Thursday, March 17, 2011

Valeria Brings Wine to Class

Our own Valeria's first post...

Thirty years ago I was a student at  El Segundo High, California. At the end of the first semester I had to attend speech class because I could no longer play volleyball (I was too lame at it!). So the teacher, the best of all, Mrs. Jeanette Leneman, told me to prepare a speech, on whatever it was important to me as an Italian exchange student to the US. I was reluctant, but I had to. I could not bring pizza to class, it was too obvious, and by the way, I hated that "pizza and mandolino" thing. So I talked about something else, something distant and mysterious when you are 17, but still so entwined with being an Italian. I got up and walked to the podium and I poured a glass of red wine. My classmates jaws dropped simultaneously. They could not believe at what they were looking at. Speechless. The class was soooooo silent! Then one of my classmates said "Why is she allowed to bring booze?"

I turned to Mrs Leneman who was smiling. "It's ok Vale", she said, "Go ahead, you didn't know that you can not carry an open bottle of alcohol at school." Mrs Leneman was my hero at the time, infact, she was one of the few people around to know what prosciutto was.

"Alcohol?" I said, "I brought it in because of its color and its smell. It's like being at home."
It was, and still is. Dad had always wine at the table and during summer Grampa mixed it for you with water to make you feel like a grown up. Grampa used to yell at Grandma for doing so with her wine. You could not water down such a good thing as much as you wouldn't water down meat broth or gravy.

So much for my exchange student experience. 30 years later I was the one to teach to a class of entry-level English and I thought, let's talk about wine in English class, it'll be less boring. We opened two bottles of Iuli Rossore and ate cheese, salami and breadsticks. My students were really happy and learned a lot of new words. I hoped that after the second glass they would have the guts to speak more English, but I had to push for the third… They didn't know that only half an hour away from where they lived, Fabrizio Iuli was making such a great wine. We had fun and, and once again, we discovered one of the wonderful wines our country has to offer. Wine is something we Italians all grew up with and, and sometimes we forget to appreciate.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

1st Annual Indie Wineries Road Show, "The Coming Out Party"... the credits

The party started in Pennsylvania with our distributor, The Artisans Cellar. Scott and Federico did an amazing job setting up two impeccable events.

Thank you to:

- Steve Wildly and his awesome pallet and hospitality, fluent Italian speaking and incredibly talented chef Jeff Michaud (thank you so much for that pork dish... WOW, still thinking about it, and the Italians were stupefied :) and the entire Vetri group, especially the staff at Osteria, that not only worked the event beautifully, but are all fellow wine geeks!  Indie Wineries is thrilled and honored to be a part of your restaurants!

- Scott and Donna and all of your hard work,  Donna thank you for sharing your husband with us for the week :), and Fede... for putting up with all of us, your tireless commitment to TAC and Indie is inspiring!  Scott, thank you for your amazing generosity and passion, it is contagious and always a pleasure to be around! We will never forget our incredible bowling evening, and Elisa from "La Colombera's" .0005 mile per hour strike!  Go team Indie!  Scott, maybe we should reserve some lanes now for next year!

After a week in PA, we all took a bus (somewhat giddy and exhausted already), back to NY to fly out of JFK to Denver, landing in Denver at midnight.
Colorado went to fast for all of us (next year we need to dedicate a few more 'fun' days), but as always beautiful, and this time covered in a fresh blanket of snow (actually powder, that for us skiers was slightly painful).  In colorado we would like to thank:

- The Kitchen Restaurant for hosting our Boulder tasting, it was non stop and filled with great folks from start to finish, and the space was perfect, bright, cheery, intimate and friendly.  We hope you had as much fun as we did... and we are still thankful that Elisa's wines arrived in time! I was definitely sweating tears on that one, and running down Pearl street after the fed ex man in heel's is something I'll never forget.  Maya - thanks for being there girl, you kept me sane :)

- The Frasca team, ALL OF YOU!  Thank you Bobby Stucky and Lachlan Patterson for hosting us the evening of the 'big game' at the new Pizzeria... straight from the producers mouths, the pizza was better than they are used to in Italy!  Thank you as well Benjamin Richardson and Matthew Mather for your stellar pallets and constant support of the Indie Wineries - AND to the entire staff at Frasca for hosting the Le Due Terre dinner, the food and wine pairing was incredible... Silvana felt, 'At Home'!  That was a special dinner for all of us afterwards... and one we look forward to repeating next year!  The service was impeccable as usual :)

- Our talented friends at the new Boulder hot spot, 'Oak,' and our own Mike Joyce for setting up and co- hosting a dinner, that for a snowy, freezing, February evening was what seemed a 'sold out' Iuli wine dinner!  The food rocked, and the place does too... we can't wait to come back, awesome energy and congratulations to you all!  Thank you!

- To Brad at Primo Vino, Shelly at Bella Bistro, Steve at City Wine, the Italian Institute at Piatti, and of course Davin and the staff at Tag Restaurant in Denver for hosting and organizing our tasting, again, we were up against the elements, and we still managed to have a room full of great wino's eager to taste and learn!

- Finally to the Bowen family of five for having us, and just being flat out awesome! Rock on Natural Wine Company!!

The last leg took us to the one and only LAS VEGAS, smack in the middle of the strip at the Bellagio!  It was the first time in Vegas for all the producers, as well as for Christian... all were astounded, as it is quite a long way from the vineyards and hills of their home lands.  No one won... but no one lost that much either, so I guess you can say it was a draw!  Thank you to:

- The entire staff of Sensi at Bellagio for hosting the last portfolio tasting of the trip.  It was absolutely a perfect ending, a full room - and attentive, and of course professional, clientele (we don't know how they behave after hours, but everyone was very well behaved for the tasting).  The light 'fare' offered at the tasting was just perfect as well :)

- Jason Smith, my dear friend, and wine director (and coolest dude in a suit) of the Bellagio who introduced me to our distributor Patrick Pretz, partner and 'the man' of Crush wines.

- Jay Beattie, owner/partner of Crush wines for making the trip down from Seattle, as well as 'making copies' all morning so our guests had tasting guides :)  It was a great tasting guide Jay!

- Art Podneisinski of 'The Intern' wines, our dear friend, and first 'cali' producer... for meeting us there and bringing your wonderful energy to the event!

- Jim Neal and Allison Millhollen from N2 wines for making the long drive to join us for the tasting (yes I said drive... from San Francisco, in one shot)!  We LOVED having you!

- Jared Hooper, my old friend and colleague, for showing up from LA (also drove), perfectly attired in bright red pants, a purple sweater and yellow golf tee (essentially, the only one not in a suit).  When everyone asked 'where did that guy come from,' it was my pleasure to say with a grin, 'he's with us' :)

- to John Curtas for his awesome blog and write up on the event:  - John, I want to make the hot hostess list!

- To Patrick Pretz for making it all happen, and for placing Indie Wineries on some of the coolest wine lists on the strip!  Crush wines... making it happen, one small (hehe) casino and resort at a time!

- Finally, a HUGE thank you to Alexi Cashen and Tim Elenteny, our importers, colleagues and friends, for all their support and help in making this all happen.  The wine did not arrive to all the different destinations alone - Alexi, we owe you big time, next year hopefully we won't have to count on the 'pony express' and it will be a little easier on all of us :)

That's all folks... we hope to do it all again next year, but of course - bigger and better :), hope to see you ALL THERE!