Our current house red and white, a classic Dolcetto and a Sonoma Chardonnay.

One of the things that we love the most about being “wine” people is checking in on new vintages from favorite producers that we have followed over time.

The one time that we were in Napa together, Tracie and I had the opportunity to visit the Neyers estate. It was during that same trip that we got engaged. So following the winery has an even deeper and fonder meaning for us.

Neyers has always let its wines reflect their vintage and we’ve appreciated certain releases more than others. But man, the 2021 just knocked our socks off.

It just has such a wonderful “clarity” of fruit — tropical with just a hint of citrus — and is so buoyant in the glass. At around $25 in our market, it’s become our official house white of the spring. We highly recommend it. Everyone loved it during our Passover.

The other wine we’ve just been crazy about is the Altare Dolcetto.

Elio Altare wasn’t a winery that we followed in our early years of Nebbiolophilia. We always found their top wines were excellent but a little too modern-leaning for our palates.

But the estate’s connection to Texas has given them a robust presence here and we’ve really loved their Langhe Nebbiolo over the last few years. Fantastic fruit, raised in stainless steel (or at least, I believe, gauging from our experience with the wines).

We finally managed to get our hands on some of their Dolcetto and we just fell in love with it.

We don’t drink a ton of red wine at our house. But this wine’s freshness and bright fruit just make it so moreish and food-friendly. We opened it the other night with family friends and it just kept giving and giving great berry and cherry fruit. So much fun to pair it, again around $25, with steak and loaded baked potatoes.

It’s another wine that Parzen family feels compelled to recommend.

Whatever you’re drinking and eating this weekend, we wish you a good one! See you next week. Until then…

LA wine people: I need you next Tuesday at Rossoblu!

That’s Serena Gusmeri with me in the photo at Operawine week before last in Verona. She’s the winemaker behind Vecchie Terre di Montefili in Panzano in the heart of Chianti Classico.

Serena won’t be with me next week but I will be presenting three of her wines on Tuesday evening 4/18 at Rossoblu in downtown LA.

We already have a great crowd lined up for the event but we’re trying to sell it out.

It’s an amazing deal at $150 per person including tax and gratuity. And we’ve just added a sixth label, the 2017 Bruno di Rocca by Serena, the estate’s large cask-raised Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s a truly extraordinary wine and I’m geeked to be sharing it with the group next Tuesday.

Here’s the link to reserve. Menu follows below.

Please join us. Deadline to reserve is tomorrow. If this one goes well, we’ll be doing one a month. So please come out and support me next week. Thank you for the solidarity!

Welcome: Chicken liver toast – cipollini agrodolce, chive
La Civetta Prosecco (Glera, Treviso, Veneto)

Grilled Monterey calamari – frisée salad, heirloom tomatoes, basil
Ronco dei Tassi Pinot Grigio Il Tasso (Pinot Grigio, Collio, Friuli)
Vecchie Terre di Montefili Rosé from Sangiovese (Sangiovese, Panzano, Tuscany)

English pea cappellacci – ricotta, mint, pea shoots, Parmigiano Reggiano
Benazzi Sisters Bardolino (Corvina, Lake Garda, Veneto)

Sangiovese-braised short ribs – sunchoke purée, crispy sunchoke, gremolata
Vecchie Terre di Montefili Chianti Classico (Sangiovese, Panzano, Tuscany)
Vecchie Terre di Montefili Bruno di Rocca (Cabernet Sauvignon, Panzano, Tuscany)

Coconut Nutella cake – vanilla crème anglaise

An encounter with one of Italy’s most famous persons reveals the small big world of Italian wine.

As the young woman introduced him, her voice bubbled over with the joy of presenting one of her idols.

When she was deciding on her career path many years ago, she told the group of wine professionals, her father gave her one of the speaker’s books. Read this before choosing your future, he told her. The insights and wisdom she found in those pages led her to choose a life in wine.

Today, she is the marketing director for one of the largest importers of Italian wine in the world and a widely respected figure in the trade.

My Vinitaly hadn’t officially started when I managed to snag a spot at that importer’s sales retreat at the swank Villa Sparina in Gavi. The featured presenter that day was none other than Oscar Farinetti, Italy’s celebrity entrepreneur cum pop philosopher cum motivational speaker.

In north American, he’s known primarily as the founder of Eataly and one of Italy’s richest people. But in Italy he’s a genuine megastar — Malcolm Gladwell meets Tony Robbins.

He was there to talk about wine and more specifically, his wines, which said importer imports to the U.S.

But instead of talking about his wineries, he gave a colorful speech about the art of selling Italy.

Everyone should go out and buy themselves a copy of Dante and Boccaccio, he advised in his opener. Those early Italian works, he said, reveal the richness and breadth of Italian culture and its many treasures.

He then launched into one of his famous litanies of figures and facts. Italy, he pointed out, covers only a small amount of the world’s land surface. But it is home to more iconic works of art than any other country in the world, large or small.

You couldn’t be more fortunate, he exhorted the group, to be selling western civilization’s greatest cultural resource.

He also made some interesting observations about how organic foods and wines are perceived by the market. The word organic will increasingly be interpreted as an antonym for death, he predicted. An extreme but well pondered consideration.

My official Vinitaly wouldn’t start for another two days. But on that overcast chilly day in Gavi, I was reminded of how small the big world of Italian wine really is.

In Turin, a 17th-century villa looks out over the old city.

My Vinitaly began not in Verona but in Turin, the capital of Piedmont and former capital of Italy, one of Italy’s most beautiful risorgimento cities, with the architecture and urban planning befitting a world touchstone.

Not far from its origins in the Cottian Alps, the mighty Po river flows through this majestic metropolis, hugging its eastern border and dividing it from the rolling hills where the Villa della Regina — the Queen’s country house — looks out over the famed Mole Antonelliana, one of Italy’s most recognizable architectural landmarks.

I wish I could tell you more about the 17th-century villa, just up the road from the Queen’s sojourn, where a group of my colleagues and I were hosted by one of the city’s leading citizens.

But I can share the foods we ate.

There’s really nothing quite like vitello tonnato when it’s homemade. Thinly sliced veal topped with a sauce made of anchovies, capers, and olive oil-cured tuna. It’s a Jewish boy’s dream.

Also above, those are the classic tuna-stuffed eggs from the Piedmontese culinary canon, otherwise known as “deviled” in Anglo-Saxon culture.

These stalks of Apium graveolens were slathered with creamy gorgonzola. Please try this at home.

No self-respecting torinese host would end a meal sans fromage. After all, the region is renowned for its pastures, breeds, and traditions.

I wish I could reveal more about our host and the reason we were gathered there in the days leading up to the fair.

But that will all come in time… Thanks for sharing the adventure with me and more to come!

Matzah and wine. Reminders of why yeast is a miracle. Happy Passover!

Happy Passover, everyone!

According to this excellent post by Chabad.org, “matzah is called ‘impoverished bread,’ bread that lacks taste – for it is a remembrance of spiritual impoverishment.”

“Wine, however, has taste and is enjoyable. It is a ‘remembrance of the liberation and freedom’ ultimately achieved by the Jews.”

Both will be served for this year’s Passover Seder, a meal in which each dish symbolizes part of the story of Exodus.

One lacks yeast.

The other is transformed by yeast.

Long before we began to understand the role of yeast in two of the world’s nearly universal foodstuffs — bread and wine — fermentation was considered a miracle by our ancestors.

It is still a miracle today.

Have a great Passover!

Chag Pesach kasher vesame’ach!

[Wishing you a] kosher and joyous Passover!

There are so many ways to wish someone a happy Passover — in Hebrew, Yiddish, and English. Check them out here on Chabad.org.

Taste with Italian wine legend Luca D’Attoma and me on Monday in Verona, 10 am to noon.

Dateline Brescia.

Posting on the fly this morning as the Italian wine trade gears up for its annual trade fair, the BIG enchilada, Vinitaly.

One of the gatherings I’m most looking forward to is my session with industry legend Tuscan enologist Luca D’Attoma, winemaker for my client Amistà, producer of Nizza DOCG.

He and I will hanging out from 10 a.m. until noon at the Ethica Wines stand — hall 10, stand A3.

In case you’re not familiar with Luca, he’s the deft hand by some of our generation’s most critically acclaimed Tuscan wines. His partnership with Amistà is his first in Piedmont, where he’s making biodynamically farmed, unoaked Nizza DOCG. It’s a super exciting project and I’m super stoked to be part of it.

If you have a moment on Monday morning at the fair, please stop by to taste and chat. There should be some cool writers stopping by as well. Please come and see us.

And in the meantime, buon Vinitaly! Have a great fair!

P.S. see you tomorrow at Operawine and the afterparty…

Taste with me at Rossoblu in Los Angeles! Wine dinner April 18.

One of the best chapters of my career spanned the seven years that I worked with Chef Steve Samson (above) in Los Angeles.

Chef and I met on our junior year abroad in Italy and we’ve been close friends ever since that time. In the meantime, he’s gone on to become one of California’s most followed and beloved culinary professionals.

Steve, his partner (and better half) Dina, and their group are about to add another destination to the roster. Their Superfine on the west side of the city will open any day now.

When he opened his first restaurant in Los Angeles, Sotto (another favorite of the Pulitzer-winning author), I wrote the list and we did countless wine dinners together.

I could not be more thrilled to be working with Chef Steve next month when I’ll be presenting a wine dinner at his Rossoblu in downtown.

Jonathan Gold had nothing but praise for Chef Steve’s ode to his hometown of Bologna, Rossoblu (“Jonathan Gold says Rossoblu may make you wish you knew a Bolognese grandmother,” Los Angeles Times, June 2017).

It’s really that good, folks.

We still don’t have the menu lined up, but you can already reserve your spot here.

I’ll post an update with the menu and wines soonest.

Please join me on Tuesday, April 18, as I pour some of my favorite wines paired with the Rossoblu menu. I am so looking forward to this! I hope you can be there.

Image via Chef Steve’s website.

Gastronomic philology gets its day in the sun as an Italian food historian looks “behind the holy books.”

Above: one of the best executions of carbonara I’ve ever had was prepared by a Roman using guanciale and Pecorino Romano. The cook in question is one of the most brilliant and informed writers in Italy I know. But does he know the origins of his city’s synecdoche dish?

“A philologist looks behind the ‘holy books,’” wrote Friedrich Nietzsche in The Twilight of the Idols (1889), “a physician behind the physiological depravity of the [believer]. The physician says, ‘incurable,’ the philologist says, ‘fraud’…”

This line came to mind over the weekend after a number of gourmand friends and gourmet colleagues sent me a wonderful Financial Times profile of Italian food historian Alberto Grandi entitled “Everything I, an Italian, thought I knew about Italian food is wrong.”

Grandi “has dedicated his career to debunking the myths around Italian food,” writes Marianna Giusti for the paper.

In his 2021 book Denominazione di origine inventata (Invented Designation of Origin), Grandi points out:

    that most Italians hadn’t heard of pizza until the 1950s, for example, or that carbonara is an American recipe. Many Italian “classics,” from panettone to tiramisù, are relatively recent inventions… Some of DOI’s claims might be familiar to industry insiders, but most are based on Grandi’s own findings, partly developed from existing academic literature. His skill is in taking academic research and making it digestible. And his mission is to disrupt the foundations on which we Italians have built our famous, and famously inflexible, culinary culture — a food scene where cappuccini must not be had after midday and tagliatelle must have a width of exactly 7mm.

Sounds like my cup of caffè corretto!

Anyone who follows my blog knows that I have written extensively about the origins of dishes like carbonara and puttanesca. And one of the major red threads of my research has been the debunking of myths, like the one about puttanesca being invented by sex workers and carbonara being named after purveyors of charcoal.

In case you missed the piece, check it out here (paywall).

I’m leaving tonight for Italy and plan to pick up a copy of his book while on the ground there. I can’t wait to read his book! Report forthcoming!

In the meantime, wish me luck and wish me speed. Lufthansa is on strike but I still hope to get to Italy by dinner tomorrow…

See you in Verona! Let’s taste together at Vinitaly.

Above: I’m hoping to get an invitation to the blogger and social media party that my friends and colleagues have hosted over the years at the Abruzzo consortium stand. It’s always a great time.

After missing Vinitaly last year, I am super stoked to be heading back for this year’s main event.

If you’re planning on attending, let’s connect and taste!

I’ll be at the fair on Sunday and Monday (heading back to Texas on Tuesday because Passover starts on Wednesday night, April 5).

And if you’re free on Monday, come and see me at the Ethica Wines stand (hall 10, stand A3). I’ll be hanging there for a few hours with enologist Luca D’Attoma. We’ll be tasting his latest project, Amistà, producer of Nizza DOCG (my client). Luca is a towering figure in the world of Italian wine and I’m super psyched to be tasting with him.

Of course, I’ll also be making the rounds to see as many of my friends and taste as many wines as possible.

If you’re heading to Verona next week, let’s taste. I’m also going to be at Opera Wine this year.

DM to connect. And travel safe! Looking forward to seeing everyone!

The tale of a social media influencer: Imp of the Perverse.

Above: Alicia Lini, right, with my longtime friend and social media influencer, Giovanni Contrada, aka Imp of the Perverse.

When Italy first went into lockdown mode in March 2020, my longtime friend and fashion designer Giovanni Contrada (above, left) was living in Milan where he was building his Imp of the Perverse label and brand.

The boredom of the closures led him to start documenting his (at first modest) culinary adventures in Italy’s fashion and culture capital. What started with handful of simpatico videos on TikTok, where Giovanni would interact with owners of neighborhood cafés and restaurants, soon blossomed into an increasing number of likes and shares. And before long, that number started to grow — exponentially.

When he called me at the end of the year, he told me, “dude, I’m huge on TikTok.” And he wasn’t kidding.

He already had close to one million followers at the time. Today, he has 1.5 million followers — yes, one and a half million.

He also has an agent and scores of requests for product placements and endorsements. And his fashion line has exploded as well.

When Giovanni’s unique line of jackets and suits first took off, he was a favorite among the glitterati crowd. Ellen Degeneres and Melissa Etheridge were among the first celebrities to wear his clothes. Remember when Melissa Etheridge performed at the Grammys during her battle with cancer in 2005? She was wearing a Giovanni jacket.

As Giovanni was rising in the fashion world, he would often dress our band Nous Non Plus for our shows. Over the years, he’s even designed a few special pieces that he’s gifted to me (including “The Jar” hoodie). When I was up for a prize in Milan some years ago, he dressed me for the awards ceremony.

Last week, I traveled to Los Angeles to meet another dear friend and longtime client of mine, Alicia Lini. On Thursday morning, we sat down with Giovanni for breakfast at this fantastic Italian bakery and café on Sunset Blvd. called Ceci’s (everything was great, the erbazzone exceptional).

Click here to see the TikTok they made together. Click here for the Instagram. Giovanni also posted a wonderful clip of him enjoying Alicia’s traditional balsamic vinegar.

It was one of the ages. But that’s no surprise. Giovanni has always been such a loving and generous friend to me, a big brother who has comforted me in my worst times and shared my joy in my best.

Giovanni, I love you. Thanks for carving out an hour of your morning for us. I’ll never forget that chilly overcast day in LA as long as I live.

If you’re wondering where the handle “Imp of the Perverse” came from, look no further than Edgar Allen Poe.