An Italian honky tonks in Austin (Ginny’s and Junior Brown)

honky-tonk: A tawdry drinking-saloon, dance-hall, or gambling-house; a cheap night-club (Oxford English Dictionary).

No visit to Austin would be complete without a beer (or two) at Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon.

To quote Giovanni (above), who’s making his first visit to the River City this week, “I love this cross-section of American culture.”

Well, I’m here to tell you folks: here in Austin, we don’t call it “culture.”

We don’t call it “country music” either. We just call it music. ;)

Next stop was the Continental Club to catch a set by Austin’s own Junior Brown, one of the most dynamic and thrilling guitar players I’ve ever seen. Remember Junior and wife Tanya Rae in this GAP commercial?

Happy Monday yall!

Sneaking Saignée de Sorbée into the best little honkytonk in Texas

From the “it sure is good to be back in Texas” department…

ginny's little longhorn

Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon (Austin, Texas) was literally overflowing with bodies yesterday for Chicken Shit Bingo and Dale Watson.

ginny's dogs

Folks were there for the music, the bingo, and of course, the free chili dogs — “Ginny Dogs” as the song goes.

We like to sit out back, where folks gather round in lawn chairs and listen to the music through speakers Ginny’s got out there.

Alfonso and SO Kim were in town and so we snuck the most amazing bottle of Champagne into Ginny’s (given to us for our wedding by one of the nicest people I know in the wine business, Scott. Thanks again, man! You R O C K!): the Saignée de Sorbée by Vouette et Sorbée, “one of the most original wines in all of Champagne,” to borrow a phrase from one of the leading Champagne writers on our planet.

Jeremy Parzen

You’re not supposed to bring wines to Ginny’s but Ginny has a soft spot for Tracie P (it’s not hard to understand why!).

The Saignée de Sorbée may not be for everyone, but, man, it is simply so unbelievably good. So drinkable, so gorgeously fruity (think boysenberry), with alcohol, gentle tannin, and food-friendly acidity singing in four-part harmony like an old-fashioned love song. Please read Peter’s exquisite write-up of this wine. We had the 2006 (“R06”), disgorged in February 2009.

Back at the ranch, Tracie P whipped up some bucatini with tuna bottarga that Alfonso brought back from his recent, amazing trip to Sicily.

Life certainly could be worse… It sure is good to be back in Texas…

A new Paolo Bea is born!

and I mean that quite literally…

giampiero bea

At last night’s sold-out Paolo Bea dinner at Catalan in Houston (with more than 50 lucky souls in attendance), Giampiero Bea shared a photo of his six-month-old son Paolo using his mobile device. However natural the wines, when the winemaker is on the road, away from his newborn, technology sure is good for something, ain’t it? ;-)

Mazel tov to Giampiero and his family!

I’m also on the road today and so am posting in a hurry today but I had a fascinating conversation with Giampiero last night over dinner. You might be surprised by what he had to say about the role of technology in the production of natural wine. Stay tuned…

And this just in from the semiotics department…

A wine label is a text.

I was thrilled with the response to yesterday’s post on Italian winery designations. Thank you, everyone, for reading and sharing. I plan to expand the post, using the many queries and suggestions I received. Next week I’ll also try to do an initial post on vineyard designations and their meanings (bricco, surì, ronco, vigneto, vigna, et cetera), dialectal and otherwise.

And lastly, just had to share this…

Jeremy Parzen

Tracie P and I caught Jim Stringer’s set at Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon in Austin on Tuesday night. Man, that cat can sure play him some geetar.

Endless Valentine (and more notes from Giacosa on their way)

The Endless Valentine: Tracie P (née B) and I still feel like we’re in a dream. Ever since our wedding day, it seems like everywhere we go, someone wishes us well for our marriage or makes something special just for us, like this heart-shaped desert that Francarlo Negro served us just last week at his Cantina del Rondò in Neive (a stone’s throw from Barbaresco). Remember him? He was the author of “The Smell of Money Guides the Evolution of Taste,” which I translated here before leaving for Italy a few weeks ago.

For Valentine’s Day yesterday (our first as a married couple!), we decided to go to one of our favorite spots here in Austin, Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon.

Man, Dale Watson and the Lone Stars were on fire yesterday. Sunday is chicken shit bingo day at Ginny’s and the place was packed!

It was our first time going out since we’ve returned from our honeymoon and our first time “on the town” as a married couple. Ginny was so sweet and insisted that our money was no good at Ginny’s. Lonestar beer never tasted so good…

An Austin honkytonk, chicken shit bingo, and chili dogs (above) are a far cry from the sunsets of Tuscany, the Langa hills of Piedmont, and the Vatican museum in Rome where we were just a few days ago. But, man, it sure feels good to be home with my beautiful bride. The endless Valentine makes it feel like the honeymoon hasn’t ended…

In other news…

It’s been a busy Monday morning over here at Do Bianchi Editorial: I just spoke to Giacosa enologist Giorgio Lavagna and I’ll be posting answers to Ken Vastola’s questions regarding my previous Giacosa post tomorrow.

Stay tuned (and thanks for reading!)…

How her life Italian became mine (and our very first wine)

Above: The first wine we ever tasted together was Moncontour sparkling Vouvray. Tracie B had a bottle waiting for me in my hotel room the first time I came to Austin to visit. “Champagne,” I said. “No,” she corrected me. “It’s Vouvray.” I guess you could say that she had me at “hello.”

Stranger things have happened. When I got on a plane to come visit Tracie B in Austin, Texas in August last year, she and I weren’t strangers but we had never met in person nor had we ever spoken on the phone. We had been emailing probably ten times a day since our first exchange on July 15, the day after my birthday, one year ago today.

Above: This photo was taken the second time I visited and the first time we went to my now favorite (and Tracie B’s all-time favorite) Austin honky tonk, Ginny’s Little Longhorn. I was most definitely in the “pesce lesso” or “boiled fish” stage, as Franco used to tease me happily. That’s an Italian expression for “you’re so in love that the expression on your face looks like that of a boiled fish” (more or less). Franco’s family agreed with his assessment.

When my beautiful Tracie B and I became friends on Facebook a year ago today and began emailing and messaging furiously, I had known of her existence for some time: I had learned about her blog in early 2008 when I read her comments at Italian Wine Guy’s blog and started reading about “her life Italian.” IWG (aka Alfonso) and I had become friends through blogging, as had he and Tracie B. I really liked her “sassy” comments, as she likes to say, and when I started reading her blog, I was immediately enchanted by her honest writing style, with its Texan- and Neapolitan-inflected twang, and her funny insights into her life as an “ex pat” in Italy. But what impressed me the most was her sharp palate and her immense talent for describing wine. I was already a fan, but from a distance.

Above: In October, I surprised Tracie B for her birthday with Willie Nelson tickets. Back then, we had a long-distance relationship and I would come to visit with her in Austin about once a month. We hadn’t started talking yet about me moving here but the Texas flag in the background was a certain sign of things to come!

After Tracie B and I had been emailing, Facebooking, and otherwise messaging for about a month, IWG serendipitously suggested that I come out for Tex Som, the annual Texas sommelier conference, held in Austin last year (this year in Dallas). I couldn’t make it on those dates and so I asked Tracie B if I could come visit her anyway. She said yes and so the San Diego Kid booked himself a room at a B&B not far from where she lives.

Above: That’s us on New Year’s 2009 in Austin, just a few weeks after I drove out to Texas in my beat-up old Volvo from San Diego where I had been living.

We never spoke in realtime or in real life until that very first day she came to pick me up at the Austin airport back in August. In the months that followed, I must have come to visit Tracie B three or four times. In a lot of ways, our courtship was very old-fashioned: we would write each other every day, describing our daily lives and our lives past and our hoped-for lives future. I would send her mixed CDs of my favorite music, mostly country, and lots of dedications of songs that expressed what I was feeling for her.

Above: In February, Tracie B accompanied me on tour in France with my band Nous Non Plus. We had one of the most memorable meals of my life, lunch at the Tour d’Argent. It was a beautiful, clear winter day in Paris and I’ll never forget the way the sunlight shone on Tracie B’s face, reflecting up from the Seine.

In November, Tracie B made her first trip westward, to see where I lived and to meet my family and friends. By then, we were already deeply connected and the pangs of love that came with every goodbye were too much to bear and it was during her visit that we first talked about me moving to Austin. Later that month, I met her family for the first time when Tracie B took me home with her for Thanksgiving in Orange, Texas where she grew up.

Above: In March, Tracie B surprised me with Merle Haggard tickets. We’re both huge country music fans. That night was one of the most fun ever.

You see, when I met Tracie B, my whole life changed (you may remember the post I did, not too long ago, Just some of the reasons I’m so smitten). I’ll never forget when I first told Jayne and Jon about Tracie B and how I was going to visit her for the first time. “She’s an amazing writer,” I told them, “she loves food and wine, she has a fantastic palate, she loves country music, she’s beautiful, and she can cook like nobody’s business…” And Jon turned me and said, “AND she can speak Italian?” (Sometimes Tracie B and I speak in Italian, her with her Neapolitan accent, me with my Veneto accent! It’s hilarious.) By December, we had decided that I would move to Austin and I packed up my car and headed east and rented myself an apartment here. It was the smartest thing I have ever done (not that I am known for doing smart things).

Above: In April we went to the Texas Hill Country Food and Wine festival gala in Austin. I don’t know how a guy could be prouder than having a beautiful lady like Tracie B on his arm.

You see, Tracie B is simply the most lovely creature on this God’s earth that I have ever seen. And her cover-girl beauty is matched by the immense generosity of her heart and her bright spirit. Through her love and her affection, her devotion and her tenderness she has brought once unimaginable joy in to my life. I’ve fallen madly in love with her and just can’t imagine my life without her. She is my “Phantom of Delight”:

A perfect Woman, nobly planned,
To warm, to comfort, and command;
And yet a Spirit still, and bright,
With something of angelic light.

And so her life Italian has become mine.

Above: In May, I gave Tracie B this 1930s diamond and blue sapphire ring and asked her if she would marry me and she said yes! We are getting married in January 2010 in La Jolla and then we’re going to celebrate with friends and family at Jaynes Gastropub. I would venture to say that we’ll probably blog it, too! ;-)

When people ask us how we met, we tell them the story of how we learned of each other’s existence through our blogs and then were introduced online by a mutual and virtual friend whom we had both met through blogging. We courted, sending each other secret messages through our blog posts: remember the kiss I blew from the stage in Germany last September? Sometimes, on Saturday and Sunday mornings, we sit around her living room drinking coffee, blogging and reading blogs, sending each other messages on Facebook and emailing each other. Ours is a bloggy blog world and we love it.

It’s our life Italian now and I love her. I love her thoroughly, completely, absolutely, immeasurably, undeniably, undyingly, ceaselessly, tirelessly, unflaggingly… I thank goodness for the day I started my blog way back in 2006, just to keep a journal of good things I drank and ate. Blogging has delivered more rewards — personally and professionally — than I could have ever imagined. (Click here to read her version of our story).

Coda: We’ll be serving that same sparkling Vouvray by Moncontour to our wedding guests as they arrive next January.


She Was a Phantom of Delight
—William Wordsworth

She was a phantom of delight
When first she gleamed upon my sight;
A lovely Apparition, sent
To be a moment’s ornament;
Her eyes as stars of Twilight fair;
Like Twilight’s, too, her dusky hair;
But all things else about her drawn
From May-time and the cheerful Dawn;
A dancing Shape, an Image gay,
To haunt, to startle, and way-lay.

I saw her upon a nearer view,
A Spirit, yet a Woman too!
Her household motions light and free,
And steps of virgin liberty;
A countenance in which did meet
Sweet records, promises as sweet;
A Creature not too bright or good
For human nature’s daily food;
For transient sorrows, simple wiles,
Praise, blame, love, kisses, tears and smiles.

And now I see with eye serene
The very pulse of the machine;
A Being breathing thoughtful breath,
A Traveler between life and death;
The reason firm, the temperate will,
Endurance, foresight, strength, and skill;
A perfect Woman, nobly planned,
To warm, to comfort, and command;
And yet a Spirit still, and bright,
With something of angelic light.

An Apulian winemaker and a chicken cross a road…

On Sunday evening, following the Texas Hill Country Food and Wine Festival, where Tracie B and I had a blast tasting, schmoozing, and pouring wines, we took our friend Paolo Cantele to our FAVORITE Austin honky tonk, Ginny’s Little Longhorn (above), where we played chicken sh*& bingo.

Check out this fun post I did over at the blog to which I contribute for Mosaic Wine Group.*

* Warning: contains graphic image!

What to serve with home-smoked ribs in Austin TX? Produttori del Barbaresco, what else?

Above: what else would I pair with home-smoked ribs? 2004 Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco (classico), of course. I’ve tasted this wine a number of times since I first tasted it in NYC at a Vias portfolio tasting with Alfonso, Alice, and winemaker Aldo Vacca early last year. Over the last few months, it’s been in what I call a “state of grace”: a period of sensational drinkability before it shuts down again for the long-term. The bottle we opened on Sunday night in Austin showed signs of tightening up again but was delicious nonetheless.

Italian wine bloggers — me, Tracie B., Alfonso, and Wolfgang — converged on Austin last weekend for the Austin City Limits music festival and some general honky-tonking.

My festival highlight was Erykah Badu: man, that lady is one bad-assed mother… (and I mean that on multiple levels: played an amazing show, rocked a great percussion solo on with her digi trigger, and how many months pregnant is she?). We watched her set with my friend, roomate, and licensing agent Michael Nieves. He and I raised a beer to toast the phat placement he did for our song Fille Atomique on Gossip Girl on Monday.

Alfonso, Tracie B., and I were the guests at the home of Misti and Nathan, Tracie B.’s good friends. Nathan smoked pork ribs — one rack with a spicy rub, one with a bbq sauce finish, and one plain. He began smoking them in the morning, keeping them at about 200° F. all day long, using chips from old whiskey barrels (Franco would agree with me that this would be an excellent use for barriques! Nathan said, however, he prefers pecan). Misti made steamed corn with jalapeño rounds and a great potato salad (with olive oil instead of mayonnaise). Lena and Dean were there, too. Nathan’s a pretty mean guitar player and so we traded some riffs and played Beatles and Bruce Springsteen into the night (on the ladies’ request).

Above: what do Italian wine bloggers drink when they get together? Mexican beer, of course! Wolfgang and Alfonso at Güero’s Taco Bar in Austin. I wasn’t sure about getting fish tacos in a land-locked taco joint so I went with the roast pork, which was very good, but the sides were just so-so. The salsa bar was excellent if meager and I love the way they serve the beer with small, old-school glasses, like the ones you find in Mexico.

Above: Tracie B. at Ginny’s Little Longhorn, my new all-time favorite honky tonk. The night we were there, the caliber of the playing just made me want to go sell my geetar at a pawn shop. Tracie B. moved back to Austin earlier this year from Ischia where she wrote her fantastic blog, My Life Italian, about Italian food and wine and the life of a Texana in Campania, Italy. She’s a little shy on camera but, man, that girl’s got the prettiest eyes this Italian wine blogger’s ever seen!


Post scriptum

Strappo and Marco: we missed you at the Italian wine blogger summit, Austin, 2008 edition.