Rock out with me on Bastille Day (and my birthday) July 14 in Houston…

Above: my new band, still nameless, will be playing at Mongoose vs. Cobra in Houston on Sunday, July 14. Two sets from 5-7 p.m. That’s me with the Telecaster, stage left.

Back when my French band Nous Non Plus was touring and playing regularly in New York City, I used to have a gig on my birthday every year — sometimes two!

I was born on July 14, 1967, during the summer of love, on Bastille Day, the day the French revolutionaries, Les Sans Culottes, stormed the famous prison in Paris (the other French band I used to belong to was called Les Sans Culottes, loosely translated as those who don’t have pants).

To this day, my parents both tell the same story of the day I was born: “La Marseillaise,” the French national anthem, was playing on the radio the morning they drove to the hospital.

Nous Non Plus played its last live shows in 2013. And I still pine for those wonderful years of playing great music and making records with my bandmates, whom I’ll love until my dying day.

I’m super geeked to share the news that I’ll be playing a gig this year on my birthday at a Bastille Day celebration hosted by Mongoose vs. Cobra, one of Houston’s many super cool hipster beer gardens (in Midtown).

Our new band in Houston doesn’t have an official name yet. But we have two sets of great covers from the 70s and the 80s. It’s a super tight, rocking band and really fun.

So come out and rock with me on my birthday this year, July 14, 2019!

You can hear the Les Sans Culottes live version of the “Marseillaise” from our only live album here. And yes, that’s me playing guitar. That show was recorded at the Bowery Ballroom in lower Manhattan where we used to headline regularly. Thanks for listening!

Houston, we have a problem party and EVERYONE is invited: HOUSE PARTY MAY 18, live music and wines by Cantele

Here’s the deal: if you have my phone number, if we are friends on Facebook and/or we follow each other on Instagram, YOU ARE INVITED!

HOUSE PARTY
CHEZ PARZEN
SATURDAY, MAY 18

LIVE MUSIC, POTLUCK, WINE

TIME: 1 P.M. until the wine stops flowing
WHERE: our house in Houston (PM me if you need the address)
WHAT TO BRING: your favorite pot luck dish, your instrument

On Saturday, May 18, the Parzen family, the Parzen Family Singers, and Cantele are going to be hosting one of our legendary HOUSE PARTIES.

Doors open at 1 p.m.

Kids play solo and combo starting at 2 p.m.

Adult music begins at 4 p.m.

When does it end? When the wine stops flowing!

One of my best friends Paolo Cantele will be in town and he’s providing wine all day and night from his family’s winery.

My band Parzen Family Singers will be making its debut performance.

All kids and adults are welcome to sign-up for open mic! Bring your instrument. There will be backline, including keyboards, provided.

Bring your favorite pot luck dish.

Our parties are super fun and always kid-friendly. And SERIOUSLY: EVERYONE IS INVITED! Just PM me if you need our address. Everyone is welcome and there will be plenty of food and wine to go around.

Please don’t be shy: COME TO OUR PARTY and ROCK OUT with us!

Rock out with me and the Rev. Shawn Amos this Friday and Saturday in Pittsburgh

It was 20 years ago today…

Actually, it was more like 25 years ago.

Back when I was in graduate school in Italian at UCLA, I played in a bunch of bands. But the most popular group I played with was the one that I started with my friend Shawn Amos, above. We were called “Lucky Son.”

We had our “it” moment on the Sunset Strip in the 1990s, regularly playing clubs like the Roxy, the Whisky, and Club Lingerie (my all-time favorite; anybody out there remember Club Lingerie?). But despite lots of demos and A&R interest, it never went anywhere. We were in our mid-20s and it was a great time.

Shawn and I were housemates and best friends, sharing a one-bedroom apartment a couple of blocks from the beach in Venice.

He even came to Italy with me one year to tour with my cover band. That’s me and him on stage circa 1993 in Pedavena (Feltre, Belluno province), below. That was our “jam band” phase.

In 2013, we decided to do a reunion of our Italian band in the Veneto where we used to play. We all stayed at our old impresario’s hotel/villa with our families. It was an unforgettable visit and show.

The set list that night was all classic blues. And it was that night that we dubbed Shawn “the Reverend.”

Since that time, Shawn’s career as a blues singer and songwriter has exploded. The Reverend Shawn Amos, as he is now known, has put out a couple of critically acclaimed albums, tours across the U.S., and frequently appears on national TV and radio.

Shawn called me last week and asked me to fill in for his guitar player at the Highmark Blues and Heritage Festival in Pittsburgh this weekend. We’ll be playing the big stage on Saturday afternoon and we’ll also be doing a lounge set at the Taste of Blues party the night before.

Rodd Bland, Bobby Bland’s son and drummer, who also used to perform with B.B. King, is sitting in on both nights. Tracie and I used to see him play with his dad at Antone’s in Austin when we were living there.

I’m super psyched. Come out and rock with me!

Top image via the Reverend Shawn Amos Facebook.

Tracie B, will you marry me? 10 years ago, Tracie P and I went out on our first date

As we drove this summer back from California to Texas, Tracie dug deep into her emails to read some of the first message we exchanged.

It was on July 15, 2008, the day after my 41st birthday, that we were first in contact after she had wished me a happy birthday on my blog.

The next month, I boarded a plane in San Diego and landed later that day in Austin, where Tracie was living, just back from her years in Italy. That night, we shared a glass of sparkling Vouvray, we ate enchiladas at Polvo’s, and we danced at the Continental Club.

This weekend marks 10 years since that first date.

Before the end of the year, I asked her to marry me in a song that I shared via CD (yes, CD!) and the U.S. Postal Service (check out the song below). And in December 2008, I made that same drive from California to Austin where I rented an apartment and found a job slinging wine. By spring of 2009, we were officially engaged.

The photo above is from late 2008, just before I moved to Texas.

In 2010 we were married. And we drank that same sparkling Vouvray at our wedding.

Tracie B, I’m so glad you married me! I love you, I love our family, and I love our life in Texas. You’ve given me the very best years of my life and they’ve only become richer and richer as our girls grow.

I’m so glad that I got on that plane 10 years ago. I can still remember our first date like it was yesterday. I love you.

Tracie B, will you tell me please
Do the bird and bees
Make me feel this way?
Put your little head on my shoulder
Have you any plans for growing older?

Tracie B, will you tell me please
Do the bird and bees
Make me feel this way?
Put your little head on my shoulder
Have you any plans for growing older?

Tracie B, you cast a spell on me
By serendipity
When you looked my way
Austin airport at the escalator
Hey good lookin, what you doin’ later?

Tracie B, will you marry me?
Will you marry me, girl?

Tracie B, please spend your life with me
I love you endlessly
So don’t you run away
Tell me that you’ll hold me til forever
Tell me that you’ll always be my lover

Tracie B, won’t you marry me?
Marry me

Now times might not be easy
But we’ll get by on some huggin’ and a-squeezin’
The nights may be cold
And the road may be very long
But we know we can always get by singing our song

If someday Tracie B will be Tracie P
Mrs. Dr. P
My Tracie B
Won’t you marry me?
Won’t you marry me?

Parzen family road trip was great, heading home today…

Today’s the last day of our family’s first major road trip.

Two weeks ago, we headed out from Houston toward the west: Ft. Stockton, Las Cruces/El Paso, Tucson, and San Diego, where we stayed with my mom for a week.

Then we headed to Santa Barbara County (for my work) and then on to Phoenix, Flagstaff, and the Grand Canyon (above).

The girls have been great in the car, even on the longer stretches of our journey. We kept them entertained with artwork, science pod casts (“Wow in the World”), and an audio book (Matilda by Roald Dahl). Of course, “Frozen” and “Hamilton” (their favorite musical) were also in regular rotation.

And there was a good swimming pool in nearly every town.

One of the highlights of the trip was playing a gig with my friends in La Jolla a week ago Friday. There was a whole lotta Telecaster on stage that night, a really magical show. I’m so lucky to have such great friends who always book a show for our summer visit.

All in all, it’s been a really fantastic experience. And the best part was that we were always together.

When fall arrives and my travel schedule starts to ratchet up, I’ll remember these days on the road with them, piling in and out of our Ford F150 and falling asleep all together in the hotel rooms along the way.

America is such a big and beautiful place. And I’m a lucky man to have such a loving family. I love them so much…

Happy summer, everyone!

Taste and rock out with me in San Diego, July 27-28 (Nat Diego natural wine festival too!)

Please join me in San Diego the weekend of July 27-28 where I’ll be playing a gig at a pretty rowdy bar (I’ve seen punches thrown there) on Friday, attending the grand tasting of the Nat Diego natural wine festival on Saturday morning (very psyched for that), and hosting a Lambrusco tasting at my our favorite San Diego restaurant (Tra and the girls will be with me there all afternoon and evening).

Music and a ton of great wine. Please come out and hang!

And special highlight: Dave Gleason, an amazing country guitar player, is sitting in with the Grapes on Friday night. We are playing two sets.

THE GRAPES
FRIDAY JULY 27

9 p.m. – 12 a.m.
FREE

2 SETS OF GROOVER’S PARADISE
featuring Dave Gleason on Telecaster

Beaumont’s
5662 La Jolla Blvd.
La Jolla CA 92037
(858) 459-0474
Google map

*****

LAMBRUSCO PARTY
SATURDAY JULY 28

3-5 p.m.
$15 per person

TASTE 4 WINES
with small bites by Jaynes

Jaynes Gastropub
4677 30th St.
San Diego CA 92116
(619) 563-1011
Google map

Stay tuned for wines…

Please email me to register (not required but encouraged).

*****

Also happening in San Diego that weekend, Friday-Saturday, July 27-28: Nat Diego, natural wine festival!

Rock out and taste with me in San Diego: July 27-28 #music #Lambrusco

Above: my San Diego-based band The Grapes plays mostly psychedelic country and British invasion.

Please come rock out and taste with me in San Diego on July 27-28!

On Friday, July 27 my band The Grapes will be playing at Beaumont’s in La Jolla (northern San Diego). We’ll probably go on around 9 p.m. And the amazing country guitarist Dave Gleason will be sitting in with the band (not to miss).

And then on Saturday, July 28, I’ll be hosting a Lini Lambrusco tasting at my favorite San Diego Restaurant, Jaynes Gastropub. I don’t have the exact details yet but it will be late afternoon. And Tracie and the girls will be joining me for dinner that night. So please come down and taste some Lambrusco and say hello!

Thanks for your support! Please stay tuned for details and have a great weekend…

The Grapes
Friday, July 27
Beaumont’s
5662 La Jolla Blvd.
La Jolla CA 92037
(858) 459-0474
Google map

Lini Lambrusco Tasting
Saturday, July 28
3-5 p.m.
$15 per person
Jaynes Gastropub
4677 30th St.
San Diego CA 92116
(619) 563-1011
Google map

Lambrusco image via Corkscrew Concierge.

Nature doesn’t refine sugar. But refined sugar goes into your sparkling wine.

Earlier this month, a group of leading Italian wine writers sat down to taste a flight of nine wines, spanning 10 years, with my friends Nico Danesi, Andrea Rudelli, and Giovanni Arcari. Beyond their own wines (Arcari e Danesi, SoloUva, and Vezzoli Giuseppe, a 2008-2018 retrospective), the three Franciacorta growers and producers also included current-release wines from three marquee Franciacorta estates, covered in foil, to be tasted blind that evening.

The idea behind the tasting and selection of wines was to highlight the differences between wines made using the classic method and wines made using what the three 40-something franciacortini call the SoloUva (SOH-loh-OO-vah) method or Just Grapes method.

The classic method is analogous to the Champagne method (the fundamental difference is that only wines grown and vinified in Champagne can be rightly called “Champagne method” or méthode champenoise wines).

A “base” wine or wines are produced as still wine or wines (non-sparkling). A sweetener and yeast are added to the wine (or blended wines) to provoke a second fermentation (the tirage). The wine is sealed in bottle. The CO2 resulting from the pressurized second fermentation gives the wine its fizziness. The wine is then allowed to age “on its lees” (i.e., the dead yeast, a solid that results from fermentation). At the appropriate time, the wine is “disgorged” of its solids. It’s topped off with a sweetener if desired (the so-called liqueur d’expédition or dosage). And the wine is resealed and labeled for release.

(The above description of the classic method is a simplified one. For one of the best overviews of classic method winemaking, see the introduction to Tom Stevenson’s World Encyclopedia of Champagne and Sparkling Wine or the entry for “sparkling wine” in the Oxford Companion to Wine.)

The difference between the classic method and the SoloUva method (developed by my friends) is that the classic method calls for refined sugar to be added for the tirage and dosage (topping off) while the SoloUva method calls for reserved grape must to be used as the agent for the second fermentation and the topping off of the wines.

Among the wines that Nico, Andrea, and Giovanni selected from their own cellar for the tasting, there was a dichotomy: two of their wines had been produced using the classic method; the three “blind” wines from other producers were also made using the classic method; and the remaining seven wines were made using the SoloUva method.

As they tasted through the 12 wines before them, the Italian writers immediately noted the blaring difference between the two categories: the classic method wines had distinctive aromas of “brioche,” “yeast” (a canonical descriptor, however misleading), “toast” etc.; the SoloUva method wines had “fresh” fruit aromas.

The discussion that followed (on picking times, phenolic ripeness, and different approaches to sparkling wine production) was as interesting as it was provocative. But it was plainly clear to all present that the oxidative style of classic method wines was starkly contrasted by the fresh and ripe fruit style of the SoloUva method wines.

Nico, Andrea, and Giovanni are not the first to employ reserved grape must as a sweetener in sparkling wine production. But they may be the first to propose such a method as a “purer” expression of their appellation.

Why add exogenous (as opposed to autogenous) cane sugar from Brazil when you can use grape sugar from the very same appellation? they asked their interlocutors.

When they call into question the wisdom of centuries of classic method wines from France, they may be veering from the enological into the ontological. But over the course of the gathering, Nico changed the nature of the conversation when he pointed out that refined sugar doesn’t occur in nature. Only humankind produces refined sugar, he noted, and refined sugar is partly to blame for many of contemporary society’s health challenges.

Nearly all sparkling wine is produced with the addition of refined sugar (and not just classic method wines; Charmat, Martinotti, and even some ancestral method wines are made using refined sugar). Wines labeled dosage zero, brut nature, and pas dosé are also made with the addition of refined sugar (some may be surprised to learn this).

Only history will reveal whether or not Nico, Andrea, and Giovanni’s wines will represent a new era of sparkling wine production. I like their wines a lot. But take my opinion with a grain of salt spoonful of sugar because I am biased by our friendship. What I can tell you for certain is that their wines don’t contain anything that nature didn’t give them.

All they need is grapes…

Here’s a song I wrote for them a few years ago (MP3).

Mother nature is yours and she is mine
And the tender grapes she grows on the vine
She gives us the earth, the sun, the sky
But it takes humankind to make the wine so fine

Two wineries from Soave that you’ll want to taste

In logology, it’s called “multiple discovery,” the notion that distinct cultures often produce similar and nearly simultaneous scientific discoveries unknowingly and independently of one another.

The phenomenon came to mind as I walked the halls of the third annual Vulcanei tasting in the Colli Euganei outside of Padua a week ago Sunday. Organized by the Colli Euganei Consortium, the tasting brings together hundreds of wines that have been raised in volcanic-rich subsoils: Campania (mostly Irpinia), Sicily (mostly Etna), Greece (mostly Santorini), and Veneto (Soave and Colli Euganei).

When I told some of my more-savvy-than-the-average-punter Italian colleagues that “volcanic wines” were all the rage in the U.S., they were as surprised as they were unmoved and unimpressed. It seems — at least to me — that the interest in these wines has emerged and developed on either side of the Atlantic free of international contamination (thus disappointing would-be diffusionists).

It was my first Vulcanei and I was blown away by the range and scope of the wines. And the massive Colli Euganei offering alone would have been worth the price of admission.

One of my biggest discoveries (however not multiple) was Le Battistelle (above).

What fantastic wines, with vibrant fruit and rich but not overpowering minerality! Organically farmed, family-raised, and with lovely hand-drawn labels, these wines have all the right stuff to appeal to the American market. I believe a few bottles have found their way to California but none of the mid-sized importers of natty and groovy have picked up on these gems. I hope one of them does soon.

When I pointed the wines out to a superbly experienced taster in our group of wine professionals, he noted how these wines taste like “real Soave” and not the many trumped up wines that the appellation seems to favor these days. I really loved every wine I tasted from Le Battistelle — wholesome and delicious.

Another one of my big Soave discoveries on this last trip to Italy was Filippi, an estate that has already generated buzz among the American enocognoscenti but still hasn’t landed with an importer here.

These gorgeous wines are focused, smart, and electric with aroma and flavor. I had the wonderful opportunity to taste with the winemaker at the Arcari + Danesi/SoloUva “Friends in Wine” event in Franciacorta a week ago Saturday (it was also a birthday celebration for my bromance Giovanni Arcari). Like many young growers in Soave, he’s taken over his family’s vineyards and has been making his own wine instead of selling the fruit to the cooperative. Similar to what’s happening in Langa, it’s a trend analogous to the “grower Champagne” movement from the late 1990s. And we’re all going to be the better for it.

I am really smitten when Filippi’s wines, from the entry tier to the flagship single vineyard bottling. I know it’s just a matter of time before they get snatched up by an American importer. I just hope it’s the right one. Great wines and great folks.

Oh and about that wild party in Franciacorta?

Here’s what results from a little “day drinking” (as we call it in Texas):

Their Love Is Here To Stay

From the department of “some people want to fill the world with silly love songs”…

Their Love Is Here To Stay

A girl who grew up in southeast Texas
A boy from California
She was born on the Louisiana border
He grew up somewhere outside of LA

Storms may blow
Sand and stone may crumble
Their love is here to stay

Folks back home they say she’s crazy
To love a spirit such as he
She’s been a around the world that lady
The only one who knows her mind is she

Storms may blow
Sand and stone may crumble
Their love is here to stay

The water’s surely rising
But they are not afraid

The cold may howl
The night may call from the shadows
But their love is here to stay

It’s been nearly 10 years since I first came to Texas to be with Tracie. “Their love is here to stay…” I love you, piccina!