The Dirty Guide to Wine is coming on June 13th! Curious? Take a look here, with Pascaline Lepeltier. Direction by Christy Frank, video and sound by Peter Zanger.
Oh, yeah, and that's me in the red hair, Alice. Available for Pre Order!
I received an email from a friend who is ex-patrioted who said he was bored with wine, and he hopes to get it back. Sometimes when making a living at what we're good at, whether importing or writing, it can indeed kill the love. I too have been in this position, really? Another tasting note? Another story? How can I fire up the enthusiasm. Especially when working in a local fast food place is a better living than capitalizing on my two decades of experience playing pairing words and wine.
But looking over the year at stories that I loved writing, about people worth writing about their soil, and tasting the rare wine that wasn't just drink-worthy but transformational, or ones that merely just give pleasure, and the people and the conversations..I think can indeed restore the love, and I am feeling it these days. The love.Yet when I look over the memories, sure I could pull the bottle shots, but mostly they were wine moments. I could tell you the wines, and the bottles are scattered throughout, but this year, I'm going with the pictorial.
So here's to my struggling, enervated colleagues. I hope these help inspire, and if I failed to give the stories, there's room in your own imagination to make them happen.
Happy New Year to all, may there be miracles... Alice
The year started out with Pierre & Catherine's 30th anniversary birthday bash
Last January I landed in Angers, went immediately to tastings and that night Pascaline and I went to a fabulous party at the Breton's to celebrate their 30 years making exquisite wine. It was packed.
Xavier Caillard, expressive, magical wines. Here is telling us of his battle with with vine virus esca and its tedious fix.
Meeting the remarkable Hacquet sisters.
Lunch with Eric Texier and Pascaline at de la Bascule (we drank Yohan Lardy)
Salvo Foti on Etna
Faro Giuseppina, a great Etna discovery
and then there's Eduardo's wine
A beautiful Rosso from Etna's basalt
in the morning we were in the sun, on the volcano, by night fall we were in Trentino. And in the morning after a restful night we took the gospel from Elisabetta Foradori.
End Part 1
My friend was incredulous. Did you say you went on vacation? Did you really use that word?
She had reason to be shocked. For nearly 30-years the only days off I took were the random day or two when traveling, or when I was able to pinch a long weekend. It was all I could manage financially and emotionally. Vacation was a word that was not in my vocabulary.
As a freelancer, envied by employed friends around the world for my 'freedom,' they never truly appreciated how 'un-free' a free-lance writer can be. Yes, I was free to have my own opinions. I was free to be more political and critical than salaried colleagues (is the wine critic the only genre of pundit that is a cheerleader instead of an informed commentator?).
The idea of taking off time, in the end, was far more anxiety-inducing than staying in the chair and pounding out the words.
But the past three years were particularly brutal. And by the end of July when my first draft of the next book was sent in to my editor, I was barely able to grunt. The experience left me feeling trampled by pack of rats and as bloodless as a leftover meal stuck in a web. I determined that I would never write another wine book again. And what's more, I would take a break. Burned out? I was wearing that old dead cat on my chest, still with it's claw and scratch. I could avoid a break no longer, or I would crack in pieces.
Not totally able to leave obligation behind, I lined up a few book events (hey, they are fun, after all), rented a car and headed north to claim it. (Fun tip for New Yorkers, take the train to Hudson and rent from there, about a fifth of the price.)
Me and a car and a road.
Six gorgeous days from Saugerties, to Hudson, to the angel bosom of Vermont.
Want to come with me? Here, take a look.
The next day a little lunch at Fish & Game. Curious about it? It's stellar. Here are bloody mary tomatoes. Heaven. And yes, there's what to drink by the glass and bottle. They're committed to the good stuff.
The next day, For the Love of Wine event at Hudson Wine Merchants. Packed house. Good ego booster.
Went out to Worthy Burger (no, I did not, in fact, but opted for smoked blue fish pizza, bizarre but delish). Somewhere in the night, this happened, I picked it up from Hudson. It's worthy. Trust me.
A wine from the late Baldo's hands. 2004 Nebbiolo recently bottled.
Next day, some hikes with old friends, some fresh laid eggs from Deidre's gorgeous picnic, some cider with new friends and the La Garagista goes to Georgia dinner.
Deirdre's husband and life and work partner, the talented Caleb used recipes from For the Love of Wine. They worked! The food that he improvised was also so very Georgian. We snuck in a little La Garagista Night Music, rare (field blend from the Home Vineyard, vibrant wine) and crab apple pink and rosé delicious.
The next day to the vines, more cider, Shacksbury! Fable Farm! More vines, sunset and capped off with a dinner, which is absolutely perfect, at Hen of the Woods, Burlington with Deirdre, Caleb and toasting to the new life of Vermont wines.
Somewhere along the way I saw a shooting star of my dreams and a furry bear scampering off in the woods. I felt like a Fresh Air Fund kid.
The morning of my departure, I started out south in the still cool.
The drive down the small winding roads, was so heart- bleedingly beautiful, I couldn't be sorry to leave the hills where the vines started to thrive. I was returning to reinvent freedom and embrace it with new energy.
Looking for updates, reviews and interviews on the new Georgian wine book? Please head over to my
My journey through the country of Georgia, full of people I adore, the wines, the characters, the drama, the silk worms, the homeopathic remedies, the food, the adventures and a special guest appearance by Stalin's last remaining winemaker. It's true.
It was a stop and go, was I leaving or not? A reservation had been mysteriously cancelled---the tricks of Mercury in retrograde? A plot to keep me stateside? Then, the word came, quick, head for the plane.
I ran for the A train to Iberia, forgetting important items back home. Once through security, waiting for the plane, I flipped through Food and Wine magazine and what do you know?
There it was. The Feiring Line recommended as a must read for those interested in organic and natural wines. So if you're not a subscriber ...correct that!
Recognition is sweet. I admit it. I like attention as much as the next guy. We all need pats on the back and affirmation. The TFL really shouldn't be a secret and this should help. So tell your friends and local co-op, wine shop, wine bar and help spread the word.
Fueled by that good news, I want to send you all greetings from Haro in the heart of La Rioja where pig is considered a vegetable.
When a waiter heard that I was a vegetarian, she explained: "The minestra only has a little bit of chorizo, and the soup only has bone, which one will you have?"
"I won't have anything," I answered to her confusion. That's okay. I can stand to lose a kilo or two, and anyway, I more than made up for it with the wine.
After all, I flew here for a tasting of older Rioja to celebrate the first annual Haro Station , where the historical cantinas of Haro open their doors to visitor.
Probably the most sensational wine was the 1964 Lopez de Heredia Tondonia.
That was the wine in my glass when this picture was taken with me and Maria Jose Lopez de Heredia. Obviously we were trying to solve the problems of the wine world (or love, I can't remember which.) It all seemed possible with that Tondonia Gran Reserva 1964. How, I wondered, could a wine taste so evolved but be so very young and vibrant? Mostly 75% Tempranillo, with Garnacha, Graciano and Mazuelo full of cocoa and leather and zingy acidity, so very vibrant and full of under-leaf yet plumptuous? Age-defying glory.
Other great moments were walking the vines of Contino, Lopez de Heredia and Muga, finally getting a grasp of the soils in this complex region.
This brings me to an odd segue.
My next book, For the Love of Wine, my odyssey into the world's most ancient wine culture ( I know, a mouthful) has a pub date!
Look for it March 1st.
Hot off the presses; another book will be on its tail. That book might be called The Dirty Wine Guide, or even Dirt. Helping me will be super-sharp sommelier, Pascaline Lepeltier. The two of us will serve up what we aim to be a groundbreaking beginner wine guide. For sure, there's nothing else like it.
Tomorrow, an early morning flight, then a long layover in Madrid so I can sneak in a quick visit with Fabio Bartolomei (Vinos Ambiz).
We'll march through his vines, switching out the limestone of Rioja for the granitic hills of Sierra de Gredos. It's only an hour drive from the airport, so should all be doable in time to get back for my plane and then flap my wings across the Atlantic.
Lastly, a new essay of mine is up on the New York Times's Opinionator site, The End.
So, that's it for now, hope all is well with you.