Natural wine and LSD

Yesterday, when Lewis Dickson poured me a glass of his recently bottled 2010 Du Petit Lait, a saignée of estate-grown Merlot and Black Spanish, I couldn’t help but be reminded what my friend downtown Michael told me the other day, as we sat in his office overlooking the San Diego Harbor and chatted about the vicissitudes of Natural wine.

“When you taste Natural wine,” he said, “it’s like you taste the fruit in technicolor.”

There was a pause. We looked at each and I think we both knew the thought that was going through the other’s mind.

“It’s like you’re high on LSD,” he said, beating me to the punch.

Here’s my tasting note for Lewis’s juicy, technicolor, and super delicious rosé:

Picture yourself in a boat on a river,
With tangerine trees and marmalade skies.
Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly,
A girl with kaleidoscope eyes.

Cellophane flowers of yellow and green,
Towering over your head.
Look for the girl with the sun in her eyes,
And she’s gone.

Lewis, who grows and makes Natural wine about an hour and a half’s drive south of where Tracie P and I live in Central Texas, had come to town to partake in Pink Fest 2011 (a rosé wine tasting at our fav local wine bar and my client Vino Vino) and he brought a bottle for us to taste with him. Lewis, the inimitable Bill Head , and I also really loved the Zoë rosé by Skouras (Greece), made from mostly Agiorgitiko with a smaller amount of Moschofilero.

Tasting Lewis’s rosé reminded me of those countless times that we’ve offered a glass of a Natural wine to someone who’s never tasted one before. It’s always followed by a wow, I’ve never tasted anything like that before, that’s DELICIOUS

As I headed back to my desk and the piles of work that awaited me on an otherwise gorgeous Saturday afternoon in Austin, I couldn’t help but ponder the notion that Natural wine may not be for everyone… Maybe it’s only for those of us who are ready to open their minds and walk through the the doors of perception

Buona domenica, yall!

This man can COOK! Dinner with Bill and Patricia

Photos by Tracie P.

Just had to share some images from last night’s dinner in the home of our good friends Patricia and Bill.

Tracie P and I met Bill last year at a Valpolicella tasting and we’ve been friends ever since. Dinner began last night with jumbo shrimp wrapped in bacon and grilled (below). Only after I recited Artusi’s open letter to meatloaf did Bill acquiesce and agree to let us try his meatloaf from the night before.

“Signor polpettone venite avanti, non vi peritate,” wrote Pellegrino Artusi in La scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiar bene (Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well, first published in 1881). “…lo so bene che siete modesto e umile…”

“Please step forward Signor Meatloaf and please don’t be shy… I know that you are modest and humble.”

He cubed it for us and we ate it cold. It was delicious.

It’s hard to describe how much sheer, pure fun we have when visiting with Patricia and Bill. Patricia is an interior designer by trade and their lovely Mediterranean-style home above Pease Park in Austin is a happy labyrinth of wonderful artifacts, paintings, and beautiful objects.

From his tales of working with the Israeli army to his anecdotes of Charlie Wilson and his time working in Washington, D.C., there’s never a dull moment in Bill’s presence. And the man can COOK. Bill made an unusual pasta shape, lanterne, dressed with a vodka-tomato sauce inspired by the Trattoria alla Vecchia Bettola in Florence. We paired with a bottle of 2008 SP68 by Occhipinti (which just came into the market here in Austin, available at the Austin Wine Merchant).

Next came involtini di vitello, veal rolls stuffed with mozzarella and accompanied by roast potatoes. We paired with a superb bottle of 2007 Bourgueil Cuvée Alouettes by Domaine de la Chanteleuserie (not sure where Bill picked that up, but I would imagine the Austin Wine Merchant). A supremely delicious pairing however you sliced it.

Customarily, one dines in the dining room when attending a dinner party chez Patricia and Bill. But on this special night it was just the four of us and so we ate in Tracie P’s favorite room in their house, the cappella. My lady loves her a turret!

Thanks again Patricia and Bill, for an excellent meal and a fantastic evening. We mustn’t let so much time pass between our visits again!

Amphora-aged Primitivo, pozoles and old Rioja, and a Texas wine I liked

Above: This week, Tracie B and I attended our first holiday party of the year at the home of Texas “natural treasure,” author, radio personality, blogger and all-around delightful host, Mary Gordon Spence.

Man, has it been a crazy week — between work, Tignanello triage, the new Amarone DOCG, and the holidays upon us!

Above: Everyone who knows me knows that I rarely eat sweets. But homemade flan? Mary Gordon found my weakness!

Tracie B and I are headed to La Jolla for the weekend, a good thing since snow is expected today in Central Texas!

I’m working on my “interesting wines coming out of Tuscany these days” post and I received a lot of great recommendations from a bunch of Italian wine professionals and bloggers. Thank you, all. I’ll post them next week.

Above: George O brought this bottle of what I’m guessing is a dried-grape red wine from the Texas Hill Country made by Tony Coturri at the La Cruz de Comal winery. It was a great pairing for the flan.

If you haven’t seen it already, please check out this wonderful post authored by Franco (and translated by yours truly) on the amphora wines made by Vittorio Pichierri in Sava (Manduria, Apulia). Amphora wine is all the rage these days. Gravner started making wine in amphora in the late 1990s? Pichierri has been aging his wines in interred amphora since the 1970s and beyond (he uses an ancient format called capasone).

Above: We were joined by the inimitable Bill Head, whose tall Texas tales alone are worth the price of admission (seated next to Tracie B), his lovely SO Patricia, and George O. Jackson (right), photographer and author of a photo collection I am dying to see, Essence of Mexico 1990-2002, images of folklore he captured traveling through rural Mexico.

Dinner at Mary Gordon’s was just the excuse I’d been waiting for to open some older López de Heredia that a client gave me. The 1990 Tondonia white was stunning, as was the 1991 Bosconia. We opened both bottles as we sat in Mary Gordon’s living room and munched on jícama and chips and salsa: I couldn’t help but think about how great these oxidative wines are with food. The 2000 Bosconia Reserva was great with Mary Gordon’s excellent pozoles.

The conversation turned from tales of larger-than-life Charlie Wilson from Bill’s years in Washington to Mary Gordon’s memories of working for President Lyndon B. Johnson, to George O’s adventures in rural Mexico. I spent the whole evening on the edge of my seat. Maybe it’s because I live here now but it always impresses me how Texas often finds itself at the center of the American collective consciousness and American iconography.

Thanks again, Mary Gordon, for such a wonderful evening! And happy holidays to all ya’ll!

Do Bianchi live at Austin360.com today

Above: Sunday evening found me and Tracie B tattered by the rain and mud at the Austin City Limits musical festival but warm and happy at the dinner table of the inimitable Bill Head — Austinite bon vivant and all-around good fellow. Bill made a wonderful ragù alla bolognese and so I brought along a bottle of Lini Lambrusco (in this case, Lambrusco di Sorbara). As restaurateur Danny Meyer likes to say, “if it grows with it, it goes with it.”

If you happen to find yourself near a computer this afternoon at 3 p.m. (Texas time), please check out a live chat that I will be doing today with Austin American-Statesman social columnist Michael Barnes at Out and About (Austin360.com).

Above: We were also joined Sunday night by Austin natural treasure Mary Gordon Spence (to Bill’s left), writer, humorist, and radio personality, who had many wonderful tales to tell of her recent trip to Italy, and University of Texas professor of government David Edwards.

We’ll be chatting about the series of classes on Italian wine I’m teaching every Tuesday at The Austin Wine Merchant beginning this evening.

Tonight’s class is sold out and the others are filling up quickly but there is still some space available. My favorite session is Italian Wine and Civilization (Tuesday, November 10), where we read a passage from Italian literature or history, and then taste a wine in some way pertinent to the text. Did you know that Niccolò Machiavelli was a winemaker, for example?

In other news…

Tracie B and I braved the rain and mud at this year’s Austin City Limits festival on Sunday. We didn’t stay long but did get to catch the B52s’s set, which couldn’t be anything other than super fun, and we also enjoyed super-shiny sisters-and-brother bluegrass/country act Jypsi (below). Jypsi was a little slick for my taste but man can they play!

Just over a year ago, I came to Austin for the second time to visit with Tracie B. Do you remember? Here’s a little post from the archive. We recreated the Austin City Limits photo op this year, except for this time sans mustache! ;-)