Taste with me July 6 in Boulder, July 14 in Ft. Worth.

Above: me at the Slow Food University of Gastronomic Sciences last summer in Pollenzo/Bra where I teach food and wine communications in the graduate program. Photo by Marcello Marengo.

It’s been wonderful to get to travel again and to interact with wine lovers in other cities.

I couldn’t be more geeked to get to pour at one of my favorite wine shops in the country, Boulder Wine Merchant, next Wednesday, July 6, from 5-7 p.m. No RSVP required. Owner Brett Zimmerman and I have been working together for more than 10 years now (I’m the official blogger of the Boulder Burgundy Festival) and earlier this year, I began writing the store’s weekly e-blasts and blog. It’s a super fun gig and the best people in the business.

It looks like I’ll be pouring some Lambrusco, Barbera, and Nebbiolo. So come on out and taste! I can’t imagine that macerated whites, Nebbiolo, and pizza won’t be happening later that night at Pizzeria Locale (another favorite spot).

On July 14 (my birthday!), join me at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Ft. Worth where I’ll be pouring and talking about Prosecco and its significance in Venetian culture. The event, presented by the Italy-America Chamber of Commerce, another long-time client of mine, is part of the museum’s show on Whistler and Sargent in Venice and the influence of the Murano glassworks. How cool is that?

Register here (required because of limited space).

Ever since I first landed in Italy, I’ve suffered from Venetophilia. I’m really looking forward to this.

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What I learned from getting Starbucks with QAnon.

Above: American artist Tony Tasset’s “Eye” in downtown Dallas not far from the Grassy Knoll.

A few weeks ago, we attended a music educators’ conference with our daughters in Dallas. I had a speaking gig up there as well and so we made a weeklong vacation of it.

When we arrived at our hotel, we soon learned that the hotel was also to host a QAnon conference. No shit. They were there for the second coming of JFK. Yes, for real. We spent the very long weekend running into them in the elevator, hallways, and at the hotel restaurants.

I wrote about the bizarre experience for the Houston Press, Houston’s weekly rag. Thanks for checking it out.

Please consider giving to Unicef’s Ukraine child refugee fund. This link takes you straight to the donation page.

Italian wine mourns the untimely loss of Marco Accordini, 26. “A man who, despite his youth, left an indelible mark on the lives of all of us.”

Screenshot from BresciaToday.

Today, the Italian wine world mourns the untimely loss of Marco Accordini, 26, beloved son of one of Valpolicella’s leading families.

According to reports published by mainstream media, he died this week after being severely injured in a tractor accident.

“Words cannot describe the pain we are feeling,” the family wrote on its Facebook page yesterday. “Marco was innovation. He was the brain. He was the present and future of our winery. We have lost a son, a nephew, a cousin, a friend. But more than anything else, we have lost a great man. An ambitious man teeming with ideas, hopes, passion, and dreams for a life ahead of him. A man who, despite his youth, left an indelible mark on the lives of all of us.”

A memorial is to be held tomorrow at the Church of San Rocco in Pedemonte.

I first met Marco many years ago when I visited his family’s estate. And I had the opportunity to interact with him last year when we presented a virtual wine dinner featuring Accordini’s wonderful wines. He was classic veneto: industrious, forthright, and extremely talented. His family’s wines are as pure and focused as was he in his work and in his life. His loss is a tremendous blow to Italian wine. He will be sorely missed by many.

Sit tibi terra levis Marce.

Barolo weighs a ban on tourist traffic. Electric shuttles would ferry wine lovers through appellation according to new plan.

Above: the historic Barolo castle in the center of Barolo, the village.

According to a report published this week by the Turin edition of the Corriere della Sera, the Union of Communes of the Langa Hills and Barolo has commissioned a study of a potential ban on tourist traffic between the villages of Barolo, Castiglione Falletto, and Monforte d’Alba.

The proposed plan would also provide for an electric shuttle that would ferry wine lovers throughout the appellation. The shuttles could also be employed to take children to school each day.

The author writes that 500,000 people visit the appellation each year. On weekends, the traffic in villages like Barolo, with a total population of 650, has become unsustainable.

“We have already invested in electric bicycle routes,” says Roberto Passone, president of the communes association in the Corriere article. “We don’t want exclude anyone but we want to make our landscape more enjoyable.”

Tourism is what drives the local economy, notes Barolo mayor Renata Franco, “but we also need to consider our residents and our children.”

The proposed plan would also repurpose industrial zones as large parking lots where tourists could leave the cars while visiting.

One top producer, Ernesto Abbona, owner of the historic Marchesi di Barolo estate, has even proposed charging tourists admission to the appellation.

But others feel such a step would be too much.

“We don’t want to become an elitist destination just for the rich,” says Monforte d’Alba Livio Genesio. “There are alternative solutions and we are looking at every one of them so that we won’t have to issue tickets and take reservations.”

Happy Juneteenth! Check out “On Juneteenth” by Annette Gordon-Reed.

From “The War of the Rebellion: A compilation of official records of the Union and Confederate Armies,” 1896. Image via the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Happy Juneteenth, everyone!

It’s so awesome to see people celebrating this year, one year after it became an official U.S. holiday.

Houston has a deep connection to the holiday because it was first observed here in our city not long after the earliest celebrations in Galveston.

For anyone who wants to learn more about the holiday, I highly recommend Annette Gordon-Reed’s wonderful book, On Juneteenth, a memoir of her growing up in Texas (not far from where we live), published last year.

Happy Juneteenth! Enjoy the holiday!

Italian wine comes to Healdsburg. Ciao Bruto!

It almost felt surreal.

As I drove past tasting rooms for some of the most famous California wineries, posh hotels, and randy restaurants I can’t afford, I made my way to an oasis of Italian wine that has just opened in one of the luxury epicenters of American wine country.

Ciao Bruto!, just recently opened by the Idlewild winery’s Thomas DiBiase, is Healdsburg first bona fide wine shop. Yes, it’s first!

As Thomas pointed out when I visited with him the other day, even though there are countless marquee tasting rooms in the town, there had never been genuine retail outfit there.

But what seemed even more surreal was that the newly stocked shelves are lined with Italian (and French) wines.

I don’t know about you but I had never seen anything like that in Sonoma or Napa Counties. Plenty of wine, yes. But almost exclusively Californian.

What’s even more exciting about Thomas’ new shop is that he is also importing all kinds of great food products from Europe as well.

I was traveling light but man, I had my eye on his selection of olive oil-cured tunas.

This blogger is not the only one exited by the prospect of being able to source European foods and wines in wine country.

Esther Mobley, who rarely writes about EU wine, has already penned a feature story about this literally ground-breaking operation for the Chronicle.

There are so many amazing new places opening right now in wine country. Ciao Bruto! (I love the name, btw) is just one of them.

I can’t wait to get back there with Tracie in August.

A shout-out and thanks to wine publicists. Don’t let your myopic detractors get you down.

Image via Shutterstock.

In their most recent weekly dump, the venerated Italian wine authority and éminence grise of the wine blogging world, Alfonso Cevola, takes aim at wine bloggers, wine influencers, and the wine industry publicists. As they reveal in their post, they are acutely aggrieved by wine media trips, “junkets,” as they call them.

“It’s a waste of time and money,” they write, “and it does a disservice to the already enlisted multitudes all over the world who are legitimately trying to put your bottles into the hands of loving customers, day after day.”

They seem particularly peeved by a publicist who recently invited them on a trip to California wine country. The perceived offense? They invited them only two weeks out from the trip start date and they didn’t write them back after they responded that they wouldn’t be attending.

With all due respect to dottor Cevola, one of the most revered wine professionals in the country (now retired), this is the umpteenth example of the bile-fueled, maligned, and myopic rhetoric that continues to flow from the keyboards of self-righteous wine media figures like them — most of them on the older side, like them.

While they wildly swing their bat at the PR piñata, it doesn’t occur to them that the publicist they are striking is probably a young person in their first job or early career. The person who authored the invitation is most likely just trying to do their job, like the person who drops off a flier for a fast food restaurant on your doorstep.

Cevola entitles their post “Keep On Trucklin’ – Press Junkets in the Age of Disruption.”

Despite their title, they do not seem to be aware the entire wine industry, including wine media and wine PR, is undergoing major upheaval. Long-time publicists for top wine importers are being laid off across the trade. Similarly, young publicists and marketing professionals are struggling to hang on to their jobs as the big PR firms downsize.

Why they feel compelled to train their ire on the wine PR world is probably driven by other forces than the supposed incompetence or ill intentions of publicists in wine today. Why call out a young person for simply sending you an invitation?

In an industry that is rapidly changing in the wake of the ongoing pandemic and logistics crisis, not to mention a world war and inflation, we all need to be more mindful and sensitive of and for our colleagues. The answer is not to berate them. No, we will all rise together when we treat each other with the dignity we deserve. And we all — all of us — need to start treating media workers like the human beings that they are. Not the punching bag for embittered former members of the trade.

The other folks they have it out for are the bloggers and influencers, whom Cevola calls “hangers-on”: “A good number of them go from event to event, eating and drinking well, staying in nice places, being chauffeured around in temperature-controlled autobuses [sic]. And then on to the next junket. Don’t believe me? Check out their Instagram feeds: Tuscany today, Penedès tomorrow – they keep on truckling!”

What they don’t realize is that he continues to receive invitations to trips like this because the industry perceives them as a hanger-on. As the age-old adage goes, it takes one…

Or even better in Cevola’s case, they who smelt it…

To folks who work on the receiving end of these invitations and wine industry press releases, please remember that the person on the other side of that email is just a human being trying to do their job.

My post today is a heartfelt shout-out and warm thanks to all the people who are trying to make the world a better place to enjoy wine. We appreciate what you do and we know that you play a vital role in our industry. Thank you!

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Join me and top Piedmont producers, Luigi Coppo and Stefano Chiarlo, for a Moscato d’Asti seminar and lunch in Dallas next Wednesday.

Next week I’ll be leading my “What’s So Sexy about Moscato d’Asti” seminar and tasting in Dallas at the legendary ZaZa hotel.

I’ll be joined by some of the top names in the appellation, including my friends Luigi Coppo and Stefano Chiarlo — two of the coolest guys in the biz.

They’ll also be joining us for lunch and pouring some of their families’ reds, including the Nizza La Court, a single-vineyard Barbera farmed on their famous La Court vineyard. That’s a shot from my visit to the estate in 2018 with Tracie and the girls. The site is also an open-air sculpture garden. It’s wonderful and we all loved our time up there.

Click here to register for the 11 a.m. event next Wednesday in Dallas. Have a great weekend and see you next week!

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There’s raw sausage in my baked potato in my Bra. Why are Italians so obsessed with American comfort food?

Today’s post is the fourth in a series on my favorite places to eat in (my) Bra (Cuneo province, Piedmont) where I teach at the Slow Food University of Gastronomic Sciences. The toponym Bra comes from the late Latin braida, meaning a suburban field for farming.

Italians’ obsession with American comfort foods has been one of the things that has puzzled me the most in the last ten years I’ve been traveling through Italy.

But I thought I’d seen it all when I stumbled upon a baked potato fast food shop in my Bra last month.

It’s called the Patateria (the Potato Shop) and it serves only patate in giachetta, literally potatoes in a jacket, the Italian rendering of loaded baked potato.

They even serve baked potatoes topped with my Bra’s famous raw veal sausage (more on that later in this series). I love baked potatoes and we make them every week at our house. But man, this was a bridge too far — even for this gastronaut.

My Bra seems to be a laboratory for new fast food and casual food concepts. Last year when I visited, a new hamburger place had opened. It’s called OX Burgers.

During my first academic year in Italy in 1987, the only fast food burger we could get was at the Burghy in the Florence trains station. Since that, and really in the last 10 years or so, amburgherie (hamburger restaurants) have popped up all over the country and it’s rare that beer gardens and pubs don’t offer a wide range of American comfort foods. I’ve even had jalapeño poppers in Italy (they weren’t very good.

That’s “bacon and eggs” at a writerly café in Milan a few years ago. Not an American in sight but plenty of people eating American breakfast food — for lunch.

As nonplussed as I am by their often misguided fascination with and delight over American comfort food, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed some of the dishes, in part because they are often made with highest-quality ingredients, especially when it comes to the ground beef (and ground pork and ground bacon are almost always blended into the mix in some combination). The same goes for the cured meats, like the ham, turkey, and bacon in the club.

The quality of the bread is also generally much better than in the U.S. Again, thanks to higher quality ingredients in my experience. That’s a club sandwich on Lake Iseo last year. It was fantastic. The Italians generally use homemade mayonnaise, as in this rendering of the American classic diner dish. It’s wonderful.

A glass of Franciacorta, anyone?

But Italian barbecue sauce made with genuine Italian tomatoes? No, this Texifornian couldn’t do it!

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The perfect risotto pairs well with Barolo in my Bra. And notes on the meaning of risotto. No, it doesn’t mean “little rice”!

Today’s post is the third in a series on my favorite places to eat in Bra (Cuneo province, Piedmont) during my seminars at the Slow Food University of Gastronomic Sciences in (my) Bra. The toponym Bra comes from the late Latin braida, meaning a suburban field for farming.

It’s one of those things that Italian translators (like me) get peeved about: false cognate English translations of Italian diminutive suffixes.

Here’s a good example that illustrates how the confusion can happen.

The Italian word chierico means cleric and it’s used for priests, deacons, and bishops in the Catholic Church.

The word chierichetto is a diminutive of chierico by means of the diminutive suffix -etto. But it doesn’t mean little cleric. In Italian, it denotes an altar boy. The altar boys may be smaller than the clerics or they may be bigger. The point is that the diminutive suffix doesn’t necessarily make something little or bigger (as the case may be for the augmentative suffix). No, what’s important to note here is that yes, the diminutive suffix sometimes but not always refers to size. But more significantly (excuse the pun), it alters the meaning of the root word, sometimes with unexpected results for the learner of Italian language.

Brunello doesn’t mean little dark one. It means literally somewhat dark. Similarly, Dolcetto doesn’t mean little sweet one. It literally means somewhat sweet. (Btw, Franco Biondi-Santi once told me that while he couldn’t say for certain, he believed that Brunello got its name from a favorite family-owned horse.)

And something even more important is in play here. Dolcetto may mean literally somewhat sweet. But its meaning in this context is shaped by the value of the suffix in a way that has no parallel in English. In Italian it’s called the vezzeggiativo, a term of endearment.

In other words, Dolcetto really means a sweet grape that we are fond of. It’s a sweet little grape. Even for English speakers, it’s evident that sweet doesn’t refer to the sweetness of the grape but to our fondness of it.

The verb vezzeggiare (whence vezzeggiativo) means to fondle.

So it’s only natural that translators like me get upset when people say that the word risotto means little rice.

The suffix -otto generally has a disparaging, negative meaning. A casa is a house. A casotto is a shed (or figuratively, a big mess).

But in many cases, it’s also an expression of fondness. An orso is a bear. An orsacchiotto is a teddy bear.

A risotto isn’t a small, lesser rice. No, it’s a rice that’s been enriched with stock, seasonings, and cheese.

I had a fantastic risotto on my second day of teaching in Bra last month. The newly harvested spring asparagus was delicious and the rice (carnaroli, if I’m not mistaken) was cooked perfectly.

The restaurant on this day was the trattoria in my hotel, Badellino, where I always stay (in part because it’s the only place where the wifi is reliable). It’s more an old-school pensione than a hotel (not much services offered). But the owner Giacomo is friendly and the restaurant is solid.

I know people are freaking out right now that I paired a Barolo with asparagus. But in Italy, people are a lot more chill about shit like that.

I drank the wine throughout my meal and it was fine with the rice as well thanks to its acidity and rich flavor.

And holy shit, 2015 Barolo Paiagallo by Mirafiore? The wine was insanely good and only cost €40. Yes, I’ll say that again, FOR-TY EU-RO! That’s one of the things I love the most about my Bra: the approachable wine prices. That wine was a real treat. I drank about four glasses that night and saved the other two for the nights that followed. Brilliant. (Disclosure: I write and consult for the Mirafiore’s U.S. importer.)

Of course, the wine was the PERFECT pairing for the last dish, a slice of gorgonzola with a dollop of cognà on the side. Check out my notes on cognà here.

Thanks for reading and letting me share this meal with you!

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