[This stunningly beautiful image, of the Fairmont in San Francisco, has been provided by the Fairmont Hotel. It’s an important picture, because it sets the stage for this amazing Simply Italian Great Wines US tour. All of the stops were pulled out, as you can see.]

Steve Heimoff once said to me, “If I accepted every invitation, I’d be out every day.” This was when he was the West Coast editor for Wine Enthusiast magazine. I now feel the same way. It’s just impossible to do it all, and still maintain my day job, as a consulting wine industry publicist. It’s very tempting to attend all of these offers, because the learning curve for wines outside of my regular scope would greatly expand, but I just can’t. So, when I do, I feel like I’m headed to the Crème de la Crème.

And so it was on October 26, 2015, when Jose and I headed to San Francisco to taste new wines and meet new people, in the Fairmont Hotel’s grand ballroom. When we arrived, our first stop was attending an Italian Wine & Style Winemaker Lunch, in the Garden Room.  There were only 24 of us…  I thought to myself, “Pinch me,” as thousands of people were tasting and in classroom settings for regional education. For me, food and wine is at the heart of the culture. Seminars will come later.

Our luncheon began with a very sumptuous menu, where every single dish (except for the dessert) emanated from mushrooms. (Have I ever mentioned that my mother was not a cook, in any stretch of the imagination; therefore, I hate mushrooms?) I thought to myself, reading over the menu, “This is going to be fun.” What I didn’t know was that it really was going to be fun. It’s taken me this long, having a long life of saying, “No thank you” to anything mushroom, to finally tasting – and enjoying – what I’ve been missing all of my life. It didn’t hurt that each course was also partnered with fine wines, including some from Piedmont. It was at this lunch that I finally paid attention to Piedmont’s terroir being perfectly suited to fostering mushrooms. Having grown up in the woods of Maine, where mushrooms are just part of a forest’s floor, I’ve always loved them as part of the landscape; but, I’ve never understood why anyone would want to eat them. Now I know. This, in and of itself, was worth the trip into San Francisco, while client writing assignments sat patiently on my desk.

De-licious! I was so busy fretting and then eating that it wasn’t until dessert that I realized, I should have been taking pictures of this sumptuous meal. (If I hadn’t bee repeatedly force fed as achild, I would be more normal, when it comes to food.)

There were 71 producers pouring wines, so I knew that I had to keep it limited. I’m not a speed taster, nor am I a person without soul in my process. Being a wine blogger is a hobby; I’m a wine professional with a serious day job. I want to spend meaningful time with people who are also in the wine business and will kindly tell me about their companies.

These are the people and the brands that were soulful and my pleasure to have met:

Let me tell you about each brand, if you’re a wine pro looking for a brand to import, or if you’re a consumer and want to know about Italian wines.

[Left to right: Catherine Fallis, our master of ceremonies, Marina Orlandi Contucci]

We first met Marina Orlandi Contucci (Colle Manora) at lunch. Each table had a winemaker among us. Besides Jose and me, others at the table included Thea Dwell, Catherine Fallis, the day’s emcee, and Chris Ennis of SF Uncork’d. When I went into the ballroom after lunch, Marina Contucci was definitely on my list. She extended an invite to Thea, Jose, and me to visit her in Italy, and now I’m really jazzed to do that. I jokingly said to Jose, you can drive Miss Daisy and Miss Crazy, and those names will be interchangeable. Marina said that she would be Miss Lazy, and Catherine Fallis has been voted to be Miss Hazy. Once Ivana Pomposo heard of our plan, she also wants to entertain us.

See you in Italy, Marina and Ivana! It’s going to be quite the series of stories, I can see that coming down the line. I love people who are fun loving and playful. We enjoy life; that’s why we’re here, after all.

Today, I’m going to stop where I am. We’re at 700 words, and that’s enough for this part of the story. The stage has been set. On Monday, each winery will have a small feature. Needless to say, the day was well spent.

I wish each of you could have joined us.