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…

“Blacker than tar, faster than the wind.” Rest in peace, Doggynino. We tried our best to give you a home. We will always love you.

“Blacker than tar, faster than the wind.”

That’s how Petrarch described his friend Matteo Longo’s dog in August of 1351. Petrarch was a dog lover and even wrote a Latin poem about one of the dogs he loved.

The words came to mind this weekend as we laid to rest Doggynino, above, a stray that had followed Tracie home after she had been out for a run last Monday.
Continue reading

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.

Passito di Pantelleria by Basile, one of the best I’ve ever tasted…

Tasting this superb bottle of Passito di Pantelleria “Prescelto” 2008 by Cantina Basile the other night, the expression “sticky wine” came to mind.

But not because the wine was sticky. The opposite was true: it was so lithe in the glass that it drank more like a classic white wine in terms of its texture. The alcohol and acidity were so well balanced that its sweetness never felt overwhelming or pervasive on the palate.

The other thing that really impressed me about this truly extraordinary wine was its spectrum of primary, secondary, and tertiary aromas and flavors (I know, I know… I don’t like those terms either and they sometimes mean different things for different people. But it’s really the best way to describe this remarkable wine).

As the Italians like to say, you felt like you were chewing the fruit, dried fruit, and almonds in this wine. It really blew me away. And it was made all the more special and memorable by our gracious hosts and the delicious meal they prepared for Tracie, me, and our girls.

What a wine!

In other news…

It’s been a busy week of seminars with my students in the Master’s of Wine program at the Slow Food University in Pollenzo (Piedmont).

It’s my third year here as an adjunct and I love the interaction with students and the high level of discussion and dialogue.

Lisa Perrotti-Brown’s post on “The Big Parkerization Lie,” published earlier this week on Wine Advocate, couldn’t have been more timely or relevant as we’ve discuss books by Lawrence Osborne, Eric Asimov, and Alice Feiring.

It’s incredible to think that more than 10 years after Alice’s book, the debate over Parker’s influence and impact still marches on.

The students really surprised me with the insights and experiences they shared. A really great group this year. But then again, each class of students seems to have its own unique take on the world of “wine communication” (one of the subjects I teach).

The other really fun thing this week has been watching our daughters as they discover the sights, sounds, and flavors of Italy.

They’ve both been really adventurous about trying new foods (although the snails didn’t go over so well last night!) and they’ve both been making a college effort to speak a little Italian.

It’s a dream come true for Tracie and me. We’ve been having so much fun and tomorrow I’ll take them to the beach for the weekend.

Living in Italy was such a profound experience for Tracie and me. It shaped the arc of our lives as adults and it’s how we ultimately met. It fills me with joyous wonder to think of how it will shape theirs…

For our vines have tender grapes: our daughters discover the vineyards in Italy

Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.
Song of Solomon 2:15

Tracie and our girls have been with me in Italy for the last five days.

It’s been really wonderful to have them here. I’m teaching at the Slow Food University in Piedmont this week and next. They’re on vacation.

The food has been great and they’ve been having a blast. But the most rewarding thing has been watching our girls — ages 4 and 6 — explore a vineyard.

That’s Giovanni above, the most generous friend you could want and a brilliant grape grower and winemaker in Franciacorta (where we stopped on our way to campus). And that’s Lila Jane, our youngest, in his arms. She spent the better part of an afternoon with her sister Georgia picking flowers and chasing butterflies in his vineyard.

And that’s Tracie, showing Georgia and Lila an old wine press outside the winery at the Castello di Verduno. We had such a magical visit there, enjoying the garden and the view at the Real Castello.

“How do grapes turn into wine?” asked Georgia.

How do you explain a miracle to a child?

One of the words Tracie’s taught them is vigna. It’s been a fantastic trip so far and I know many discoveries and adventures await them.

The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;

The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell.