Mad World 2000 Brunello

il poggione

Above: The 2000 Brunello di Montalcino by Il Poggione rocked my world last night at Jaynes Gastropub in San Diego.

It’s been a mad, mad week already, between travel, wedding planning, business meetings with a California client, and catching up with old friends.

Last night, to celebrate Jaynes Gastropub family-member Nicholas George’s successful level 2 sommelier certification exam, Jayne and Jon treated the extended-family crew assembled at the bar to a bottle of 2000 Brunello di Montalcino by one of my favorite (and one of Tom Hyland’s favorite) producers, Il Poggione. 2000 was such a warm vintage in Tuscany (and throughout Italy) and many of the wines have that stewed tomato thing going on. But not this bottling: it was powerfully tannic and it rocked with bright acidity and plum and cherry fruit. I’m sure that winemakers Fabrizio and his son Alessandro Bindocci would tell me that their higher elevation in Sant’Angelo in Colle and their 40-plus-year-old vines allowed them to make great wine in a not-so classic vintage.

Congratulations, Nicholas! Chapeau bas!

mad world

Above: The famous upright piano featured in my buddy Mike’s version of “Mad World.”

Earlier in the day, I took time out to catch up with my good friend Mike Andrews and to visit his studio in Glendale. He loves to tease me that I was voted “most likely to have a successful career in music” by our high school graduating class: since launching his career as a film composer in 1999, Mike has scored countless hit movies. Mike let me take the above photo of the piano he used on his 2003 British number-one-Christmas-hit single version of Tears for Fears’s “Mad World.” He swore me to secrecy: I cannot reveal the technique he used to achieve the instrument’s unique sound on the recording (and had to photograph it obliquely). But it was a thrill to feel its aura, as Walter Benjamin might have said.

Check it out… The opening lines still give me goosebumps!

Today is another mad schedule of work and travel… More later on the California adventures of Tracie B and Jeremy P. Stay tuned…

Celebratory 2001 Pora and Walter Benjamin: reunited with my library

“Unpacking My Library” is the title of one of Walter Benjamin’s most famous essays. On the surface, it is an entertaining essay about a harmless self-indulgence of one of Europe’s leading literary minds between the two world wars. But the underlying text is a study of the nature of book collecting and how our understanding of literature and culture is shaped through the very medium by which they are transmitted to us. Ecce textual bibliography and the study of how the medium (the signifier) affects the meaning (the signified).

Walter Benjamin famously “fished for pearls” in his legendary library. The depression that he suffered when he fled from the Nazis and was separated from his precious books is as tragic as his senseless death by suicide on the Spanish-French border in 1940 — a day away from freedom.

I’m no Walter Benjamin (by no means) and I am blessed to live in a time and place of relative prosperity and stability and freedom of thought and speech.

Yesterday, after two years of separation, Tracie B and I began unpacking my library after it arrived from my storage space in Manhattan here in my new home, Austin, Texas.

I cannot tell you my joy at being reunited with my Petrarchs, my Pasolinis, my Benjamins, my dictionaries (my Goldoni dictionary edited by Gianfranco Folena! my Cortelazzo etymologic dictionary!), and my countless tomes on food and wine.

There is so much information available today on the internet and the Google Library project is a promising if controversial initiative. But… books, books! Nothing can take the place of these glorious little information-delivery machines!

And the dulcis in fundo was a little sedicesimo of poems and songs on wine written in Neapolitan dialect. My lovely Tracie B curled up on the couch as I continued to unpack and read me sweet rhymes on wine with her soothing Neapolitan cadence. Today, she shared some of our Sunday afternoon with a translation of one of the poems on her blog.

To celebrate last night, we ordered pizza (please don’t tell Franco, but we were beat after a day of unpacking!) and drank a bottle of 2001 Barbaresco Pora by Produttori del Barbaresco (I picked it up for a song in a closeout sale here in Austin). The wine was rich and almost Barolo-like in its power, unusual for Pora which is generally softer and rounder among the Produttori del Barbaresco crus. The 2001 — a great vintage for this wine — is closing up right now and I’m putting my two remaining bottles away, to be revisited in a few years and maybe more.

Pondering my copy of Benjamin’s Reflections which now lives happily again on my desk, I couldn’t help but think of Pora and Barbaresco as a terroir and a text, a text delivered to our palates via the medium of Nebbiolo.

Tonight, I won’t bore Tracie B with my collection of essays on the history of punctuation or my introduction to old Occitan. She’s promised to make me something out of the cookbook by nineteenth-century Neapolitan noble Ippolito Cavalcanti! :-) Something having to do with escarole, eggs, and Parmigiano Reggiano… mmmmmmmm…

Happy Labor Day, y’all!