Happy anniversary, Tracie P! I believe in you and me…

jeremy-parzen-wifeHappy anniversary, Tracie P! Thank you for giving us our sweet, sweet babies and thank you for giving me the best years of my life.

The woman brought the very best out of you when she said I do.

I wrote those lines for you last year and they ring truer than ever: even in these uncertain times as the world is changing so rapidly around us, I look at you and the family we are raising and I know that I have too many blessings to count.

Happy anniversary, beautiful lady. You are my partner, my wife, my lover, and my muse. I love you more deeply than ever and these last seven years of our lives have been the richest, most wonderful, and most fulfilling I have known.

Here’s another one of the songs I wrote for you last year. It means even more to me today than yesterday…

For once in my life
I’m taking the time
To feel the grass between my toes
Taking a break
For goodness sake
I want to smell the roses
At the end of the day
All that remains
Are the memories of the times
We spent together
For now and forever
You show me yours, I’ll show you mine

I believe in you and me

Once in a while
It makes me smile
To think of all those years ago
So many friends
It never ends
All the love to them I owe
But now they’re gone
Just like a song
Playing on a jukebox radio
They meant so much
But they can’t touch
The lady that I love and know

I believe in you and me

And though the nights can be long and cold
It’s good to know that I am growing old
With someone I can have to hold
And if you ever need your space
I’ll take the girls to the park for the day
We’ll get that ice cream mustache face

Christians, Jews: rise up and speak out against the immigration ban!

italian-americansAbove: Italian immigrants on Mulberry St. in lower Manhattan circa 1900 (image via the Wikipedia entry for “Italian-Americans”).

G-d said to Moses:

“When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien… you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19).

Jesus makes reference to this passage from Leviticus when he recounts the parable of the (Good) Samaritan, the priest, and the Levite:

“‘Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ [The Lawyer] said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise'” (Luke 10).

Today, I ask my Christian and Jewish sisters and brothers to rise up and speak out against the President’s immigration ban. No matter how you parse the President’s executive order, it clearly targets migrants based on their religious beliefs and ethnicity.

Please see this post published Friday by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. It quotes Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin:

“We strongly disagree with the Executive Order’s halting refugee admissions. We believe that now more than ever, welcoming newcomers and refugees is an act of love and hope… We need to protect all our brothers and sisters of all faiths, including Muslims, who have lost family, home, and country. They are children of God and are entitled to be treated with human dignity. We believe that by helping to resettle the most vulnerable, we are living out our Christian faith as Jesus has challenged us to do.”

If you are a Christian, please live out your faith as Jesus challenged you to do.

If you are a Jew, please remember that it was only a generation ago when Jews (in many cases, people you and I are directly related to) were subjected to religious and ethnic profiling.

President Trump campaigned on a platform of hate, bigotry, and fear. No matter how you parse the President’s words (“textbook racism,” as Speaker Ryan once called it), the policies he is implementing are rooted in racism and religious intolerance.

Attend a rally, attend a town hall meeting, take part in a march, call your U.S. congressperson’s and senator’s office, write a blog post, write a note on your social media: let your community know that you will not stand for this un-Christian, un-Jewish, and un-American policy.

Biondivino in Palo Alto: Ceri Smith’s newest outpost in Silicon Valley

biondivino-palo-alto-addressI have to admit that I felt a little bit giddy yesterday when my UniSG colleague Lydia Itoi pointed out the sprawling Facebook campus to me (Lydia and I will be co-teaching an English-language seminar later this year in the University of Gastronomic Sciences Master’s in Food Culture program in Piedmont).

She, her husband, and I had just met for lunch in the Town & Country Village mall, a stone’s throw from the Stanford campus and the new home for Ceri Smith’s Biondivino wine shop (opened last month).

I first met Ceri nine years ago not long after she had opened her first shop in San Francisco’s Russian Hill neighborhood. Since that time, Ceri and her small but immensely influential wine store have become a flash point in the Italian wine renaissance in the U.S.

Name a top Italian winemaker and it’s more than likely that she or he has presented her or his wines at Biondivino. Having one’s wine appear on Ceri’s shelves has become an unabashed point of pride for the Italians tapped by her shop’s Midas finger.

As a lover and advocate of Italian wine, I am thrilled to see her expanding her brand to Silicon Valley where some of the brightest people on earth are trying to figure out what’s going to come next in a crazy mixed-up world increasingly shaped by the unstoppable march of progress.

Ceri’s been one of the world’s greatest advocates of wines produced without and despite technology. It’s no small irony that her shop lies in the shadow of Stanford University, one of the world’s centers for technologic advancement.

Maybe her tastes will inspire them to figure out why uninoculated Sangiovese tastes better (at least to some of us) than the inoculated kind. Or maybe they’ll just mindlessly lap up the delicious offerings that line her walls like grape clusters on a double-Guyot-trained vine.

Either way, Ceri’s expanding university of great Italian wines is sure to make the world a better place.

Congratulations to Ceri and business partner Shelley Ryan for the launch of the new shop!


At A16 in SF, the battle of the volcanoes rages…

cantine-del-notaioWhat a great night and dinner at A16 yesterday!

Between the Cantine del Notaio dinner/tasting and Benanti dinner/tasting, there was a WHOLE lot of great wine being poured. I LOVED the rosé from Aglianico that the folks from Cantine del Notaio poured my table (above).

And I loved what manager Patti Robison told me: “It’s the battle of the volcanoes,” she said giddily, referring to the volcanic soils of Mt. Vulture (Notaio) and Mt. Etna (Benanti).

I’ve never had a bad meal at A16 but last night’s dinner was really outta sight, especially the acqua pazza seafood medley, which went great with the rosé. Those are the pumpkin gnocchi below, also delicious and light on the palate.

How many years has A16 been open? I’ve never seen it anything less than completely packed and I’ve never seen the staff skip a beat — ever. What a great place… and it just keeps getting better.

Thank you, Shelley and Patti, for everything you do for Italian wine. Last night was just super!


RossoBlu, the new LA restaurant where I’ll be writing the wine list, coming online, and a meeting with an Italian wine hero…

rossoblu-new-restaurants-los-angeles-laPosting in a hurry this morning as I board a flight from LAX to Oakland. I’m heading to the Bay Area to attend the Slow Wine tasting there today and to catch up with my SF wine peeps.

That’s a shot (above) of the facade at RossoBlu, the new downtown LA restaurant where I’ll be co-authoring the wine list this spring. The list will be pan-Italian with a focus on Lambrusco and Italian sparkling. So psyched for that.

rossoblu-interior-photography-photographIt was really exciting to tour the new space yesterday and see the progress they’ve made on the buildout. Things are on a fast-track now as we are preparing for a March launch of the restaurant.

That’s a shot of downtown LA (below) that I took from the second floor of the building where a high-profile film production company is going to build an screening room and small studio. Cool, right?

downtown-los-angelesChef Steve, it’s so exciting to be part of this project and dream of yours. How many years have we been talking about this? 20+? Thanks for making me part of it.

In other news…

I finally had the chance to break bread with one of my Italian wine heroes, importer and arbiter of Italian wines Brian Larky (below, left), founder and owner of Dalla Terra. We shared a great dinner last night with chef Steve at Sotto (Steve’s ode to southern Italian cookery where I wrote the original wine list and where I still consult on the wine program, now in its sixth year).

Brian is a pioneer and a visionary of Italian wine in the U.S. and he’s also one of the coolest people I’ve ever met in the trade. A “real human being,” a mensch as we say in Jewish. In a business where there are so many egomaniacal jerks (sad but true), it’s so great to meet someone of his stature and station and learn what a wonderful, warm and lovely person he is.

Brian, thank you for coming to meet us at Sotto last night and the spectacular wines you shared (Selvapiana 1990! Holy cow!). And thank you for everything that you have done and do for Italian wine. I’m so glad we all made time for that and can’t wait for the next glass we share…

Now it’s time to get my but on another plane! Wish me speed.


Bentornato Brunello: the Brunello vintage debut event returned to Houston last week

best-brunello-tastingWhen I moved to Texas more than eight years ago, I never would have imagined that Houston would become a hub for the fine wine trade. But less than a decade later, the city has established itself as one of our country’s top destinations for fine wine events.

The allure of Houston was on display last week when nearly 50 Brunello producers gathered in downtown Houston for Benvenuto Brunello (Welcome Brunello), the annual tasting of their new releases. The event should have been dubbed bentornato Brunello or welcome back Brunello: it was the second time in four years that the organizers brought the traveling show to the Bayou City.

Here’s my coverage of the event today for the Houston Press.

One of the things that struck me about the seminar and tasting was how much great wine is produced in Montalcino and how many estates remain undiscovered by the general wine media and consumers at large.

Wines from estates Paradisone Colle degli Angeli, Sassodisole, and Corte dei Venti were all great discoveries for me (the old-school Sassodisole in particular).

Thank you, Brunello, for coming back to our city. I know that the standing-room-only crowd at the seminar was well worth the trip.

Trump America the day after: the women’s march in Austin

austin-women-womens-march-trumpIn the wake of Trump’s election, Tracie P and I begin planning our trip to Washington, D.C. to attend the Women’s March with our girls.

We had even lined up a place to stay, with friends in Bethesda. But when someone fired a gun at a favorite pizzeria in their neighborhood (claiming he was investigating a Clinton conspiracy theory), we decided that the potential for violence was too great. We agreed that I would stay home with the girls and that Tracie would attend the march in Austin, the Texas capital.

That’s Tracie above (in the back row, more or less in the center, green sign in hand) with her group of friends and comrades who marched yesterday in Austin.

According to the Austin American-Statesman (the paper of record) and the Austin police department, up to 50,000 persons attended the march. According to the Washington Post, more than one million persons attended the marches in the nation’s capital. One of them was our Houston cousin Dana.

Since the election in November, Tracie has organized a women’s activist group that meets regularly in our home. She has visited both U.S. senator Ted Cruz’s and senator John Cornyn’s office to protest Republican efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (a core issue for us). Last Sunday we, including the girls, attended a rally led by U.S. congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee to protest the ACA’s dismantling by republicans as well (below).

In the light of Trump’s campaign platform, I still can’t wrap my mind around the incongruous fact that Evangelical Christians supported Trump in the election in such great numbers. Recently, I’ve taken to studying the Christian Bible to get a greater understanding of their reasoning. The following passage, from the Epistle of Saint James, sticks out in my mind:

Come now, you rich people… Listen! The wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.

G-d bless America. I will continue to write about Trump America here on the blog and I’ll continue to post updates on our family’s efforts to raise awareness of issues faced by the disenfranchised among us.


Vietti 2012 Barolo Castiglione was the wine of the night…

luca-curradoWhat a great evening with Luca Currado (above) and a superb flight of his wines last night at Tony’s in Houston! (I’m Tony’s media director.)

The 2010 Barbaresco Masseria was definitely one of the highlights of the flight and was already showing an elegant balance of fruit and earth flavors.

The 2013 Barbera d’Alba Scarrone was also drinking great but, man, that wine, from a great vintage, has so many years ahead of it!

I’d never heard Luca tell the story of how he planted those vineyards to the surprise and chagrin of his father. He had the guests in the palm of his hand as he recounted the tale… He’s such a natural when it comes to the art of enological narrative.

barolo-castiglioneBut it was the 2012 Barolo Castiglione that really sang in the glass, with full-throated fruit and umami flavors playing against each other in counterpoint. The Barolo Brunate was the greatest wine on the table, for sure. But it’s still a bit penny wise with its fruit.

Both of the Barolo were superb with the roast rack of lamb, a great pairing on a stormy night in my adoptive town.

But the dish that really thrilled the guests (and me) was the pasta tossed with delicata squash, foie gras, and hen-of-the-woods (below). Honestly, when I read the menu I wasn’t sure how that dish was going to come together but it was wonderful to experience how it “mirrored” the flavors in the wines, especially the Barbaresco Masseria.

There’s so much more to tell from last night’s unforgettable dinner but now it’s time to face the end-of-days rain falling over Houston and go taste a bunch of Brunello at the Benvenuto Brunello event, which has returned to our city this year.

Nice work if you can get it…


David Lynch to be featured speaker at Taste of Italy Houston (March 6)

david-lynch-wine-writer-sommelierAbove: Italian wine-focused author, journalist, and super cool sommelier and restaurateur David Lynch (left) with Californian winemaker Jim Clendenen (photo by Jasmine Hirsch via David’s Facebook).

This year is already shaping up to be a great one for Italian wine and food in Texas.

Tomorrow night I’m attending a dinner with winemaker Luca Currado at Tony’s in Houston where he will be pouring top wines from Vietti. Super psyched for that. (As of yesterday, there were just a couple of seats available.)

Thursday, I’ll take part in the Benvenuto Brunello seminar and tasting in Houston. I’m so geeked to see this A-list event return to the Bayou City. (I have no idea if registration is still open but I can’t imagine that they will turn people away.)

And on Monday, January 30, I’ll be tasting with my UniSG colleagues at the Slow Wine event in Austin. (I believe registration is still open for this one.)

That’s just January, folks!

Another primetime event that I’m super stoked about is the third-annual Taste of Italy Houston fair, presented by the Italy-America Chamber of Commerce of Texas, on Monday, March 6. The chamber asked me to join their team last year and I’ve been giddily involved in planning this year’s gathering.

The coolest news is that David Lynch (above) will be our featured speaker this year. David’s a friend and one of the people working in Italian wine whom I admire most. We met many years ago when we were both living in New York and he was working on his landmark guide to the wines of Italy, Vino Italiano. At the time, no one knew the history he would make with his brilliant list at Babbo, a program that literally reshaped the future of Italian wine in this country.

David is also one of the most engaging wine speakers I’ve ever encountered. I couldn’t be more thrilled that he’s agreed to moderate a panel at the event.

Some of the other great food and wine personalities who will be speaking at the fair this year: J.C. Reid, who has written extensively about Carbonara for the Houston Chronicle; sommeliers Jaime De Leon and Thomas Moësse (two of the coolest dudes working in wine in Texas today imho); and my good buddy Joseph “Grappa” Kemble, the Italian buyer for Spec’s (one of the biggest retailers in the country). And I’ll be speaking, too…

Click here for a preview of the fair. And click here to pre-register (it’s free to all). More than 60 Italian food and wine producers will be presenting.

When I moved to Texas in December 2008, a close friend from my NYC days was worried for me: “what will you drink?” she said at the time. Between Slow Wine, Benvenuto Brunello, and all the super groovy Italian winemakers who are coming to Texas these days, I’m happy to report that I’m drinking just fine…


Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: turn not a blind eye to racism in Trump America

martin-luther-king-donald-trumpThree books I read as a teenager shaped my awareness of historic institutionalized racism in our country.

Eldridge Cleaver’s Soul on Ice (I wanted to do a book report on it at the time but my high school English teacher wouldn’t let me).

The Autobiography of Malcolm X.

And Why We Can’t Wait, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s book on the civil rights movement in America.

I’ll never forget how one of my parents’ friends, a man I worked for at the time in La Jolla where I grew up, dismissed King as a “communist” and questioned the value of reading the book.

That was San Diego, California in the early 1980s. Now I live in Houston, Texas in Trump America. Much has changed in the meantime but, sadly, much has remained the same.

Earlier this month, the conservative journalist and cultural commentator David Brooks wrote about “the populist ethno-nationalists” in the incoming administration.

Isn’t it time that we stop euphemizing the politics of bigotry that defined Trump’s road to the White House and call it what it really is?

I hear so many people say that they voted for Trump because of the economy, because of jobs, because of immigration, because of trade, because of government corruption. Fair enough. If you believe that his policies are really going to change America for the better, I hope you are right (although I doubt that you are). He’s about to become the president and his party controls both chambers of the U.S. congress and we are all waiting anxiously to see what comes to pass.

But anyone who claims that Trump’s campaign wasn’t rooted in bigotry and racism has conveniently and tragically turned a blind eye to his repeated racist outbursts. And anyone who ignores the fact that he has filled his administration with political agents who are either insensitive or outwardly opposed to the civil rights movement is equally blind to the new Trump America.

On this day celebrating the life, legacy, and achievements of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., I ask you to:

– think about how your black neighbors feel when they see a Confederate flag on your other neighbor’s porch or truck;

– think about how our fellow black Americans feel when they have an incoming president who told them that they should vote for him because “what do you have to lose?”;

– think about your grandparents’ parents’ feelings about race and racism and how your own feelings about race and racism have evolved in your lifetime.

This year, on the eve of the federal holiday commemorating the historic civil rights movement’s greatest figure, Trump injuriously libeled and insulted a man who literally marched with King and who has served our country ever since. He’s one of the most respected politicians of our lifetime.

On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2017, I ask you not to turn a blind eye to the bigotry that surrounds us. Only we can know what we feel in our hearts, unless we decide to share what we feel with our sisters and brothers.

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!

Image via Wikipedia Creative Commons.