In all fairness to Gallo rosé…

You may remember my post from the other day, Rosé and just how far America has come.

In all fairness to Gallo rosé, I found the above Gallo spot from the 1950s. Pretty sexy, huh? I love it when the lady bites into the chicken as the dude is pouring the pink wine… (This video was posted the other day and I wonder how long it will take before Gallo yanks it.)

I’ll be tasting more than 40 pink wines tomorrow at the best little wine bar in Austin, Vino Vino, where they’ll be pouring more than 40 rosés at the 5th annual Pink Fest 2011.

Singing with David Garza for Japan tonight in Austin

The above photo is little bit blurry and it’s hard to make out what’s going on in it. But it’s one of my favorite photos of the year so far: me with one of my musical heroes, David Garza, in the studio recording the new Nous Non Plus record last month, snapped by Tracie P through the control room window.

David is one of the most remarkable singer-songwriters I have ever seen or heard and you can imagine how thrilled I was when he agreed to play on our album (which we started mixing in Los Angeles today, btw). And he’s a super sweet and generous dude…

That’s David wearing Céline Dijon’s hair, with me (Cal d’Hommage) and Jean-Luc Retard (on the right).

David’s going to be singing for Japan tonight at Vino Vino in Austin: there’s no cover and Jeff Courington, who owns and runs this awesome wine bar, is going to be donating 25% of sales to the Red Cross Fund for Victims of the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami.

Please join us if you can (I’ll be sitting in on a song or two and Tracie P will be there, too) and please remember our sisters and brothers in Japan.

Help Japan in Austin and hear me sing some Beatles songs

Word has it that I’ll be emceeing and even sitting in on a few Beatles songs with my friend David on April 25 in Austin… The below is from the Vino Vino blog… I hope you can join us…

“Japan Nuclear Disaster Put on Par With Chernobyl” is the headline in today’s yesterday’s New York Times. Victims of the recent tragedy in Japan need our help. Vino Vino is partnering with Austin music legend David Garza (above, photo by Dan Crane) to lend a helping hand from Austin, Texas.

Vino Vino Benefit for Japan Earthquake Relief
Monday, April 25, 2011
doors 5:30 p.m.
$5 door donation and 25% of sales
will go to the American Red Cross fund for victims
of the Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami

Musical host David Garza, plus musical guests to be announced.



Our night on the town with Lettie

One of the more remarkable things that happened between Christmas and New Year’s was our night on the town in Austin with Lettie Teague. Lettie was in Dallas celebrating the holiday with family when Nature, by means of the east coast blizzard, decided not to let her fly back to New York. So, she decided to hit the road and come visit us in Austin, where we took her to some of our favorite spots, like Fonda San Miguel, where we had some huitlacoche tamales (de rigueur). Oddly enough, they were out of our fav Tondonia Rosado by López de Heridia and so Lettie proposed that we drink Gimmonet Champagne instead. The pairing was BRILLIANT!

Later, we took her to another one of our favorite nightspots, Vino Vino, where Jeff disgorged some Puro for her.

And, of course, no night on the town with Tracie P and me is complete without some late-night honkytonking at Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon.

Lettie wrote about our evening here. And I don’t care how much ya’ll holler: I ain’t givin’ you the number to the speakeasy we visited! Ya’ll will just have to come down and pay us a proper visit if you want to check it out!

Txakolina, Txakolina, Txakolina!

Above, from left: Importer of Basque, Spanish, and French wines André Tamers, Vino Vino owner Jeff Courington, and Tracie P at a Txakolina tasting in Austin on Saturday.

When I moved back to California from New York, a lot of concerned friends asked me, “what will you blog about? what will drink in California?” When I decided to move to Texas nearly two years ago, people admonished: “there won’t be anything interesting for you to drink there!”

Above: My favorite in the flight was the Ameztoi Txakolina, so bright and fresh in the glass, with white fruit and spice on the nose and in the mouth. Low alcohol and gentle spritz. At under $20, the wine quickly shot up the charts to reach a top-five slot in my favorite wines of summer.

Well, folks, I’m here to tell you: I’m alive and well in Texas and drinking good juice!

Over the weekend, Tracie P and I attended a fantastic Txakolina tasting, hosted by André Tamers (the wine’s main proponent and Svengali in this country) and Jeff Courington, my client and friend, owner of the best little wine bar in Austin, Vino Vino.

Like manna from heaven, my sheer enjoyment of reading Eric the Red’s recent article on Txakolina was redoubled with a flight of the wines, poured personally for us by the dude who is making the synonymous Txakoli and Txakolina (pronounced CHAHK-oh-lee, CHAHK-oh-LEE-nah) household words here in the U.S.

Above: I also really loved this rosé by Gurrutxaga. It had a crazy spicy note on the nose and was wholly sexy in the mouth. A truly and utterly “original” wine on my palate.

The world of wine is encyclopedic in breadth and I am constantly reminded that, beyond my love affair with Italian wine, there are so many fantastic wines to learn about, to taste, to pair with… now, more than ever, thanks to small importers like André, who launched his company more than 10 years ago when he was living with his wife and painting (oil on canvas) in Spain.

Txakolina is a truly “original” wine, to borrow a phrase I once heard Angelo Gaja use in a speech. Like Nebbiolo from Langa or Chardonnay from Chablis, it could be made in no other place in the world. It tastes of the place where it is raised and the people who make it. (Again, please see Eric the Red’s recent article on Txakolina for a great profile of the region, the people, and the wines.)

Being the self-appointed philologist of the enoblogosphere, I couldn’t help but nose around the interwebs in a search for the meaning and origins of the name Txakoli (Chacoli in Spanish, also spelled Sakoli). The lemma txak seems to denote small or little from what I can find in Basque language dictionaries available online. The editors of the Diccionario vasco-español-francés (Alfred Mame et Fils, Tour, 2 vol., 1905-1906) often translate the term (which appears in numerous instances in the two tomes) as vinaza (Spanish) or petit vin (French), literally, little wine, akin to the Italian vinello, an easy-drinking, light-bodied wine. According to the dictionary, the term also is used to denote wine must used to obtain distillate.

Above: Tracie P and I munched down an entire plate of Chef Esteban’s excellent fresh Manchego, dressed with basil, roast peppers, and olive oil. A sublime pairing with the Txakolina.

Beyond the great music and people here, the Texan lifestyle and the fact that the love of my life loves this town, Austin is such a great city because it attracts some of the brightest and best people I’ve ever met. Txakolina is sold in 26 states. Texas is one of them. When I asked André why he flies here especially to attend the tasting (now in its second year), he told me “because Jeff [owner of the venue] is a friend.”

The whole world may be talking about the wines of the Basque country these days. But here in Austin, we’re drinking it!

The stars came out for Haiti last night at Vino Vino

jeremy parzen

Above: Let me tell you, Ray Benson is tall. As in TEXAS TALL! Photo by Tracie B.

Wow, what a night last night at Vino Vino in Austin, where some of the town’s top musicians donated their time to help raise money and awareness for Partners in Health and the Stand for Haiti project. Check out the highlights as photographed by Tracie B.

A heartfelt thanks to everyone who came out and put up with my Catskills jokes between sets and listened to me talk about why I think Partners in Health is such a great cause. The concept is simple: health care should be free for everyone. Sounds good, no?

Thanks to everyone who donated their time and to everyone who made a contribution. And thanks to all the folks who sent excellent wine my way! We raised a good chunk of money and most importantly we helped to raise awareness of how we can help.

In other news…

There was a lot of love last night in Austin but love has been reaching us from other parts of the world, too. Thanks to everyone for all the thoughts and wishes, emails, comments, and cards. They mean the world to us.

Do Bianchi also got a little blog love from a wonderful wine blog in the Netherlands, Ombre Rosse. The author, like me, is a Venetophile, hence the name ombre rosse. In Venice a glass of wine is called an ombra. In the not-so-distant olden days, you would meet some in the shadow (ombra) of the bell tower in Piazza San Marco in Venice, where the wine vendor would seek refuge from the sun. By metonym, the term came to mean a small glass of wine. Thanks for the shoutout, Pascal! How can do bianchi (two glasses of white) resist a blog named ombre rosse (two glasses of red)??!!

And in New Jersey, blogging colleague Sue Guerra, who’s also become a friend through our bloggy blog connection, wrote this wonderful tribute to the greatest pairing I’ve ever had to pleasure to know: me and Tracie B. ;-)

What an incredible week this has been! And we’re not even married yet!

Ray Benson and me “Stand for Haiti” tonight at Vino Vino

From the “shameless self-promotion” (and “after all, it’s for a good cause”) department…

I wasn’t allowed to announce this until now since it was “top secret” until this morning: Austin music legend Ray Benson (and one of my personal musical heroes) will be appearing tonight at the “Stand for Haiti” benefit at Vino Vino in Austin where I will be emceeing.

I cannot conceal that I am completely and utterly geeked and psyched to be sharing the stage with him and all the other great Austin musicians who are donating their time tonight to help out the folks in Haiti.

If you happen to be in town, Tracie B and I will be there from 6 p.m. onward ’til the end of the night.

The photo, left, is by Austin music photographer Ed Verosky, who generously donated rights to the photo to help us promote the event. Thanks, Ed!

Bea Santa Chiara 07, an orange wine couldn’t push back the crimson tide

Above: We toasted the Longhorns last night at Vino Vino with an orange wine, Paolo Bea 2007 Santa Chiara (since orange is the school’s color) but it didn’t help them push back the crimson tide.

Two years ago, if you would have told me that I’d be “double dating online,” I would have told you to go to quel paese, as they say in Italian. Yes, online double dating. That’s exactly what Tracie B and I did last night when we connected for wine and dinner with the couple behind the fantastic Austin food blog, Boots in the Oven, Rachel and Logan. We started following their blog a few months ago and an exchange of comments led to traded emails and the realization that we had a lot in common. The next thing you knew, we were double-dating! (It’s actually uncanny: Rachel and I were born in the exact same neighborhood in Chicago and practically went to the same Hebrew school, though she’s much younger than I; she did go to the same middle school my older brothers attended.)

Above: The owner of Vino Vino brought in a TV to watch the Texas-Alabama game last night and he debuted his “biergarten” menu. The kielbasa is made in-house and was finger-licking delicious.

We all met up last night at Vino Vino in Austin to watch the game together and check its new “biergarten” menu.

And then, as happy chance would have it, we ran into to couple Nat and Erin, who authors a hilarious but also insightful rant blog about working in the restaurant industry in Texas — To Serve Man (the title alone…).

Above: My eyes were bigger than my stomach and I just had to have the boneless, fried chicken thigh sandwich. Snackboy, I’ve got to take you here next time your in my town!

In honor of the orange-clad Longhorns, we opened a bottle of 2007 Santa Chiara by Paolo Bea, a blend of Grechetto, Malvasia, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Garganega (as per Jack’s post on the wine — you can find the blend on the label, btw). It’s an indisputable “orange wine,” a tannic white made from white grapes vinified with extended skin contact.

Man, I love this wine. It’s one of those if-I-could-afford-it-I’d-drink-it-every-day wines for me.

The first vintage I ever tasted was the 2005, which I really didn’t like. But the 2006 and 2007 (even better) are phenomenally good. When I tasted with him in April 2009 at Vini Veri, I asked Gianpiero Bea what changed between 05 and 06 and he told me that he hadn’t macerated with skins long enough in 05. From then on, he said, extended maceration has been employed. And wow, the results are fantastic — a tannic, mineral-driven wine, with rich dried fruit flavors (think apricot) and a rich orange marmelade note. N.B.: in my opinion, this wine should be served cellar temperature, not chilled. (Last night, we grabbed a bottle from the wall at Vino Vino and asked our server to bring over an ice bucket. We chilled it for just a few minutes and then served. It was perfect.)

Unfortunately, as good as the orange wine was, it didn’t help the Longhorns to push back the crimson tide.

In other news…

I was very proud to be included as a “wine influencer” in a Palate Press post entitled Thoughts on the New Year. Guess what I’m talking about: no, not wine. PASTRAMI!

Vino (Vino) and football

From the “just for fun” department…

Above: In Texas, they take their football seriously. That’s Tracie B’s cousin Grant at a recent Longhorns game. When he found out we were getting married, his father Terry, my favorite uncle-to-be, called and congratulated me and then politely requested, “but please don’t get married during the playoffs.” UT is playing Alabama in the championship tonight at the Rose Bowl.

I’m not exactly what you’d call a “jock.” Don’t get me wrong: I stay in shape and have long enjoyed the competitive sport otherwise known as “jogging.” All of my brothers were highly accomplished athletes in high school and beyond. But me? I got through my teenage years on good grades and playing guitar. Let’s just put it this way: Tracie B loves me for “my brain,” not my biceps. ;-)

Well, I live in Texas now: as Anne in Oxfordshire pointed out the other day, I “care about where the apostrophe is” but when in Rome…

Tracie B and I will be watching the game tonight at our favorite neighborhood wine bar, Vino Vino: I can’t think of any other city in the world where you could watch a college-football championship game and sip on a slightly sparkling Favorita (blended with a little bit of Moscato) from Piedmont with an alcohol content of around 11.5%. (It’s the Grangia by Tintero, one of our cannot-live-without wines.)

Vino and football! Who’d have ever thunk it?

In other news…

Photo by Benoit.

The squirrels are at it again. Click here to submit your nominations for the Squirrel Wine Blogging awards.

Kermit Lynch is coming to Austin and he’s bringing some damn good music with him…

Above: Tracie B and me met Kermit Lynch in real life for the first time in May in San Francisco. In case you don’t know, Tracie B would be the good-looking one on the right.

Like so many good things that have happened to me over the last year and a half thanks to the blog, I met Kermit Lynch back in April when he commented on my post Idol and Bandol. Who knew that Kermit read my blog?

We’ve stayed in touch since then and a few months ago he asked me if I’d give him a hand organizing a listening party for his new release on Dualtone, Man’s Temptation. Needless to say, I was thrilled to get to work with him, in part because I love his palate and have always been a fan, in part because I’ve been digging his new disk and have become a new fan, and dulcis in fundo it’s just so cool to get to work with a luminary in the biz who loves country music as much as Tracie B and me.

In our trans-Atlantic conversations (he in Provence, me in Austin), he told me about how he grew up in the San Joaquin Valley, the son of an itinerant evangelist. The Grapes of Wrath was the backdrop: the souls his father saved were the same southern farmers who came to California in search of Merle Haggard’s “California Cotton Fields,” one of my favorite Merle tunes and one that Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris both covered:

    My drifting memory goes back to the Spring of ’43
    When I was just a child in Mama’s arms
    My daddy ploughed the ground
    And prayed that someday he might leave
    This run down mortgaged Oklahoma farm

That’s some pretty serious country cred that Kermit’s got.

Here’s the info and the press release I composed to launch the event. I hope to see you there: if you’ve been planning a trip to Austin, this might be a fun time to make it out.

kermit_cover2Man’s Temptation: An Evening with Kermit Lynch

Monday, November 9 @ Vino Vino, Austin, Texas

listening party and wine tasting

singer, song-writer, and wine industry legend Kermit Lynch plays cuts from his new album Man’s Temptation (Dualtone) and talks about his music, his life, and his wines

Monday, November 9, 2009, 7 p.m.
$20 (ticket price includes 1 glass of wine)

Vino Vino
4119 Guadalupe St
Austin, TX 78751-4222
(512) 465-9282

with a menu inspired by the wines and travels of Kermit Lynch

All currently stocked Kermit Lynch wines will be available by the glass and available for sale retail.

Reservations required, space limited.

To reserve, please call (512) 465-9282 or email

Rocker Interrupted: Kermit Lynch finally yields to temptation

Singer-Songwriter Kermit Lynch releases Man’s Temptation (Dualtone), a collection of ballads, rockers, and ditties, spanning forty years of faith, temptation, and musical salvation (produced by Ricky Fataar).

The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.
—Oscar Wilde

From the opening lines of Man’s Temptation, singer-songwriter Kermit Lynch cinematically sets the backdrop for the multi-layers of his life as a singer, writer, and wine Svengali:

    Paris and my mind is breaking
    Paris, I’m in a railway station
    Gare de Lyon…

But just when you think that the gravelly, smoky voice behind the old tube-driven microphone is about to head out to Lyon to taste wines with a Beaujolais producer, the melody of the track rises and steers the listener in another and entirely unexpected direction. The singer is in a railway station,

    Gare de Lyon, on my way to the next concert stage.

Man’s Temptation was recorded just last year in Nashville, Tennessee with some of the great country music players in the business today but the album represents a journey that began more than forty years ago in Berkeley, California.

Lynch was born in Bakersfield and grew up of the son of a teetotalling itinerant preacher who traveled the upper reaches of the San Joaquin Valley in search of souls to save. The setting was straight out of Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, as Lynch puts it, and the souls were southerners who had fled their native land and sought out the same “California Cotton Fields” that Merle Haggard’s father dreamed of as he tilled his rundown, mortgaged Oklahoma farm. It was there that Lynch discovered his first love of music (and grape juice, since no wine was to be had): Jimmy Rogers, Hank Williams, and the country recordings of Jerry Lee Lewis were the first cuts he would hear, the same music his father’s congregants listened to when not singing at church.

By 1966, Lynch had landed in Berkeley, at the height of the music scene. He began writing songs, started a band, and gigged around. But a first trip to Europe and a drummer’s cocaine habit interrupted and deferred the rockstar dream. Disillusioned by the flower power scene, Lynch decided to focus on making a living and turned to a second passion: wine.

Hit pause and fast forward: forty years later, Kermit Lynch is one of the most successful and respected names in the business and he is considered one of the world’s greatest wine writers, a pioneer in reshaping the American wine palate with wines that speak of place and the people who make them.

Hit play: forty years later, Lynch has delivered the album he lived and wrote all those years ago and in the lifetime that followed, a collection of ballads, rockers, and ditties that speak to the weaknesses and the strengths of man and his temptations.

From the original tracks like ballad “Gare de Lyon,” the Beggars Banquet-inspired country waltz “Backstreets of Moscow,” and the rocker “Buckle-Up Boogie” to covers of classic Dylan like “Girl from the North Country” and classic country like “Take These Chains from My Heart,” the verve, pathos, and fun of Lynch’s voice play counterpoint to some of the most bad-assed, finger-lickin’ pickin’ you’ve heard since the last time legendary session man George Marinelli (Bruce Hornsby, Bonnie Raitt) tuned up his git fiddle. The fresh analog-driven tones of the band provide an earthy palate of colors for the tableaux vivants painted by Lynch, whose face is probably slightly less wrinkled than his heart and whose voice is as gravelly and dusty as the vineyard roads of southern France that led this voice astray some forty years ago.

Kermit Lynch, rocker interrupted, is now waiting at the Gare de Lyon, getting ready to board a train on his way to the next concert stage.

Btw, I’ve taken a train from the Gare de Lyon to go play a gig in Lyon!