Singing with David Garza for Japan tonight in Austin

The above photo is little bit blurry and it’s hard to make out what’s going on in it. But it’s one of my favorite photos of the year so far: me with one of my musical heroes, David Garza, in the studio recording the new Nous Non Plus record last month, snapped by Tracie P through the control room window.

David is one of the most remarkable singer-songwriters I have ever seen or heard and you can imagine how thrilled I was when he agreed to play on our album (which we started mixing in Los Angeles today, btw). And he’s a super sweet and generous dude…

That’s David wearing Céline Dijon’s hair, with me (Cal d’Hommage) and Jean-Luc Retard (on the right).

David’s going to be singing for Japan tonight at Vino Vino in Austin: there’s no cover and Jeff Courington, who owns and runs this awesome wine bar, is going to be donating 25% of sales to the Red Cross Fund for Victims of the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami.

Please join us if you can (I’ll be sitting in on a song or two and Tracie P will be there, too) and please remember our sisters and brothers in Japan.

Our night on the town with Lettie

One of the more remarkable things that happened between Christmas and New Year’s was our night on the town in Austin with Lettie Teague. Lettie was in Dallas celebrating the holiday with family when Nature, by means of the east coast blizzard, decided not to let her fly back to New York. So, she decided to hit the road and come visit us in Austin, where we took her to some of our favorite spots, like Fonda San Miguel, where we had some huitlacoche tamales (de rigueur). Oddly enough, they were out of our fav Tondonia Rosado by López de Heridia and so Lettie proposed that we drink Gimmonet Champagne instead. The pairing was BRILLIANT!

Later, we took her to another one of our favorite nightspots, Vino Vino, where Jeff disgorged some Puro for her.

And, of course, no night on the town with Tracie P and me is complete without some late-night honkytonking at Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon.

Lettie wrote about our evening here. And I don’t care how much ya’ll holler: I ain’t givin’ you the number to the speakeasy we visited! Ya’ll will just have to come down and pay us a proper visit if you want to check it out!

Orange Macabeo and inky Sumoll from Spain and Alice Feiring bids Texas adieu

Above: My super good friend Joe Pat Clayton (right) was as geeked as me and Tracie P to taste natural Spanish wines last night with Alice Feiring (right).

Alice Feiring hit the Groover’s Paradise like a Texas tornado. The few days she spent her with us were filled with honkytonking, two-stepping, great parties and great friends and lovers of natural wine, and a superb fish dinner prepared by Chef Esteban Escobar paired with a flight of Spanish natural wines last night at Vino Vino (the best little wine bar in Texas).

The two wines that impressed me the most were the Laureano Serres 2009 Abeurador Macabeo (above, 100% Macabeo grown in clay soils, vinified with 2 days of skin contact, no added sulfite [note by importer José Pastor]) and the Els Jelipins 2004 Sumoll (Sumoll with a small amount of Garnacha, grown in clay and limestone soils, whole-cluster fermentation in open-topped barrels, no added sulfite).

The Macabeo was rich and unctuous, tannic and chewy in the mouth and unbelievably delicious.

The Jelipins 2004 Sumoll was mind-boggling good. Impenetrably inky and viscous on the palate, a stilnovo sonnet with alternating rhymes of earth and fruit.

Chef Esteban’s excellent cooking has been reaching new heights lately but last night he took it over the top (especially considering the Herculean effort necessary to create a wine dinner using only Kosher fish and vegetables).

Kim and SO Alfonso also came down from Dallas expressly for the event.

Above, from left: Alice, Lewis Dickson (Texas Hill Country natural winemaker), Tracie P, Jeff Courington (owner Vino Vino), and Russ Kane (author of Vintage Texas, the top Texas wine blog).

And so this morning we took Alice to the airport (she stayed with us, of course). It was a great visit and we were sad to see her go. She certainly made a profound impression on the Texans she met. And I’d like to think that they also impressed her with the Texas-sized welcome they gave her.

We’ll miss her but somehow I think she’ll back sooner than later. Once you’ve danced to the rhythms of Dale Watson at Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon, there’s no turning back…

Txakolina, Txakolina, Txakolina!

Above, from left: Importer of Basque, Spanish, and French wines André Tamers, Vino Vino owner Jeff Courington, and Tracie P at a Txakolina tasting in Austin on Saturday.

When I moved back to California from New York, a lot of concerned friends asked me, “what will you blog about? what will drink in California?” When I decided to move to Texas nearly two years ago, people admonished: “there won’t be anything interesting for you to drink there!”

Above: My favorite in the flight was the Ameztoi Txakolina, so bright and fresh in the glass, with white fruit and spice on the nose and in the mouth. Low alcohol and gentle spritz. At under $20, the wine quickly shot up the charts to reach a top-five slot in my favorite wines of summer.

Well, folks, I’m here to tell you: I’m alive and well in Texas and drinking good juice!

Over the weekend, Tracie P and I attended a fantastic Txakolina tasting, hosted by André Tamers (the wine’s main proponent and Svengali in this country) and Jeff Courington, my client and friend, owner of the best little wine bar in Austin, Vino Vino.

Like manna from heaven, my sheer enjoyment of reading Eric the Red’s recent article on Txakolina was redoubled with a flight of the wines, poured personally for us by the dude who is making the synonymous Txakoli and Txakolina (pronounced CHAHK-oh-lee, CHAHK-oh-LEE-nah) household words here in the U.S.

Above: I also really loved this rosé by Gurrutxaga. It had a crazy spicy note on the nose and was wholly sexy in the mouth. A truly and utterly “original” wine on my palate.

The world of wine is encyclopedic in breadth and I am constantly reminded that, beyond my love affair with Italian wine, there are so many fantastic wines to learn about, to taste, to pair with… now, more than ever, thanks to small importers like André, who launched his company more than 10 years ago when he was living with his wife and painting (oil on canvas) in Spain.

Txakolina is a truly “original” wine, to borrow a phrase I once heard Angelo Gaja use in a speech. Like Nebbiolo from Langa or Chardonnay from Chablis, it could be made in no other place in the world. It tastes of the place where it is raised and the people who make it. (Again, please see Eric the Red’s recent article on Txakolina for a great profile of the region, the people, and the wines.)

Being the self-appointed philologist of the enoblogosphere, I couldn’t help but nose around the interwebs in a search for the meaning and origins of the name Txakoli (Chacoli in Spanish, also spelled Sakoli). The lemma txak seems to denote small or little from what I can find in Basque language dictionaries available online. The editors of the Diccionario vasco-español-francés (Alfred Mame et Fils, Tour, 2 vol., 1905-1906) often translate the term (which appears in numerous instances in the two tomes) as vinaza (Spanish) or petit vin (French), literally, little wine, akin to the Italian vinello, an easy-drinking, light-bodied wine. According to the dictionary, the term also is used to denote wine must used to obtain distillate.

Above: Tracie P and I munched down an entire plate of Chef Esteban’s excellent fresh Manchego, dressed with basil, roast peppers, and olive oil. A sublime pairing with the Txakolina.

Beyond the great music and people here, the Texan lifestyle and the fact that the love of my life loves this town, Austin is such a great city because it attracts some of the brightest and best people I’ve ever met. Txakolina is sold in 26 states. Texas is one of them. When I asked André why he flies here especially to attend the tasting (now in its second year), he told me “because Jeff [owner of the venue] is a friend.”

The whole world may be talking about the wines of the Basque country these days. But here in Austin, we’re drinking it!