Mar 232016
 

Pat Fegan

Very sad news this past week that our old friend Pat Fegan had passed away.

Pat was an institution in Chicago. He taught classes, wrote about wine, and knew everyone who mattered. But more than that, Pat put his own stamp of the world of wine in Chicago, and frankly, the whole Midwest. That stamp is still there is so many ways.

Pat was among the most knowledgeable people in the world about grapevines and varieties, but he was the antithesis of the pedantic academic expert. Always ready with at least three of the latest jokes, always happy to say hello to his hundreds, maybe thousands of students, Pat made wine fun in every way. He made the world a better place, and we are much poorer for his passing.

Tonight I think I’ll raise a glass of Tempranillo in honor of Pat—and hear his voice reminding me of the many different names that grape has in Spain–much to his amusement. And then he’d move on to a joke told quietly out of the corner of his mouth…

Sep 292015
 

One Good Day

I met Peter Nowack at the 2014 Wine Bloggers Conference. I instantly found him witty and sarcastic. Needless to say, I liked him immediately. Not long after our meeting, Peter received a rather dire prognosis–Stage 4 prostate cancer. Most of us (probably me included) would crawl up in a corner and wait for the inevitable. Not Peter. He began a crusade to help others in similar situations. He launched an initiative called One Good Day and a website (OneGoodDay.org), which led to a non-profit to help those with incurable cancer to enjoy “one good day”. Over the past couple of months, I’ve worked with Peter to help him with his communications about the organization. Below is a press release from today:

Bay Area Cancer Survivor Starts Non-Profit to Benefit Others with Incurable Cancer

OneGoodDay.org empowers lower-income adults with incurable cancer to have “one good day”

September 29, 2015 (San Francisco/Oakland, CA) – What would you do should Life hand you a death sentence? Diagnosed with incurable cancer, long-time Bay Area resident, Peter Nowack, has launched OneGoodDay.org, a charity committed to improving quality of life for lower-income adults with incurable cancer by offering micro-grants so that these deserving individuals might enjoy “one good day” with loved ones when they need it most.

“As someone with incurable cancer, I’ve learned that the best gift I can ever receive is one good day with family and friends,” says Bay Area resident Peter Nowack, Founder and Executive Director of OneGoodDay.org. “I started OneGoodDay so that lower-income adults with incurable cancer would be able to realize their own “one good day” – a day that has profound, personal meaning.”

“One good day is different for every adult facing incurable cancer,” says Nowack. “It might be a reunion with a distant relative. A special meal with one’s all-grown-up daughter or son. A walk on the beach with your life partner. Or one last adventure with a friend you’ve known for a lifetime.” Nowack notes that OneGoodDay is not about bucket lists, getting the keys to the city, or meeting the President. “It’s about small stuff. Human-scale stuff. Stuff that touches the senses,” Nowack says. “The kind of stuff that makes a real difference on a deeply personal level.”

Diagnosed in October, 2014 with very aggressive, incurable Stage 4 prostate cancer, Nowack wants to commit the measure of his days to making a difference for others in similar situations. “Terminal cancer is not limited to the wealthy, well-connected, or well-insured. Lower-income individuals often lack the resources to provide for basic needs, let alone things that will boost their quality of life.”

“People with incurable cancer deal with physical and emotional challenges every day,” says Dr. Ashok Pai, an oncologist in the San Francisco Bay Area. “We clinicians do our best to slow down the advance of the cancer, and can help patients deal with their symptoms. OneGoodDay.org has the real potential to improve quality of life for lower-income adults with incurable cancer every day.”

Media outlets interested in interviewing Mr. Nowack, hearing his story, and learning more about OneGoodDay.org may reach him directly at pnowack@onegoodday.org.

OneGoodDay.org is seeking financial support to grow its outreach to lower-income adults and their caregivers in the oncology community, and to issue more micro-grants to deserving patients with incurable cancer. With sufficient funding, OneGoodDay.org can touch the lives of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of lower-income adults with incurable cancer. Individuals interested in making donations may do so by visiting http://OneGoodDay.org. Companies interested in supporting OneGoodDay.org should contact pnowack@onegoodday.org.

About OneGoodDay.org

Founded in 2015 by long-time Oakland resident Peter Nowack, OneGoodDay.org is a 501(c)(3) charity committed to improving quality of life for lower-income adults with incurable cancer. OneGoodDay issues micro-grants so that these deserving individuals might have the means to enjoy “one good day” that will make a real difference, at a deeply personal level.

Sep 282015
 

Pepe Galante, father of modern wine in Argentina

This week we’re spending a bit of time with Pepe Galante, the father of modern winemaking in Argentina. Of course, one of the charming things about Pepe is that he claims in all seriousness that this title belongs to his mentor, Francisco Oreglia, the author of the first books to focus specifically on winemaking in Argentina. Oreglia was Galante’s instructor at the Enology School at the Universidad Juan Agustin Maza (UJAM)—and he immediately recognized Galante’s skills and enthusiasm. He offered Pepe a job teaching at the school right after graduation, and Pepe still loves that part of giving back to the industry.

What impresses you the most when you meet Pepe is how quiet and understated he is—even a bit shy. For someone who has traveled the world and brought Argentine wines to the attention of the world, he still comes across as someone who takes each day as an opportunity to learn something more. In fact, when he talks about the young winemakers in Argentina today, most of whom have been his students, he talks about what they can teach us, not the other way around.

And then you taste his new wines from the spectacular new project in Argentina: Salentein. They are simply wonderful wines. Yes you expect great Malbec and delightful Torrontes. But you don’t expect world-class Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc. Or superb Shiraz from San Juan.

Makes for a pretty darn enjoyable evening—drinking wines like that alongside a living legend.

Sep 162015
 
The Lake County Valley Fire has devastated homes and businesses.

(Photo by Stephen Lam/ Getty Images)

Tough news coming out of Lake County these days.  According to CalFire, the “Valley Fire” has consumed over 75,000 acres and 1,900 structures, many of those homes. Over the years, we’ve worked with a couple of different wineries up there, and the grape growers as well.  We have friends, clients, and neighbors all over the county. And for a few years, I lived in Middletown, right in town, near the High School. It’s hard to look at the photos to see what’s happened up there.  The house we used to own, a 100+ year old farmhouse that I remodeled extensively, is gone.  We’ve lost touch with who lived there now, but the house itself had character and charm—even if the kitchen floor had enough slope to it that you never had to look for an olive or a grape the fell on the floor.  They always rolled to the same corner.  It won’t be back.

We’ve agreed to do some pro-bono work for the Lake County Winegrape Commission to try to help out a bit.  We’re sending out press releases, directing media inquiries, and helping focus attention on the relief efforts.  It’s not enough.  It can’t be enough.  If you want to help, please join the Napa Valley Vintners, Andy Beckstoffer, and so many others who have stepped up to help.  You can donate by going to this link:  http://www.lakecountywinegrape.org/news-events/valley-fire-relief-fund/

Apr 032013
 

 

Tracy Ellen Kamens

Photo Credit: Peter Doyle Photography

In February 2012, I had the pleasure of presenting an educational seminar on Brunello di Montalcino DOCG (among others) at the Italian Wine Masters event. Standing at the podium a few minutes before I was scheduled to begin, I noticed Kevin Zraly second row, center. OK, considering the very first wine book I ever owned was written by this well known and highly regarded author and educator, no pressure! After my presentation, I had the opportunity to say hello to Kevin and admitted to him that his presence had made me a bit nervous. He graciously shared that he had taken three pages of notes and I floated through the rest of the day (and perhaps the week). High praise indeed!

A year later, I was invited to attend a session on Brunello di Montalcino, this time presented by Kevin. You can bet I was eager to attend. Arriving early (as usual), I took a seat in the front row and was immediately welcomed by Kevin. He teased me a bit, asking if I knew anything on the topic and made sure to tell me it was a red wine. He jested that my arrival had just added to his nerves and, while I doubted the validity of the statement, was appreciative of his kindness. I then sat back and waited to see what Kevin would say.

Surprisingly, in one sense, he didn’t say much. For one, he ignored the Powerpoint presentation. Yes, he let it loop from slide to slide, but never really called attention to it or directly used it for instruction. For another, he skipped to the tasting almost immediately. Kevin did note that it was the job of the educator to start at the beginning and made sure to do so, first ensuring that the audience knew he was talking about Italy, then Tuscany, and then, more specifically, Brunello di Montalcino. Next, he drew on the similarities and differences among Chianti Classico (Sangiovese blend), Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (Sangiovese blend) and Brunello di Montalcino (100% Sangiovese). Then, he stopped.

That’s not to say that the seminar was over or that he ceased to talk, but he did not provide any further factual information on the wines. In fact, aside from making us repeat the names of the producers aloud (to correct our pronunciation), we didn’t even get any information on the producers’ histories or winemaking practices.

At first, I was annoyed. Was he phoning it in? But, despite this seeming lack of a presentation, Kevin actually provided us with a lot of information. We tasted the eight wines several times each, using the Zraly method, which he demonstrated and reinforced repeatedly. Also, Kevin also had us discuss our tasting notes with our neighbor before we discussed them as a group. Moreover, Kevin continued to point out the key characteristics of the wines, particularly with regard to tannic structure, wine style and readiness to drink.

Kevin Zraly

Photo Credit: Peter Doyle Photography

All in all, once the seminar was over, I realized that he had, in fact, given us an extremely good overview of the 2008 Brunello di Montalcino vintage, while also underscoring how each wine was both similar and different from its counterparts. Additionally, the tasting included three wines from the 2004 vintage, providing further delineation among Brunello vintages.

This experience reminded me that there are multiple approaches to teaching and that each has its time and place. Kevin’s style and approach were exactly what was needed to provide attendees with an understanding of the new Brunello vintage, which was precisely his goal. The positive comments I heard from fellow participants after the seminar reinforced that they agreed his presentation was a success. Moreover, although I pride myself on being a good educator, I recognize that my style is very different from Kevin’s and that I could never pull off his style successfully. Instead, I can learn from Kevin’s approach, but must remain true to myself as a teacher and present my own seminars in a style that is authentic to me, while always keeping the audience and their education in mind.

So, what did I take away from the seminar? The bottom line is that the 2008 Brunello di Montalcino wines are accessible wines, most of which are ready to drink now. They are classic and elegant with vibrant acidity and firm tannins, but enough fruit and complexity to make them easy drinking, very pleasant and, in some cases, extremely complex.

And, more specifically, my 2008 favorites were the Podere Brizio, which I noted as being complex with cherry, cocoa, cedar and herbal notes, along with the Castello Romitorio, which I described as lush with cherries, earth, spice, herbal and floral. Among the 2004s, the Podere Brizio again stood out, as did the Camigliano, both of which were surprisingly still youthful, but drinking well now.