Room with a view (and a toilet) remembering our honeymoon

BABY P 2013 UPDATE: No news to report but chances are that she’ll arrive this week.

Tasting Giovanna Rizzolio’s Cascina delle Rose Barbera d’Alba on Friday night brought back a flood of memories from our stay with her on our honeymoon.

One of my favorites was waking up in the morning and seeing Asili and Rabajà from our bathroom window (when seated).

In the photo above, the gaze is actually facing north-northwest. Asili and Rabajà are out of frame to the right. Here’s a Google map link with directions from Asili to Tre Stelle (where Giovanna’s estate is located) to give you some context and to illustrate the unique terrain of Langa.

When you click on the map, zoom out and note the Tanaro river and the way the Alps seems to suddenly melt away into valley… Barbaresco is simply one of the most magical places on earth for me.

Buona domenica, yall!

Cascina delle Rose in Texas! YES!

cascina delle rose

Yesterday evening, during a meeting and tasting with an Austin client and a local editor, I asked my client — Jeff Courington owner of Vino Vino — if he’d open one of the wines he plans to have on his list at his new Italian, slated to open later this summer, Al Fico.

When he produced a bottle of Cascina delle Rose 2009 Barbera d’Alba Donna Elena (above), I couldn’t believe my eyes. Cascina delle Rose is one of those wonderful but tiny producers that never seem able to break into the extremely-hard-to-crack Texas wine market.

giovanna rizzolio

The mature wine, from one of Giovanna Rizzolio’s top growing sites, was gorgeous, its acidity zinging and dancing around the Barbera’s meaty flavors.

The wine still had a strip label from a previous Louisiana importer/distributor who had tried, unsuccessfully, to bring the wine to Texas.

Jeff told me that they’re being brought in now by a new company called Rootstock (if I’m not mistaken).

I love Giovanna’s wines (and she such a super cool lady) and am thrilled that that there here.

Giovanna, welcome to Texas!

Click here for a post on our visit to Giovanna’s estate and some pretty amazing images of the underground river that gives the Barbaresco cru “Rio Sordo” its name.

Gov. Perry stay out of my daughter’s vagina: Pasolinian thoughts on the abortion debate

sweetest daughter

Above: Georgia P and I let mommy sleep in these days. Our new baby will be here any day now and so mommy needs all the rest she can get. Part of our morning fun (after breakfast) is self-portraits. Georgia P has no idea that a battle over women’s rights is being played out just 10 minutes down the street from our house in Austin, Texas.

Some will remember that twentieth-century Italian critical theorist and leftist Pier Paolo Pasolini took a stand against abortion. He saw abortion as one of the ugliest corollaries of the sexual revolution of the 1960s (when he was highly active as an essayist, poet, and filmmaker). I believe that he was right. But I also believe that a rational application of abortion does greater good for our society than its unbridled restriction.

This morning on the Twitter and the Facebook, I wrote, “Rick Perry, stay out of my daughter’s vagina.”

To that, my aunt Dianne — Tracie P’s biological aunt, whom I love because of our relation and because of the fact that she’s a really fun and warm lady — commented as follows:

How about those daughters that are murdered before even being given a chance at life? They are not banning abortion just not after 20 weeks. Why the outrage?

Here’s what I wrote back:

Continue reading

Lasagne from Corleone, mimetic desire, & @TonyVallone

lasagna corleone

Above: One side of my friend Tony Vallone’s family is from Corleone, Sicily. All of last night’s dishes were “alla corleonese”.

Last night, I made one last trip to Houston before the arrival of Baby P 2013 (I drove in and back the same day).

How could I not?

My good friend and client Tony Vallone was hosting a sold-out dinner featuring cucina casereccia siciliana (homestyle Sicilian cooking) at his casual restaurant Ciao Bello. And I should be more precise: the official theme was cucina casereccia corleonese, the cuisine of his mother’s family’s hometown, Corleone. And he had asked me to speak to the guests about the Sicilian wines chosen for the meal.

In case the mimetic desire has not yet taken hold, here’s a photo of the wine we paired with the lasagna casalinga (homemade lasagne, with mini meatballs and peas) above:

tami grillo

That’s négociant Arianna Occhipinti’s Grillo: salty and jumping with acidity, the wine tasted SO good on a sultry Houstonian evening.

As I left the dinner, everyone wished me and Tracie P well for the arrival of Baby P 2013.

Tony handed me a couple of boxes of his gallina mollicata (chicken baked with mollicata, Sicilian Corleonese-style seasoned breadcrumbs).

Mi raccomando… I’m serious,” he said. “I want you to call me when the baby arrives.”

Man, I love this guy… We’re so lucky to have him in our lives.

And here’s a little video (below) I put together this morning with scenes from the event (does anyone recognize the song I’m playing?).

From sharecropper to landowner, an Italian parable

gregoletto prosecco

Looking back on my April 2013 visit to Prosecco legacy winemaker Luigi Gregoletto (above), I realized that I’m going to need to devote a series of posts to our fascinating conversation about pre-autoclave Prosecco, Prosecco Colfòndo, and his recent embrace of biodynamic farming practices.

But first, I’d like to share this video, shot the day of our visit.

In the film, he and I make a Dantean ascent to the villa where his parents — Proseccoland sharecroppers — were born.

Luigi was born a sharecropper in 1927, five years after Mussolini’s March on Rome.

As he explains in the video, he began to purchase land from the owners about twenty-five years ago.

Today, the hilltop that overlooks the owner’s villa is planted to his prized Verdiso, from which he makes his top wine. It’s a powerful metaphor for the arc of his life.

As we began our climb up the hill that leads to the villa, I was struck by how his family’s story is an Italian parable that spans Italy’s industrialization in the twentieth century to the rise of the proletariat in the years that followed the Second World War.

Sharecropping — a form of indentured servitude — was not officially abolished in Italy until the 1960s. Its prohibition was not implemented until the 1970s. And only in the 1980s did the Italian legislature set out parameters for the redistribution of land.

His truly inspirational story reveals so much about the evolution of Prosecco and the renaissance of Italian wine. And it tells us even more about Italy’s twentieth-century history.

I have a lot more to share about our visit, but in the meantime please have a look at the video. I hope you find the experience as moving as I did.

Gaja on “leftist hipsters” & the delicious peculiarity of Italian wine

cerasuolo abruzzo

Above: Praesidium, a Vini Veri producer, is a winery that seamlessly aligns natural winemaking and elegance with a genuine expression of its appellation.

Italian wine needs “more marketing and fewer leftist hipsters,” said Angelo Gaja in a post published today by Luciano Ferraro, wine editor for Corriere della Sera.

While I don’t agree with the part about “leftists” (being a card-carrying member myself), I do believe that the Italians — as Gaja points out in the post — could learn a thing or two from the French, who are brilliant wine marketers (just think of the 1855 classification and how it reshaped and continues to dominate wine sales around the world).

Gaja had just returned, together with roughly 400 Italian producers, from Vinexpo in France, where his transalpine counterparts impressed him with their proactive attitude toward a market in crisis.

Francophilia aside, Luciano’s post and Gaja’s notes made me think of a wine I tasted this spring, a stunning Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo by Praesidium that impressed me with its delicate equilibrium between brilliant originality and faith in tradition.

I loved the wine and immediately Googled it to find out more (it had been sent to me by Katell Pleven of Vine Collective; check out a podcast interview with Katell, posted earlier this month by Levi Dalton on I’ll Drink to That).

Even though the estate produces some of the most expensive wine available from Abruzzo, it doesn’t even have a website (Gaja doesn’t have a website either but I’ve heard that one is in the works).

At least from this side of the Atlantic, it would appear that Praesidium engages in little or no marketing at all beyond its participation in Vini Veri and efforts by its U.S. importer (this post was the most informative I could find).

As someone who makes his living primarily in wine marketing, I’m all for an Italian embrace of more aggressive and ambitious marketing. I love Italian wine and beyond my professional life, I feel personally invested in its success because I enjoy drinking it.

But Gaja — a genius marketer, supreme in Italy and rivaled by few beyond Italy’s borders — and his observations made me remember that part of what makes Italian wine so great is its own self-imposed challenges and obstacles.

It’s an element of Italian culture that dates back to the centuries of foreign occupation between the Renaissance and the modern era. During that period, Italians developed a sense of provincialism that, to this day, often leads them to see little beyond the mura of their villages.

But in my experience, their chasmophilia and topophilia can impart a uniqueness — a delicious peculiarity — to their wines that defies the homologation demanded by consumerism and its marketers.

So as much as I admire Angelo Gaja for his role as an architect in the renaissance of Italian wine, I also cherish the backward-looking producer like Praesidium who sees little purpose in marketing their high-end wines.

Sometimes, as in the case of the Praesidium Cerasuolo, that backwardness allows us to pass through the portone of a tiny village in the province of Aquila by way of the bottle and glass…

Un Dimanche: new & different music of mine

All the great songwriters and musicians I’ve ever met say the same thing: make the music because you love to, because you have to.

The main focus of my musical life over the last fifteen years has been our band Nous Non Plus and I’ve been overjoyed by the success we’ve had in performing live and in selling our songs to film and television.

But there’s so much more music that I love and make.

Continue reading

A brilliant 98 Clos du Bourg for an old friend

clos du bourg

One of my best and oldest friends was in Austin over the weekend… John “Yele” Yelenosky, whom I’ve known since high school.

Of course, I wanted to open a very special bottle of wine and with temperatures here in the triple digits, Nebbiolo just wasn’t going to be right.

So I reached for this brilliant, youthful bottle of 1998 Vouvray Sec Clos du Bourg by Huet that I had bought a few years ago from the Garagiste.

This wine was razor sharp in its focus, with that unmistakable, nervy acidity that is unique to great Vouvray in my experience. Minerality, acidity, stone fruit, and alcohol (12.5%): each element was distinct and perfectly articulated, but ensemble, each sang in stunning counterpoint with the other. A breath-taking wine…

I’m sure I could have let it age for another ten years but it was a thrill to taste it with John and his wife Megan, both top wine professionals from Southern California (she’s a beverage manager for a major San Diego hotel, wine writer, and Master Sommelier candidate; he’s been the top European sales rep for Southern Wine & Spirits So. Cal. for six years running).

I had already stood the wine upright last week in anticipation of their visit to Austin and then, lo and behold, on Thursday, Brooklyn Guy posted another one of his gems, an overview of recent changes at this landmark winery and tasting notes for some bottles he’s opened recently. Check it out…

Megan and John, so great to see you in the River City! Yall come back now! :)

Gobelsburg Rosé from Zweitgelt is just right

gobelsburger rose

As we head into the final weeks of this pregnancy and settle into the triple-digit temperatures of the Texas summer, the wines I’ve been drinking at dinner are mostly inexpensive, light-bodied (and light alcohol content), under-$20 wines that I buy at our local wine shop, The Austin Wine Merchant (one of the few independent retailers left in the Texas capital).

I’d read about this wine on Brooklyn Guy’s blog (he proclaimed it his favorite rosé for the summer of 2010), but had never had a chance to taste it until I spied it in our local market.

Paired with a spaghetti aglio e olio (spaghetti with garlic and chili flakes), its gentle tannin tamed the garlic’s aroma and balanced the heat of the chili flakes.

I loved the wine and it tasted even better the next day (paired with cast-iron pan-fired burgers, wilted spinach, and whole wheat-flour quesadillas).

That’s all the news that fits… just standing by, trying to make beautiful Tracie P and sweet Georgia P as comfortable as we head into these last weeks before Baby P 2013 gets here… :)