Why I am voting for Clinton and why Trump is a fascist

peter blume artistAbove: detail from “Eternal City,” oil on composition board by Peter Blume, American, 1934-37.

The arc of presumptive presidential candidate for the Democratic Party Hillary Clinton’s life and career has been marked by extraordinary achievement in public service and for public good.

As civil rights activist, first lady, senator, and secretary of state, she has consistently embraced and advocated for progressive, forward-looking policies that make our country a stronger and more just nation.

Her presumptive nomination is a historic moment for the American people: eight years after the election of Barack Obama, the first black president of the U.S.A., her now inevitable victory in the democratic primary represents a milestone in women’s and human rights that was unimaginable when she began her work as a young person. With her candidacy, again, America has given the world a new model and benchmark for inclusiveness and equal rights.

While there are many immensely skilled politicians in the U.S. who could have a risen to the challenge of becoming our country’s next president, she is the one who stood up for her party, stood by her beliefs and values, and earned the opportunity to run. Her credentials and qualifications are virtually peerless and she is the best prepared and most suited person to lead our nation forward.

With his overtly racist attitudes and his ill-conceived, uninformed, and perilous political platform, Donald Trump has already driven our country backward.
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Six glasses stood between him and his Master Sommelier title

master sommelier texas david keckAbove: Newly minted Master Sommelier recounts the tense moments as he and 62 other candidates awaited the results of their examinations in Aspen last month.

Just a few years ago, even as its visibility had grown considerably, the Court of Master Sommeliers received only a sliver of the number of applications it receives today. The last time I asked, more than 600 people had applied to join its ranks in one year alone. That’s a lot, especially when you consider that there are only 237 Master Sommmeliers (including David) worldwide. And that’s also a lot of disappointment. Only a handful of candidates will pass the grueling examinations: theory (probably the toughest), wine service, and the dreaded blind tasting, where candidates must correctly identify at least five of six wines.

Last week I sat down with newly minted Master Sommelier David Keck of Houston (above). Happily for his and my adoptive city, he returned victorious from the Aspen exams in May. But he was one of just three new Master Sommeliers in a group of 63 who had been seated for the tests.

In my post today for the Houston Press, I share a little bit of his experience waiting to find out his results in blind tasting.

In other news…

Have you ever wondered why so many wines from Piedmont are called bricco this and bricco that?

I wrote a post (of which I am particularly proud) on the origins and usage of the term last week for the Tenuta Carretta blog.

And in case you’ve been pondering Arneis lately, check out this post I translated for the nice folks (and my clients) at Carretta.

In other other news…

I’ll be moderating a panel and attending a luncheon at the Wine and Food Festival in the Woodlands (Houston) on Friday. I believe there are still seats available. So please join me for some day drinking if you are so inclined.

Right now I’m on a plane heading to Chicago where I’ll be leading a standing-room-only guided tasting of Franciacorta at Perman Wine Selections. Apologies to all who couldn’t get in and thanks to all the wine professionals who will be coming.

Man, it was tough to say goodbye to our girls and Tracie P this morning after a super fun weekend of carousel rides, giraffes and zebras, dinosaurs, and French fries and milkshakes. But hey, someone’s got to pay the bills… See you on the other side…

parzen daughters

Sauvignon scandal in Friuli? Much ado about nothing: no charges filed against any winemakers implicated in inquiry

natisone river friuliAbove: the Natisone river runs through Frliulian wine country.

They actually knew it was coming.

More than a year before the media-dubbed “Sauvignon connection” scandal appeared in the local press, Friulian producers of Sauvignon Blanc were aware that authorities were scrutinizing their production.

According to the agricultural superintendent for Friuli at the time, Vannia Gava (a vocal member of the separatist Northern League political party), winemakers from her region were doctoring their wines to give them aromas that didn’t align with the classic profile of Sauvignon Blanc grown there.

“It seems,” said Gava in an interview published by the Messaggero Veneto in May 2014, “that certain well-known Friulian wineries are using additives, preservatives, and chemical perfumes, some of which are carcinogenic. They are added during bottling, especially when it comes to Sauvignon [Blanc].”

More than a year later, in September 2015, the Friulian mainstream media reported that authorities had raided a number of high-profile Friulian wineries and confiscated wines and winemaking materials. According to the report, officials accused the winemakers of using unauthorized additives that would enhance the wines’ aromas.

cristian specognaAbove: Cristian Specogna, one of Friuli’s leading and most respected producers of Sauvingon Blanc. Investigators’ lab results found that he uses native yeasts to ferment his wines.

Today, more nine months after anti-adulteration agents’ raids, no charges have been filed against any of the alleged wrongdoers.

And the lab results show that no unauthorized enzymes or cultured yeasts were found in the wines seized and tested by authorities.

I’ve seen the report myself.

When I visited Friuli in early May, I had the opportunity to meet and discuss the ongoing episode with three winemakers there — two who were not implicated in the controversy and one who was.

All three told me that they are confident that no charges will be filed. And all concurred that winemakers implicated in the inquiry are now stuck in a bureaucratic limbo: there is no word as to when officials will clear their names.

It’s not my place to speculate as to what prompted authorities to launch the investigation. But I know for a fact that they acted aggressively, descending on the accused winemakers’ facilities in great numbers and with a significant show of force. And prior to the raids, officials had tapped the winemakers’ phones.

In at least one case, a Sauvignon Blanc producer was forced to appear at his son’s school in the custody of Carabinieri (the Italian paramilitary police). As for all of the producers implicated in the investigation, wines by that winemaker were shown not to contain any unauthorized additives.

One of the winemakers I met with in May pointed out to me that there exists no list of unauthorized yeasts for the production of Friulian Sauvignon Blanc. In other words, even if authorities had discovered that selected yeasts were being used to give the wines aromas that didn’t align with sanctioned varietal expressiveness, there would be no legal basis to charge the winemakers accused of wrongdoing.

In the end, it was all much ado about nothing. Yet neither authorities nor local media have moved to share investigators’ findings.

What to make of all of this?

In the short-term, the authorities’ aggressive and misguided attitude and media’s blood thirst for clicks have gravely damaged the Friulian “wine brand.” When in Venice last month, a prominent sommelier told me that he “prefers the reds” of one the winemakers implicated in the inquiry.

In the long-term, I know that the industrious and earnest winemakers of Friuli will recover from the blow. It will take time but I believe the excellent wines they make there deserve our attention and our respect.

And I encourage you to seek them out.

Thanks for reading…