Alice Feiring joins us @SottoLA with Frank Cornelissen and Lou Amdur

From the department of “ubi maior minor cessat”…

Above: When ever Alice (foreground), Tracie P, and me get together, we always manage to cause trouble (just ask Alice; she’ll tell you!).

A few months ago, I was approached by one of the top wine distributors in California, Amy Atwood, who asked me if Sotto in Los Angeles (where I curate the wine list) would like to host a wine dinner with radical natural winemaker Frank Cornelissen, who raises wines on Mt. Etna (Sicily).

I was thrilled, of course, and I immediately reached out to Natural wine authority Lou Amdur, a Los Angeles icon in the field: to not have Lou at the event would have been nothing less than egregiously negligent.

And of course, my dream was to have Alice Feiring there as well: between her excellent blog and her two monographs on the subject, Alice is the Natural wine movement’s leading authority and its most sage voice. (And she’s also a dear, dear friend who has not only mentored me at different moments of my career but also helped me regain my footing in some of the darkest moments of my life.)

Well, folks, I’m here to tell you that dreams do come true.

We’ve hit the Natural wine trifecta: this week Alice agreed to attend our Cornelissen dinner at Sotto on November 11.

Click here for details. I hope to see you there: it should be a night to remember…

Frank Cornelissen @SottoLA November 11 with @LouAmdur

“Mt. Etna speaks through Frank Cornelissen.”
Alice Feiring, author of Naked Wine and The Battle for Wine and Love: How I Saved the World from Parkerization

“Naturalness is the road, not its end.”
—Frank Cornelissen

It’s official: I’ll be hosting a dinner for Etna winemaker Frank Cornelissen at Sotto in Los Angeles on Sunday November 11.

Click here for details.

Lou will be there, too!

Oblong Table & Bible Study w/ @LouAmdur @SottoLA Tues. Aug. 14

The “Oblong Table” series that we’ve been doing with Lou at Sotto has been so popular and so much fun that we’ve decided to do one more before fall.

Tuesday, August 14, Lou and I will be leading a guided tasting of some of our favorite Natural wines from Southern Italy (including the Fatalone, white and red, from Puglia).

At the July event, it was fascinating to hear Lou compare the current debate over Natural wine (and whether or not the category really exists) to the dietary laws in Leviticus.

It was such a brilliant analogy: the current dichotomy between the Natural wine purists, on the one hand, and their abjuration of the industrial complex, and the conventional winemakers, on the other, and their disdain for a category they believe doesn’t even exist, is nothing less than biblical in the breadth of acrimony it has generated.

In essence, the laws of kashrut divide the animal world into “clean” that you can consume and “unclean” that you cannot. During the conversation (and btw, it’s an informal setting where wine professionals and lovers chime in with observations and questions), it occurred to me that both parties in this logomachy (a fight over words more than wines) apply the terms clean and unclean. The Natural purists say the conventional winemakers’ wines are unclean because they’ve been manipulated with additives while the conventional winemakers say the Natural wines are unclean because they have unwanted bacteria and “off” aromas and flavors.

At one point, I brought up Eric the Red’s recent The New York Times article “Wines Worth a Taste, but Not the Vitriol” and the Italian authorities’ recent crackdown on the use of the term Natural in advertising.

“Is this a line in the sand?” I asked Lou. “Is this the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end?” I queried in chiasmus.

Lou’s answered simply that he didn’t care. Enjoying the aroma of the Cornelissen (arguably the most extreme expression of Natural wine today), he talked about how much he enjoyed the way was changing in the glass and how he would continue to call it Natural because it’s a term that captures the spirit of these wines (“like obscenity, I can’t tell you exactly what it is but I know it when I see it”). And he said that he agreed with our mutual friend Ceri Smith who recently proposed that the category be defined by “those winemakers who tell you what they put in the wine and those who don’t.”

The conversation at our Oblong Tables is always fascinating and you’ll always find some of the top wine professionals in LA there with us. I hope you can join us!

Here are event and reservation details.

Georgia P takes her first meeting (and so many great wines this week)

Georgia P took her first meeting at a major studio yesterday. That’s her on the backlot. As her manager (and a budding stage father), I can’t reveal which studio because we’re still in negotiations. But rest assured, her next project is going to be a blockbuster.

In other news…

I’ve tasted so many great wines this week in California and our event with Lou at Sotto last night was a blast (we’re planning to do another “oblong table” in August when I’m back).

I’ll be posting on the wines and the event as soon as I get a chance next week. Emidio Pepe 2003 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo was one of the highlights.

Stay tuned…

With @LouAmdur @SottoLA next week (and helping Italian earthquake victims)

Tracie P and I cried the day that Lou (above) announced the closing of Lou on Vine earlier this year.

Lou will be joining me (again) on Thursday, July 26 for tasting and conversation at Sotto where I curate the wine list (and Tracie P will be there, too).

Here are the details.

It should be a super fun night.

In other news…

The Non Ci Fermiamo (We’re Not Stopping) project came to my attention via Giovanni’s blog.

Based in the province of Mantua (Lombardy), in one of the areas most severely affected by recent earthquakes, the initiative seeks to connect donors with scores of families left homeless by the catastrophe.

As part of the campaign, the young people of the town Quistello (one of the worst hit) are also selling Mantuan foods like mostarda, local rice cultivars, and torta sbrisolana, the classic (and extremely delicious) almond cake.

Check out the site here.

Un naso straordinario (a date with Lou Amdur @SottoLA)

If you follow along here, Lou Amdur (above) needs no introduction. He’s one of the most beloved and respected professionals working in the wine world today. After closing Lou, his now legendary Natural wine bar in Los Angeles, he’s been taking time off to travel and do research before opening Lou 2.0. He’s currently visiting Sicily, including many of the wineries featured on our all-Southern Italian wine list at Sotto.

On June 21 (details below), he’ll be joining wine captain Rory and me for a guided tasting of Natural Southern Italian wines.

Seating is limited but it should be a super fun event…

Sicily, Italy’s Wild Frontier
a tasting with Lou Amdur
(formerly of Lou on Vine)
Sotto Wine Director Jeremy Parzen
& Sotto Wine Captain Rory Harrington
Thursday, June 21
7 p.m.
$40 per person (plus tax and gratuity)
limited availability

To reserve, please email General Manager Nastassia Johnson: Nastassia@SottoRestaurant.com

Please note that tickets are transferable but non-refundable.

Join Natural wine trailblazer Lou Amdur (formerly of Lou on Vine), Italian wine expert and Sotto wine director Jeremy Parzen, Ph.D., and Los Angeles restaurant veteran and Sotto wine captain Rory Harrington as they taste a flight of Natural wines from Sicily — including COS, Occhipinti, and Cornelissen — and discuss Lou’s recent trip to the island.

Lou Admur is one of the most beloved and celebrated figures on the Los Angeles wine scene today. He literally changed the way Angelenos understood wine when he opened the city’s first and only Natural wine bar six years ago. After closing the doors of his restaurant earlier this year, he has devoted his time to research and travel and will have recently returned from Sicily where he plans to visit Vittoria and Etna.

Carlo Ferrini and me (so many great wines & so little time)

Love him or hate him, legendary and often controversial Tuscan enologist Carlo Ferrini and I sat next to each other on the Sparkling Wine panel at the Viva Vino conference yesterday in Los Angeles.

We had a chance to speak for a few minutes before the panel and he was exceedingly forthright in his answers when asked about Montalcino, his association with Casanova di Neri, and what he considers his legacy and contribution to the history of Italian wine over the last few decades.

I don’t have time to post notes from our conversation today but will offer the following nugget.

When I asked how he feels about the fact that so many in Italy and beyond associate him with Merlot (many in the industry call him “Mr. Merlot,” using the English title mockingly), he said, quite frankly, “I don’t understand why people say that of me, when, in fact, it’s Cabernet [Sauvignon] that I like so much.”

I have to say that I admired his friendliness, style, and earnestness and I plan to visit with him this fall when Tracie P, Georgia P, and I head to Tuscany.

In other news…

It was a blast to connect with the newly formed consortium of Oslavia (Collio, Friuli) producers who visited Los Angeles for the conference and trade events (after stopping for two days in Vegas where they partied their asses off).

That’s Max Stefanelli of Terroni (kneeling, left) and his wife Francesca behind him with six of the seven producers from the village (can you guess the single producer who didn’t come? I’m buying a glass of wine tonight at Sotto for anyone who can!).

Here are the wines they poured for me and a handful of industry folks who attended a late night dinner and tasting at Terroni.

In other other news…

I connected yesterday with Lou (who needs no introduction here) and my new BFF Taylor Parsons, wine director at Osteria Mozza and Tuesday night I had dinner with Anthony and David at Mozza, where the conversation spanned an arc of Mel Brooks Hitler humor, the art of mixing (records), Anthony’s father’s incredible musical legacy (“he’s conducting better than ever at 93,” he said), burrata, anchovies, and Verdicchio.

So many great wine and so little time… So much more to tell but I have another slamming day and evening ahead of me here in Los Angeles.

If you happen to be in town, please come and see me at Sotto where I’ll be pouring wine on the floor from 6 until 9 or so…

We’re going to miss Lou on Vine

From the department of “Where do I begin? To tell the story of how great a love can be?”…

Above: Tracie P with Lou Amdur at a Kermit Lynch tasting back in May 2009 in San Francisco. Tracie and I had just been engaged.

It’s hard to explain the intrinsic role that Lou Amdur has played in our lives.

Lou and his Lou on Vine have been the backdrop for some of the most special moments of the last three years. It was the first place I took Tracie P (then B) when she visited me in California for the first time. It’s where I met Comrade Howard for the first time. It’s where Anthony and I would go nearly every week when I was living in Los Angeles. The first time I went there it was for a book reading by Alice.

Across the nation, from the New York Times to the Los Angeles Times, the wine world is reeling from the news that Lou is closing his amazing wine bar.

So many great wines tasted there. So many thrilling wine tales recounted. So many wine personages encountered.

But none greater than Lou, who could always — always! — surprise you with what he was pouring, a rare grape variety he was excited about, a biodynamic Pecorino that really turned him on…

I really liked this elegiac post by Cory (and recommend it). It reminded me of how Lou brought so many of us together — despite the vitriol that so often surfaces on the Natural wine scene.

He was our rabbi and Lou was his synagogue — a συναγωγή, a bringing together, etymologically speaking.

Where do I begin?
To tell the story of how great a love can be
The sweet love story that is older than the sea
The simple truth about the love he brings to me…

08 Cos Nero di Lupo: o my UNBELIEVABLE Nero d’Avola! (no one night stand)

In Los Angeles this week for a series of business meetings for a new and thrilling restaurant project (more on that later) and a working dinner with one of NN+’s (my band’s) agents… and NO trip to LA is complete without a visit to the BEST WINE BAR on the planet (IMHO): Lou on Vine (with AW, of course).

As always, Lou poured an incredible flight of wines for our tavolata… but the wine that simply annihilated me with its goodness was the 2008 Nero d’Avola “Nero di Lupo” (a toponymic designation), vinified in amphora and cement… and, in this case, open from the day before !!!… think blood sausage and sour cherries and volcanic rock in a glass… unbelievable wine… So fresh, so focused, and so beautiful in the glass… Highly, highly recommended and even better, Lou said, the day after… This is definitely a wine that “you call the next day, no one night stand…”

Lou is predominantly Francophile but Italy — and southern Italy in particular — is his mistress… We also drank…

So young but showing so gorgeously right now…

Can you hear the Stevie Wonder in your head?

And though you don’t believe that they do
They do come true
For did my dreams
Come true when I looked at you
And maybe too, if you would believe
You too might be
Overnoyed, over loved, over me

(How’s that for a pun, Thor?)

Lou called it “a little farty” at first and didn’t pour it until it had aerated for about an hour. It’s so hard to find Overnoy in this country and I was thrilled to get to taste the 07 (which we drank at the end of flight… a perfect closer…). I love the mouthfeel of these wines (at once light and heavy), with that nutty oxidative note balanced by apricot and honey… utterly delicious…

Rebbe Lou presides over what is IMHO the best wine program in the country. Perhaps a little radical for some but always right for me: thrilling, delicious, and always something I haven’t tried yet… If only we could clone Lou and have him open a Lou on Vine in every major American city… we’d have a brighter and stronger next generation of young wine professionals…

New west coast food and wine blogs for a new year

Breaking news: For all you wedding watchers out there, Tracie B has just posted on our wedding cake! Yes, WEDDING CAKE!

mozza

Above: While in Los Angeles in early December, I had lunch at Mozza with my friends Howard Rodman and Lou Amdur. Owner of my favorite natural wine bar, Lou has a wonderful food and wine blog (not so new), where he writes about his wine selection and whatever else makes him culinarily curious. Comrade Howard is my number 1 candidate for “someone who outta have a food and wine blog.”

The oughts are noughts and 2010 has arrived and at least a couple of friends of mine took time during the December wind-down to launch new food and wine blogs.

mozza

Above: For desert, Howard, Lou, and I shared olive oil ice cream. Penelope and Javier sat at the table next to us. I had no idea who they were (as I was hoping to run into Mel and Carl, who purportedly dine there and are a much more sexy couple!).

This month saw the launch of a food and wine (and music) blog by my friend Anthony Wilson (click on “blog” in the left-hand nav bar). You see, Anthony’s primary mission in life is not to be one of the greatest jazz guitar players of our time. His true calling is “to seek out — every day — fresh, delicious, typical food, prepared with love by like-minded obsessives, along with real, authentic, natural wine, served whenever possible in non-aristocratic, sometimes downright quirky, environments where it’s possible to roll up one’s sleeves and really get down to the business of eating and drinking.”

palate

Above: While in LA, I also dined at Palate (in Glendale), which, despite the swagger, is my favorite restaurant in the U.S. right now. I really dig their vintage decanters (we decanted a bottle of Domaine de Montille 2006 Pommard Les Rugiens, thank you very much).

I’m also excited about a new blog, Gourmale, authored by my bandmate and air guitar superstar, Dan Crane (aka Jean-Luc Retard, aka Björn Türoque). Dan’s well-earned nickname on the road is “Snackboy Jr.” or “Snack,” and the Nous Non Plus tour bus has often been forced to stop abruptly for “snack attacks.” Enough said… (now, if we could just get Dan to add a blogroll!).

palate

Above: At Palate, chef Octavio Becerra treated us to an amazing roast side of goat.

I’ve also been recently hipped to two very cool wine blogs by Los Angeles-based wine professionals, My Daily Wine by Amy Atwood, now at the top of my Google reader feed for news from the world of natural wine, and Brunellos Have More Fun, by Whitney Adams, whose mostly Italocentric blog I would read if only for the title! And lastly, but by no means least, my new guide to Bay Area restaurants is called Wine Book Girl, by my colleague UC Press publicist Amy Cleary.

In other news…

langhe

Above: A collaborative NYE meal, dill and chive roast potatoes (by Tracie B) and pan-roasted, boneless rib-eyes (by me). Langhe Nebbiolo 2008 by Produttori del Barbaresco and Beatles Anthology on DVD. Is this what heaven is like? ;-)

At the last minute, Tracie B and I decided to spend our New Year’s eve at home, alone, just the two of us. :-) We’ll have a lifetime of NYE celebrations ahead of us and so we thought we’d spend this last one, before we get married later this month, by ourselves.

Our bubbly beverage? A champagne of Champagnes (ha!): a bottle of Pierre Gimmonet Cuis 1er Cru Sans Année. We opened it at the beginning of the evening for an apertif and re-corked it. By the end of the night, it had opened up into a wonderful toastiness complemented by fresh white fruit and bright acidity. The perfect wine to pair with my true love’s sweet first kiss of the new year…

Happy 2010, everyone! So far, so good!