Sunday, August 31, 2008

Save Italy Movement USA

There had been a webpage on the PAL website entitled "Save Italy Movement USA." This was in response to the flood of millions of immigrants from 152 countries around the world, mainly the third world, into Italy. In 2007, there were about 300,000 into the small country. I had intended on taking many news links from, or about, Italy, and showing how extreme this situation really is. Also, there is staggering photo evidence of it as well. I think that this in tragic, and will eventually mark a permanent end to Italian culture. People talk about visiting the Veneto and that all they see is Africans, Pakistanis, etc. Brescia, overnight, has become the home to a large "Little Senegal."

The average Italian woman has 1.2 children. Amazing, when we look back on the centuries of large Italian families. It takes 2.1 children to just stay even in population. The Muslim population is expanding at the fastest rate, and throughout all of Europe, and they have large families. The news from Europe and Italy is ripe with new Muslim organizations "making demands." Demands in a country and culture which is NOT theirs. They even openly talk about how they will take over. The population of the North African states, in particular, are exploding in population, with no economy to support it.

Italy's population is older, and the way financial and economic interests view it is that they need "new tax payers" to line their pockets, above all else. They use the excuse that someone needs to pay for the aging population as they retire, which wasn't a problem in the first 6,000 years of civilization. This ties into so many issues: Globalization, the European Union, the right to national sovereignty, the Vatican, individual cultures, Western Civilization itself, and so many others. To digress, the "Save Italy Movement USA" was to be a coalition of Americans to oppose this, in whatever activist form it might take. At the very least, any representatives from the Italian government should be made to not feel welcome anymore.

When the late Oriana Fallaci dared to criticize the mass Muslim migration into Europe and Italy, it caused quite a stir. I always wondered how "survival" could be radical. This goes far beyond "left and right" politics. Fallaci was a Leftist. The "Italian Muslim Council" screamed to high heaven, a court in France indicted her; don't ask me to explain how this can happen. It's the result of nations who lose both their culture and sovereignty. Even the Northern League has abandoned their quest for in independent Padania; having to focus all their attention to this issue.

When immigrants from Europe migrated to America, they always just assumed that the "old country" would always be there for them. Either to return, or as a symbol of their particular culture. That this culture would always endure, as they became part of what was a "Euro-American melting pot." Up until very recently, this was still an accepted fact and assumption. Also, only Western countries are to become "multicultural." Even the base cultures! (European)

What amazes me is how countries like Germany or Italy, the average citizen, could accept joining up with what they could clearly and plainly see was the result of this program in France and England. Surely some of them must have visited Paris or London. Also with the EU open borders, the poor areas of Europe invade the wealthier areas. Why should Germans pay because they have been the most successful people in Europe recently? Why can't the poor regions take it as a challenge, and national pride, to become more successful instead of latching themselves onto Germany's ankles (or whatever rich area) ? Germans have the right to their own culture, just like everyone else.

Also, why should the average working person in a wealthier country, pay for the road conditions of the poor countries? The EU was a power grab by bankers, which have war mongered and leeched off of Europeans for centuries. Thankfully, that same type of power grab was stopped, at least temporarily, in the USA (North American Union).
While the average German citizen is a victim, the German government is more tyrannical than it's ever been! They attack free speech at every turn, and are chomping at the bit to send their police to other countries because they want to arrest "free speech abusers" there.

As stated earlier, this issue knows no bounds. We see the World Bank demanding that Russia start accepting massive numbers of third world immigrants. We see American General Wesley Clark demanding that European cultures be eliminated. We see a president of the World Jewish Congress demanding that Australia become "multicultural," while at the same time insisting that Israel become "Jewish Only." What is really going on here? It's called Globalization, and it operates just like cancer does.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Beltramo's Wines & Spirits - Since 1882

Beltramo's Wines and Spirits
1540 El Camino Real
Menlo Park, CA 94025

(650) 325-2806
(888) 710-WINE (9463)
(650) 323-8450 fax

From Beltramo's website - History:

In 1880, Giovanni Beltramo arrived in California with Nebbiolo and Barbera grape cuttings from his native town of Castel Nuovo di Don Bosco in the province of Asti, Italy. He cultivated a vineyard in Menlo Park, and in 1882 he established a wholesale-retail wine and spirits business in town. After Prohibition his son Alexander moved the family business nearby to the store's current site. The store is half-way between the cities of San Francisco and San Jose, and just a few minutes away from the Stanford University campus, and although the family no longer cultivates any grapes, the store is within driving distance of the finest wine cultivating regions in California.

Since the late 1950's, Beltramo's has carried the largest selection of fine wines and spirits in the San Francisco Bay Area. Still a family-owned business, John R. and Daniel Beltramo, sons of Alexander Beltramo, have been guiding the store since the mid-1960's. The store was one of the first to specialize in imported wines. In the mid-1970's you could find 1947 Petrus for $99.00, 1967 Chateau d'Yquem for $27.00 and Domaine Dujac's first vintage of Morey St. Denis for $9.95. With the expansion of the California wineries, Beltramo's introduced the first vintages of new wineries such as Spottswoode, Chalone, Duckhorn, Silver Oak, Chateau Montelena and Ridge to the Bay Area's wine lovers.

Continuing with the family tradition of excellence in service and selection, Beltramo's has also been voted "Best Place to Buy Wine" in local polls of Menlo Park and Palo Alto for the last 10 years in a row. It has received recognition over the years as "Retailer of the Year" by Market Watch, the wine industry affiliate of the Wine Spectator and by the state of California by the National Liquor Stores Association with further recognition as “a top wine shop” from publications such as Food and Wine Magazine’s Wine Guide and The New York Times.

The Beltramo Family remains committed to keeping Beltramo's Wines and Spirits one of the world's finest wine stores, with a broad selection to suit everyone’s tastes and budget.


Beltramo's has a nice wine tasting room. See website for their wine tasting schedule. I have found the staff to be very friendly and helpful. I recommend a visit if you haven't been there.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Ostrogoths in Italy: Part 2 of 2

Taken from part of "Ostrogothic Kindom" in Wikipedia:


The Ostrogothic Kingdom established by the Ostrogoths in Italy and neighbouring areas lasted from 493 to 553. In Italy the Ostrogoths replaced Odoacer, the de facto ruler of Italy who had deposed the last emperor of the Western Roman Empire in 476. The Gothic kingdom reached its zenith under the rule of its first king, Theodoric the Great. Most of the social institutions in the late Western Roman Empire were preserved during his rule.

Starting in 535, the Eastern Roman Empire invaded Italy. The Ostrogothic ruler at that time, Witiges, could not defend successfully and was finally captured when the capital Ravenna fell. The Ostrogoths rallied around a new leader, Totila, and largely managed to reverse the conquest, but were eventually defeated. The last king of the Ostrogothic Kingdom was Teia.

The Ostrogoths

The Ostrogoths were the eastern branch of the Goths. They settled and established a powerful state in Dacia, but during the late 4th century, they came under the dominion of the Huns. After the collapse of the Hunnic empire in 454, large numbers of Ostrogoths were settled by Emperor Marcian in the Roman province of Pannonia as foederati. But in 460, during the reign of Leo I, because the payment of annual sums had ceased, they ravaged Illyricum. Peace was concluded in 461, whereby the young Theodoric Amal, son of Theodemir of the Amals, was sent as a hostage to Constantinople, where he received a Roman education. In previous years, a large number of Goths, first under Aspar and then under Theodoric Strabo, had entered service in the Roman army and were a significant political and military power in the court of Constantinople. The period 477-483 saw a complex three-way struggle among Theodoric the Amal, who had succeeded his father in 474, Theodoric Strabo, and the new Eastern Emperor Zeno. In this conflict, alliances shifted regularly, and large parts of the Balkans were devastated by it. In the end, after Strabo's death in 481, Zeno came to terms with Theodoric. Parts of Moesia and Dacia ripensis were ceded to the Goths, and Theodoric was named magister militum praesentalis and consul for 484. However, barely a year later, Theodoric and Zeno fell out, and again Theodoric's Goths ravaged Thrace. It was then that the thought occurred to Zeno and his advisors to kill two birds with one stone, and direct Theodoric against another troublesome neighbour of the Empire - the Italian kingdom of Odoacer.

Odoacer's kingdom

In 476, Odoacer, a Germanic magister militum, deposed the Western Emperor Romulus Augustulus and declared himself rex Italiae ("King of Italy"), while still nominally remaining under Imperial suzerainty. This fact was recognized by Zeno in 477, when he appointed Odoacer to the rank of patrician. Odoacer retained the Roman administrative system, cooperated actively with the Roman Senate, and his rule was efficient and successful. He evicted the Vandals from Sicily in 477, and in 480 he conquered Dalmatia after the murder of Julius Nepos.

The conquest of Italy by the Goths

An agreement was reached between Zeno and Theodoric, stipulating that Theodoric, if victorious, was to rule in Italy as the emperor's representative. Theodoric with his people set out from Moesia in the autumn of 488, passed through Dalmatia and crossed the Julian Alps into Italy in late August 489. The first confrontation with the army of Odoacer was at the river Isonzo (the battle of Isonzo) on August 28. Odoacer was defeated and withdrew towards Verona, where a month later another battle was fought, resulting in a bloody, but crushing, Gothic victory. Odoacer fled to his capital at Ravenna, while the larger part of his army under Tufa surrendered to the Goths. Theodoric then sent Tufa and his men against Odoacer, but he changed his allegiance again and returned to Odoacer. In 490, Odoacer was thus able to campaign against Theodoric, take Milan and Cremona and besiege the main Gothic base at Ticinum (Pavia). At that point, however, the Visigoths intervened, the siege of Ticinum was lifted, and Odoacer decisively defeated at the river Adda on 11 August 490. Odoacer fled again to Ravenna, while the Senate and many Italian cities declared themselves for Theodoric.

The Goths now turned to besiege Ravenna, but since they lacked a fleet and the city could be resupplied by sea, the siege could be endured almost indefinitely, despite privations. It was not until 492 that Theodoric was able to procure a fleet and capture Ravenna's harbours, thus entirely cutting off communication with the outside world. The effects of this appeared six months later, when, with the mediation of the city's bishop, negotiations started between the two parties. An agreement was reached on 25 February 493, whereby the two should divide Italy between them. A banquet was organised in order to celebrate this treaty. It was at this banquet, on March 15, that Theodoric, after making a toast, killed Odoacer with his own hands. A general massacre of Odoacer's soldiers and supporters followed. Theodoric and his Goths were now masters of Italy.

The reign of Theodoric the Great

"... Theoderic was a man of great distinction and of good-will towards all men, and he ruled for thirty-three years. In his times Italy for thirty years enjoyed such good fortune that his successors also inherited peace. For whatever he did was good. He so governed two races at the same time, Romans and Goths, that although he himself was of the Arian sect, he nevertheless made no assault on the Catholic religion; he gave games in the circus and the amphitheatre, so that even by the Romans he was called a Trajan or a Valentinian, whose times he took as a model; and by the Goths, because of his edict, in which he established justice, he was judged to be in all respects their best king." --Anonymus Valesianus, Excerpta II 59-60

The nature of Theodoric's rule

Like Odoacer, Theodoric was ostensibly a patricius and subject of the emperor in Constantinople, acting as his viceroy for Italy, a position recognized by the new Emperor Anastasius in 497. At the same time, he was the king of his own people, who were not Roman citizens. In reality, he acted as an independent ruler, although unlike Odoacer, he meticulously preserved the outward forms of his subordinate position. The administrative machinery of Odoacer's kingdom, in essence that of the former Empire, was retained and continued to be staffed exclusively by Romans, such as the articulate and literate Cassiodorus. The Senate continued to function normally and was consulted on civil appointments, and the laws of the Empire were still recognized as ruling the Roman population, though Goths were ruled under their own traditional laws. Indeed, as a subordinate ruler, Theodoric did not possess the right to issue his own laws (leges) in the system of Roman law, but merely edicts (edicta), or clarifications on certain details. The continuity in administration is illustrated by the fact that several senior ministers of Odoacer, like Liberius and Cassiodorus the Elder, were retained in the new kingdom's top positions. The close cooperation between Theodoric and the Roman elite began to break down in later years, especially after the healing of the ecclesiastical rift between Rome and Constantinople, as leading senators conspired with the Emperor. This resulted in the arrest and execution of the magister officiorum Boethius and his father-in-law, Symmachus, in 524.

On the other hand, the army and all military offices remained the exclusive preserve of the Goths. The Goths were settled mostly in northern Italy, and kept themselves largely apart from the Roman population, a tendency reinforced by their different faiths: the Goths were mostly Arians, while the people they ruled over were following Chalcedonian Christianity. Nevertheless, and unlike the Visigoths or the Vandals, there was considerable religious tolerance, which was also extended towards Jews. Theodoric's view was clearly expressed in his letters to the Jews of Genoa: "The true mark of civilitas is the observance of law. It is this which makes life in communities possible, and which separates man from the brutes. We therefore gladly accede to your request that all the privileges which the foresight of antiquity conferred upon the Jewish customs shall be renewed to you..." and "We cannot order a religion, because no one can be forced to believe against his will."


Because of the kingdom's short history, no fusion of the two peoples and their art was achieved. However, under the patronage of Theodoric and Amalasuntha, large-scale restoration of ancient Roman buildings was undertaken, and the tradition of Roman civic architecture continued. In Ravenna, new churches and monumental buildings were erected, several of which survive. The Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, its baptistry, and the Archiepiscopal Chapel follow the typical late Roman architectural and decorative motifs, but the Mausoleum of Theodoric displays purely Gothic elements, such as its construction not from the usual brick, but of massive slabs of Istrian limestone, or the 300-ton single-piece roof stone.


All of the surviving literature written in the Ostrogothic kingdom is in Latin, though some older works were copied in Greek and Gothic (e.g. the Codex Argenteus), and the literature is solidly in the Greco-Roman tradition. Cassiodorus, hailing from a distinguished background, and himself entrusted with high offices (consul and magister officiorum) represents the Roman ruling class. Like many others of his background, he served Theodoric and his heirs loyally and well, something expressed in the writings of the period. In his Chronica, used later by Jordanes in his Getica, as well as in the various panegyrics written by him and other prominent Romans of the time for the Gothic kings, Roman literary and historical tradition is put in the service of their Gothic overlords. His privileged position enabled him to compile the Variae Epistolae, a collection of state correspondence, which gives great insight into the inner workings of the Gothic state. Boethius is another prominent figure of the period. Well-educated and also from a distinguished family, he wrote works on mathematics, music and philosophy. His most famous work, Consolatio philosophiae, was written while imprisoned on charges of treason.


Theodoric the Great

Theodoric is considered to be one of the greatest Germanic kings in history. He was not only a warrior king, but showed great statesmanship and the personality to bring together hostile groups. We don't really have time to go into his life in depth here now, but can get back to him at a future time.

One more time, Theoderic the Great's biography from Wikipedia


The Ostrogothic period was a more complex one than the Lombardic period, mainly because Rome was still strong when the Goths began to flex their muscles in the Balkans. In fact, Byzantine Rome used the Lombards to break up the Gothic power base in Ravenna. In some ways, from our perspective today, the Lombards and the Ostrogoths could be considered under the umbrella of a larger Germanic period in Northern Italian history.

Heritage History Website (info on the Goths and a lot of other subjects)

'The Origin and Deed of the Goths' (by Jordanes)

Jordanes biography (Wikipedia)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Ostrogoths in Italy: Part 1 of 2


I believe that the heart and soul of the North Italian cultures stem from the Etruscans and early Italic tribes. The Lombard flag merely symbolizes what was a unified region. The Northern League stresses the Celtic past, pointing out that they had opposed Rome. This is mainly a way of symbolizing the opposition to the modern Roman government. Comunità Odinista stresses our Lombardic past, as the Lombards had practiced Odinism, at least at some point. It's easy to forget that the entire Italian peninsula (the mainland) was part of the Ostrogothic Kingdom, prior to the Lombard invasion.

I wanted to at least give an introduction to the Ostrogoths here, which we can build on later, and I will probably be bouncing all over the place. I have begun reading the book 'The History of the Lombards', and at the beginning, the author Paul the Deacon (a Lombard) points out the tremendous violence of the Germanic nations, and how Italy felt their wrath for centuries. I don't think we should deny that fact, despite what might be a fascination with the barbarians who invaded our ancestral homeland, and partly "became us."

Rather than enter a large amount of text regarding the Goths, who were all over, I will try to use links and look at the bigger picture first, then focus on how they affected Italy. The links will provide further reading, as this history is complex. The Ostrogoths were a branch of the Goths. The Goths were a large Germanic tribe which had settled in Eastern Europe. Like the Lombards, they were Arian Christians by the time they had invaded Italy and the Balkans. Arian Christianity was not Roman Christianity, which is why the early Roman church worked so hard to stamp them out. Centuries later, Queen Theodelinda peacefully brought the region under the Roman church.

The Goths were thought to have originated from "the Gotlanders" in Scandinavia. Gotland Island is a Scandinavian island, which seems to have given rise to a people who later became important on the Scandinavian mainland (Gotlandia, Götaland) and later migrated south. They had a very distinct culture which can be traced throughout their later migrations. Earlier I think I had mentioned that "the Gotts" (Gots, Goti, Guti, Gutar, Gotar, Göta, etc.) were perhaps a branch of the Lombards, but more than likely they were Goths.

Sometime around the 3rd century, the Goths were branching out and making their presence known. They settled near the Danube River, which is were the Lombards settled later, in modern Hungary. The Huns, a large and extremely barbaric central Asian tribe, began to move into the area. They seem to have pushed the Goths southward.

At some point the Goths branched into two main tribes: The Ostrogoths (Eastern Goths) and the Visigoths (Western Goths). The Visigoths migrated southwestward and by 475 had come to dominate almost all of the Iberian peninsula. The Visigoth Kingdom lasted until 711. Along with the Visigothic Kingdom in Spain, the Ostrogoths invaded Italy and the Balkans, where they established their own Kingdom. They ruled the entire area from 488 to 553. Both tribes had partaken in the earlier sacking of Rome.

Wikipedia states that after the two kingdoms were established: "The Goths were briefly reunited under one crown in the early sixth century under Theodoric the Great...." We will go more into Theodoric the Great later.

Backing up a little, it is interesting to me how a small region can affect the world. Gotland Island looks insignificant on a map, yet it was the springboard for a cultural movement that some scholars call the "Gothicismus." Wikipedia states: "Gothicismus, Gothism, or Gothicism (Swedish: Göticism) is the name given to what is considered to have been a cultural movement in Sweden.". Wikipedia goes on to state: During the period ca 600 BC–ca 300 BC the warm and dry climate of southern Scandinavia deteriorated considerably, which not only dramatically changed the flora, but forced people to change their way of living and to leave settlements. The Goths are believed to have crossed the Baltic Sea sometime between the end of this period, ca 300 BC, and 100.

The "Gutasaga" is a Norse saga or history, written in the 13th century, of Gotland and Gothicismus, before it's Christianization. It appears that it was based on the oral tradition or storytelling. It continues with the migration and/or invasions of the Goths southward. The Gutasaga reads "Over a long time, the people descended from these three multiplied so much that the land couldn't support them all. Then they draw lots, and every third person was picked to leave, and they could keep everything they owned and take it with them, except for their land. ... they went up the river Dvina, up through Russia. They went so far that they came to the land of the Greeks. ... they settled there, and live there still, and still have something of our language."

Wikipedia states about the Gutasaga: "That the Goths should have gone "to the land of the Greeks" is consistent with their first appearance in classical sources: Eusebius of Caesarea reported that they devastated "Macedonia, Greece, the Pontus, and Asia" in 263. The emigration would have taken place in the 1st century AD, and loose contact with their homeland would have been maintained for another two centuries, the comment that the emigrant's language "still has something" in common shows awareness of dialectal separation. The events would have needed to be transmitted orally for almost a millennium before the text was written down." "Asia" would have been modern Turkey.

Lastly, Gothic writing and language are other subjects unto itself, which we won't have time to focus on now.


We've already mentioned the Ostrogoths, which was the eastern branch of the Goths. As stated, the Goths had been a single nation until the 3rd century, when they split into two main branches (there were other smaller offshoots). From Wikipedia: "This so-called "split" or, more appropriately, resettlement of western tribes into the Roman province of Dacia was a natural result of population saturation of the area north of the Black Sea. The Goths there established a vast and powerful kingdom, during the 3rd and 4th centuries, between the Danube and the Dniepr in what is now Romania, Moldavia and western Ukraine (see Chernyakhov culture; Gothic runic inscriptions). This was a multi-tribal state ruled by a Gothic elite...." They seem to have migrated from the Roman region of Pannonia (modern Hungary) to the Balkans, where they settled for a good while. They had battled with the Romans, the Huns, and later the Eastern Roman Empire for centuries, off and on between truces and treaties.

Wikipedia briefly sums up the Ostrogoths: "The Ostrogoths (Latin: Ostrogothi or Austrogothi) were a branch of the Goths, an East Germanic tribe that played a major role in the political events of the late Roman Empire. The other branch was the Visigoths. The Ostrogoths established a relatively short-lived successor state of Rome in Italy and the Pannonia, even briefly incorporating most of Hispania and southern Gaul. They reached their zenith under their Romanised king Theodoric the Great, who patronised such late Roman figures as Boethius and Cassiodorus, in the first quarter of the sixth century. By mid-century, however, they had been conquered by Rome in the Gothic War (535–554), a war with devastating consequences for Italy."

Gothic influence was already widespread and remarkable since their rise in Gotland Island centuries before. When the Huns migrated into Europe, it seemed to begin a whole new chapter in Gothic history. I know I'm all over the place here, but this history is hard to look at only in terms of Chronology, as it affected so many other cultures along the way. Another history/fable was written in the 'Hlöðskviða' or otherwise known as 'The Battle of the Goths and Huns.'

The part of specifically Ostrogothic history which affects Italy can follow some chronological order here as follows. From Wikipedia:

"Hunnic invasions

The rise of the Huns around 370 overwhelmed the Gothic kingdoms. Many of the Goths migrated into Roman territory in the Balkans, while others remained north of the Danube under Hunnic rule. They became one of the many Hunnic vassals fighting in Europe, as in the Battle of Chalons in 451. Several uprisings against the Huns were suppressed. The collapse of Hunnic power in the 450s led to further violent upheaval in the lands north of the Danube, during which most of the Goths resident in the area migrated to the Balkans. It was this group that became known as the Ostrogoths.

Gothic was still spoken sporadically in Crimea as late as the 16th century: the Crimean Gothic language.

Post-Hunnic movements

Their recorded history begins with their independence from the remains of the Hunnic Empire following the death of Attila the Hun in 453. Allied with the former vassal and rival, the Gepids and the Ostrogoths led by Theodemir broke the Hunnic power of Attila's sons in the Battle of Nedao in 454.

The Ostrogoths now entered into relations with the Empire, and were settled on lands in Pannonia. During the greater part of the latter half of the 5th century, the East Goths played in south-eastern Europe nearly the same part that the West Goths played in the century before. They were seen going to and fro, in every conceivable relation of friendship and enmity with the Eastern Roman power, until, just as the West Goths had done before them, they passed from the East to the West.

Kingdom in Italy

The greatest of all Ostrogothic rulers, the future Theodoric the Great (whose name means "leader of the people") of Ostrogothic Kingdom, was born to Theodemir in or about 454, soon after the Battle of Nedao. His childhood was spent at Constantinople as a diplomatic hostage, where he was carefully educated. The early part of his life was taken up with various disputes, intrigues and wars within the Byzantine empire, in which he had as his rival Theodoric Strabo, a distant relative of Theodoric the Great and son of Triarius. This older but lesser Theodoric seems to have been the chief, not the king, of that branch of the Ostrogoths which had settled within the Empire at an earlier time. Theodoric the Great, as he is sometimes distinguished, was sometimes the friend, sometimes the enemy, of the Empire. In the former case he was clothed with various Roman titles and offices, as patrician and consul; but in all cases alike he remained the national Ostrogothic king. Theodoric is also known for his attainment of support from the Catholic church, which he gained by appeasing the pope in 520. During his reign, Theodoric, who was Arian, allowed “freedom of religion” which had not been done before. However, he did try to appease the pope and tried to keep his allies with the church strong. He saw the pope as an authority not only in the church but also over Rome.

Theodoric sought to revive Roman culture and government and in doing so, profit the Italian people. It was in both characters together that he set out in 488, by commission from the Byzantine emperor Zeno, to recover Italy from Odoacer. By 493 Ravenna was taken, where Theodoric would set up his capital. It was also at this time that Odoacer was killed by Theodoric's own hand. Ostrogothic power was fully established over Italy, Sicily, Dalmatia and the lands to the north of Italy. In this war the Ostrogoths and Visigoths began again to unite, if we may accept the witness of one writer that Theodoric was helped by Visigothic auxiliaries. The two branches of the nation were soon brought much more closely together; after he was forced to become regent of the Visigothic kingdom of Toulouse, the power of Theodoric was practically extended over a large part of Gaul and over nearly the whole of the Iberian peninsula. Theodoric also attempted to forge an alliance with the Frankish and Burgundian kingdoms by means of a series of diplomatic marriages. This strengthening of power eventually led the Byzantine emperor to fear that Theodoric would become too strong, and motivated his subsequent alliance with the Frankish king, Clovis I, to counter and ultimately overthrow the Ostrogoths.

A time of confusion followed the death of Alaric II, the son-in-law of Theodoric, at the Battle of Vouillé. The Ostrogothic king stepped in as the guardian of his grandson Amalaric, and preserved for him all his Iberian and a fragment of his Gaul dominion. Toulouse passed to the Franks but the Goth kept Narbonne and its district and Septimania, which was the last part of Gaul held by the Goths and kept the name of Gothia for many ages. While Theodoric lived, the Visigothic kingdom was practically united to his own dominion. He seems also to have claimed a kind of protectorate over the Germanic powers generally, and indeed to have practically exercised it, except in the case of the Franks.

The Ostrogothic dominion was now again as great in extent as and far more splendid than it could have been in the time of Hermanaric; however it was now of a wholly different character. The dominion of Theodoric was not a barbarian but a civilized power. His twofold position ran through everything. He was at once national king of the Goths, and successor, though without any imperial titles, of the West Roman emperors. The two nations, differing in manners, language and religion, lived side by side on the soil of Italy; each was ruled according to its own law, by the prince who was, in his two separate characters, the common sovereign of both. It is believed that between 200,000 to 250,000 Ostrogoths settled in Italy but these are guesses and the numbers may have been much lower or higher.

The picture of Theodoric's rule is drawn for us in the state papers drawn up, in his name and in the names of his successors, by his Roman minister Cassiodorus. The Goths seem to have been thick on the ground in northern Italy; in the south they formed little more than garrisons. In Theodoric's theory the Goth was the armed protector of the peaceful Roman; the Gothic king had the toil of government, while the Roman consul had the honour. All the forms of the Roman administration went on, and the Roman policy and culture had great influence on the Goths themselves. The rule of the prince over distinct nations in the same land was necessarily despotic; the old Germanic freedom was necessarily lost. Such a system needed a Theodoric to carry it on. It broke in pieces after his death."

The long war with Rome was a big part of the Ostrogothic Kingdom's history, but too long and complex to go into detail here. The links will provide much further reading. Also, we need to find the books on this kingdom for reference and further study.

Finally, there is some text regarding Ostrogothic culture, but it doesn't go into any read detail in which we can get a good idea of the traditions, architecture, mannerisms, or works of art. Gothic architecture was distinct, and they did create some complex and sightly artwork, which is something else we need to look at in the future. Like the Lombards later, the Ostrogothic culture becomes ours at the end of the day.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Cal-Ital's second act -- After a slow start, Italian grapes find their place in California

Tim Teichgraeber - Special to The Chronicle - August 1, 2008

[Left: Winemaker Greg Graziano examines clusters of Sangiovese grapes on the vine in Mendocino County's Redwood Valley. (Craig Lee - The Chronicle)]

During the last two decades, California wines made from Italian grape varieties have seen both a promising boom and a crushing bust, leaving only the most dedicated specialists still standing. Their hope is that grapes like Sangiovese, Barbera and Nebbiolo, maybe even Dolcetto, Cortese and Aglianico will yet have their day in the California sun.

Whether motivated by their love of the grapes and the wines they make or a desire to pay tribute to their Italian heritage, a few Cal-Ital champions remain dedicated to their cause despite tough financial challenges.

"Sometimes it's easier to make headway doing something different," says Jim Gullett, whose Vino Noceto winery produces several such wines in the Sierra Foothills.

At least that was the rationale among California's early proponents of Italian varieties. Many would learn that the varieties were surprisingly challenging to grow, and sometimes even harder to sell. After two decades of learning the hard way, the movement's survivors can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, and may be able to show others the way.

Make no mistake, Cal-Ital wines are still a tough sell, but by most producers' accounts the resistance to them seems to be waning now that many of the weakest have been weeded out, the best have improved, and the weak dollar has driven up the price of imports and making for a mixed, but bullish, market. Almost one-third fewer tons of Sangiovese grapes were crushed in 2007 than a year earlier, according to the Wine Institute, but the price rose almost one-third. Less prominent grapes like Dolcetto, Cortese and Nebbiolo have all shown increases, though plantings remain small.

There was never a compelling reason why Italian grape varieties shouldn't succeed in California. The climates of the two regions are generally similar. And with tens of millions of Americans of Italian descent, Cal-Ital wines - California wines made from Italian grapes - shouldn't be hard to like.

At least that's what a lot of people thought in the late 1980s. Unfortunately, sometimes even the best laid plans go awry. Two decades later, only Pinot Grigio has emerged as a bona fide success.

Sangiovese was the great red hope of the Cal-Ital movement, a more elegant alternative to Cabernet Sauvignon, modeled after Tuscany's Chianti Classico, which Americans already knew and loved.

By the early 1990s, a number of wineries scattered around the state had begun producing Sangiovese and a few other varieties like Barbera, Nebbiolo, Dolcetto and Pinot Grigio.

Among them were Martin & Weyrich in Paso Robles; Montevina, Boeger and Vino Noceto in the Sierra Foothills; Greg Graziano's Enotria and Monte Volpe brands in Mendocino County; and Seghesio in Dry Creek Valley, which had been growing a little bit of Sangiovese since 1910. Even Robert Mondavi launched a Cal-Ital brand called La Famiglia with winemaker Jim Moore at the helm.

Moore had worked in Montalcino, the home of Italy's great Brunello wine, and he knew how great Sangiovese was made. Moore believed that Sangiovese planted in the right place, like the Napa Valley hillsides, could make world class wine, and he wasn't alone.

Movement gains credibility

In 1987, renown Italian producer Piero Antinori announced that he was partnering with British brewing concern Whitbread and Bollinger in the purchase of a property atop Atlas Peak in Napa Valley and he was going to plant Sangiovese - not Cabernet. Suddenly the Cal-Ital movement had credibility.

Others followed suit in planting Italian grapes, including winemaker Chris Dearden of Napa Valley's Benessere Vineyards, which released its first Sangiovese in 1995.

"I thought we could be the pinnacle of production for Italian varieties publicized by Antinori and Mondavi," says Dearden. He was just one of many that saw Sangiovese and other Italian grapes as a growing opportunity.

You can often identify pioneers by the arrows in their backs. Some of the early Cal-Ital wines showed real promise - specifically those from farmers who knew how to grow difficult grapes like Sangiovese, and those who had tasted enough Italian wines to know what made them great. Unfortunately, others were simply chasing a trend and had no idea what they were getting into. The result was a flood of mediocre Cal-Ital wines that undermined the good ones.

"Most of the winemakers that were making Italian varietals didn't have a f- clue about what Italian wine tasted like," says winemaker Greg Graziano. "All they cared about was what their neighbor was making, and they had no idea what was going on in the world."

Graziano produces Northern Italian-style wines in Mendocino County from Nebbiolo, Arneis, Barbera, Cortese and Dolcetto grapes under his Enotria brand and several other Italian varieties like Sangiovese, Pinot Grigio and Montepulciano under his Monte Volpe label, a sort of tribute to the Italian wines he loves. For the most part he purchases grapes to make his wines, and has coaxed Mendocino farmers into planting several varieties, often persuading them to grow them organically or biodynamically.

Courting retailers

[Right: Graziano produces Pinot Grigio, Sangiovese and Tocai Friulano under his Monte Volpe label. (Craig Lee - The Chronicle)]

Graziano is a road warrior, traveling the country to ferret out adventurous retailers and sommeliers willing to try and judge Cal-Ital wines on their merits.

Not everyone had as clear an aesthetic vision. Even Atlas Peak, the $25-a-bottle Sangiovese that was supposed to lead the way stumbled through the 1990s. Piero Antinori's estate never managed to make extraordinary Sangiovese, and was generally seen as overpriced. Young vineyards, inexperienced winemakers and competitively priced Italian wines were all part of the problem.

Italian varieties like Sangiovese and Nebbiolo were never intended for novice growers or winemakers. "If you think Pinot Noir is tough (to grow and vinify), Sangiovese is Pinot Noir squared, and Nebbiolo is Pinot Noir cubed," says Moore. "Nebbiolo is the toughest red grape to make in the known universe."

Nebbiolo, the noble grape of Piedmont, is the source for the brilliant wines of Barolo and Barbaresco, but it hasn't made outstanding wines anywhere else. Moore even has a "Letterman top 10 list" of Nebbiolo's fatal flaws, "10: It buds out too early; 9: It ripens too late; 8: It has too high in acid and tannin ..."

Martin & Weyrich's Nebbiolo vines were planted in 1992 from Italian vine cuttings sourced from unnamed persons at an undisclosed rendezvous location during the 1990 Italian World Cup, and smuggled into the United States as a so-called Samsonite clone. "Twenty-five years of experience with the variety is the key, and we still have so much more to learn," says winemaker Craig Reed.

Today Reed makes 4,500 cases of Nebbiolo, and it's the winery's No. 2 or 3 seller behind a wildly successful wine called Allegro, a slightly sweet, lightly bubbly Moscato that sells 70,000 cases a year. "That one keeps the lights on," says Reed.

Moore says that even with a few good Nebbiolos out there, "Nebbiolo may never succeed in California. If it has to any degree, it's where Pinot Noir was in 1970, when there were a handful of decent ones, but it wasn't on anyone's radar screen."

Likewise, Sangiovese is no easy grape to manage. "Young Sangiovese just produces and produces," says Montevina general manager Jeff Myers. Growers who don't cut back the crop wind up with watery, pale wines that lack body and color. "With vineyards now approaching 20 years old, we're getting better concentration and consistency."

Producers unite

Still, the Cal-Ital movement had momentum. Producers of Italian varieties banded together to form the Consorzio Cal-Italia and staged annual tastings at Fort Mason in San Francisco that drew thousands of wine fans. At its peak, around the year 2000, the consorzio had about 140 members.

Then came 9/11. Only a week before, Moore had sold one of his L'Uvaggio di Giacomo wines to Windows on the World restaurant atop the World Trade Center, placing it on one of the most iconic American wine lists. By 2002, the market had stagnated. Even the wineries making good wines from Italian varieties were struggling to sell them to the broader market but were continuing to sell them directly to loyal consumers who had come to know their quality.

Moore and Greg Graziano and Martin & Weyrich found open-minded retail and restaurant buyers in the Midwest, while others, like Noceto and Benessere, sold directly to customers that were looking for something different.

Vintners shapen skills

Through the hard years, dedicated Cal-Ital vintners honed their skills, and their vineyards matured. Even Nebbiolo has made remarkable progress in California, most notably at Paso Robles' Martin & Weyrich winery. "We considered giving up on it, but it's a labor of love," says winemaker Reed, whose favorite wines are Barolo and Barbaresco made from Nebbiolo.

Though Pinot Grigio has been a big hit, Sangiovese, Dolcetto and Aglianico from California are still a hard sell, even when well executed. Today's Cal-Ital wines are often as good as their like-priced Italian equivalents, especially now that the weak dollar has European prices rising, but they're often regarded as being "fake Italian" when French varietal wines like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from California are regarded as perfectly legitimate rivals to their European counterparts. "The wine business has always been Franco-centric," explains Moore.

"We've all gone to the Italian restaurant, and you meet the Italian guy. He's like, 'But this wine's not Italian,' " says Graziano. "I'll say, "What do you have that's Italian? You've got dried pasta and olive oil! Your bread is from L.A., your vegetables are from Southern California, and your meat is from California. Don't give me this crap!' "

"I had that experience at Angelini on Melrose, one of the best trattorias in Los Angeles," echoes Moore. "I showed him my wines and he was blown away. I said, 'Are you going to buy any?' He says, 'No, because I have my Italian wines.' I said, 'Wait a sec, you have Burgundy and you have Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. You have Napa Cabernet and you have Bordeaux. Should you have only Rhone Syrah and none of this Australian Shiraz?' He says, 'You know, you have a point.' But did he buy any? No."

Unpopular label

[Left: Chris Dearden, who makes Italian-style wines for Benessere in St. Helena, stands next to the winery's open-top French oak fermenter made in Italy. (Craig Lee - The Chronicle)]

For some the term Cal-Ital itself has been a sore point. "I don't want to hear the term Cal-Ital anymore," says Benessere's Dearden. Does anybody say Cal-Franco? Cal-Espana? Get rid of it," says Dearden, who is tired of his work being regarded as a "failed experiment."

The most dedicated California devotees of Italian varieties have proven that it can, in fact, be done well.

Though it's easy to wonder if some would have chosen another path if they had it to do all over, Noceto's Jim Gullett sees a light at the end of the tunnel in consumers in their 20s and 30s who are looking for something new. "Now people are interested in what's new and different ... You need to be a little bit zealous about it and have a good story and a lot of confidence. You have to be willing to accept a little defeat."

"How long did it take California, and Oregon to figure our how to make Pinot Noir with consistency? It's at least as tough to make Sangiovese as Pinot Noir," says Gullett.

He has no regrets, but is he happy? "Yes, but I probably wouldn't be if it was much harder to sell," says Gullett.

For the best California producers of Italian varieties, the clouds are parting. They're looking forward to a decade where they're more competitive in quality and value to the Italian wines they were modeled after, Cal-Ital producers once again see the glass half-full.

Montevina's Jeff Myers puts it succinctly: "We're real happy with where we're at."

Tasting notes


2007 Benessere Napa Valley Carneros Pinot Grigio ($26) A superb California interpretation of the Italian style - ripe, flavorful and full with green apple, nectarine and cream flavors and a crisp, minerally finish.

2007 Enotria Mendocino Cortese ($15) From the grape that makes Gavi di Gavi in Piedmont, this lovely white is every bit as refined as the best Italian examples, with sweet-tart Granny Smith apple, cream, fennel and lemon drop flavors.

2006 Monte Volpe Mendocino Pinot Grigio ($14) Fresh and expressive and flavorful with zesty green apple and lilac aromas, fresh apple flavors and a clean finish. A terrific value.

2007 Terra d'Oro Santa Barbara County Pinot Grigio ($16) Focused and aromatic with beautiful freesia, lavender and honeydew aromas and crystalline citrus, melon and mineral flavors. Excellent.


2003 Benessere Napa Valley Aglianico ($50) This powerful Southern Italian red variety seems to like Napa Valley. From a 1/2-acre block of the BK Collins vineyard comes this dark, full red with vanilla, licorice, blackberry and blueberry aromas and deep plum and berry flavors finishing with sturdy tannins on the graceful finish. The most Cabernet-like of the great Italian reds. Winery only.

2006 Enotria Mendocino Dolcetto ($17) This wine captures well the many charms of this underappreciated Northern Italian variety from its pretty violet aromas to its bright blackberry and cherry fruit, racy acidity and gritty tannins that soften with age.

2004 Enotria Mendocino Barbera ($17) Beautiful blueberry and blackberry pie aromas, vanilla, fruity middle, very approachable with a nice spank of acidity and tarry tannin on the finish. Lovely.

2005 L'Uvaggio di Giacomo Lodi Barbera ($18) Very young, with tight blueberry, blackberry and cranberry aromas. Dark, very ripe blackberry fruit in the middle and a tight finish, but should develop some jammier flavors and soften soon.

2002 L'Uvaggio di Giacomo Il Leopardo Central Coast Nebbiolo ($36) Another solid showing. Elegant, perfumed, textbook Nebbiolo from Stolpman Vineyards in Santa Barbara County with complex plum, cherry, cinnamon, licorice and tar flavors.

2003 Martin & Weyrich Reserve Il Vecchio Paso Robles Nebbiolo ($22) A seamless, beautifully matured red from the frustrating variety of Barolo and Barbaresco with amber-rimmed brick red color, dried rose, lavender, sweet oak, licorice and mushroom aromas, pretty, expressive, tangy cherry and raspberry fruit kissed with toast and a velvety finish. Superb.

2006 MonteVina Amador County Barbera ($12) A fruity red that's at once bright and deep with juicy cherry, raspberry, rose, toast and tar aromas, a round mouthfeel and bright cherry fruit on the finish. Perfect for a picnic or pizza.

2005 Monte Volpe Mendocino Sangiovese ($17) Delicious, fruit-driven California Sangiovese with youthful violet aromas, fresh blueberry and cherry pie flavors trailing into a moderately astringent finish typical of the grape.

Washington and Oregon

[Right: Benessere's 2005 Napa Valley Sangiovese. The winery released its first vintage of the varietal in 1995. (Craig Lee - The Chronicle)]

Wash-Ital and Or-Ital might not have the same ring as Cal-Ital, but the Golden State isn't the only place where growers and vintners have been honing their skills with Italian varieties.

Benchmark producer Ponzi makes a very nice white from Arneis, which is native to Piedmont. Earl and Hilda Jones of southern Oregon's Abacela Vineyards grow a daunting pastiche of Italian grapes, including the varieties Dolcetto, Sangiovese and Freisa.

A number of Washington state wineries are making first-rate wines from Italian varieties, especially Sangiovese. Star Walla Walla producer Leonetti makes a small batch of it each year. Like its other wines, the Sangiovese is excellent and at around $70 a bottle, pricey. Stella Fino, also of Walla Walla, and Cavatappi are two Washington wineries that focus on Italian varieties with great success. Stella Fino sources its Sangiovese ($25) from the excellent Pepper Bridge vineyard in Walla Walla, and Cavatappi's superb Maddalena Nebbiolo ($25) comes from Washington's historic Red Willow vineyard, where many varieties were first planted in Washington. Others to look for include Andrew Will's Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Sangiovese ($30) and Maryhill's Brunello-like Reserve Sangiovese ($32).

Some Italians are still wary of growing Italian grapes in the New World. After abandoning his Sangiovese dreams in Napa Valley, Tuscan producer Piero Antinori partnered with Chateau Ste. Michelle on Washington's Red Mountain in an estate dubbed Col Solare, which makes one red wine, a Bordeaux blend, without a drop of Sangiovese.

Tim Teichgraeber is a San Francisco writer. E-mail him at

San Francisco Chronicle Link (
'Cal-Ital's second act'

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Sebastian Scala and Mary Savona: Italians on the Bridge

This little article is a little dated, but I thought that it should be on the blog. It had been placed in our forum.

Sebastian Scala and Mary Savona: Italians on the Bridge

Louise Rafkin - San Francisco Chronicle - March 9, 2008

[Above Left: On the Couch: Sebastian Scala and Mary Savona. Chronicle photo by Katy Raddatz]

It was 2002, a warm, spring prom night. Traffic was heavy on the Bay Bridge, with lots of limos, and a fair amount of whooping. Mary Savona, now 37, was living in the East Bay and off to party in the city with a girlfriend. Approaching the tollbooth, she caught sight of an attractive man in a convertible eight lanes over. Then her head swiveled - he had blown her a kiss! She mimed a catch and blew one back. The game was on.

Returning to his beloved North Beach from a Toastmaster's conference in the East Bay, Sebastian Scala, now 42, hadn't planned on being so forward - though he did enjoy flirting. But there was something about the raven-haired Mary, with her bright smile ... Sebastian, he pep-talked himself, you only have one life. With traffic all but stalled, he navigated over to her car, put his in park, and jumped onto her hood. The prom kids hooted in approval. The two had time to exchange cards before Sebastian jumped back and maneuvered, gallantly, to pay Mary's toll. Having met with such high drama, Sebastian worried that he couldn't top his initial move, but three days later he called. Two nights after that, the two visited all his favorite North Beach haunts. In the wee hours, Sebastian knocked on the back door of a bakery for a hot loaf of bread, which was shared on a Washington Square Park bench. "I loved that Sebastian knew everybody, and treated all with such respect," says Mary, who, like Sebastian, had grown up in an Italian family where such things mattered.

But it wasn't committed love at first date; Sebastian wasn't ready to pull himself out of the dating loop. So while the two became "friends," more time spent together led them both to secretly question the depth of their affection. Several months in, at one of their frequent, but chaste, overnights, Mary made her own dramatic move. "I was ready to move on if he wasn't feeling the same as I was." Sebastian didn't want her to move anywhere - except closer. "I was having dreams of our wedding," he admits.

That wedding came nine months later, and the honeymoon led to their son, Giuseppe, now 21 months. Now living in North Beach and managing a nightclub, Sebastian is still sometimes flirtatious - it's his Italian nature. But his eyes grow misty when talking about his wife. "She's the greatest human in the world," he says. "I'm so lucky I was on that bridge."

From fated meeting to best friends:


I never trusted chemistry, it can always die out. This is different.


Before Mary, I was just a guy (with tears in his eyes). Now life is sweet.

Louise Rafkin has contributed to the New York Times and NPR's "All Things Considered." Couple suggestion? Send brief story to

This article appeared on page P - 28 of the San Francisco Chronicle

Article Link:
'Sebastian Scala and Mary Savona: Italians on the Bridge'

Monday, August 11, 2008

Mondavi legacy lives on in Napa Valley

[Left: The Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts was established at UC Davis in 2002. (Jeremy Sykes)]

Mondavi legacy lives on in Napa Valley

Edward Guthmann, Chronicle Staff Writer

August 7, 2008

From her office window, Margrit Biever Mondavi sees the vineyards that her husband built. She sees the lawn where Ella Fitzgerald and Benny Goodman performed on summer evenings, and she sees the Spanish Colonial archway that appears on the label of each bottle from the Robert Mondavi Winery.

Her husband, Robert Mondavi, was Napa Valley's most successful and influential vintner. Born in Minnesota to Italian immigrants, he not only brought international standards to his winery but also, through relentless salesmanship, established Napa Valley as one of the world's foremost wine regions.

Before Robert Mondavi, wine wasn't a staple in most American homes, and Napa Valley was more famous for its mental hospital than its vineyards. Before Robert Mondavi, a British journalist wickedly observed in the Guardian of London, "Americans hardly knew their country produced wine, and seemed content to live on tuna melt and meat loaf washed down by Coke."

It's been three months since Robert died and Margrit, his wife of 28 years and an important component in the winery's success, is sitting in his office and reminiscing about her husband's dedication and single-mindedness.

Forty-five years ago, Margrit says, "The whole valley was for sale for $1,000 an acre. Nobody believed in Napa Valley. And I think it was very much Robert Mondavi who turned it around."

He was a handsome blade, with a strong jaw and Roman nose, and for all of his life looked like a classic Western movie star - a cinematic brother to Randolph Scott, Joel McCrea or John Wayne. "You know, he looked good till his last day," Margrit says. "He had no wrinkles. Can you imagine? He was 95 and had no wrinkles! I think he had a subcutaneous layer of olive oil."

Robert's last four years were marked by mobility problems and mental decline. In the last six months, Margrit says, "He had a slow dementia, which made it very hard on me, because I didn't know where he was. He didn't communicate much any more."

Margrit, 82, is dressed in white silk pants and a knee-length cardigan. A native of Switzerland, she's small and elegant and still speaks with a pronounced accent after 60 years of life in the United States. Sitting on a leather love seat in Robert's surprisingly small office, next to several shelves of Mondavi family photos, she's wistful, proud and happy to talk about her husband.

Since his death, says Margrit, she's had support from friends and family - two daughters from her first marriage live nearby - but the evenings are lonely. "We had a wonderful life together," she says. "We never argued."

[Right: Robert Mondavi. (Gary Fong / The Chronicle)]

A good match

It's clear that Robert and Margrit were well-matched: Both were ambitious and hardworking, both loved wine and food culture, both adored the contacts and lifestyle that Robert's spectacular success afforded them.

When they met in the 1960s, after Margrit was hired as a tour guide at the winery, both were married with three children apiece: Robert to his childhood sweetheart Marjorie Declusin, Margrit to former U.S. Army officer Philip Biever, whom she had met and married in Switzerland when she was 20.

In her dishy 2007 book "The House of Mondavi: The Rise and Fall of an American Wine Dynasty" (Gotham Books), author Julia Flynn Siler traces the evolution of the relationship and the disruption it caused.

Robert's three children were fiercely opposed to his relationship with Margrit, and winery personnel resented her rapid ascent within the company. They were envious when she started the Summer Music Festival in 1969, turned the Vineyard Room into an art gallery and introduced a program of cooking classes. Marjorie, who married Robert in 1937, was viewed as the wronged woman; when her drinking got out of control, people blamed Robert's philandering.

"We had a little bit of a soap opera," Margrit admits. "(But) we were very attracted to each other. We always knew we were going to end up together ... once we dissolved our past lives."

Margrit wasn't like anyone else in Napa Valley. Reared in Ticino, a Swiss canton on the Italian border, she had artistic appreciation in her blood: Her father played piano, kept a wine cellar and practiced homeopathic medicine. Her mother was a splendid cook and music lover who, when Margrit was 12, took her on a four-hour bus ride to Verona just to hear "Aida." With her background and flair, Siler writes, Margrit "complemented and enabled Robert Mondavi's dream" in ways that his first wife hadn't.

The early hostility from Robert's children was hurtful, Margrit says, "but Bob was always so supportive of me. He always said, 'I'll take care of you, don't worry.' " The couple married in 1980, and eventually she built strong bonds with Robert's daughter Marcia and son Timothy. "It's very good now," she says. "I didn't expect it."

Expanding horizons

In their last years together, Margrit and Robert became Napa Valley's premier philanthropists, helping to establish Copia: The American Center for Wine, Food & The Arts in Napa. In 2001, they donated $25 million to establish the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science at UC Davis - it opens in October - and gave $10 million to the Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, which opened in 2002 and includes the 1,800-seat Jackson Hall and the 250-seat Studio Theatre.

Today, Margrit is the only Mondavi still working at the Robert Mondavi headquarters and tasting room on Highway 29 in Oakville. In November 2004, the company was bought by Constellation Brands Inc., the world's biggest wine conglomerate, for $1.6 billion. Both Robert and Margrit were retained as ambassadors; Margrit still oversees cultural activities as vice president of cultural affairs.

On a stroll through the winery, Margrit points out the Vineyard Room, where she presented artists Richard Diebenkorn and Wayne Thiebaud; the fanciful Beniamino Bufano sculptures she collected; and the lawn where Vince Guaraldi, Cal Tjader and countless jazz artists performed over the years. None of it would have happened, she says, if her late husband hadn't backed her, if he hadn't by nature been a gambler and an optimist.

"I'd say, 'Is it all right, Bob? Should I try this?'

"And he'd say, 'Look, if it's good, let's not talk about it. Do it!' "

[Left: Margrit Biever Mondavi, widow of vintner Robert Mondavi, is the only member of the family working at the Robert Mondavi Winery in the Napa Valley, where she serves as vice president of cultural affairs. She helped establish art shows and concerts at the winery. (Photo by Craig Lee / The Chronicle)]

Italian Passions: Concert part of the Music in the Vineyards series. 7:30 p.m. Aug. 15. Robert Mondavi Winery, Highway 29, Oakville. Go to or

For information about forthcoming events at Copia and the Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts at the University of California at Davis, go to and

E-mail Edward Guthmann at


Article Link from the San Francisco Chronicle (
Mondavi legacy lives on in Napa Valley

Robert Mondavi's parents were from the Marche region, while Margrit Mondavi was originally from the Ticino canton.

The following are books which tie into the subjects of the Napa County wine industry, and of the families which founded them:

'Napa: The Story of an American Eden' (James Conaway; 2002)

'Harvests of Joy: How the Good Life Became Great Business' (Robert Mondavi; 1999)

'Wine Heritage: The Story of Italian-American Vintners' (Dick Rosano; 2000)

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Columbus and the Name "Columbia"

This is a pretty expansive subject that I will base on the Wikipedia page "Columbia (name)." To make sense of this concept, which is tied into so many things, and to make it easier for me, I will start by sifting through this page and then expand where I can. So this will not follow a consistent or chronological pattern.

In the very first paragraph, it states: "Columbia is the first popular and poetic name for the United States of America; it is also the origin of the name for the District of Columbia, the federal district which is coextensive with the federal capital, Washington. Columbia is a feminine form derived from Christopher Columbus, one of the first Europeans to explore the Americas after the Vikings. The moniker dates from before the American Revolution in 1776 but fell out of use in the early 20th century."

As stated in the Venezuela entry, "the Americas" was usually just called "America," and still is in most of the world. The proper name for our country is the "united states of America," not "America" or the "United States (U.S.)." With a twist of fate, it may have been named "Vespuccia" after Amerigo Vespucci's surname rather than his first name. It may have been called "Columbia" after Christopher Columbus, or some other name.

At the beginning of the 'History' section, it states: "Christopher Columbus was not considered a hero of the Thirteen Colonies until the mid-18th century and the growing feeling of nationalism among the colonies. The English had always emphasized John and Sebastian Cabot and downplayed Columbus for political reasons. But, for the emerging United States, the Cabots made poor national heroes and were "shadowy agents of a British king," while Spain no longer posed a serious threat. The new nation began to look back to Columbus as a founding hero, and with that change of attitude, the name Columbia became increasingly popular. Advocates for naming the United States "Columbia" continued to press for the name even after the United States Constitution was ratified.

The name of our country may very well have been the "united states of Columbia," and we would be "Columbians." This section went on to state: "At that time, it was common for European countries to use their Latin name as second name, used mainly in formal and poetical contexts and confering respectability on the country concerned (for example "Gallia" for France, "Helvetia" for Switzerland, "Caledonia" for Scotland, "Hibernia" for Ireland etc). In many cases, these names were personified as statuesque female figures. "Columbia" was, in effect, the closest which the United States - located in a continent which the Romans did not know about and hence did not name - could come to emulating this custom. Use of "Columbia" was part of the tendency to use Roman terms and symbols, manifested in the American Eagle as the new country's coat of arms and the use of "Senate" for the US Congress' Upper House and Capitol Hill for Congress' physical location - all derived from Roman history."

There are so many places and institutions in the United States and Canada with the name "Columbia," that I won't list them now. A Wikipedia search for "Columbia" will confirm this in spades. Two large areas which must be named because of their size are the Canadian province of "British Columbia" and the South American country of "Columbia." British Columbia was not named after Christopher Columbus, but Columbia was. That brings us into the part of this which is difficult to understand. That being that there is a parallel between Columbus and the ancient occultic "Queen Columba," which goes right back into the ancient world. With Christopher Columbus' (Christoforo Columbo) real origin so strangely shadowy, some believe that "Columbus" was more of a "Queen Columba banner" for the financiers in Spanish royalty, and possibly in the Vatican, Venice, and Florence (de Medicis). We still don't really know! Even his real name is still vague.

The early Romans worshipped Queen Columba, and it has been an undercurrent personification for Western Civilization ever since, and later as a personification for The USA. Queen Columba was featured in a beautiful American "Manifest Destiny" painting (see image above) by John Gast entitled "American Progress." We have "Uncle Sam," but we also have this shadowy, undefined female "alter-ego" so to speak. And yes, the Statue of Liberty is indeed QUEEN COLUMBA, having been given to us by French Freemasons. This shadowy "woman figure" is incredible when we view it in a historical context. As stated before, this goes clear back into the ancient world, before Greece, into the early civilizations of the Middle East.

As if all of this wasn't odd enough, England, France, Italy, and others, also have their versions, or self-personifications of Queen Columba. Obviously this is a result of Freemasons in these countries. This would explain the tie-in between the ancient Middle East and certain modern symbolism in the West. Why isn't she "acknowledged" in mainstream society?

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Naming of Venezuela

While many people are aware that "America" (often used to refer to all of "the Americas") was named after Tuscan explorer and cartographer Amerigo Vespucci, few people know about the naming of Venezuela.

From Venezuela - History & Culture

Christopher Columbus was the first European to visit Venezuela. He came in 1498 during his third voyage to the New World, and landed on the Peninsula de Paria. Following the coast, he explored the Rio Orinoco Delta and concluded that he had found much more than another Caribbean island. More explorers came a year later, and it was Alonso de Ojeda who gave the country its name. Arriving at Lake Maracaibo, he admired the stilted houses that the Indians had build above the lake and called the place Venezuela - "Little Venice."

From Wikipedia: Venezuela - Etymology

The name "Venezuela" is believed to have originated from the cartographer Amerigo Vespucci who, along with Alonso de Ojeda, led a 1499 naval expedition along the northwestern coast's Gulf of Venezuela. On reaching the Guajira Peninsula, the crew observed villages (palafitos) that the people had built over the water. This reminded Vespucci of the city of Venice (Italian: Venezia), so he named the region "Venezuola",[5] meaning "little Venice" in Italian. In Spanish, the suffix -zuela is used as a diminutive term (e.g., plaza / plazuela, cazo / cazuela); thus, the term's original sense would have been that of a "little Venice".[6]

5 - Dydynski, K & C Beech (2004), 'Venezuela, Lonely Planet', Retrieved on 10 March 2007. p. 177.

6 - Thomas, Hugh (2005). 'Rivers of Gold: The Rise of the Spanish Empire, from Columbus to Magellan'. Random House, p. 189.

From MSN encarta: Venezuela - History Christopher Columbus first sighted the coast of Venezuela in 1498. In 1499 Spanish explorer Alonso de Ojeda followed the coast to Lake Maracaibo. He named the region Venezuela, or Little Venice, because the Native American buildings constructed on stilts along the lake’s edge reminded him of the Italian city of Venice, which was built on a series of islands in a lagoon.

[Above: a palafito, similar to those seen by Amerigo Vespucci]

From the University of South Florida website: Multicultural Education Through Miniatures: Venezuela - Little Venice (by Maria; a Venezuelan)

Venezuela was “discovered” by Spanish explorers many, many years ago. When they landed on the coast of South America, they saw Indians living in stilt houses. The Indians were using boats that were shaped like gondolas. The country looked like Venice, Italy, so the explorers named it Venezuela, which means “Little Venice.”


Venezuela today has not remotely the significance to me that Argentina does, but the naming of a country is significant, even if it was due to a vague comparison of stilt huts on a tropical shoreline to the slendor of Venice (which is further north than Minnesota). Venice is the most visited city in the world, but we can get to that at some future point. Also significant was that Vespucci was right there with the Spanish troops when Venezuela was named. I don't think that de Ojeda was motivated to name it "Little Venice" just because Vespucci was there. Vespucci was a Florentine anyway. However, it's possible that Vespucci may have made the reference to Venice. I don't know if that was ever clarified.