So I reached out to my friend and excellent producer of Morellino di Scansano Gianpaolo Paglia, who graciously agreed to video himself pronouncing the grape name. (You may remember Gianapolo for the excellent meal he and I shared last year in Maremma and for my posts about his decision to sell his barriques and his declaration that he would no longer age his wines in new small French oak cask; click here for the thread.)
I wouldn’t exactly call Gianpaolo the “Dustin Hoffman” of Italian wine but you will definitely walk away from this video knowing how to pronounce Ciliegiolo (not an easy one for Anglophones)!
In other news…
However jetlagged today, I managed to churn out a fun post this morning for the Houston Press on Lambrusco. My editor there has been very generous in letting me create my “wine as exegetic tool” posts (read “wine as a pretext and excuse to study culture”). Have you ever visited Emilia-Romagna? Then you’ll know what I’m talking about!
Brother Tad’s killer chili. “first batch was a little bland. Enhanced the recipe with some ortega chiles, green pepper, extra chili powder, a bay leaf, a little Cholula hot sauce and a little garlic. taste test is tomorrow. it is pretty good!”
Alfonso’s “Killer Lambrusco.” Hopefully Alfonso will start posting about his recent and most amazing trip to Emilia.
Above: Did I mention the girl can cook? Tracie B made chicken and dumplings last night for the whole B family. Photo by Rev. B.
In Emilia-Romagna they eat tortellini and cappelletti in brodo (filled pasta in capon broth). In Central Europe they eat knödel served in broth. At the Jewish deli, they serve kreplach in broth. And in the South, they make chicken and dumplings.
Above: Tracie B’s chicken and dumplings. I can only wonder what Dr. V’s user-generated content would have to say about this most impossible impossible wine pairings — chicken and dumplings. But, man, were they good! This and below photos by Tracie B.
By its very nature, broth is an inevitably impossible wine pairing: the temperature alone makes pairing like grabbing the moon with your teeth as the French say.
Heeding the adage by restaurateur giant Danny Meyer, if it grows with it, it goes with it, I should have paired Tracie B’s delectable dumplings with Lambrusco (my top pick would have been a Lambrusco di Sorbara). In Emilia, versatile Lambrusco is served throughout the meal, with the appetizer of affettati (sliced charcuterie), with the first course of tortellini in brodo, with the second course of bollito (boiled meats and sausage), and even with the dessert of Parmgiano Reggiano served in crumbly shards, perhaps topped with a drop of aceto balsamico tradizionale di Modena or di Reggio Emilia (none of that hokey, watery aromatic vinegar). Lambrusco would have been perfect here.
Above: Don’t try this at home. Frankly, the 2004 Barbaresco Pora by Produttori del Barbaresco is going through a nearly undrinkable stage in its evolution.
But as food writer Arthur Schwartz says of pizza, if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one your with.
Before heading to Orange for the Christmas holiday celebration with the B family, I had reached into our cellar and pulled out a bottle of 2004 Barbaresco Pora by Produttori del Barbaresco. Frankly, the wine was too tight, overwhelmingly tannic, and even though it opened up over the course of the evening, it’s going through a nearly undrinkable period in its evolution. But that’s part of my love affair with this winery: experiencing the wine and the different single-vineyard expressions at different points in its life. And there are more bottles of 04 Pora to be had in our cellar. We ended up lingering over wine, sipping it is a meditative wine as we retired to the living room and watched a movie together and munched on oatmeal cookies that Tracie B and Mrs. B had baked that afternoon.
Above: Nephew Tobey wasn’t concerned with wine pairing. But he sure loved him some chicken and dumplings!
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.”
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.
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! ;-)
Today is my mom’s birthday and so this post is dedicated to her. Last year, we held a special party for her in the La Jolla Cove Park but now that I’m living in Texas I can’t be there on her actual birthday and so I wrote a special arrangement of Happy Birthday and recorded it on my Mac using GarageBand and made a little slide show movie, with all of her children and grandchildren, including the newest arrival, little Oscar.
Mama Judy likes to drink wine when she throws her famous dinner parties. Like BrooklynGuy does for his parents, I keep her cellar (well, her closet actually) well stocked with good wine. Most recently, she’s been liking the Lini Lambrusco (the rosé in particular), Borgogno Barbera 2007, and her all-time favorite is probably the Chablisienne village Chablis.
I’ve been investigating the story behind the inexplicable Decanter post that appeared on Friday and I’ll hope to have some answers tomorrow. In the meantime, enough with this mishegas… it’s Sunday and time for something fun…
My work situation has changed recently (and happily) and I’m back to my life as an amanuensis of wine. One of my new clients takes me down to Driftwood, in the Texas Hill Country (about 23 miles southwest of Austin), where there are number of locally owned wineries. After a meeting the other day, I FINALLY ate at the famed Salt Lick.
Folks are pretty serious about their barbecue out here in Texas and the Salt Lick is widely considered one of the best.
I ordered the mixed plate (in the photo above) and frankly, I was a little disappointed with the brisket, which, as the smoke ring reveals, was evenly smoked but was dry and not tender. But the ribs were — hands down — among the best I’ve ever had and so was the sausage. The former, done in the Memphis style, basted with tangy barbecue sauce as it was smoked, fell apart on the bone. The latter was juicy and tender and the casing cracked deliciously.
I loved the German-style potato salad and the coleslaw was truly homemade, fresh and crunchy and not too saucy. But the thing that takes the Salt Lick from A to A+ was the setting (above), in the beautiful Texas Hill Country. Driftwood retains that western trail, cowboy feel, and the staff was informed friendly and gracious, making the Salt Lick a must-visit. They allow BYOB as well. Nebbiolo anyone? Or maybe some Lambrusco before the summer ends…
As much as I love what I do and as fortunate as I feel to work in wine and get to travel to Europe for work, a career in the wine business is not as glamorous as it may seem. When I go to Verona for the annual trade fairs, I get up very early and taste wine all day, running from one “stand” to another, trying to keep with appointments, hoping to see all the people I need to see. It’s exhausting and and by no means as fun as “getting to taste wine all day” may sound.
Above: There wasn’t enough sausage to go around at the dinner I attended on Sunday night in Breganze, near Vicenza in the Veneto. When it was served, they piled the other meats on top of it and all of the juices mingled to make a rich “tocio” (TOH-choh) or jus, as they say in the Veneto dialect. The grilled polenta sopped in the tocio was as good as it gets.
And the worst part is that I was a stone’s throw (an hour or so drive) from so many of my very best friends, like Steve and Sita and Gabriele (aka Elvis) in Padua, Stefano and Anna in Milan, and Corradino and Puddu in Bologna. But when I attend the fairs, I am bound to use my time there to taste as much wine as possible (taking notes on new vintages and learning about new labels) and talking and schmoozing with as many “suppliers” as possible.
Above: Roast guinea hens.
Another thing that really sucks is the food. There I was in Italy, one of the world’s greatest food destinations, and imprisoned in the trade fair grounds in Verona where the only chance for something good to eat is stopping by Alicia Lini’s stand for a snack of erbazzone and mortadella.
Most of the dinners you attend are held in cafeteria-style restaurants where you sit at long tables with sales reps and suppliers. For the most part, the conversation is boring, everyone is tired of tasting and running around, and all you want to do is to go back to your hotel room and crash.
Above: I sat with Chris and Cynde Gangi, a delightful couple who own and run Josephine’s in Frisco (Dallas), Texas.
The one good meal I had during the fair was a dinner I attended with Italian Wine Guy in Breganze near Vicenza. The Veneto is the Italian region to which I feel the greatest bond since I went to university there (Padua) and I spent three summers playing music there (Belluno). The menu that night included some of my favorite dishes, Veneto comfort food: baccalà mantecato (creamed salt cod, a classic Venetian dish); radicchio di Castelfranco (a type of red-spotted white leafy chicory, dressed with olive oil, salt, and a drop of traditional balsamic vinegar; Castelfranco is a town not far from where we were); homemade tagliatelle tossed with radicchio trevigiano sautéed with bits of prosciutto (radicchio trevigiano is a type of long-leaf, red chicory from Treviso, also not far from where we were); Bassano white aspargus risotto (it was white asparagus season in Bassano, also not far); grilled sausages and chicken thighs (bone-in), and roast guinea hens; and the best Veneto comfort food of all, grilled polenta.
It reminded me of a song that I love and used to sing many moons ago:
Se il mare fosse de tocio
e i monti de polenta
oh mamma che tociade,
polenta e baccalà.
Perché non m’ami più?
If the sea were made of gravy
and the mountains of polenta
oh mama, what sops!
polenta and baccalà.
Why don’t you love me anymore?
— from “La Mula de Parenzo,” traditional folksong of the Veneto and Friuli
The weather’s still cold here in Texas but folks are already beginning to hold their annual crawfish bolls (boll is Texan for boil). The crawfish boll is a true convivium, in the etymologic sense of the word, a “feasting together” or “living together.” Although the crawfish are sometimes served on trays after being bolled (boiled), most folks spread them out on a table over newspaper and everybody eats standing, shelling and sucking the crawfish communally. Yesterday, I attended my first crawfish boll ever at the invitation of my new friends, wine professionals Craig Collins and his lovely wife April.
Baby onions, whole bunches of garlic, mushrooms, corn, sausage, and spices are set to boil in a large pot. Then, the crawfish are dumped live into the cooking water. Crawfish or crayfish are also called “mud bugs,” said Tracie B.
They simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes. When asked if it was okay that the pots were boiling over, Chef Drew Curren said, “actually, it’s preferred.”
The crawfish are strained and then seasoned again with hot spice.
The crawfish are then distributed over newspaper (we finally found a good use for Dorothy and John’s article on money-saving wine list tips!). As in a bollito misto, the flavors of all the ingredients intermingle. As the crawfish cool, they purge their savory juice, which is sopped up by the baguettes. So tasty…
You twist the crawfish at the top of their tails. You suck the head and then peel the tail.
That’s April and Craig in the foreground, right. What an awesome way to spend an afternoon. Tracie B and I brought Camillo Donati Lambrusco, which showed beautifully with the spicy flavors of the boll.
The wine cowboy drank beer, the lady sipped Riesling.
Above: Alice F and Tracie B, two of my favorite ladies, and I went natural-winebar-hopping the other night in Paris.
If you ever get a chance to go natural-winebar-hopping in Paris — where many believe the winebar concept and the natural winebar were born — with the leading lady of natural wine writing, Alice Feiring, go for it. In perhaps the only city on earth where the maître d’s are ruder than the hosts at Babbo or Sparks Steakhouse, Alice your-table-is-waiting-right-this-way Feiring, Tracie B, and I ended up at Racines in the picturesque Passage des Panoramas at the end of the night a few weeks ago while we were in town for gigs with NN+.
Above: The first wine we drank at Racines was this entirely stinky, cloudy, dirty, oxidized Chenin Blanc by winemaker Eric Callcut, who calls it “The Picrate,” which I imagine is a reference to the picric acid. I imagine that picrate tastes like saltpeter since it is used in explosives but I didn’t get a gunpowdery note on this wine. Thoughts?
Between her popular blog Appellation Feiring and her wine-memoir/manifesto The Battle for Wine and Love or How I Saved the World from Parkerization, there is no denying that Alice is one of the wine writing world’s boldface names — whether you agree with her radical positions or you find yourself diametrically opposed to them (there’s really no middle ground with her, which is something we all love about her). But in Paris, she is considered a primissima donna and Tracie B and I were thrilled to be her companions: the toast of the Parisian natural wine circuit seemed to bow before her as if in audience with the queen.
Above: The charismatic owner, Pierre, already enjoyed quite a following even before Food & Wine called Racines “Paris’s hottest winebar.”
As it turns out, owner Pierre Jancou’s family is from Modena, where I taught for a summer many, many moons ago for U.C.L.A. When we discovered our Emilian connection, he insisted that we taste Donato Camilli Lambrusco, which was fantastic — bright with acidity but light in the mouth. Even though we savored the minerality in every last drop of the Chenin Blanc (The Picrate, above), we agreed that the Lambrusco was the wine of the night. (Franco, I know… I know… I’m the only dude who drinks Lambrusco in Paris. That’s HOW much I love Italian wine!)
Pierre is not the only one at his restaurant that speaks Italian with an Emilian accent. His charcuterie speaks Emilian dialect, too, and the lardo melted sumptuously in the mouth, with the natural fruit of the Lambrusco slicing through its liquid fat like a serrated ravioli cutter on a Sunday morning. I ate blood pudding (below) and beets as my main course (just to keep things light). Tracie B and Alice split the sole, which was also excellent if pricey.
Above: The artisanal and natural qualities of Pierre’s food really stood out in the blood pudding and beets. His radically natural ingredients brought a balance and lightness to a dish you would otherwise expect to be gut-splittingly heavy. I ate every last morsel.
For someone who once performed “One Night in Paris” at the Paris Paris nightclub in Paris (yes, it’s true), this was one night in Paris that I will never forget.
We’re on our way to sound check (and I’m running late, as usual) and I can’t wait to post about recent enogastronomic adventures. Last night, Tracie B, Alice, and I did drink this fantastic natural Lambrusco by Camillo Donati with Pierre at Racine.