Stanko Radikon: mourning the loss of one of the world’s greatest winemakers

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Radikon family…

stanko-radikonAbove: Stanko Radikon at the Radikon winery in Oslavia, Friuli. He is pointing to “hill 188.”

His work and wines did so much to shape and inform a generation of grape growers, winemakers, and wine lovers — in Italy and beyond.

He was one of the founders of the Vini Veri movement and he was one of the visionaries who knew that it was only a matter of time before “natural” wine and chemical-free grape growing practices would ultimately be embraced by the mainstream.

He was one of the pioneers of macerated white wines (“orange wines”) and one of the first to recognize and realize the immense potential of Ribolla Gialla.

He was born in a land virtually destroyed by world conflict, a borderland where east and west meet. And he helped to revitalize its economy by creating a sustainable model for viticulture and a sui generis wine category.

I had the great fortune to meet and interact with Stanko on a number of occasions and I shared the joy of walking through his family’s vineyards and tasting at their winery.

I’ll never forget the 1997 Radikon Merlot that I tasted in 2010 in Oslavia. It was and still is one of the greatest wines I’ve ever drawn to my lips.

I’ll never forget him showing me the unexploded bomb still lodged in one of the winery’s walls. To this day, the estate lies in the shadow of one of World War I’s most deadly and senseless battles (the Italian army’s 24th division’s attack on Austrian positions on “hill 188” in Oslavia).

That he could build what he did from (literally) scorched earth is testament to the moral fiber and true grit of one of the world’s greatest winemakers. If ever there were a grape grower who showed how viticulture could make the world a better place, it was Stanko.

Sit tibi terra levis, Stanko. Thanks for everything you gave us.


Excerpts from a couple of remembrances I’d like to share here…

Hank Beckmeyer: [his legacy shaped] “not just Italian wines. The whole wine world. One of the true greats.”

Paola Aieri: “Before organic, biodynamic, and ‘orange’ wines were buzz words, he was among the early pioneers of the natural wine world. Known for his white (orange) wines, his Merlot is probably the most powerfully, elegant meditation red I’ve ever tasted.”

Matthew Fioretti: “To an extraordinary degree, he recognized that same, innate absence of control in viticulture and winemaking. The extent to which Stanko challenged conventional methods and endured adversity, required an enormous courage and imagination. His acceptance of these risks was dumbfounding. In climbing terms (Lionel Terray), I often saw Stanko as a ‘conquistador of the useless.’ With his passing, we have lost a legend and hero of the highest degree.”


Upcoming tastings and events (and a photo of Roger Waters!)

From the department of “daddy’s got to pay the bills” or “nice work if you can get it”…

roger-watersAbove: my good friend and client Dino Tantawi and his buddy Roger Waters in New York City (image via the Vignaioli Facebook).

Monday, September 12 – Nostrana, Portland (Oregon)

The lovely folks at Nostrana in Portland have put together a fabulous Franciacorta-inspired and informed tasting menu to follow our Franciacorta Real Story tasting on Monday. It’s $95 per person including wine pairings and it features their famous prawn ravioli (sounds awesome if you ask me).

“Everyone needs to drink more sparkling wine,” they wrote in their newsletter yesterday. “As devoted Italophiles, we suggest Franciacorta.”

I can’t wait to check out their restaurant. They are some of the nicest and coolest people I’ve ever dealt with in our business. Please join me if you’re in town on Monday. I’ll be pouring and chatting with guests all evening. And my walk-around tasting starts at 6 p.m. (free).

Tuesday, September 13 – Vignaioli Selection, New York City

My good friend and client Dino Tantawi (pictured above with his buddy — no joke — Roger Waters) is holding his 17th annual portfolio tasting at Cork Buzz.

I’m not going to be there but if you happen to be in town, I highly recommend it to you.

I knew Dino way-back-when he founded his importing company Vignaioli Selection in 1999 and I had already been living in the city for a few years.

Dino is the coolest cat and his book includes so many iconic Italian wines as well as Italian hometown favorites like Hilberg Pasquero (Piedmont) who have yet to be discovered by greater America.

I’ve been blogging for Dino since the spring of this year and I just love working with him. Shine on you crazy diamond!

Wednesday, October 5 – Ciao Bello, Houston

My friend and client Tony Vallone will be hosting the next event in his Italian Regional Italian Cuisine series, featuring Maremma this time around.

I’ll never forget the first time I had lunch with Tony and cousin uncle Marty nearly 7 years ago and Tony quizzed me on my knowledge of Italian cuisine by serving me classic dishes and asking me to identify and describe them.

One of the dishes was gnudi, the “naked” Tuscan ravioli that they serve along the coast there.

I haven’t seen the final menu but I know it will be a show-stopper. I’ll be there talking about the wines and visiting with guests. Please join us if you are in town ($95 with generously poured wine pairings).

Monday, October 17 – Franciacorta Real Story, Las Vegas

I’ll be holding the second-to-last tasting in my Franciacorta Real Story campaign (now in its second year) at Ferraro’s in Las Vegas.

My work with the Franciacorta Consortium has taken me across the U.S. over the last two years and it’s been an amazing experience connecting with all kinds of different wine lovers and watching them discover Franciacorta and its wines.

Thanks again to the incomparable Jaime Smith for connecting me with Gino Ferraro!

Thursday, October 20 – Sunday, October 23 – Boulder Burgundy Festival

I’ll be attending and blogging from the 6th annual Boulder Burgundy Festival (image below via the BBF blog), hosted by the Boulder Wine Merchant and festival founder Brett Zimmerman MS.

This year’s featured guests are Jancis Robinson MW and Étienne de Montille. And as in years past, top sommeliers from all over the country will be flying in to pour and mingle.

I’m really looking forward to it and hope you can join me…

Buon weekend a tutti! Have a great weekend, everyone!


Breaking news: Nebbiolo power brokers agree to create Piemonte Nebbiolo DOC

nebbiolo-grapes-docAbove: Nebbiolo grapes ripening this week in an appellation that lies outside the hallowed Langhe Hills. If approved, new Piedmont appellation regulations would allow growers across the region to label their Nebbiolo as “Piemonte Nebbiolo DOC.” Currently, only growers in select townships can use the grape name in labeling.

According to a person familiar with their discussions, the Barolo-Barbaresco-Alba-Langhe-Dogliani Consortium and the Barbera d’Asti-Wines of Monferrato Consortium have agreed this week to move forward with the creation of a Piemonte Nebbiolo DOC.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because details of the agreement have not yet been made public.

After the Asti-Monferrato Consortium circulated proposed language for a new Piemonte Nebbiolo DOC among its members in August, vice presidents of the Barolo-Barbaresco-Alba-Langhe-Dogliani Consortium Pietro Ratti and Aldo Vacca publicly shared their opposition.

“It’s obvious that the big producers have caught a whiff of a good bargain,” said Vacca in an interview published in La Stampa on August 24. “But if the goal is that of releasing great quantities of low-priced wines into the market, we run the risk of compromising the entire of balance of Nebbiolo” produced in Piedmont.

Current Barolo-Barbaresco-Alba-Langhe-Dogliani Consortium president Orlando Pecchenino and his predecessor Pietro Ratti had to concede their efforts to block creation of the new DOC had no foundation, said the person familiar with their discussions.

When the proposed language for the new DOC became public last month, many industry observers, including leading Italian wine writers, predicted that a Piemonte Nebbiolo DOC would cloud consumers’ perceptions of Nebbiolo. They fear that its creation could lead to overly aggressive expansion of Nebbiolo plantings in the region and subsequent degradation of the Nebbiolo “brand.”

Such an appellation “is simply unacceptable and depressing for a grape variety like Nebbiolo,” wrote Slow Wine Guide editor Giarcarlo Gariglio.

Other trade observers pointed out that the proposed language mirrored existing appellation regulations that already allow certain Piemonte DOC growers to write Nebbiolo on the labels of their wines even though they use grapes from vineyards outside the hallowed Langhe Hills, considered by many to be Nebbiolo’s spiritual home.

Others contended that a grape variety and its name cannot be claimed exclusively by a single appellation or group of associated appellations.

“International law does not allow for the simple name of a cultivar to be reserved and protected by an exclusive geographic designation,” wrote legal expert and professor Michele Antonio Fino, director of the Master in Italian Wine Culture at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo (Piedmont).

Portland tasting Monday 9/12 expands to include dinner menu pairings

nostrana-restaurant-portland-reviewI mean, just look at this photo I lifted from the Nostrana Facebook this afternoon! What Italian enogastronome wouldn’t want to go to that restaurant???!!!

That dude is wearing a t-shirt that says “I heart Teroldego!”

I love it!

Response to our Monday, September 12 Franciacorta Real Tasting at Nostrana in Portland, Oregon has been so robust that the lovely folks at the restaurant have decided to create a micro-pairing menu for guests who dine with them that evening. A handful of the wines I’ll be pouring will be available by-the-glass and I’ll be visiting with guests throughout dinner service. Details to follow.

The 6:00 p.m. tasting is looking pretty full at this point. So if we can’t fit you in then, please come for dinner following and let’s taste together!

Franciacorta Real Story Tasting
on the patio
Monday, September 12
6:00 p.m.
1401 SE Morrison St.
Portland OR 97214
(503) 234-2427
Google map

Ron Washam’s satyr: sexuality, satire, and self-projection in 21st-century wine blogging

From the department of ostentatio genitalium… id est, NSFW…

satyr-penisAbove: an ithyphallic satyr as depicted in a Roman mosaic in Naples (image via Tyler Bell’s Flickr Creative Commons).

Ithyphallophobia or ithyphallophilia? It’s hard to put your finger on it. Before you can, you have to get it up.

It’s only natural that the Hosemaster of Wine would resort to puerile sexual violence in a pseudo-satire of Alice Feiring, his debut piece for Robert Parkerization, Jr.’s venerated Wine Advocate. It’s behind a paywall that keeps “free for all,” I’ve been told, even the hoi polloi out. Read it if you must. Just be sure to don a doily doused in eau de toilette.

And it’s only logical that he would have no better arrow from his quill to loose… or to release, as it were.

As he wrote in his peppy post announcing his new brave collaboration, “nothing is more deadly to a satirist than becoming part of the establishment.” In the wake of Washam’s self-castration and the fulfillment of his Oedipal reversal, the now blinded however once beloved satirist now found himself in a conundrum: whom to attack when the platform whence he casts his missiles is that of the king?

Pietro Aretino, arguably the greatest of all satirists, self-fashioned himself the flagellum prinicipi (literally the flagellator [the scourge] of princes, for those like Washam who arrived tardy to Latin class). And as the whipper of kings taught us, satire has no balls (pardon the pun) when it resides in rich men’s halls. By virtue of its very nature, its vice is that used to squeeze the powerful and lustful, not the meek and just.

He’s parodied Alice, her writing, and advocacy before (5 or 6 times now? I’ve lost count). But when those feathers were launched from his Heraldsburg treehouse, they were lithe “as vines among the trees.” Today, they are as lugubrious as the masthead from which they were cast.

I can’t say that I was a follower or lover of his writing in the past. But respect and honor were due to the man for the outsider role of flagellator that he played so well in the enoblogosphere. I mean that most sincerely.

To attack Alice from Parker’s mansion on the hill, with crude sexual innuendo no less, is by no hand of a man. It’s from the palm of a puer.

Below: caps off to you, Ron! Cheers! It’s all in good pun… (image via Wikipedia Commons).


On Charlie Hebdo’s tasteless satire of the Amatriciana for Amatrice campaign

charlie hebdo amatriciana amatriceAbove: a photograph of a dish of Amatriciana via the popular Rome-based food blog Puntarella Rossa. See its editors’ post (in Italian) for just a partial list of the many Italian restaurateurs and food producers who are raising money for victims of the August 24 earthquake in central Italy.

Across Italy, across the U.S., and even across France, restaurateurs are raising money for victims of the August 24 earthquake in central Italy by donating proceeds from every dish of Amatriciana served (see the Austin American-Statesman coverage of Austinite participation). The township of Amatrice was one of the hardest hit and its world-famous dish has become a rallying cry for relief efforts.

Late last week and over the weekend, after the French weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo published a satire of the grassroots Amatriciana for Amatrice campaign, a lot of friends and readers have asked me about the cartoon in question (you can view it here).

Beyond the natural indignation, more than one person revealed that she/he didn’t fully understand the quote-unquote humor in it.

“Earthquake Italian style,” reads the top caption. A reference to the many “Italian style” comic films of the 1960s and 70s (like “Divorce Italian Style”).

Below the leading caption, there are three figures, each with their own caption.

The first is a bloodied man. “Penne with tomato sauce,” reads the caption.

The second is a woman who appears to be burned, with her hair standing up as if it had been singed. “Baked penne,” reads the caption.

The last image depicts earthquake victims and crumbled buildings layered on one another. “Lasagne.”

The cartoon plays to commonplace French attitudes that France’s transalpine cousins are rustics and that their cuisine is unsophisticated.

For insight into why the editors would publish such an atrocious send-up, I reached out to one of my dearest friends, a Parisian woman who went to high school with the daughter of one of the higher-profile contributors to the magazine.

The magazine’s readership is very small, she told me. “We only ever pay attention to it when they make fun of something we really care about,” she said.

“And they make fun of everyone,” she noted, emphasizing everyone.

It’s not hard to imagine how Italians have reacted to the caricature. Over the weekend, I read countless news reports and social media posts by writers and social media users who expressed their dismay.

I wrote to a good friend in Italy who pointed me to a Facebook post by journalist and television executive Enrico Mentana, who wrote (translation mine):

    I’m sorry but this is what Charlie Hebdo is! When you said “Je suis Charlie,” you were expressing solidarity with people who have always published similar cartoons. They have profaned everything and everyone. The caricatures of Mohammed had the same effect on most Muslims that the cartoon about the earthquake has provoked in us. It was forty years ago that [Charlie Hebdo contributor Georges] Wolinski, one of the victims of the January 2015 terrorist attack, taught his Italian colleagues that satire could be ugly, dirty, and mean. Should we break off our relations with France after we marched in their defense? All we need to do is to say that it disgusts us. And we should do so without being self-righteous.

The vignette may be tasteless. But the dish is as tasty as ever.

Here’s a link to my post on different channels for donating to relief efforts.

Taste with me: Portland (9/12), Las Vegas (10/17), Atlanta (November TBD)

Happy end of summer, everyone! Please come out and taste with me this fall!

portland oregon license free imagesMy Franciacorta Real Story Tour 2016 is winding down with three events in three different cities, each a wine destination in its own right.

The response to my events over the last 18 months has been nothing short of wonderful. But no city has responded with as much gusto as Portland, Oregon, a city believed by many tradesfolk to be the number-one destination for Italian wine in the U.S.

Heartfelt thanks to the lovely people at Nostrana for making this happen (Monday, September 12) and please stay tuned for updates on Las Vegas (October 17) and Atlanta (November, date to be determined).

A note to distributors and suppliers: please feel free to contact me if you’d to show your Franciacorta wines at any of my tastings. As long as the producer is an active consortium member (nearly all those imported to the U.S. are) and is a participant in the CMO promotion for north American, I would love to show the wines. The more the merrier!

RSVP is not required but encouraged so we can get a headcount. Please email me at to let me know you’ll be joining us. Thanks!

Franciacorta Real Story Tasting
on the patio
Monday, September 12
6:00 p.m.
1401 SE Morrison St.
Portland OR 97214
(503) 234-2427
Google map

Image via GoodFreePhotos.