The year in review

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2012 was an interesting year for me in regards to the world of wine.  It was year of making more contacts, having a couple of learning experiences and shedding some dead weight as well.  But it was the foundations of a building year.

My high points was in attending a number of wine events up in New York [as well as several in Philadelphia], experiencing some new wines over a period of different tastings in Philly, making new friends while enjoying the grape and solidifying what I want to do in the industry.

Creatively, I took a risk and laid down some foundations for projects, both present and future.  Mike Pierce (Mike Pierce Photography), Deedee, Kassie and I got together and photographed some of my ideas for a small creative agency that I want to launch focused on the wine and spirits industry.  We got some good shots and started to lay the framework for what we want some of the finished products to look like.  I like what we came up with for white port, Alvada (a blended Madeira) and another port as well.  Mike photographed me at Revolution House and at La Famiglia, courtesy of Luca Sena and Giuseppi Sena respectively, with the one hundred year toast and some vintage port.

As not all of the projects will be in one medium, another aspect that I am looking to do is in regards to music and adding that to the bouquet.  So, that means that not only will I put back on my hats as producer and arranger, but also as a musician.  I am looking forward to working with Leah Finne, Etta Purcell, and Kirk Abernathy as well as some others; can I get Blondie on Never on Sunday?

On the events, they were great.  I attended the VinItaly US Tour in New York last year, where amongst all people I met the eloquent Alessandra Marino, a brand manager for Cesari which producer some of the finest wines out of Verona; I do so love their Mara Ripasso.  Of course I would run into Eugene Engel there, and some other good people.  I attended two seminars at this, one being a tasting of wines from Valpolicella – an area which I love – and another on Sagrantino, an area for which I am familiar with the passito/sweet style of making the wine.  I would see Alessandra again at the Philadelphia Wine Festival, at which I of course made some great friends and also reconnected with old acquaintances.

The Frederick Wildman and Sons annual portfolio tasting was great as well.  I had attended in 2010, but missed 2011.  I came to know it by having looked up Etienne Hugel, whom I met many years ago at a private industry tasting in Philly.  He is the head of Hugel et Fils, which makes some great wines in the Alsace region of France.  His son was manning the table this year.  He was my first stop there, but my second was at the Pol Roger champagne table where I was in heaven.  While I normally don’t go for French wines, there were a number that I was able to taste at this one… before of course finding love in the Italian section.  And in that section, I met the lovely and vivacious Barbara De Rham who had a lot of great products.  Austria as usual repped some great products and I also was able to taste a number of port wines from Churchill’s.

Now, the event itself is held in a restaurant called Guastavino’s which has some phenomenal vaulted ceilings and if you know and understand acoustics, you can then use this to your advantage.  And I did use this when I was at the table for Four Graces wines out of Oregon; I had Rebecca Oliver, the Eastern Sales Manager, cracking up as I wooed people over to the table. I also ran into Andrew Quady, who despite looking like a madman, is one of the nicest guys and along with his wife Laurel, Quady Winery makes some lovely muscast wines using the black muscat and the orange muscat grapes. 

Oh, much love to David Martin of Wildman as well.

Following this is of course the wine tasting which I truly love, which is the two day annual portfolio tasting of Winebow up in Manhattan.  Winebow was started by Leonardo Lo Cascio, who is one of the most stylish men that I have ever met; I still have to call him and set up a lunch for the two of us.  When I mention Winebow, I have to mention Joe Brandolo who is a great guy, and has shared both some great conversation and insights into wine with me.  It is through this Winebow event that I have met a ton of various people from a ton of various companies, including Peter Szgeti who along with his brother make some wonderful sparkling wines in Austria.  Simon Saxby works for his parents, who are a champagne producer (dad married into the right family, I am so envious).  I also met the woman behind Fat Bastard wines and she and I shared a ton of laughs at my jokes on how she came up with the name.  Now, the funny thing is that I am at the point where my uniqueness and my gregariousness shines through, and people remember me even if they haven’t seen me for a year.  One person was like, “I remember you from last year, you had four tall blondes in attendance with you.”  Now, I never showed up with four tall blondes, but could have easily charmed a small group and had them with me while I introduced them to some great wines.  Also, some great people at Winebow are Eric Lopes, Faith Proetto, Felix, Richard Drsicoll, fulvio Costantini, Ryan Bowker, Daniele Sbordi,  Steve Barcello, Michael Cantone, and Brian Justo.

I also attended a Spanish wines tasting in New York, but missed most of the presentation by Philly’s own Marnie Olds.  Marnie was giving a presentation on Albarino, but I was luckily schooled by her earlier in the year on Reisling. 

And I also attended a vintage wines tasting and fundraiser there as well, in which I met a ton of new people, both in the wine industry and not in it.  Ofer and I were standing in line together, and I met Caitlyn Lubell of Ste Michelle Wine Estates inside.  I was able to taste some current Dom Perignon – didn’t like it – and some Conundrum Red – felt the same.  However, I did find a table with some Recioto and was in heaven; the people pouring it didn’t realize the gem that they had on their hands!

In Philly, there were the annual portfolio tastings for both Southern Wine and Spirits and Capital Wine and Spirits.  Much love to Brad Waxman, Steve Helmus, Greg Cohen and Beth Lewandowski.  Between these two, I got to reconnect with Joe Spurlock, whom I had met years earlier.  You see, Joe was representing the Kendall Jackson product at a Philadelphia Wine Festival and tried to offer me that crappy vintner’s reserve.  I of course said that I would rather drink cat piss and he then offered me the grand reserve version of it.  I have been purchasing that ever since.  What Joe respected was my honesty, and my strength to go against the crap that everyone else has advertised and fallen in line with like ship.  Oh yeah, there was some guy trying to convince me that Middle Sister was a great wine brand.  Really?

Now in my trips and my outings, whether for happy hour or late night drinks with friends, there are a ton of other people whom I have been fortunate to meet.  There are the people whom I meet on the train rides, those that I meet at the tastings and those whom I meet while at the bar and this past year has been a great year nonetheless.  I have several different restaurants to visit in the upcoming year as well as many wine producers and importers to visit as well. 

I look forward to this upcoming year and getting some things done.  I look forward to building upon friendships and associations and I look forward to traveling.  I am thinking Italy in April and France in June.  I also have connects in Hong Kong, Brazil, Austria and Uruguay.

I am thankful that I made it this far and I am looking forward to making it maybe another forty two years and loving wine all the way.

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