96 Gaja Conteisa wowed me, 99 Produttori del Barbaresco Asili humbled me (TY @KeeperColl)

Above: Some may be turned off by the oxidative quality of the Fiorano whites. I think they’re super groovy. This 1994 Sémillon was made when the old Prince Boncompagni was still on this earth. It had solid acidity and its dried stone fruit flavors and aromas were lively and rich.

One of the coolest things about what I do for a living is that collectors of Italian wine often invite me to taste their wines with them.

There is no one who does more to foster the Austin wine and food scene than the lovely Diane Dixon, whose Keeper Collection produces a series of events here each year, focusing on and featuring young sommeliers and chefs.

Above: Of all the Gaja wines from the 1990s, my favorite has always been the Conteisa, named after the “highly contested” (conteisa in Piedmontese) parcel where it is grown. There’s more Barbera in this wine than his other Langhe Nebbiolo (and unlike the more famous ones, it was never classified as Barbaresco). Great acidity, brilliant fruit.

She and her husband Earl are just really cool folks who recognize the importance of supporting our food and wine community.

On Friday night we convened at my favorite Austin wine bar where the owner graciously let Diane open a few bottles.

Above: Here’s my tasting note… !!!!! So youthful, so powerful, this wine is going through a “closed” period and while ungenerous with its fruit, it lavished my palate with its nobility and grace. I’m hoping Diane will let me taste it again in five years or so. What a stunning wine!

With every wine that was poured, Diane asked me to talk to our small group about each one. The story of the Prince Boncompagni and his moldy casks; Gaja and the reclassification of his Langhe wines at the end of the last century; Produttori del Barbaresco and how many Langaroli now call 1999 (and not 1996) the greatest vintage of the decade.

Somewhere between the Gaja and the Produttori del Barbaresco, I realized that Diane had thoughtfully created this flight just for me. It’s one of the coolest things about what I do for a living and it’s one of the coolest things about being part of the Austin wine and food scene.

Diane and Earl, what a thoughtful flight you put together for me! Thanks for everything you do for all of us…

Austin was buzzing last night… with food and wine… Chapeau bas Diane!

Above: The social media was orgiastic last night at Diane Dixon’s excellent Somms Under Fire event at the W Hotel in downtown Austin. That’s top Austin food blooger Miso Hungry (center) with her better half and photographer @HopSafari.

Not only is Diane Dixon one of sweetest and most generous souls I’ve met in the nearly three years I’ve lived in Texas, she is also the first lady of Texas food and wine. Her events — like the Somms Under Fire dinner and competition, held last night at the swank W Hotel in downtown Austin — bring together the best and the brightest of the Texas food and wine scene. They offer young food and wine professionals the chance to interact with top names in the field and they give the public an opportunity to meet food and wine celebrities and get a peek behind the scenes.

Above: Top Austin sommelier June Rodil took home yet another title last night. That’s her with presenter and local wine celebrity in his own right, Devon Broglie.

When I left New York City back in 2007 and then abandoned my beloved California in 2008 to come to Texas, many of my well-meaning friends expressed their concern: what will you drink?

Well, I’m here to tell you that we get some good vino out here in Texas, too!

My highlight was this 1996 Mongeard-Mugneret Grand Échezeaux that somehow made it to my table. Still very tight but what a thrill to drink a glass of that wine…

I was also geeked to see and taste the 08 Rosso di Montalcino by Il Poggione, which showed great last night… always a great value for real Sangiovese…

There were roughly 10 bottles of wine — samples from the competition — on each table of eight persons and even the VIP tickets for the four-course dinner were under $60! A pretty good value IMHO for the experience…

Chapeau bas, Diane, for another great event and for another chapter in your noble quest to inform the next generation of food and wine lovers in Texas! I enjoyed myself thoroughly…

And when I woke this morning to read that Esquire has called my friend and client Tony Vallone (Houston) one the top Italian restaurateurs in the U.S., I couldn’t help but think to myself, we’ve got a pretty good thing going down here in Texas, don’t we?

Vote for my sommelier

Above: Team blogger from left, “facilitweeter” Kay Marley-Dilworth, sommelier Jason Huerta, and photographer Aimee Wenske.

Contests are not really my thing. But when Austin food and wine patroness and lovely lady Diane Dixon asked me to participate in her food and wine pairing competition, “Wine Ride,” last Sunday, how could I say no?

Diane has done wonderful things for the Austin food and wine community and her events are always fun affairs where young food and wine professionals get to taste together and compare notes.

I was assigned to write a post about Dallas sommelier Jason Huerta. You can vote for him here and you can vote for my post here.

No matter what the outcome, the winners are the young food and wine professionals of Texas. Chapeau bas, Diane!