Portland tasting Monday 9/12 expands to include dinner menu pairings

nostrana-restaurant-portland-reviewI mean, just look at this photo I lifted from the Nostrana Facebook this afternoon! What Italian enogastronome wouldn’t want to go to that restaurant???!!!

That dude is wearing a t-shirt that says “I heart Teroldego!”

I love it!

Response to our Monday, September 12 Franciacorta Real Tasting at Nostrana in Portland, Oregon has been so robust that the lovely folks at the restaurant have decided to create a micro-pairing menu for guests who dine with them that evening. A handful of the wines I’ll be pouring will be available by-the-glass and I’ll be visiting with guests throughout dinner service. Details to follow.

The 6:00 p.m. tasting is looking pretty full at this point. So if we can’t fit you in then, please come for dinner following and let’s taste together!

Franciacorta Real Story Tasting
on the patio
Monday, September 12
6:00 p.m.
1401 SE Morrison St.
Portland OR 97214
(503) 234-2427
Google map

Ron Washam’s satyr: sexuality, satire, and self-projection in 21st-century wine blogging

From the department of ostentatio genitalium… id est, NSFW…

satyr-penisAbove: an ithyphallic satyr as depicted in a Roman mosaic in Naples (image via Tyler Bell’s Flickr Creative Commons).

Ithyphallophobia or ithyphallophilia? It’s hard to put your finger on it. Before you can, you have to get it up.

It’s only natural that the Hosemaster of Wine would resort to puerile sexual violence in a pseudo-satire of Alice Feiring, his debut piece for Robert Parkerization, Jr.’s venerated Wine Advocate. It’s behind a paywall that keeps “free for all,” I’ve been told, even the hoi polloi out. Read it if you must. Just be sure to don a doily doused in eau de toilette.

And it’s only logical that he would have no better arrow from his quill to loose… or to release, as it were.

As he wrote in his peppy post announcing his new brave collaboration, “nothing is more deadly to a satirist than becoming part of the establishment.” In the wake of Washam’s self-castration and the fulfillment of his Oedipal reversal, the now blinded however once beloved satirist now found himself in a conundrum: whom to attack when the platform whence he casts his missiles is that of the king?

Pietro Aretino, arguably the greatest of all satirists, self-fashioned himself the flagellum prinicipi (literally the flagellator [the scourge] of princes, for those like Washam who arrived tardy to Latin class). And as the whipper of kings taught us, satire has no balls (pardon the pun) when it resides in rich men’s halls. By virtue of its very nature, its vice is that used to squeeze the powerful and lustful, not the meek and just.

He’s parodied Alice, her writing, and advocacy before (5 or 6 times now? I’ve lost count). But when those feathers were launched from his Heraldsburg treehouse, they were lithe “as vines among the trees.” Today, they are as lugubrious as the masthead from which they were cast.

I can’t say that I was a follower or lover of his writing in the past. But respect and honor were due to the man for the outsider role of flagellator that he played so well in the enoblogosphere. I mean that most sincerely.

To attack Alice from Parker’s mansion on the hill, with crude sexual innuendo no less, is by no hand of a man. It’s from the palm of a puer.

Below: caps off to you, Ron! Cheers! It’s all in good pun… (image via Wikipedia Commons).


Taste with me: Portland (9/12), Las Vegas (10/17), Atlanta (November TBD)

Happy end of summer, everyone! Please come out and taste with me this fall!

portland oregon license free imagesMy Franciacorta Real Story Tour 2016 is winding down with three events in three different cities, each a wine destination in its own right.

The response to my events over the last 18 months has been nothing short of wonderful. But no city has responded with as much gusto as Portland, Oregon, a city believed by many tradesfolk to be the number-one destination for Italian wine in the U.S.

Heartfelt thanks to the lovely people at Nostrana for making this happen (Monday, September 12) and please stay tuned for updates on Las Vegas (October 17) and Atlanta (November, date to be determined).

A note to distributors and suppliers: please feel free to contact me if you’d to show your Franciacorta wines at any of my tastings. As long as the producer is an active consortium member (nearly all those imported to the U.S. are) and is a participant in the CMO promotion for north American, I would love to show the wines. The more the merrier!

RSVP is not required but encouraged so we can get a headcount. Please email me at jparzen@gmail.com to let me know you’ll be joining us. Thanks!

Franciacorta Real Story Tasting
on the patio
Monday, September 12
6:00 p.m.
1401 SE Morrison St.
Portland OR 97214
(503) 234-2427
Google map

Image via GoodFreePhotos.

Is Nebbiolo the new Pinot Grigio? Two controversial proposals for new Italian appellation rules

nebbiolo harvest 2015Above: Nebbiolo grapes in Piedmont.

Italian wine writers and bloggers have been up in arms this week and last over two controversial proposals for major changes in appellation rules.

The first, which is to be voted on today by growers, is the creation of a new Pinot Grigio delle Venezie DOC modeled after the current Delle Venezie IGT, which includes wines grown in regions of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Veneto, and Trentino-Alto Adige.

If approved, the new appellation would allow growers to produce Pinot Grigio with yields of up to 21.6 metric tons per hectare “in good vintages.” That’s more than 9.6 U.S. tons per acre, a high yield by any measure. (To put this figure in perspective, “the U.S. has one of the highest national average yields, at 6.5 tons/acre,” according to the Oxford Companion to Wine.)

“Before [the creation of] this new appellation that applies to all three regions,” said Luciano Moretto, president of the Pramaggiore Wine Exhibition, earlier this year, “every region had its own [Pinot Grigio]. This will change everything. With this single mode of production, we can really take off in certain markets. I’m thinking of the United States, Russia, and China, nations where we need to compete with many behemoth producers and where counterfeits cause damage to us. This will be a source of considerable profit.”

In an op-ed published on Friday, the editors of the Slow Wine Guide wrote: “Who is the winner in this case? Industrial agriculture: producers of chemical fertilizers, fungicides, herbicides, etc. Because [with the creation of this DOC] vineyards will be transformed into assembly lines, where everything is pumped and everything needs to be perfectly clean, without even the smallest trace of disease.”

Today’s vote comes on the heels of another controversial proposal for changes in the Piemonte DOC. In a draft of new appellation rules circulated this month among members of the Asti Monferrato Consortium, the authors call for the creation of a Piemonte Nebbiolo DOC that would give growers greater freedom in using the word Nebbiolo in labeling wines grown across the region (and not just in Langhe and Roero).

If approved, these would include, among other categories: wines made from only 85 percent Nebbiolo grapes; rosé from Nebbiolo; and even sweet and sparkling wines. (Source: Slow Wine.)

Piedmont’s Regional Commission will consider the proposed changes in an assembly in September.

Pointing to the creation of the Prosecco DOC in 2009, some industry observers fear that the creation of a Piemonte Nebbiolo DOC as proposed by the Asti Monferrato Consortium would lead to overly aggressive expansion of Nebbiolo plantings in the region and subsequent degradation of the Nebbiolo “brand.”

“We oppose this request,” said Produttori del Barbaresco cooperative director Aldo Vacca in an interview published by La Stampa last week. “Langhe Nebbiolo is the appellation that has seen the biggest growth in the entire region. It’s obvious that the big producers have caught a whiff of a good bargain. But if the goal is that of releasing great quantities of low-priced wines into the market, we run the risk of compromising the entire of balance of Nebbiolo” produced in Piedmont.

His concern was echoed by that of Pietro Ratti of Renato Ratti, a legacy producer of Barolo.

“Nobody wants to stop people from growing a successful variety like Nebbiolo,” he told La Stampa, “But it’s one thing to plant a grape variety and another to manage an appellation. Today, there’s no denying that the Piemonte appellation represents a second-tier category while Nebbiolo is a first-class wine. It’s a delicate issue because it affects the economy, the region, and consumer perceptions.”

Earthquake recovery in Italy: how to donate to the Italian Red Cross

earthquake amatriceAmmado is the official micro-donation platform for the Italian Red Cross.

Here’s the link for donations to the Italian Red Cross and earthquake relief efforts. Donations can be made using a credit card and don’t require an Italian social security number (Italian micro-donation channels require one).

Here’s a link to information on what the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is doing on the ground in central Italy to aid recovery.

I’m currently working on a couple of micro-donation campaigns here in Houston. More on those shortly…

Image via press_and_kitchen.

Earthquake in central Italy, 6.2 magnitude. Our hearts and prayers go out to our Italian sisters and brothers…

italy earthqake mapAbove: a 6.2 magnitude earthquake struck central Italy early this morning (image via the United States Geological Survey website).

Across social media this morning, I’ve been reading accounts of this morning’s devastating 6.2 magnitude earthquake in central Italy, which occurred at 3:36 a.m. local time.

The epicenter was 10 kilometers southeast of Norcia in Perugia province (Umbria).

But the most extensive damage seems to have occurred in small hill towns in Latium and the Marches. According to all reports I can find, Accumoli (Rieti province, Latium), Amatrice (Rieti), and Arquata del Tronto (Ascoli Piceno province, Marches) were among the hardest hit.

In a statement this morning, the mayor of Amatrice reported that the entire historic center was destroyed (New York Times).

Click here for La Repubblica coverage and images of the devastation. As of this posting, 63 lives have been claimed. Updated, Thursday, August 25: at least 241 lives have been claimed (La Repubblica).

From Rome to the Marches and even as far north as Parma, social media users I follow have been checking in and posting dispatches on relatives and friends living in the affected areas.

One of the most moving was by my friend Fabio Ciarla who lives and works in the wine industry outside of Rome.

“You wake up in the middle of nightmare and head back down the Via Salaria,” he wrote this morning, “the same road you would take when you were little with your family on a drive to Ascoli Piceno where [brother] Valentino studied enology. Not just through Amatrice but also towns like Posta, Sigillo, and Accumoli… Those were happy trips. Today it’s a Calvary.”*

Our hearts and prayers go out to our Italian sisters and brothers this morning. G-d bless them, G-d bless us all.

*Calvary: “the proper name of the place where Christ was crucified” (Oxford English Dictionary) and by extension a site of doom.

Wine & Spirits features 3 Houstonians (and I’m one of them)

What a thrill for me to be included among the “50 masters of place” in the current issue of Wine & Spirits magazine!

But it was an even greater thrill for me to learn that I was just one of three Houstonians whose expertise was featured in the book (as they say in magazine publishing parlance).

Wine educator, writer, and buyer at one of the biggest retailers in the country (Spec’s), Bear Dalton wrote about Bordeaux.

And Evan Turner, owner and wine director at Helen (one of the best restaurants in Houston and one of the most original wine lists in the country), wrote on Xinomavro, the great red variety of Greece.

Present company excepted, the Houston-based media continues to slog away and along on its quixotic quest to portray our city as a bunch of air-conditioned hillbillies living on a land-filled swamp.

In fact, Houston is one of the most intellectually vibrant and culturally rich cities in the world and our groovy wine scene is a reflection of that. Three out of fifty, ain’t bad, Mimi!

It was also a thrill to see so many of my good friends among the contributors: Alice, Brett, Elaine, Shelley, Ceri, Pascaline…

What did I write about? Friulian white blends, of course. Check it out on newsstands now!

wine and spirits masters place

Natural wine group VinNatur releases controversial farming and production guidelines (English-language version)

angiolino mauleAbove: Angiolino Maule, right, founder of the VinNatur association for natural wine and one of the world’s leading advocates for pesticide-free wines (photo by Alfonso Cevola).

“I was beginning to feel like a sheriff,” said Angiolino Maule, founder of the Italian natural wine advocacy group VinNatur, when I met with him at his winery earlier this year.

He was referring to his group’s monitoring for the presence of chemical residue in the soils of its members’ vineyards.

When we met and tasted together this spring, he told me that the group is working on a new method for monitoring the health and biodiversity of the soils. The new system, he said, won’t be based on laboratory analyses of soil samples. Instead, it will focus on the presence of insects and other animal life among the vines.

“If there are insects in the vineyards,” he said, “it means that pesticides are not present.”

Maule and VinNatur have not yet revealed the criteria for the new monitoring system. But in a press release issued last month, they announced that they are in the process of developing the new protocol together with government-sanctioned certification groups and the Italian Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

In the meantime, the group has published its new guidelines for the production of natural wines.

As the wine world continues to wrestle with the definition of natural wine, VinNatur has presented its new checklist of permitted and forbidden practices as a new benchmark in defining the category.

“Those who choose to drink natural wine,” write the authors of the press released issued by the group (English), “have the right to receive tangible guarantees on what they will find in the bottle. Declaring oneself to be a ‘natural winemaker’ is not enough — one must be truly aware of the great responsibility that there is regarding the health of enthusiasts and clients, and act accordingly.”

The new guidelines haven’t been met by cheers in all corners of the natural wine movement. And more than one detractor has pointed to the fact that other similar “guidelines” have been published in the past.

“Whatever certificate, little medals, or badges… no, thanks. I’m beautiful the way I am,” wrote natural winemaker Corrado Dottori in a blog post. “Making natural wine is not a question of procedures. It’s a state of mind. VinNatur has got it wrong. Fuck the police. You have betrayed the revolution” (translation mine).

In a blog post entitled “Bla bla … natural wine … bla bla,” natural winemaker Alessandro Dettori contends that the focus should be on “agriculture… terroir, and the artisanal character” of winemaking (translation mine).

Click here for the English-language version of the guidelines.

Click here for the English-language version of the press release.

Natural wine grows (up) in Texas (and Franciacorta in Portland, Oregon Sept. 12)

SAVE THE DATE: Franciacorta Real Story tasting in Portland, Oregon at Nostrana, Monday, September 12. Click here for more details.

lewis dickson wine cruz texasAbove: I’ve followed Lewis Dickson’s wines for many years now. They’ve always been wholesome, food-friendly, and tasty. But they have really come into focus in recent vintages (photo taken in Austin, Texas in 2014).

It must have been four years ago when one of my best friends from Italy, a winemaker, came to visit us in Austin where we were still living on the corner of Alegria and Gro[o]ver in Brentwood.

It was his first visit to Texas and he had expressed an interest in tasting Texan wine. And so I brought home a bottle of Lewis Dickson’s Cruz de Comal 2011 Pétard Blanc, made from Blanc du Bois grapes grown in the Texas Hill Country.

We opened another wine that night: a macerated and oxidative white from one of Italy’s most celebrated natural winemakers. It was from one of said winemaker’s most widely praised and coveted vintages.

Ever the stickler for “technically correct” wines free from defect or blemish, our friend from Italy turned up his nose at the macerated white from Italy and its volatile acidity and gladly drank the Blanc du Bois instead.

“Texas wine is great!” he declared gleefully.

black spanishAbove: Dickson’s Troubadour is made from 100 percent Black Spanish grapes. No one really knows the variety’s origins. Some believe it was developed in the New World, others contend that it came from France. Most agree that it was widely planted in Texas before the founding of the Republic of Texas in 1836. Its legacy here gives it gravitas as a “Texan” variety. Look it up under “Jacquez” in Wine Grapes (Vouillamoz et alia, Ecco).

I was reminded of that evening when I met Lewis Dickson (above) last night in Houston to taste the latest vintages of his Pétard Blanc made from 100 percent Blanc du Bois grapes and his Troubadour from 100 percent Black Spanish grapes.

His wines have always been very good (albeit expensive) in my experience. But with his most recent releases, as his growing practices and his winemaking talents have evolved, he’s really begun to wade into the pool of greatness with his wines.

The Pétard Blanc was the most focused and elegant expressions of the Blanc du Bois that he grows on his estate in the Texas Hill Country. Its delicate floral and white fruit nose gave way to a wonderful balance of citrus and stone fruit.

But it was his 2014 Troubadour, from Black Spanish, that really blew me away with its chewy red and red berry fruit and the nuanced depth of its tannic character. This is a big wine at 14.8 percent (in alcohol content) but I was thrilled by how lithely it danced in the mouth. A truly original, lip-smakcing and delicious wine with serious aging potential.

Tracie P and I have always rooted for Lewis and his wines, which he makes with the help of California legacy winemaker Tony Coturri, one of the pioneers of organic grape growing and natural winemaking in the U.S.

As Lewis puts it, he doesn’t add anything to his wines beyond the grapes that he grows without the use of pesticides or herbicides. And he doesn’t sulfur them at all — not even at bottling.

But as I watched and listened to him interact with the staff at the wine bar where we tasted last night, he never presented the wines as “natural” or “zero sulfur.” His growing and winemaking practices came up, yes, by the way, as he fielded questions about the wine. But “natural” or “zero sulfur” were never badges that he wore on his sleeve.

No, he let the wine speak before the labels. And those wines revealed that great wine is made in Texas.

Click here for a profile of Lewis that I wrote for the Houston Press back in 2012. The arc of his narrative may surprise some readers.