Food aid for Houston sommeliers and restaurant workers thanks to Master Sommelier June Rodil and her partners.

In the second in a series of Houston Press posts on how the local wine community is coping with the ongoing health crisis, this morning I published this interview with Master Sommelier June Rodil (above), a partner in one of the city’s top restaurant groups.

She’s one of just a handful of wine professionals in Houston (and the U.S. for that matter) who still have a job. And she and her team are giving back: the group’s “community box,” with roughly three days’ worth of food, is available to anyone who needs it every Saturday at 2 p.m. at Rosie Cannonball at 1620 Westheimer (at Kuester St.). The partners prepare and distribute 100 boxes each week. Rodil recommends lining up at 1:30 p.m. to ensure availability. “No questions asked,” she said. “We just don’t want anyone to go hungry.”

That’s not all she and her partners are doing for our community. And she also shared some good advice for out-of-work sommeliers. Check out the post here.

For those who wish to support our local food and wine community through a donation, I recommend the Houston-based Southern Smoke Emergency Relief Fund.

In other news…

I’ll be hosting a live story with Andrea Farinetti, COO of Barolo producer Borgogno, today at 11 a.m. CST (12 p.m. EST) on the Ethica Wines Instagram (@EthicaWines). Andrea’s family has played a major role in reshaping Piedmontese viticulture over the last 15 years and I’m really eager to e-meet him and discuss how he and his family’s companies are facing the challenges of the current economic climate.

Please join us if you can.

Thanks for being here and thanks for supporting Italian wine by drinking it.

Dum vita spes.

A new series for Houston Press on how the local wine community is coping with health crisis.

Like its sisters and brothers across the country, the closely knit Houston wine community is reeling from widespread layoffs and furloughs. The impact has been nothing short of devastating. Many wine professionals live paycheck to paycheck and the sudden loss of income has left an entire generation of sommeliers without a means to support themselves. It’s really bad out there: people who yesterday were serving top-shelf wines are now standing in breadlines.

In an effort to raise awareness of our community’s needs and resources, I asked the editor of the Houston Press to let me launch a new series of posts devoted to how Houston-based wine professionals are coping with the crisis and what they are doing to support their colleagues.

The first post in the series, published today, features Advanced Sommelier Jaime De Leon (above, in a selfie he took for the piece). As the Beverage Director for the Kroger supermarket chain’s Houston division, he’s one of just a handful of wine professionals who are still employed in our city.

I wanted to post Jaime’s piece first because over the course of our conversation, he underlined the fact that Kroger — like H-E-B, the other major supermarket chain that serves our community — is hiring.

“Kroger is definitely welcoming anyone and everyone that’s willing to seek employment with the Kroger company,” he told me. “Feel free to apply. We are looking for help. It’s not a good time for the total industry and our economy but thank God there are still avenues that are still available for a way to make some money.”

Visit the Kroger careers page for job listings. There are many positions currently being offered, at multiple locations across the greater Houston area.

“I’ve extended the website Kroger jobs site to everyone,” he said. “And I’ve told them that they can use my name as a reference if they need it.”

I’ve already interviewed a number of our colleagues and I’m looking forward to sharing the posts as I edit them.

If you know a Houston wine professional in need, please encourage them to apply on the Kroger website. And please feel free to pass along my contact ( so I can get them in touch with Jaime.

And for the record, the Houston Press is also in need of support. I’m doing these posts pro bono.

In other news…

Today, I also want to give a shout-out to another Houston colleague, a sommelier who’s been using his time in isolation during the Stay Home-Work Safe order to produce a new enocentric podcast.

Chris Poldoian’s By the Glass is just two episodes in and I was honored to be a guest on his show. He produced it remotely: we spoke by phone using headphones as we recorded our voices and then he spliced the audio files together.

Chris (below) is a great guy and a beloved member of our community. I’m not a fan of my own voice but a listen might help to pass the hours of isolation. He was keen to hear about my experiences in Franciacorta and Lambrusco. I know Chris will appreciate the click.

According to media reports, we’re about two weeks from our peak here in Houston. Please stay safe and isolate. Staying at home saves lives.

A vine flower from Italy: the cycle of life reminds us of nature’s resilience this Easter weekend.

Flowering has begun in the vineyards in Italy.

The photo above was taken this week by my friend Giovanni Arcari in Franciacorta (Brescia province) in the north of Italy and the one below is from my friend Paolo Cantele in Salento (Lecce province) in the south.

Ever since another friend, Raffaella Federzoni, sent me the first in what would become a series of “letters from Italy” during the health crisis, I’ve thought a lot about how the vines just keep growing, unaware of what is happening to the people who tend them.

These photos, taken during the Christian Holy Week, are reminders of nature’s resilience.

The news from Italy is promising today.

“The curve is clearly decreasing,” said a top Italian health official according to today’s papers. “But let’s not let our guard down,” he added.

Unfortunately, the news from our own country has been getting worse and worse this week. And the terrifying numbers and reports from city’s like New York, New Orleans, and Miami parallel those that began appearing a month ago in Italy.

Thankfully, Houston’s mayor relented and finally decided to close our parks this weekend. The entire city is now on lockdown. Tracie, the girls, and I are hunkered down at home, with plenty to eat and everything we need to keep ourselves occupied. We’ll attend Tracie’s father’s Easter services on Facebook this Sunday and we’ll visit with her family later in the day on Zoom and Facetime.

I’ll be thinking about those flowers this weekend. And I’ll dream of tasting the wines that they will bear this fall.

Happy Easter, everyone. Please be safe.

Parzen family Pesach letter.

Last night as we were tucking the girls into bed, Georgia, age 8, prefaced her question as always with her habitual daddy, can I ask you something?

Next came the actual question, one that I don’t have the answer to: daddy, when is this whole thing going to be over?

Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, I’ve thought a lot about how this is the first time in our daughters’ lives that Tracie and I, like them, are navigating a situation for which none of us, not even the smartest people in the world, have a ready solution. Given the enormous and entirely uncharted challenges that we are all facing, I realize that like Georgia and Lila Jane (age 6), we are all children who have only their faith, their family, and their love to guide them.

I was about to board a flight back to Houston from Miami on March 9 when Italy announced that it was locking down the whole country. Tracie and I knew then that it was only a matter of time before Houston would get its Stay Home-Work Safe order. Sure enough, by Thursday of that week, schools had been closed and we were already isolating (even though Houston’s complete lockdown wouldn’t come for some time). As long as I live and breathe, I’ll never forget when two weeks had passed since my last flight and and I was confident that I had avoided getting infected. Today, Miami, where I attended a large walk-around tasting and took part in a wine conference, is a hot spot.

Tracie, the girls, and I are all healthy. And we’ve been taking every precaution we can to make sure that we stay safe. My mother, my brothers, and their families are all healthy. And so is Tracie’s family. But her grandmother — her mewaw, Violet, 99 years old — had a stroke a few weeks ago and we are all really sad that we can’t visit with her. Not even her children, Randy, Tracie’s dad, and his sister Holly, can visit her in the rehabilitation home where she is recovering. Another sibling, Jim, lives with his wife in Utah and it’s impossible for them to get to Texas now, for obvious reasons. It’s weighing on all of us terribly. Tracie’s family always rallies when one of its members falls ill. But today that’s just not possible.

Georgia and Lila Jane are both doing well. But they have lots of questions (to which we don’t have answers) and Lila Jane has been acting up a little more than usual. We recognize that she is having trouble expressing her anxiety. Every day it gets a little better, a little easier. Luckily, Tracie and I both work from home and so the isolation has been easier for us to deal with than for some of our friends who used to go to an office every day. Homeschooling has had its challenges. But we — the kids, the parents, and the teachers — are all beginning to settle into the rhythms of the new normal.

All in all, we have been extremely blessed. We all miss the way life was before but we know that we are immensely fortunate to have our health and each other.

Tonight, we’ll celebrate the Passover with our Seder meal. We weren’t able to find everything for our Seder plate at our local supermarket but we’ll make do. We’re sharing the one box of matzah that we found with another family in our neighborhood. Just one sheet of matzah would suffice and we are thankful for that. We’ll pour the cup of wine for Elijah and we’ll open the door. But for the first time in our lives, we won’t be able to invite a stranger in (one of my favorite traditions about the Passover, although no one has ever showed up). It will be a Pesach like none before.

I’m hoping that Georgia and Lila Jane will read the Four Questions tonight. I have answers for those. I can’t answer Georgia’s question, when this whole thing will be over? The only thing I know is that we, just like Georgia and Lila Jane, are G-d’s children. And I put my faith in Them and them. Only They and they can deliver us from this crisis.

I hope your Passover is a good one. G-d bless you, G-d bless us all. Chag sameach.

COVID-19 resources for North American wine professionals, rent relief options, a live chat with a colleague in Hong Kong, and another virtual tasting video…

Tomorrow morning at 8 a.m. CST (9 a.m. EST) I’ll be speaking to my colleague Natalie Wang in Hong Kong about how the Chinese wine trade is recovering (image via Natalie’s Facebook).

Yesterday, my client Ethica Wines published a shortlist of COVID-19 resources for wine professionals that I put together. Check it out here.

Another post worth checking out is this video by attorney Frank Cerza, a board member of the Italy-America Chamber of Commerce South Central (also my client). In the clip, he discusses different options for negotiating rent relief. Check it out here.

Tomorrow morning at 8 a.m. CST (9 a.m. EST/6 a.m. PST) I’ll be chatting live on the Ethica Wines Instagram (@EthicaWines) with my colleague Natalie Wang who lives and works in Hong Kong. We’ll be discussing the current situation in the Chinese wine trade as the country begins to reopen. I’m very eager to hear what she has to report because I hope it will be a model (and a glimmer of hope) for how we can get our wine industry rolling again.

Lastly, I want to give a shout-out to one of the coolest people I know in the American wine trade, Thibault Idenn, who runs the superb wine program at Travelle in the Langham Hotel in Chicago. That’s him (below, right), the “best sommelier in Chicago 2019” according to the Reader, with Scarpa director Riikka Sukula in November when we all tasted together at the hotel. His is the latest entry in the Scarpa Cellar Dive virtual tasting video series. Check it out here.

We’ve got some fun people lined up for the Scarpa series and I plan to do more videos here on my blog as well.

Thanks for being here and thanks for everything you do for Italian wine — even if it’s just by drinking it!

Remember: every click counts, every like matters. Please stay safe and isolate. Ce la faremo, as the Italians say, we will get through this… together.

Letter from Italy: “A rainbow for the colors of life” by Alicia Lini.

Alicia Lini and her family have been making Lambrusco in Canolo (Reggio Emilia province) for more than 100 years. She’s one of my best friends in the wine business and one of the people I admire most.

April 5, 2020
Palm Sunday
Canolo (Reggio Emilia)

Dear Jeremy,

Here I am writing you a letter.

Nothing is obvious anymore. Nothing is the same, nothing we think of is like it was before. These days, everyone has something to say. But not me.
Continue reading

Heartfelt thanks to our friend Katrina Rene for her Scarpa Cellar Dive virtual tasting

Earlier this week when I posted about the virtual tasting video series I’m working on, a ton of folks reached out and said they would put their shoulder to this wheel.

First and foremost among them was our good friend Katrina Rene (above) from Houston.

By day, she’s a super power lawyer. By night (and occasionally by day, too!) she runs the Corkscrew Concierge. Combined with her growing following on Instagram, it’s one of the top wine blogs in the country right now.

She created the video below for the Scarpa Cellar Dive series (Scarpa, my client, is offering to replace bottles that people use in virtual tasting videos).

Kat, you’re a great friend: THANK YOU for helping to support Italian wine by sharing the clip. :)

In coming weeks, I’ll be posting more of my own videos as well as videos by anyone who wants to share them with me. It doesn’t matter which wine you feature. Just make it Italian!

Check out this feature story about Katrina. And be sure to follow her blog.

As all of us hunker down for the ongoing health crisis, I hope this series will bring some light into all of our lives. We could all use a little joy these days and there’s some of that good stuff in every bottle of Italian wine.

Stay safe and isolate! Know that we’re all in this together.

Un abbraccio a tutti. Ce la faremo!

Letter from Italy: “I’m hopeful for what tomorrow will bring” by Piero Mastroberardino.

Above: Piero Mastroberardino grows grapes and makes wine in Irpinia.

April 2, 2020

Hardly a month ago, not even the most imaginative writer in the world could have come up with a screenplay like this: Most of the world comes to a stop, at the same time more or less, waiting for events to unfold.

We’re now living at a distance, thanks to technology. And when we encounter another person, during the few moments of the day when we are allowed to leave our homes, it’s a race to avoid contact.
Continue reading

Taste Barolo Monfalletto with Alberto Cordero and me at 3 p.m. EST (2 p.m. CST) on Instagram @EthicaWines

The virtual Italian wine tasting series continues today at 3 p.m. EST (2 p.m. CST) when I’ll be doing a split-screen live story with Alberto Cordero from the Cordero di Montezemolo winery. It will be appearing over at on the EthicaWines Instagram.

I hope you can join us!

I’ve followed Alberto’s family’s extraordinary wines since 1999 when I first tasted them at a dinner at the Four Seasons in New York (back in the day!). But I’ve always been surprised at how few wine professionals beyond New York know and appreciate them.

I finally made to visit the winery in January of this year thanks to my client Ethica, who sent me on a tour of some of their estates. My conversation and tasting with Alberto that day was as fascinating as it was delicious. I’m especially eager to ask Alberto to share his thoughts about the modern vs. traditional dialectic in Barolo. I bet that many old line Nebbiolophiles will be surprised and impressed by what he has to say.

We’ll be tasting their 2016 Barolo Monfalletto and 2017 Barbera d’Alba. Please join the live story if so inclined. I Hope to see you then and THANK YOU for supporting Italian wines. Every click counts, every like matters.