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September 4, 2011

My mechanic has great taste. His name is Steve and he runs the show at Larry’s Foreign Auto. And he and his team are fantastic. I’m not the first to buy another Mazda just so I could keep bringing it into his shop. But since I know nothing about cars and little about tennis, we often talk about food when I’m in there.

Big shock, huh.

He’s a food lover, and he has current issues of food magazines in the waiting area. On Friday, we were talking about the upcoming Saratoga Wine and Food & Fall Ferrari Festival. Steve went last year and made a bee-line for one of his favorite wines, Pininfarina. Given that it bears the name of the family that has been designing Ferrari automobiles for decades (or so I’ve been told), it is a very appropriate wine for the event.

For some reason I was unable to attend the event last year. Luckily my schedule is a bit more open this time around. And thanks to the generosity of the Italian Trade Commission, I and a handful of other local bloggers will be reporting to you about the event on their dime.

My hope is to come away from this with a better understanding of Italian wine.

While the Pininfarina bears an Italian name, it’s actually made in California. But that’s not so unusual. California wine owes a lot to Italians. Perhaps you’ve heard of this enterprising wine maker in Napa named Robert Mondavi.

I know a little about Italian wine, but not enough.

Currently it all keeps on getting confused in my head. Perhaps it’s because my sense of Italian geography is bad, and I just have a difficult time connecting the wines to the territories. But I think the main problem is that Italian wines do not follow a strict convention. French wines are primarily named after places. American wines are primarily named after grapes. Italian wines are a little of both.

Chianti is a regional wine of Tuscany. Sangiovese is a grape. Barbera is a grape. But labels touting Barbera d’Asti or Barbera d’Alba require a deeper knowledge of geography. Barolo is a regional wine from Piedmont, which incidentally is also home to Asti and Alba, although Barolo is made from the nebbiolo grape.

Perhaps some of the problem is just how many different wines there are across the regions and provinces. Without a dedicated focus on the country, it’s been hard to get a handle on it. But I totally enjoy Italian wine.

On one hand it would be great to use the Saratoga Wine and Food & Ferrari Festival to help fill in this blind spot in my wine knowledge. On the other hand, it’s unreasonable to expect that one day of focused tasting can teach what takes years of dedicated study. Especially when there are so many other delicious and tempting things to try.

Still, one must not forget the surprising and lasting impact that one day of wine tasting can have.

Tickets are not inexpensive, but it would be great to see some of you there. As much as I can, I’ll try to tweet the festival, but I’m old. With a glass in one hand, and a plate in the other, I may not have any thumbs left for the job. At the very least there will be a post festival recap with what I learned and my impressions of the event and its participants.

I’m hoping for a wine tasting epiphany. But we’ll have to see what the day brings.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 4, 2011 10:20 am

    Found your blog via Doc Sconz. We will be at the Festival due to the generosity of someone in the wine business. If Doc is there maybe he could introduce us. As for Italian wine, don’t feel alone. I am still confused after many years, but I am learning. Alfonso Cevola is the Italian Wine Guy at Glazers-Southern in Dallas. His blog, not strictly a wine blog as in tasting notes etc., can be very helpful.

  2. Tonia permalink
    September 4, 2011 1:57 pm

    I hope you share your post-festival thoughts. :-)

  3. AddiesDad permalink
    September 5, 2011 12:08 pm


    I’ll be there as Marcus’ on-site aide. Please stop by his tent, and say hello. Look for the Harry Potter-esque glasses.

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