A Vintner’s City – Krems, Austria

Stift Gottweig Monastery

A few years ago I had the pleasure of attending the European Wine Bloggers Conference in Vienna. Not only was it worth the trip for knowledge and networking, but also for the opportunity to choose a countryside wine destination for the weekend. I chose the Danube River wine region and will always be grateful I did.

On a wet October day, we piled into the chauffeured bus to our first destination in the Kremstal wine region, The Stift Gottweig Monastery. Within an hour the bus stopped at a pull-out on the side of the road, and we jumped out to see the view from a distance. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn’t this. Through an opening in the trees was an absolutely breathtaking monastery sitting atop the mountain. It didn’t matter if the rain was falling, nothing could stop getting photos from this vantage point. The clicking of cameras began.

The monastery was founded in 1083 A.D. and given to the Benedictine order in 1094. The site, perched on a mountain overlooking the Danube, provided the monks with an economic base in forestry and grape production. The vineyards had been producing wine for centuries, and by the 16th century the wines from Stift Gottweig were attracting attention from the Austrian aristocracy and across Europe.

View from Malat Winery and Hotel

The Kremstal has a mild climate, with the forests providing cool breezes and the Pannonian air from the east lending a slightly warmer climate. Soils range from loam and loess, to chalky clay and weathered slate. All these factors contribute to ideal sites for Gruner Veltliner and Riesling. The varietal makeup here:  Gruner Veltliner comprises 60%; Riesling 30%; Chardonnay 4%; and Pinot Noir 6%.

View of Danube from hillside vineyard in Krems

The picturesque city of Krems, located a few miles from the monastery, sits on the banks of the Danube River surrounded by 1,000 hectares of vines. In 1975 Krems was singled out as a “Model City for Historical Preservation” and in 2000 was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. It’s a town proud of it’s wine legacy, but also is a magnet for tourists enjoying its bucolic feel, architecture, outdoor activities, festivals and shops.

Old town Krems - Austria

Old town Krems

The wine reputation of Krems has stood the test of time, and today the region produces excellent Gruner Veltliners and Rieslings. But what’s become of the monastery’s 26 hectares of vineyards? Who oversees the wine making process? It’s in good hands. On January 1, 2006, the vineyards were leased to a newly formed group of associates. This company comprises those running the Stift Gottweig Monastery itself, and the management of another well-known area winery - Weingut Stadt Krems. With over 550 years of history, Weingut Stadt Krems (Winery of the City Krems) is one of the oldest wine producers in Austria and Europe. Winemaker Fritz Miesbauer runs the Gottweig vineyards and those of Weingut Stadt Krems, but both are aged and stored under individual conditions. Named “Winemaker of the Year” in Sweden at the age of 27, Miesbauer is up to the challenge of preserving this legacy while simultaneously garnishing respect for both labels. Under his tutelage, the quality and reputation of both wineries has grown, with accolades to him and his team.

Winding up the day was a rare opportunity to listen to three of the most respected winemakers in Austria – Fritz Miesbauer, Marcus Huber and Fred Loimer. My new favorite way to learn: 1)  Sipping away on Austrian wines  2) Exquisite Baroque meeting room  3) Professional, intelligent, knowledgeable winemakers. Am I asking too much?

Winemakers Fritz Miesbauer, Markus Huber, Fred Loimer

Presentation at Stift Gottweig Monastery

Many thanks go again to the Austrian Wine Marketing Board, and the incomparable Franz Josef Gansberger of Weingut Stadt Krems for unparalleled professionalism and answers to everything. As the Austrian Wine Marketing Board’s slogan says…….”A Taste of Culture.” Indeed it is.

Prost! Gail

 

 

 

 

 

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WienWein and Vienna’s Own Vineyards

Gerhard Lobner and Fritz Wieninger

Viticulture in Austria can be traced back to the first century when Romans occupied the Celtic village of Vindobona on the shore of the Danube, in what is now Vienna. They found established vineyards, and were instrumental in furthering viticulture in the region by introducing their cultivated vines and knowledge. Indeed, archeology findings confirm vineyards in Vienna dating back to 750 BC.

Austrian wines have grown in popularity over the years as people discover their outstanding quality and diversity. But Austria has an even rarer distinction. Vienna is the only capital in the world that produces a substantial amount of wine within the city boundaries. As Austrian wines rapidly gained worldwide recognition after 1985, the wines of Vienna were known mainly through the “Heuriger” or wine tavern that served local wine and traditional food.

Enter the group WienWein (Vienna Wine) in 2006. A group of five highly respected winemakers devoted to raising the bar for Vienna’s wine, and spreading the word. The group consists of wine estates Edlmoser, Christ, Cobenzl, Wieninger and Mayer am Pfarrplatz.

Within Vienna’s 1,700 acres of vineyards are several distinct regions where most grapes are grown; the Nussberg, Kahlenberg, Bisamberg, and Maurerberg. The Danube provides a distinct micro-climate, and the variations in soil within this small area give winemakers an opportunity to produce a variety of wines from Gruner Veltliner to Pinot Noir. Outstanding wines come from Vienna’s wine growing region, but the darling is the Wiener Gemischter Satz (Viennese Mixed Planting). Known as a “field blend” it dates back centuries when a variety of grapes were planted together, thus ensuring that in unpredictable weather at least one variety may have a chance of survival. The most preferred white wine grapes are Gruner Veltliner, Pinot Blanc, Traminer and Muller Thurgau; but Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris are used as well. The grapes are harvested and fermented together to create a unique wine with a taste profile that is multifaceted, fresh, vibrant, showing mineral character and terroir.

 

Rotes Haus at Nussberg Vineyard

 

I had the pleasure of meeting with Fritz Wieninger of Wieninger, and Gerhard Lobner of Mayer am Pfarrplatz at the renowned Nussberg vineyard overlooking Vienna, with the storied Rotes Haus (Red House) lawn and canopy providing respite from an unusually hot day. Tough gig.

It was a wine lover’s dream to sit next to these winemakers and soak up their conversation, hoping to catch a gem of knowledge not heard before. Now if only I can remember…..but that’s what notes are for. My notes at this tasting were a scribbled mess as I tried to write down everything possible. At some point, you just give up and enjoy the moment. We were able to do tastings on all but Edlmoser, but we’ll catch his wine soon.

All were of high quality, with an amazing representation of what Vienna can produce. I don’t review wine, and it pains me to single out any of the fabulous ones tasted….but there may be one bottle of Gemischter Satz that is almost empty, a Riesling that is pure heaven, and a Pinot Noir that says “yes” I can be great here.

Many thanks to the Austrian Wine Marketing Board. Their dedication and professionalism helped immensely on this trip. Katharina Papst, as usual you went above and beyond to provide information, logistics and answer my most trivial questions. Also, a big thanks to Fritz Wieninger and Gerhard Lobner for taking time out of their busy day to meet yet another wine writer. True gentlemen.

Now…….will that get me the keys to the Rotes Haus?

Prost!

 

 

 

 

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Mondovino in Piazza Maggiore

Mondovino. The film generates opinions from across the spectrum, some with unwavering accolades for the American film maker, Jonathan Nossiter, and others viewing his documentary as a witch hunt. In essence, the film pits small wine producers against the big boys, the Robert Parkers and Michel Rollands of the world. Nossiter’s belief is that with the globalization of wine we are losing the small, terroir-driven wines to those popularized by large entities. The film is interesting in that it offers up questions for us to ponder, whether it is about globalization in general, the environment, or where the middle ground is in the world of wine.

Walking through Piazza Maggiore in Bologna this summer, I was surprised to see the piazza filled with folding chairs, and a large movie screen occupying one end of the square. The posts on the film trailer showed a schedule, but since everything was in Italian I walked across the square to the Visitor’s Info center to ask for more specifics. “Oh, yes, there will be a film shown tonight…..do you like wine?” asked the woman at the desk. “There will be a film tonight called, Mondovino, starting at 9:00 pm.” I mumbled incredulously, “What? Tonight? Yes, I like wine.” She then went on to say there would be a private wine tasting at the Cinema Lumiere across town for only $10 if I wanted to attend. The director, Jonathan Nossiter, would be there with a group of small Italian wine producers pouring all natural wine, with a panel discussion. And why wouldn’t I?

Off I went to catch the autobus back home, as only an idiot would stay out in the heat of Italy at this time of day. I returned later with map in hand, and found the Cinema Lumiere surrounded by a beautiful mercato that sets up here once a week in summer. Fresh produce, local wine and beer, flowers, prosciutto, and cheese booths were packed  onto the cinema’s patio and surrounded by images of the famous films of Italy. A nice surprise while waiting for the doors of the wine tasting to open.

Once inside, there was a general overview given by Mr. Nossiter, and then each winemaker spoke as their wine was poured. All in Italian, I picked up only a little of what was said, but it was enough to feel the passion of these producers. I’ll write more on this event and natural wine in the next blog post. After the wine tasting it was time to leave for the piazza and the documentary, Mondovino.

The Film Library of Bologna offers the Sotto le Stelle del Cinema — Cinema Under the Stars – from June 19 through July 30, and it was one of the highlights of my summer stay in Bologna. Selected films include documentaries, Italian classics, restored works, directorial tributes, and a few animations.

The piazza was filled to the max when animations were shown, and it was one of those lovely moments to soak up the surrounding culture. Faces of young and old, from all walks of life quietly watching the huge cartoon dominating the square, with the outline of ancient architecture for a backdrop and the stars overhead. I missed very few of these nights.

Thoughts on travel to Italy during July and August? Don’t. Not if you can help it. I know that sounds harsh, but weather does impact trips in a big way. The humidity and heat drain all energy and make it difficult to enjoy the city, see the sights or even venture outdoors. There’s a reason most Italians head for the seaside or mountains during these months! Many shops are closed during this season, and Sundays? A double whammy!! As blasphemous as it may sound, with no blasphemy intended, I slightly cursed both Domenica and Agosto often….oh so often. To be in a great city and have almost everything shut down is not the best use of travel money. I’ll leave you with this. If you must go in the summer….go! Don’t wait for perfect…life is short. This sweaty, challenging trip was packed with memories that will last a lifetime, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Arrivederci!

 

 

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Long Island Wine Escape

New York’s hot, muggy weather required some quick thinking to escape the heat. The obvious suggestion was a trip to Long Island’s wine country. Never mind that it wasn’t cooler upon arrival, but sipping cold whites somehow made the weather more tolerable.

Long Island’s wine region is split into North and South Forks, with the South Fork better known as the Hamptons. Since we would most likely be drunk if we visited both forks in one day, we chose the South Fork. Not because I was curious about the Hamptons, but because research implied there were great winemakers there….and….ok, I was curious about the Hamptons.

Driving the ribbon of highway closest to the ocean, it was surprising to see mile after mile of white, sandy beaches open to the public. Did I imagine the coast to be rugged, or unsightly? Probably never thought about it until then, but realized what a nice respite it must be for New Yorkers escaping the city, and for Long Islanders as well. There was plenty of beach for all. Well done, New York.

Looking for a quick treat, we stopped at Tate’s Bake Shop in Southampton, home to their celebrated chocolate chip cookie. Everything about this cute cottage was irresistible, and their reputation for baked goods is known nationwide. However….as with wine, cookie appreciation is subjective! Personally, it’s tough to beat Lavain Bakery in NYC and their delectable chocolate chip cookie. Words fail me.

Long Island wines have received greater accolades over the past few years, and can now be found in dozens of upscale NYC restaurants. The pioneer winemakers who believed they could produce great wines, are now being celebrated not only for quality but for diversity as well. Known for their whites - Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Chardonnay -some red wines have done well here – including Lagrein, Merlot and Blaufrankisch.

Rose is all the rage now, and that fits nicely into Long Island’s hands. They’ve become top producers of Rose wines, with most being “dry” Rose, unlike the too sweet Rose wines of the past. A visit to Channing Daughters Winery found eight Rose wines made from a variety of grapes. The winery offers an eclectic array of wine, and intriguing grape blending. It begs the question to winemaker, Christopher Tracy….when do you sleep? Channing Daughters not only has beautiful wines, but to visit the winery is a pleasure. The girls at the front (Erin and Debbie) were not only professional, versed on every aspect of the wines, but genuinely friendly and inviting. Since I usually lean toward red, we bought the 2009 Channing Daughters Blaufrankisch to take home…..absolutely amazing!

Another winery we wanted to visit was Wolffer Estate Vineyard, only a few minutes down the road. This Tuscan style winery is magnificent, and if we had more time it would have been lovely to sit on the outside deck and sip wine until dusk. Wolffer is also known for a range of quality wines and winemaker, Roman Roth, has pushed the envelope to make his vision for superb Long Island wines a reality. Their largest production is of Rose, and yet they traditionally sell out by the end of summer.

To truly appreciate Long Island’s wine country, it would be wise to spend a weekend. The Hamptons are beautiful, and that rustic, elegant feel pervades throughout. I didn’t find anyone with their ponies and riding habits, so a photo of a wall hanging at Duckwalk Vineyards (at top) will have to do. The gentleman behind the bar was short on personality, so instead of buying a tasting we took the photo instead. :) Next up will be a visit to the North Fork of Long Island. Cheers!

 

 

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To the End of the Earth… and Back

I didn’t say it, the Yoopers did. You know, Yoopers….the affectionate name given to the folks of the Upper Peninsula in Michigan. UPers = Yoopers. If the slogan can be found on bumper stickers and refrigerator magnets, it must be okay to join in the fun.

I had the privilege of visiting the UP recently, and I’ll admit it looked a bit bleak when I arrived in May. The snow had just melted, streets retained sand for traction, and spring had certainly not sprung. The wind coming off Portage Canal was constant, and the small towns of Houghton and Hancock seemed locked up waiting for something. I joined them in waiting, and while waiting discovered a wonderful region, people and culture.

What does any of this have to do with wine? Absolutely nothing. There’s no wine here. Sure, you can buy it in stores, and the local co-op has a pretty good inventory. A mini Whole Foods, if you will. The closest wine producing area is eight hours away in the Traverse City region, which I’ve been told turns out some good wine. The few that I tried were probably not representative of the region, and I’m sure there are better producers out there.

Back to the Yoopers. Knowing full well that every region has something to offer, I dove in head first. This is Finnish territory on the edge of Lake Superior, and with that comes a charming accent from the locals, the first Finnish college, abandoned copper mines, fish, and pasties. My parents hailed from the UP, and I knew of pasties even as a little girl. Think Italian calzone with a meat, potato, rutabaga, carrot, and onion filling. They were perfect meals for the miners to take into the copper mines, which were prevalent here in the 19th and early 20th century.

I ate fish…smoked fish, white fish, fried fish and couldn’t get enough. A visit to Brockway Mountain during the raptor migration was breathtaking. The Keweenaw Raptor Survey counts Bald Eagles, Sharp-shinned Hawks, Peregrine Falcons, Kestrels, and other raptors migrating through the ravine and overhead. I fell in love with the pancakes at Suomi Bakery & Restaurant, the beer at Keweenaw Brewing Company, and the Portage Library overlooking the canal….which provided a beautiful “office” for me with wifi and a view. Coffee is $1.00 and you’re encouraged to drink it in the library…….it gets my vote for the best library in the U.S.

A special shout-out to 5th and Elm Coffee House in Houghton. From the moment I walked in that first day in the UP, I was embraced like one of the regulars. I not only became a regular but would shut the place down at 6:00. Great food, coffee, and wifi, and lovely, lovely people……it was my first “office” and my favorite! Thanks to Frank, Lisa and Edward for putting up with me. I miss you all.

A fond farewell to the sweet people of the Upper Peninsula in Michigan…too numerous to mention all the ways you touched my heart. Carry on with your coy slogans. Carry on with the unpretentious names you anoint yourself. Only confident, hardy souls can celebrate living two miles past the end of the earth, and rejoice in it! Cheers!!

 

 

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I-Do-Declare, Tennessee!

Driving east from Texas, I crossed through Arkansas and into Memphis, Tennessee with the great Mississippi River as it’s border. Although it didn’t resemble the Mississippi of Tom Sawyer and paddle boats, it was still the Mississippi, and cool for this west coast girl to see. Memphis was a stop for gas, and a Wells Fargo search. Finding both and taking in the sights that all of twenty minutes allowed, it was back on the freeway heading toward Nashville. Immediately apparent was the beauty of Tennessee. Eastern Redbuds flowered  along the interstate, with rolling green hills as far as I could see. Not only was the countryside lovely, but it appeared that everything from the highways to the road signs were a source of pride for this state. Funny the things you notice when driving cross country.

At dusk I took the turn-off toward Franklin, twenty minutes south of Nashville. Google Map definitely took me on the rural route, which was a glimpse of what I would eventually know of this region. Driving up and down through rolling hills, with the scent of fresh cut grass, blooming trees and flowers, and the occasional mini-mansions and farms dotting the hillsides, it was a nice ending to the eleven hour drive. Visiting friends here is something I’ve been trying to do for years, and I’m fortunate to finally have that opportunity. After roaming around the region a bit, I now understand what they’ve been trying to tell me all along….beautiful state, nice people and Franklin is irresistible.

Franklin was founded on October, 26, 1799 and named after Benjamin Franklin. Before the civil war, Williamson County was one of the wealthiest in Tennessee, with Franklin its county seat and center of plantation economy. On November 30, 1864 the Battle of Franklin was fought resulting in 9,000 casualties and turning homes, buildings and plantations into hospitals. Historians refer to it as one of the bloodiest five hours in history.  The best-selling book, The Widow of the South, was based on the true story of Carrie McGavock. The McGavocks opened their Carnton Plantation to serve as a hospital for the wounded, and later donated part of their land as a cemetery for the fallen soldiers.

It took 120 years for the economy to reach pre-war levels, but Franklin has rebounded nicely. It is one of the wealthiest cities in the U.S. and home to celebrities, musicians, and writers working in the country music mecca that is Nashville. The downtown retains its beautiful architecture and sense of place, with the surrounding fifteen blocks teeming with 19th century homes in perfect condition. They serve as residences, offices, boutiques and restaurants. Even a cupcake shop blends the old with the new seamlessly.

What about Tennessee wine? I know very little about it, so a bit of research was in order. According to the Tennessee Wine Growers Association, there are over 33 wineries in Tennessee, with more sprouting up each year. Wines of the South, a regional wine competition, highlights wine produced by fourteen southern states. Along with the traditional varietals, Traminette, Steuben and Muscadine pop up in the award categories.

A road trip with my friend was planned to a nearby winery, Arrington Vineyards. Thirty minutes south of Nashville, Arrington Vineyards is known for award winning wine, but familiar to many by it’s co-owner, Kix Brooks, the country music star of Brooks and Dunn fame. The vineyard was kicking off the season with it’s annual Spring Break Party, and we were up to the challenge of fighting off a few thousand people to taste wine on a beautiful Tennessee spring day.

Deciding to brave the line in the wine shop for a bottle of Viognier, I waited patiently as the line ebbed toward the cash register. A tall man wearing a cowboy hat came through the door where I was standing, and by the quiet mumble of the people in front of me I thought that this could perhaps be Mr. Brooks himself. (Confession….I know very little about country music, but you must be living under a rock not to know Brooks and Dunn. But what they look like, I haven’t a clue) He quietly asked the people ahead of me in line, “How long have you been waiting?” Ah, a hands-on owner. Gotta love it. In unison, we fell over ourselves to make him feel good and said, ”Oh, hardly no time at all! Just a few minutes! The line is really moving!” Liars…all of us. Oh well, that’s what you do when someone has the reputation of Mr. Brooks, and is astonishingly unassuming and friendly. Choosing the right moment to ask for a quick photo, he graciously obliged. These country music guys are damned handsome.

Time to say good-bye to friends, Franklin, and Tennessee. Leaving claw marks on the banister as I’m dragged out of the house and unceremoniously plunked into my car, I realized this was a place I would come back to again and again. Franklin offers a bucolic mix of beauty, quaintness, history, and extremely nice people. Could I live here?  Humidity-Shoomidity! Perhaps.

Cheers, Gail

 

 

 

 

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A Jane Austenesque Salute to Avennia

Why a Jane Austin approach to my friend, Marty Taucher’s new wine, Avennia? Perhaps it’s because I’ve been reading novel after novel of Austen’s lately, and when thinking of writing a post about Marty’s wine, began thinking in this prose. Bizarre, but that’s what reading does to us. So to you, dear Marty, a little ditty.

Dawn broke on this small Oregon town; overcast, with the familiar scent of pine, damp leaves, and the comforting aroma of firewood burning from the already lit fireplaces. The young man walked through the chill air, hoping to reach school by the first bell. He was well-known here and loved; not a boy of ego, but rather of fine sensibilities, an amiable countenance, and an interest in the field of photography and the Camera Obscura. His upbringing lacked the polished schools of the elite, but as is fitting for small towns of this era, many prodigious minds were produced. Cradled by friends, family and community, Marty Taucher had the true good fortune and felicity to grow up in a place such as this.

The years passed, and after graduating the small school, Mr. Taucher found his way to Seattle, Washington, where he opened an office as a printer of technical material. Shopkeepers were drawn to his services, and it was soon clear to all that this gentleman was, indeed, a most gifted man. A large company, Microsoft, found his work exceptional, and befitting one as talented, offered him a place of employment within their offices. An offer of stock was proposed to Mr. Taucher as part of the negotiations, and he heartily accepted.

Over the years an adoring wife and family followed, and eventually found Mr. Taucher in a position of retirement, having given long hours and dedication to the firm Microsoft. But to what avail? The comforts of retirement evident; a preponderance of commen sense would suggest that we seek an avocation of sorts, a passion to keep one’s mind clear and agile. But what passion would give approbation to the mind, or the always yearning soul?

The streets of Seattle were alive with lunch hour workers scampering to avail themselves of each minute. Mr. Taucher navigated his way through the passers-by, not allowing the warm sun on his shoulders, or the aroma of clam chowder from his favorite restuarant to hinder his progress. As he mounted the stairs to his third floor office, and glancing at the old clock above the stairwell, he was relieved to see he had a few minutes to compose himself before the package arrived. Pouring claret into a crystal wine glass; a set lovingly carried aboard a ship from England as a gift from his wife, he reflected on how he got here. He gazed out the window overlooking the pier, and gave a silent toast to the city that had been so good to him. He was pondering these things, when a knock, a somewhat urgent report, broke the thread of his musings.

Opening the door, Mr. Taucher found the courier with the package in question before him. Paying for the delivery, with extra coins to the young man who was noticeably out of breath, he retreated to his desk to open what he had been anxiously awaiting these past several weeks. With alacrity, the box was opened and the contents displayed before him. On the desk, a bottle of deep green shone brilliantly under the lamp, it’s white label proclaiming in clean, austere lines the word, Avennia.

Wine, the beguiling elixer that fascinates; it implores us to take leave of our hurried pace, succumb to an amiable evening of discussion, sooth the temperment of distress, and bring joy to the palate. Mr. Taucher’s years of personal wine study and appreciation, had given way to something more concrete; an occupation of the heart.

Congratulations, with best wishes from all!! Cheers!

Gail

 

 

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On The Wine Trail in Houston

I thought about what to name this piece.  Should it be a play on Alfonso Cevola’s wine blog “On the Wine Trail in Italy” with the oh-so-clever replacement of Houston for Italy? Or a title such as “You Meet the Nicest People When Social Media and the Wine World Collide.”  Too long…quite awful…let’s stick with the above.

Since starting this website over a year ago, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting people from around the world who are involved in wine or social media. There are those that are quickly forgotten, others that become fond acquaintances, and still others I’m lucky to call friends. Whatever the scale of social media used, and for what purpose, I’m continually amazed at how it connects us in that truly “social” way. It’s often overwhelming to be sure, and the ability to navigate one’s way through the good, bad and boring is left to our own wants. Through contacts on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc., we reach out to people, tuck them away lest we forget where we saw them, and resolve to remember them in the future. A couple years ago when researching an article on wine in antiquity, I stumbled across an in-depth piece from Jeremy Parzen on his site Do Bianchi.  (http://dobianchi.com) I commented on what a fascinating article is was, and he responded. Since then I’ve followed him on Twitter and Facebook. In doing so, I noticed another gentleman versed on the Italian wine scene who often exchanged comments with Jeremy. They were, at times, like a couple who knew a secret…..and, well…..you didn’t.

After reading some of his blog posts, (http://acevola.blogspot.com) I was hooked. Facebook friends ensued, and the part that planted him firmly in my heart as a good guy (as I had already gathered) was his “sharing” a post of the tragic loss of a 9-year-old girl’s life in the Gabrille Giffords shooting in Arizona. In a rare request to my Facebook friends to “share” the article, he did…with the simple comment ”heartbreaking to me as well.” This wasn’t about business or connections, it was “social”….. a shared grief with someone I barely knew. Ya gotta love social media.

And now, dear reader, this is where Alfonso Cevola and social media intersect. I had the pleasure of meeting, and having dinner with Alfonso this week in Houston. He’s a genuinely wonderful guy, and one of the great wine bloggers. What appealed to me about his blog were the stories surrounding wine…often reflections of his life, insights into our humanity, the pulse of Italian culture and wine. Beautiful writing, period. Don’t for a minute think these are ramblings from one-of-a-thousand wine bloggers who profess a fondness for Barolos and Brunellos. The guy’s connected. After 30 years in the wine business, he’s one of the true insiders. Both in the U.S. and Italy, his opinon, palate and presence is sought after.

Over dinner, he was kind enough to indulge my barrage of questions, and challenge my immature palate to strive for more. Bottles of 2006 and 2007 Barbarescos were opened, and I was in for a treat. Trying to put words to what I was tasting, without feeling a complete idiot, it was fun to compare what we each picked up in flavor. The two vintages varied dramatically, and his thoughts on what may have happened in the that particular vineyard and winery were appreciated. The wine geekiness continued with a look at a map and the few small regions in Italy where Nebbiolo (the grape in Barbaresco) is grown.

Dinner complete, and a fabulous evening had by all….well, I can only speak for myself… good wishes and arrivederci!

Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote “Life is a journey, not a destination” may be hackneyed…..but it holds true. People like Alfonso are part of the journey, and social media allowed it to happen.

Cheers,                                                                                                                                                  Gail

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted in Featured, Texas | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Supermarket on Steroids – Au Revoir Phoenix!

My stay in Phoenix, Arizona was memorable in many ways…..tops on the list was being near my son and watching his college football team, which brought my daughter from Houston to watch games as well….a win-win. Wonderful new friends, a surprising admiration for cactus, surviving Camelback Mountain in record slow time, amazing weather, and Fry’s Supermarket. Fry’s Supermarket? Ehem…Fry’s Signature Marketplace if you please.

Okay, it’s not Paris’ Eiffel Tower or Rome’s Pantheon. But, ahhhh….the simple pleasures! Imagine arriving in September to 103 degrees in the evening. Parking in the sun insured returning to a car hovering around 120 degrees. Shade was my all-consuming goal. There were countless times that even a Charlie Brown tree provided relief, along with my undying gratitude for its tiny branches. I fell in love with Fry’s the minute I saw AWNINGS in the parking lot!

Now for the piece de resistance. A wine bar in the middle of the store. Pouring some good wine, I might add, at reasonable prices. The store’s wine selection is quite good, from the $3.99 variety to the over $100 variety. Three plasma tv screens going at the same time, free wifi, and wine….what’s not to like? Turn the corner and walk through the spirits section and you run into the Virtual Bartender. You heard me. Touch the screen, choose your poison, and up comes a myriad of recipes for mixed drinks. Don’t have a notepad to write it down? No worries, you can have it emailed to you, or printed out right there. Smart marketing…. all the ingredients to purchase in the spirits isle. Head home and test your mixologist skills.

Wine bloggers beware….the Virtual Bartender also does wine. “Welcome to the Wine Cellar” it proclaims. Shop by Varietal, Food Pairing, Wine Origin and Brand. Have a dumb question about wine? Don’t worry, no reason to embarrass yourself asking a human being….just click on Wine 101 and type in your question. Okay, the wine is generally limited, and the answers pretty cut and dried…but clever. Wine bloggers you’re safe.

More to rave about? You bet. How about a cooking school, sushi bar, free valet parking, hand car washing, juice bar, flower center, indoor/outdoor resort seating with fireplaces, and a book section resembling Barnes and Noble.

 

And last but not least, “The Best Starbucks Crew in the World!” As a frequent visitor for their black iced-tea and chocolate/peanut butter mini cupcakes, no matter what state I’ve been in….these girls are tops. Often using wireless at the tables outside or indoors, they spoiled me and every person they served. Always friendly, genuine and hard workers….I would hire them away in a second! I suppose I need to own a business first. All you Phoenix business owners out there take heed!

As I say “good-bye” to Phoenix, I’m reminded of what my friend, Laura, said as I gave her a hug, “Say au revoir, like the French. It’s not good-bye, but until we see each other again.”

Au revoir, Phoenix!!

Gail

 

 

 

 

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Posted in Arizona | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Ho deciso di imbottigliare: seconda parte l’imbottigliamento

Eccoci qui. Vacanze finite. Vino imbottigliato dopo sei mesi di affinamento in barrique. Spremuta di vaniglia. Eccessivo. Soluzione: ho effettuato un taglio con dieci litri del medesimo vino che nello stesso periodo ha affinato in vetro. La speranza è che le note cedute dal rovere francese diventino un perfetto frame ai profumi del Cesanese. Da non trascurare anche che in questo modo sono state raddoppiate le bottiglie prodotte. Adesso riposeranno almeno fino a Natale. Nel frattempo penserò a come impostare l’etichetta. Ah dimenticavo, le bottiglie sono già state incapsulate con un marchingegno di alta tecnologia: asciugacapelli elettrico.

Enrico Nera        www.parliamodivino.com

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Posted in Italiano | Leave a comment