"We're going." Brian said as he flicked the promotion card at me excitedly while I polished stemware. "I need to check my schedule, but…" I inspected the flyer more closely, "…oh, we're going."
Gaia Gaja, eldest daughter of legendary Italian winemaker Angelo Gaja, was in Houston Tuesday and kept a tight schedule. Hosted by the Terlato Wine Group, she did a training in the morning, a sommelier lunch at Pappas Bros. Steakhouse, an afternoon wine tasting at Da Marco Cucina E Vino, and a wine dinner at Potente. For Italian wine lovers, attending either of these events is the equivalent of front row seats to Beyoncé.
It's nothing new that Houston lures reputable winemakers from around the world. We're an attractive, thriving market of wine drinkers after all. Industry people who are sometimes too busy to break away from work certainly find a reason when iconic wine houses like Gaja come to town. Her stay in the United States, a brief one, includes stops in Dallas, Houston, New Orleans, and Florida.
The vineyards of Gaja are located in the Piedmont and Tuscany regions of Italy; the land of Barolo, Barbaresco, and super Tuscans. Gaja bottles have a simple lable; because all they really need to sell their wine are those four letters linked with over 150 years of practice and good decision making.
Angelo Gaja, who began working the family business in 1961 modernized their technique in addition to adding new grape varietals into the fold. While Gaja was always good, once Angelo got his hands on the vines they became great. In reference to side-stepping a deal with Napa Valley's Robert Mondavi, this legend is reputed to have compared it to, "a mosquito having sex with an elephant: very dangerous and not much pleasure."
Wine representatives, sommeliers, restaurant owners and chefs milled about, interacting with Gaia Gaja herself while tasting a generous selection of vintages. If you're interested in tasting Gaja she recommends these:
Brunello di Montalcino (Tuscany region): 2001, 2004, 2006, 2010, 2013, and she's excited about 2016.
Piedmont region: 1999, 2001, 2013, and 2014.
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Around the time we tasted the 2012 Brunello di Montalcino (5 minutes in) we all got a little giddy. It's common at daytime wine tastings to spit, but when you're sipping Gaja on a beautiful afternoon in Houston, TX, you don't spit gold.
The Houston Press asked her how she crams that many wine events into one day. She stated honestly, with a smile, "I'm tired of talking about myself."
She likes visiting Houston though. "The people in Texas are very welcoming and I always have a lot of fun when I come here, that's the real reason." Behind New York, Texas imports the most Gaja in the United States. Go team.