Our News

Georgia: Here Wine Lives

[nd_options_text nd_options_text_tag=”p” nd_options_text_weight=”normal” nd_options_text=”I had the honor of visiting the Republic of Georgia for the International Wine Tourism Conference in Tbilisi last week. Very few places have impressed me as much or left me with so much desire to come back that I feel pain. Georgia is the cradle of wine. Wine in Georgia is a tradition of place and of people. Through the ages and through invasions and oppression the people persevered through wine. The vine (there are over 500 indigenous grape types) is the symbol of both country and people and grape motifs are everywhere. What makes Georgia so fascinating is that their own style wine making has survived. This ancient heritage of Qvevri is now protected and recognized by UNESCO.”][nd_options_spacer nd_options_height=”35″][nd_options_text nd_options_text_tag=”p” nd_options_text_weight=”normal” nd_options_text=”Watch this short video on the ancient tradition of Qvervi making.”][nd_options_spacer nd_options_height=”25″]
Our News

My Top 9 of 2013

[nd_options_image nd_options_align=”center” nd_options_image=”2179″ nd_options_width=”100%” nd_options_class=”adaptive_image_550″][nd_options_spacer nd_options_height=”20″][nd_options_text nd_options_text_tag=”p” nd_options_text_weight=”normal” nd_options_text=”Well, another year has passed and it seems fitting to list some of my top wine, craft beer and food moments of 2013. Studies and the success of sites like BuzzFeed show that people respond positively to lists, so I have decided to end 2013 with a new feature on my blog, and that is The Top 9. Why 9 and not some other arbitrary number? The obvious reason is my love of cats and the fact that they have 9 lives, so 9 it is.”][nd_options_spacer nd_options_height=”35″]
[nd_options_image nd_options_align=”center” nd_options_image=”2185″ nd_options_width=”100%” nd_options_class=”adaptive_image_550″][nd_options_spacer nd_options_height=”20″][nd_options_text nd_options_text_tag=”p” nd_options_text_weight=”normal” nd_options_text_align=”center” nd_options_text=”A tasting of fortified wines during a WSET class”][nd_options_spacer nd_options_height=”18″][nd_options_text nd_options_text_tag=”p” nd_options_text_weight=”normal” nd_options_text=”9. Discovering I actually love dry Sherries like Fino and Manzanilla. Actually considering my love of rotten, fermented food and my passion for Kombucha brewing, lacto-fermentation and yeast in general, it is no wonder I have a newfound appreciation for FLOR, which infuses wonderful nutty notes to these often salty wines that are perfect with olives (another lacto-fermented food I make).”][nd_options_spacer nd_options_height=”35″]
[nd_options_image nd_options_align=”center” nd_options_image=”2186″ nd_options_width=”100%” nd_options_class=”adaptive_image_550″][nd_options_spacer nd_options_height=”20″][nd_options_text nd_options_text_tag=”p” nd_options_text_weight=”normal” nd_options_text_align=”center” nd_options_text=”GianMarco and his lovely dirt”][nd_options_spacer nd_options_height=”18″][nd_options_text nd_options_text_tag=”p” nd_options_text_weight=”normal” nd_options_text=”8. Visiting one of my favorite Laziale wine producer’s for Katie Parla’s birthday. Gianmarco Antonuzi of Le Coste gave us an in-depth tour of his vineyards, showing us the health and life of the soil, the young bush trained vines and then taking us to the cellar where we tasted many different wines from the barrel for about two hours. Gianmarco can easily be described as a wine anarchist and a hardcore naturalist. No compromising, ever. Lazio is a region of incredible potential, and Gianmarco is the poster child of natural wine making in Lazio if not all of Italy. A true visionary.”][nd_options_spacer nd_options_height=”35″]
[nd_options_image nd_options_align=”center” nd_options_image=”2202″ nd_options_width=”100%” nd_options_class=”adaptive_image_550″][nd_options_spacer nd_options_height=”20″][nd_options_text nd_options_text_tag=”p” nd_options_text_weight=”normal” nd_options_text_align=”center” nd_options_text=”Umbria wine Master class with Patrick Farrell, MD, MW”][nd_options_spacer nd_options_height=”18″][nd_options_text nd_options_text_tag=”p” nd_options_text_weight=”normal” nd_options_text=”7. Participating in the first #winelover anniversary wine weekend over Valentine’s weekend in Umbria. We tasted some interesting wines and I met a great group of people that share a passion for wine. Cool wine friends are always welcome!”][nd_options_spacer nd_options_height=”35″]
[nd_options_image nd_options_align=”center” nd_options_image=”2191″ nd_options_width=”100%” nd_options_class=”adaptive_image_550″][nd_options_spacer nd_options_height=”20″][nd_options_text nd_options_text_tag=”p” nd_options_text_weight=”normal” nd_options_text_align=”center” nd_options_text=”Picking grapes, 2013″][nd_options_spacer nd_options_height=”18″][nd_options_text nd_options_text_tag=”p” nd_options_text_weight=”normal” nd_options_text=”6. Participating in my third grape harvest and helping make Roèt. Since Roèt is essentially a field blend it is difficult to say how much of each variety is in the wine. This year, as I picked grapes, I got to know each grape and was able to identify them. This still doesn’t help me with my next-to-zero math skills.”][nd_options_spacer nd_options_height=”35″]
[nd_options_image nd_options_align=”center” nd_options_image=”2182″ nd_options_width=”100%” nd_options_class=”adaptive_image_550″][nd_options_spacer nd_options_height=”20″][nd_options_text nd_options_text_tag=”p” nd_options_text_weight=”normal” nd_options_text_align=”center” nd_options_text=”Flora and my favorite beer”][nd_options_spacer nd_options_height=”18″][nd_options_text nd_options_text_tag=”p” nd_options_text_weight=”normal” nd_options_text=”5. Finally getting over my hatred of hipsters in San Diego and embracing the craft beer scene thanks to my best friend Hanna. We enjoyed amazing raw, unfiltered sour beer from all over the West Coast. My favorites came from California wine making region the Russian River Valley and Oregon. Another thing I discovered- in beer- Brettanomyces is delicious. My favorite beer on sour beer night was the Logston Seizoen Brett Farmhouse Ale from Oregon. I could drink this beer for days.”][nd_options_spacer nd_options_height=”35″]
[nd_options_image nd_options_align=”center” nd_options_image=”2195″ nd_options_width=”100%” nd_options_class=”adaptive_image_550″][nd_options_spacer nd_options_height=”20″][nd_options_text nd_options_text_tag=”p” nd_options_text_weight=”normal” nd_options_text_align=”center” nd_options_text=”TRD at DWCC”][nd_options_spacer nd_options_height=”18″][nd_options_text nd_options_text_tag=”p” nd_options_text_weight=”normal” nd_options_text=”4. Launching The Rome Digest in March with Gina, Irene, Katie and Hande. It has been an extremely positive experience and feedback from the community has been great. Along with launching TRD, we spoke on blog collaboration at the Digital Wine CommunicationsConference in Spain, which was, of course, a huge honor.”][nd_options_spacer nd_options_height=”35″]
[nd_options_image nd_options_align=”center” nd_options_image=”2196″ nd_options_width=”100%” nd_options_class=”adaptive_image_550″][nd_options_spacer nd_options_height=”20″][nd_options_text nd_options_text_tag=”p” nd_options_text_weight=”normal” nd_options_text_align=”center” nd_options_text=”Soul mates?”][nd_options_spacer nd_options_height=”18″][nd_options_text nd_options_text_tag=”p” nd_options_text_weight=”normal” nd_options_text=”3. Meeting and bonding with Dora and Patrizia of Poderi Sanguineto I and II. Not only do they make wonderful, earthy Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, they are real people. They make honest, traditional Tuscan wines which are a rarity amoung today’s overly-polished wines of the region. They also have dozens of cats and Patrizia and I bonded over our great love of cats. She offered me a cat and introduced me to her favorite queen, a very”][nd_options_spacer nd_options_height=”35″]
[nd_options_image nd_options_align=”center” nd_options_image=”2188″ nd_options_width=”100%” nd_options_class=”adaptive_image_550″][nd_options_spacer nd_options_height=”20″][nd_options_text nd_options_text_tag=”p” nd_options_text_weight=”normal” nd_options_text=”old and noble lady. I fell in love with these endearing women. Kopke’s 1940 Colheita Tawny Port2. Port wine. We were chosen to participate in a press trip host by Greengrape through the Douro Valley in October pre dwccwith some fellow delegates. What can I say? I fell in love. Vinho Verde, Port Wine, Douro Doc are all fantastic. The Douro Valley is a place of extreme beauty, ancient history, gorgeous wine and unique terrior. I had the opportunity to taste many different types of port from Vintage to Ruby to LBV to Tawny to the benchmark 2011. The look like jewels in a glass. The most incredible wine I tasted during our trip in Portugal was Kopke’s 1940 Colheita Tawny Port. (An entire post will be dedicated to this trip) This is a special edition wine to celebrate 375 years of the oldest Port Wine House. Only 375 bottles were produced. It was an ethereal and delicious moment.”][nd_options_spacer nd_options_height=”35″]
[nd_options_image nd_options_align=”center” nd_options_image=”2184″ nd_options_width=”100%” nd_options_class=”adaptive_image_550″][nd_options_spacer nd_options_height=”20″][nd_options_text nd_options_text_tag=”p” nd_options_text_weight=”normal” nd_options_text=”My love…”][nd_options_spacer nd_options_height=”18″][nd_options_text nd_options_text_tag=”p” nd_options_text_weight=”normal” nd_options_text=”1. And last but not least, it should be no surprise for those who have joined the cult of Fiorano. My number one wine, food or beer moment of 2013 was at my birthday dinner. Ettore and I shared a 1975 Fiorano Semillon Vino da Tavola. These wines are the world’s greatest wines and fairly unknown except to a few crazy cultish people. Another great example of the incredible potential of Lazio as a wine making region. Let’s get beyond cheap Frascati in 2014!”][nd_options_spacer nd_options_height=”35″]
Best Destinations

Roèt Vendemmia 2013

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Malvasia Puntinata is easily recognized by its lovely dots

Let me share with you how we roll in the Castelli Romani.  This is how the grapes get picked on a small farm to make a natural, organic wine for personal consumption.  We don’t have aprons.  And since we are organic, there are bees, wasps and mosquitoes who seem to be out with a vengeance. The sun burns the skin, we have to bend over backwards to make sure we do not miss one single precious grape.  And we get sticky.  It is gross.  Grape juice mixes with dirt and leaves to create a sort of sticky dirty film over the entire body.  Picking grapes is hard, back-breaking and sticky work.  Did I mention sticky?  Why anyone would volunteer to do this is beyond my comprehension.  I am picking this year because I will be paid in wine.  I feel so medieval, man.  Isn’t that, like, illegal?
We are picking now because the Malvasia Puntinata is ready.  It has good sugar levels and great acidity.  We are also picking Bellone and Trebbiano, but it is mostly a very juicy Malvasia Puntinata we are picking.  The sugar meter measures 18-19.  Not too bad for a homemade wine.  Due to cooler conditions this year the acidity is up, which is good for making a longer lasting wine.  But we don’t make a longer lasting wine, we make wine that we finish just when we are picking grapes again.
Tonight we are going to drink.  And we are going to drink a lot.  We have to drink the rest of last year’s wine to make way for the new.  And then we will rise early again tomorrow morning and do it all over again.  For the love of wine.

Buon Vendemmia a tutti!

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There are a lot of weeds in most of the organic vineyards in the Castelli Romani. This is because it was an extremely wet year and letting the grass and weeds grow helped the vines not get bogged down

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Malvasia Puntinata: Base grape of almost all Castelli Romani whites

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Roberto, the Ro of Roèt

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One of the oldest ways to make wine…

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A row of Bellone, it gives the Castelli wines softness.

p.s. Roèt is the combined efforts of ROberto and ETtore.  Made from Laziale grapes that are grown organicially and fermented with the skins with indigenous yeasts.  No sulphites added.  This is a traditional farmer’s wine, a pure natural wine made made with nature and hardwork.

Our News

Future Wine Lovers

[nd_options_text nd_options_text_tag=”h3″ nd_options_text_weight=”normal” nd_options_text=”MY WONDERFUL STUDENTS AFTER OUR LAST CLASS! <3″][nd_options_spacer nd_options_height=”20″][nd_options_divider nd_options_align=”nd_options_text_align_left” nd_options_width=”30px” nd_options_height=”2px” nd_options_color=”#f1f1f1″][nd_options_spacer nd_options_height=”20″]

Sometimes, only sometimes, we encounter young people that are extraordinary. These people give us old people hope for the future. In this case, my last group of wine students was so fantastic, smart and talented I wanted to cry when I said goodbye. As a group they were inquisitive about the overall culture of wine and its place in Italian culture in general. They studied, did awesome and creative projects and, in the end, I was the one learning from them. I’ve been a grumpy youth hater for far too long. I guess it is just disheartening that many college age students cannot put a sentence together, seem disinterested in the world around them, are plugged into their devices but tuned out of the world around them. Not so this group. They were articulate, funny, knowledgeable and open to new experiences. Their energy was infectious. These are the future wine lovers of America, and we as wine professionals need to embrace their curiosity, open ourselves to learning about innovative and new happenings in the wine world. They are coming out into the world with more wine knowledge than most 20-21 year olds; they’ve made the connection between wine and local culture, wine and health, wine and finance, and, their place in this world. My students met my colleagues and they were all impressed. As my friend Hande from Vino Roma said about one in particular, “That boy renowned my belief in the future – so good to know there are 21 yr. olds (well, at least one!) out there who are smart, athletic, artistically inclined & talented, well-behaved… and good looking 😉 The human kind shall persevere!” Indeed!In Frascati

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If you guys are reading this, bless you all.  You ALL have rehabilitated my faith in the future.

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Wonderful fruity aromas

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Tastes like Puglia

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Mr. Champagne with the ladies

Best Destinations

Bibenda Day 2012

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I haven’t had much time for wine tasting lately.  I am studying for the Rome Guide Exam and it is more or less taking over my life.  I’ve attended a few tastings with our ladies tasting group and, recently, Bibenda Day at the Hotel Cavalieri.  I’ve posted about other tastings and events hosted by AIS on this blog, so I’ll spare you the details on what they are about.  These tastings are a great way to taste a great amount of wine in one space and get to know the regions and producers you really like without having to travel 100s of kilometers.

This years 46th Bibenda Day was a 2 day celebration of the organization in Rome with 430 produces of wine and food from all over Italy.  They also had special conference with winemakers in Italy and abroad.  I signed up for two, but due to a transportation strike and a mistake on my part I could not attend the Valentini tasting.  I did have the pleasure of not only taste some of the wines of Josko Gravner, I was able to spend two hours listening to him speak about his life, his approach to wine and his dear father.  You can read in more detail here at Katie Parla’s blog

My favorites for the evening were Benanti from Etna in Sicily, Skerk from Friuli Venezia Giulia and Josko Gravne from Friuli Venezia Giulia.  There were other great wines but these are the produces that stood out because of their unique approach to winemaking.   Of the 8 wines wer tasted at the Gravner conference 6 were fermented in Amphora.  We tried Breg 1998 and 2005 and Ribolla from 2000-2005.
These wines were intense and full of character and differed great from each year.  Gravner spoke a lot about weather and conditions of each year, and since there is very little intervention on his part there is a lot of variation from each year.  So much mineality in all of them.  They were alive.
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The Tasting Room

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Some of the delicious food

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Benanti pour-beautiful wines with tons of mineality and very lively

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Benanti pour-beautiful wines with tons of mineality and very lively

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Josko Gravner

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Copper wines of great complexity and intensity

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Breg 2005 (blend of Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Riesling)

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Why this color?  Even though they are made with “white” grapes he ferments with the skins which not only extracts color but tannins, which give these wines longevity.  Conventional wines differ because red wines are fermented with the skins of dark grapes white wines are white because they are fermented without skins.  The also extracts intense aromas and flavors.

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When you go to an AIS tasting,don’t forget your suit.

Travel Tips

Great Books on Wine

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In the interests of keeping this blog going after a brief taco eating hiatus, I just wanted to share some of my favorite wine books that I think offer a lot for both the novice and expert

 Let me say, however, that I think the only way to ever really get to know wine is to actually drink it.  That being said, reading about wine from another’s perspective can really teach us a lot about what we do not already know and affirm what we do.

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The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil is the book I most often use for research or to look something up. It is kind of like an encyclopedia except it is divided into regions. The introduction is essential reading for the beginners as it has tons of information on everything from history to winemaking to wine culture itself. I find myself coming back to the introduction over and over again. This book has been particularly helpful for me when I am researching non Italian winemaking regions. Anyone who studies wine knows that Burgundy is the greatest and most difficult wine area to understand, and this book has made that journey slightly less difficult. This book is more for reference than a page turner. Useful for any wine library.

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Great book for wine tasting basics

When I studied wine I studied in italiano so not only did I have to translate what I was learning into English, I had to study everything twice;  once in Italian and once in English to make sure everything sunk in.  I accumulated a million books on wine and tasting during my studies, and I would say at least 1/3 of them are on tasting.  Tasting seems pretty simple, right?  Look, smell and taste, wine tasting in a nutshell, right?  Wrong.  Wine tasting is complex and one has to acquire the skills for it and also a wine vocabulary to be able to articulate what one is experiencing while tasting.  How to Taste:  A Guide to Enjoying Wine by Jancis Robinson makes complexity much more inviting.  She has wonderful exercises to help anyone become a better tasting and to aid those who find finding the right words daunting when trying to articulate what exactly is that wonderful aroma?  This book is broken down into wine tasting basics with exercises not based on region but by major grape varietal.  I highly recommend.  
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I do not even know where to begin with this book.  It changed my life.  It threw me a wine curveball.  Alice Feiring faces the greatest enemy known to the world of wine and that is the industrialization/globalization and Parkerization of the world palate.  This globalization in wine has made winemakers make Bordeaux style wines in places that they were never made before.  She writes about authentic wines by weaving her own life experiences into a wonderful tale of mystery and intrigue.  This is not a reference book but an experience.  After I read this book I started doing my own research in wines.  I knew what wines I enjoyed and which I didn’t, and I began to question what was actually in my wines and how they were made.  This goes beyond the new fashion of organic grapes and biodynamic farming practices.  Authentic wines are wines that are the definition of terroir driven wines.  Wines I like.  I want to know the winemaker, the land, and I want the wine to tell a story.  Only, I wish I could tell a story as well as Ms. Feiring in The Battle for Wine and Love or How I Saved the World from Parkerization