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Mondo Di Vino
Mondo Di Vino





[06/09/2019, 13:37] A natural Italian wine that reminds me of a cousin
On the Wine Trail in Italy
I found this wine in a care package, the person who provided it was very excited for me to taste this wine. And seeing as I respect this person?s opinion, I told him I?d try it as soon as possible.

The wine is the 2017 Tenuta di Valgiano Palistorti Bianco, a Toscana IGT blend of Vermentino 50%, Trebbiano 16%, Malvasia 16% and Grechetto 16%. On the neck band there are two markings, Demeter and Vignaioli Independenti. This is a northern Tuscan estate in the Luccan Hills.

The visual impression of the wine was pretty straightforward. It was clear, with the slightest tincture of green.

Olfactory-wise, this is where the wine took over. It smelled like a light retsina, coupled with the aroma of the holiday spray called ?The Smell of Christmas,? which I remember from my mom, who used to get it at the Hallmark store. And finally, a briefest impression of methanethiol, not entirely unpleasant, as it wasn?t a dominant trait. But for those who have eaten asparagus and later noticed an unusual byproduct, that was the part of the forest it was hiding in.

In the flavor, it was light, delicate, with the faintest hint of pine. It felt like Italian wine I?d had in the distant past, but I couldn?t pinpoint where or what. There was the slightest effervescence to the wine. It also reminded me of Greek wine in the 1970?s, which probably explains the pine and the reference to retsina. Again, it wasn?t unpleasant, just different.

The wine reminds me of a cousin, one we probably all have. She looks like the mother, but bears no resemblance to the father. She?s interesting, a little bit exotic, even mysterious. And she?s a welcome relief to the genetic sameness of a family. She?s also a bit of an outsider. Yet how can you not feel for another outsider?
On the Wine Trail in Italy

Imported in the US by North Berkeley Imports. SRP in the USA under $30.




written and photographed by Alfonso Cevola limited rights reserved On the Wine Trail in Italy
wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W
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[06/02/2019, 18:15] An Epic Journey in Pursuit of the Evolution of Native Wine
...in loving memory of Al Pasquino

On the Wine Trail in Italy
I was living in Florence for a brief time. And at the macrobiotic mensa a friend had made mention of this mythical figure of a winemaker in the nearby hills. He suggested we go visit this person, as they were old and who knew how much longer he or she would be alive. Yes, so fabled that we didn?t even know if it was a man or a woman!

We were young, which is to say we were broke. Why else would we be taking our meals in a mensa? Oh yes, we were not carnivores, that was a fact then. And the mensa provided us with what we took to be our daily nutritional needs during a meal, at the time. Imagine, being a vegetarian (albeit la lacto-ovo one) in a world of Bistecca alla Fiorentina! And those amazing roast chickens one gets out on the country tables. But, alas, we would have to be content with our fields of greens, cicoria and rucola, and the many types of squash. And of course, eggplant. And potatoes! And tomatoes! Yes, one could see it through the day without eating the flesh of another creature, even in Tuscany. And yes, one could have ?regularity,? if one were so afflicted with the inability to ?let go? of things. And there were always figs.

So, we borrowed a car and headed for the hills, on our journey, in search of the mage of the Colli Fiorentini.


On the Wine Trail in Italy
Tuscan Hill Country is a twisty-turny sort of affair. These were the days before GPS, or even dependable Italian cars, and we had a map of sorts. And even though Italian cartography is renown, our little scribbles on a napkin were tantamount to a mystical joke in the search for our vinous bodhi-manda and the elusive master of the vines. But we persisted in our Quixotic pursuance and soon around a corner, we found a little break in the road, surrounded by bamboo long planted, maybe even by the sage we were in search of. So, we turned into the clearing and went down into it, following a road that kept getting smaller and smaller.

At one point, we had to leave the car. Thankfully it was mid-day and the mosquitos were napping, along with the rest of the country.

On the Wine Trail in Italy
In what seemed like a death march of time, with sore muscles and even sorer feet, we came upon a duo of signs, each pointing in a different direction, with the words, Viti and Grotta. Our instincts told us to head for the grotta, and so we instead went the way of the direction towards the viti. It turned out to be a providential decision.

After a quarter of a mile or so, we came to a clearing, where there were vines. And another sign, timeworn by lifetimes of sun and rain, which looked like the two words, Viti Parodias, but the sign was so worn could it have been another name in its inception, perhaps Via (or Villa) Paradisa? The raucous drone of the cicadas announced our intrusion. And from the middle of the field, a head popped up and looked in our direction, only to have the head disappear in a nanosecond. Apparently, we were not a threat. And, as well, we did not appear to have communicated, via a friend of the winemaker, that we were coming to pay our respects. Nonetheless, we trudged on ahead in search of illumination.

On the Wine Trail in Italy
As we approached nearer, we heard a voice, in what my friend said was a remote Tuscan dialect from before the time of Dante. My friend was part of a family who had lived in the region since the middle ages. The founding family member had a way station on the Via Francigena, with ties to the Aldobrandeschi dynasty. ?What this person is asking, is what are we doing here? Have we come to help?? my friend translated.

We were tired, we were thirsty, and we were idiots. But we were here already, so why not help? We were young and who knows where this would lead? Of course, we were hoping to grab some enlightenment from this wise old winemaker, and maybe even taste the wine, which in Florence, was the stuff of legends. Only one restaurant had even had the wine on the list and in those days was reported to be on the list for ?90,000 (with ?880 = US $1.00 at the time). Of course, no one in our circle had ever seen the wine, let alone taste even a sip of it. We had to do whatever it took to get closer to that wine. We were so close; we didn?t even see the blood on the doorstep.

On the Wine Trail in Italy


Pt. I - to be continued...



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[05/26/2019, 12:46] Salumi, Dolcetto and Sophie
...from the archives

On the Wine Trail in Italy
With one of my long standing friends, I was having one of those conversations. No filters. Carne cruda. Maybe it?s a guy thing, no maybe about it. It?s a guy thing. Men love to hunt wines down and conquer them. Women like to get ?into? a wine. I know, I know, gross exaggeration, but to my point with my dear friend, we were talking about our two favorite things, women and wine.

?It?s that whole thing you have about the dumb DOCG list. Ace, who cares?? My friend had me. I don?t know why I followed something that was destined to be a dead end. I had to remind him that was exactly what he had done with the last three women in his life. Yep, we like to throw ?em hard and right into the middle of the strike zone.

?So what is it, are you going to try and sell me that our tastes in wine and women are parallel?? He was going somewhere with this. I hadn?t quite thought of it that way, but my pal was on to something.


On the Wine Trail in Italy
It got me to thinking about the wines in my life that I really stuck with, through good times and not so good times. At the top of my list is Montepulciano d?Abruzzo. It is like old world Nonna and west coast dark haired curly girl who hangs out at the beach but isn?t much of a surfer. But she likes the ocean. Then ten, twenty years later, she?s still there. Yeah maybe it isn?t the most exciting wine on the rack, but it is always there for you. Warm meals, leftovers, casseroles, burgers, pizza, very flexible. Almost yogic.

My friend was getting into it. ?But then there?s those racy little numbers, Barolo, Barbaresco, Brunello. Tall, lean, tan. Money. Hill country honeys, they don?t come cheap. They travel in well-heeled circles. But once in a while you find one in the corner of a dark lit nook, forgotten, not too pricey. Hey, you gotta take ?em for a spin, if for only one time.? Yeah, he was a man?s man, my friend.

?Let me ask you, amigo, if you ever remember any of those fast and easy ones? Would you take them to your brother?s house at Thanksgiving?? My pal looked at me quizzically, ?You are talking about wine now?? I sent the ball back up the plate, ?Wine, women, aren?t the lines blurring just a little with this conversation? Take it where you want to go, amigo.?

On the Wine Trail in Italy
Never one to shrink from a line drive up the middle, he poured another glass of the Dolcetto we were sipping on. ?Take this wine, Ace. We?ve been sipping on it for awhile. It?s pretty delicious. It?s dark, deep, spicy, it has a backbone; it?s almost pretty in a funny way. I like it. It absolutely sings with the home cured salumi and the goat cheese and that funny hard bread you brought back from the Alto Adige.?

It sure did. I was wishing we had some more of everything. The salumi that my chef friend brought over was as good as any cured meat I had ever had. And with a little bit of age, it was a little tweaked, became a little more interesting. The goat cheese wrapped in the Mexican Pepperleaf that grew out in the back was sublime. And the hard pumpernickel bread I brought back from Summa 11 was a perfect match all around.

?So, if this total experience were a woman, who would she be?? It was turning into a real guy?s night out (or in). My pal was feeling the Dolcetto rub up against his libido? I turned the question back on him. ?I don?t know, amigo, it sounds like you have already decided who she is, why don?t you tell the story??


On the Wine Trail in Italy
?I thought you?d never ask,? he volleyed back. ?Ok, sit back, let me tell you. This pretty little Dolcetto and all the artisanal accoutrements remind me of the time we were in San Francisco with those two gals we met in North Beach. Do you remember the one I liked, Sophie? I was her choice. She was the one had that long, dark, straight hair. She was quiet, real quiet. But what a kisser she turned out to be. I?ll never forget that night; I could have used another set of lips just to keep on kissing her. And she was soft, but under the top layer of soft skin, she was tight. She was in her body, and she knew, even with the gift of our youth, she had the wisdom of knowing her physicality, the limits and the open doors. And while I am not one to kiss and tell, let me just say that there were doors opened that night that I have never had opened in my life. And if I were one to correlate that experience with a wine, or wine and food, as silly and as inarticulate as it might sound, well then, this evening here with this wine, this Dolcetto, it kinda reminds me of her.?

We hadn?t even gotten to the amaro and cigar part of the night, but I was rightfully blown away. ?Where did that come from, amigo??

?Well, Ace, my friend, she wasn?t the love of my life, but Sophie, she was the love of a night. And I have never forgotten her. And this little wine brought it all back up. So call me nostalgic or soft, or whatever, but I am content to sit out here in the Texas twilight with the cool breeze and one hell of a memory.?

Which is exactly where we left it, listening to the roaring freeway nearby competing with the crazy feral parrots who were squawking into the rapidly approaching night.

On the Wine Trail in Italy






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[05/19/2019, 17:57] Let's wait a month. If you still care, let's talk about it.
On the Wine Trail in Italy
One of the most compelling things I heard this week, were those twelve words, strung together, to make me take a break from the constant barrage of information we are getting bombarded with, seemingly, all the time. In wine. In interactions with our friends and family, peers and foes. And, in general, in life.

Life, from the sidelines, post-career, should be a little bit slower, n'est-ce pas? Drama shouldn?t be a 9-to-5 thing, or a 5-to-9 one either. There should be reflection, introspection, and minimal provocation. But wherever I turn these days, whether it is driving in a city in the car, reading something on the internets, or even simple interactions with people, things appear to be over-fraught with emotion. I don?t know about you, but I?m kind of tired of it.

On the Wine Trail in Italy
And with wine, I am as well. I just want to open something up to have with a meal. I don?t want to have to choose something that will dazzle the strangers lurking about on Instagram in anticipation of the next unicorn appearance. Oh, I will find those wines, often in my wine closet, and drink them, share them with friends. And write about them, here in a few paragraphs below. But just as easily, I can find something on a rack of a supermarket, whether it is the German Riesling I just found (at Aldi, no less) for under $6, or an overstocked rose from France that the distributor was ?long? on and had to move it out, for $6.

Italian, wine, long my ?beat,? has always provided wine for willing drinkers that can be had for a little cash and a lot less drama. Just an everyday occurrence. I think back about the days when I went to Burgundy and could actually afford the wines, and then I was not in as solid of financial ground as in later years. But now? Oh, there?s the occasional wine that I can muster out of the closet, and enjoy immensely. But my days of drinking La T?che are far behind me. And I think for many of us. And if you?re reading this, you are among the folks who are probably more disposed with a little bit of discretionary income to spend a bit more on wine. Goodbye Roman?e-Conti, it was nice getting to know you. We had fun storming the castle.

On the Wine Trail in Italy

The other night I opened up a few older bottles of wine, my theme was ?wines that were made in years ending with the number 9,? starting with 1969.

On the Wine Trail in Italy
1969 ? where were you, if you were yet alive? That was a momentous year. We made it to the moon. Woodstock. Vietnam. I headed off to college, in Silicon Valley, California. A few months after harvest, there was a music festival nearby at Altamont and it became infamous for the event that slammed shut the era of the 1960?s. Was it a very good year? In retrospect, it was an interesting one. And for those of us who survived, the last 50 years has ground us down to either something fine, or just plain dust.

The wine, a 1969 Caillou Blanc from Chateau Talbot, while it probably never should have been stored so long, was still alive. Which is more than I can say for its owner, who died in 1998. I found the wine, mysteriously concealed in a cellaret in his house as we were cleaning it out and someone in charge told me to get rid of it. It was dark then, and looked like it too had given up the ghost. But it has a faint lisp of life left in it, enough to weather my cellar from 21 more years. Now it was more akin to a fino sherry than a Bordeaux Blanc, although the Semillon still had some fruit to it. But it had seen a rough and tumble life, and again, as I said, it was probably not meant to stick around for 50 years. There aren?t many notes about the wine, even Michael Broadbent doesn?t have an entry in ?The New Great Vintage Wine Book.? And now the wine has crossed over to join the other greats and Ancients.

On the Wine Trail in Italy
The next wine ? 1979 ? from years in my wine closet, the 1979 Fattoria dei Barbi Brunello di Montalcino emerged to join the dinner party. It was light in color, how was the year 1979 for you?

For me, it was a year of uncertainty. I?d just moved to Texas with my young son, was separated from my wife and my life was up in the air. Along the way, we had a partial meltdown of reactor number 2 of Three Mile Island, which caused stir and some panic.

And the wine? Well, the 1979 Barbi was a grande dame, albeit a little grayer and faded from a life in which she had once roared. But it was a beautiful thing to watch a wine on her deathbed go to sleep and never awake, and those of us at the table got to kiss her goodbye.

On the Wine Trail in Italy
1989 - thirty years ago. The Berlin Wall came down and there were Pro-democracy rallies in Tiananmen Square. I had a new love, and a new job. I?d left a role where I was a manager. And went back to the streets. At first it was an adjustment, coming from a position of status. But the company I worked for was going down, eventually. I needed to jump. And so, I pulled up my socks, jumped out of the plane and hoped my parachute would work. And the wine? A little bit fancy ? a 1989 Ch?teau Mouton Rothschild. Today you?ll need to plunk down about $600 for a bottle of it, but the day I bought it, it was going for $60. And the store, Red Coleman?s, was having their import wine 20% off sale. So it set me back $48. I bought several of the 89?s (and 86?s and 90?s) for those prices and held my breath. Because, at the time, it was a bit of an outlay of cash. But, for this bottle, the ?89, it was worth it. Rich, deep, dark, almost brooding, and went perfectly with the wagyu coulotte beef we smoked. As I was washing up the decanters, later in the night, there was still a spot of the Mouton on the bottom, and I confess, I tipped the decanter towards my mouth and finished the lot. Actually, it was just a little, but what a fine, fine wine. And no drama.

On the Wine Trail in Italy
1999 - That year. Columbine. And lesser reported, nearby in Ft. Worth, a bomb thrown and subsequent shooting in a church killed 22. My gal, who was from Ft. Worth, was very sick. In fact it was beginning of her descent into an untimely death at 48 years old. So, there aren?t a lot of good feelings for the year. It was a tough one.

And the wine? Well, it was, and still is, a 1999 Castello di Rampolla Sammarco, library selection. I say it this way, because we didn?t get around to opening it. We?d had enough good wine, no need to spoil an evening with overindulgence. There will be another time. I wish I could have said that about 1999 as well. But that?s not the way it played out.

So, there you have it. This is what I have for you. As for other matters, let's wait a month. If you still care, let's talk about it.

On the Wine Trail in Italy




written and photographed by Alfonso Cevola limited rights reserved On the Wine Trail in Italy
wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W
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[05/15/2019, 10:41] Ramato ? call it ros? or call it orange wine - the realm has gone gaga for it
On the Wine Trail in Italy
Pinot Grigio is like this well-worn football that keeps getting kicked and keeps staying in the game, wanting to play. Wine trekkies have long embarked from those shores to the lands of Friulano, Erbaluce, Carricante or Timorasso, but Pinot Grigio keeps reinventing itself. Or, rather, we keep thinking it is. In reality, Pinot Grigio was cool before it wasn?t. And now it?s cool again. For some folks.

For those who have a definite thing against fresh and light and fruity and popular, Pinot Grigio is a super-villain. But it also wears another cloak, with a caliginous umbrage. But fear not, it?s not some shadowy creature lurking in a dark alley, lying in wait to steal your soul. It?s part of the cool kids club now, because it?s also having a renaissance moment - It is once again ramato - which depending on which cool kids club you shower in, is either a ros? wine or an orange wine. And that makes all the difference in the world. We all need something to go with our pineapple pizza, dontcha know?

On the Wine Trail in Italy
If you want the history lesson, my first foray into the world of ramato Pinot Grigio was 1982, when I had several to sell my local restaurants and wine shops. But, at the time, white wine from Italy had a pretty bad reputation. The wine never seemed to show up fresh and lively (like we experienced when we went to Italy). A huge part of the reason was because the preponderance of reefers (refrigerated shipping containers) had yet to make its mark on orbis terrarum, et qui (and the rising carbon dioxide count, as well). So, when I brought in a bottle of ?dark? Pinot Grigio, the buyer assumed it was faulty from the git-go. I ended up drinking a lot of Pinot Grigio ramato in my 30?s. And waiting to get older, so the yet unborn could arise a visceribus terrae and make Pinot Grigio great again. And how to do that? Well, of course to give it some color to make it cooler. And that is exactly what happened. If you were to fall asleep for 30 years and wake up, it might be a bit confusing. But a white wine with color would probably be the least of the perplexing things one would encounter after taking a 30-year nap.
On the Wine Trail in Italy


That said, I did a short wine piece in the Dallas Morning News on a couple of ramato Pinot Grigios that I found in my local wine shops. For my European readers, I?m sorry the link won?t let you see it, so I have attached below a jpeg of the article (ed. note: I know it doesn't necessarily relate to your market or reality, but for those of you who have asked, here it is).

On the Wine Trail in Italy

Regarding the orange wine version. Lately, orange wine has being bantered about as a #dogwhistle or bobo chic catch-all for those frantic to belong to ?something real and authentic before we all burn up on this rapidly heating up planet.? And one can find Pinot Grigio in that form, especially in Friuli. Methinks the ros? craze has eclipsed orange wine in Instagram-world. Not that any of us would do anything as a result of being influenced by anything on social media. But it does seem like a bit of a tussle. Chic, slick smooth ros? wine vs. hairy armpit ?Burning Man? orange wine. My advice? Go for delicious in any color or flavor. Follow your bliss.

On the Wine Trail in Italy

Popping into the way-back machine, several of us went to Valter Scarbolo?s restaurant, Frasca, about six years ago, with a wine buyer and an importer. We had a lovely meal with Valter who guided us through his wines over a few hours.

On the Wine Trail in Italy
Valter?s label, Scarbolo, was one of the trailblazers for ramato, with a handful of bottlings of Pinot Grigio as it was caught in first blush. Look, it wasn?t an easy sale in 1982, not for a Ramato Pinot Grigio from Friuli or the Veneto or for a Vin Gris from Santa Barbara. The world was looking for sweet and fruity, blushing impersonations of Blue Nun or Zeller Schwarze Katz. California was roaring ahead with White Zinfandel, and that satisfied those who were looking for more residual sugar in their wine. But bone-dry white wines with a tinge of copper or orange? Nah, we drank as much as we could and then we closed ?em out. Over and over again.

And then the world changed. Suddenly. It only took 37 years. And now ros? is no longer outr?. And Pinot Grigio is reminding everyone that they too, were there, in the beginning, with Tavel and Bandol, as ros? forerunners.

Finally, a native expression of Pinot Grigio can come out from the shadows, thanks to the world being gaga for ros?.

On the Wine Trail in Italy





written and photographed by Alfonso Cevola limited rights reserved On the Wine Trail in Italy
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[05/05/2019, 20:16] Personal thoughts about life after the wine business (*with tasting notes at the end)
...no longer selling water by the river

On the Wine Trail in Italy
I am one who has recently been emancipated from the fatal attraction of the wine business, but one who still appreciates a good glass of wine, regularly. I no longer have to go into a restaurant and make sure the list is compliant with the wishes of some vice-president who lives 10 hours a day in a windowless cell looking at spread sheets and regularly attends yearly review meetings. I no longer have the need to spend money in an account, for the sake of spending money in an account. I now go out to eat, and drink, because I want to. If not, I am just as happy at home raiding my wine tomb, searching for a long-lost bottle of Nebbiolo or Montepulciano, Sangiovese or Nerello Mascalese. They?re all there, resting in the cool darkness of the catacombs. Wine, you see, is no longer an obsession or a mania for me. Or, I?d like to think so.

In reality, it is damn hard to pull the cannula out of the arm and walk out of the asylum. It is after all, part of one?s identity, n'est-ce pas? And the big world out there, it isn't becoming kinder or gentler in the last decade or so, especially in the cities.

So here are a couple of things that I?m working on.



On the Wine Trail in Italy
Hyper-sensitivity ? I saw this in my father when he was past his middle-age rage period. He calmed down, and along with it he became easily overwrought. I sense that might be happening to me. I view a field of wildflowers as the mower is heading towards them and I cringe. I see a stray dog or cat in the street and it unnerves me. I stop at the gas station to fill up the car and if there is loud music playing, something snaps inside of me. As I drive from home to the store and I see a man passed out in a wheelchair on the side of the road, in full sun, one would think, if you were to be crawling inside of my brain, that something cataclysmic on a global scale had just taken place. It?s as if all the sensitivity I developed and focused in wine tasting, has been diverted to other planes of being. I haven?t gotten used to it, not sure if I will. And there is something that is tied to that sensitivity.

On the Wine Trail in Italy
Severe anxiety in a car ? The other day, I?m tooling down the expressway, minding my own business, when I hear two cars at 70+mph, screeching, and careening over the three lanes to the left of me. And in case they wanted a piece of the fourth lane, which is where I was in, I immediately put the pedal to the metal and got the hell out of their out-of-control way. That is an extreme example, but almost daily I see a near accident, or someone who is behind me, cutting a little too close to me, in an effort to veer around me. And it?s not like I?m driving like I?m in the school zone. I don?t know where this comes from. Maybe the accident in Sicily in 2016. But I don?t even remember that one, other than waking up with blood on my skull, several broken ribs and a rapidly developing hematoma on my right knee. Maybe it was that. Or maybe it was the one in Bordeaux a few years before, when someone ran a light in a rainstorm and plowed into the car in which I was a passenger, sustaining several broken ribs, a sore wrist and a foggy brain. Maybe. Or maybe when I was in Sonoma and our car went off the freeway and into a ditch and back out into the freeway, careening and clipping several fast-moving cars. Again, a passenger. Again, broken ribs. Again, a mist of fog over the normally clear and clever world in which I inhabited.

Maybe I have too much time on my hands? Nonetheless, travel, especially in a car, is a precarious undertaking in 2019. One third of the folks are more interested in looking at their texts than looking at the road. It?s like I?m in a foxhole and we?re constantly being bombarded with shells. I guess that?s what some folks call PTSD. Anyway, I?m noting that is part of my world lately, too.

On the Wine Trail in Italy
Animals ? They all seem to say the same thing ? Help me! Well, not exactly that, but they all seem to be singing from the same hymnal, and as innocent as they all are, and they are, they are caught in a world which is far from squeaky clean. And it is affecting them. And I feel it. And, if we?re being totally candid, I actually like them more than most of the biped hominids who are mucking about the place. So, if I?ve offended you, I apologize. But honestly, I?d rather be sitting on my couch, reading a book with little Luigi sitting nearby. Or playing with them. Which leads me to the next subject.

On the Wine Trail in Italy
Play ? I was making the bed this morning thinking about folks who don?t have a 9-5 job. People like actors. They work a movie or a play and then they aren?t working for a week, a month, a year. Once, I thought that was unimaginable. Now I realize what a sucker I?ve been. They?ve learned the secret about play, the thing we all used to do, all of the time, when we were children.

And that is, that play is restorative, whether you are 6 or 66. It feeds the imagination. It provides a break from the daily drudgery of working, shopping, doing laundry, washing the car, whatever. Now, I have much more time for play, and while it is taking a little getting used to, I remember what it was like from being a kid. And I like it. It?s like your favorite song, the long version, is playing and your mom is making your favorite lunch and the temperature in the pool is perfect and the weather is warm but not too hot. Inotherwords, the perfect scenario. But it is an active, not a passive, act. It isn?t work, but it isn?t sleep. And I really love it. It?s the creative process, whether I am building a fort for the cats or planning a photo portfolio for a show. There?s more, but essentially, it?s play I?m really getting hooked on these days. Which leads me to the next subject.

On the Wine Trail in Italy
Sleep ? I go to bed early and I get up early. I cannot wait to get up in the morning. I love waking up. But if I've had a long day, whether it is working in the garden, or lots of exercise, or all of the above, and it?s about 2PM and I?ve had a nice lunch, the only thing I want to do is find my couch and my special pillow and take a nap. Not for long. But long enough. With or without a cat or two on top of me, humming and trilling, like the waves of a small ocean. I like sleep, but not like I used to. It?s like I?ve met an old friend after 40 or 50 years and he?s different; And I?m different; But it?s still a working friendship. It?s just different. And it?s nice. Ok, I?m going all Rod McKuen on y?all. I guess I need to plunk down a tasting note or two, right? Isn?t that what a wine blog is for, isn?t that what y?all came here for?


Tasting Notes

On the Wine Trail in Italy
2017 Sandlands Red Table Wine ? I probably shouldn?t have opened this wine so young. But we were having something to eat that this wine sounded like it might be good to have with it.

Old vineyard, planted almost 100 years ago in Contra Costa County. 65% Carignane and 35% Mataro. I?ll just say it, I was an idiot to open it up, and I knew it. But I was too lazy to dig around in my wine mausoleum to find the 2014 Carignane I have stuffed away.

The fruit was strong and heady. The aromas were young and skittish. The wine had rested plenty, I just robbed the cradle by opening this wine to early. I won?t do that with the other bottle. Now I just have to remember where I put them in 5-10 years. In the meantime, I?ll be drinking their Chenin Blancs, which I am a total wine whore for.


On the Wine Trail in Italy
2015 Colombera & Garelli Bramaterra ? our new neighbors invited us over for a happy hour recently, and neighbor Bill poured me a glass of this. Ok, I live in Dallas, Texas, in a relatively conservative (i.e. red) neighborhood. I?d sooner get a glass of Belle Glos or Meiomi Pinot Noir (or a Coor?s Light) handed to me in this zip code. So, suffice it to say, I was blown away. Bramaterra, for God?s sake! How awesome was that? Oh yeah, what it tasted like: It was rich and velvety, but not too smooth. I mean, there was a nice edgy texture to it. And it had just the slightest hint of volatile acidity, which I love. Yeah, that was a good night. And we love our new neighbors, big time!

On the Wine Trail in Italy

2016 Mayacamas Mt. Veeder Chardonnay ? There is usually never enough white wine in our house. But one of the wine fairies left a box on our doorstep. Yeah, ok, sure. And this was one of those wines. Oh man, all the old Stony Hill and Forman Chardonnay I?ve had over my life has left me a bit cynical about other California Chardonnay. But this is Mayacamas. And It didn?t disappoint. What I love about classic California wine, as I have been drinking for the past 40+ years, is that there is a timeless quality about it, but also it is uniquely Californian. I say this as an indigenous Californian. It just hits me like it knows me. And I know it. And this Mayacamas was rich and full and fruity and dry and nuanced with many levels of flavor and I wish I had more.

Ok, that?s it for now - Miss Buttercup wants to go outside and play.

On the Wine Trail in Italy



written and photographed by Alfonso Cevola limited rights reserved On the Wine Trail in Italy
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[04/28/2019, 17:49] The wine that tried to kill me
On the Wine Trail in Italy
Oh, how we?ve aggrandized wine to a beatific eminence. It is the alpha, the omega. It is sexy. It is alluring. It is dangerous. And it?s a killer. Or at least, on one occasion it tried to kill me. No, I?m not talking about excessive intake of alcohol, getting into a car and heading down the tollway, on the wrong side, at 2 AM. This attempt on my life was imbued with further nuance than that.


It was in a little town in southern Italy, a few years ago. I?d been traveling around the country for work and had some free time. I?d read about this recluse of a winemaker, whose name I cannot reveal, for a number of reasons, the first being I don?t want anyone else to know about this person or their wine. Consider it my way of potentially saving your life.

On the Wine Trail in Italy

It was up in one of those hill towns famous in southern Italy, where there are brick structures, as old as time. The kind of place where little old ladies in black peer out from behind lace curtains, most likely ones they have woven themselves.

GPS was no help in finding the place. And there were no signs telling one which via one was on. You either had to know or you had to have faith. I didn?t know. I was blindly plunging ahead.

I dropped my rental car in a parking area by a caf?. The streets were getting smaller. This would be a search on foot.

On the Wine Trail in Italy

Eventually, with the help of a local, who decided I looked southern Italian enough to respond to my vaguely familiar version of Italian (with liberal use of the more formal ?lei? rather than the now more commonly used ?tu?). An old fellow (really not much older than I was) led me to a door and pointed. ?You can knock, but he rarely answers. You might think about it before you go through that door.? And he bid me a good day as he disappeared around a corner.

I poked my head inside the door and said my best, nonthreatening ?buon giorno.? Nothing. I moved more of my body inside. No dogs. Good. And saw a little courtyard and what looked like, on the other side, a cellar door. So, I proceeded towards it. It was close to 1 PM. The sun overhead was bright and intense.

On the Wine Trail in Italy

At the cellar door, I knocked and, again, chanted my friendliest ?buon giorno.? At which time, an elderly (and yes, even for me, he was old) gentleman came to the call.

?I suppose you?ve come to taste my wine?? He was matter-of-fact about it. ?Well, come on in, it?s much cooler inside.?

He took me to a small room with a few timeworn barrels, an amphora or two and a small row of concrete tanks that looked as if a roman garrison had poured them a few millennia back. A small table was placed in the center of the room, while a bare bulb provided the sole light. And on the table was one bottle, bare, no label, no cork, filled with wine.

?I have few rules, but you found me, so you may taste. But you may not talk or ask me incessant questions. I made the wine, as I have for nearly 50 years. I am not long for this world, and I?d rather spend the time drinking my wine rather than talking about it. If that?s not what you came for you know where the door is. Agreed??

On the Wine Trail in Italy

I was in no mood to debate the issue, and quite frankly I?d stretched what little I knew about the Italian language about as far as I could. And, being a visual person, not a talker, that was fine with me. And I told him so.

He seemed pleased. ?You?re not like the others.? And he poured me a taste.

No notes, no camera and no discussion. An introvert?s dream. What happened next wasn?t exactly the bright side of what we?d call the dream world. But it definitely belonged to the realm of the world of dreams, just a bit darker. 

On the Wine Trail in Italy

The first sip virtually took my breath away. And the lights dimmed above me. The silence was replaced by a whooshing sound, which I took for the sounds of waves hitting the shore, but which I found out later from the town doctor was the sound of my blood pulsing through my being.

I must have blacked out. When I revived in a spartan room, a doctor asked me a few questions. I don?t remember what they were, I barely remembered where I was. I was told that my heart rate reached 200, according to the instruments. And no, I hadn?t had a heart attack. I was in too good of a shape for that.

On the Wine Trail in Italy

When he released me a few hours later, I stumbled out into the dusk light of the end of day, and reached for the keys to my car. But I thought I?d retrace my steps first, try and find the old man and his cellar and ask him a few questions.

When I got to the door that I remembered, I knocked. An old lady in black answered, with needle and lace in her hands. I asked about seeing the old man in his cellar.

She gave me the oddest look, as if I?d said something crazy. And then like that she simply said, ?No man here, no wine here!? and shut the door with more force than I imagined she had. Nothing.

Later that night, in my room in the hotel by the sea, I contemplated what had happened. I wasn?t dead, I was very much alive. But I was for a moment, earlier in the day, somewhere between. As if I?d peered over into some open vat of abyss and stepped away.

On the Wine Trail in Italy

As if the wine called me to the other side. And I stepped back, away. Not ready for that wine. The wine that tried to kill me. Not today.









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[04/21/2019, 13:02] From the Archives - My Consigliere of Consciousness
Originally posted December 28, 2008

On the Wine Trail in ItalyWhen I was thirteen I thought I was going to grow up to be a photographer. I spent endless hours in the darkroom and carrying my cameras everywhere I went. Being shy, it was the perfect date for me at a youth dance. I could take pictures of the action and go into the darkroom later that night to print them. Often folks would come into the darkroom (it was at the same place the dance was, usually) and see what I was doing. Photography was a social magnet.


On the Wine Trail in ItalyA few years later, in college and during the Vietnam War era, photography opened up the greater world to me. I met different folk than the ones in the small resort town where I had grown up. I even met a famous one from time to time.

On the Wine Trail in ItalyA word about fame, something I know a little about. I grew up in a town filled with famous people (Palm Springs, CA) and learned very early not to make a fuss over folks who have been afflicted with it. Leave ?em be, talk to them normal, change the subject away from them. Some of them might even make the grade to friendship. But, I ramble.

On the Wine Trail in ItalyI am a walker. Love to walk the streets of a town. Rome, Paris, New York, San Francisco, Palermo, Naples, Chicago, Dallas. I once walked the route on Elm Street in Dallas where JFK was shot (grassy knoll) to the shop on the same street where John Hinckley bought the gun that he shot Ronald Reagan with. On a hot July day I took my trusty Canon VIT rangefinder and a new Canon AE1 and did my own shooting. The Dallas of that day has altered greatly.

On the Wine Trail in ItalyNew York? Since 1975, I have trudged the streets of that city camera and wine bag in tow. My childhood friend and photography co-conspirator Bruce took a fabulous street shot, worthy of a Weegee. Bruce went on to become a movie mogul and one of the greatest collectors of photography in the world. And still a friend and drinking buddy.

On the Wine Trail in ItalyI spent time in the NY scene with Diane Arbus? teacher, Lisette Model. Not much time, but enough to remember one cold afternoon in January in her apartment. I had already been to Arbus boot camp. It started in California and concluded in a bar in Milwaukee, a bar right out of the collective mind of Kubrick, Serling and Lovejoy. I had walked onto the set of a world that someone like Diane Arbus lived daily. And it scared the holy crap out of me.

On the Wine Trail in ItalyI had my time with the world of reportage and photojournalism. One photographer from Magnum, to remane unnamed, asked my help in getting him and his art director through Tijuana for a photo shoot. An ad campaign for Pentax. I thought it odd that the photographer almost exclusively used his Leica M3 for the assignment. When I asked him, his answer seemed cynical at the time. Now, I think he was like a sushi chef, just using the best knife he had to cut the Toro.

On the Wine Trail in ItalyAnd the old masters, so many of them I was lucky to encounter, sit awhile and soak up their greatness. They were called the f64 group. My entry was through Imogen Cunningham and Ansel Adams. In the darkroom with Ansel was a breakthrough, I still remember the warmth of that little room, and not in a creepy way. How often is it you can stand in the dark and be dazzled with brilliance?

On the Wine Trail in ItalyImogen, petite, but never diminutive. Cantankerous, strong willed and boy crazy. But a vision and a determination to walk her trail without fear. Imogen was a wonderful mentor to me in life.

On the Wine Trail in ItalyOn the fringe of the f64 group was Wynn Bullock. Wynn was the one who taught me about the vision thing. He schooled me in the philosophy of perception. Thanks to Wynn, some of the best photography I have ever taken was without a camera. I remember how supportive he was when I came back from NY, explaining to me that he also had to take NY in measures, not in giant doses. Like him, I needed the horizon.

On the Wine Trail in ItalyMy dad was a photographer and a film maker. I still have hours of 16mm reels of film he shot, some of it family, some Italy, and also Old California footage. He always thought I should take more sunset pictures.

On the Wine Trail in ItalyBeing a black and white kind of guy, I could never understand why he wanted to thwart my path. But fathers do that to their son?s even when they aren?t conscious of it. I love to watch sunsets (like sunrises better) but not to shoot.

On the Wine Trail in ItalyMy college teacher, Philip Welch, introduced me to many of the West Coast school. He was a student of Frank Lloyd Wright and had given me the entr?e to that world. He told me about famous people. He said, ?Call them up, knock and their door. If they are truly great they will talk to you, if not, they are only famous. You want to meet greatness, not fame.?

On the Wine Trail in ItalyI?ve had a few friends through the years who made it to fame, but not quite to greatness. I have also had more than my share of friends who bypassed fame and went straight to greatness. I have photographed them, opened bottles of wine with them, danced with them, laughed with them, cried with them and walked through pools of Jell-O with them.

On the Wine Trail in ItalyAll along the way there has often been a camera nearby, my consigliere of consciousness.






written and photographed by Alfonso Cevola limited rights reserved On the Wine Trail in Italy
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[04/14/2019, 12:56] The Best Day of My Life
On the Wine Trail in Italy
For an Italian wine lover, or for anyone, the idea of having something like the best day ever in this life is a ponderous matter. Not heavy, let?s not go there. But could such a day revolve around one?s life in wine in Italy?

Can we have more than one best day in a life? If so, the day my son was born is a day I?ll remember as one of those days. But can wine elicit such an emotion that it will be remembered for decades through the passage in time and give that day a place on the best of days in one?s life?


On the Wine Trail in Italy
I?m not necessarily talking about a day in which you or I had one of the greatest wine encounters, like the day I had the 1964 Monfortino. Or the two days in a row in which I was fortunate to be present when the 1961 Lafite Rothchilds were opened. These were awesome occurrences, which when I collect memories of those moments in wine which made an impression, these certainly did. Of course, the day I was hiking in the Upper Yosemite and over dinner that night, when I opened the 750ml bottle of Almaden Vineyards Mountain Nectar vin ros?, that was for me, unforgettable. Hmmm, the brain curates our memories in its own way sometimes.

But that?s not what's at the end of this rabbit hole. I?m thinking about a day, somewhere over a 24-hour period, in which the affair created a gestalt of something that one could put at the top of a list with the heading ?the best day of my life.? I know it must occur to someone, I?ve seen it numerous times on Instagram and Twitter, #?d as #TheBestDayOfMyLife.

On the Wine Trail in Italy

What I found, while scrolling through those thousands and thousands of hashtags wasn?t what I thought I?d find. Mostly marriage pictures of pictures of beautiful and famous people. I don?t think I could list the times I met John Kennedy or encountered Ronald Reagan as the best day of my life. The closest thing in that orbit, again, would be the birth of my son. And maybe in a personal sense, that should be good enough.

I know I?m stretching the metaphor here, all the while my brain is defragging and searching the synapses for an iota of what I?m looking for in this search. Maybe there?s an amalgamation, a construct that will surface.

After a short break, I?ve returned to the screen and the keyboard in front of me. I have a vision of that day now. I?m in Italy, it?s a sunny day, temperature around 20? C. a light breeze coming from the west over the mountains. We?ve just come here, after several days in Verona at Vinitaly, and a few days touring through vineyards.

On the Wine Trail in Italy

In the distance the clinking of the bell from the lead sheep, perhaps coming over from the other side of the dale. The aroma of wood burning, as if to warm the nearby cottage or an outside fire, maybe a campfire, drifts by. A slow but steady hum, as the bees working the nearby rosemary in bloom, go about #TheBestDayOfMyLife as they know it. And surely there are small insects flying around, ones that live for only day ? surely this is, for them too, #TheBestDayOfMyLife.

The sun, as the earth revolves around it, changes position from low in the east to high above. A dove coos, consigning one?s consciousness, for a brief moment of satori, where everything is in harmony.

And somewhere inside the nearby cottage, are the sounds of our mothers and aunts singing and making fresh pasta, clanging of spoons and the opening burp of tomatoes, put away from last season, to envelope the noodles. Nearby the brief aroma of basil, just picked by one of the cousins, to take inside for the sauce. And out of the nearby cellar an elder uncle appears with an aged pecorino, to be grated for the pasta, first, and then chipped away and served after the lunch for dessert with the wild strawberries.

On the Wine Trail in Italy

Will there be wine? Are we not in Italy? And is this not #TheBestDayOfMyLife? That same uncle goes into another room and appears in the now brighter and warmer day with several bottles with swing tops, which he siphoned from the demijohn in the cellar. It?s red, it?s rustic, and it?s what we will drink on this day.

The whiff and pop of a checkered tablecloth is placed on the table outside near the cottage, on the warm side. The smell of bread baking in the outside oven wafts past me. I haven?t had a sip and already I?m drunk on this day.

A piquant tinge of vinegar, the real stuff, with fruit and acid and backbone, tickles my nose. The ominous verdancy of last seasons olive oil crowds the vinegar for attention. The tomatoes, the basil, the bread, the fresh pasta boiling, everything, everything, everything. Yes! Yes!! Yes!!!

We sit down outside and the elder woman at the table makes the sign of the cross. And a short, silent prayer of gratitude. And the children squirm on the wooden bench, inevitably getting splinters on the bottom sides of their legs. And the breeze and the sun and the food and the people and the birds. And the wine? It?s part of this too?

On the Wine Trail in Italy
And yes, the inevitable #TastingNote.

The wine had the freshness of that mountain nectar ros?, had long ago in the mountains of Yosemite. And it had the rustic quality of that ?64 Monfortino, in that is was rich and deep and portentous. In the finish I could sense it might be a long-lived wine, like the ?61 Lafite, although if it was, I wouldn?t see it. This was a young wine, tasted by someone not as young, and our paths wouldn?t cross that many more times.

The uncle nodded as he saw the pleasure the wine gave me. ?Not bad, is it?? He seemed pleased. ?I think the 2018 is going to be a great one, one of the best we?ve seen come off of our land in many years.? ?Certamente,? I agreed with him. And it, along with everything on that day, served to make that day one of the many days I?ve lived, that will go down as the best day in my life.

On the Wine Trail in Italy






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[04/08/2019, 14:05] How tall is your mountain? How important are you? How do you rank?
On the Wine Trail in Italy
Life, after years of work and a "career," is an unknown until you get there. Just like life after school, or life after an eventful course of certification. For many of us, we just don?t know what lies ahead in our future heres and nows. What I do know, here and now, is that mountain climb we call a career is just that, ?a? mountain climb. Not all mountains. Just one. Maybe a tall one, maybe not the tallest. And not the only mountain on earth.

When I first went to Italy, I had this idealistic notion that all the people in Italy were kind, generous, loving people. How could it not be? Here I was in the land of my ancestors, walking the streets and alleys of Rome, everything so bestowed towards my Utopian vision of Italy and Italians. With a war waging in Vietnam, and a low lottery number (90) and being all of 20, I wanted a world in which there was peace and happiness. And time.

On the Wine Trail in Italy
And there I was, one day, walking in the hills above Rome on the Viale del Museo Borghese, when I saw a car screech to a halt, a man get out of the car, pull a woman out and start beating on her. She screamed bloody murder and I?d like to say people came out in droves to rescue her. But no one did. It all happened so fast. Like he was getting out of the car to pee. He threw her back into the car, tires squealing, and tore off. It took maybe 15 seconds.

I was petrified. I remember my parents having arguments almost like that, and as a young child, I would eventually run out of the house and head into the desert, far away from their yelling and anger.

But this was Italy, my precious vision of peace and harmony shattered, just like that. So, it wasn?t Utopia?

On the Wine Trail in Italy
Years later I went to my first Vinitaly, the 17th (we are now in the 53rd year). I was full-on with a career in the wine business. Again, I was exhilarated with the notion that everyone who was anyone in the world of Italian wine was here. And so was I. I was part of this great thing, which in my head I had built up, as most of us do, with the full force of the illusions we splay about with our careers, over how important we are, the job is, it all is. And in the presence of Piero Antinori and Angelo Gaja, and Luigi Veronelli and, and, and.

Twenty or so years after that, I was dug in on base camp of that mountain. I had made it so far, but I had to take the summit. And I spent hour after hour chasing the sun and the moon. My identity was all tied up in being the Italian wine guy. And the company I worked for was powerful and bought a lot of Italian wine. I calculated that for every case of Italian wine that came into America, the company I worked for (and the category which I was accountable for growing and looking after) imported and sold one bottle in every of those cases, about 8%. It would eventually grow to somewhere around 12-15%. This was a very tall mountain.

On the Wine Trail in Italy
Along the way, I spent three years caring for my wife who had a debilitating disease of the central nervous system, multiple sclerosis. It killed her. And it threw me into a valley. And the only way out of that valley was through a tiny little tunnel, which I had to crawl through on my hands and feet. Slowly, slowly, one day at a time. For years. The tall mountain was of little concern to me at that time.

As I wrote here in 2011, ?There is luck, good and bad, but there is resilience. Resilience is good luck combined with a spirit to overcome the disappointments life hands you.? Yeah, I had some bad breaks, not as bad as my wife, for sure. But I was going to climb that mountain, if it was the last thing I did.

And I did. And along with it, success, recognition, accolades, awards, even a trophy.

On the Wine Trail in Italy
But once I got there, I decided not to climb down the mountain. I jumped off of it. The words of Richard Alpert (now Ram Dass) emblazoned upon my windscreen as I fell to earth, "I was no longer needing to be special because I was no longer so caught in my puny separateness that had to keep proving I was something. I was part of the universe, like a tree is, or like grass is, or like water is." Ever the idealist, always searching for Utopia, be it an outer manifestation or an inner aspiration.

I?m really happy that the wine community in Italy is making wine better than they ever have. And I?m pleased that the world is responding, by obtaining, enjoying and promoting their vinous joy in ways that the rest of us can see and feel and hear, 24/7. It?s like watching millions of people climbing their very own mountain, all at the same time. It?s a moment in time which I?m sure the likes of Gaja and Antinori, and Veronelli, if he were still alive, revel in. It?s a victory. It?s a cause for celebration. It only took a couple of millennia. And the sweat and blood and dreams of scores of farmers, winemakers, and all the friends and families that supported that surge to their personal mountaintops.

If one could look at Italy from space and see the emotion of time as manifested in the hard work that all these souls have put into making Italian wine great, it would probably be ten times taller than Mt. Everest. I have no doubt. And we are all here to witness this great success.
On the Wine Trail in Italy

As far those of us who fell to earth? Well, it?s not so bad. I mean, look at all the wonderful wine we have to enjoy now? And if one is healthy, there is that great gift. If one misses a seminar here or there, a tasting here or there, or a not-to-be-missed event here or there, so be it. It?s somewhere on someone?s journey to their mountain top. I?ve been there, had those longings, those unstoppable goals that I thought were so very important at the time.

But I?m on another journey now, to another mountain. I?m not sure if there is a mountain top or even if there is, if I?ll get there. I?m fine with that, for when I fell to earth, something inside of me broke open. It was like being born again, except I didn?t have to learn how to walk or talk. The child inside me, and the childhood I left behind as an adult, broke open. And along with it, creativity, and fun and time, or what is left of that time. I?m really excited, I have to tell you all. I never imagined all the things I thought were so important could be supplanted with a deeper sense of direction, a journey that will take me to God knows where. What I do know is this: I don?t have that insatiable drive for success, for recognition, for some kind of elite ranking in the world of wine. Or even another mountain top. The folks at base camp can have at it now. I?m good, right where I am.

On the Wine Trail in Italy





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