For the Love of Wine — Italian Wine…

I recently attended a few tastings that really reminded me of why I love wine! I used to hate going to tastings, fighting people to get a small taste of wine. I admit it, I’m spoiled, used to early entry to tastings, sneaking behind tables because I was working. But now I’m a bit kinder and gentler and more patient — folks who know me are probably laughing and gasping. Yes it’s true, more patient. The 2015 Brunellos arrived and lived up to the expectation. First tasting was a pure consumer event at Zachy’s. Superbly run with an array of stunning wines, it was worth venturing out in the drenching rain. The vintage is being tauted as one of the finest ever and it’s really living up to it. Very fruit forward and rich with finesse and acidity is how I’d describe it in a nutshell. Next was an amazing event called Benevenuto Brunello — Welcome Brunello. An even bigger event more industry than consumer and wow what a stellar line up of wines!

When you work for a wine company, you can get caught up in the business of wine. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love that part of the industry. The business side is exciting and invigorating, but with that, you can get very caught up in just the business of it and lose site of the intricate beauty of what makes wine so special. Now I can see some of you rolling your eyes at what I am saying. Remember business is about making money and if you get too caught up in the etherial, passionate side of wine, one forgets that at the end of the day you need to move product and make money. Again don’t get me wrong, I loved the game of selling and marketing wine, that busines side, however, now that I am not tied to one company alone or promoting one particular product line, I can truly appreciate again all that’s out there. My love of wine and the business of wine came from my dad — and I will expand even more upon this in my next blog as a tribute to him as I mark an important milestone.

When I was a kid, dad used to schlep me (a very technical New York word meaning to make a kid go somewhere they don’t really want to go) with him as he’d visit every single wine store in the NY metropolitan area. Now remember this was in the late 70’s so there weren’t as many stores as there are today, but it seemed like there were thousands! So he’d pack me off in the car with him which, by the way he always bought based on the size of the trunk so that he could load it with as many cases of wine as possible. I think sometimes the car actually tipped upward it was so loaded with cases in the trunk. Two of his favorite stores at the time were Gold Star in Queens (no longer in existence) and Zachy’s in Scarsdale, NY. We’d spend hours and I mean hours at Zachy’s surveying the wines, while dad talked, and talked and talked with Don Zacharia and the crew. Dad’s zest for learing was amazing and he absorbed everything he heard. As I said in my next blog I will talk more about him and how I consider him to be one of the early pioneers in the industry. Next I mentioned Gold Star because in this blog I recently attended 2 Brunello tastings. So my memory takes me back to Gold Star which was the store back in the 70’s and early 80’s for Italian Wine. The owner was at the time considered the “founder” of the Italian Wine business here in NY. It was a time when most knew Italian wine as only coming in a jug, but Lou Iacucci introduced us all to what Italian wine could be. My dad fell in love with Italian wine when, as he said no one knew what it was. We’d spend hours at the store and then after he was done, we’d hope across the corner to an amazing Italian restaurant, owned by non other than Lidia Bastianich. Before she was known for her high end restaurant and books, Lidia has a restaurant in Forest Hills Queens. The food was as amazing then as it is now.

I’ve been pouing over pictures and memories from when my parents ran their LADV (Les Amis du Vin) chapter, and I found a group of pictures of a trip they conducted to Italy for their chapter. I also found the actual itinerary. Kismet, irony, not sure what to say here but the trip, which took place in 1980, included –Bertani, Lamberti, Melini, & Lungarotti amongst all the other stops they made. For those of you who know me, I worked at Frederick Wildman for some 29 years, much of which was spent working with Italian wines, and Lamberti, Melini and Lungarotti were all brands at Wildman. In fact I worked directly with Melini and Lamberti, and became friends with the owners of Lungarotti. Bertani which was not at Wildman is run by the former director general, Emlio Pedron of GIV (owners of Melini and Lamberti) and one of the former winemakers Andrea Lunardi who is now winemaker at Bertani. Small world this world of wine…!

So back to Brunello and tasting. As I eluded to above, my parents back in the late 70’s early 80’s ran a chapter of a wine tasting society called Les Amis du Vin. Les Amis du Vin, also the name of a magazine, had these tasting chapters all over the country and my parents ran the one for Westchester NY. It was really something, it introduce so many to wine, and my parents chapter was incredibly successful. And yes I was schelpped to the tastings to help set up, and sometimes sit in the back and watch — though occasionally a drop would come my way. Check out the below picture of a Brunello tasting they had can you believe the line up and it only cost a member $14 to taste through a line up of Fattoria dei Barbi Brunello’s from the 1970’s. Again another winery that I worked with (not directly) when I was at Wildman. And look the tasting was led by wine luminaries Mary Ewing Mulligan (today and MW) and Anna Maria Lepore.

I couldn’t imagine being in any other industry or doing anything else other than wine! I will continue to educate my palate, go to more tastings and try to be patient. Take advantage of in-store tastings like the one I attended at Zachy’s, it’s a great way to learn about wine. For the Love of Wine started with Les Amis du Vin, and will continue today through FKDecanted. Cheers to mom and dad for putting me on this journey, today I raise a glass of Brunello 2015 vintage to you, Salute!

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