Zombies and 1988 Quintarelli Bianco Amabile

From the department of “unabashed umami blogging”…

Tracie B and I stopped by the Highball last night for an aperitif before the zombies closed up the bowling alley/bar/restaurant/karaoke club for their zombie party. 2009 seems to be the year of the zombie, doesn’t it?

Our friends Juliet and Michael Housewright had invited us to tag along to a Halloween party in the home of some collector friends of theirs. A lot of great wine was opened, some lovely older Gigondas and vintage Gimonnet in magnum, but the wine that blew me away was a Quintarelli 1988 Bianco Amabile.

Tracie B and I have become somewhat obsessed with the show True Blood (Juliet came dressed as Sookie, complete with a Merlotte’s t-shirt!). Between all this talk of zombies and vampires, I’ve been thinking a lot about the living dead and how we talk about the “life” of a wine and how we say a wine “has life” or “is dead” in the glass.

I’ve had the good fortune to taste a lot of Quintarelli over the years, in Italy and here in the U.S., but I’d never tasted his Bianco Amabile. This wine is a trace, a clue to the past, an almost forgotten oxidative style of winemaking that was intended to give the fruit of the vine remarkable longevity. I couldn’t help but think of the Romans’s love of dried-grape wine and their high regard for grapes that could stand up to long-term aging. Valpolicella, where this wine was made, and Soave were known for their production of fine dried-grape wine, acinatius, in antiquity. The wine was very much alive in the glass, a marriage of nutty overtones and apricot and caramel flavors.

I was certainly feeling very much alive last night with the lovely Tracie B on my arm: I revived my deceased character from my faux French rock days, Cal d’Hommage, pencil-thin mustache and all. And Tracie B was my number one groupie!

Thanks for reading, ya’ll. I hope everyone had a fun and safe Halloween! Tracie B and I are off to pick out some dishware… :-)

A bratty sparkling Barbera for the summer of 09

Above: The inimitable Michael Housewright (right) with his Italian business partner Antonello Losito. Michael’s new wine bar and shop Block 7 in Houston is on the cutting edge of wine sales and marketing and has already proved a success in highly competitive market.

This dude knows what he’s doing. Michael Housewright’s aggressive pricing at the newly opened Block 7 in Houston is like nothing I’ve ever seen. Every bottle on his list can be ordered by the glass (at market price), by the bottle (at a competitive retail price), or by the case (with case discount) in which case you can open a bottle and drink it in the restaurant/wine bar.

Above: 07 Barbera Vivace (i.e., slightly sparkling) by Roagna Igino (not the other Roagna, producer of old-school Nebbiolo) is competing with Bisson Ciliegiolo as my official favorite wine of the summer of 09.

When Tracie B, her childhood friend Talina, and I dined there the other night, Michael turned me on to a vivace (i.e., slightly sparkling) Barbera by Clò di Roagna Igino. The proprietary name birichina means brat in Italian, in other words, someone who is excessively vivace. Served slightly chilled, the acidity and fruit in this wine was awesome with my burger and fries. We also shared a bottle of Produttori del Barbaresco 2005 Barbaresco with another party: the price was too alluring to resist.

In other news…

Budweiser (well actually Shiner Bock) instead of Barbera tomorrow night: I’m playing my first Austin gig tomorrow at the Broken Spoke with this guy. Not exactly the summer of 1969 (more like the summer of 2009) but I’m stoked to break out my Tele at the Spoke.