Walmart USA: it’s time to stop denying we have a white supremacist problem #HateWillNotDefineUs

The Walmart in El Paso where the mass shooting took place this weekend is just like the Walmart in our Houston neighborhood. You’ll find every gradation of humanity there: brown, black, white, Asian, Jew, Muslim, Christian…

We don’t live on the U.S.-Mexico border like our sisters and brothers in El Paso and Ciudad Juárez. But we do live in the fourth-largest city in America, the country’s most diverse, home to one of its largest ports and transit hubs, where Spanish, Yiddish (yes, I hear Yiddish every week in our neighborhood), Arabic, Vietnamese, Chinese, and countless African, European, and Asian tongues all mingle together every day.

And the Walmart in our southwest corner of Houston, where I bought our daughters their first bicycles and where we shop occasionally, is just like that Walmart in El Paso where a white supremacist murdered and maimed innocents on Saturday morning.

I thought twice about taking the girls to our Walmart yesterday, Sunday, when we needed to get a replacement tube for one of their bikes.

After El Paso, there’s no longer any denying that our nation has a white supremacist problem. Over the last 12 months, white supremacists have killed black people, brown people, and Jews in our country.

In the course of our activism, Tracie and I have seen white supremacy up close and personal: it’s scary and ugly and dangerous. And tragically, it’s very much alive, thriving, and growing in our country.

It’s time for everyone — from politicians in the White House and the Texas capitol to the woman and man on the street, from religious leaders to civic leaders and activists — to call it out for what it is. Honestly, it was time a long time ago. Innocent people are dying at the hands of white supremacists and we must rise up against them.

The first step is to recognize this expanding, horrific problem. The second step is to stand up and speak out: we will not tolerate white supremacy in our communities, churches and synagogues, schools, and place like our Walmarts — where we all gather for back-to-school shopping on a late summer Saturday morning.

Our family’s thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of this weekend’s shootings and their families. And our hearts and minds are filled with resolve to combat white supremacy wherever it lurks in our country.

#HateWillNotDefineUs

“The Day After Yesterday (Emilee’s Song)” by Parzen Family Signers featuring Lila Jane Parzen

Too many blessings to count this week at Parzen Family.

Niece Emilee will be celebrating her 22nd birthday next week. Her recovery, after a really serious car accident back in May, is going great. And she’s still on track to graduate from UH on schedule.

And here in our corner of Houston yesterday, Lila Jane successfully underwent eye surgery to correct a muscle in her eyes. Just a few hours after her surgery, she was up and about in the house, enjoying ice cream and her dogs. She’s been super brave through the whole experience.

The girls had asked me to write a song about cousin Emilee and so we came up with “The Day After Yesterday” based on a malapropism that Georgia used to be fond of. Lila Jane recorded her vocal track like a pro, in just two takes and one overdub.

The first single from their forthcoming December 2019 album on the Terrible Kids Music label, here’s Parzen Family Singers with “Day After Yesterday (Emilee’s Song).”

Thanks for listening everyone. Have a great weekend.

“Day After Yesterday (Emilee’s Song)”
by Georgia Parzen (BMI) and Jeremy Parzen (BMI)
performed by Parzen Family Singers
featuring Lila Jane Parzen on vocals

It was the day after yesterday
That we heard the news
Someone precious in our lives
We weren’t prepared to lose

But then we heard the best word
That she wasn’t all alone
It was the day after yesterday
We heard she’d be coming home, it was the

Day after yesterday
When all the clouds had covered up the sun
She was the one

So when you put your babies down
To sleep this starry night, remember
Day after yesterday you need to hold them tight

She is only twenty-one
So beautiful, so young
And there are still so many songs
Just waiting to be sung

And so we drove all through the night
To be right by her side
And we cried and thanked the lord
When we learned she’d be alright, it was the

Day after yesterday
When all the clouds had covered up the sun
We came undone

So when you tuck those babies in
Remember what I say
Day after yesterday
Can be taken away

Day after yesterday
Tell the ones you love
You need them so

So when you put your babies down
To sleep this starry night, remember
Day after yesterday you need to hold them tight

Looking for natural wine in all the wrong places: NASA Liquor, I love you!

Parzen family doesn’t visit the Johnson Space Center as much as we used to. After nearly six years of living in this Gulf Coast town, Georgia and Lila Jane (ages 7 and 6) are more interested these days in Houston’s natural science museum with its awe-inspiring dinosaurs, the city’s excellent zoo, and its superb art museums (mostly the Museum of Fine Arts and the spellbinding Menil Collection).

But the hullabaloo marking the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing this month (an expedition where Houston — Space City — played a major role as home to Mission Control) re-ignited the girls interest in astronauts (the “real astronauts” as they used to call them).

Grocery and wine shopping was also on the agenda last Saturday. But the heavy summer traffic prompted this mission’s commander to avoid the city’s congested inner solar system. The grocery shopping would be no problem in Clear Lake where the Space Center is located.

But the wine? That was another question. Down in that part of greater Houston, there are no progressive wine shops. At least, that’s what the enonaut thought.

A Google Maps search revealed a number of wine shops and liquor stores. But none showed much promise until the flight navigation directed him to NASA Liquor on East NASA Parkway, a stretch of road populated seemingly by strip malls, smoke and vape shops, faded Mexican restaurants, and military-industrial-complex chains.

Scrolling through the otherwise pedestrian establishment’s Google business page photos, the pilot discovered a smattering of classic European and forward-looking American wines among the shop’s offering.

The venue’s facade (above) didn’t raise expectations. In fact, the crew wondered why on earth were they making a stop at an anonymous strip mall where the pavement was as steaming hot at the waning off-beige color of the stucco walls. The bullet-proof glass that protected the cashier made the outing feel even more far-fetched.

Undaunted, Parzen family made the return journey with a bottle of skin-contact Minimus 2017 Willamette Valley Pinot Gris Antiquum Farm in tow. With its ripe cherry and berry fruit flavors, vibrant acidity and restrained alcohol, it was throughly enjoyed by the pilot and his commanding officer as they watched the third episode of “Chasing the Moon,” a documentary about the moon landing by America Experience on PBS.

It just goes to show that you can’t judge a book by its cover or a wine shop by its shingle, especially when you’re looking for natural wine in all the wrong places.

Aglianico and sushi made for magic last night in Houston

Learn how to pronounce Aglianico in Neapolitan and in Italian here.

Something remarkable happened last night after Tracie and I sat down for a splurge sushi dinner at Kata Robata, one of Houston’s premier Japanese restaurants.

Seated at the (cocktail) bar, we had just ordered a bottle of Graci Etna Rosato, a rosé from Nerello grapes grown on the high-lying slopes of the Sicilian volcano, by one of our favorite producers (a classic). The same bartender who had taken our order approached us with another glass of rosé in hand.

“Hey,” he said, “if you like that wine, you might like this one, too.”

It was the Rogito rosé from Aglianico by storied Aglianico del Vulture producer Cantine del Notaio (rogito — ROH-gee-toh — means public decree in archaic Italian; all the names of the labels by Cantine del Notaio are plucked from ancient legalese; the name of the winery means the notary’s cellars; a notaio was a term used for what we would call lawyers today).

Tracie had never had the wine and she loved its bright fruit and freshness. So our bartender, Mohammed Rahman, graciously offered to switch our bottle order to a by-the-glass order instead. It turned out that he is also the wine director at this super high-profile Houston dining destination (and a lovely guy).

The wine worked brilliantly with our meal, including the fatty tuna and Japanese scallops that we ordered. The whole experience was fantabulously delicious.

But the thing that struck me was the ease and grace with which Italian wines have insinuated themselves into an unlikely program. The last time Tra and I visited Kata Robata, one of our Houston special-occasion spots, we were lucky to find an affordable Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc.

Mo, as Mohammed introduced himself, is a big fan of Italian wine and his list is peppered with some of my favorite value-driven wines from the peninsula and its islands: Winkl by Terlan, Falanghina by I Pentri, not to mention a solid Assyrtiko (from Santorini, Greece) by-the-glass and Hanzell Chardonnay (from California) by-the-bottle.

It’s rare that you find so much affordable drinkability at a place that also sells current-vintage Château Margaux (750ml) for $1,400. Mo told us that he tries to offer a robust selection of wines like the above for budget-challenged food and wine people like us and him.

Chapeau bas, Mo! We LOVED YOUR list. Thanks for taking such great care of us last night.

Bastille Day-Birthday Bash July 14 at Mongoose vs. Cobra in Houston

Our new band has a new name (BioDynamic) and a gig on my birthday: Sunday, July 14 at Mongoose vs. Cobra in Houston’s Midtown!

Please come and rock out with me and the family!

BioDynamic
70s and 80s covers
@ Mongoose vs. Cobra
Sunday, July 14
4-8 p.m.
NO COVER CHARGE
CASH BAR
KID FRIENDLY
1011 McGowen St.
Houston TX 77002
(713) 650-6872
Google map

Top image via Wikipedia Creative Commons.

What a groovy week in wine in Texas!

Paolo Cantele and I will be pouring his family’s wines tonight at Vinology in Houston from 6-8 p.m. Please come out and taste with us!

It felt like the world of groovy wine had descended on Texas this week.

That was the scene on Wednesday, above, at the Rootstock portfolio tasting preview at Light Years, Houston’s newest all-natural wine bar.

Rootstock, a mid-sized importer and champion of natural wine, had coordinated their events and the incoming winemakers with the Wild World Natural wine festival, which is happening this weekend in Austin. Alice Feiring is the featured speaker and I’ve even heard that natural wine maven and mensch Lou Amdur will be there (I’m so bummed I can’t be there but I have to be in Houston this weekend for a food festival I”m presenting and a blow-out music and wine party we’re hosting at our house tomorrow; message me if you want to come and need details).

That’s Hank Beckmeyer of Clarine Farm, left, with Rootstock rep Dustin Popken.

Hank is good friend but I’m also one his biggest fan boys — a lover of the wine and the man. Such a cool dude and such great wines. Dustin’s also a good friend from our Austin days.

After I hit the Light Years event, where my buddy and natural wine pro Steven Dilley was literally slinging his now legendary Bufalina pizzas (with a line that stretched literally around the block), I headed over to Nancy’s Hustle where owner and wine director Sean Jensen was pouring some equally groovy natural wine.

Nancy’s Hustle is such a great example of what’s happening here in Texas: soulful, thoughtful food paired with equally meaningful wines. I was blown away by the enthusiasm and table-side knowledge of the servers. Man, this place was killing it on Wednesday night and the vibe was just right.

Earlier in the day, I had presented a master class on Moscato d’Asti at the swank Pappas Bros. Steakhouse downtown.

That’s me in the photo with a whole lotta Moscato d’Asti right there. It was a super cool event.

Shit, even Eric Asimov wrote a story about the renaissance of Texas winemaking in this week’s Times.

It’s just felt like one of those weeks when the wine stars have aligned seamlessly over my adoptive state.

Come see me and Paolo tonight at Vinology, come to our house party tomorrow, or come out and see me at the Houston Pasta Festival on Sunday where I’m emceeing! Wherever you are this weekend, DRINK GOOD WINE AND EAT GOOD FOOD! And ROCK ON!

Parzen family safe after heavy rains and severe flooding in Houston

Just a quick post this morning to let everyone know that the Parzen family is safe and dry after heavy rains and severe flooding here in Houston.

Thunderstorms are predicted for today and possibly tomorrow. The ground is saturated, including rainfall from earlier this week. And the bayous are teeming.

But so far, we are still high and dry in our corner of the city. I wish I could say the same for all our neighbors.

The girls and I checked up on our flooding/hurricane preparedness supplies yesterday afternoon. We have plenty of water, food, batteries, and a full tank of gas in the truck (I’m so glad that I got my F150!).

The power went out very briefly, a few times last night, when the lightening struck close to our house. But thankfully we have power.

Rusty, whom we believe was abandoned or separated from his family during Hurricane Harvey, is completely freaked out. He clearly feels the safest place in the house is the girls’ room. He slept with Lila Jane all night (she was so happy about that!). Poor little Rusty! We can only wonder how he made it through Harvey.

School is cancelled today and we’ll be staying in and off the roads.

Stay safe, everyone! G-d bless…

Taste with me this Friday in Houston at Sud Italia (and Houston-centric Thanksgiving wine recommendations)…

Please join me this Friday evening at Sud Italia on University Blvd. in Houston (Google map) for an evening of great Italian wine and conversation.

I’ll be pouring bottles from the restaurant’s all-Italian list and I’ll be visiting with guests who want to chat about wine and Italy.

Working as a sommelier on the floor of a great restaurant is one of my favorite things to do and I hope you’ll stop by for a glass of Verdicchio or Sangiovese!

In other news…

Check out my (Houston-centric) recommendations for what wine to drink for Thanksgiving, my post today for the Houston Press, “Wines for a Purple State Thanksgiving.”

You might be surprised by what I wrote. Please check it out.

What will be drinking at our Thanksgiving in Orange, Texas next week? The “wine of freedom”!

Thanks for your solidarity and support, everyone. It really means the world to Tracie and me. Please join me on Friday if you can. It will be a super fun evening for sure.

Thank you Grandi Marchi for coming to Houston…

It was a true honor and pleasure for me to lead a tasting of wines from 19 members of the Grandi Marchi (Top Estates) Institute winemakers yesterday in Houston. And it was amazing to see how many of the “principals” made the trip.

From Piero Mastroberardino (the institute’s president) to Federica Rosy (Pio Boffa’s daughter, the new generation of the Pio Cesare winery, and the youngest person to present), it felt like Italy’s wine aristocracy had bivouacked along the Gulf Coast.

Today, the group is on its way to Boston to present their wines and then it heads to New York where it’s going to host a luncheon at the New York Wine Experience.

Before the event, Piero showed me a letter his grandfather had received in 1932 from a Texas-based importer. Prohibition would soon be repealed, it declared, and said importer wanted to order wines from the family’s estate. Galveston and New Orleans would be their ports of entry.

Piero’s 2011 Taurasi showed gorgeously as he shared notes on his favorite vintages of the wine stretching back to the 1930s.

Another highlight yesterday was the 2014 Barolo Conteisa by Gaja, the second release of this cru from the winery since it reclassified it as Barolo in 2013. It was my first taste of the new designation.

And I was really impressed by Giovanni Gaja, who has stepped up recently to join his sister Gaia in traveling for the family’s properties. In his presentation, he offered some interesting insights into how their vineyard management team has been responding to the challenges of climate change.

Another highlight was the Umani Ronchi 2011 Conero Riserva (above).

I remember tasting these wines back in New York in the late 1990s. Their Verdicchio and white blend also really blew me away. it’s a mystery to me why American lovers of Italian wine haven’t discovered these yet. Great wines.

And dulcis in fundo, Alberto Tasca treated me to a bottle of Tasca d’Amerita 2008 Nozze d’Oro over dinner and a lively conversation on sustainability and the legacy of organic farming in Italian viticulture.

For Americans, the 2012 vintage of this wine — a blend of Inzolia and “Sauvignon Tasca,” a spontaneously mutated clone from clippings planted on the estate during the first world war — is available only in New York, he said.

But last night the 2008 was thoroughly enjoyed in Houston. Ten-year-old white wine from Sicily, still showing fresh and with vibrant fruit? This wine has “enohipster” written all over it. I loved it.

As I read the morning’s New York Times feed over breakfast with the girls and Tracie, I laughed out loud when I stumbled upon Mimi Swartz’s column Jeremiad.

“Non-Texans,” she wrote, “are still stunned to discover that even people who don’t live in Austin know about Tuscan blends and Karl Ove Knausgaard.”

We tasted a good Tuscan wine or two yesterday in Houston. But Cesare Pavese was the novelist we discussed at the event, not Knausgaard.

A big shout-out to IEEM USA for putting on this great event. And thank you for thinking of me as presenter!

Thoughts and prayers for our sisters and brothers in Michael’s path

Hurricane Ike struck southeast Texas, where Tracie’s parents live, just a month after we started dating in 2008. Back then, people in Louisiana and Texas were still reeling from the aftermath of the 2005 hurricane season, which included Katrina and Rita.

These days it seems like a given that hurricane season will deliver devastation by means of a massive storm like Florence or Michael.

A year after Harvey, you can still see debris piled up along the streets of our neighborhood. For many residents here, it was the second or third time their houses flooded in three consecutive years.

Does it really matter whether or not humankind is to blame for climate change? I believe it is but that’s beside the point: the climate is changing and the storms and devastation are becoming more and more frequent, the human loss and damage more grave. The same can be said of the wild fires in California where I grew up.

Today, our hearts, thoughts, and prayers go out to all of our sisters and brothers in Michael’s path.

Image via the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Flickr (Creative Commons).