Barolo, I’m still in love with you on this harvest moon

The world is such a grand, beautiful place, isn’t it? But it’s a small world after all…

Yesterday, trading emails about this and that, my friend Giuseppe Vaira of G.D. Vajra in Barolo sent me and McDuff this amazing photo of sunrise in Barolo (click image for full effect).

“Moon Nebbia Dawn on Bricco delle Viole. View of the western slope. October 5, 2010, 6:35 a.m., two days to the new moon.”

Barolo, I’m still in love with you… On this harvest moon…

Come a little bit closer
Hear what I have to say
Just like children sleepin’
We could dream this night away.

But there’s a full moon risin’
Let’s go dancin’ in the light
We know where the music’s playin’
Let’s go out and feel the night.

Because I’m still in love with you
I want to see you dance again
Because I’m still in love with you
On this harvest moon.

When we were strangers
I watched you from afar
When we were lovers
I loved you with all my heart.

But now it’s gettin’ late
And the moon is climbin’ high
I want to celebrate
See it shinin’ in your eye.

—”Harvest Moon,” Neil Young

Did I mention that Giuseppe’s Dolcetto d’Alba is mama Judy’s favorite wine?

The story behind Vajra’s Barolo Albe

Above: The good news is that it looks like Vajra’s wines will be coming to Texas soon.

So many questions, so little time…

When Mr. Franco Ziliani took Tracie P and me to taste with Aldo Vajra back in February at the winery, I neglected to ask Aldo what the “Albe” in his “Barolo Albe” denoted.

Luckily, we got a chance last week to sit down with Aldo’s son Giuseppe here in Austin. (I’d never met Giuseppe before but I felt like I knew him already: his face and his family were familiar to me, however virtually, through the excellent blog of David McDuff, whose palate and writing I admire immensely and whose taste in music and Nebbiolo are unsurpassed.)

The designation “Albe,” he explained, is simple: it’s the plural of the Italian alba, which in this context, means dawn.

“You see, our Barolo Albe is a traditional-style Barolo made from fruit sourced from three different vineyards,” Giuseppe told us, “Fossati, Le Coste, and La Volta. When the sun rises in the morning, it takes about 20 minutes for the sunlight [dawn] to reach each vineyard. So, there are three different albe [dawns].”

I’ve tasted the 2005 Barolo Albe by Vajra on three different occasions this year, and, man, it just keeps getting better and better. As much as I love their flagship Barolo — the single-vineyard Bricco delle Viole — it’s always the blended Barolo that keeps calling me back. At each occasion, I’ve found that signature freshness and drinkability that Vajra magically seems to capture in the bottle (a quality due, no doubt, to meticulous, gentle vineyard management and an honesty in the cellar).

@David, btw, would love to hear your recent notes on this wine.

Above: The Vajra family begin bottling the historic Baudana wines in 2009 with the 2005 vintage.

We also re-tasted the 2005 Barolo by Baudana, which the Vajra family began bottling for the iconic Langa family in 2009. I can’t say that I am a big fan of the 2005: its woody notes are a turn-off for me. Giuseppe did tell me that for the 2006 vintage, the barrique is toned down. And he added that we’ll see great things from these historic vineyards in vintages to follow (where he plays a greater role in the aging regimen).

As an indication of the greatness and potential of these historic vineyards in Serralunga (Baudana and Cerretta), Giuseppe also pointed to Mr. Franco Ziliani’s recent post on the 1982 Franco Fiorina Barolo, which was sourced in part from Baudana (I translated Mr. Ziliani’s post for VinoWire).

In all honesty, I’m not such a fan of the wine as it is right now. But I do believe that its future in the hands of Giuseppe and his father Aldo has immense potential to become one of the great icons of Langa. Stay tuned…

And let’s keep our fingers crossed that Vajra wines make it to Texas this fall! I don’t know how much longer Tracie P and I can survive without super-old-school Vajra Moscato d’Asti!

Thanks for reading!

The Do Bianchi Vajra Six-Pack is live!

I was able to secure a small allocation of Vajra wines to offer to my California wine club Do Bianchi Selections (click the link to view the offering). Tracie P and I dig these wines and I’m thrilled to be able to make them available to my subscribers. Wouldn’t you concur McDuff?

Vajra Wire! and killer wines I drank in San Diego

Wow, everybody was at Jaynes last night for our fantastic Piedmont tasting and a great tavolata afterward. That’s my super good buddy John Yelenosky, with his “Barolo King” t-shirt by Mouton Noir (John and his lovely wife Megan brought 2004 Asili by Produttori del Barbaresco. YES!). I’d like to thank everyone for coming out and taking the time to taste and chat with me about wines I truly love.

Above: 1999 Trebbiano d’Abruzzo by Valentini and scallop ceviche? Hell yeah!

Between me, Jon of Jaynes, and Whitney of Brunellos Have More Fun, nearly half of the Barbera 7 was also there! @Whitney so great to see you and get to taste together again!

I also wanted to thank my good friend Anthony Wilson, who made the trip down from Los Angeles to make the tasting. So good to hang with you, man. You make one Puro? Czak czak! ;-)

Above: My friend John Rikkers brought a magnum of 2006 single-vineyard Barbera Falletto by Giacosa… sheesh! good stuff…

I also wanted to thank everyone for all the thoughtful comments about yesterday’s Vajra post. If you have a Facebook, check out the comments I got over there: Roberto Paris, Ed McCarthy, David McDuff, Kyle Phllips, Colum Sheehan… wow, a heartfelt thanks to all of ya’ll for taking the time to read my posts and weighing in on Aldo’s remarkable Riesling. I felt like a celebrity with all this star-power! (Btw, if we’re not friends on Facebook, you can find me here.)

Above: Grand cru Chablis from 2002, anyone? Woooooooowwwww… THANK YOU ROBIN! :-)

I don’t really have time to post today and so my Italian fan, the one who expressed his “burning disappointment” that I haven’t finished posting on our February trip to Piedmont, will just have to wait.

Above: Top San Diego sommelier Brian Donegan is the KING of German Pinot Noir. Killer wine…

I’m going to be taking tomorrow off from blogging: tomorrow is the first day of the Passover and tonight we’re doing the seder at brother Micah’s house.

Above: Jayne let me try the new Pimm’s cup at Jaynes. Tennis, anyone?

So I’ll see you day after tomorrow. Thanks for reading in the meantime!

One note before I go… The 2005 Vajra Barolo Albe showed BEAUTIFULLY at the tasting yesterday. I noticed that a lot of folks have trouble pronouncing Vajra. It’s easy… It’s pronounced just like my middle name, Ira.

Hag sameach, ya’ll!

Is marijuana the new wine? and a little raw sausage porn teaser

Above: A little marijuana porn, anyone? Click here for the big kahuna over at the U.S. DEA website.

It’s hard to believe that this is happening in my lifetime but it’s true. I had to pull over to the side of the road the other as I was driving home and heard a radio story on American Public Media Marketplace: the spokesperson for NORMAL was talking about the recent initiative to legalize recreational marijuana use in California and — get this! — turn Humboldt and Mendocino into Napa Valley-inspired marijuana tourism destinations.

I’m certainly not the only or the first to write about this is in the enoblogosphere: check out this post by Wolfgang, who asks wryly, “have I smoked too much Cabernet?”

As I head out (tomorrow) to my homestate of California, to speak about Piedmontese wines at Jaynes Gastropub on Saturday Sunday and to celebrate the Passover with my family on Monday night, I have to admit that I never thought legalized pot would happen in my lifetime (even though pot is woven deeply into the cultural fabric of my beloved California). But is weed the new wine? Humboldt County tasting rooms? Unbelievable!

In other news…

Above: I love the raw pork sausage that you typically eat as an appetizer in Piedmont. You eat it just like that, completely raw. We were served this excellent victual when we dined in the home of Giovanna Rizzolio.

I been showered by numerous requests to hurry up and post about the amazing private tastings that were organized for Tracie P and me by venerable Italian wine pundit Mr. Franzo Ziliani in Barolo and Barbaresco during our February trip there. One zealous fan of my blog writes of his “burning disappointment” that I still haven’t posted on our tastings at Vajra, G. Rinaldi, G. Mascarello, and Cascina delle Rose, “our lady of the deaf river,” as I will call the inimitable Giovanna Rizzolio, producer of one of Mr. Ziliani’s favorite Barbarescos and his close friend.

Frankly, I’m flattered by all the messages I’ve received and I promise to devote next week’s posts to my notes and impressions of these amazing wines and the truly amazing people who make them. And I can only reiterate my heartfelt thanks to Mr. Ziliani, as I wrote on Valentine’s day, in a post published not long after Tracie P and I returned from Italy: noble is the host… (the line comes from a stanza of an ode by 18th-century Italian poet Parini that I translated and dedicated to Mr. Ziliani).

Taste Piedmont rocks with me on Sunday at Jaynes in San Diego

The first winery distinguished Italian wine writer Franco Ziliani took me and Tracie P to visit on our February trip to Piedmont was GD Vajra in Barolo. Winemaker Aldo Vajra (below) keeps these rocks (calcareous marl, above) on the windowsill of his tasting room to illustrate what gives great Barolo its structure and minerality.

On Sunday, I’ll be speaking about the wines of Piedmont at Jaynes Gastropub in San Diego, where we’ll be tasting Aldo’s excellent 2005 Barolo Albe.

Jaynes Gastropub
4677 30th Street
San Diego, CA
Sunday March 28

Call 619-563-1011 or Email Jaynes for reservations
Tickets will also be available at the door.

Piazza Colbert is the largest square in the tiny town of Barolo. “It’s kinda like the Oscars,” said Tracie P, as we waited there for the illustrious Mr. Ziliani to arrive in the piazza, scanning the names of the winemakers plastered to the homes and cellars around the square. “All the stars are here…” I’ll be giving my “Colbert report” on Sunday…

In the meantime, for a great profile of Vajra, check out McDuff’s posts (Vajra is to McDuff what Produttori del Barbaresco is to me). McDuff is a true friend…

Congratulations Eileen and Greg!

What a great wedding…

Eileen and Greg are a gorgeous couple and their wedding was an immensely joyous occasion. I have never seen so many people cry tears of happiness at a wedding ceremony (myself included!). Not a dry eye in the house!

The Vajra showed beautifully, too. The bartender told me she’d “never poured so much red wine at a wedding. Everyone loves it. What is it?” Great choice, Greg!

Greg’s been such a good friend to me and I love him a lot. It was SO MUCH FUN to join him on stage and do my toast. That’s Dan (aka Jean-Luc Retard, bass, Nous Non Plus) stage left.

jeremy parzen

We’re a little rough around the edges this morning but it was worth every moment… such a great feeling to celebrate a couple so in love…

CONGRATULATIONS EILEEN AND GREG! A great wedding, a great couple. We love you…

Happy Sunday ya’ll.

Stop the presses: one more sparkling recommendation from David McDuff

David McDuff’s Food and Wine Trail is a daily read over here at Do Bianchi: I’ve always admired David’s writing on Italian wine and I really love how he brings Italian wine into context, like this great post, “Eating Israeli, drinking Italian.”

I know he must have heard it a thousand times but indulge me: “Lay on, Macduff!”

A Do Bianchi Xmas

When Jeremy invited me to send along a note or two from the Xmas holiday season, I figured, “Sure thing!” I could just write up the Extra Brut Réserve Champagne from Bérèche et Fils, the one and only wine I savored with Christmas dinner. But nah, it’s the holidays and everyone else will write up Champagne. So how about some Italian sparklers? I could regale his readers with stories of how good the Prosecco Montello e Colli Asolani Extra Dry from Bele Casel was with my wife’s frittata (mushroom, sausage and sage) and homemade scones we served at our post-holiday brunch. Or of how well G.D. Vajra’s 2007 Moscato d’Asti worked with the cherry pie our friend baked and brought along. But nah, those are too obvious as well, too much in keeping with the Italianate leanings here at Do Bianchi.

Finally, I decided on bubbles of another kind entirely: beer. I picked up a case of Jolly Pumpkin’s “La Roja” around holiday time last year and it’s been a real pleasure to check in with a bottle periodically, to experience its evolution from sour, bright and funky early in the year to its current state—mellower, slightly less tangy and altogether refreshing. Perfect with a simple dinner of shrimp and chips after all the Christmas season feasting. Now if only I knew what I’ll be doing for New Year’s…

David McDuff