Aug 212012
 
TEXSOM State of the Industry Panel

Photo Credit: TX Wine Lover

It was an imposing audience.  As I participated in my first TEXSOM conference, I looked out and saw more Master Sommeliers than  I had ever seen in one place before.  Twenty?  Twenty-five?  I only knew some of them, so I couldn’t be sure.  But it did tell me one thing:  I had better bring my “A” game to this crowd.   Thank goodness I was sharing the workload with five other people on the panel—each of whom was a well-respected expert in his or her own right.

And we did get into it.  The ideas were challenging, the opinions were sometimes controversial and always well-expressed, and apparently we lit up the Twitter feed from start to finish. In the end, it was more invigorating than intimidating, and the conversations, presentations, and interactions were as full of good humor as they were good information. And that was just our panel.

I think I managed to be the perfectly bad dinner guest, raising the topics of Sex, Politics and Religion all in the short time allotted to me. What fun!

My favorite wine comment from TEXSOM?  Master Sommelier Keith Goldston, capturing the increased intensity and drama of a great wine by imitating the sound effects of the Dolby Plus commercial. Sfweeouuummm!  I can only hope that some sommelier somewhere is going to use that in a restaurant to the great joy and amusement of  his customers.

And the best part of this conference was catching up with so many amazing people over lunches, dinners, and yes, glasses of wine.  Is it the best wine conference in America?  It might be.  It is certainly the best sommelier conference anywhere, including Mars.

Ask Goldston.

Aug 132012
 
Franciacorta group

Photo Credit: Paul Wagner

It was a tough assignment:  leading a group of some of the top sommeliers, writers, bloggers and a film crew on a hosted tour of the finest sparkling wine region in Italy, Franciacorta.   Less than an hour from Milan, this region produces world class sparkling wine in the foothills of the Alps—but nobody ever sees it outside of Italy.  Why?  Because they drink it during Fashion Week In Milan, at Opening Night and the Opera at La Scala, when Inter or AC Milan win an important championship, or whenever anyone in Italy wants to celebrate a grand occasion with glamour and style.

Like I said, not much gets out of the country.

But that didn’t stop them from pulling out all the stops.  We visited the Museum in Brescia and wished we’d had a full day to wander around it—including the Roman ruins they discovered as they were working on the museum.  We had tours of the charming town of Iseo, on the lake of the same name, where Riva, the most expensive speedboats in the world are made.  We took a cruise on the lake itself, and passed the island owned by the Beretta family, complete with palatial residence.  Yes, that Beretta.  And we saw monasteries, ancient towns, and wildlife refuges as well.

Franciacorta

Photo Credit: Paul Wagner

Most of all, we met the men and women who make the wines of Franciacorta.  They were excited and exciting, passionately sharing their vision for their wines and their role in the world of wine.  They poured their classic releases and the top of the line wines.  They proudly told us about their new experiments, and they insisted that we try the results—often with great food, always with fascinating wines.  These were not Citroen or Renault sparkling wines—-these were racy wines that made us think of Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Maserati.

And the food.  Each meal was artfully crafted to match with wonderful wines—and since the wines were elegant sparkling wines, the food was pure delight.  Nothing too rich or heavy, each dish simply satisfied, intrigued, and led to the next course.  We got up from each meal with an amazing sense of both satiety and—amazing on a wine trip—health!

After five days, we were sold.  Actually, we were sold after about a day and half—but please don’t tell them.

(Of course, that was the point!  The trip is part of a new project to introduce the wines of Franciacorta to the US market, and this was a first step).

And when we flew out, we left the film crew behind.  They still had a date with Fashion Week in Milan, and a drive in a Ferrari.

I guess we’ll get to do that next time.