The other day I visited the ladies of Culver City’s newly-minted Bar and Garden. Recently Lauren Johnson and Marissa Mandel rehabilitated an antique liquor store, and have turned it into a beautiful, airy, sunlight-filled space. Their selection of natural wines and small-batch spirits is pretty much unparalleled, and the whole operation is overseen by a quiet and affectionate pooch named Banjo. Now that’s what I call a great neighborhood shop!
Banjo, lovable mascot of @BarAndGarden. Clearly the camera loves him.
Found this baby at Monopole Winein Pasadena yesterday while running around with my fellow-wine geek Peter Kao. 1979 is his birth year, so clearly we had to taste it. I haven’t had a ton of experience with old California wines, but recently Italian Wine Superstar and International Top Sommelier Diego Meraviglia was telling me one of his favorite guilty pleasures are Duckhorn wines form the 1990s… I am officially curious now about the potential of California terroir to age gracefully.
Peter Kao- completely unhinged over Jordan 1979 Cabernet. @ChairmanKao
The 1979 Jordan was simply brilliant. Radiant. Stunning. Initially a little tight and redolent with green peppers and chocolate (nice call, Peter), it flowered open to reveal an earthy-dusty-ripeness that was backed on the palate by an elegant acidity and completely polished tannins. Like holding a piece of beach glass on your tongue- this was smooth. The wine continued to open without falling apart over the next few hours- even after bouncing around in my car, the final sip at home last night was still exciting.
Jordan 1979. Enough to convert even the most stalwart of Italian wine geeks!
There are very few wines indigenous to the region of Lazio, and even fewer from the area close to Roma. That’s what makes the Cesanesegrape so very special. It’s unique, it’s esoteric, and it makes a seriously delicious wine in hands of capable and passionate winemaker like Damiano Ciolli.
His straight-forward Cesanese “Silene”is matured in large, neutral barrels. The wood does much less to flavor the wine than it does to simply help the exchange of oxygen during maturation. It’s a decidedly savory wine with notes of wild sage, wet earth and blackberry. Deep and rich- this wine is a shining example of the potential of Lazio’s wine making terroir.
I will be visiting this estate in person soon- can’t wait to see the vineyards in person and to revisit the wines closer to their birthplace. Damiano Ciollihimself is a sweet, jovial, handsome young winemaker, with a tendency to speak in rapid-fire, heavily-accented Italian. I am already equally as excited to see him again as I am terrified of attempting to translate for him. A presto, Damiano. Bravo!
I love this photo because it encapsulates what is so great about the wine industry. When wine people get together, horizontal tastings like this are inevitable. At a post-Vinitaly dinner we tasted these three wines together with the good people of Cantina Bolzano: a sure sign you’re dealing with a first-class winery when they are happy to match their wines up against some of the best in the world! Continue reading →
I visited Cantina Bolzanoin Alto Adige last week with the team from AI Selections for the first time. It was clear that Spring was just beginning to stretch and yawn. We arrived in that perfect moment where Winter has almost released its cold, bony grasp. The cusp of change- the very tipping point before a full-blown explosion into bloom. The vineyards at Cantina Bolzano are the perfect place to see it all happen, in high-definition. Continue reading →
I just saw this Facebook post by one of my dear friends, Elisa Scavino and I need to share it. This is the poetry of winemakers. This is the reason humankind is inherently drawn to the mystery of turning grapes into wine. The alchemy of wine-making. The heart of the hard work, the sweat, and tears that go into the shepherding of a vineyard…
How beautiful and inspiring is to plant a vineyard. How many thoughts passed through my mind these days. I feel so grounded and in the right place when I am there. I love the intimacy that can be established with a place.
Every 90 cm of distance on the row, I knee down and I sink my hands in the hole to keep the vine straight and cover it with the finest soil. Every 90 cm the soil changes. Nature. I knew it from before but it’s different when you experience it. It’s touching.
My knees are reddened this evening and my back is hurting a little bit but I feel so happy and honored and appreciative for my work!
Grazie del cuore, Elisa!
Me with Elisa Scavino and Riccardo Sgarra in Las Vegas at Carnevino.
Post-tasting glow with Pier Busso and Ronnie Grant.
If you’re anywhere near the Italian wine industry you can’t escape the yearly tidal wave of Vinitaly. This annual trade show is, in the words of my colleague Michael Whidden, “airplane hangars filled with the world’s most incredible Italian wine bars”.
I’m in Verona for the Vinitaly trade show, but on Saturday we planned a trip to one of the show’s “Anti-Vinitaly” demonstrations. These events are smaller, more targeted gatherings held adjacently to the big she-bang. I love discovering new wineries and tasting new wines at these events. At Vini Veri we found one stand-out at the Maria Pia Castellibooth- a crystal-clear, bright yellow (almost orange?) wine made from the Marche’s indigenous grapes like Trebbiano, Malvasia and Pecorino. The wine is called Stella Flora- an accurate description meaning something like “floral star”. The wine smelled like fresh jasmine flowers and green tea, and had an oily texture and a punctuated acidity. The fruit component was all over-ripe yellow plum and tangerines.
One shining star in the sea of beautiful vino Italiano.
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.