Wine glasses that sing and sexual chemistry in wine pairing coupling for V-Day

pizza champagne pornAbove: a little soft gooey porn to get your Valentine’s Day weekend started off on the right slurp.

First of all: happy Valentine’s Day weekend, everyone!

I had a lot of fun with my post today for the Boulder Wine Merchant: “Sexual chemistry matters: Valentine’s Day wine couplings.”

This year, put some sexual chemistry into your V-Day wine pairing.

glass harp michael andrews composer musicianAbove: while in LA this week, I got to play a glass harp.

Secondly, check out the video below of my friend Mike Andrews’ glass harp (you know Mike’s music from his career as a film composer and music producer; his break-out score was the sound track to the 2001 film Donnie Darko).

Mike is a collector of vintage instruments and it’s always a wonderful experience to visit his studio in Glendale.

But listening to him play and then getting to play his glass harp, the latest addition to his collection, was truly magical. We paired it with a bottle of Cirelli Trebbiano d’Abruzzo Anfora that I swiped from Sotto (wine directors get to do that, btw).

Happy Valentine’s Day weekend, everyone! Squeeze and hold your loved one tight tomorrow. And remember what a blessing it is to live in this world, to love, and to be loved.

Sagrantino stories: Umbria gave LA its name

From the department of “de urbe angelorum”…

perticaia sagrantino 2010Yesterday found me tasting wine in Los Angeles at Sotto, where I’ve been co-authoring the wine list for nearly four years.

There wasn’t a lot of wine to taste: the longshorepeople strike in Oakland has left many California-based importers without any new wine to show.

I did, however, get to taste with Alessandro Meniconi (above), the winemaker at Perticaia in Montefalco, Umbria (at Sotto, we serve southern Italian wine nearly exclusively but I when I’m in town, I occasionally taste central and northern Italian wines for my personal betterment).

When he arrived at the restaurant, the last tasting in my schedule, he happened to be using his phone to search for the origins of the toponym Los Angeles.

As fate would have it, the name’s origin stretches back to the village of Assisi, not far from where Alessandro makes wine.

A Franciscan missionary, I learned, named the Los Angeles river after the Porziuncola, the small church in the hamlet of Santa Maria degli Angeli, just outside of Assis: El Río de Nuestra Señora La Reina de Los Ángeles de Porciúncula (the River of Our Lady Queen of the Angels of Porciuncula).

The city that grew there would ultimately be known as Los Ángeles.

I also learned that Perticaia, the name of the winery where Alessandro has been working since 2008, gets it name from an Umbrian dialectal word for plough. It’s not an -aia wine, as many would imagine.

His 2010 Sagrantino showed beautifully in the tasting and although it’s aged for twelve months in barriques of varied age (including some new), the wood was perfectly integrated into the wine.

I was really impressed by the gorgeous balance of this vintage, which by all accounts has delivered some fantastic wines in central Italy.

His 2009, also very good, was big and bold, with rich fruit. But the 2010 was much more approachable thanks to its equilibrium. I liked it a lot and Alessandro is pouring it today at the Tre Bicchieri tasting in San Francisco.

That’s the only LA story I have time for today. Time to get back to the tasting block. Check back tomorrow for my amazing encounter with wine glasses that sing (no joke).

2007 Barbaresco for a one-in-a-million friend

barbaresco giamello vicenzianaYesterday’s lunch found me in North County San Diego at the home of a one-in-a-million friend.

He had prepared cheeseburgers and I had brought a bottle of 2007 Barbaresco Vicenziana by Silvio Giamello, a wine that I had cellared in my wine locker in San Diego since its release.

I wanted to bring a Nebbiolo with some age on it: our get-together was long overdue and I was excited to see my old friend; I wanted to share something memorable with him.

You see, he’s that one-in-a-million friend with whom I played in a band and wrote some of my first songs back in high school in La Jolla.

He’s that one-in-a-million friend with whom I went through my teens, the acne, the insecurity, the Duran Duran concert where we locked our keys in the car, the visits to the gym trying (unsuccessfully in my case) to “beef up,” the first experiences in a recording studio, the prom…

Later, he’s that one-in-a-million friend with whom I played in bands in Los Angeles and with whom I went on tour as a cover band in Italy.

In our teens and in our twenties, in high school and then in college (me at UCLA and he at Loyala Marymount), we experimented, played music, partied, and learned through joy and sometimes bitter disappointment about the challenges and rewards of our southern Californian upbringing.

We ended up not opening that bottle yesterday with his burgers.

You see, he’s also that one-in-a-million friend who is battling aggressive melanoma.

We decided, instead, that we’d open it a year from now when he’ll have complete the next phase of treatment.

“In another year,” I told him, “it will only be better for the age.”

I’m looking forward to tasting that bottle and so is he.

Austin: Franciacorta tasting February 25

austin music sceneAbove: Tracie P and I lived in Austin from 2008 until last year. Ginny’s Little Longhorn was one of our favorite honkytonks and Tracie used to go there back during her college days at UT. I tried to get Ginny’s to host our tasting but Vino Vino, the “best little wine bar in Texas,” seemed like a better fit.

Just enough wine was left over from our Feb. 4 Franciacorta tasting in Houston that I have critical Franciacorta mass for a Feb. 25 in Austin at Vino Vino.

Spaces are extremely limited: we only have one bottle of each wine from the Houston tasting.

And Jeff Courington, Vino Vino owner (and my client), is graciously and generously giving us one hour in the back of the bar to taste through these bottles. We’ll start promptly at 4 p.m. and will close shop at 5 p.m. sharp when Jeff’s happy hour starts.

Click here to email me and reserve your spot.

Click here for event details (in case you don’t know where Vino Vino is).

And of course, I’ll be hanging out at Vino Vino afterwards if you want to sip and nosh together. Later that night you can catch me at Ginny’s… Feb. 25 is “Hot Rods and Customs Day” in the parking lot and Carl Hutchens Band is playing that night in the bar.

I know it’s been a little bit Franciacorta-heavy over here on Do Bianchi. We’ll get back on track tomorrow. Thanks for being here!

My new gig: Franciacorta “the Real Story”

jeremy parzen camerata franciacortaAbove: we poured twenty-two expressions of Franciacorta from eleven wineries yesterday in Houston (photo by David Keck, co-owner of Camerata, Houston’s coolest wine bar, and co-founder of the amazing Houston Sommelier Association).

Last year, in the days that followed Vinitaly (the annual Italian wine trade fair held in Verona), I met up with Franciacorta consortium president Maurizio Zanella for a chat and tasting at his Ca’ del Bosco winery.

We had just tasted though an extraordinary flight of his wines when he asked me a question that took me entirely by surprise.

“What do you think is the best way to market Franciacorta in the U.S.?” he asked (he speaks impeccable English).

Wow, I thought to myself, here’s the guy who singlehandedly built the Franciacorta “brand” in the U.S. and one of the most revered and powerful winemakers in the world. And he’s asking me for my opinion.

I took a deep breath and told him the truth.

“The problem,” I said, “is that Franciacorta has always been positioned as the step-sister of Champagne.” (See my post “Franciacorta and the ‘C’ word” from last summer.)

“Unfortunately,” I explained, “samples are sent to editors at high-profile mastheads who don’t normally write about wine. And when they finally wrap their minds around Franciacorta they invariably call it ‘Italy’s answer to Champagne.'”

“If I were asked to work on a Franciacorta campaign,” I said (and at this point, I could feel a bead of sweat roll down my temple), “I would reach out to the growing number of U.S. wine professionals who are thirsty for Franciacorta knowledge and who have the technical preparation to understand the uniqueness of these wines. They are the ones who work on the front lines of wine education every day and they are the ones that can turn perceptions around. I’d create a blog especially for them and I’d organize ’round-table’ tastings where they could share their impressions of Franciacorta wines.”

houston sommelier associationAbove: the vibe at the Houston Sommelier Association is super friendly and inclusive. Everyone is super professional and the cost of admission is polishing glasses at the end of each meeting.

In November of last year, I met with Maurizio at the offices of the Franciacorta consortium in Erbusco in the heart of the appellation. And he and his team gave me the go-ahead to launch my “Franciacorta, the Real Story” campaign.

For the next eleven months, I’ll be blogging about Franciacorta regularly and leading a series of tastings for wine professionals across the U.S.

Please check out the blog here.

Please follow the blog on Twitter @ClassicMethod.

Please like our new page on Facebook here.

But most importantly, if you’d like to host a tasting, if you’d like to contribute to the blog or if you’d simply like to learn more about Franciacorta, please send me an email by clicking here.

I truly love Franciacorta and I am extremely excited about this new project. You can check out notes from yesterday’s tasting here.

And I’m currently working on doing a mini-version of the same tasting in Austin later this month (stay tuned for details).

do bianchi franciacortaAll images, except for top photo, by Ryan Cooper.

Franciacorta tasting TODAY in Houston: tasting book and useful images

franciacorta alps mapIn case you can’t attend our Franciacorta tasting today at the weekly meeting of the Houston Sommelier Association, please click here for the tasting book and some useful images.

I’m really excited about the event: twelve wineries, twenty-four expressions of Franciacorta.

Thanks again to the Houston Sommelier Association for hosting this extraordinary event.

Amarone: controversial appellation expansion overshadows 2011 debut tasting

hillside vineyard valpolicella amaroneAbove: a view from a hillside vineyard looking out on to the valley floor in Valpolicella (image courtesy the Venturini winery). In a general assembly in May 2013, Valpolicella Consortium members approved a change in appellation regulations that would allow Amarone producers to blend hillside and valley floor fruit in the wines. Some prominent producers and growers groups have vehemently opposed the change.

Members of the Valpolicella Consortium gathered at the Palazzo della Gran Guardia in Piazza Brà in Verona over the weekend to present the 2011 vintage of Amarone (click the link for the list of presenting wineries).

But as top buyers (some from as far away as the U.S.) and leading Italian wine writers and bloggers tasted the soon-to-be released wines, a shadow of controversy hung over the event.

In May 2013, the Consortium proposed a change in appellation regulations that would allow winemakers to supplement hillside-grown fruit with valley floor-grown fruit for the production of Amarone.

The proposed change was ratified in a May 2013 consortium member vote. But it has yet to be approved by the Italian agricultural ministry’s committee on wine. A number of prominent producers and growers associations, including the Federation of Independent Grape Growers (FIVI) and the Amarone Families group, have vehemently and vociferously opposed it.

The as-of-yet unchanged appellation regulations state that grapes grown in “fresh soils on the plains or valley floor must be excluded” from Amarone production (article 4, section 2).

The Consortium had proposed deleting this wording, calling it an obsolete “discrepancy” and a “typo” in an official statement.

While the proposed change would not technically expand the production area, it would allow producers to use inferior quality grapes for the production of the wine — the appellation’s flagship.

“The problem with the valley floor was evident in 2014 because of the heavy rains,” wrote Ilenia Pasetto of the Venturini winery in a recent email exchange. “Valley floor vineyards suffered greatly and the fruit was heavily damaged. At the same time, thanks to the varied shape of hillside vineyards, the rainfall flowed down from the hills toward the valley. Because the water didn’t stagnate and because the hillside vineyards are more ventilated, quality was good even though they produced a smaller amount of grapes than usual. The warm, sunny weather started at the end of August continued through September and it helped to dry the bunches and prepare them for [the Amarone] drying [process].”

Some trade observers have speculated that the Consortium’s move was inspired by the impressive growth in Amarone sales in recent decades.

According to a report published in 2013, the number of bottles of Amarone increased from 2,480,000 to 8,570,000 between 1998 and 2008.

Roughly 90 percent of the wine produced are sold outside Italy, according to the Consortium, mostly in northern Europe, the U.S., and Canada.

In a phone call today, a Valpolicella Consortium representative said it’s unclear when the proposed change will be reviewed by Italian government officials.

Le Logge, a perennial best restaurant in Tuscany, a great white from De Batté, and jazz in Siena

mackarel ceviche recipeLooking back on some of the great meals of 2014 that haven’t yet found there way into my feed, the one that really resonates and reverberates in my mind was a late fall supper at Osteria Le Logge, Laura Brunelli’s amazing restaurant in the heart of Siena’s historic center.

It’s a wonderful place to visit for classic Tuscan cookery (ribollita, fiorentina, etc.).

But the main attraction, at least for me, is Chef Nico Atrigna’s creative cuisine. That’s his mackerel “ceviche,” above.

Chef Nico has cooked so many of my “best” meals in Italy over the last few years. And my visit in early November 2014 didn’t disappoint.

puntarelle roman recipe bestHis dishes are never overly complex. He culls from the mediterranean bounty of materiae primae and masterfully accentuates their aromas and flavors.

This puntarelle salad, above, with citrus was a wonderful study in sweetness, acidity, and astringency.

best lobster pasta recipeBut the plat de résistance was the spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncino with spiny lobster.

I can’t imagine a more humble dish more nobly executed. It was one of the best things I ate all year last.

de batte altroveMirco, Le Logge’s wine director, recommended the 2009 Altrove by revered Ligurian winemaker Walter De Batté.

According to an interview I found on the AIS (Italian Sommelier Association) Liguria site, it’s a blend of “Bosco, Vermentino, Rossese bianco, and Marsanne,” but “primarily Roussanne,” in Walter’s words, a grape that the nineteenth-century Italian ampelographer “Gallesio had identified as ‘Nizzardo.'”

The word altrove means elsewhere in Italian. I loved Walter’s post-modern explanation for the wine’s name, which can be found on the back label.

“In the Mediterranean,” he writes, “infinite elsewheres are hidden in every where.”

Notes of thyme played against this macerated wine’s rich minerality and breadth of stone fruit flavors. An extraordinary wine (at a great price).

Mirco, who knows my palate well after all these years, never misses a beat (ask for him when choosing your wine at Le Logge).

best music club sienaDulcis in fundo (Latinists among us will get the paronomasia), Laura has finally opened her subterranean music venue and wine bar called “Un Tubo” (Italophones will get the irony).

The night I was there, a classic rock cover band was seriously rocking out the house.

But from what I glean on the club’s website, jazz is the genre best represented there.

Anyone who’s ever spent any time in Siena knows that the dining and nightlife options there are next to nihil.

Laura has done an amazing and single-handed job of changing that. Beyond the extraordinary daytime sight-seeing there, the trip to Siena is worth it just to eat at her restaurant and drink a glass (or two) of Franciacorta at her super fun music joint.

Taste Franciacorta with me this Wednesday in Houston (FREE)

houston somelier associationAbove: the Houston Sommelier Association is one of the coolest and most friendly wine “study groups” in the country. The mood is always convivial but serious and everyone, even laypersons, are always welcomed with open arms.

Please come out and taste with me: I will be leading a Franciacorta tasting this Wednesday at the weekly meeting of the Houston Sommelier Association.

Here are the details:

Franciacorta “Real Story” Tasting
Wednesday, February 4
10:30 a.m.
1830 Westheimer
Houston, TX 77098
(713) 522-8466

It looks like we will have wines from each of the five six Franciacorta wineries currently available in Texas.

And we will also have a number of wines that are not sold in Texas.

It should be a super fun event and if you are in town, please join us.

The event is free: polishing a few glasses at the end of the tasting is the price of admission.