Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte is touching the hearts and minds of not only oenophiles with a passion for Piemonte, but also people across the world who love great stories about courage, familial bonds, and history. And who doesn’t love Italian heritage and culture? A great way to celebrate these wonderful families than at a wine-book pairing event!
As my loyal followers know, we had a fabulous global world premiere of my book at Ca’ del Baio in Treiso (Barbaresco) with friends, family, local dignitaries, and, of course, the wine families, on June 2, 2016.
We followed that event with a smaller, but equally emotional event at the Castello di Monticello on the 5th of June. Thank you, Contessa Elisa Roero di Monticello for your amazing hospitality and Eugenio and Pierangelo Vacchetto for organizing it!
It was appropriate that we would have this special event at Bookworm since I had spent so many hours there during the gestation of Labor of Love. The owner of this popular indie bookshop, Nicole Magistro, is a passionate supporter of independent authors and routinely provides venues for author events and launches for many indie books.
Labor of Love and the wines of its wine families pair beautifully for author events. We have lots of those coming soon!
Thursday, August 4th
Glendale (Denver), Colorado
Books available at the event!
Ridge Street Wine/Breckenridge Cheese & Chocolate
Breckenridge, CO Thursday, August 11th
Books available at event!
Prima Vini e Ristorante Walnut Creek, CA Friday, September 9th 5:30 p.m. reading followed by tasting of an awesome wine line up!
In March 2013, under gray skies with a drizzly fog
blanketing the earth,I met Ornella Correggia.
I knew of her from her wines, and I knew her story. But I didn’t know her. As I gazed into her deep, warm brown eyes, a calm feeling washed over me. Time has deepened my conviction that an aura of tranquility and deep peace surrounds her and nurtures all in her universe. One cannot infer from the serene demeanor of the woman I know today how very tested Ornella has been.
In most Piemonte wine families, women ascend into the operation and management of family wineries by choice or, as in recent years, through inheritance. For the matriarch of the esteemed Roero winery Matteo Correggia, on the outskirts of Canale, cruel fate propelled her to the helm. Early in the evening on June 12, 2001, the untimely death of her husband, Matteo, shattered Ornella’s world. Tragedy not only destroys lives but shapes them, too. For Ornella, the sudden reversal of fortune called for her to summon courage she never knew she had to continue her husband’s legacy for her young children. Would they grow up to want the vintner’s life for themselves? No one knew. But Ornella was determined the family’s winery would be there for them if they chose to perpetuate their father’s legacy.
At 39, Matteo Correggia had already achieved global acclaim as a brilliant oenological visionary who saw Roero’s potential as a serious red wine producing region. Matteo was a shooting star, dazzling with his brilliance and vision, but unlike those that burn out, Matteo’s star continues to shine, thanks to Ornella.
I never met Matteo, but I remember clearly the impact his death had on the region. The accidental death of a young man in his prime shook the close-knit Piemonte wine community to its core and reverberated across the globe. The year 2001 was one of shock and loss in the United States, leaving life forever changed. But three months before the events of that bluebird-sky day in New York in September 2001, the wine country in central Piemonte quaked with its own heartbreaking loss.
Matteo inherited the estate — already highly regarded for its bulk wines — from his father, Giovanni Battista Correggia, who died when Matteo was 23. Like his father, Matteo had a deep love for the vineyards, a love he shared with his mother, Severina, now over 80, who still is most at home among the vines. Like most of his contemporary vintners, Matteo believed the quality of his wines depended on vineyard health and the care given to the vines during the growing season. He was the only non-Barolo member of the young guns in Barolo known as the “Barolo Boys,” a group of young visionary vintners challenging time-honored traditions in the famous denomination. Like his comrades, Matteo gave more attention to vineyard management than had previous generations. He knew Roero could produce superior wines, but he believed the key to success lay more in the vineyards than even in the cantina. Caring for the soil was the task he was engaged in when fate struck its cruel blow.
In his homage to Matteo, journalist Sergio Miravalle describes the tragedy in his book, Matteo Correggia: La Cometa del Roero (Matteo Correggia: The Comet of Roero). Ornella gave me a copy of his book, in which she wrote a poignant message. I am in his debt for the following story.
(continued on page 49 of Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte)
I’ve read dozens of wine books over the past few decades. Most of these works are meant as reference guides, filled with facts and figures about vineyards, cellars, grape types and other such data. A few have been exceptional, but all have added to my education regarding wines from around the world.
Now though, a new book has come along that is just as valuable as those others, but instead of information on clones or how vineyards are planted, the focus of this book is on people, specifically women in the region of Piemonte, in Italy’s northwest. The book, Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte, authored by Suzanne Hoffman, is not only a well-written, fascinating journey into this region’s history over the past hundred years or so, it’s also an engaging work that is quite refreshing, as it gives us a look at the individuals that make wine.
Hoffman, an attorney by trade, has been traveling to Piemonte with her husband for many years and slowly but surely, thanks in large part to the friendship of a Barbaresco producer, has been introduced to several local winemaking families. She tells the story of multiple generations of these families, with the focus on the women. One of the principal tenets of this book is that these women now have more visible duties as far as winemaking, sales and marketing, but the author points out that the women that made these wineries great along with their husbands, uncles and sons, had tremendous responsibilities in the past as well. Perhaps they weren’t doing any cellar work, but their behind the scenes labors were just as important some forty, fifty and seventy years ago.
A great example of how important women were to these firms can be found in the chapter on Cascina delle Rose, a small, traditional producer of stellar quality in Barbaresco. The current owner is Giovanna Rizzolio, an opinionated woman of fierce convictions (Hoffman labels her as “gregarious.”). In the family history that the author explores, it is Giovanna’s grandmother Beatrice Rizzolio that emerges as a strong influence, not only with her immediate family, but also with the community, as she would do others favors, such as lending money. As Hoffman points out, Beatrice did this with not with a written contract, but merely with “a handshake and meeting of eyes.” That was sufficient for Beatrice.
But there is more to this woman that simple favors for locals. Hoffman details her activities from 1943 to 1945, when the German army settled in the area. Beatrice stood up to these invaders, at one point putting herself in bodily harm, in order to protect a group of teenage boys. Stories such as these help give the reader insight into Beatrice and other strong women of Piemonte, which in turn help us understand the moral fiber of these people. Is it any wonder then why the local wines are so distinctive?
There are numerous stories of how local women stayed strong, as their decisions were needed. An example of this can be found in the chapter on the Poderi Oddero estate of Santa Maria, below the town of La Morra. The author notes that the Mariacristina Oddero, who learned about winemaking and terroir from her father as well as in her studies in Alba (she has a degree in vineyard management and taught classes on soil chemistry for several years), had to confront her uncle Luigi about the direction the winery would take – would it be bulk wine or improved quality through stricter work? The story is a fascinating one.
Hoffman writes about 22 wineries in Piemonte, ranging from famous Barolo producers , such as Giuseppe Rinaldi and Elio Altare, to lesser-known, but equally quality-minded firms such as Monchiero Carbone and Deltetto, both located in the Roero district. She has done a remarkable amount of research for this book, with most of it being sit-down interviews with the current generation of women, who took the time to narrate their family’s history to Hoffman. One telling remark comes from Gaia Gaja, daughter of Angelo Gaja, one of Piemonte’s and the world’s most famous vintners. The younger Gaja tells Hoffman that there is not a competition between fathers and daughters, as there might be with fathers and sons. “It is about open love, sharing knowledge and passing it on to the next generation,” she remarks.
There are more than two hundred, full-color photos in the book, along with a few dozen vintage black and white images. The photos are excellent and how gracious of the author to take the space at the end of the book to credit the local photographers.
All in all, here is a book that was written by an outsider, an outsider in name only. After reading Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte, you would swear that Suzanne Hoffman is someone that has been living in Piemonte for years. In reality then, she has become an insider. All of us who love the wines of Piemonte should read this book, if only to understand that these singular wines are great not only because of decades of work in the vineyards, but also the determination of these people as they present wines that represent their traditions, their heritage and their anima – their soul.
Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte / USD $55 / Euro 50
For further information or to order, please send an email to Suzanne Hoffman at:
PUBLISHED BY tom hyland
I am a freelance wine writer and photographer specializing in the wines of Italy. I live in Chicago and recently completed my 65th trip to Italy. I have visited virtually every region in the country and am constantly amazed at the wonderful variety of wines produced from indigenous grapes (I am never amazed at the quality of the wines!). I have been in the wine business for 35 years, have been writing for 17 years and have been a professional photographer for the past eight years. I currently contribute to publications such as Decanter and wine-searcher.com. I am a freelance photographer for Cephas Picture Library in England and have had my photos published in the publications above plus several more. View all posts by tom hyland
Mi dispiace! A great deal has been happening and I’ve been quite remiss in updating my blog for my loyal followers. I’m thrilled to say, it’s all been good and getting better for me and for Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte.
Kicking Off Second Printing with Kickstarter
In April 2016, we were wildly successful with our Kickstarter campaign to raise capital for a second printing of the “opera” dedicated to the wine families of Piemonte.
From Padua with Love
That same month, the Italian shipment of books arrived at Cà del Baio in Treiso (Barbaresco) from Verona Libri’s bindery in Padua in preparation for the June 2nd world premiere of the book.
Sneak Peek and Love in the Press
Then came a raid on the books stored at Cà del Baio when several Langhe Ladies seized the opportunity to give journalists at Nebbiolo Prima 2016 a sneak peek of Labor of Love. Journalists weren’t the only ones seeing Labor of Love for the first time. As you can see from the video of Barolo vintner Chiara Boschis presenting the book, the Langhe Ladies enjoyed their little public relations coup.
The word was out and soon the local press was telling everyone about the book and the American woman who wrote it.
“Rehearsal” Supper at Ristorante il Centro
The Cordero family provided me with a gastronomic retreat from the heat and the hectic pace of interviews over the three-year odyssey to research Labor of Love. It seemed fitting that their restaurant in the Roero town of Priocca d’Alba would be the venue for our gathering of out of town friends and family the night before the book launch at Cà del Baio, not unlike the rehearsal celebration the night before a wedding.
Since I was like a deer caught in the headlights and not focusing on photography or notes that night, I am grateful to Claudia Kiely for her photographs she shared with me and to Keith Edwards and his wife, Parlo, for being attentive guests who help record the evening’s food, wine, and images. Check out Keith’s lovely post on his blog, Mise en Abyme.
Of course, I couldn’t let the evening go by without presenting dear Elide with a copy of my book.
Launching “Labor of Love” into the World
Finally came the world premiere of Labor of Love at Cà del Baio in Treiso on June 2, 2016. Rain failed to dampen everyone’s spirits. In fact, the inclement weather necessitated a change in the seating arrangement to a “theatre in the round.” It was an intimate setting for an emotional presentation.
Members of 20 of the Labor of Love families, other wine producers, friends, dignitaries, and our guests from America, Israel, and Switzerland, including my editor Elatia Harris (whom I was meeting for the first time ever), gathered around, protected from the rain. Wine producer, historian, and author Maurizio Rosso of Cantina Gigi Rosso introduced the book in Italian. With her own wit and infectious laugh, my dear friend and Barolo vintner Chiara Boschis translated for the Anglophone guests in the audience.
I began by introducing Alberto di Grésy, proprietor of the highly respected Barbaresco winery Marchesi di Grésy whose words are the first of the book:
Then, fighting the emotion that had been building for three years, I introduced each of the 22 families. I’m told there were no dry eyes in the audience.
Labor of Love at Castello di Monticello
Three days later on June 5th, at the Castello di Monticello in Roero, was the subject of an interesting panel discussion that focused on my motivation to write the book, why I chose these particular families, and, oddly enough, which wines from the region are my favorite. I’ll save that answer for another post! The Labor of Love photographic family trio of Pierangelo Vacchetto and two of his children Elisabetta and Eugenio, organized the event in the historic landmark.
Contessa Elisa Roero di Monticello graciously hosted us with Silvio Artusio Comba, mayor of Monticello, Giancarlo Montaldo, Carlo Passone, and my dear friend and translator for the event, Barolo vintner Chiara Boschis for the panel discussion about Labor of Love.
Once again, many of the wine families in Labor of Love attended to lend their support. Now all 22 had shown their enthusiastic support of the book at an event.
Of course, I couldn’t say good-bye to the ladies of Labor of Love without our traditional feast together. This year, the ladies took Dani and me to the La Morra dining oasis Ristorante Bovio.
Labor of Love Comes to America
Soon it was time to head back to the United States to receive the shipment of 1,200 books from Verona Libri and to launch Labor of Love in the United States.
I wasted no time in delivering books to the Bookworm of Edwards, the venue for the U.S. launch, and giving the very first book out of the U.S. shipment to Alisha and Giuseppe Bosco. Alisha has three photos credited in the book and she and Giuseppe have been incredibly supportive throughout my labor of love odyssey.
Elisa Pesce who writes the delightful blog Uncorkventional attended the launch in Treiso. About three weeks later I discovered her beautiful post that gave me a chance to relive that emotional day when the wine families of Labor of Love experienced the book for the first time.
Thank you, Elisa, for this lovely ending to your post:
One of the biggest challenges for independent authors is getting their books on the radar of journalists to review it. Fortunately, Giancarlo Montaldo witnessed firsthand the love the families of Labor of Love had for the book and he published my first newspaper review — a lovely, positive one — in the Gazzetta d’Alba.
So who will be next to review my opera?
What’s Next? LAUNCHING IN AMERICA!
The Bookworm in Edwards, a vibrant independent bookstore and cafe in the Riverwalk complex along the Eagle River, frequently hosts author events. They are very welcoming and supportive of new authors, particularly those from Colorado. They graciously invited me to present Labor of Love for the first time in the United States on Thursday, July 7th.
And more events to come in Denver, San Francisco, and beyond!
Where can I find Labor of Love?
Labor of Love will be available at the Bookworm in Edwards, through many wine shops and restaurants, and in August, Amazon. To find out how you can obtain this groundbreaking book the Piemontese wine families have embraced, contact Suzanne Hoffman at firstname.lastname@example.org.