Despite all of the differences between living in food and wine loving San Francisco, and live music and BBQ loving Austin, there is one place here I feel lucky to have.
Vino Vino is certainly the best wine bar I've ever been to in the US (how pretentious does that sound?) and the fact that it's in my neighborhood is both a blessing (to my love of wine, and my sense of adventure, as well as my taste for raw meat) and a curse (to my liver, and our bank account).
What makes this place great is that, like my friend Nat says, "they don't compromise." What does that mean? Basically, if you don't work in the wine industry, you're likely to walk into this place and not recognize most of the bottles, hell I don't recognize many of them often. Jerry and Jeff select wines that they love, wines that excite them. They take that excitement and pass it along to their customers - if you don't recognize anything, all you gotta do is ask for a recommendation, and you're gonna get something interesting and delicious. (I constantly wonder why restaurants feel like they have to pander to the lowest common denominator, and offer "familiar" wines - as a customer, I want an interesting experience when I got out, not a list of familiar, overpriced, and often unsuitable wines.)
So, the wine... On my birthday, a group of friends and I drained a couple of bottles at Vino Vino. One of many highlights was made by a guy named Fulvio Bressan (why do the Italians have all the cool men's names? Fulvio, come on!) from a grape native to his region Friuli called Verduzzo. Yum. Bressan is part of a collection of thrilling wine-makers in north-eastern Italy, I refer to them as the crazy club - Movia, Edi Simcic, Edi Kante, Radikon, and Gravner. They all make "traditional" wines, but in a world where technology has consumed the production of wines, and in a region where wine traditions have long been very individual, these wines seems almost radical to most modern drinkers.
It's white, but it's meant to be served at red wine temperature (just under room temp), it's rich and intense, but clean and elegant. It's a wine that loves food, and will make just about anything taste better (rabbit?), yet it's intriguing and delicious all on it's own. Find it, drink it, smile.
2003 Bressan Verduzzo - yes, that's the current vintage, no it's not old.
I work with wine, many people assume that all I do is drink all day. The mundane truth is that my career is like any other, there are days when I want to play hooky, I get frustrated by pointless office politics, from time to time it's incredibly boring. Once in a while I stumble into experiences that I'm truly lucky to have - a phone call, a table covered in bear empty bottles of some of the worlds great wines, interesting people to talk to... That's not only why I love my job, that's what I live for.
So, on a night like this, after some very serious red wines, my friend Greg and I shared a few more bottles, not coincidently all from members of the aforementioned "Crazy Club."
The highlight? Edi Simcic Tokata - all I can say is "Damn!" This one is made from Tocai Friulano (or just Friulano), and it comes from the Slovenian side of the Italian border in Friuli. Basically, I could just smell this stuff for hours - the aroma is intoxicating. It's damn tasty too.
The boring part of my job? Selling wine that doesn't thrill me. The best part?
Tasting with the owner of a soon to open restaurant here in Austin, I pulled a sample of one of my favorite wines, from one of my favorite producers, in one of my favorite regions. That's fun and exciting right there (who doesn't prefer working with things that they're passionate about?) That day, I poured Jo Pithon's Savennières for a half dozen buyers of some of the best restaurants in Austin.
It's easy to have a sense of smug self-satisfaction when you work with a wine this amazing, but the best response was the first. The owner of this exciting new restaurant sniffed, swallowed, and gasped "Holy Shit!" I couldn't have put it any better myself. I look forward to saying the same about Olivia's food.
It's from the Loire Valley, it's all Chenin Blanc, Jo Pithon bears a passing resemblance to Andre the Giant, and all his wines are amazing!!!
I'm going to apologize - these wines are all kind of expensive. In an ideal word, spending $40 on a bottle of wine wouldn't seem like an extravagance, but I know that it does to most people. All I can say is that these wines are totally worth every penny.
Get a couple of friends together, split the cost. A bottle of wine gives you five glasses, split the cost and the last glass with three others and it's not so bad. Plus, that's what it's all about anyway, coming together with others, sharing delicious wine, and creating community.