There are two very distinct ways that the world receives greatness. One is boastful and has a broad range of individuals acknowledging on the surface. The other stands with subtle humility with only a special few reacting and receiving true influence. I find myself at a ripe age of nearly 30 reflecting often on who I am and who I’d like to become. I recognize what products I bother consuming and what people I endeavor to engage daily.
I made a special visit to my grandmother a few months ago who is nearly 90. She has never claimed to be perfect or superior than others. Her accomplishment of raising 8 children with my grandfather and providing for them on a nurse’s salary surely stands for optimum bragging rights. This remarkable figure has lived daily for others without needing extra attention for her efforts. Her selflessness is admirable and inspiring. Her entire life goal has been to serve the Lord, love others, and be loved. She believes in a pure expression of the roots she came from. This wonderful woman maintains a pillar of strength reflective of this humble greatness described.
This past week, I hosted two brothers from Campania, Italy in San Francisco. Amedeo and Luigi Barletta have conducted two of the most fascinating wine projects that have graced my presence. Without romancing to the nth degree… in a nutshell they basically discovered three grape varietals that were nearly extinct and had them established with the Italian consortium. Grapes that date back to Greek origins and were held in high esteem during the 1700s by the Bourbon Royal Family… these southern Italian gems are quite exemplary. Pallagrello Bianco with its finesse and ability to age like a fine Chardonnay, has a richness and mineral note that pairs wonderfully with the oily component in white fish. Pallagrello Nero has a meaty richness that appeals to the Cabernet lover. His lovely counterpart, Casavecchia, has a delicacy like Merlot that can stand freely or blend beautifully with the masculine Pallagrello.
In my eyes, bringing these varietals to the surface could be worthy of gloating, ‘Yes we discovered Italy’s newest Pinot Grigio and Sangiovese! Watch out Tuscany, Piedmont, and Veneto… we’re making our way in!’ Rather than pushing through the crowd with fighting elbows to be the next Barolo or Brunello, they are happy producing modest quantities of wine in a clean, pure, elegant manner with the hopes that fine connoisseurs will enjoy a glass and respect tradition. They sit with a humble grace as their wines receive exposure on some of the top restaurant lists in the country. They are happy to sit over a cup of coffee and talk about life, their kids, and how I manage to travel all over the country. When I think of the Barlettas, I remember this verse, “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.…” Great people make great wine… wines of identity, character, uniqueness, and humility. When we taste wine and truly submit to the experience; it brings us to a place, a memory, a connection. I am honored to have spent the week with them and touched that their wines reminded me of a very special person. These are the wines I want to drink daily, types of people I’d like to engage regularly, and influences I will always welcome.
My favorites include: Vestini Campagnano Kajanero (red blend), Pallagrello Bianco, Pallagrello Nero, Connubio (Casavecchia/Pallagrello Nero blend) & Poderi Foglia Falanghina.
Restaurant exposure coast to coast:
San Francisco: A 16, SPQR, Acquerello, La Ciccia
New York: Otto, Bills, Eataly, Celeste, Alba, Lupa