Finding Mario Bollag

story + photos by Michael Housewright

Brunello di Montalcino is perhaps the finest wine produced in Italy. It is made entirely from Sangiovese grapes, grown just outside the hilltop town of Montalcino, in Tuscany. It was the first wine I ever loved.

I met Mario Bollag  at a wine bar I curated in Houston, Texas. He spoke impeccable English, and was easily the most charming winemaker I had met in all my years in the business. In addition, he made outstanding Brunello at his winery, Terrlasole.  We hit it off immediately, talked, and tasted wine for several hours. He invited me to visit him and the winery as soon as I could make my way overseas.

Less than two months after Mario’s visit to Houston, I took him up on his offer, and went to Italy. With my wife in tow, and a rental Volkswagen Golf procured, we set out from Rome airport in search of Mario Bollag.  Being a frequent traveler to Italy I assumed finding Mario in tiny Montalcino would be a cakewalk. I was wrong.

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Once Upon A Vine: A Unique Gathering of Grapes

by Fyllis Hockman

Relais San MaurizioAlright, we all know by now that drinking red wine is supposed to be heart-healthy. So then, shouldn’t slathering a glass of Merlot on your body be good for the skin? Such is the theory, sort of, at the Caudalie Spas. There are currently only four in the world, and I am luxuriating in a ‘vinotherapie’ massage in the Relais San Maurizio Hotel in the heart of the Piedmont region of northwestern Italy. The vintage is being absorbed into the skin rather than ingested into the bloodstream.

As is also true in Bordeaux, France, Rioja, Spain and New York City (Hmmm; don’t exactly think of the latter as a major wine-producing area…), here wine is king! And the appreciation of its many attributes – which, as those who know me can attest, I try to experience as often as I can – is a venerated practice. So it seems appropriate that the consumption of wine extend beyond traditional imbibing.

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Wine & Stein[beck]: It Happened in Monterey

by Jules Older

Back when I was a grad student in New York, I was lured to Monterey in California. The words of John Steinbeck are what lured me.

© Effin OlderA Baltimore boy who'd discovered Steinbeck in my teen years, I wanted — no, needed — to see and smell and walk the streets where Doc and Mack, Hazel and Wide Ida, Danny and Pilon plied their trades and plotted their scams.

Now, those same Steinbeck characters help entice three-to-four-million tourists every year and have, in the words of Diane Mandeville, vice president of Cannery Row Company, “changed us from a dirty, smelly industrial town to a clean and green tourist town.”

That’s all well and good, but it wasn't just The Grapes of Wrath that upgraded Monterey. It was also the grapes of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Cabernet, Chardonnay and almost every other potable varietal under the sun. Like Napa and Sonoma to the north, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara to the south, Monterey is now serious wine country.

And it was on my last trip to Monterey that I got into the fermented grape juice.

For the same sort of reason — if ‘reason’ be the word for it — that I skied the French Alps with French-speaking Quebecois, sightsaw Kyoto with one of those Japanese tour parties and toured Israel with the Black Hebrews of Jerusalem, I now found myself in Monterey with a group of dedicated oenophiles.

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