Per Bacco! The virtual sommelier

Last night found Mr. Bianchi on the floor of Jaynes Gastropub in San Diego, where I’ve been working as a sommelier on Friday and Saturday nights (we’ve been having a lot of fun with the wine program down there). During service, I received a text from a college friend, Beth, who was dining at Perbacco* in San Francisco with her boyfriend (they live in Santa Barbara): “What wine should we order?” I slipped into the back office, went online, and within moments was viewing the wine list. I’ve never dined at Perbacco, but I have to say I was impressed with the carta dei vini, both for its breadth and the reasonable prices. There were a number of excellent options. Massolino 1998 Barolo Rionda (left, photographed by Beth using her phone), I wrote back, “have the sommelier taste it for you and then have her/him decant it.” It was a romantic getaway for them and they wanted to drink something memorable. At 10:50, she texted me back: “Loved it!” 1998 is one of those “sleeper” vintages, often overshadowed by 97 (overrated but very good), 96 (one of the greatest in recent memory for Langa, still too tight for their palates), and 99 (also a classic Langa vintage). 98s can drink really well right now and so I knew with a little aeration Beth and her beau would dig it (and I wanted the onus of tasting the wine to lie on a sommelier since she is a wine lover, not a pro). Gauging from their list, I’m sure that the somms at Perbacco are top-flight folks. But wouldn’t it be cool if everyone could text a “virtual sommelier” from their table and get a personalized wine recommendation? Hhhhmmm…

*Perbacco! or per Bacco! is a euphemistic blasphemy, for Bacchus’ [sake]!, akin to our for goodness’ sake! It’s used to express surprise or wonderment. Vietti makes a Langhe Nebbiolo called Perbacco. It’s a declassified Barolo, winemaker Luca Currado told me. He uses it as a “loss leader,” a wine that he can sell at a lower price point to turn people on to his brand. The 2004 was insanely good and the 05 — on the list at Jaynes — is also showing really well right and represents one of the best values on any wine list.

Aspen revisited: it’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it.

It wasn’t easy and frankly, I’m not sure how I survived the harrowing ordeal: please click here to read my “notes from the road” (PDF), tales from my Aspen trip published this month in The Tasting Panel.

I met restaurateur Brian Duncan in New York last year but I had never heard him speak. He really brought the house down with his “Wines that Love Food” seminar. And 1988 Massolino Barolo Margheria? Simply and awesomely unforgettable…