The good, bad, and the cute: Parzen family update

the-refBetween travel, Tracie P’s birthday, and the myriad wines we’ve tasted this month, I realized that I haven’t posted about our girls in a while. So I wanted to share these photos here.

They see their mommy and daddy suit up (whenever we can) to go running and Georgia P expressed an interest in “exercise.” So a few weekends ago we went and got them their now beloved soccer balls.

We’ve started kicking them around when we go out for walks and in our front yard. Although Georgia P (above, left) sometimes seems more interested in her referee’s whistle and Lila Jane (right) in her accessories.

georgia lawn chairAside from the storms last weekend, the weather has been really nice in Houston. That’s Georgia P (above) in the backyard of the house we rent here in Westbury in the southwest corner of the city.

She’s been enjoying her pre-school where she attends three days a week.

Next week she’ll be getting her new ballet shoes and starting her first ballet class (and she doesn’t know this yet but we’re taking them to see their first Nutcracker in December; Houston has an awesome ballet, btw).

Just look at those long dancer’s legs! She’ll be four in December.

lila jane voteLila Jane started her first year of pre-school this fall. She goes two days a week.

It seems that she has a language explosion nearly every single day and her vocabulary and the clarity of her enunciation have been really impressive (at least from the perspective of her adoring parents!).

She turned two in July. That’s her outside our early polling station (where her mommy and daddy voted). She just loves that soccer ball.

butterfliesOne of our favorite things to do on weekends is to visit the Cockerell Butterfly Center at Houston’s Natural Science Museum.

Walking through the “tropical rain forest” atrium with them is a truly magical experience and they love to pretend to be butterflies and bees when we reach the honeycomb landscape at the end of the exhibit.

They’re both going to be butterflies for Halloween tomorrow (unless they change their minds and decide to be Elsa and Anna, although Lila Jane has toyed with the idea of being Wonder Woman).

Both girls are so sweet and they bring so much joy into our lives.

Thanks for letting me share them with you here. Have a great (and safe) Halloween weekend!

Bitter pills: a note on recent coverage of Franciacorta by Alice and Walter

From the department of “all views expressed here are my own”…

walter speller franciacortaAbove: Lake Iseo in the heart of Franciacorta (Brescia province, Lombardy).

As a freelance contractor working for the Franciacorta consortium and as the author of its English-language blog, it would have been counterproductive for me to ignore recently published coverage of the appellation by two high-profile wine writers who leveled stinging criticism at its members.

It wasn’t easy for me to write a post about their articles. But my silence would have run counter to the spirit of my work.


When the Franciacorta Consortium first asked me to take on this year-long project, I decided to call it “Franciacorta: The Real Story.”

I was so tired of seeing so much misinformed coverage of the appellation and the wines that I set out to tell the real story of the place, the people, and the wines as I have come to know them over the seven years since my first trip to Franciacorta in September 2008.

With the title “real story” comes the obligation and the responsibility to tell the whole story.

Click here to continue reading…


Drink what Tracie P and I will be drinking for Thanksgiving this year.crivelli ruche castagnole monferratoAbove: the Crivelli Ruché (different vintage) is one of the wines I selected for this year’s holiday six-pack. Italian wine lovers will geek out on it and the non-Italophilic folks will be surprised by its freshness and unique character. Such a great wine.

Do Bianchi Holiday Six-Pack 2015

Struzziero 2014 Falanghina (white)
Nanfro 2013 Insolia (white)
Caprari NV Lambrusco Colcer (red sparkling)
Carbone 2011 Aglianico del Vulture (red)
Crivelli 2014 Ruché (red)
Camossi NV Franciacorta Rosé (rosé sparkling)

$130 (including tax) plus shipping & handling
($22 average bottle price)


Wines will ship via FedEx on Monday of next week,
in plenty of time for delivery before the holiday.

California residents only.

I regret that I no longer accept AMEX.
But you can pay by Visa, MC, check (preferred) or Chase QuickPay.

Struzziero 2014 Falanghina

As always, I conceive and list the wines in my recommended pouring order as if for a dinner party for six persons. I’ve been loving everything I’ve tasted this year from the Struzziero winery in Taurasi and this Falanghina is fresh and bright in the glass, a perfect wine to get things started. My favorite pairings for this would be real buffalo-milk mozzarella (a classic) and olive-oil cured raw anchovies (my mouth just watered as I wrote this). One-word tasting note: sexy.
Continue reading

“We are here to serve the place”: Jean-Charles le Bault on the legacy of Corton-Charlemange

jeremy parzen wine blog“We are here to serve the place,” said winemaker Jean-Charles le Bault of Bonneau du Martray (above, far right) at a sold-out dinner celebrating his wines at Frasca on Saturday night.

On Sunday morning, before a sold-out crowd of more than 80 people at the Boulder Burgundy Festival, he talked at length about how he sees himself as just one the many “stewards” of Corton-Charlemagne, a cru and a hill that produces one of Burgundy’s most coveted wines.

He’s just one chapter, he explained, in a legacy that spans more than 1,200 years.

“I am just a small part” of the story, he told the rapt audience who tasted seven vintages of the wine: 2013, 2011, 2009, 2007, 2005, 2003, and 2001.

burgundy best bookWhat a thrill for me to share the podium with Jean-Charles (the sweetest man!) and friends and colleagues Ray Isle and Paul Wasserman!

In coming days, I’ll be posting notes from all the tastings and events (including the seminar with Jean-Charles) over on the festival blog.

Right now, Tracie P and I are just catching our breath and catching up with our girls, whom we’ve missed terribly over the long weekend.

Today’s a day for butterfly wings, tutus, and crayons… Corton-Charlemange will just have to wait.

best wine burgundy

Tracie P, beautiful wife and life partner, I love you…

jeremy parzen wife blogTracie P, you looked so lovely last night when we sat down for the Bonneau du Martray wine dinner at Frasca in Boulder (one of our favorite restaurants in the country).

At the end of a spectacular meal, I said to winemaker Jean-Charles le Bault that the only thing more wonderful than tasting a vertical flight of his Corton-Charlemagne was watching my wife enjoy the wines and sharing them with her.

One of the wines last night was the 2008. This morning, when I awoke next to you with the best kind of hangover (yes, there is such a hangover, as I’ve discovered since I met you), I thought about how that wine was harvested the same year that we met and came together.

best burgundy wine valueSo much has happened, has changed in our lives since you and I first commented on each other’s blogs back in the summer of 2008.

Our e-mance, our long-distance relationship, my move to Texas, our engagement, our marriage, our beautiful daughters, our business…

What a lucky and blessed man I am! I couldn’t have asked for more loving, gentle, and beautiful partner in life and in love.

At every step of the way, you have believed in me and supported me in my aspirations, hopes, and dreams as we have built a life and family together.

This long weekend at the Boulder Burgundy Festival marks the longest period (four nights) we’ve been away from our girls and alone together the way we were before they came into our lives.

It’s been fantastic to get away with you and to watch you draw that precious wine to your lips.

I love you…

Hubert Lignier 2000 Clos de la Roche, wow what a wine!

richebourgWhat a thrill for me to get to taste the above flight of “old and rare” Burgundy that Master Sommelier Jay Fletcher had selected from the Guild of Sommeliers for the Boulder Burgundy Festival 2015! Check out the wines and the vintages in the image below.

Even with such an embarrassment of riches, I still had some favorites in the line up: the Hubert Lignier 2000 Clos de la Roche and its layers of fruit and spice really blew me away.

Not much time to post this morning as I head out to yet another day of tastings and meals. Today starts with a “Paulée-inspired” lunch at the Flagstaff House and ends with dinner at Frasca and a vertical of Bonneau du Martray.

Stay tuned…

jay fletcher master sommelier aspen

Champagne wishes and caviar dreams: Boulder Burgundy Festival 2015 (day 1)

best caviar new yorkRemember the line from that show from the 1980s?

Champagne wishes and caviar dreams.

I remember watching that show when I was a kid and wondering what champagne and caviar tasted like and why they evoked the notions of elusive luxury.

Last night, Tracie P and I joyfully attended the opening event of the Boulder Burgundy Festival, where I’m working this weekend as the gathering’s official blogger and social media manager.

As we munched on Petrossian caviar and sipped a fantastic flight of Champagnes, I couldn’t help but wonder how we got here — a struggling-to-get-ahead middle-class couple like us.

bereche et fils champagne priceI was super geeked to taste the Bérêche Champagne (second from left).

It’s emerged as one of the more in-demand grower Champagnes recently. From what I’ve read about the estate, the wines are organically farmed and made using old-school methods (like cork seals for lees aging instead of crown cap).

I loved the balance of fruit and minerality in the wines and from what I understand, the price lands in that sweet spot for special occasion wines in our bourgeois home (around $50).

Great wine and a great time last night.

Today, I’ll be attending the Burgundy values lunch and the Guild of Sommeliers Old and Rare seminar. Tonight, it’s the Domaine Dujac vertical dinner with the staff from the Little Nell.

It’s nice work if you can get it… You can follow my posts for the festival here.

Stay tuned. More to come.

And thank you nanna and pawpaw for taking such good care of the girls while their mommy and I are away!

Taste with me Nov. 2 in LA, Nov. 4-5 in Boulder (and THANK YOU LA Mag!)

los angeles magazine november 2015 issue italianAbove: the cover of the November issue of Los Angeles. When I was a kid growing up and going to school in southern California, no one could have ever imagined how the popularity of Italian cuisine would explode in the U.S.

Four years ago, I got a call from my good friend and college buddy Chef Steve Samson who lives in Los Angeles. It was the early spring of 2011.

“We’re opening our new restaurant Sotto next month,” he told me, “and we want you to write the wine list.”

Today, more than four years later, the restaurant is still going strong and I couldn’t be more proud of the (nearly) all southern Italian wine program that I run there with my colleague Christine Veys who manages the eatery.

For its Italian-themed November issue (which came online yesterday), Los Angeles magazine included a piece by super groovy LA sommelier Taylor Parsons of République, one of the leading wine professionals in the country, on “the best places to drink Italian wine” in the city.

I couldn’t be more thrilled that he included us. Check out the article here.

When I was growing up in southern California in the 70s and attending undergrad at UCLA in the 80s, Italian gastronomy was still relegated to a notch below continental cuisine. Today it reigns supreme, so much so that “the November issue of Los Angeles magazine is dedicated to the best Italian food this city has to offer,” as the editors write.

How cool is that?

Christine and I will be pouring four wines from Campania at Sotto on Monday, November 2 at 6:30. It’s only $35 for the flight and light bites by Chef Steve.

Details on Facebook.

And later that week, I’ll be leading two tastings in Boulder, Colorado: Wednesday, November 4, I will be pouring four Franciacorta wines at a free in-store tasting at the Boulder Wine Merchant from 5:30-7 p.m. and then Thursday, November 5, from 5-7 p.m. when I will be pouring 12 wines (cost and location to be determined).

Tracie P and I are actually heading to Boulder tomorrow for a long weekend away and the Boulder Burgundy Festival where I am the event’s official blogger and the moderator on a panel on Sunday that includes Ray Isle and Paul Wasserman.

It should be a fun time so stay tuned!

The old and rare wine conundrum: are the wines (and the prices) really worth it?

tre terre quintarelliAbove: the 1977 Recioto della Valpolicella Classico Vigneto di Tre Terre by Giuseppe Quintarelli (left) was the oldest wines and one of the most stunning I’d ever tasted from the estate. The fruit was vibrant and sexy and the wine very much alive and delicious. I tasted the wine and other “old and rare” Italians last week at a dinner hosted by Chambers Street Wines in Manhattan to honor wine writer Walter Speller.

“If you’re sitting on a bunch of wines from the 1980s,” said one of the leading Master Sommeliers in the country last year at a tasting of “old and rare” Burgundy, “you are going to be disappointed when you start to open them.”

A gentleman in his mid-60s and not exactly a new kid on the Master Sommelier block, he had just told the crowd of well-heeled collectors that he prefers to drink 2008 Burgundy over older and rarer vintages.

“Some of these [older] wines are still drinkable,” he told the surprised and somewhat shocked guests, “but they don’t have a lot of life in them.”

One of his colleagues, another Master Sommelier who was also presenting on the same panel, quickly moved to resolve the awkwardness.

“There are a lot of us here who love those wines,” he assured the group of 30 or so high-rolling wine lovers who had shelled out a pretty penny to attend the event. “It’s a matter of taste.”

His older colleague quickly backpedalled, making a joke. “If you’ve got any wines from the 80s that you want to get rid of,” he told the crowd, “send them my way!”

antoniolo gattinaraAbove: the 1964 Gattinara by Antoniolo was spectacular. Its fruit was rich and it had healthy acidity and tannin for a wine older than me. The year was especially good in Italy. I don’t have a photo of the bottle but the 1964 Cappellano Barolo we tasted was also phenomenal, lithe yet confident in the glass, a truly compelling wine.

The exchange was a harmless one, of course. After all, these are first-world problems.

But the anecdote underscores the tension between those who regularly seek out and pay handsomely for “old and rare” wines and those who think the wines are overrated.

In the King James Bible (first published in the early 17th-century), Isaiah 25:6 is translated as follows: “And in this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined.”*

barbi brunello 1964Above: the 1967 vintage was a challenging harvest in Montalcino but the Fattoria dei Barbi Brunello poured the other night was impeccable. Light and bright in color, with the classic tones of old Sangiovese, the fruit in this wine was brilliant, the acidity confident. One of my favorites of the night (a wine made by my client Stefano Cinelli Colombini’s mother Francesca).

Both the primary text and the translation give us an indication of the way that old and rare wines have been perceived over the centuries (over millennia, really).

The “aura” of these wines, as Walter Benjamin might have put it, is (literally) awesome and powerful in the human psyche. The privileged among us are often ready to pay hefty sums to taste them.

Of course, the rest of us rarely get to taste wines like the ones poured at exclusive “old” Burgundy and “old” Italian events like the gathering where the Master Sommeliers wrestled or the dinner I attended last week in Manhattan honoring wine writer Walter Speller.

I am extremely fortunate to be invited occasionally to such summits. They are far above my pay grade (last week I was the guest of my friend Jamie Wolff, owner of Chambers Street Wines in New York City).

italian wine merchantsAbove: the 1968 Taurasi Riserva vineyard-designated Pian d’Angelo by Mastroberardino, third from left, was another highlight for me. Powerful fruit and gorgeous tannic made delicate over the years. It was really interesting to hear what Walter had to say about the Mastroberardino legacy. We and Campania winemakers owe so much to the Mastroberardino for their choice to cultivate native Campanian grape varieties after the Second World War.

“Pulling the corks” on these wines, as they say in the trade, is always a gamble. So many factors have to align for these wines to “show” their best. Even if the wine left the winery in impeccable conditions, they face so many hazards on their way to our tables and palates. Shipping, storage, and the test of time all shape the wine’s final performance. And when you consider that some of the wines I tasted the other night in Manhattan were 40 and nearly 50 years old, it’s only natural that not all old and rare wines will deliver what the prices promise.

The hosts of dinner the other night had to replace a few of the wines at the last minute after Maialino’s wine director Jeff Kellogg expertly opened them only to discover that they had turned. In the case of at least one of the wines, of the two bottles that arrived at the restaurant, one was good and the other not.

In my view, that’s the bottom line: if you can afford it, you have to consider the old and rare wine experience as a sort of wager.

The other night, not every wine rendered the pleasure that the label pledged. But of the nine lots poured, four were among the best wines I’ve ever tasted.

And man, that 1977 Quintarelli Recioto riserva, a wine harvested when I was 10 years old and raised over the course of the better part of my life, was earth-moving for me! Even its brother wine, the classic Recioto from the same year by Quintarelli, began to show beautifully as it opened up in the glass, only to be eclipsed by its sibling, an unrivaled champion among wines.

I’ll probably never get to taste either again. And such is my lot in life (excuse the pun).

The good news is that when we pass from this life to another, to G-d’s kingdom, the righteous among us will enjoy “a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined.”

* The Oxford Annotated Bible translates the same passage: “On this mountain, the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.”

Here’s how the Orthodox Jewish Bible translates the same: “And in Har Hazeh [i.e., Mt Tziyon] shall Hashem Tzva’os make unto kol HaAmim a fat mishteh (feast), a mishteh (feast) of finest, aged wines, of finest meats, of the best wines of finest vintage.”

Visit and taste at magical Venissa with me: Design and Wine Italy May 2016

venissa wine venice restaurant vineyardA city that rises up in the middle of the sea, with canals for streets, boats for cars, and ferries for busses.

It’s a city that was once and still is a capital of European art and intellectual thought.

In another era, at the height of its maritime power, it was also the European capital for prostitution, gambling, and drinking — the Las Vegas of its day. The condom was invented there, among other things.

It’s the city that gave us coffee culture. It’s the city that gave us cocktail culture.

It’s the city that gave us Marco Polo, Casanova, Tintoretto, Tiepolo, and Tiziano.

Hemingway loved to drink there. Eleonora Duse performed there.

Venice, the bride of the sea, the queen of the Adriatic.

It’s one of my favorite places in Italy and it’s one of the stops on the Design and Wine Italy 2016 tour, a trip that I’m leading together with my friends Adam and Toma (the Antiques Diva).

And on one of our three nights in Venice, we’ll be visiting Venissa, an “islander” winery and superb restaurant located on the tiny island of Mazzorbo, which sits to the north of Venice proper.

The Bisol family — the owners — will lead us through a tasting of the wine they make there before we sit down to a private dinner for our group.

It’s going to be one of the highlights of many. If we drink enough wine that night, I might just have to recite some poetry in Venetian dialect by Andrea Zanzotto, whose work inspired the name of this beautiful vineyard on the lagoon.

Click here for the complete itinerary and registration details.

Image via the Venissa Facebook.