Pairing Wine With My Life's Adventure

REINVENTION: Quit my job in IT, sold my house and moved from Cal to NYC for sommelier classes. GETTING MY HANDS DIRTY: Moved to Napa and worked in a vineyard making wine. TRAVEL: Through France and Italy on a wine scavenger hunt. Sto cambiando la mia vita e desidero imparare circa vino. Je change ma vie et je veux me renseigner sur le vin. TRY TO GET SERIOUS: Living in New York for 4 years and working as a Sommelier. NEW GOALS: Do my own thing, find love, speak Spanish, live wine.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Proud to be an American, kinda

(insert Tom Petty song here: "American Girl"

It's Saturday night and I've made it to Paris. I was stuck in Siena for an extra night due to a bus strike. I say strike and thanks, except I missed out on the last night out with my new Florentine friends... could have been worse though. I could have been stuck at McDonalds in Barstow. I made the best of it and had a day in Montalcino with the Brunello. Siena was my first time for a negroni as an aperitivi (champagne, campari and gin) and eating il coniglio (rabbit). In Montalcino, visited Prime Donne and Piombaia wineries.

Last Saturday we left Cinque Terre, after 2 days of a blast overlooking the Ligurian Sea. Please go there if you haven't. There was talk about skipping it b/c of the large number of American tourists, but we met just enough. Avoid high-time and weekends as we did. The quality of food, wine and hospitality was great, just as the locals were. Check out Had the best Pesto (eat it with the local wine Pigato) at il Baretto, which is where I also had the best dessert. Piper called me the Mexican washboard after I decided to just take a shower with my clothes on instead of washing them in the sink. As we waited for trains to Firenze, we ate our pesto picnic. Dead beat, we made it to Florence and in our last steps, we happened into a wine bar (Vinolio, Leonardo was our wine geek. I say that with much respect) with some great food (appetizer of calimari sauteed in balsamic served in a cloud of spinach and riccotta) just around the corner from our place near San Marco.

Sunday, walked around Florence checking out the sites. This city is cool, everything is so close. What the Italians think is far, expensive and long distance was very comfortable for me. Ate at vegetariano with an organic red wine and slept. Hard day walking around with the mobs of people, could be worse in summer with the narrow sidewalks. Weather was great, rain the last day. Vernaccia di San Gimignano is the white wine for the area. Could eat caprese salad every day for the rest of my life. What's up with the german's and the hiking sticks? Dreaming of a backpack pit stop, drop off the smelly one and pick up a freshie. When I had to lighten my backpack in Grenoble, I left my red Pumas behind on a street corner, sort of like the mother leaving the twins behind in Joy Luck Club.

I love the coffee in Italy and the bread and cheese in France.

I had a breakdown in Florence. Piper said I was probably chees-arexic b/c my cheese consumption was down (one reason was that Eurarail passes suck). Lunch at Cantinetta Antinori (big wine house a la Mondavi). Piper stuck her finger in an old bottle and pushed the cork down... I guess it was ok since we didn't get kicked out.

Dinner at Coquinarius near the Duomo - great place, see pics. Eggplant with arugala appetizer, pear raviolis and wine list that's hand selected and changed frequently. Stopped in at this place 3 times. Love the people who are running it, Nicola, Igor and Simone. We were here for a national Italian holiday, celebrating liberation from ww2. Not too good at remembering my history. Perfect day: sleeping in, gellato, and then a no-wait entry into the Accademia to see David. He was perfect from every angle. Vin Santo and then to bed.

First taste of Chianti as we drove a car to Greve and Radda. Taught a big lesson today from a kind American man, actually he referred to himself as a 75-year-old hippie. I was quick to pre-judge the peeps from the US. Piper and I would start (well it was mostly her) speaking spanish when they would come by us. He was universally cool.

Piper took off to head back to NY (maybe I scared her) and I moved to a new room, with a 1:00 curfew! Dammitt.

Last day in Firenze I went to the Uffizi. The museum was almost more than I could handle, in one visit Botticelli, Rembrandt and Da Vinci. WOW WOW WOW. Da Vinci said "love humors me." I can't describe it in words.

Afternoon bus to Siena with mostly locals it seemed. Saw some ad or article of a person's shoulder and I thought the media is to blame for nothing in my life as I'm blissfully ignorant today.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

running out of time

Greetings from Florence (Thursday 4/27). In a rush to catch a ride south to Siena. Posted some pics, more to come. Slow connection and out of time right now. Italy is fantastic and lots to tell. Heading back to Paris Saturday, then Iceland.

Friday, April 21, 2006

R&R with B&B

Ravioli & Risotto with Borolo & Barbaresco
(quick stop at internet cafe in Vernazza, Cinque Terre. More details to follow, sorry for my spelling).

Gastroturismo: I have been touring each of the villages that make Borolo wine from the nebbiolo grape. Barbaresco (along with the communes of Nieve and Treiso sp?) also make wine with nebbiolo, but it's called Barbaresco. Wine from the barbera and dolcetto grapes also come from B&B. The hills of the general area are Langhe, Monferrato and Roero. Arneis, white wine comes from Roero. La Gibigianna enoteca in Barbaresco, nice owner who gave me samples of the local sheep and goat cheese and then tomatoes with a green sauce (parsley and anchovi base) that was from his mother's recipe. After went to dinner for risotto (see pics for the image of the place). Met Octavio, visiting his family and helping out for the Easter holiday. He shared a glass of his family's barbaresco then I went to midnight mass.

Easter Sunday 4/16
I spent the day resting and relaxing, soaking up the sun like one of the lizzards on the red tile roofop. Awesome coffee int he morning, then drove up the hill from my place to La Morra, found the raviolis and much more (restaurants and a wine store), came back and sat in the sun, ipod.

Monday 4/17
Morning, after coffee (I need to be more civilized about my coffee in the US) drove to Asti, then Castiglioni Falleto for wine on a balcony at the top of the hill. Almost got car stuck in between 2 buildings... Was invited to a local's home for dinner after I made my way around most of the Borolo communes for a taste at each.

Tuesday 4/18
Love all of the cool cars here in Italy, especially the Alpha Romeos. How do I describe the perfect scene? red checked table cloths, mom and pop inviting me to dinner in a classic Italian scene. how much have they seen in their lives? the beautiful thing is that we get along without the shared language. Ended up, as in France trying to discuss George W. Upon leaving momma broke out some of the Borolo for me. Special. Risotto with beans, spinach and a fried egg. bread, cookies, cheese and fruit salad. At one point, one morning, I was eating the cheese but it was butter! I got very special tour, with Roberta Ceretto, of her winery please see my pics, Lunch in Barbaresco, fresh made pasta.

Wednesday made it to Milan. Relieved to get rid of my rental car, that was about as much responsibilty as I can handle. Met up with Piper who flew in from NYC, and met at the hotel within 10 minutes of each other. After a cocktail and a chat with a local, we got a recommendation for dinner, at La Bottega. Quaisimoto woke us up at 7:45am, as our room was next to the bells of the church across the alley. What did I think of Milan? Little girl took me for a euro in the metro station.

Thursday on train to the sea 4/20. We have reached paradise here in Vernazza... Pigato, fish and pesto. I'm very lucky.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

How The French Saved An American

Buon Giorno from La Morra in the northwest region of Italy! Since you last left this little traveler, I drove up and over to Grenoble from Avignon in the Southern Rhone valley/Northern Provence (in 2 days covered the Rhone Valley north and south). Grenoble's a great town at the foot of the Alps. Turned in the rental car and spent one night before I made my move to Italy. Lightening the load I had to leave a few things behind and drink what I didn't want to carry. On the train to Turin, I was sitting comfortably looking out at the mountains, listening to Barry White, fantasizing about my book deal (as a spin-off from this blog) when I realized I FORGOT MY laptop on a bench at the train station in Grenoble! I was lucky to be sitting next to a cabin filled with 8 train officials equipped with 8 mobile phones. They understood right away through my broken French and sign language that I was in distress. Also a good thing that they knew what 'Macintosh' meant. I was escorted, 1st class, back to where my laptop was, waiting for me on the platform. France rocked. Besides the French wine and food, I learned a lot from these classy people. Looking forward to a last goodbye in Paris, 2 days at the end of the month. Big french kiss.

The train ride through the Alps to Turin was spectacular. Had a great conversation with a fellow traveler from Australia, and after arriving I spent a quick 45 minutes in the station before taking a couple small trains and a bus to Bra. Hope to see Turin before I leave. The Trenitalia people welcomed me warmly and personally escorted me to the land known for the king of wines and wine of kings. I was the queen (for a day) of eurorail. It was after 10pm when I arrived in the Langhe Hills of La Morra, one of the top communes of Borolo, so when I got up the next morning I was so happy to see I was in Italy's premier wine country. From my b&b, I have views of the castles of Alba, Diano, Castiglioni Falletto, Serra Lunga, Monforte, Borolo, La Morra and Verduno (and some of the Alps).

Pics are of the gentleman who helped recover my laptop.

l'abus d'alcool est dangereux pour la sante, a consommer avec moderation

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Parlez-vous... ?

Remember that episode of the Simpsons when Bart was running through Paris in a panic and then all of a sudden, he digs down deep, and is able to speak French? Well that didn't happen to me, but last night it almost did. I have a cheat sheet in my pocket so I'm prepared with phrases like these:

My name is Mary Ann
I live in California and soon New York
I want to work selling wine
I don't know a lot of french
Where is a nice garcon (that means boy, no waiter)
I am lazy

These things are universal: comb overs, bad radio stations and sucky drivers. Cool people are all over the world too. Good news for you guys in the US, the French ladies like your teeth and think you are good looking. Maybe you can start faking accents and we'd all be happy?

Covered some ground today on the A7 from nord to sud... tired. Bonne nuit.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

the long and winding rhone

Who am I? Where am I? And what the hell am I doing? Sunday evening, I just arrived in Lyon (on the banks of the Rhone and Saone rivers) and I broke down and got a nice room with a view. I'm just about to enjoy some of this Gevrey-Chambertin I bought a couple days ago. I left Puligny this morning with the hope of visiting a guy who makes cremant/sparkling in Givry and then Macon, but could not find the first and didn't like the second. It was raining so I just kept driving. It's a big city here and the traffic scared me to death. I was almost out of gas this morning, so it was pretty funny trying to keep my cool since all of the gas stations were closed today, auto-gas thingies only speaking french and not liking my credit cards. I thought it would have been lame if I was crying on the side of the road, in the rain, so I said a prayer and blasted the music. It all worked out. Can't eat much tonight b/c I'm blowing my allowance on the room. That's ok b/c I've been doing quite well on food. I'm going to take a walk along the Rhone and see what I can find out about Lyon. After that I'm going to take advantage of the big bathtub and make my plan for tomorrow... hope to find a cheap b&b in the country and continue with the field research.

Here are the answers to the most asked questions: no I haven't yet, and yes maybe it is b/c I'm wearing the same thing everyday. I think I smell alright.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

knock knock knocking on romanee's door

Here we are, in Vosne-Romanee, trying to get into Domaine de la Romanee-Conti (ha ha, had to try). Went to a tasting room (caveau) of Francoise Gerbet across the way instead, met with open arms thank you very much. Met nice boy, Vincent, at wine bar Le Bistro Bourguignon, he recommended a place in Chalonnaise for sparkling wine. He also he told me the difference btwn fondont and souflette. I'm eating a lot of coq... au vin and beef bourg.

Supersize me

My mother would love it here, you can play keno on French tv, and because of what I said before about the bread plus all the jelly and butter. Friday morning we hung out in Beaune and then had an awesome lunch at Le P'tit Paradis (salad with langustinos, durado on spinach, sauces and dressing were magnificent). Drank 2003 St. Romain white by Joseph Drouhin (it's near Meursault, equal red/white produced there), in warmer years it's similar to Meursault at a better value. After CoCo and I drove to Dijon so she could miss the train back to Paris. She had to wait a half hour for the next one and I drove back south for a nap. Friday night I decided to rest and watch tv, ha ha a travel show on San Fran/Bay Area (mavericks, marin, city lights bookstore and Jack Kerouac's "On the Road" hmmmmm. Trying to decide where I'm heading tomorrow, as it is my last day in Puligny. I'm enjoying my Corton Gran Cru, doing laundry in the sink, trying to learn French real fast-like. Brought along my Jancis Robinson wine course dvd - I'm a dork and very happy.

My double chin is now made entirely of duck and wine.

Saturday, weather is perfect and spent the day at a tasting lunch with Olivier Laflaive.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Cote de Nuit

Ok, seriously people walk around France with baguettes all the time. Just tried to make it on my own (without CoCo, she's going back to Paris today) and pay for parking, as well as get a coffee... not good. Made my way back to the cyber wine bar, where English (and macintosh) is spoken, and I'm having a glass of Meursault at 10:51am. In Beaune to run a few errands before taking her to the train station and cover more points north of here. Need water and coffee though.

Burgundy is made up of 5 different regions, from north to south: Chablis, Cote d'Or (Cote de Niut and Cote de Beaune), Cote Chalonnaise, Maconnais and Beaujolais. I have done well covering both Nuit and Beaune, I'll hit more points north of Gevrey-Chambertin (we made it up there yesterday) when I drive CoCo to the gare. We visited the Musee de Beaune and Hospices de Beaune/Hotel-Dieu (built in 1443), and had a 3-hour visit/tour/tasting with Laurent Pillot in Chassagne-Montrachet. Awesome. Corinne Guillemard-Cleric is the owner and winemaker of the domain/b&b I'm staying at,, She and her wines are lovely. We also toured her production facility after tasting. Then dinner in corpeau just north of chagny - scallops, yum. Tired of food, we cancelled a lunch table d'hote at Olivier Leflaive's (3 places that do the lunch/tasting thing in Burgundy) to visit all of the major communes of Nuit. Will visit highly-regarded Leflaive before I leave.

Met a couple from the OC (wife said Napa was tacky) and another couple from Boise. Funny, then met an 80-year old man, Daniel, near the b&b this morning as he was planting potatoes (how do you spell that?).

the bones about Beaune

my friend from paris, co co, has decided to ditch work and travel with me this week. this is a good thing b/c she speaks the french and i do not. haven't really used my french-phrases-for-dummies book... driving has been cool, the cars are small here and it's fun to drive stick again. we had to drive to chalon, about 20 km away, to find a cyber cafe. the owner, from algeria, used to live in san fran (he asked about the clubs french kiss and deviate?).

walking thru the vinyards in puligny, which one was batard montrachet? people have been generally very friendly and helpful. tuesday the weather was nice, light jacket, but i heard it's supposed to rain for a few days. ham fest this weekend. wed it snowed while walking through the beautiful town of Beaune.

i forgot to write about the crevettes gris (baby crawdads) and oysters we enjoyed (with chablis and pouilly fume) at a sidewalk cafe for lunch in paris last sunday before leaving on a train, from the gare de lyon station on monday to head for dijon, then finally beaune. in beaune we had to walk about 20 minutes to the hertz office, which was part of a gas station, sort of like a big am/pm we have in the states.

confession, i've been smoking like crazy since i've been here, but will stop soon. i have a little jet lag, so i've been up at 2:30am for the past few nights.

been eating a lot of cheese
feels like i will time run out in burgundy before i have need to move onto rhone monday...

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


I've made my way south and have had two of the most incredible meals of my life (the last meal at Fish in Paris Sunday night was outstanding as well). Last night at Le Terroir in Santenay, and today lunch at Le Chassagne in Chassagne-Montrachet. Duck, foie gras (sorry), escargot and more. Tasted at Chateaux de Meursault and Chassagne-Montrachet so far.

Sort of hard with the internet access in the country, so more details later.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

what a difference a day makes

i'm a changed person and i've been in paris for just 24 hours. fantastic (with a 'teek' on the end).


Here I am walking to the subway, leaving Brooklyn and the US to start my wine journey. Carrying this pack should help offset my consumption. I hope.

I made it to Paris and it's everything I imagined it would be, multiplied by 100. Saturday, found my way to my friend's place, near the Seine opposite the Louvre... hello!? After dropping my backpack off, we joined the beautiful people for a glass of wine at one of the many, full cafes. Then, of course, went to a wine store for a tasting. Dinner last night was a blast, and cruised on the river for a tour today, Sunday. Heading to Burgundy tomorrow. Overwhelmed by the beauty, perfect weather, wine and cheese.