Links to previous event announcements:

Apr 2007 Jan 2007 Nov 2006 Sept 2006 July 2006 May 2006      
Think locality, act locally
No, I’m not confused; at least no more than normal.  I’m just twisting a currently popular slogan to make it fit my own purposes as a theme you might remember.  I think that we all recognize the concept of terroir, the French term that can be loosely translated as "a sense of place" which is the sum of the effects that a local environment imparts onto grapes and the resulting wine (or any other product from coffee to cheese).  However most of us, myself included, tend to reserve the application of that notion to a handful of cases, such as the tiny parcels in Burgundy.  This likely stems from an American heritage that believes anything can succeed anywhere; but over time, I think that we are maturing to realize that while most everywhere can produce something good, individual things really are unique and special when they come from a particular place.  More and more often, I am seeing the importance of this concept in helping me learn what wines I like and what to expect from a wine that I don’t know.  I no longer view it as some incarnation of French snobbery, but embrace it and apply it to such far-flung items as California Zinfandel and Hatch New Mexico Chiles.
For this next set of events, we will really utilize this concept to learn about wines by putting focus on the places from which they come.  I think that this is both a fun and enduring way to better understand wines, so plan to join us for:
 Oct 14   |    Texas Wine and Song Festival   
   (Sun)     |    300 block of East 2nd Street  (just west of the Austin Convention Center)        
                  |     1:00-9:00 PM,     $20 members-only pre-purchase   or  $30 for everyone at the event

An adjunct to the ‘act locally’ concept is the support of locally-produced products.  Yes, that means Texas wines.  Before you dismiss this because you think our local wines are somehow inferior, I want you to consider the context.  We have all seen over the years that the combining of local products can go beyond a simple additive effect to truly multiply the resulting experience, as was the case in our Alsatian wine dinner earlier this year.  I think that I often struggle to fully appreciate local wine because I try to force-fit it into a context of great Continental food or into some other mismatch.  I submit that people all over the world drink and enjoy their own local wines most in celebration of other ‘things local’.  So what does that mean to us in Austin? It means spending a nice Fall afternoon sampling wines, listening to one of the best products from “the live music capital of the world”, and relaxing with your Austin neighbors and LADV friends.

If you weren’t aware, October is ‘Texas Wine Month’.  But that is not what got me interested and involved in this event.  My involvement really sprang from three factors.  First, I love this town, and I truly love the local live music scene as much as the local wine and food scene.  While I see frequent showings of local music, food, and wine, I’ve never seen them really combined in a way that I see on a real-life basis: where my musician friends cook and drink wine, my restaurant and foodie friends enjoy wine and listen to music, etc.  This event is unique in that these ingredients will mix and blend, with cooking demos by local band members, talks from local wine producers, and more.  The second factor is that it is being set up to be relaxing and comfortable; I love “festivals” but I don’t love long hikes in, having to stand all day, and being almost constantly crushed in a throng (or even in a thong ;-).  This event has been designed in a way that better suits those of us that enjoy a more comfortable lifestyle (notice that I did not employ the words ‘mature’ or ‘lazy’).  The pace will be relaxed, with lots of tables and chairs.  The idea is to walk around and enjoy samples of the wines, but when you find something you like you can buy a glass or a bottle to enjoy; you can purchase food if you want from the local food suppliers or restaurant sponsors (either from their stands outside or by going inside); and you can sit and listen to the bands on stage or enjoy the presentations in the tent.  In fact, to eliminate as much stress as possible, valet parking will even be available.  What was the third factor?  OK, yes, Texas wines are getting really good and something that are really enjoy trying.  I doubt that you’ll ever get a better chance to sample such a broad selection in such pleasant surroundings.  And, I know that it should have been a major factor in me choosing to spend the time I’ve invested; a fourth factor is that all the proceeds from this event will be given to organizations supporting Texas winemaking and the local music scene.

So, what do you get for the price of admission.  Of course, I’m sure that you will consider the biggest draw to be getting to hear me join in and talk in some of the sessions about music, food, and wine ;-)   But if that isn’t enough, you’ll have the chance to sample many of the wines from the eleven Texas wineries in attendance, a chance to listen to three of Austin’s best bands (at what I am promised will be a comfortable volume), and the opportunity to enjoy any of the other presentations that day such as those from a local goat cheese producer.  The wineries to be represented are Alamosa, Becker, Driftwood, Fall Creek, Flat Creek, Inwood, Llano Estacado, Mandola, Mesina Hof, Peregrine Hill, and Sister Creek.  Your ticket will gain you admission, complimentary valet parking, a commemorative wine glass, and $10 worth of wine/food tasting tickets.  Because we are a special and important group in the local wine community (well, and because I helped organize the event), LADV members can get this package for only $20, if you make a reservation ahead of time through the normal mechanisms.  You can also attend the event by purchasing an admission wristband ‘at the door’ for the price of $30.  For complete event details, ask me when you make your reservation or visit the festival website:   

Oct 24   |    Survey of the Wines of Italy,  Part 3  -  -  Lesser Known Regions   
  (Wed)     |    at  Andiamo’s Ristorante     2521 Rutland Drive     719-3377
                  |     7:00 PM,     $50 members  &  $55 non-members     (all inclusive)

We continue this series with the third installment on the wines of Italy.  While the previous two events were great because the wines showed so extremely well, most of you already knew quite a bit about those better-known wine types; Pinot Grigio, Valpolicella, Amarone, Dolcetto, Barbera, and Barolo.  I’m excited that this time we’ll be exploring regions and wines that are not household names (at least in most of our houses).  I love these off-the-beaten-path explorations not only because of the adventure of  learning and sampling new things; I love them because it allows be to find and buy wines that not everyone knows about that may still be relative bargain ‘finds’. (OK, and I also like serving really good new wines to my friends that they know they would not have found on their own.)  This event is chock-full of wonderful new experiences.

We’ll be exploring the regions of Abruzzo, Campagnia, Emelia-Romagna, Puglia, Umbria, and Sicily.  You’ll be learning about and drinking a dozen unique and special wines: Grechetto, Albana, Fiano di Avellino, Greco di Tuffo, Grillo, Aglianico, Nero d'Avola, Negro Amaro, Primitivo, and Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, among others.  And you really will be learning; not only will I introduce each flight with general information about the regions and the grape varieties, we’ll also have an expert coming to town to tell you more about the producers represented and their particular wines.  You should leave the evening with a really good sense of what these regions are about, and what they can produce; not to mention leaving with the glow that comes from enjoying good wine. 

And, we’ll be learning about the wines in a place that really treasures them.  For those of you that have not yet had the pleasure, Andiamo’s serves truly authentic Italian dishes with an innovative flair and attention to detail.  This small gem has recently settled firmly in the hands of it’s caring original owner-operators.  They specialize in using only the finest quality ingredients, most of which are purchased from local farms.  Their menu changes with the turning of the seasons, honoring a tradition of offering of different tastes from the regions of Italy throughout the year.  With each of the four flights of wine, the staff will be serving multiple appetizer-style offerings to compliment the wines; I think that you’ll be very pleased and quite satisfied, and want to return.  Not only have I found the food to be wonderful on recent visits, they have a wine list that only a real wine-lover would go through the pain to construct, presenting their special finds in two formats, a straightforward lighter-to-bolder listing of the many offerings and a beautiful and thorough presentation with description of the wines, all arranged according to their regions.  It looks like something that I’d put together and force you to take home after an event  ;-)

We’ll be limiting ourselves to the space in Andiamo’s new private dining area, so the event will likely fill fast.  Come join us to enjoy four flights of new discoveries, accompanying food, learning, and good company.  [theme: wine survey, mid-level education]
 Nov 7    |    AVA Series, Napa Valley - valley floor areas   
  (Wed)     |    at  Gypsy Restaurant      1025 Barton Springs Road     499-0200
                  |     7:00 PM,     $55 members  &  $65 non-members     (all inclusive)

No, this isn’t a series on actresses of yesteryear: Ms Garder, Ms Cadell, and the less-notorious Gabor sister, though she spelled it Eva.  (By the way, did you know that the popularity of the girl’s name ‘Ava’ has skyrocketed back into the fifth most-popular name given to US babies last year?)  This is a series of events based on the relatively new codification and designation of “American Viticultural Areas”.  If you’re not yet familiar with the concept, it is the embryonic designation of wine regions in the U.S. distinguishable by geographic features, by (who better) the United States government's Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.  OK, AVA’s do not yet have the same status or recognition that comes when you hear DOCG Chianti or appellation contrôlée Saint-Émilion, but it’s a start.  Well then, why would we bother to delve into this?  Just as you can know a lot about a wine by knowing it’s Chianti, it’s getting to the point that you can know a good bit only knowing that a wine is Cabernet from the Stag’s Leap AVA, or some other AVA designation.

Just as with the popular series that we’ve had on Italian wine regions, these events will combine learning about a few areas at a time, while sampling wines that reflect the typical characteristics of the region.  We’re going to kick-off with what may be the best-known AVA.  The focus will be the valley floor areas of the Napa Valley.  We’ll pretend to put the top down on the rental car and take a drive up Highway 29 and the Silverado Trail, as we delve into the AVA’s of Oak Knoll, Stags Leap, Yountville, Oakville, Rutherford, and St Helena. 

To ease the pain of this learning experience, we’ll become acquainted with the characteristics of the wines of these areas by sampling Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon from producers with their vineyard sites located within the AVA’s.  These are the wines that put California winemaking on the map, and they are every bit as outstanding today (although sadly, not nearly as inexpensive).  The stellar set of a dozen wines that we’ll enjoy include the best bottlings from Turnbull, Raymond (their great Rutherford dust Cabernet), Joseph Phelps, Swanson (including their amazing ‘Alexis’), Kathryn Hall (the always sought-after special 'Sacrashe Vineyard’ offering), Pine Ridge (no, not the low-end stuff, but their top-end Oakville and Stags Leap offerings), and more.  I think you’ll agree that this luxury treatment more than makes up for having to listen to me and a representative of these wineries try to “learn you sumpthin”.

What new and exciting location should we use to kick off this new and exciting series of events?  An intrepid group of Texas Culinary Academy graduates has recently opened Gypsy Italian Bistro.  Proprietor Shawn Gamble spent 20 years working around Europe as a financial planner, and then his love of good food led him to a career change.  He completed the culinary program at our own TCA (notice how this “local” theme keeps weaving its way through things), then spent time cooking in Italy for European heads of state and top military leaders; following a stint as chef at Le Masiere in Aviano Italy, he returned to Austin to open a restaurant.  He and his staff, which includes other TCA-grads sous chef Sherry Gordion and floor manager Janet Tran, took over a former sandwich-shop location on Barton Springs and have transformed it into a warm and charming neighborhood bistro.  I have dined there, and been very pleased; so, I wanted to share this lovely spot with you.  They are planning some wonderful substantial appetizer-type offerings to accompany each wine flight. 

This new venue is ‘cozy’, so be sure to make your reservations early.  There is little doubt that the opportunity to drink and compare some of the finest Napa wines in lovely surroundings will be quite a draw.      [theme: wine survey, mid-level education] 

Unlike the normal policy of paying with cash or a check at events, I’ve been able to negotiate for these venues to take a limited number of credit cards (although you would be doing both them a favor if you did not allow a substantial portion of the price to go to some faceless “non-local” credit card company).  On this front, I am continuing to investigate more options, I’m going to be polling you between now and the next newsletter about whether you’d use a system that would allow you to make your reservations online and pay with a credit card, but incur about a 10% processing fee for doing so.  With the relatively small number of transactions we have, it’s the least expensive option that I’ve found so far.  Think about it… 
Let me remind you that space is almost always very limited at these events.  I do apologize that so often I have to inform people that a particular event has filled.  However, one of the most-frequent compliments that I get on the events is that people feel special and their experienced enhanced because of the coziness and easy access to the presenters. 
As always, call  925-3985 or e-mail:  to make reservations and to keep them accurate.  After you make your reservations, PLEASE CALL IMMEDIATELY if your plans change.  Communicating changes no later than 48 “business hours” before an event will allow us to adjust and provide an opportunity to any who may be on a waiting list.  Further it will assure we don’t have to pay for wine and food that was reserved for you, and that we won’t have to contact you afterward to pass on those costs to you if we are past the point when we guaranteed attendance to a venue.


  Sante!       See you at a tasting soon.