Yes, I sell wine for a living and I write about my products here on this site. I am proud to represent the products in AI Selections portfolio. In my opinion, it’s one of the most interesting collections of imported wine around- that’s why I took the job.
In our industry it is customary that a salesperson “supports” her own products in her accounts. This means we drink our own wines- wines we have sold into these restaurants and wine bars.
The funny thing is, for the first time in my career I feel absolutely NO pressure to do this. AI Selectionswas founded by David Weitzenhoffer, former Wine Director for Felidia in NYC. If anyone appreciates the fascinating diversity of the wine world, and recognizes the sheer importance of knowing as many wines as possible, it’s David. Consequently, I do not feel I HAVE to order my own wines in our accounts.
I was so excited to meet Massimo Fubelli and Chef Fabrizio Giorgi of Mosto Enoteca the other day at their lovely restaurant in Venice, California. I spent over a year living in Bologna, where one of my staple lunch or dinner items was the local iteration of Romagna’s sandwich: the piadina. Chef Fabrizio, being a local from Rimini, understands the art of this perfect little hand-held meal.
The warm, griddled flatbread was spread with a fresh, runny mozzarella- so fresh I thought it might be stracchino- then dotted with spicy arugula and draped with prosciutto. Done. Basta. The perfect example of fast, healthy, regional Italian cuisine. The key to simple dishes like the piadina is perfect balance between restraint and super high quality. Not too much of each ingredient allows every flavor and texture to shine through against that soft, warm slightly-chewy give of the piadina element itself.
Now these Mosto Enoteca just needs a real authentic glass of regional wine to go with that perfect sandwich.
This was the sign we spotted on the wall of Modena’s main market, a reminder of just how important Italy’s regional cultures are today. “Campanalismo” is the idea of a region or city’s attachment to local traditions, indigenous foods and wines, and regional dialects. This fierce defense of localized history is poetic- and it is the root of what makes Italy’s wines so diverse and its food culture so richly varied.
Take Modena for example. You cannot possibly imagine the perfection of pairing a local Lambrusco Grasparossa wine with a similarly traditional dish like Tortellini in Brodo, until you taste it. These dishes, these wines, have had hundreds of years and multiple generations of winemakers (and Italian mammas) to arrive at such transcendence. The food and the wine have developed together, around each other.
The mellow, savory hot broth delicately cushioning those toothsome bites of fresh pasta wrapped around shavings of parmigiano and ground prosciutto. When you follow this rich, deeply satisfying mouthful with a glug of sparkling, cold Lambrusco you can actually feel the two separate elements combining into something even more satisfying- and more authentic. The Lambrusco’s fresh minerality and bright, palate-cleansing acidity is tempered by the rich broth. Even the temperatures of the two components work together to create something that is truly beautiful and balanced.
Some things are considered “classic” for very good reasons.
This December we wanted to BBQ with the Pesce family, our adopted Italian family, in Umbria. Beautiful cuts of locally-raised pork, fresh vegetables, a grill perfectly lit, with the coals precisely at the right temperature… and then came the RAIN!
Thank goodness there’s not much that can spoil a dinner like this- especially when there’s plenty of good wine (and good humor) to go around. That night we enjoyed a bottle of friendly Sangiovese- based blend: the Morellino di Scansano from La Mozza winery. It’s fleshy, showy, and loaded with ripe red and black fruits. There is a subtle smoky element running throughout- which would have been perfect with BBQ, should the weather have cooperated! This was by far the best BBQ we never had.
Michele Satta and his son inspect the vines a few days before pruning.
I think this has been the longest break I have taken from writing this blog since I started it a few years ago. I’ve been busy with my new job, I’ve been working with all kinds of fun winemakers and colleagues, and I’ve generally just been trying to keep up with the huge learning curve that come with changing jobs and companies.
When I pulled up to the lot behind Sirena Restaurant in Los Angeles, I knew I was going to like the place. Wine Director Jeff Morgenthal’s Vespa is parked out back… a happy Italian omen of good things to come.
Wine can be serious stuff- there’s so much to learn and taste and so many details about terroir and appellations to study…sometimes I have to really force my self to remember that in the end it’s really all about farming. At its core, wine is really just an agricultural product, conceived by humans to add joy to life, and pleasure to meals. Nobody celebrates this simple fact better than the Italians- for example, vino sfuso (vee-noh sfoo-zoh).Continue reading →
“I like my pocket full of money…My whiskey, gin and wine”
This is the quote from Stevie Ray Vaughn’s, “They Call Me Guitar Hurricane” that is jauntily printed on the first page of AI Selection’s wine portfolio. We are in the middle of the the iron-fisted reign of a handful of large, corporate, suit-wearing wine distributors, and these guys are walking around with blues lyrics plastered on their price books.
I liked them immediately. Thankfully, they seem to like me too.
I start my new job today with AI Selections. I will be representing their collection of ruffian wineries, natural biodynamic magicians, the Young, the Hip, the Serious-about-Wine. The AI Selections portfolio is irreverent, it’s classic, and it’s the most exciting thing I have seen in many years. Plus, the wines are Just. Plain. Delicious.
I am so fortunate to have represented so many amazing wineries, and I especially cannot thank Banville & Jonesenough for the opportunities they afforded my over the past few years. I know many of those people and their wineries will remain a part of my “wine family” forever.
But now it’s time for a change.
Watch out. They call me Hurricane an’ I’ve come to play your town.
I love that Brand Ambassador Nicole Poggi and her US counterpart Elyse Imamura use food to teach people about wine. In order to promote their wonderful winery, Poderi dal Nespoli from (the Romagna part of) Emilia-Romagna, Elyse and Nicole invited people to taste the wine in a unique setting: a pasta-making class in the teaching kitchen of Drago Centro’s private dining room.
It all comes together here, since the cuisine of Emilia-Romagna centers around one thing: PastaContinue reading →
Everyone needs that quintessential neighborhood sushi joint- preferably within stumbling walking distance of their home. I have found such perfect qualities in Three Monkies Japanese Kitchen, in Huntington Beach CA. Corkage is reasonable and the Chef, Yoshi-San, likes a glass of Italian wine… Continue reading →