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.

Prayers for our sisters and brothers affected by California wildfires

Our thoughts and prayers go out this morning to our sisters and brothers affected by California wildfires.

The photo above was taken in early September of this year in Oregon House, California (Yorba County), about an hour’s drive south of the town of Paradise, which has been all but leveled by the natural disaster.

It gives you a sense of how much fuel — dry brush — the fires have to feed on.

Check out this terrifying photo posted by my friend Melanie K on Instagram from Santa Monica. Apocalyptic is the first word that comes to mind.

The fires were never this bad or this frequent when I was a kid growing up in California. This year’s fires are already on track to be the state’s deadliest and most devastating ever.

Our hearts are heavy this morning as we pray for the victims and their families. G-d bless them all.

VIDEO (EXPLICIT): “Jesus f*%@ing hates you!” The Face of Racism in Orange, Texas

Tracie shot the video above as we protested the Confederate Memorial of the Wind in Orange, Texas yesterday. The man ranting at us was one of just a handful of people who expressed their disapproval of our protest. The overwhelming number of passersby gave us the thumbs up or stopped to share a kind word.

But the Confederate memorial supporter who threatened us is indicative of the people who oppose our efforts.

The video speaks for itself.
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Help us protest the new Confederate memorial in Orange, Texas: GoFundMe goal of $1,000 to purchase billboard ad

Update, Friday, November 2: Thanks to everyone who contributed to our Go Fund Me campaign, part of our protest of the newly erected Confederate Memorial in Orange, Texas. It only took us two days to meet our goal of $1,000. Thank you! It means the world to us to know that you support us in our efforts!

Please donate to our campaign here.

The next protest is scheduled for Saturday, November 10, 2-4 p.m. Click here for details. Please join us.

Tracie and I are raising money to buy one (1) month of advertising on a billboard that stands across the road from the newly erected Confederate Memorial of the Wind, a monument built by the Sons of Confederate Veterans on Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. in Orange, Texas along Interstate 10.
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After Pittsburgh…

My parents were both born in 1933 in South Bend, Indiana. They were the children of Jewish refugees who had fled Eastern Europe in the first decade of the last century, before the Russian Revolution. Both were raised as conservative Jews. After they finished college in their home state, they moved to Chicago, Illinois where they reared their four sons as conservative, progressive Jews. Although not observant at home, they regularly attended a typical midwest conservative synagogue, not unlike the typical midwest shul in Pittsburgh where a mass shooting occurred on Saturday.

A work trip took me to Pittsburgh a month ago. On a beautiful Saturday morning, the city’s “strip” — its main drag just off of downtown — was bustling with Steelers fans and food lovers. People were friendly there, the nightlife was welcoming and fun, and the city’s now abandoned factories were oddly and boldly beautiful set against the natural majesty of its rivers and hills. Folks were lined up around the block at the Heinz History Center, a Smithsonian outpost, for a new space exploration exhibit. Time didn’t permit a visit to the Anyd Warhol museum.

It’s hard to believe that the City of Bridges, as it’s known, would also be home to such virulent racism. But it is. And sadly, it’s no different than anywhere else in America.

When I see the photos of those who died in Saturday’s attack, I see faces that I recognize from my own upbringing. I see faces that I recognize from our neighborhood bagel shop and the Jewish Community Center a few blocks from our house (where our daughters often attend birthday parties). I see the congregants of the orthodox shul next to my gym. I see my aunts, my uncles, my cousins, my grandparents… I see myself and I see our children.

Even in my wildest imagination, I never thought that a day like this would arrive in America. But it has.

Today I weep for my fallen sisters and brothers, their families, their community. Today I weep for my country.

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).

L’shanah tovah, yall! Happy new year and may your year be filled with good health and sweetness!

Happy new year, everyone!

Today is the first day of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah.

Like every year, Parzen family ate apples and honey before dinner last night, a new year tradition meant to deliver sweetness in the year ahead.

Here in Houston, we’ve already settled into our fall rhythms and routines.

Lila Jane is now in kindergarten and is taking cello (my instrument as a kid!) at their music magnet school.

And first-grader Georgia is playing her violin with growing confidence and ability.

They both love their school and their teachers.

With both girls now in school full-time, Tracie is working hard to expand her business and we’re finally moving toward being a two-income family, which is great.

Our lives are filled with too many blessings to count. But the year ahead also holds many challenges.

Rosh Hashanah is a time to look back on the year past and reflect on those times that we didn’t live up to our ideals — spiritual or secular.

I keep thinking about something that Susan Sontag wrote about the French philosopher and activist Simone Weil. Sontag described her as someone “identical with her ideas.”

My new year’s resolution, for the year 5779, is to work harder to make our lives and our life’s work identical with our ideas. In these times, I believe, we mustn’t fail in standing up for what is right and speaking out against what is wrong. Otherwise, we will be failing our children in making this world a better one for them to live in when we’re gone.

Happy new year, everyone. May your year be filled with good health and sweetness. L’shanah tovah, yall!

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!

2007 Barbaresco in glorious focus right now: Produttori del Barbaresco Asili

From the department of “will you take me as I am?”

Every summer when the Texas Parzens visit the California Parzens, our good friends Jon and Jayne at Jaynes Gastropub in San Diego let us bring a few bottles from my cellar to pair with their delicious food and share with our friends.

This year, the flight included two bottles of Produttori del Barbaresco 2007 Barbaresco Asili. The wines were purchased on release and delivered to my wine locker in San Diego where they have been sitting undisturbed since they arrived.

The 2007 harvest was part of a string of excellent-to-extraordinary vintages in the appellation (check out this superb article on 2007 in Piedmont by Antonio Galloni; he focuses on Barolo but he also offer some excellent overarching observations about 2007 in Langa).

Tasted last year, this wine was still very tannic. It was already showing signs of opening up but it was still “tight” in wine collector parlance.

But, man, when we opened it on Saturday early evening, every drop just sang as it flowed from glass to palate.

My dining companions and I had dropped one bottle in an ice bucket to chill it slightly. The other was served room temperature (my preference). Both bottles delivered notes of delicate rose petal and berry fruit on the nose. In the mouth, the richer berry fruit was balanced by that ethereal hint of earth and subtle mushroom, all the while wrapped in a sheen of acidity.

We followed these two with a bottle of 2008 Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco Rio Sordo. 08 is arguably the better vintage but that wine was “shut down”: the tannic character and earthiness seemed like a jealous new lover who doesn’t want to let its fruit dance. Still a great bottle but not nearly as expressive and nuanced as the 07 Asili. The latter is considered to be one of the appellation’s greatest crus while the former is one of its lesser growths. But given the closed character of the 08 Rio Sordo, I’m going to wait until next year to start revisiting my 08s.

In other news…

Parzen family drove our new Ford F150 to California at the end of July.

We had a great time in my hometown of San Diego: visiting with my mom, spending time my brother Tad and his family, lots of swimming and beach, a rocking show with all my buddies (I dedicated my rendition of “Back in the USSR” to Donald Trump), dinner at Jaynes, dinner at Bahia Don Bravo (my favorite fish taco joint). All in all, it’s been a great trip.

This week we’re driving back. That’s sunrise, above, at our Palm Springs hotel this morning (I always get up super early to get work done before I take the girls to the pool). Friday we’ll be at the Grand Canyon.

The girls have been so well-behaved in the car and have really picked up their parents’ love for travel (is it genetic?).

I love the long drives, especially across the desert where I have time to think and reflect. And the best part is we are all together, all the time. That’s where my true joy is.

Thanks to Parzen family west for a great visit and thanks to all my folks in southern California: I have the best friends a man could wish for. That’s the truth.

There’s so much more to tell, including some great winery visits for the Slow Wine Guide.

But that’ll have to wait. My little bunnies and the pool are calling…