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Mondo Di Vino
Mondo Di Vino

[09/17/2023, 14:44] Celebrating Two Giants from California

Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ? 1968 Charles Krug and 1983 Far Niente

On the Wine Trail in Italy
This past week, in Texas, we've experienced with mixed results. For one, the weather has finally cooled down to mid-80?s, from a summer which saw an endless assault of 100+ degree days. Literally made me sick.

The other, not so welcome, was the expected outcome of the impeachment proceeds of our Attorney General. Acquitted on all counts, but it came as no surprise. Why would overwhelming evidence of corruption and unethical behavior (I watched the proceedings) necessitate an impeachment, when the political landscape here is so broken beyond repair, in my estimation. I?ve been here 45 years now - a stranger in a strange land.

That said, to end the week, a dear couple celebrated their 30th anniversary and we were invited. A generous wine couple I should say, with a rich and deep cellar. So, why not celebrate being alive and well, with maybe a cool evening, regardless of the celebrations that were probably going on (and most likely at taxpayer expense) in Austin.

Two wines caught my attention. I should say there were an embarrassment of riches at this event, from well made and home winemaker vintages going back 20 years (the Idaho Syrah was noteworthy and delicious) to the magnums of Champagne, the 22-year-old Zinfandel from Turley (stunning and classic!) to some age worthy and serviceable whites and reds. But these two wines are the subject of this essay ? the Cabernet Sauvignon and the 1983 Far Niente Cabernet Sauvignon, both from Napa Valley.

On the Wine Trail in Italy

Imagine if you can 1968 in Napa Valley. From my perspective it was pretty much ideal. Quiet, peaceful, well-made wines, not yet discovered by the 1%er elites who have pretty much taken over the place these days. And a handful of winemakers plodding along making wine for the ages, The Charles Krug was one of those.

You can find pictures of this wine and other vintages all over social media, trophy shots for ?likes.? But I thought, how about cozying up to this wine over a couple of hours and seeing what kind of life it had and what it meant to me.

The cork came out well enough, and the color was what one might expect of a 55-year-old wine, brick with tinges of red. In the aromas, the small of age was present but not overwhelming. Sure, there was that leathery aspect, you know the smell of a saddle after it had been ridden for a couple of hours. Pleasant, not at all off-putting. Here was a wine reported to have been 12% alcohol, think about that. These days, a ?light? wine. Those days, enough, just enough. So how did it fare, what kind of life did it live.

Fortunately, it was well cared for. It aged well. And once the cork was taken out, it sauntered along for a couple of hours. I know, because I followed it and noted its progress. It?s like going to a real good funeral in New Orleans, where the deceased person had a great life and an even greater funeral. The band was playing for this wine. It was historic, it was going out in style. It didn?t really die; we consumed it and transformed it into our life vessels from the get-go. Nice to know now part of the 1968 Charles Krug Cabernet is now part of me. And how very Gen-Z of me to think say, if I say so myself. And I do! LOL!!

On the Wine Trail in Italy

The 1983 Far Niente was the next wine. 1983 was a challenging year. I remember, because the company I worked for represented Dunn and Forman, and they had pretty good results. Something about the mountain vineyards that year, which seemed to fare better than the valley floor, what with the rains they had. Far Niente grew their Cabernet in their Oakville vineyard. So, 30 years later, Quo Vadis?

Again, I spent a couple hours with this wine, not just a quick taste and an Insta-shot. Hours, not seconds.

Color was brilliant, deep rich red, very little signs of bricking. It was holding up as well as our friend?s 30-year marriage. Which is to say, very well. Aromas, were again, this leather aspect. This time, more like a baseball mitt, Which I meant to say a little more ?in your face.? And it was pleasant, for sure. There was this cherry note and, in the back, this little walnuti-ness, maybe from the tannins? In check, but there. Just to remind you this is wine, not kombucha. It was lovely, went well with our food, which was lasagna and grilled chicken. So, the wine had to dance with tomatoes, and it did so very well.

Something about the wine kept calling me back. Like, ?Wait, there?s more, I?m not done yet.? Yeah, wine talks to me. Or I should say, at least I?m not invisible to wine. Again, LOL! (OK, Zoomers?)

Yeah, plum, red fruits, the faintest hint of ink, the faintest. It was all in balance. 30 years of resting in the cool dark space of a cellar seemed to augur well for this wine. And it finished out in a celebratory way, with folks around a table chatting and enjoying each other?s company. If only the rest of us would be as fortunate as that bottle of wine, to end on a note like that.

Look, both of these wines are historic. They came from a time and a place that doesn?t quite exist in the same way, in 2023. But what did then, now? Everything is moving so fast, like we?re on these skis heading towards the bottom of the mountain, rapidamente.

In any event, these were, and are, giants, from California, as are hosts are. It?s always nice to sit outside in the Texas twilight, instead of this Texas Twilight Zone we find ourselves in, most of the time, these days. I will miss the Texas twilight, when I am no longer here. I wish Texas the best going forward. This place will survive these despicable politicians. I?m not sure we will, though.

So, my advice? Drink up!

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W
[09/10/2023, 15:20] A Very Difficult Buyer

On the Wine Trail in Italy
Social media has become the sound of a Band-Aid being ripped off with abandon. Last week, a friend of mine who has a wine shop in California posted a funny picture of a car that had landed on a roof, for a friend and colleague. Just something funny. That friend had a ?friend? on Facebook, who commented about the poster. ?A very difficult buyer.? And then proceeded, in later comments to remark that said buyer also had other enduring qualities of a toxic nature. This from someone in the wine trade, a supplier rep, commenting in a public forum, about a buyer, and not in a positive or affirming way.

The buyer took it on the chin, in good nature. He?s been through everything. What?s he going to do? Sue the disparager? Report them to their company? Not buy wine from them? I reckon he could do any or all, but the onus really isn?t on him. It?s on the person who initiated the vilification. That?s the person that looks like a bonehead in front of their community. Who would ever want to buy wine from a person who states in an unfiltered and unfettered manner, their dislike for a buyer? It?s like they?re putting a giant target on their back, saying, ?Go ahead, give me your best shot!?

It's emblematic of a person at a certain stage of their life who hasn?t come to a full reckoning with the standards of their occupation. Or, as we used to say, professional comportment.

On the Wine Trail in Italy

I stood before many difficult buyers in my career, and often I just had to keep my mouth shut and absorb the impact of someone who might be peculiar or pessimistic.

One buyer I called on, he wanted me to be his friend. Come to his house, listen to him carp about his job and his meager salary. Listen to him talk about how his fianc?e didn?t like to give him oral gratification. Even take his porn videos back to the store (?It?s on your way home.?) so his fianc?e wouldn?t find them in his possession.

Another buyer was an older white male. And he was angry, all the time. One time he threatened to kick me out of his chain (many stores) if I didn?t give him a better deal. Made me come pick up the invoice check instead of mailing it like most normal folks would do. You want to talk difficult? I know difficult.

What my friend in California wants, and this is something he tells me often, is for people to be predictable and professional.

Things like:

?       ?Maintain a regular appointment schedule. If you are supposed to come on Tuesday at 10 AM, show up. If you can?t be there, call. Everyone has phones these days.?

?       ?If you have a deal on something, give it to the me. If a restaurant gets a better deal on six bottles of Champagne than I do on a case, think about how that seems to me.?

?       ?Be sure you have your sales notebook. Be sure you have a pricelist. Be sure you have something with which to write down the order. Be sure you have a corkscrew.?

On the Wine Trail in Italy

You want to talk about being difficult? Here goes:

?       ?One rep said he'd pay a visit in a week.  A month later, we had not heard from him. I finally dropped him a note and he told me he was no longer calling on this territory. I told him our last communication was that he'd be here in a week and a month later we had not heard from him nor had anyone from that distributorship contacted us to say there had been changes in their representation. Sensing I was a bit agitated and having read this web page, he told me he didn't want to be made to ?feel like a criminal or like he'd done something wrong.?

"?Well, put yourself in the position of the accounts you were calling on.  You abandoned those accounts by not sending out a note saying there were changes in the territory and that you would no longer be calling on them.  Maybe thanking them for their business would be a good idea.  But in my case, you told me you'd be here in a week and here it is a month later and I've not heard from you.  You've had the idea someone else would call on your old accounts and they've likely not heard from anyone, either.  So you look like a slacker.?"

Difficult? Maybe a little. Demanding? A bit. Toxic? I don?t think so.

The ?difficult? buyer, remember, is looking for items for his clients, who also might be a little difficult. He lives in a fairly affluent part of California, in a dense urban area, where there is a lot of competition and which is very expensive to operate a business. He needs to make every result count. He needs to stay in business. He wants his customers to come back. He wants a satisfied and happy clientele. If that?s ?difficult? then give him a blue ribbon for being so. I know, if I were a customer, I?d thank him for being vigilant in pursuit of my continued pleasure in wine. Screw difficult. And quite frankly, screw the salesperson who has that kind of entitled attitude that gives them permission to cast judgement on said buyer. Get the order. Make the customer happy. Come back. Do it again. And again. That?s the game. That?s the wine business.

Oh yeah, I know there are souls out there who might have gotten this far in reading this post to flutter their eyelashes and chalk it up as another old old-timer who has just lost touch with the pulse of the ?new? wine business. Ok, yeah, see how far that gets one in the ?greater? wine business. The basics don?t change that extremely. Sales 101. My friend has offered constructive advice on his website, for years, trying to help the up-and-coming sales rep how the business fundamentally works.

On the Wine Trail in Italy

Shifting gears, what is really a sea change in the wine business, these days, is the disruption caused by extreme consolidation in the wholesale distribution scheme. Sales people change monthly, I see it with my own eyes. The big companies don?t work with an inventory printout anymore. The salespeople have push items. Most of them aren?t on commission anymore, they are ?rewarded? by performance on those push products. The warehouse is filled with items that are parked there because the large distribs have 5-10 large suppliers whom they must keep happy (and they are contractually bound) and those little suppliers languish in corners of those behemoth warehouses. And little mom-and-pop stores, like the ones I frequent, for whom those little suppliers are their lifeblood (and vice versa) have roadblocks galore. They find their way out via close-out lists with ensuing loss of profit (don?t worry, the big companies aren?t losing anything). It makes a great deal for the consumer (Hey, right now I?m drinking a fantastic and fresh Friulian Sauvignon Blanc that I bought for $3.99) but it essentially stops the producer in their tracks. It isn?t sustainable. And so it goes, over and over.

So, a buyer like my friend sees all that and tries to make sense of it? And then some large or semi-large buyer calls him names because he won?t buy their crappy Australian Shiraz that can be found at the big box stores, every day, for $5.99?

I ask you, dear reader, what?s a ?difficult? buyer to do? 

On the Wine Trail in Italy

? written and photographed (except for the cover art and the business card photo) by Alfonso Cevola limited rights reserved On the Wine Trail in Italy
wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W
[09/03/2023, 21:16] The Invisible Wine

?Sometimes the older ones, the ones that have been in there a long time, they get forgotten. They become invisible."

On the Wine Trail in Italy
It had been a month of Sundays since I last updated my cellar list. Over the years I managed to work up a spread sheet. It was far from perfect, but at least it provided me a list with what I had collected over the course of a life and a career in the wine trade. Sometimes it was in multiples ? of three, of six, even twelve. And often it was a lone solitary bottle, stashed away for that perfect dinner, or celebration.

And sometimes, a bottle would get away from me. Maybe we only had eleven and drank all of them. Maybe we actually drank the twelfth and I forgot to mark it off the spreadsheet. It happened from time to time. But when I?d do a full inventory, those stragglers usually showed up and were put back on the list.

This wine was different. It was, well, let?s just say, one of a kind. It was old and dark and from an odd vineyard. Not terribly fashionable with the snotty somm set that beat their drums loudly over every p?t-nat and grower?s champers, or an ancient Barolo from Mascarello or Conterno, Aldo or Roberto.

No, this was a wine that had gone out of style around the turn of the 21st century. You could imagine where it came from.

But first, it had to reveal itself to me.

On the Wine Trail in Italy

I was digging through a pile of Clarets when I spotted a bottle that looked out of place. It was buried under three or four layers of bottles, so it would take a few minutes to unearth it. And it was in the far corner of the cellar, which was a tight fit, and it was dark.

Dark and gloomy, a place where old wines went to age and possibly die before their time. Wines from the ?70?s and ?80?s. Some of them just would be best served as insulation (and cover) for the invisible wine that was finally revealing itself again to me.

After about five minutes I was able to get ahold of the wine. I nearly gasped, for it wasn?t what I thought it was. Yes, it was old. And yes, it was red. And yes, it was from a forgotten region. But in no way was this wine ever a forgotten wine. Only invisible.

I liken it to an old friend that one has lost touch with. They aren?t dead, but one isn?t in contact with them to know their story in, let?s say, the past 25 years or more. That was what this wine was. An old friend that I hadn?t seen or heard from in a generation.

On the Wine Trail in Italy

And in a generation a lot can change in the world.

I wonder about the farmers who grew these grapes. most of them are long gone, dead. Or the winemaker, who surely has passed as well. And the importer. That importer doesn?t exist anymore. Nor does the distributor who sold it to the retailer. The retailer is also out of business now, they?ve closed their doors.

And still, this bottle of wine is a witness to all that went before and here it is now standing before me, telling me, ?I made it to this point. Isn?t that cause for a celebration??

Indeed, it is. And indeed, we will. All of the invisible bottles and dead laborers will gather, in spirit if not in the flesh, and decant this last remnant of an age. And send it off with a proper Norsemen funeral.

On the Wine Trail in Italy

    ?It is fortunate

    to be favored

    with praise and popularity.

    It is dire luck

    to be dependent

    on the feelings of your fellow man.?


    ? The H?vam?l

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W
[08/27/2023, 19:42] Leading From Behind

On the Wine Trail in Italy
Recently I watched an absorbing and compelling documentary about the musician, Ron Carter. A giant in the jazz world, Ron is now 86 and still playing. Or working, however you might see it. I was fortunate enough to see him perform in 1968 at UCLA, when he was part of the Miles Davis Quintet. He?s a master, not one who passed a written test or a blind tasting. He mastered his art as he journeyed through time and his world, slowly, often painfully. But he succeeded. In the documentary, towards the end, he talks about what success is:

"I think success involves more than me. I?m sure that I could have been successful a lot sooner and maybe a lot longer. I thinks success is a difficult word to define, because it means different things to different people. Does it mean that you work all the time, is that successful? Does it mean that you walk onto a street and everybody knows who you are without your instrument? Does it mean you get paid on time? Being able to fill a house with my name being the band leader? Call three or four guys and say, ?Hey, now, I got this gig, can you make it?? They all say yes ?cause I called? Is success going into the bank and they know you?re not going to rob them? I mean, what is success? I don?t know. I?m not sure how I would determine success 'cause I'm still trying. I haven?t gotten to the place where I necessarily see me as being successful, given all those possible definitions. Having said that, I like where I?m going. My last efforts have been honest. I have meant every note that I have played.?

The man is 86 and he likes where he?s going. If that isn?t success, I don?t know what is. Or at least, that explanation struck a chord in me.

On the Wine Trail in Italy

In the wine business, we?re all grapes. By ourselves, we don?t make much of anything, but together, we have a chance to make a grand cru. But, once you?re picked and sorted and squeezed, you?re done, as a grape. You go into some other form, maybe wine, maybe brandy. Maybe sparkling, maybe still. Maybe sweet, maybe not. But who you thought you were and what you accomplished pales in comparison to who or what you might become. You gotta lead from behind, like a bass player. And hope like hell you like where you are going.

I really love when Mr. Carter said, ?My last efforts have been honest.? I think it?s very important for each and every one of us to examine that statement and see how it applies to us, not only in our work, but in our life ? to where we are going.

What I have witnessed in the wine trade, since retiring, has disappointed me. A lot of people being put forth as experts and influential, when many of them are just starting out their journey. It puts them in a false light, it does not honor them or their future prospects. Jazz folks like to call it ?chopping in the woodshed.? And many of them just haven?t had enough time out back. They might get there; I hope they do. I do hope they mean every note they are playing. But are they leading from behind, like Master Ron? No, they have been put out front, before their fermentation has finished. They aren?t ready. And I worry the wine trade will suffer for it.

Me? I?m done, all fermented out, so to speak. I?ve been bottled and labeled and set on a rack in a cellar, aging away.

On the Wine Trail in Italy

What was success, to me, in the wine trade? Well, I raised my little family. Stayed out of debt. Became debt free. Made some friends along the way, hopefully not all of them transactional or arbitrary, dependent on some result or payoff at the end. I put one note in front of the next and plunked out my tune, honestly. Italian wine is doing better now than when I started. I was one small grape in that vat, and proud to be part of that cuvee. I know, in my heart, that the overarching soul of wine, call it Dionisius or Bacchus or Divine Spirit or whatever you?d like, is bigger than any one of us. And it has an arc through time that has spanned through thousands of years, and with a little luck, will continue forth for many more thousands of years.

I?m just so very grateful to have witnessed it and to have been a small part of something that is truly greater than any one of us. Amen.



? written and photographed (except for the 1st photo) by Alfonso Cevola limited rights reserved On the Wine Trail in Italy
wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W
[08/20/2023, 05:00] Rare and precious ? And other unlikely juxtapositions
from the archives...
On the Wine Trail in Italy
It started last night while I was looking for a bottle of wine to go with the lasagne. I wanted something a bit rustic, not too heavy, maybe with some age on it, and red. Isn?t that how everyone does it? Go to your wine closet and pick out something fabulous?

Earlier in the day, at the nearby supermarket, I noticed a display of wine and saw the word Rosatello. Once upon a time, that meant a lightly dry ros? wine from Tuscany, long before ?that? was famous. Now it means sweet, red or ros?, still or fizzy, depending on which bottle is presented. But someone shopping in this supermarket would probably get a bottle of either, to go with their lasagne.

On the Wine Trail in Italy
The choices we are presented, each and every one of us. And how wine intersects our decisions, our philosophy, those choices and how it reflects back upon the chooser, and how they view their place in this temporary parking place in the galaxy.

For the past month or so, it has been terrifically humid. So much that every day I go into my wine closet (when I am home) and empty several gallons of water from an overflow container. Every time I wonder, was this in those bottles and is it seeping out? Is there a cach? of wine, somewhere in that closet, that is slowing emptying out? Is this folly of collecting wine for so many special moments just that?
On the Wine Trail in Italy

At a recent dinner, in Italy, the neighbors, nearby where we were staying in Tuscany, invited us to a dinner. Sheepherders, they were boiling up mutton stew. We brought a fancy bottle of Barbaresco in magnum. Our hosts also brought wine in magnums, a Montepulciano d?Abruzzo and a Barbera, recently purchased at the local Coop. It was a casual event, and we drank the wine out of plastic cups.

I noticed that the Barbera had this searing volatile acidity to it. And being one who likes a little of that character, I was drawn to try the wine. This one was over the top. But like moths to the flame, I was kept going back to the wine. Sipping it in my plastic cup, I felt a little ashamed that we brought a wine that was so much ?greater.? Here we were in Italy, and I was feeling bad about sharing a great wine with our friends!

There was something else at play here. Was it a socio-economic thing? These were hard working people, people who have their hands in the stuff of life every day. Yes, I guess I was feeling a little ashamed, in that maybe these days I don?t work as hard as I once did. And yes, maybe I have gotten a few lucky breaks along the way.

On the Wine Trail in Italy
But it hit me that the relationship that everyday, normal Italians have with wine is different from those of us who howl at the moon over every nuance in wine. It?s less critical. And it is also more interwoven into their life. It?s no big deal. There?s no ?rare? and there?s no ?precious.? It?s just the life.

Years ago I read somewhere that the average Italian doesn?t collect wine. They go to the store and buy it when they need it. They don?t pour over catalogs and lurk over social media sites, where friends display those rare and precious bottlings, perhaps over some amazing dinner with dear and famous friends and colleagues. They are unencumbered with the luggage of expectation.

Oh, yes, they might miss out on some special bottle of wine, maybe drinking that 1959 Mouton at some special person?s 90th birthday celebration, one of many.

I saw the slight hesitation, almost a reverence that our friends at the party had for the magnum of Barbaresco, almost as if they were hesitant to enjoy the wine. As if it wasn?t there for them. I noted we probably should have brought two magnums, so that everyone could have imbibed to their hearts content. But then the bottle emptied and we all moved on to the next bottles on the table.

The Barbera was next. And with the lamb, the rusticity of the dish ameliorated the wine. It was fine.

On the Wine Trail in Italy
What wasn?t fine were the inner machinations my mind was going through. Had I gotten my head so far up my ass in this business of wine that I couldn?t even enjoy a simple glass of wine with some of the most genuine people I would ever know? I looked around. Suntanned, from work. No furrowed brows, none of that citified stress. These were terrans, doing the work of the earth, eating the fruits of their labor and drinking wine from other farmers who worked their earth.

Aside from sharing their food and their wine, they were there to share their happiness. Yes, life is hard, and we have to work until we die. And yes, we get old and infirm and feeble. But not right now. Right now, we have this table and this food and this wine and these friends. And that, my friends, is pretty damn rare and precious.

On the Wine Trail in Italy
wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W
[08/13/2023, 05:00]  Sicily ~ The Oldest Kid in Italy

from the archives..

Ed. note: Prescient this post was, in 2014. For when I next went to Sicily in 2016, I indeed was in a pretty awful car accident that sent several of us to the hospital. Knocked me unconscious and broke a few ribs and cracked my skull (again). A produce truck ran a stop sign, a sign that had fallen to the ground and was not seen. The conspiracist in me might say I was targeted by the produce cartel in Sicily, ha-ha! Nonetheless, I survived. But this tale eerily foretold of things to come, c'est ne pas?


On the Wine Trail in Italy
Of all the places in Italy, Sicily is the one that scares me the most. I have cancelled trips to Sicily because I was afraid something was going to happen. I have gone to Sicily when my bones were sore from a car wreck. I have driven a car in the streets of Palermo and Catania, which is questionable for an able bodied person. I have stared at dead people, their skin dry, their eyes missing, their bones falling off their skeletons. I have walked on mosaic floors that were laid thousands of years ago. I have gazed up at ancient temples, the sun glaring back. I have walked the streets in the heat in the dark with a bum leg, with the legs of youth and with the gait of one who is no longer young. And all through it ancient Sicily kept getting younger.

There are books about the carousel around Sicily. I have done it time after time. This time, carefully planned, we went from Palermo to Partinico to Segesta to Sambuca di Sicilia. After that we went to Licata, to Butera and then to Piazza Armerina. Then we climbed the road to Etna, in time for a storm of biblical proportions. We were in places with names like Linguaglossa, Passopisciaro and Randazzo. After the sun came back out, we headed to the center of Sicily to Sclafani Bagni and then to Campofelice Fitalia. We saw relatives and then we climbed the hills of Corleone before heading to Camporeale. We finished up at Isola delle Femmine and Sferracavallo before our group disbanded.

On the Wine Trail in Italy
We saw temples where we picked up pieces of painted shards the size of a little fingernail, made thousands of years ago, discarded with so many other pieces of unrecycled history. We peered into ancient trash heaps and saw old glass, old bones and older dirt. And all along the way I kept thinking how young Sicily has become in the 40 years I have been going.

We visited wineries that make millions of bottles a year and we visited wineries that make a barrel. And each and every one of the winemakers exhibited a deep commitment to making the best wine they could for the mission they had set. Whether it was a wine that had been sitting in a barrel for 20 years or a wine that was fermenting and would be bottled in three months.

That?s what wine is to me. Not just the peak moments. But also the moments in between, when a soul is simply looking to quench their thirst.

On the Wine Trail in Italy
Will Sicily ever satisfy her thirst? I don?t know what I will see in my lifetime. But I do know this. Sicily has been doing this a long, long time. I am here for a brief moment, like all of us. Sicily may seem old to many who visit, what with all the antiquities scattered like so many discarded dreams. But Sicily is an adolescent who is testing its limits. Twenty years ago it might have been with Code di Volpe. Ten years ago it might have been with Chardonnay. Today it might be with Nerello Mascalese. It doesn?t matter. It?s the process. And for anyone who had ever been in a hill town in Sicily during Easter, Sicily is all about the procession.

It?s a long walk. I?ve been lucky to walk along that wine trail in Sicily. The roads are not always paved and sometimes they just end, like that. But there is always a way around, a way to get to the mountain top, to see the sunrise or the sunset and to be part of something wonderful. Sicily may seem old, but it?s the oldest kid in Italy and it?s just getting started. And that?s just fine by me.

On the Wine Trail in Italy

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W
[08/06/2023, 14:52] A Paean to He Who Started with Nothing and Now Has Everything

On the Wine Trail in Italy
It?s not every day one can expound about an American success story. Sure, there are scores of them - this country exists for attainment, at any and all costs. Some are dearer than others, and some have cost our collective soul more than we sometimes wished to pay. But pay we do, ultimately. And now, we arrive at another crossroad, this one surely historical, if not now, then definitely in the uncertain future, if it indeed the future will exist. But this isn?t an elegy or an obituary, it?s a celebration of a native son?s success in life. He started with nothing. Now, his cup overfloweth. He has everything.

I got a message from him. He was in London, getting ready for lunch. ?Puligny or Chassagne?? We both suffer from a love of white Burgundy. ?Well, if it were I, Puligny. But I know you have leanings towards Chassagne.? Long ago I had an awakening experience with Puligny, so I was attached to the wine. Of course, if someone opened a bottle of Chevalier Montrachet, I surely wouldn?t turn it down either. Or any wine with the word Montrachet. But those days are behind me. I cannot afford a retirement house in Ojai, California and regularly opening bottles of any kind of Montrachet seem like a distant memory at this point.

My friend chose a Chassagne, Grand Cru, and reported back. He was well sated by the end of that day, so he intimated.

On the Wine Trail in Italy

Meanwhile, back in Texas, the heat is turned up to maximum, and we?re all baking like scones in a brick oven. My insides feel like they are on fire - what with all the gurgling and upheaval - over the interminable inferno of a place Texas has become.

But my friend was born here, raised here, by a more-or-less, single mother, barely old enough to be his mother. I have sisters older than his mother. So, they were ill prepared for the world awaiting them. And dirt poor. Project housing poor. Not a recommended scenario for growing up. But them?s the cards was dealt to them.

My friend now languishes in a Parisian penthouse suite, with the temperature barely reaching 70? F, a degree of deliciousness we haven?t seen in Texas in months. Croissants, butter and Burgundy. He is slated for more satiation in the coming days. After several bouts of Covid, and a longer battle with long Covid, this is a victory lap of sorts. He once shared with me how the virus changed his palate.

I wonder if there are wine writers or journalists (do they still exist?) out there who have studied this phenomenon? I thought to mention it to a friend who is still active in the trade. But who cares what some doddering idiot (moi?) ruminates over in the hinterlands?

Still, I might lean into the subject and see if some famous sommelier somewhere has seen their palate irrevocably changed. Wouldn?t it be wonderful to find out if a master of wine has had that happen to them? They can write, generally, better than the master sommelier crowd, who sticks to their Instagram stories, searching to be liked more and more.

On the Wine Trail in Italy

My friend, let?s give him a name, shall we? Jack.

Jack learned that being poor, while virtuous, offered little in the way of social mobility. He is interested in everything, it seems. So, he trod a path to pull himself and his mother out of the sludge of scarcity.

Along the way, he met the love of his love (picture Claire and Jamie of the Outlander) and they created a close-knit family. This family makes an Italian family look like poseurs. They are tight. He loves it. King Jack, I like to call him.

Now, mind you, I throw fastballs at him. I do not slow down my pitches for him. But I don?t do it because I have ill will towards him. It?s hard not to like him, love him. But he also needs someone to check him from time to time.

On the Wine Trail in Italy

One of his favorite sayings, ?Don?t bullshit a bullshitter,? I?ve taken seriously. I will not gut him like a trout, never. But neither will I be a yes man. He?s had enough of that in his life.

Jack loves Italian wine, maybe even more than me. You name it, he?s had it, time and time again. All the greats, even more than I could ever have hoped to have had. But that?s the way Jack is ? a big man with a big appetite for life.

I tell him all the time, ?You?re living a privileged life.? He just laughs at me. ?You didn?t grow up below the poverty line, pal,? he shoots back. True. We lived well enough in Southern California, where I grew up. Cadillacs and two-tone shoes. Somewhere around the mid 1970?s it turned into Birkenstocks and used Corvairs. I got my comeuppance. 

Meanwhile Jack was falling in love (with his forever gal), buying a house and driving a fancy car, one of many exotics that would inhabit his garage throughout his career. It was like we changed places. I walked away from money, it gravitated towards him.

But, no regrets from this guy. I?m healthy and debt free. I have a garage full of reliable (and sexy) German cars, a cellar full of reliable (and sexy) Italian wines and the freedom to live life, more or less, on my terms. Like Jack said, ?You won!?

Well, Jack, you won too, cowboy, big time. I?ve enjoyed our time together, learning your story. They really did break the mold after they made you. One of a kind.

Jack, you really started with nothing and now you have everything you?ve ever dreamed of. 

On the Wine Trail in Italy

Now, tell me more about that bottle of Masseto you have in your saddlebag?



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[08/02/2023, 16:26] No Comment
wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W
[08/01/2023, 16:34] July ~ The Juicy Middle of a Hopeful Summer

On the Wine Trail in Italy
July was an amazing month for On the Wine Trail in Italy. The readership is tremendous and the response has been marvelous for a category (wine blogs) that everyone, myself included wrote the obituary for, years ago. It has shown extraordinary resilience. In my case, I think part of the success lies in telling personal stories, not just rehashing wine notes and features told over and over again (Really, how many times do we need to hear the ?true? story of Etna, or about the existential crisis in Champagne? Enough, already!)

That said, I am re-listing the blog posts for July here on August 1st, in case anyone lost track of them or forgot to check out OTWTII, where I have been religiously posting EVERY WEEK! Wine blogging may be dead in some parts of the world, but not in this space.

So, here goes, and happy reading:

July 2nd - The Luxurious Privilege of Outrage

I was taking a coffee break recently with a friend, catching up, and he remarked about some crappy restaurant service he?d recently gotten. I quipped back at him, ?Yeah, you?ve got it real rough. You?re white, you?re financially set and you?re relatively healthy and young enough. Sounds like your 1%er white privilege is kicking in, cowboy??

July 9th -  Reinventing Italy  The Italy that Americans forget

Lately I?ve taken to reading excerpts from people?s trips to Italy. Wine country, the cities, the fashionable resorts, the restaurants, the countryside. And one thing has stood out from some of those missives. It is the unique position we all have, the singular perspective of Italy from our own point of view, and how it affects how we see and interpret Italy to others?

July 16th -  What kind of life have you had?  In memory of Luigi Pira and Dino Illuminati

I was in the room next to my wine closet when I thought I heard the murmur of low voices. There was no one else in the house, and it startled me a bit. But as I inched closer to where the wine was, I realized the voices were coming from inside?

July 23rd - Confessions of a Salesperson: Lessons from a Bygone Era

Recently, I stopped in to see an old friend and erstwhile client, an Italian restaurateur. We had a glass of Gavi together and caught up. He told me this anecdote:

?This wholesale rep showed up with (a very large and new Italian supplier) longtime supplier rep friend. We?ve known each other 30+ years. We?re chatting and having fun?  

July 30th - Falling Out of Love with Wine

This week, I was re-organizing my wine collection. There were several cases of white and ros? wine that had stacked up in the utility room, and we weren?t drinking it that regularly, of late. So, I made room in the wine cave for them. I keep a spreadsheet and was slightly annoyed to be adding to the list, rather than subtracting to it. Why, one might ask? Isn?t the purpose of a wine collection to continually add and subtract, refine and replenish...?

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[07/30/2023, 15:10] Falling Out of Love with Wine

On the Wine Trail in Italy
This week, I was re-organizing my wine collection. There were several cases of white and ros? wine that had stacked up in the utility room, and we weren?t drinking it that regularly, of late. So, I made room in the wine cave for them. I keep a spreadsheet and was slightly annoyed to be adding to the list, rather than subtracting to it. Why, one might ask? Isn?t the purpose of a wine collection to continually add and subtract, refine and replenish? I suppose so, but with our diminishing drinking habits, I fear I might outlive some of my wines. And that, in my view, would be an egregious offense.

Later on in the day, while I was swimming and thinking in the water, in an attempt to escape the murderous heat that has enveloped this country, I meditated on the life cycle of a wine in relation to that of a human. I also contemplated if my love affair with wine is coming to an end. I?m not sure the two are inter-related, although I do think that if I am ?over? wine, there are scores of innocent bottles who have waited patiently for their day, and I worry that day, for some of them, is coming sooner than I have time to drink them, loving wine or not.

On the Wine Trail in Italy

Don?t get me wrong, I do not dislike wine. I rather enjoy it. I?m just thinking about how some of us have gotten a bit obsessed with the liquid. As if it runs one?s life. And for those in the trade or those who write about it, I can identify with that affliction. Wine can indeed take over.

But I?m talking about love. I love my humans, and my furry companions. I don?t love my car or my camera. I love Earth and my country, although there are seldom few politicians for whom I can feel that emotion.

Wine, is another thing, though. It?s a product of love and toil and passion and, yes, obsession. But each one is diverse in their way. Just like the people we know and love, yes? All just a little bit different, even if they?re twins.

On the Wine Trail in Italy

So, when did I fall out of love with wine, if indeed I have?  If I have, it might have to do with not being around it as much as I was when I was steeped in it via my livelihood. And yes, it was more than a J.O.B. to me when I was doing it. But now, I am removed from the beating heart of the business, purposely. I have moved on to other passions, like health and photography, gardening and exercise. Wine is not at the center of my universe.

?And you just fall out, just like that?? one might ask? Well, I look to some of those octogenarian politicians who just cannot let it go, and it gives me pause to consider what it is we can really hold onto in this life. And there?s not much on that list. After I lost my wife at 48, 20+ years ago, that lesson was drilled into me. And if I didn?t take the hint, eight months later we had 9/11 in New York. I think I got the message. Love what you can love, but be prepared to let it all go. All of it.

On the Wine Trail in Italy

And so, I have roughly 25% of the wines in my closet/cave that are red and over 25 years old. The clock is ticking for them. I will never get to them all. They are my coincidental companions - many of them have been with me for as long as they have been released into the world from the winery. A few of them I even made myself. But their life is not endless. Nor is mine, or any of ours.

I must figure out what to do unhesitatingly. The wines deserve it. Maybe a party in the Fall. Or put together a few cases for friends (or adversaries) to enjoy? Like Peggy Lee once sang, ?Let's break out the booze and have a ball.? Something to mull over for the foreseeable (and nearing) future.




On the Wine Trail in Italy

In other news: To celebrate the online exhibition ?water? juried by Elizabeth Avedon, A. Smith gallery hosted a Gallery Talk Saturday July 29 at 3pm CST.

https://youtu.be/iP0n5hD0gKw  At the 6:55 mark they talked about my photo, ?Lizanne - Learning to walk? which was one of the photos chosen for the exhibition.  Please check it out.

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