineyards delivered mature grapes, said Gaja, and allowed them to pick before inclement weather arrived. The floral notes on the wine were fantastic and although still very young in its evolution, it had that zinging acidity and powerful tannin that makes Barbaresco such a unique appellation imho and one of my favorite wines in the world.

My favorite dish of the meal was the branzino and poached potato tartar topped with caviar and paired with the 2009 Gaia & Rey Chardonnay (a guilty pleasure, I must admit).

Click here for all of my notes, including the 2005 Sperss, and images of the dishes…

Thanks again, Tony and Gaia!

Another oaky, buttery Chardonnay (a negative review)

This summer, when I asked “Should wine bloggers write about wines they don’t like?” the subsequent dialog and debate led to a lot of soul searching at casa Parzen.

In one of the threads that grew in the wake of a follow-up post, Eric the Red — the Solomon of wine writing and blogging in my view — wrote that:

    As for saying negative things, reporters, critics and bloggers cannot ignore them. Yes, in my wine panel columns we list our 10 favorite wines. But I always address problems that we found in the wines, even if I don’t go through them bottle by bottle. And I generally do mention particular bottles if they are well known and highly regarded.

I took his guidance to heart: yesterday, over at the Houston Press, I posted about a “well known and highly regarded” wine that made me gag (literally).

Of course, I couldn’t and didn’t say gag but I’ve taken the leap into negativity.

Snowcone, a wine blogger based in Houston, commented:

    Confession: I hate oaked Chardonnay. There are one or two that occasionally strike my fancy, but I look for unoaked wherever I go. (There’s a great one from Knapp Winery–in the FLX [Finger Lakes], natch!) My husband loves the stick o’butter/2×4 variety, and it’s the only place where our wine palates diverge.

Click here for the post. Thanks for reading!

The ugly beauty of Italy

Happily and thankfully, I made it back to Austin last night (on my last two trips back from Europe, I was marooned in Newark). On the plane ride home, I collected some of the more beautiful images I captured with my camera on the trip. Thanks for reading!

Rain clouds spotted from the home of my friends Laura and Marco, Montalcino.

In the nearly 25 years that I’ve lived, studied, traveled, and worked in Italy, I’m always amazed by its awe-inspiring beauty and its often revolting ugliness.

Cypress trees, between the villages of Torrenieri and San Quirico d’Orcia (Montalcino).

During my trip over the last two weeks, Berlusconi tried — as usual — to distract media attention from his political and legal problems by joking that he planned to rename his party Forza Gnocca, literally Go Pussy or Pussy Party (gnocca means knuckle in Italian and is used euphemistically to refer to the female anatomy). Politician Alessandra Mussolini said she thought it was a good idea, adding that it would bring people together.

Bistecca fiorentina with my friends, father and son Fabrizio and Alessandro, Sant’Angelo in Colle (Montalcino).

After he failed to pass his budget (in what should have been a routine parliamentary vote), Berlusconi and his cabinet dodged a bullet when they survived a confidence vote. My friends in Italy say that he will continue to govern until 2012.

Gently botrytized Picolit grapes in Percoto.

Berlusconi didn’t need any help, however, finding media distractions: the so-called Black Blocs thrashed Rome in an otherwise peaceful demonstration by the Indignados. (Here’s the NY Times coverage.)

Frico served in the garden of Elisabetta’s home, Percoto.

But the thing that seemed so unreal — so unnatural, so far-fetched and unbelievable that I wondered if I was having a nightmare — was a television advertisement introducing a new sandwich at McDonald’s created by one of the greatest Italian chefs of all time and one of the architects of the 20th-century renaissance of Italian food, Gualtiero Marchesi.

Vintage bicycles in a show commemorating 50 years of the Brescia design firm Borsoni.

Blogger Massimo Bernardi called the move Marchesi’s “betrayal.” (See Massimo’s post for images of this tragedy.)

Distant Church Bells at the Monastery of Santa Giulia, Brescia.

But on the last day of the bloggers conference in Brescia, after I had ducked out of the last session to prepare my notes on the grand tasting for a talk I was supposed to give, I was stopped in my tracks by the Monastery of Santa Giulia set against a clear blue sky and the distant sound of church bells ringing.

And I remembered why the ceaseless beauty of this country has never lost its hold over me…

Thanks for reading!

14 days on the road and I’m agonna see my baby tonight! :)

Made all my connections today and looks like I’ll be home tonight. It’s always so crazy getting back to the river city from europe and man, am I glad I’m gonna be able to wrap my arms around tracie p and tell her how much I love her!

It’s looking good but wish me luck anyways!

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