My name is Stefano and I truly believe that pursuing our own passions is one of the greatest pleasures in life and every minute spent developing and enjoying them is totally worth it!
I spend most of my time (too much time, if you ask me! 😉 ) in a high-pressure, very demanding line of work but my two passions lie in wine and photography, which happen to be both relevant for the exciting project that graceful and talented Margot from the elegant Gather & Graze blog was kind enough to get me involved with.
How does the old saying go? Wine is thicker than water! Oh well! Maybe not exactly like that, but absolutely true in my case! I was born and raised in Italy (although I have been living on the US East Coast for the last 10 years) and wine has always been deeply rooted in my culture.
Ever since my earliest recollections as a child, I remember my father invariably having a good bottle of wine on the table (preferably red) which would pair well with his dinner (or lunch for that matter, when he was home at lunchtime!) Although he never had any formal wine training, he was pretty demanding in terms of the quality of his wine and when I got to that age when you start developing an interest for wine (or alcohol in general), he started teaching me some basic notions about the color, scent and taste of wine. All of a sudden, without me even consciously realizing it, my wine education had officially started right then and there, at simple family gatherings. Over the years, that initial interest developed into a deep appreciation for wine, which eventually led me to take the sommelier certification course with the Italian Sommelier Association (ISA). This happened at a point in my life when I was living in Milan, Italy, and I signed up and went through the three modules of the course administered by ISA’s Milan chapter and then sat for the final certification exam. It has been a wonderful experience that taught me a lot about the world of wine and gave me a technical, structured approach to wine tasting that would let me describe any tasting experience in an articulate, standardized way.
My main interest rests with Italian wine: mind you, this is not because of any form of partisanship – I love good wine and certainly do not discriminate based on where it comes from! The reason is simply that Italian wine is what I know more about and I hope I am giving my own contribution to expand the knowledge and appreciation that non-Italian consumers, and particularly US wine enthusiasts, have of Italian wine, helping in the process to dispel certain myths or misconceptions about certain Italian wines or varieties.
If you are interested in wine, take the time to go check the wine-related content I write on our blog about Italian food and wine, Flora’s Table. Visit the blog’s wine menu and you will discover a number of cool features, including wine reviews, wine region overviews, interviews with winemakers, a detailed database of all Italian DOCG appellations, an extensive wine glossary and an ever expanding grape variety archive presenting (with the authors’ kind permission) summaries of the brilliant research conducted on thousands of grape varieties by the authors of the outstanding tome Wine Grapes, by Robinson-Harding-Vouillamoz, Allen Lane 2012. I also author Clicks & Corks, a blog that merges my two passions and therefore revolves around both wine and photography.
Ah, photography! As it often happens in life, the camera entered my life by chance. In the late Nineties, I was about to leave for my first trip to Africa with my then girlfriend (today, my lucky wife – or unlucky, I guess it depends on who you get to talk to! 😉 ) and she gave me a Nikon camera for my birthday. I was pretty excited and, since I’m also a very meticulous (borderline obsessive) guy, I didn’t just want to go out there and start shooting without understanding what I was doing. So I started studying and learning about photography and how an SLR (there was no “D” before the acronym back then!) worked. That process got me even more excited as I found out that photography is a fascinating concept that ties together technical knowledge and skills (those that you need to know how to operate your camera and lights) with artistic creativity (that which you need to turn a technically well executed photograph into a work of art that conveys a message to and elicits an emotional reaction from viewers). So photography soon morphed into something that I got totally hooked on and that I approached very seriously, by attending a number of workshops and educational courses with some of the masters that I admire the most (such as, the late Galen Rowell, Art Wolfe, George Lepp, Moose Peterson and Chaz Glatzer) who taught me the ins and outs of this business and art form. Since then, my work has been published and has won covers in several U.S. and Italian magazines, and has also been published in textbooks, corporate brochures, newsletters and Web sites in different countries (here is a list with a selection of my publications, if you are interested).
In both areas, what inspires me is the very core element of photography: light, in its endless, ever-changing qualities, be it natural or artificial. I love the effort, sometimes the challenge, to harness its intensity, to control contrast whenever possible to the best advantage of an image and otherwise to just accept not to take the shot. I strive to create a pleasing interplay between light and shadows, to subtly recreate depth in a 2D medium. My ultimate goal is to produce images that elicit an emotional reaction from their viewers.
If you have managed to read up to this point 😉 you will understand why Margot’s proposal to take part in her new amazing project was way too tempting for me to pass up and saying no never even crossed my mind.
You can rest assured that the whole team behind The Dinner Party Collective will work hard to make sure that our photos leave you drooling, that our recipes inspire you to go beyond your limits and experiment new food and cooking cultures and that our wine pairings stimulate your curiosity to perhaps taste something you never had before and open the doors to a new world made out of perfumes, aromas, tastes, textures and combinations that will quite possibly captivate and enthuse you. Our goal? Just to make your guests and your whole dining experience simply unforgettable. Yes! We are shooting for nothing short of the stars, here!
Enjoy the read! 🙂