Pinot Noir’s spiritual homeland in Italy: the extraordinary wines of Valeria Radici Odero’s Frecciarossa.

Like many American wine professionals, I had only ever tasted the classic method wines of Oltrepò Pavese pioneer Frecciarossa. But that all changed during the lockdowns thanks to a mid-sized importer of Italian wines in Texas.

I had called Doug Skopp, the owner of Dionysus Imports, to ask him if he had any wineries that would like to take part in the virtual wine dinner series I was moderating each week at Roma restaurant in Houston. He was eager to suggest “it kid” Italian flying winemaker Cristiano Garella and the wines of the legendary Oltrepò estate. But when I told him that we didn’t normally use sparkling wines for our weekly events, he was quick to point out that he imports only the winery’s still wines.

Not only was Cristiano one of the most compelling speakers in our series. But the wines, and in particular the Pinot Noir vinified off its skins (as a white wine), really impressed me with their depth, nuance, and originality.

After my first week of teaching at Slow Food U. in Bra, Piedmont (my first time back in Italy after more than a year and a half), I hopped in my rented Fiat 500L and made a beeline to the other side of the Po River in Lombardy (Oltrepò means literally on the other side of the Po [river]; Pavese is a toponym that denotes Pavia province).

Those are the some of the cows (above) that Valeria Radici Odero uses for compost on her organic farm (certified as of the 2020 vintage). She is the granddaughter of Giorgio Odero, the man who first begin making fine wines there. She is also one of the most brilliant winery owners I’ve ever met, a true wine professional with fantastic communications chops and a razor-sharp palate.

She had graciously squeezed me in with a group of young Piedmontese wine lovers who had reserved a tasting and tour with her that day (thank you again, Valeria, you are awesome!).

Her 2016 Pinot Nero dell’Oltrepò Pavese Giorgio Odero floored me with its rich flavor profile and lithe character. What a stunning wine, with great freshness on the nose and incredible lift in the mouth. It made me reflect on Italy’s wildly diverse mosaic of terroir: while I’ve tasted great still Pinot Noir from Trentino, Alto Adige, and Friuli, few wines have moved me the way this one did.

Frecciarossa’s wines remind me of why I keep doing what I do for a living: the endless viticultural adventures and discoveries that Italy shares with us as we explore the country’s myriad natural and human-made treasures.

Valeria, who speaks impeccable English, has promised me that Houston is going to be one of her first stops as soon as Italians are allowed to return to the U.S. I can’t wait to introduce her and share her wines with our guests back in Houston.

Cascina Baricchi: the best Barbaresco you’ve never tasted.

Only a few savvy insiders in America know the wines raised by the amazing Natale Baricchi on his family’s farm, Cascina Baricchi, on the eastern edge of the Barbaresco appellation.

Partly because of wine but more so because of our shared passion for guitar (he’s got an amazing collection of handmade acoustic guitars, including some Spanish gems), Natale Baricchi, his wife Francesca, and I became good friends two years ago when I was teaching in Piedmont at the Slow Food University of Gastronomic Sciences in Bra.

Yesterday, the couple hosted me and my Franciacorta bromances Nico Danesi and Giovanni Arcari for dinner and an informal tasting of their Cascina Baricchi Barbaresco (accompanied by guitar, of course!). That’s Nico, Franciacorta winemaker of acclaim, in the photo above.

Francesca and Natale live in the commune of Neviglie, just to the east of the Barbaresco appellation. But their vineyards are in the Barbaresco DOCG. Because Natale’s father began making wine there decades ago, they are “grandparented” into the appellation (their case is an exception but for most producers the grapes have to be transformed into wine within the appellation borders). Natale’s dad was super tight buds with Angelo G., who helped him early on when he was first planting Nebbiolo there.

Natale likes to hold his wines back. His current release is Barbaresco 2014 (most producers have already released their 2016). We also tasted the 2004. Both wines were extraordinary. The 04 was one of the best wines I’ve tasted this year, nearly fully evolved and drinking gorgeously.

It was all accompanied by Francesca’s homemade vitello tonnato, a little bit of insalata russa, freshly cut tomatoes, a wedge of farinata, and a slice of crusty bread. Superb!

Natale and Francesca are in the processing of changing U.S. importers. I think a lot of people will be very happy with the results in terms of availability moving forward.

And when I see you in person, I’ll tell you a voce about some of their noteworthy clients. Once you taste the wines, you’ll understand why so many Nebbiolo greats collect these.

Man, it’s great to be back in Italy again. Seeing my friends, tasting new releases and vintages, and remembering what makes my world go around.

Thank you Natale and Francesca! I love you guys! (Thanks also for letting me play you the new song I wrote for Tracie! That meant the world to me.)

Feels like the first time: heading back to Italy after more than a year and a half.

Breakfast with the family this morning brought on an emotion not felt in more than 30 years: this erstwhile Medieval poetry and now wine scribbler is heading back to their spiritual homeland since being away for more than 18 months.

And it feels like the first time.

As the girls were getting ready for summer camp, an old and addled box of photographs found its way to my desk.

That’s a photo of me, above, in Ostia (the Roman coastal city) in 1987 during my first academic year in Italy on the University of California Education Abroad Program, the only curriculum at the time that allowed students to study side-by-side with Italians — with instruction in Italian.

That experience forever shaped my professional and personal life.

By year’s end, my first piano bar gig came along.

That’s me, above, playing my very first show at the Bar Margherita on Piazza della Frutta in Padua.

The person in the lower right-hand corner is Ruggero Robin, one of Italy’s top jazz guitarists. He would become my first friend in Italy and we would play countless gigs together when music was the income that kept me afloat during my studies.

This guitar player was way out of their league when they they played with Ruggero but the money was always decent and we would always have a blast together. (If you’ve ever been to VinNatur, you might have heard Ruggero play. He’s super tight with the Maule family.)

In normal years, this Italy-bound traveler would go to their spiritual homeland six times a year, between teaching, researching and tasting, trade fairs, and client visits. There was one year when I made nine (!!!) trips to Italy in less than 12 months.

But after being separated so long from my signora, this one feels different. It feels big like that first time, that first contact, that first kiss with the country that would become my lifeblood in so many ways. It even made for the connection between me and my life partner, Tracie, mother to our children.

On Sunday, I leave for three weeks of teaching at the Slow Food University of Gastronomic Sciences in Piedmont. There will be some good eating and drinking, too. And maybe even some music.

Sister Italy, my alma mater, where would I be today without you???!!!

I can’t wait to leap into your arms and feel your embrace!

Wish me luck and wish me speed. See you on the other side…

You say Prosecco, they say Prošek. Croatia unlikely to prevail in trademark claim over world’s most popular wine.

You may have already seen the scandalous headlines in the Italian mainstream media: “Prosecco under attack” and “The latest assault on Prosecco.”

If you’re reading this, it’s more likely that you’ve seen a headline or two in the English-language press: “Croatia and Italy renew feud over Prošek and Prosecco wines.”

“Croatian winemakers have leapt to the defence of their centuries-old dessert wine, Prošek amid a renewed Prosecco identity war,” wrote Angela Giuffrida for the Guardian earlier this month.

    Italy said it would defend Prosecco at all costs after Croatia applied to the European Commission for special recognition of Prošek [a Croatian dried-grape wine].
    It is the second time Croatia has moved to get the trademark recognised after Italy succeeded in blocking a first attempt in 2013, arguing that the name Prošek was too similar to Prosecco. Croatian winemakers agree that the two words sound similar, but they argue that consumers can easily distinguish between the two.

“This request,” wrote the Prosecco DOC consortium in a statement responding to the move by the Croatians, “could undermine the entire appellation system in Europe.”

But the Croatians’ efforts are unlikely to succeed.

As leading Italian wine writer and trade observer Maurizio Gily notes in his newsletter this week, Italian growers of Prosecco were the first to use the trademark Prosecco beyond Italy’s borders. In accordance with EU trademark law, this gives them the “precedent” and the right to use the name commercially.

Perhaps more significantly, Gily writes, Prosecco has come to be recognized as a place name thanks to the Prosecco consortia’s efforts to associate the name with the geographic area where Prosecco is grown and vinified (the recent designation of the Prosecco DOCG as a UNESCO heritage site bolsters the consortia’s claim).

In the light of this, Croatian producers of the dried-grape wine Prošek will most likely be denied the right to use the name commercially. It would only create confusion in the marketplace, lawyers for the Prosecco consortia will argue.

You may remember that in 2007, the European Commission ruled in favor of Hungarian producers of Tokaji who wanted to bar Italian growers from using the name Tocai on the labels of wines to be sold outside Italy. It was the inverse of what will happen in this case, writes Gily. In this instance, the Hungarians could rightly lay claim to the trademark because they were the first to use it in international commerce. This precedent will undoubtedly help the Italians in their claim.

It’s worth pointing out that Prošek is also the Slovenian name for the village of Prosecco in Trieste province. There, in the semi-autonomous region of Friuli, street signs are written in both Italian (“Prosecco”) and Friulian dialect (“Prosek”), as in the image above. It comes from the Slavic prošek meaning clear-felled, in other words, a place cleared of trees. Some believe that the village was once a transit hub. It’s origin as a place for commerce may be the reason, some argue, that the toponym came to be associated with the wine.

In other (unrelated) news…

As Gily notes in his dispatch, the current “Prosecco war” has nothing to do with Putin’s unrelated (absurdist) efforts to claim the name “Champagne” for sparkling wines in Russia.

Image via the Gambero Rosso forum.

Snap your fingers and ship your wine to America! Sorry, Italian winemakers: I love you but it doesn’t work like that.

It’s begun again.

Two messages arrived in my inbox yesterday asking me to provide a list of potential American importers for the authors’ friends’ wines from Italy. One came from a friend of mine, the other from a friend of a friend of mine.

Before the 2020 lockdowns, I’d receive at least two messages like that per month. Sometimes more. They stopped for a while. But now that things are opening up again on both sides of the Atlantic, the missives — “help me find an importer for my clearly superior wine although I have no intention of paying you for your services nor would I even consider that given how good my wine is” — are beginning to appear again.

They are generally accompanied by a collateral message: “my wine is obviously so stinking good that American importers will undoubtedly be lining up and fighting for the opportunity to work with me despite the fact that I don’t speak English, have only ever visited New York and San Francisco on vacation, and have no idea how the U.S. wine market works or what market conditions are.”

Snap your fingers and ship your wine to New Jersey! Sorry, Italian winemakers. I love you but it doesn’t work like that.

The messages bring to mind a 1982 New York magazine article by legendary wine writer Alexis Bespaloff where he features three then relatively (at least in America) Italian winemakers: Gaja, Antinori, and Mastroberardino. They were all trying to break into the U.S. market at the time.

In the piece, Antinori explains to him why his family has abandoned traditional winemaking conventions: “‘We came to the sad conclusion that simply following the classic Chianti varietal mix, we couldn’t produce the finest wines from our vineyards,’ Antinori explained, discussing [Tignanello’s] evolution.'”

The first Super Tuscan — quite literally ante litteram — was born!

At the time, the 1978 “Tignanello… a complex Tuscan red,” wrote Bespaloff, was “readily available” and cost about “$13.” (!!!)

It’s incredible to think that these three winemakers (and I would add producers like Primo Franco and Maurizio Zanella to this early 1980s list) were hitting the streets and hawking wine. My friend Craig Camp, wine writer and now Oregon winery manager, remembers, for example, doing work-withs with Angelo Gaja when Craig was starting out in the wine trade as a sales rep.

What I’m getting at is this: these guys — titans of Italian wine today — were busting their asses to build their brands in the U.S. And history would prove them to be visionaries of their craft. Just think how much Tignanello costs today and show me the high-end steakhouse that doesn’t have it on its list. In 1982, it was an unknown wine that, as Antinori explains in the article, he created in the hope of opening up new market possibilities. Piero Antinori and today his daughters still come to the U.S. regularly (before the lockdowns, of course).

There couldn’t be a more challenging time for a small Italian winemaker to break into the U.S. market today. Massive consolidation of distribution channels, continuing supply chain and shipping disruptions, and shifts in consumers’ tastes and attitudes are making it difficult for single family-run estates to break into U.S. importing game.

Despite the herculean task that lies ahead of them, I always write back the same thing.

My advice is to spend as much time in the U.S. market as you can (even if your wines aren’t here yet). Try to make connections with young American wine professionals. That’s the key to building your brand here. Try to figure out whether or not your wines are relevant here. Think about how your brand fits into the American wine trade paradigm.

I can point to myriad Italian winemakers who have done just that. They cultivate the friendships and professional contacts that ultimately lead to success here.

Have you ever attended one of Angelo Gaja’s lectures where he talks about the countless scallop-and-lamb-chop dinners he’s attended in the U.S.? That’s called paying your dues, folks!

Yes, there are exceptions to this rule. Neither Bartolo or Maria Teresa Mascarello had any desire to come to America (she told me as much once when I complained to her about her asshole importer from Oklahoma). Yet their cultish brand is undeniably popular here. You could say the same about Quintarelli. But those are both examples of wines that had already become undeniable classics, icons of Italian winemaking before they even touched U.S. soil. Neither of them had any trouble selling all their wine each year and the U.S. represented and represents a means of expanding their profitability.

For most Italian winemakers trying to break into the U.S. market, you need to be here. Showing up is literally 50 percent of the equation.

Wines are like songs. Even if they are the best songs ever written, they will have no meaning or commercial viability until someone hears them. And getting people to hear them takes grit, determination, luck, and — I hate to say it but it needs to be said here — investment. I’m not a winemaker but I am a songwriter. I’ve written a ton of songs but the commercially successful tracks were the ones that happened at the right time and in the right place and with the right support. It was about being there: showing up and playing every gig my bandmates and I could until someone finally started paying attention.

To every Italian winemaker or friend of an Italian winemaker who’s hoping to make their wines a big hit in the U.S., please come see me in Houston. I’ll take you wine bar hopping and will introduce you to all the cool young sommeliers and wine buyers (I’m a wine buyer in Houston, too; I’m just not young!). The first round is on me — for real, I mean that. The rest is on you…

Images via Google Books.

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.

The world’s first sommelier was a woman.

The goddess Hebe as portrayed by the 19th-century Franco-German painter Louis Fischer (image via Wikipedia Creative Commons). In paintings and sculptures from that era, she is often seen serving wine to her father Zeus, who appears in the form of an eagle.

Bacchus is the ancient figure that most point to when they speak of the “god of wine.”

But when we dig a little bit deeper, we find that the first deity associated with wine and — more significantly — wine service was Hebe, the daughter of Zeus and Hera.

I was reminded of Hebe when I was browsing recently through the “Barbarous Odes” of Giosuè Carducci, the 19th-century Italian poet and first Italian Nobel laureate.

(The odes were written in Italian using ancient Greek meter. That’s why Carducci ironically called them “barbarous”: they would sound outlandish or “foreign” to the ancient Greeks if they could hear them. Prosody in Carducci was a focus during my graduate student years.)

In his ode “Ideale” (“Ideal”), Hebe and the ambrosia she pours are an allegory for the revival of classical learning of his time.

Inspired by the image of the proto-sommelier, who poured wine for the gods, I have translated the first four stanzas here.

Happy Friday and happy reading!

Oh Hebe, wrap me in the aroma of ambrosia flowing from your cup and make me drunk with the ancient knowledge! Renew me in your soft glow!

*****

“Ideal”
an excerpt

As the serene aroma of ambrosia
Wraps itself around me, flowing from your cup,
Oh Hebe, with the gait of a goddess,
You glide by smiling all the while.

Neither the shadow of time nor the icy
Cures are what I feel on my head. I feel,
Oh Hebe, the serene Hellenic
Life flow through my veins.

And the ruined days, fallen from the slope
Of the sorrowful time, have arisen anew.
Oh Hebe, they are yearnful to
Be renewed in your soft glow.

And the new years gladly pull
My face out of the fog.
Oh Hebe, your rising, trembling,
Ruby splendor greets them!

A southeast Texas wine list that needs to be on your radar at Davis St. in Houston.

Last Friday, Tracie and I had our first big night on the H-Town since our 10-year anniversary celebration in January 2020. We were joined by some of our best friends in Houston: a couple we have known through wine since before the lockdowns began and another couple to whom we’ve become close through the weekly virtual dinners I led during the lockdowns. It was an incredible experience to sit down finally with them over a proper meal. That’s something, I believe, a lot of us are experiencing these days.

Not only was it wonderful to connect with great friends, old and new, over a long, relaxed, and decadent dinner. But it was also fantastic to explore the incredible menu and amazing wine program at Davis St. at Hermann Park on the edge of Houston’s museum district (which, I recently learned, is only surpassed in scope and breadth by New York City’s — no joke).

Chef Mark Holley’s menu is focused on seafood and Gulf Coast cookery with contemporary flourishes. The materia prima alone would be worth the price of admission. But it’s his creative approach to haute Louisiana cuisine that really takes it over the top. That’s the Thai-style Gulf red snapper in the image above. Nothing short of phenomenal.

But the biggest and even happier discovery was the excellent wine program there. We started out with a selection from an ample offering of Champagnes, headed to Burgundy for some Bourgogne Blanc and then to Willamette for some richer-style but still judiciously restrained Chardonnay. But the real showstopper was a 2008 Sagrantino by Antonelli. I was so stoked to find that wine on the list and it wowed all of us. For the last wine (there were six of us, after all!), I asked wine director Kevin Jackson to choose for us. He soon reappeared with a bottle of Elio Altare Langhe Nebbiolo (2018, if I’m not mistaken, the brio had eclipsed the note taking by that point!). The pairing with our seafood mains was spot on — Nebbiolo and classic Louisiana cooking. We loved and highly recommend it.

This is Americana cooking at its best imho. Come out to visit us in Houston and I’ll make us a reservation… And wine people, you need to get Kevin Jackson and his wine program on your radar.

In other news…

I’m in Southern California this week, working and visiting a best friend who’s facing some major health challenges right now.

That’s a photo taken from the Las Flores Canyon vista point at Camp Pendleton yesterday.

Please say a prayer for my friend. They have a long road ahead. I know they’re going to make it. But it’s going to take all of our support for them to get there. They will. I know it, they will. But it’s not going to be easy.

Thanks for being here and thanks for the support and solidarity.

Dosaggio zero, pas dosé, brut nature: some of the wine world’s most misunderstood terms.

Above: the Montorfano (Mt. Orfano) vineyard where Arcari + Danesi grows Chardonnay for their Franciacorta Dosaggio Zero, a wine that they make using their “solo uva” (“just grapes”) method.

Despite the extreme quality, the immense value, and the uniqueness of the wines within the spectrum of sparkling viticulture, Franciacorta remains one of the fine wine world’s most misunderstood and improperly categorized wines.

Such malignment can be attributed in part, at least in my view, to how the wines have been marketed outside of Italy. In the 2010s, just as many young U.S. wine professionals were looking out for the soulful, family farmer-driven, and thoughtful wines of Italy’s new wave, the Franciacorta powers-that-be continued to pound the luxury/premium pavement. And pound they did until they pound their Franciacorta into the ground.

There is still a of confusion in the wine world about what the term dosaggio zero means.

That’s not to say that Franciacorta isn’t producing world-class wines: Ca’ del Bosco, Bellavista (and family), Ricci Curbastro, Barone Pizzini, and Monte Rosso among other iconic brands continue to ship great wines to North America. But young people can’t afford and have little interest in drinking them.

(I owe all of the above a thanks for the two years I served as the consortium ambassador in the U.S.)

That disconnect has been breached over the last decade or so by just a handful of small-scale producers who grow their own grapes and age their wines themselves.

One of those winemakers is Arcari + Danesi, led by my close friends Giovanni Arcari and Nico Danesi. Depending on the generosity of the vintage, they make about 22,000 bottles of their Franciacorta Dosaggio Zero each year.

The wine is produced using mostly Chardonnay grapes that they grow in their terraced vineyard atop Montorfano (Mt. Orfano), one of the highest growing sites in the appellation. The soils are compact and morainic in nature, meaning they are composed of small stones (about 10 centimeters wide, give or take) with a robust presence of iron.

Tracie, the girls, and I visited Giovanni and Nico’s vineyard in 2018. As Tracie would say, if I were a grape, I would want to grow there.

But they also add a small amount of Pinot Bianco (Pinot Blanc) to this wine. Chardonnay is the hegemonic variety of Franciacorta and many producers have shied away from fickle Pinot Blanc, choosing instead to make 100 percent Chardonnay wines. But Giovanni and Nico still value the gentle aromatic character the grape imparts to the wine, giving it a “lift” (as the young sommeliers say) that many others lack.

The wine is a dosaggio zero, otherwise known in wine parlance as pas dosé or brut nature. Some believe that this designation means that no sweetener is added to the wine. What it really means is that no sweetener is added before bottling and that the total residual sugar in the bottled wine is less than 3 grams per liter. But even when no dosage (sweetener) is added at the end of vinification (a common practice in Champagne and beyond), a sweetener is still used. It’s essential to the process.

Like all producers of classic method (Champagne method) sparkling wine — from Champagne to Napa and beyond — Giovanni and Nico use a sweetener to provoke the wine’s second fermentation in bottle — the tirage (French) or tiraggio (Italian). (The classic recipe used in Champagne calls for 24 grams of sugar — yes, 24 grams! — per liter.) But unlike the overwhelming majority of classic method producers, they don’t use a sweetener made from cane or beet sugar. Instead, they use reserved grape must from the same vineyard where the Chardonnay is grown. In other words, when they harvest the fruit, they set aside and freeze some of the grape must (newly pressed juice) and freeze it until they are ready to provoke the wine’s second fermentation. They call their tirage protocol the “solo uva” or “just grapes” method.

I can’t wait to get back to Italy next month to teach in Piedmont at Slow Food U. But the first stop will be Mt. Orfano! That’s me and Lila Jane at Arcari + Danesi in 2018.

The winemakers believe that by using reserved grape must instead of refined cane or beet sugar, they can avoid the oxidative character that you find in wines from certain Champagne and Franciacorta houses. You know that wonderful “yeasty,” “brioche” aroma you get in Bollinger (our favorite Champagne, btw)? Giovanni and Nico will tell you that it’s created by the oxidated sugar in the wine.

I’ve done countless tastings with them where we compared their pre-solo uva method wines with their current style. And we’ve even added famous Champagne houses to the flights when comparing the wines. Over and over again, you get a freshness in the solo uva wines that you don’t find in traditional Champagne and other classic method wines.

That’s not to say that one is better than the other. I love them both and no one is taking away our beloved Bollinger! (I even once wrote and recorded a song about Bollinger.) But I do find myself more readily reaching for Arcari + Danesi wines when I’m sitting down to dinner. Bollinger is reserved especially for pairings with caviar, oysters, risotto alla parmigiana, and even potato chips — extra salty foods that work well with that style of wine. Arcari + Danesi is a wine we drink throughout dinner, including pairings with a wide variety of flavors and textures.

As an Algerian critical theorist once said, vive la différance!

Houstonians, if you want to taste this wine, it’s now on our wine list at Roma in Rice Village where I became the wine director earlier this month. And Californians, the wine is coming to my Do Bianchi wholesale/retail program next month. Hit me up! Thanks for checking it out.

Natural wine curious? Taste with Alice Feiring & me this Thursday (virtual event at Roma).

I couldn’t be more thrilled to share the news that Alice Feiring, the world’s leading advocate for and expert on natural wines, will be joining our weekly virtual wine dinner at Roma in Houston where I manage the wine program.

The cost is $119 per couple and sends you home with three bottles of wine and a vegetarian menu that outgoing chef Angelo Cuppone has created especially for the dinner. Click here for details and menu.

Alice started a bona fide revolution when she published her first book, The Battle for Wine and Love: How I Saved the World from Parkerization, in 2008. Since that time, she has published a number of titles devoted to natural wine, not to mention her many Times pieces — including her wonderful “Modern Love” columns — and bylines for leading mastheads like The World of Fine Wine and others.

Alice is also one of my best friends in the wine trade, a mentor and a role model for my own career. I’m super geeked to be hosting her for this event and there’s no doubt in my mind that it will be one to remember!

Houston wine people, I hope you can join for this one. Thanks for the support. From the natural wine curious to the natural wine veterans, this is one not to miss.