Sunday, August 20, 2017

Making Wine Your #Life - And Making It Matter

We are now officially in the post-ferragosto dog days of summer. The kind of days where, if you walk outside to get the paper or the mail or jog around the block, when you come back inside you are soaked to the bone – and not cold soaked. A warm, mushy, oatmeal kind of smotheriness that doesn’t abate for several hours. There are reasons why grapes do not grow so well here in North Texas.

What does grow well, though, is the wine community. In the past week, 1,000 or so have braved the heat of North Texas to witness, during a long (ponte de ferragosto) weekend, a full-immersion of wine!wine!!wine!!! at Texsom 2017. Texsom has become a Big Thing, now entering the terrible teen years from its natural birth in 2005. There are many interpretations as to how it got here from there, but the reality is that there are hundreds of people who come to the event, and there are hundreds more waiting to get into the event. It is three days of critical mass, an introvert’s dread, an extrovert’s frat party, and for the rest of the folks, a time to soak up all they can about wine, reading about it, tasting and drinking it, rubbing shoulders with masters (and not just the ones with the letters after their name) and gazing into the light of aspiration. A dream, perchance to become someone who can make wine a Big Thing in their life.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Sunset Somm – Tinkering Forever with Chance

“Start as a dishwasher. Become a salesman. Exit as an accountant. Sunset as ambassador. QED” – Joseph Spellman, M.S.

I read the quote above, from a most distinguished Silverback in the wine/sommelier world, and experienced déjà vécu. No, it wasn’t an allergic reaction to some Grands Vins sans sulfite or the newest, petulant Pét-Nat. It was the mirror of time – sans Dorian Gray. And it was strikingly accurate. So many of us, who started out in the wine trade, took this path. The progression was very much like a well-executed double play, performed, once-upon-a-time, on a field of dreams. Loving wine, selling wine, mastering wine. Tinker to Evers to Chance.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Reflections on (almost) turning 50 – it’s the little things

Festina Lente
Steadfast upon this sweltering little orb in the universe, moving at 1,000 miles per hour, rotating around a sun at 67,000 miles per hour, in a solar system that is moving at 500,000 miles per hour, and in a galaxy that is barreling at 1.3 million miles per hour, one can't help but wonder what's the big dust-up over turning 50. 50 years is infinitely less in magnitude than a quark or an elementary boson. But it seems significant to humans here on an Earth propelled with an unthinkable velocity from the Big-Bang, billions and billions of years ago.

And so it was, one cool evening in the Pacific Northwest in July, surrounded by towering fir trees and observed by a family of Cooper’s Hawks, that we celebrated the almost 50-year-old’s life and death.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

An Encounter in the Bardo - The Mentor and the Longtimer

Ex ante

Walking along a hiking path, on the edge of the continent and from the neighboring country to the south, the longtimer came upon a narrow valley. The temperature was a cool 66° F. The breeze blowing from the straits that separated the two countries was refreshing but brisk. The glen offered a perfect lull from the rigors of hiking and the possibility of a little, stolen nap. After all, the old hand had worked many years and this was kind of a vacation. It would also be a point of reckoning.

Once ensconced upon a picnic blanket, and after a light meal and a sip of fresh rosé wine, he slumbered. And the dream came. And inside the dream the messenger appeared. And as with all messengers, there was a dispatch. It was meant to review the old timer’s working life, this life in wine, and deeper inside the world of Italian wine than all the other wines. And as it was a dream, there would be no escape, until all the material had been transmitted. It was more like a Grand Jury.

The courier took the form of a mentor, long gone, but one who had a similar trajectory, only the generation before. So, while it was meant to be unfiltered, it wasn’t unkind. But it was frank, this review of one’s life in work.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Insights into Life and Wine ~ While Hiking Among the Old Growths

There’s a bit of the old Zen when walking among the ancient living ones on our continent in the Pacific Northwest. One is that we humans, as old as we can get, aren’t always the oldest ones in the room. Something has lived longer, experienced more of life, and even though they might not be able to out-and-out talk to us, they speak. Oh, do they speak.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Gone Fission...



Going off the grid for a week. Nothing's wrong, just need to step away from the world and dip my pole in cooler waters - the rods have heated up and we're approaching critical mass.

...on vacation - back soon



wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Back to the Basics in Basilicata

Americans still want to go to Italy – in fact more of them are going than ever before. And so I have been getting more than my share of queries from fellow travelers about what to see when they go to Italy. In most cases they are making the grand circle – Rome, Venice, Florence, maybe with Pisa thrown in, and if they are really packing every moment of their week (yes, 7 days!) with non-stop tourism, even the Amalfi Coast. Try as I do to encourage the hopeful visitors to pare down their stop to two (or one) I am usually not so successful. So, please feel free to cram it all in, with 90°+ F weather, and with all of the thousands of other folks, walking the hot, humid, streets of Rome, traversing the steamy, crowded alleys of Venice and enduring the long lines of Florence. After all, when you are finished, you will be rewarded with a hair-raising bus ride along the Amalfi Coast and deposited in an overpriced hotel room next to a window overlooking a fetid dumpster. You think it doesn’t happen? You just haven’t made all the mistakes I’ve made in my 50+ trips to Italy. But go ahead, don’t believe me – find out for yourself. Or…

Sunday, July 02, 2017

The Angry White Man’s Guide to Italian Wine

Un po' pasquinata, per piacere

God, Guns and BBQ - That's what makes America Great!
The lawn chairs are gathered, the Roman candles have been foraged from the local fireworks store (just outside the city limits). The AR-15 is all ammo’d up and the P938 is locked and loaded, safely holstered and at the ready. We’re coming up on the Big One – Yessir – Independence Day – and aside from Beer and Bourbon, you might need to get “liquored up” with a little bit of Vino. And that Italian immigrant family who just moved into your gated community - you want to show the refugees some of that good ‘ol American hospitality? Offer them up a nice bottle of Chianti or Prosecco or – STOP!

Forget what they want – let’s show them what they need – and what you need to be a better balanced man, when it comes to Italian wine. Here’s your Million Dollar Primer – your screaming eagle guide - to the most important, best Bang! for your Buck!! wines from Italy. That is, until they get religion and switch over to “America First!” wines.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Do old Italian-American restaurants hate new Italian wine?

For those whose families emigrated from Italy over 100 years ago, it is a secure bet that we still identify with our roots. In the U.S., we’re Italian-Americans, although many of us prefer to be seen first, as Americans, with Italian heritage. If anyone doubts that, all one would need to do is get on a plane, go back to one of their family towns and see what they call you. Here comes the “Americano,” they would call. And that’s if you were born there and had only been gone for five years, let alone 100.

When one delves into the complicated mesh of food, especially from Italy, there are snags. First of all, where you came from. If from Trento or Alba, you will have your specific traditions and foods. And if you came from south of Rome, you will have another. And, seeing as many of the Italians that came to America 100+ years ago came from the south, their influence on how we perceive Italian food, historically, has been overarching.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Puglia's Rosé Conundrum - Through a Glass Darker

How is it a trait that a place is known for, even famous, shuns the quality in favor of fashion? It happens all the time - take a walk through Times Square and feast your eyes upon all that which is desirable. In the case of Puglia, today, the place has an identity crisis. And it centers around the color of their rosé wines.

Rosé wine is all the fashion today. And this is cause for celebration from those of us who never thought we’d see this day. From every nook and cranny of the wine producing universe, someone is bringing out another rosé. Germany, Spain, California, France, Texas, Argentina, Australia, Lebanon, yes Lebanon! Rosé wine is no longer this impossible dream of wine lovers, that someday we might find ourselves in a world where the pale red isn’t shunned.

I couldn’t be happier. But I also am concerned. I like deeply colored rosé wines and some of my favorite wines are starting to look pale and anemic.

“You are trying to be Brigitte Bardot when you are Claudia Cardinale!”

Sunday, June 11, 2017

40 Years - On the Wine Trail in Puglia

What a difference 14,520 days makes

It seems to be unimaginable for someone young today to digest a span of time like 40 years. And when older people, for whom time has stretched farther than one might like to admit, relate a long-past thing, for those who did not live in that time, in today’s Instagram-gratification culture, it’s insufferable. “I didn’t live it, old, man. It doesn’t affect me.” Yeah, I get that. But it does - the wine we tasted then and the wine you are now enjoying - they are universes apart. And it is important to know what happened, and how we got here, so that you can better enjoy your Nero di Troia, or your Negroamaro Bianco or your Susumaniello rosato.

Saturday, June 03, 2017


...on vacation - back soon

from the archives: How Puglia saved my life


Sunday, May 28, 2017

Italian Wines – Multifaceted, Bright, Complex and Confounding

I see it all the time – like Groundhog’s Day – people are interested in Italy, the cultures, the food, the fashion, the design, the statues. But Italian wine is just too darn complicated!

We are entering into the time when more people will travel to Italy for vacations, for tourism, for cultural renewal. I heard it last night in a little café, people talking about Venice, Pompeii, Rome. I saw an older couple in a department store buying comfortable clothes for their “trip to Italy.” And when they get there, when they sit down to eat, they will, most likely, drink Italian wine. So why do they get so hung up about Italian wine here in America?

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Who cares what wine bottle you post on Instagram?

PTI – ME!

"It’s all about your brand!"

"Why be a follower, when you can be an influencer?"

"Make your mark (BIG!) for enhanced career opportunities!"

As a visual junky, I have a confession to make – I love looking at pictures on Instagram. Call it an introvert’s tendency to stand in the corner and observe. Or the realization, that at a certain age, you (ALL OF YOU!) will become invisible to the ascending generation that is full of energy and spunk – they want the world and they want it NOW! Whatever. There are millions of images flooding the site and young professionals are now being told that being active on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and, yes, even LinkedIn, is a strategy to strengthen your professional career! Funny, I was suggesting this to the executives (where I work) almost ten (10!) years ago. The teenagers (then) are now in the work force, and they are a force (ASK THEM! Ask their media coach!). And it is now de rigueur to lather up one’s bandwidth with a plethora of visual droppings to mark one’s fire hydrant in the race for influence and relevance. After all, you’re BUILDING YOUR BRAND!

Wow, all those exclamation points (AND UPPERCASE WORDS!) are so exhausting! But we live, now, in a world where so many people are clamoring for attention. And unless you climb over that HUGE wall and get your advanced certification (and maybe even become some kind of MASTER!) how can one differentiate who they are, and how influential they can be, in the short term? Hey, how about posting AWESOME pictures of unobtainable (to the rest of us) bottles of AWESOME wines? Sounds like a plan!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Fortunes of the Times - Great Italian Vintages from the “Noughties” - 2012-2016

Frequent readers already know this little secret – Italy is in a full-blown Golden Age for wine. Never have we seen more great wine coming out of this land once called Oenotria. After thousands of years, we have arrived to the Promised Land. And the last five vintages have bestowed a largess upon wine lovers almost to the point of excess. Before one thinks this a protestation, let’s examine our collective fortune.

While on this last trip to Italy, covering Tuscany and Piedmont with a dollop of Vinitaly in the middle, we tasted through many wines from these five vintages from 2012 to 2016.

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