Professione wine blogger: two Italian wine bloggers that I follow (and that you should follow too).

When you Google “Riccardo Fabbio,” the first result is a video interview by an Italian YouTuber entitled “Professione wine blogger.”

It’s a hard-boiled title that evokes one of Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1970s films made for MGM: “Professione reporter,” starring Maria Schenider and Jack Nicholson (called “The Passenger” in English). It also brings to mind the hard-knocks detectives we used to read about in pulp fiction.

Wine Telling Riky, aka Riccardo Fabbio, got on my radar after he visited and profiled my friends in Franciacorta (that’s Arianna and Giovanni with Riky in the photo above, poached from Riky’s social media).

He gave me a call a few weeks back to chat about his work and career path.

Man, this dude has been everywhere! Or at least, he’s on his way to getting there.

I’ve been loving following his trip through Champagne. But I got even more wrapped up in his trip to Friuli.

Riccardo is a wine blogger and social media personage who’s giving it his 1,000 percent. He’s a young dude trying to carve out his space in the enoblogosphere and the wine trade. And he’s doing it with class and panache.

This is his life and livelihood: professione wine blogger.

Another Italian-focused wine blogger who’s in my feed is Kevin Day, author and editor of Opening a Bottle.

That’s Kevin above, in a photo taken recently over dinner at Pizzeria Locale in Boulder.

Kevin, whose blog Opening a Bottle continues to churn out thoughtfully produced feature stories with superb photography, represents a different paradigm in the wine blogging world.

Wine writing and photography is a second career for him. He has a solid writing day gig and a wonderful family to support.

But like Riky, he’s giving it his 1,000 percent.

Or better put, like Riky, he’s giving his curiosity his 1,000 percent.

And that’s what compels me to keep up with both of their feeds.

The best advice that anyone ever gave me about my doctorate was that it’s all about following your curiosity to complete fulfillment. No one ever gave me a job because I have a Ph.D. But I gave my brain a new muscle by taking those deepest of dives. (My thesis was devoted to Renaissance transcriptions of Medieval Italian poetry and how the new printing press medium changed the way readers perceived the prosody — meter and performative rhythm — of those texts. Someone once joked that he would love to read my work as long as it wasn’t about commas and semi-colons. In part, it was.)

There’s so much acrimony in the wine media world owed to one-uppersonship. A counterproductive attitude continues to prevail in that universe: if I’ve been there and done that, how could you possibly have something interesting to add to the conversation?

Let me put this another, more succinct way: there are so many assholes in the wine media world who have forgotten or who never knew that the whole point is the joy of curiosity. It’s not about keeping tabs on who doesn’t kiss your fucking ring.

My dissertation advisor, a truly towering intellectual, knows and continues to know more about Italian literature than I ever will. He watched me stumble over countless rookie, knuckle-headed mistakes as he gently and generously guided me through my path of discovery. It was one of the greatest gifts anyone has ever given me: recognizing my own joy of curiosity and appreciating its immense value.

I hope you’ll enjoy following Riky and Kevin as much as I do. You might even learn something new. I know I have.

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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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Thank you Gambero Rosso for the “best contemporary wine list” award.

It meant a lot to me when my longtime friend and colleague Lorenzo Ruggeri, international editor for Gambero Rosso, wrote earlier this week to let me know that my wine list at Roma in Houston was awarded the Villa Sandi Best Contemporary Wine List.

It’s an award that they give to the best Italian-focused wine lists in the cities where the Gambero Rosso tour takes place (their tasting was held yesterday in Houston at Minute Maid Park).

Over the course of more than two years, I ran virtual wine dinners for the restaurant and ultimately became its wine director. I had previously been its media manager. But when the pandemic began, I started hosting its virtual events. That led to me taking over the wine program last year.

But despite nearly five years that I had put in at the restaurant, it all ended abruptly after the owner hired a new chef. So the award, while greatly cherished, is bittersweet.

In any case, it’s great to know that the work I did there was recognized by my peers and colleagues.

Thank you Lorenzo for the shout-out and the kind words!

Ashtin Berry is one of the greatest wine writers of our generation.

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Read. Ashtin. Berry. Now.

“There is nothing inherently wrong with minimalism,” she writes in a recent post on Instagram, “but it’s essential to understand how aesthetic trends are always in discussion with social structures. and also note when aesthetics are being used to push harmful biases. Minimalism is an aesthetic and it is also a lifestyle and if you aren’t careful you can end up perpetuating biases about poor and racialized people.”

In my view, there is no eno-focused writer today who is addressing the epistemological implications of wine culture with such unbridled perspicacity and clarity of voice.

Her post yesterday (above) is one in a series where she parses some of the thornier nuances of the contemporary natural wine world. Along the way, she draws from a broad spectrum of critical theorists, some of whom will surely surprise even the informed student of 20th century thought.

I’m certainly not the first to note the power of her voice. She’s been featured in countless who’s who lists by prominent wine-centered mastheads.

Those publications, at least as far as I can find, tend to focus on her utterly vital inner- and extra-industry activism. There is no question that her community work has had an outsized and welcomed impact.

But what intrigues me most about her writing is that she approaches the subject as a critical theorist. She is a Roland Barthes of our wine time, a writer who dissects the aesthetics — the ars poetica — of contemporary wine culture with acumen and deep insight. She is also a Noam Chomsky in her ability to see behind what Nietzsche would have called the “sacred texts” of wine, the cultural hegemony (to borrow from Gramsci) that continues to drive what she calls the “moralized consumption” of wine (and other lifestyle products).

I know those are big shoes to fill but fill them she does… and then some.

She also possesses a preternatural ability to ferment her observations into approachable, highly drinkable language. In a wine writing world where the register of language and the hermetic argot are often used in an exclusionary capacity (she address this trend as well), she seamlessly renders her thought into palatable demotic language digestible by all. It’s a glorious, beautiful balancing act that delivers spectacular results in widening the horizons of lay people and trade members alike.

Can you tell that I am entirely absorbed by her writing? I’m a little late to the game but am glad to be here. And thanks to Tracie for hipping me to her feed.

Ashtin Berry is one of the greatest wine writers of our generation. Read her.

“A draught of vintage!” Wine as a “shadow of a lie”: an enocentric reading of John Keats, the wine writer.

From the department of “de poëse”…

Above: a plaque outside the Keats-Shelley museum in Rome located in the palazzo where Keats died at age 25 (image via Wikipedia Creative Commons).

One of the observations uttered on Friday night (during a lively virtual reading and discussion of poetry accompanied by wine) was that John Keats, the Romantic poet, was a great wine writer. The text in question was what is arguably his most famous poem, one we all read (and hardly understood) in high school English class, “Ode to a Nightingale.”

“O, for a draught of vintage!” wrote Keats, probably referring to a wine (mostly likely a fortified wine) that was coveted for the high quality of its harvest:

O, for a draught of vintage! that hath been
Cool’d a long age in the deep-delved earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country green,
Dance, and Provençal song, and sunburnt mirth!
O for a beaker full of the warm South,
Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
And purple-stained mouth…

Now, THAT is a great example of synaesthesia!

Tasting of Flora [with a capital F] and country green/Dance, and a Provençal song, and sunburnt mirth!

What a verse!

But the one that gets me personally is the allusion to the “blushful Hippocrene,” the spring on Mt. Helicon, a body of water sacred to the Muses. Now THAT is a tasting note! 99+ points Robert Parker!

As much as our enocentric reading of the text, performed by none other than Edoardo Ballerini, thrilled the attendees, it was a closer look at the poem that raised eyebrows on Friday evening.

In the first half of the work, Keats alludes to wine as a source of solace and forgetting as he contemplates the ephemeral, fragile nature of human experience. But before the second part begins, “Bacchus and his pards” (his cronies, as it were) would not be the ones to lift him to reach the singing nightingale.

No, it would be “poesy” (nota bene: not poetry) whose wings he would ride:

Away! away! for I will fly to thee,
Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,
But on the viewless wings of Poesy,
Though the dull brain perplexes and retards…

Note the rhyme scheme (and more importantly the prosody) here. Brilliant imho. Poesy with a capital P.

It’s possible that Keats was referring to Francis Bacon’s observation that poesy is the wine of demons.

“One of the fathers [of the Church],” wrote Bacon in his essay “Of Truth,” “in great severity, called poesy vinum daemonum, because it filleth the imagination; and yet it is but with the shadow of a lie.”

That passage was later corrupted and transformed into the aphorism poetry is the Devil’s wine, an adage hegemonically read to mean poetry is the idle work of the Devil.

But what Bacon meant was that poesy, the act of creating art, or better yet, artifice could be likened to wine, a drink that seems to transcend the sum of its parts, so to speak, and go beyond the realm of human understanding — nec plus ultra.

Making art, as Bacon suggests and as Keats ponders throughout his writing, is something beyond human capacity. It is the lie, the artifice, that reveals a greater truth that could not be revealed otherwise (a concept central to the notion of the sublime).

It’s key to remember that the science of wine was still scarcely understood in Keats’ time (more than four decades before Pasteur would publish his studies on wine, to put it into context). For the Romantic poet, as for Bacon, an analogy between poesy and wine could be made for their shared ability to surpass human understanding.

Even though we know much more (although not all) about the science of wine today, the binomial wine and poesy (again, not wine and poetry) continues to pervade our ongoing fascination with the enoic stuff.

Enjoy the poem here. Happy reading!

After Napa, another favorite “misunderstanding”: Zachary Sussman takes a fresh look at Franciacorta for SevenFiftyDaily.

Above: the Arcari + Danesi flagship vineyard on Mount Orfano on the southern edge of Franciacorta.

It was wonderful to read Zachary Sussman’s fresh take on Franciacorta for SevenFiftyDaily last week, “In Search of the New Franciacorta.”

Zachary, one of the brightest stars in the new generation of English-language wine writers (and a lovely man, btw), is arguably the first to take a closer look at the new wave of Franciacorta producers who have (not so) quietly begun to reshape the appellation. (Interested readers should also check out a series of posts by Walter Speller for, “Franciacorta – are unripe grapes really the key?” published in 2018 and “What’s Wrong with Franciacorta,” 2015.)

“Ever since the 1960s and ’70s,” writes Zachary, “when a well-financed cadre of winemaking estates set up shop in this hilly patch of Lombardy with the goal of transforming it into a powerhouse of premium sparkling wine, Franciacorta’s identity has revolved around a single imperative: to imitate Champagne.”

But “a small but growing cohort of winemakers… have made it their mission to carve out an alternative path…. [T]hey’re asking a simple yet revolutionary question: what would it mean to reimagine Franciacorta not as a ready-made style inspired by somewhere else, but as a singular expression of place?”

Reading Zachary’s excellent piece, it’s nearly impossible not to think of critical theorist Harold Bloom’s 1973 landmark book, The Anxiety of Influence. In his seminal work, the Yale scholar argues that some of the greatest titles of the Western Canon are the result of a reactionary or “antithetical” approach to the creative process. Dante viewed Virgil as his literary model and his allegorical guide while he was writing the Commedia, one could posit. And so his work can be interpreted as a “reaction” to Virgil and even Homer, the author who was the putative source of the Latin author’s “anxiety.”

Bloom calls this a “misreading” or misunderstanding of the text that can produce spectacular results (the term he uses is “poetic misprision”). After all, Dante’s Commedia, a “misreading” of his precursor Virgil, makes for some darn good reading.

It’s also nearly impossible not to think of another historic “favorite mistake” in the annals of western wine: California’s obsession with Burgundy and Bordeaux, two appellations that couldn’t be more climatically different from the Napa Valley where growers felt compelled to plant the same grapes that their favorite wineries grew. Analogously to what’s happening on the ground in Franciacorta today, a new wave of younger California winemakers (most of whom buy their grapes) have been trying to forge a new path for their wines over the last 15 years or so. Like their counterparts in Lombardy, they speak of a new quest to “express place” and “terroir” where their predecessors were blinded by the enodominance of France.

Hegel (via Marx) might have called French wine (in both cases) the “thesis.” The Italians’ and Californians’ “reaction” to the French wine model (their inspiration) could be called “antithesis.” And then, following the Hegelian dialectical model, the wines that result from this misunderstanding could be called the “synthesis.”

As Zachary notes, “this evolution continues to unfold”:

    the contours of an alternative Franciacorta paradigm are now coming into view. And at a time when authenticity has become the most valuable form of currency among the next generation of wine drinkers, the groundbreaking bottles that have emerged from this shift have recently started to claim their rightful place on progressive wine lists and retail shelves across the U.S.

I can’t recommend the article highly enough and not least of all because of Zachary’s superb writing. And beyond his immense and welcomed ability to render the technical nuances of the “classic method” into intelligible and elegant winespeak, he also features the wines and reflections of my close friends Giovanni and Nico of Arcari + Danesi.

As we all gear up for the sparkling onslaught of Christmas and New Year’s, we could all use a fresh take on Franciacorta and the many new wines that are finally making it to the U.S. Check out the article here.

Italy, here I come! Heading back to teach at the Slow Food University of Gastronomic Sciences in Piedmont.

The news is still sinking in.

It was just a few short weeks ago that it didn’t seem possible: quarantine requirements for vaccinated U.S. travelers have now been lifted and the Slow Food University of Gastronomic Sciences in Piedmont has just booked my flights for three weeks of seminars beginning mid-July.

After nearly 18 months since my last trip to my spiritual homeland — the country, people, and places that have shaped my academic and professional careers — I’m finally going back to Italy!

That’s a photo (above) of the university’s main campus in the village of Pollenzo, the site of a castle and former farm once owned by the Italian royal family. There is also an excavated Roman arena and settlement there. It’s pretty cool to check out.

As I have for the last five years, except for 2020, I’ll be teaching wine and food communication to students in the graduate program there. The overarching theme of my seminars this year is going to be “organic vs. optimized content,” a conundrum that seems to flummox so many young people who are trying to carve their paths in wine and food media today.

We’ll also be doing case studies about the Black Lives Matter and Me Too movements and their impact on food and wine writing (it’s incredible to think about all that’s happened over the last year and half!). We’ll also be doing an overview of wine and food writing history and we’ll take a look at how content creators became even more creative during the pandemic, making use of technology in unexpected and surprisingly useful ways that continue to affect how we talk about and perceive wine and food.

I hope to get to spend some time away from campus during my weekends. But I’ll be spending most of my time between Pollenzo where the teaching happens and the small, nearby city of Bra where I’ll be staying.

If you happen to be in Roero or Langa the last two weeks of July or the first week of August, please let me know and let’s taste! I’m super serious about that. There will be many servings of vitello tonnato that I need to share! Seriously, hit me up. That’s the vitello tonnato (below) at Local, Slow Food’s excellent shop and casual restaurant in downtown Bra.

Wish me luck, wish me speed!

Italy, my love, the alma mater that has nourished and inspired me for a lifetime, here I come… back.

Alder Yarrow, you are an inspiration to so many of us. But I hate to break it to you, wine blogging is very much alive.

Above: Alberto Giacometti, “Large Standing Woman I,” 1960 (Houston Museum of Fine Arts).

The world of wine blogging owes an immense debt to Alder Yarrow, whose pioneering blog Vinography offered an early model and roadmap to a generation of wine-focused social media users when it launched in 2004. By 2007, he would become the first wine blogger to be invited to speak at the Aspen Food and Wine Festival. And his writing also began to appear in some of the top wine world mastheads, electronic and otherwise. His is a path that so many have followed or aspired to in the meantime.

That was all the more reason that it was disconcerting to read his recent post “Wine Bloggers: An Endangered Species.”

“I think I finally know how my wife’s grandmother felt,” he wrote sorrowfully. “A year or two before she passed at the age of 100, I asked her how she was doing as we sat down together for a meal. She said, ‘I’m just fine, but I’ve been alive too long. All my friends are dead’…”

After his survey of the current field of wine blogging, he pines, “I definitely feel a bit doddering, having just pruned off all that deadwood only to discover what amounts to a stunted little group of branches clinging to life.”

It’s stunning to read that in a time when wine blogging has firmly shifted away from its early “tasting and technical notes” model to a deeply self-aware and socially conscious paradigm.

Just think of blogger sommeliers like Tahiirah Habibi and Liz Dowty. Their courageous posts last year disrupted one of the wine world’s sacrosanct institutions, the Court of Sommeliers. Thanks to them, the lives of wine professionals across the spectrum are safer today.

Some may protest that they are not traditional wine bloggers like the ones Alder references in his post. Yes, their posts appeared on Instagram (and not a WordPress-coded site). And yes, one used videos and live stories instead of written word. Even though they weren’t using the conventional blog post format (that Alder and his contemporaries used), they were regularly updating their readers on an internet platform by means of an online journal — the very definition of blogging.

With the media they shared publicly, they literally reshaped the world they inhabit. That’s some pretty powerful stuff, if you ask me. And it’s an indication that wine blogging, although no longer focused on the latest exclusive (and exclusionary) tasting or sample, is very much alive and kicking harder than it ever has. Tahiirah and Liz don’t get paid for their posts. They do it because they are called to a higher purpose: activism through media. Sounds like blogging to me.

It’s important to underline that Alder’s contribution to the world of wine blogging cannot be overestimated. That’s especially true because one of the other wine blog models of the genre’s early years was authored by an internet troll whose work sadly presaged much of the nastiness that would seep throughout the world of wine media. Alder offered aspiring wine writers a balanced locus amoenus and high quality writing that they could look to as they carved out their own space in the corners of the internets.

And wow, Alder, I’m not sure how you missed this, but there are so many of them out there.

Just think of Cara Rutherford’s wonderful blog Caravino. Based near Albany, New York, she posts traditional tasting and technical notes three to four times a week (the last time I counted).

Or what about Kat René in Houston? She’s a prolific collector and author of one of the most popular wine blogs in the country right now, Corkscrew Concierge.

Cathrine Todd, another highly active and superbly talented wine writer, posts regularly on the multi-author blog hosted by Forbes and her own site, Dame Wine.

(Just think how many wine posts appear on Forbes these days. No, that content isn’t hosted on a traditional, stand-alone, WordPress-fueled site. But it still fits the conventional definition, above, of what blogging is.)

Or what about my former Slow Wine colleague Pam Strayer’s excellent and newly launched blog Organic Wines Uncorked, a site that has disrupted the California wine industry?

I have immense respect for Alder. And I’ll be the first to tell you that he’s a lovely person who has used his status and visibility over the years to make the world of wine a better place — socially and professionally, I’ll add.

But when I look his list of currently active wine blogs, I find that it’s riddled with lacunæ (including some but not all of the writers I mention above). To his list I also add the myriad wine writers and wine trade observers who use social media platforms to host their media. Just because you’re blogging on Instagram, Facebook, or even Forbes or Medium doesn’t mean that you are not a wine blogger. Then add to that mix the countless writers who post on sites and social media for wine shops, importers, distributors, and even wine industry law firms etc.

Pointing to the writers I’ve included in this post on a wine blog, I’d say that the world of wine blogging is more diverse and compelling than ever before. And I’d like to thank Alder for getting this conversation started — on a wine blog.

A bottle of 1985 Sangiovese restored my faith last night in Miami Beach…

One of the things that has always amazed me about wine is how it can expand the horizons in our minds and our hearts.

In our minds because every wine is a glimpse of the past, a moment in time captured in a bottle, the universe in a glass.

In our hearts because despite all our science, wine remains a mystery and miracle, the same that gave life, succor, and faith to the ancients and the women and men who came before us in nearer times.

A bottle of 1985 Morellino di Scansano reminded me of our shared humanity last night when a group of wine writers sat down for dinner and a flight of Fattoria Le Pupille wines with the farm’s current generation, Clara Gentili. (I’ve been consulting with her U.S. importer, Ethica, and they brought me to Florida this week to meet her and taste together.)

The wine, harvested a month or so after a kid from southern California started college and Ronald Reagan was roughly halfway through his presidency, was fresh and lithe in the glass, with moreish savory notes of macchia (the distinctive Italian garrigue) and supple red and berry fruit that danced atop its still very vibrant acidity.

A 35-year-old wine that’s abided patiently through world crises — bellic, pecuniary, and epidemical — that have convulsed human discourse and self-awareness. A more than three-decades-old expression of a rational contortion of nature, the effort resulting by women and men (some of whom are no longer here to know the fruits of their toil) who worked the vineyards and transformed the must.

The wine — utterly delicious and immaculate in its clarity and focus — lifted me up and brightened my spirit. It reminded me of a line from Boccaccio’s afterword, where he advocates for the entertainments and medicaments of the young Tuscan nobles who have fled Florence for the countryside.

“Who will deny that wine is an excellent thing for the living?” he asks.

Clara, thank you for coming to America during these trying times and sharing these extraordinary bottles with us! Thank you for not letting trepidation in the face of the uncertainty impede your travels in wine! Thank you for reminding us of the miracle of wine and its life-giving properties!

Thank you, most of all, for affirming that we, too, will weather the current crises the world faces, just like a 35-year-old bottle of wine harvested on the Tuscan coast nearly a lifetime ago.

I’ll be tasting with Clara and other Italian producers tonight at the Suckling event in Miami and on Sunday and Monday I’ll be attending the Florida Wine Academy’s Vino Summit conference. I’m looking forward to sharing notes from both…

Heath Porter, a sommelier’s sommelier and one of the smartest, nicest, and funniest people in the trade

That’s my friend and one of the American wine professionals I admire most, Heath Porter (above), at the Château de Bagnols in Beaujolais.

I’ve only met and tasted with Heath on two occasions over the last decade. But we’ve stayed in close touch via social media. He’s always eager to help a fellow wine person out and the feeling is mutual.

A few weeks ago, he was gracious enough to let me interview him for the My Name Is Barbera blog.

I was so impressed by what he had to say and how he said it that I felt compelled to share it here.

Even on the digital page, his words convey his encyclopedic knowledge of wine, his knack for humor (something every sommelier should have), and his warmth as a human being. Re-reading the piece, I just got this feeling that he knows we’re all in this together.

(Yes, I have a crush on the guy. A grape crush.)

When I first got started in this business more than 20 years ago, most Americans had never even heard the word sommelier. Today, the celebrity sommelier circuit has become so expansive that even its kerfuffles make the news.

Heath is a sommelier’s sommelier, the type we could use a lot more of these days: education, conviviality, and humanity are what drives his career.

Check out his new wine tour gig, Heathen Wine Tours (if I had the dough, I’d hop right on to that bandwagon). And check out what he had to say about Barbera and you’ll see why I admire the guy — and what he does — so much.

Chapeau bas, Heath! Thanks again for taking time out for Barbera (and me).