Alice Feiring joins us @SottoLA with Frank Cornelissen and Lou Amdur

From the department of “ubi maior minor cessat”…

Above: When ever Alice (foreground), Tracie P, and me get together, we always manage to cause trouble (just ask Alice; she’ll tell you!).

A few months ago, I was approached by one of the top wine distributors in California, Amy Atwood, who asked me if Sotto in Los Angeles (where I curate the wine list) would like to host a wine dinner with radical natural winemaker Frank Cornelissen, who raises wines on Mt. Etna (Sicily).

I was thrilled, of course, and I immediately reached out to Natural wine authority Lou Amdur, a Los Angeles icon in the field: to not have Lou at the event would have been nothing less than egregiously negligent.

And of course, my dream was to have Alice Feiring there as well: between her excellent blog and her two monographs on the subject, Alice is the Natural wine movement’s leading authority and its most sage voice. (And she’s also a dear, dear friend who has not only mentored me at different moments of my career but also helped me regain my footing in some of the darkest moments of my life.)

Well, folks, I’m here to tell you that dreams do come true.

We’ve hit the Natural wine trifecta: this week Alice agreed to attend our Cornelissen dinner at Sotto on November 11.

Click here for details. I hope to see you there: it should be a night to remember…

Do Bianchi Hippie Wine Six-Pack LIVE at 2Bianchi Selections!

Above: Savio, Ottavio, Alessandro, and Alessandra (first names only, please) of the Valli Unite cooperative and agriturismo in Piedmont.

There are so many great wines from Italy available today in the U.S. Nearly every week I taste with this or that importer or distributor and discover a wine that I didn’t know about. Such was the case when I tasted a few weeks ago with my friend Amy Atwood in Los Angeles, who always has killer wines in her bag. She turned me on to a biodynamic cooperative — a hippie commune, really — called Valli Unite. Here’s how the Valli Unite (united valleys) describe themselves:

    Nestled high up in the hills surrounded by green and fruit bearing trees, fields of vines and fruits, a center village consists of a cluster of stone and brick buildings covered with green — this is home base for 25 people who live and work together. Food, wine and labor is divided equally. Each has his/her own role, working the land, tending to the animals or cooking in the kitchen to sustain an alternative lifestyle that was originally designed by Ottavio as a way for himself a few other local farmers to survive in an industrializing world. After 30 years of commitment to the land, nature, and one another — Valli Unite is going strong…

And when you taste their wines, you taste the freshness and purity of fruit that only chemical-free winemaking (freed of the yoke of industrial winemaking) can deliver.


New west coast food and wine blogs for a new year

Breaking news: For all you wedding watchers out there, Tracie B has just posted on our wedding cake! Yes, WEDDING CAKE!


Above: While in Los Angeles in early December, I had lunch at Mozza with my friends Howard Rodman and Lou Amdur. Owner of my favorite natural wine bar, Lou has a wonderful food and wine blog (not so new), where he writes about his wine selection and whatever else makes him culinarily curious. Comrade Howard is my number 1 candidate for “someone who outta have a food and wine blog.”

The oughts are noughts and 2010 has arrived and at least a couple of friends of mine took time during the December wind-down to launch new food and wine blogs.


Above: For desert, Howard, Lou, and I shared olive oil ice cream. Penelope and Javier sat at the table next to us. I had no idea who they were (as I was hoping to run into Mel and Carl, who purportedly dine there and are a much more sexy couple!).

This month saw the launch of a food and wine (and music) blog by my friend Anthony Wilson (click on “blog” in the left-hand nav bar). You see, Anthony’s primary mission in life is not to be one of the greatest jazz guitar players of our time. His true calling is “to seek out — every day — fresh, delicious, typical food, prepared with love by like-minded obsessives, along with real, authentic, natural wine, served whenever possible in non-aristocratic, sometimes downright quirky, environments where it’s possible to roll up one’s sleeves and really get down to the business of eating and drinking.”


Above: While in LA, I also dined at Palate (in Glendale), which, despite the swagger, is my favorite restaurant in the U.S. right now. I really dig their vintage decanters (we decanted a bottle of Domaine de Montille 2006 Pommard Les Rugiens, thank you very much).

I’m also excited about a new blog, Gourmale, authored by my bandmate and air guitar superstar, Dan Crane (aka Jean-Luc Retard, aka Björn Türoque). Dan’s well-earned nickname on the road is “Snackboy Jr.” or “Snack,” and the Nous Non Plus tour bus has often been forced to stop abruptly for “snack attacks.” Enough said… (now, if we could just get Dan to add a blogroll!).


Above: At Palate, chef Octavio Becerra treated us to an amazing roast side of goat.

I’ve also been recently hipped to two very cool wine blogs by Los Angeles-based wine professionals, My Daily Wine by Amy Atwood, now at the top of my Google reader feed for news from the world of natural wine, and Brunellos Have More Fun, by Whitney Adams, whose mostly Italocentric blog I would read if only for the title! And lastly, but by no means least, my new guide to Bay Area restaurants is called Wine Book Girl, by my colleague UC Press publicist Amy Cleary.

In other news…


Above: A collaborative NYE meal, dill and chive roast potatoes (by Tracie B) and pan-roasted, boneless rib-eyes (by me). Langhe Nebbiolo 2008 by Produttori del Barbaresco and Beatles Anthology on DVD. Is this what heaven is like? ;-)

At the last minute, Tracie B and I decided to spend our New Year’s eve at home, alone, just the two of us. :-) We’ll have a lifetime of NYE celebrations ahead of us and so we thought we’d spend this last one, before we get married later this month, by ourselves.

Our bubbly beverage? A champagne of Champagnes (ha!): a bottle of Pierre Gimmonet Cuis 1er Cru Sans Année. We opened it at the beginning of the evening for an apertif and re-corked it. By the end of the night, it had opened up into a wonderful toastiness complemented by fresh white fruit and bright acidity. The perfect wine to pair with my true love’s sweet first kiss of the new year…

Happy 2010, everyone! So far, so good!