Slow Wine in Austin: how does it feel to be one of the beautiful people?

giancarlo-gariglioThe weather couldn’t have been more perfect for the Slow Wine guide tasting in Austin, Texas this week. And the people — organizers, producers, and tasters — couldn’t have been nicer or more excited about this super fun gathering.

I know I’ve said it many times before but I’ll say it again: when I moved to Texas more than eight years ago, I never would have imagined that top markets in our state would become “targets” for media and trade events like this. Between the Benvenuto Brunello tasting in Houston a few weeks ago (the second time the Montalcinesi have come to the Bayou City) and this one (the second time the Slow Wine cats have come to the River City), it would seem that my adoptive state and two cities I have called home are now firmly established as hubs for Italian wine in the U.S.

That’s Slow Wine guide editor Giancarlo Gariglio (left) and Houston-based wine professional Thomas Moësse (right) in the photo above.

There’s talk that the Slow Wine event will come to Houston next year (don’t quote me but it looks likely). And there’s also talk that I’ll be involved in presenting next year’s gathering. I can’t spill the beans just quite yet but there’s some good stuff (and some good wine) in our future here in Space City.

lucia-barzano-husband-barzanoWhat a lovely day to catch up with some of my favorite people in the business. That’s Lucia Barzanò (right) of Mosnel, one of my favorite Franciacorta producers, with her husband Andrea. The nicest people… great wines.

art-fristoeMy good friend Silvano Brescianini of Barone Pizzini (left), another one of my favorite Franciacorta producers. And that’s Art Fristoe, one of the top keyboard players in Texas right now. Super cool cat. He ripped it up at the Elephant Room later that night.

its-italian-market-austinIf I’m not mistaken, these nice folks work at It’s Italian Market in Austin.

austin-bonhomieMore nice people from Bonhomie in Austin.

italy-america-chamber-maurizio-gamberucciMartin Morales (left) and Maurizio Gamberucci from the Italy-America Chamber of Commerce of Texas (one of my clients). Looking sharp, guys!

jerry-reidJerry Reid, a top sales rep for Southern Glazer’s and another one of those good eggs in the wine trade.

rob-formanRob Forman national sales manager for importer Dalla Terra (left), one of the hardest working people in the wine biz.

Thank you to everyone who came out for the event. Thank you for all you do for Italian wine and the Italian wine renaissance in Texas!

See you next year in Houston!

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.

sheila-jackson-office-houston

Lick, pray, love: wonderful ice cream at Dolce Neve in Austin

best ice cream austin texasPosting in a hurry today because I’m super slammed with work.

But, dulcis in fundo, how not to end the week on a sweet note after having visited my new favorite ice cream shop, Dolce Neve in Austin?

I loved talking to owners and ice cream-makers Marco Silvestrini from Umbria (below, right) and Leo Ferrarese (left) from Lombardy. I didn’t get to meet Francesca Silvestrini, Marco’s sister. But she’s part of the picture, too.

Super nice people and fantastic, wholesome, artisanal ice cream. All made from scratch and served in traditional Italian style with lots of fun flourishes.

Talking to these guys yesterday while I was in Austin for business, I couldn’t help but think that someone is going to make a “feel-good-movie-of-the-summer” about their arc, from the corporate world to ice cream slingers in America’s quirkiest city. Lick, pray, love…

Thanks for being here and buon weekend a tutti!

dolce neve austin marco silvestrini

An Italian wine cellar grows in Austin at Italic

best pizza austin texasAbove: the soppressata and taleggio pizza at Italic, Austin’s latest Italian entry.

Tuesday found me in Austin where I finally got to eat at Italic, the latest Italian-concept to open there and just one of the seemingly countless new Italians to open or to launch before year’s end.

The wine director Master Sommelier Craig Collins is a good friend from our years in the River City. He started my party off with a bottle of Lambrusco di Sorbara and expertly sliced prosciutto, a thoughtful pairing and a lovely gesture (especially because, and I just have to say this one more time, the prosciutto was sliced perfectly).

His list there is fantastic, with a focus on indigenous grape varieties and a balanced selection of northern, central, and southern. That alone was enough to make me a fan: It’s great to see southern wines well represented at restaurants like this, where the marketing target is generation Z. I love to think about how current UT students might wash down their pizza with Aglianico instead of the predictable and unavoidable stainless-steel Merlot from Tuscany that you see so often by-the-glass in pseudo-Italians today.

But thing that really blew me away about his program wasn’t the current offering but the wines that weren’t on the list.

Before we sat down, Craig gave our party a tour of his 1,000+ reserve cellar, chock full with Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, and Aglianico that he’s aging. He has laid down a serious allocation of 2010 wines and he plans to start opening them a few years from now.

“I’m going to do 2010 Produttori del Barbaresco [classic] Barbaresco by-the-glass,” he told us, “just because I want people to experienced what aged Nebbiolo tastes like.”

Beyond New York, it’s rare that you find programs where directors are cellaring wines like these.

So for me, the thought that someone like Craig is holding back these wines in a youth-oriented market like Austin gives me confidence that a new generation of Italian wine lovers will emerge there.

And that’s good news for all of us, across the board, from Italian winemakers and purveyors of Italian wines to Italian wine consumers.

Italic is a big restaurant located in the heart of downtown Austin on 6th street not far from music row. When I moved there in 2008, no one could imagine such an ambitious Italian restaurant and wine list in one of our nation’s party-hardy epicenters. Today, this sleek joint packs ’em in and plies them with pasta, pizza pies, and Frappato.

Bring it on, Craig! I love your program. Chapeau bas, my friend! It’s great to know that an Italian cellar grows in Austin.

italians austin texasAbove: a little Texas hospitality outside Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon, where they still deliver the righteous country jams.

After dinner, I just had to take my clients, Giovanni (above, left) and Francesco Minetti (right) to Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon, one of me and Tracie P’s favorites honky tonks from our years in Austin.

That’s Tracie Lynn (above, center), one of the Live Music Capital of the World’s standbys. She and a super smoking band delivered a bitchin’ set of country standards.

Super fun night and after her last set (yes, we stayed to close the place), she meet-and-greeted fans outside the club in classic country fashion.

When she learned that it was Giovanni and Francesco’s first time in Texas, she insisted on gifting them CDs!

The guys had a blast (as did I) and afterward, I couldn’t help but say to them, adding a double-shot of irony for the road: “visting Texas? I’m so sorry…”

Resolution (?) to our October 2013 burglary

crestview austin brentwood burglary burglariesAbove: one of my Austin restaurant clients had his contractor board up our front door after the burglar broke it down.

The date was October 9, 2013, two days before Tracie P’s birthday, when two men burglarized our home in Austin in broad daylight.

I had left earlier in the morning for my weekly commute to Houston (where we now live) and Tracie had taken our daughters to the grocery store.

One of the men broke down our front door and searched through our belonging for valuables (here’s my post from the week of the burglary). The other waited outside with their getaway car.

The police were able to identify one of the burglars because he took a selfie with our family iPhone and we saw it in our iCloud. He also took a photo of a brand new pair of tennis shoes.

Both men left Texas and went to California. The driver had been pulled over by police in Austin and fled. He was ultimately apprehended in California.

From what we were told by the Austin detective who handled our case, the man who entered our home was killed in Los Angeles in June in a gangland shooting. He was twenty-four years old.

On Friday of last week, the driver accepted a plea bargain. He will spend the next ten years in jail.

In the end, the news of the one’s passing and the other’s guilty plea made me feel terribly sad.

Continue reading

Parzen family snapshot & Lila Jane sits up

From the department of “I don’t know how I got here but I’m sure glad I made it”…

jeremy parzen wine blogThe Parzen family attended a cousin’s wedding over the weekend at Lake Travis outside of Austin (mazel tov, Katherine and Clark!) and uncle Terry snapped this photo of me and the girls.

But the big Parzen family news is that Lila Jane is starting to sit up on her own! She will be one year old in just over a week and she and I will be celebrating our birthdays together.

I love being a dad so much. And every day I love my gorgeous Tracie P more and more for giving us such beautiful, happy girls and for being such a great mom to them.

Thanks for sharing our joy.

Snow in Austin, Texas!

snow austin texas

Above: the view from our kitchen window this morning.

I never thought I’d live to see the day: snow in Austin, Texas!

Across the state, from Central Texas to East Texas, bridges and overpasses are closed and scores of motorists are stranded. Unbelievable…

Texans aren’t accustomed to wintry driving conditions and the Texas police don’t mess around when it comes to enforcing road closures.

@QUIAustin‎ @PQui @JuneRodil donate proceeds from Filipino dishes for Philippines relief

dinuguan pork blood

Above: Dinuguan, pork offal and pork blood braised until melt-in-your-mouth, a classic Filipino dish as prepared by Chef Paul Qui in Austin at Qui.

I just traded emails with our good friend June Rodil who writes from Argentina that her family back in the Philippines is doing fine despite the challenges of cleaning up in the wake of the recent typhoon there.

Tracie P and I were glad to hear that. We’ve been checking in with all of our Filipino friends here in Texas. Some of them still haven’t had word yet from their families. (June, a leading Austin wine professional and the wine director at Qui, happens to be on a wine trip in Argentina.)

June also let me know that Qui — one of our favorite restaurants in Austin — will be donating proceeds from its Filipino dishes (like the Dinuguan, above) to the Philippine Red Cross (its website is updated regularly with news on the situation there).

It’s tough to get a reservation at Qui during Formula 1 week here in Austin. But once things calm down again next week, I’ll take the girls back for my monthly craving of Dinuguan.

Here’s a link to my post on our recent dinner there.

And here, again, is the link to the Philippines Red Cross.

Please keep our Filipino sisters and brothers in your prayers and thoughts…

à la recherche d’objets perdus (thanks for the many notes, wishes, and solidarity)

jewelry thieves austin texas

Thanks to everyone for the tide of condolences, notes of courage!, solidarity, and warm wishes.

The thieves violated our home on Wednesday. Thanks to the support of our community, we had a new front door by dinnertime Thursday. By Saturday, the contractor had completed the finishing touches. And by dinnertime Saturday, our security system was back online.

On Sunday, we were still “discovering” stolen possessions and the talk of the burglary continued to dominate phone calls from loved ones and our conversation at the dinner table.

The photo of the pendant above comes from our jeweler, Monte Franzetti, whose office graciously sent it over with a bill of sale (for me to submit in our insurance claim).

It’s green agate and wasn’t terribly expensive. I gave it to Tracie P the day we came home after she gave birth to Lila Jane, our second daughter, in July.

Continue reading

The new Texas wine scene is exploding. In fact, there is life beyond “Napa Cab.”

perfectly sliced prosciutto

Above: Prosciutto at the newly opened Camerata wine bar in Houston. FINALLY someone who can slice prosciutto correctly!

“It’s hard to complain these days,” wrote Austin wine collector and restaurateur Steven Dilley the other day in an email.

It seems like yesterday that many of us would moan and gripe about the wines we couldn’t get here in Texas.

But today, it’s as if a new sun has risen over the Lone Star State.

Master Sommelier candidate David Keck’s Camerata in Houston is my new favorite wine destination in the state. It’s a true wine salon where all the local wine hip folks are hanging out (it’s the place where I saw not just one but two copies of Wine Grapes being passed around).

And by day, it’s home to the newly formed Houston Sommelier Association (I wrote about the new group for the Houston Press here).

Super cool joint…

clos roche blanche austin

Above: Clos Roche Blanche by the glass on our friend Mark Sayre’s list at Trio at the Four Seasons in Austin. Hell yeah!

Back here in Austin, Tracie P and I had our first night out since the arrival of Lila Jane (now four weeks old; thanks again nanna and pawpaw!).

After we enjoyed a glass of Clos Roche Blanche at the Four Seasons (a wine that Alice turned me on to many years ago now, enabling my interest in and passion for Natural wine), we headed over to the newly opened Arro, where not just one but two Master Sommeliers — Craig Collins and Devon Broglie — write the list and work the floor.

I knew roughly half of the lots on the all French list but would have gladly tasted/opened anything: when you see such intelligence in a wine list, your trust level makes it easy to be led blindly. And that’s what we did.

saint damien cotes rhone

Above: Slightly chilled Grenache paired with roast chicken and steak frites was just right.

The wine I’m still thinking about this morning was the Saint Damien Côtes du Rhône. But Craig, who was working the floor last night, tasted us on so many great things.

There’s never been such a focused and brilliant list in Austin. It’s a list that makes a statement.

And along with Steven Dilley’s list at Bufalina (which we also loved), Craig and Devon’s program stands apart for its ability to thrill the finely tuned connoisseur and neophyte enthusiast alike.

chef drew andrew curren

Above: Arro’s chef Andrew (Drew) Curren’s roast chicken was spot on last night.

Isn’t that what a wine list should do? Shouldn’t it forge a level of trust that it takes you outside of your comfort zone? That’s what it did for us and I just couldn’t resist a second glass of the Grenache.

When I moved here nearly five years ago to be with Tracie P, it seemed next to impossible to find a wine list that we could really dig into like the lists we’re seeing today.

Nearly every fine dining restaurant was dominated by “Napa Cab” (I still shudder every time someone says “Cab”) and Chardonnay, with the occasional Malbec thrown in the mix.

Mark Sayre at Trio at the Four Seasons in Austin still jokes about how I called him and “interviewed” him about his wine list when I was looking for a special place to take Tracie P for a romantic evening. At the time, Mark’s list and the list at Vino Vino (today, my client) were the only places Tracie P and I would drink wine in Austin. (Mark, a Master Sommelier candidate, is also writing the list at the excellent and überhip Lenoir, which we love as well, btw).

Today, there is just so much more groovy wine available to restaurant buyers and the new wave of Master Sommelier and Society of Wine Educators candidates has upped the performance level considerably (Scott Ota, also of Arro, recently won the “best sommelier in Texas” title at Texsom, the annual Texas sommelier conference).

None of this was even on the horizon when I first got here.

As Devon wrote to me the other day in a tweet, “we’ve come a long way, baby!”

David, Devon, Craig, Mark, Scott, Steven… We’re with you all the way…