Lou Iacucci, I remember the night he died so well,” said thirty-something Edoardo Falvo, scion of the Avignonesi family and co-owner, with his brother Alfredo, of the Masseria Li Veli winery in Puglia.
The glamorous Edoardo and his effervescent wife Alessia Nebuloni were in Austin, working the market with their wines from Salento and my good friend, Master Sommelier Craig Collins, regional sales manager had asked me to join them for dinner.
In case you don’t know who Louis “Lou” Iacucci was, just ask anyone who worked in the New York wine business back in the 1970s and 80s: as the owner of Gold Star Wines and one of the founders of Vias Imports, Lou started importing fine wines from Piedmont and Tuscany before anyone could imagine the renaissance of Italian wines in our country that emerged in the 1990s. Every New York-based Italian wine professional over the age of 50 remembers Lou (whom I never met) as the great pioneer of the contemporary era of Italian wine in our country. The legendary wine cellar at Manducatis in Long Island City, Queens was shaped by his palate and the then unknown wines he imported — particularly from Piedmont.
“I remember that night very well,” recounted Edoardo. “Fabrizio Pedrolli [his partner in Vias] called to say that there had been an accident. He was crying and he told us that they had been driving in two separate cars. Fabrizio had passed a truck on the road and Louis followed him. Fabrizio made it but Louis had a frontal collision. They were driving from Siena to meet my father [Alberto Falvo] at the winery [Avignonesi].”
I imagined that Edoardo would remember that night because a number of people who knew him had told me that he was driving to Avignonesi when the accident occurred.
Lou was taken to the hospital in Siena where he died the next day, said Edoardo.
Even though I never met him (and he passed long before my time), Iacucci sits supremely in my mind’s vision of the Italian wine Olympus. And his hagiography is as fascinating (at least to me) as the Nebbiolo he brought to this country in a time before the American media reinterpreted the iconic wines of Italy — just ask Charles Scicolone, Alfonso Cevola, Livio Panebianco, Francesco Bonfio et alia…
Edoardo’s reminiscences of the evening sent goosebumps traveling across my skin… The night that Lou Iacucci expired was, in many ways, the day the music died.
(BTW, Googling around before I composed this post, I came across this excellent and superbly detailed account of the recent sale of Avignonesi and its new owner and her biodynamic conversion of the estate. Fascinating reading imho.)
In other news…
Yesterday wine legend Christopher Cannan (above) was also in the River City (that’s Austin to the rest of yall) at the best little wine bar in Texas, Vino Vino, pimping his new project, the Clos Figueras (Priorat).
He seemed most geeked to taste me on the white he produces on the newish estate, a blend of stainless-steel fermented Viognier with smaller amounts of cask-fermented Grenache Blanc.
“They were supposed to send me Cabernet Sauvignon [rootstock],” he told me, “but they sent Viognier instead. And so I decided to plant it.” The wine was fresh, with bright acidity, and I was impressed by how the Viognier’s unctuous character was kept in check by the wine’s overall balance. It was delicious.
To all those folks who were worried about me not having any good wine to drink down here in Texas, not to worry. We do alright… ;)