All posts by Suze

In 2012, I escaped the practice of law in favor of writing full time. I am a entrepreneurial writer with a blog and a column in the Vail Daily detailing my behind the scenes experiential research in restaurant kitchens in Colorado and drawing on my near 2 decades living in Switzerland and extensive travel through Europe during that time, particularly Piemonte. Currently, I am also writing a book on the under discovered stories of the women of Piemonte, specifically the Langhe and Roero areas. I am also the Bailli of the Bailliage de Vail of the Confrerie de la Chaine des Rotisseurs and an officer of the Southwest Region of the Bailliage des Etats-Unis.

Discovering Under-Discovered Piemonte

Truffles & Turkey
Thanksgiving in Piemonte
November 19 – 26, 2017

 

Come discover the secrets of under-discovered Piemonte, Italy with me, Suzanne Hoffman, and my local team of certified tour professionals. I am the author of the award-winning, groundbreaking book Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte. Since 1999, I’ve traveled over 25 times to this bewitching gastronomic haven.

Enjoy all the comforts of home — including being made to feel at home — at the Locanda di Marchesi Alfieri on the grounds of the San Martino di San Germano family wine estate in San Martino Alfieri where their family has resided for centuries.

Castello Alfieri, summer home of the San Martino di San Germano family.
The Locanda at Marchesi Alfieri.
View of the springtime mist at sunrise from Locanda di Marchesi Alfieri.

November is the time of year Mama Nature does her best work with that diamond of the soil, tartuffi bianchi (white truffles). We will have white truffles at three Michelin star restaraunts and dine at other wonderful, traditional Piemontese trattorie and wine bars.

Thanksgiving Truffle Feast

And what better way to have a celebratory Thanksgiving feast than to dine with Chef Enrico Trova at his Slow Food restaurant, Osteria del Diavolo, in Asti? Chef Enrico spent 15 years in Los Angeles, during which time he delighted celebrities and gastronomes alike at his Beverly Hills restaurant, Amici. Amongst other delectable dishes, Chef Enrico will prepare a turkey with his own Piemontese twist — AND white truffles!

Chef Enrico Trova teaching two Labor of Love tour guests the finer points of making gnocchi.

Labor of Love tours are like land cruises. From the time you check in at Marchesi Alfieri until you say “Arrivederci,” everything is included, except of course those personal goodies and souvenirs you want to take home with you. Even delicious torrone from the sisters at Basano Coraglia await you in your room upon arrival…and you can buy more to take home with you when you visit their lovely shop in nearby San Damiano.

Wineries

You’ll enjoy trips to wineries such as E. Pira e Figli,  Cà del Baio, Paolo Scavino, Marchesi di Grésy, G. D. Vajra, Deltetto and many more, in the Langhe, Roero, and Monferrato areas where family members will guide you through tastings of their beautiful wines including some of the finest Baroli and Barbareschi the region has to offer.

The Grasso Family of Cà del Baio in Treiso (Barbaresco). Photo Credit: Elisabetta Vacchetto
Giacomo Oddero and grandchildren Isabella Boffa Oddero and Pietro Viglino Oddero.
Photo Credit: Elisabetta Vacchetto

Gastronomic Experiences with Vintners

Wine producers will join in meals, enhancing your oenological experiences and giving you more personal contact with these passionate vintners.

Sisters Valentina (left) and Paola Grasso of Ca’ del Baio with Chef Maurilio Garola at La Ciau del Tournavento in Treiso.
Chiara Boschis joining in a gala dinner at Ristorante Marc Lanteri at Castello Grinzane Cavour.

Light “light” buffet dinners paired with the estate’s wines at Marchesi Alfieri after long days exploring the region are a welcome break for that “at home” feeling.

Labor of Love tour guests enjoying a quiet buffet dinner “at home” in the orangery of Marchesi Alfieri.
Art, Architecture, History, and Culture

Touring some of Piemonte’s castles with noted art restorer Marie-Hélène Cully will give you a deeper understanding of the history and culture of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

More Gastronomic Adventures

Visits to markets, cooking classes, and tours of farms with chefs who buy their fresh, organic products from them will enhance your enjoyment of cucina Piemontese.

The hamlet of Valliera, home of Agriturismo Des Martin, in Castelmagno, high above the Valle Grana in the Cottian Alps.

All this and so much more awaits you in this enchanting, under-discovered northwest Italian region.

What Labor of Love tour guests are saying:

“This trip was an experience that no other person can provide. Suzanne’s personal relationships with the vintners and restaurants in Piemonte cannot be duplicated. It is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Carole W. (April 2017)

“This is not a ‘tour.’ It is an exceptional experience. Being welcomed by the wine makers, the chefs and the restaurateurs as friends of Suzanne’s and not as a ‘tour group’ made all the difference.”
– Linda M.  (April 2017)

 “We have been to Europe many, many times and this trip was one of the best experiences we have had. The tour was exceptionally well-organized and all of the winemakers that we visited were personal friends of Suzanne’s, so consequently we were welcomed like family. The winery owners gave us very personal tours and in many cases they join us for lunch or dinner. I would recommend this trip to anyone that wants an up-close personal experience in Italy.”
– Karin and Dean J. (April 2017)

Find out more!

Tours are strictly limited to 12 people, so contact suzanne@winefamilies.com for more information on this tour, future tours in May and June 2018, and how to organize your own custom group tour of Piemonte.

Rafa the “Guard” Peacock at Ca’ del Baio.

 

Anduma a Piemonte!

“Beyond the Bottle” with Chiara Boschis

Vail Symposium goes beyond the bottle
with the Chiara Boschis

Suzanne Hoffman, author of award-winning “Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte,” will moderate the event
VAIL, Colo. – June 30, 2017 – There are few liquids more complex than wine. Each bottle of wine is unique, reflecting the terroir in which it was grown, the process in which it was made and the people who watched over it every step of the way. On Tuesday, July 11, guests will be able to go beyond the story that is told on the wine label and hear, firsthand, from Chiara Boschis, one of the Piemonte’s region’s most fascinating winemakers.
Barolo vintner Chiara Boschis holding Nebbiolo must after another successful harvest in 2015.
Photo credit: Elisabetta Vacchetto

Barolo winemaker Chiara Boschis’ family history is as deep and rich as the soil in which her grapes grow. It includes a riveting story involving the German occupation of Piemonte, Italy during World War II and, later, the exchange of young prisoners from Barolo for an entire vintage of a precious wine.

Suzanne Hoffman, author of award-winning Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte, has come to know Boschis well through the writing of her book and her visits to the region. As Hoffman leads the conversation, Boschis will talk about the deep history of her family, her winery and her own growth as a farmer, a defender of nature, a winemaker and a daughter. This is a rare opportunity to have a very personalized interaction with one of the leading vintners in the world.

Chiara Boschis at the monastery of San Magno in Castelmagno, Piemonte, Italy.

“Personally, I want people to see a real winemaker, a farmer as she delights in saying, not a pop culture version that we see on TV and in magazines,” Hoffman said. “I want people to hear directly from this vibrant, passionate woman what it takes to balance the demands of the global wine market, which means traveling frequently and also welcoming clients to Barolo; the day-to-day operations of the winery cellar and the vineyards and the job she loves the most, caring for her 90-year-old father, revered Barolo vintner, Franco Boschis.”

Chiara Boschis with brother and her winery partner, Giorgio Boschis, and their beloved father, retired Borgogno vintner, Franco Boschis. Photo credit: Elisabetta Vacchetto

Boschis is widely recognized as one of the first women producers in Barolo, although she comes from eight generations of winemakers. In 1981, the Boschis family acquired the E. Pira e Figli estate, occupying some of the most prestigious land in Barolo. In 1990, Chiara Boschis took over the operation on her own, bringing dedication, charm, patience and determination to every aspect of production in order to raise the quality and image of the winery to that which it enjoys today. In 2010, her younger brother Giorgio joined her, contributing a wealth of experience both in the vineyards as well as in the cellar.

Sister and brother team, Chiara and Giorgio Boschis, of E. Pira e Figli in Barolo. Photo Credit: Elisabetta Vacchetto

“My goal is to introduce Chiara through my Q&A with her, but then to open up the floor for questions from the audience,” Hoffman said. “She can talk the legs off a coffee table — people hang on to every word she says — and she will love interacting with the audience. People will not want this to end. I also want people to leave with a deep appreciation of the hard work and manual labor that goes into producing a bottle of wine.”

As a winemaker, Boschis is a master of balance, crafting finessed and sophisticated wines that are some of the most aromatically dynamic expressions of Barolo today. But she is a farmer first, dedicating herself to the philosophy that quality begins in the vineyard where her impact on the environment is greatest.

The long, hot growing season of 2015 ends with Chiara Boschis and her team harvesting her Nebbiolo to make her world renowned Barolo. Photo Credit: Elisabetta Vacchetto

“This program provides a wonderful opportunity for our community to get up close and personal with Chiara and hear her story,” said Kris Sabel, executive director of the Vail Symposium. “So often these events are wine tasting dinners which, while satisfying, can be quite expensive and focus more on the individual wines and food pairings than on the personal story of the winemaker, her love of the land and history of the people who have been creating amazing wine for centuries.”

Chiara Boschis and Suzanne Hoffman at Ca’ del Baio for the launch of “Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte.” Photo credit: Pierangelo Vacchetto

The doors will open at 6:30 p.m. and feature a reception where attendees can purchase and sample Boschis’s wine. After the program, Boschis and Hoffman will be signing copies of Hoffman’s award-winning book, “Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte” will be on sale at a special price of $48 (regular retail price is $55) plus tax with $5 of every purchase benefitting the Vail Symposium.

If you go…

What: Beyond the Bottle

With: Barolo winemaker Chiara Boschis; moderated by Suzanne Hoffman, author of “Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte”

Where: Edwards Interfaith Chapel | Edwards

When: Tuesday, July 11, 2017. 6:30 p.m. doors open, 7 p.m. presentation

Cost: $25 online before 2 p.m. on the day of the event, $35 at the door, $10 students and teachers

More info: Visit www.VailSymposium.org or call 970.476.0954 to register. Attendees should utilize public parking structures. Summer parking is free in the Vail and Lionshead parking structures.

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About Vail Symposium

Over the past 45 years, the Vail Symposium has touched thousands of lives with its rich and varied history. Created in 1971, the Symposium was conceived by community leaders to create ideas and goals, attracting not only the majority of townsfolk but also policy shapers from across the state and nation. Throughout the years we have diversified and expanded our scope with a dedication to education and cultural programs which provide lifelong learning opportunities for everyone who lives in or visits our community. The Vail Symposium is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Media Contact:
Katie Coakley
970.333.4556
kcoakley@vailsymposium.org

Suzanne’s note:

Chiara’s wine’s from E. Pira e Figli can be found in Colorado through Giuliana Imports of Denver. In Vail Valley, Jarrett Osborne of Riverwalk Wine & Spirits in Edwards carries a great selection of Piemontese wines, including Chiara’s, and can obtain whatever is in the Giuliana Imports’ portfolio.

Elisabetta Vacchetto’s photo of Chiara Boschis, that became the centerpiece of the cover of “Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte.”

 

 

Foreword INDIES Book Award Winner

Labor of Love:
Wine Family Women of Piemonte
Wins Silver Medal
Women’s Studies (Adult Nonfiction)
2016 Foreword INDIES Book Awards

I’m so proud of my Labor of Love team for all their hard work that lead to another silver medal for the book, this time in Women’s Studies (adult nonfiction) in the Foreword INDIES book competition. Needless to say, I immensely grateful to my readers across the globe who have fallen in love with Piemonte and the wine families who farm its soil to make their vinous labor of love.

Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte also received a silver medal in regional nonfiction in the Independent Book Publishers Association IPPY awards.

Labor of Love is available through this website (only place to purchase personally inscribed copies), The Bookworm of Edwards, Eataly, and Amazon.

IPPY SILVER MEDALIST

 

I’m so tickled to announce that Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte was awarded a silver medal in the West – Mountain Best Regional Non-Fiction category of the Independent Book Publisher Association’s IPPY book awards. What a blessing it has been for me to have such a great team working for me to create this beautiful homage to the women of 22 Piemontese wine families.

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FOREWORD INDIES 2016 BOOK OF THE YEAR FINALIST

Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte
named 
2016 Foreword INDIES
Book of the Year Awards Finalist

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Vail, Colorado — Under Discovered Publishing LLC is pleased to announce Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte has been recognized as a finalist in the 19th annual Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Awards.

As part of their mission to discover, review, and share the best books from small, university, and indie publishers (and authors), independent media company Foreword Reviews hosts its annual awards program each year. Finalists represent the best books published in 2016, and submitted to Foreword Reviews for award consideration, and were narrowed down by Foreword’s editors from over 2,200 individual titles spread across 65 categories. A complete list of finalists can be found at:
https://awards.forewordreviews.com/finalists/2016/

“Choosing finalists for the INDIES is always the highlight of our year, but the choice was more difficult this time around due to the high quality of submissions,” said Victoria Sutherland, publisher of Foreword Reviews. “Each new book award season proves again how independent publishers are the real innovators in the industry.”

INDIES finalists are moved on to final judging by an expert panel of librarians and booksellers curated specifically for each genre and who will determine the books who will be named Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award winners. Winners in each genre—along with Editor’s Choice winners, and Foreword’s INDIE Publisher of the Year—will be announced during the 2017 American Library Association Annual Conference in Chicago on June 24, 2017.

In the United States, Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte is available at all Eataly stores, The Bookworm in Edwards, Colorado, Pepi’s Sports in Vail, Colorado, Prima Vini in Walnut Creek, California, and on Amazon with signed copies available through the author at http://winefamilies.com/labor-love-book/

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About Foreword: Founded in 1998, Foreword Magazine, Inc, d.b.a Foreword Reviews is an independent media company featuring a Folio:Award-winning print magazine, stable of e-newsletters, and an online platform. Foreword exclusively covers small, university, and independent (non “Big 5”) publishers, the books they publish, and the creators they work with. Foreword is based in Traverse City, Michigan, USA, and has employees and writers all over the world.

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Winery Art in Barolo

Winery Art

Reading Jill Barth’s delightful post about G. D. Vajra in Barolo made me home-away-from-home-sick for Piemonte. It’s a common experience for me, particularly when I recall the vivid image of Francesca Vaira bathed in the ethereal blue light the stained glass windows create as she describes to visitors the alchemy of fermentation that occurs in the room each autumn.  Franciscan priest Fr. Costantino Ruggeri’s spectacular stained glass windows at G. D. Vajra complement the art that is the Vaira family’s wine.

Francesca in tank room

To supplement Jill’s post, here are the two pages from my book, Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonteabout this example of winery art that transforms a utilitarian space into a spiritual chamber.

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No visit to the Vairas’ winery is complete without a walk through the tank room, with its towering stainless steel tanks where fermentation occurs, and the 26-foot-high stained glass windows the late Catholic priest and renowned artist, Father Costantino Ruggeri (1925-2007) created for his close friends, the Vairas. The tall, narrow windows with glass of varying shades of blue and splashes of other bright colors create a spiritual feeling inside the otherwise utilitarian space. The room is bathed in an azure blue light during the day, leaving no question that spirituality, faith, and a respect for nature and its Creator dominate the philosophy of this family in all they do. Everyone who works inside the room values the natural light from outside that creates the soothing blue hue reminiscent of bluebird skies on a clear autumn day. I’m told Aldo and Milena began dreaming of the stained glass windows in 1985. When asked why they installed these precious works of art in the winery, Aldo’s answer summed up the family’s philosophy of life and work. He said, “We always felt deeply that wine is a message of beauty and we would like all details, all actions, and all spaces of our work to resonate this beauty.” Aldo said that during the harvest, when so much work is done in the room through the night, the light from inside floods the exterior area in the same blue light workers inside enjoy during the day. In a later conversation, Francesca Vaira said, “The windows show a connection between the vineyards where the grapes grow and the room where they are transformed into wine.” I love that room and visit it often, albeit usually in my mind. 

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A visit to G. D. Vajra in Vergne, a tiny frazione of Barolo perched above the iconic wine village, provides nourishment for the soul as well as the senses thanks in large part to Padre Costantino’s magnificant windows. Come for the wine, stay for the art.

Milena Vaira and daughter-in-law Sophie.
Milena Vaira and daughter-in-law Sophie. Photo Credit — Elisabetta Vacchetto

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The tank room at G. D. Vajra in Barolo. Photo credit - Elisabetta Vacchetto
The tank room at G. D. Vajra in Barolo. Photo credit – Elisabetta Vacchetto

Labor of Love is a “Visual Temptress”

 

“A visual temptress” is how JancisRobinson.com wine book reviewer, Tamlyn Currin, described Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte.

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What a delight to see my independently published book, my labor of love, garner a place on the esteemed 2016 wine book list in Jancis Robinson’s newsletter and a receive a positive review.

Please enjoy Tamlyn Currin’s review on “Book Reviews 2016: Places Well-Known” on JancisRobinson.com. And yes, getting lost in the rain and fog while in search of wineries is all part of the process of getting to the heart and soul of Piemonte and her people.

And yes, getting lost in the rain and fog while in search of wineries is all part of the process of getting to the heart and soul of Piemonte and her people.

“This was the second large hardback book to come my way for reviews. This is rich in colour, a feast of glorious photographs and illustrations on thick, sumptuous-feeling pages, and is laid out with a feeling of space and light – a visual temptress.

Suzanne Hoffman has chosen remarkably specific subject matter. It’s not just about one, well-publicised region of Italy, it’s about the women in that one region, and furthermore it’s the women in the wine families of that one region. It’s unusual for a wine book to have such a narrow focus, and the pitfalls are obvious, so it was with some trepidation that I opened these pages. Hoffman is American, from Louisiana. An attorney and journalist, she’s lived in five different states and spent 20 years in Switzerland, and it was while in Switzerland that she discovered Piemonte, visiting more than 20 times over a 14-year period. Her indefatigable curiosity and a growing love for the wines and the region led to this book.

Labor of Love is in many ways a history of Piemonte. The overview, which includes a great map of the provinces and some of the DOCs of Piemonte, has an ‘At a glance’ page with timelines of the rulers and occupiers of Piemonte, and the first chapter of the book is about the remarkable Giulia Colbert Falletti, Marchesa of Barolo, 1785-1864. Through the stories of these women, we see a changing Piemonte as it is shaped and scarred through the First and Second World Wars, depression, poverty, the disastrous vintages and the sublime vintages, oenological revolutions, scandals and a growing international respect and demand for wine from this region.

Hoffman selects 22 wineries from Barolo, Barbaresco, Roero and Monferrato. With each, she describes her first trip to the winery, her first meeting with the woman (or women) involved. Clearly in almost awed admiration of these women, Hoffman then recounts the family past, often following the thread from great-grandmother to grandmother to mother to daughter, bringing ghosts back to life, and acknowledging, to the outer world, the tremendous work that these women have done – so much of it unseen.

Some of the stories are deeply moving. She tells of the staggering courage of Beatrice Rizzolio of Cascina delle Rose as she stood between the guns of German soldiers and local teenage boys, telling them, ‘They are young. Shoot me, I am an old lady’ – this being the same woman who burst through the prison gates with a wagon-load of food for starving wartime prisoners, and ordered the gobsmacked German guards to feed them. She writes about the quiet depth of resilience and strength in Ornella Correggia, who picked up the pieces of their shattered lives when her young husband was killed in a freak accident in the vineyard, and she and her two young children carried on making wine and carrying his vision. She writes about ordinary women who struggle to juggle child rearing and homes with demanding jobs, and women who helped hide young partisan resistance fighters from the Nazis. It’s a book full of memories.

It’s a very personal story. I was surprised at how much of Hoffman’s life and emotions are told in these pages. I wonder whether she identifies with them in some way. It’s almost as much Suzanne Hoffman’s journey through Piemonte as it is the stories of the women of Piemonte. Her family birthday celebrations, her friendships, her travels, her own roots, her love of cooking, her fears, her own memories and inspirations are woven inextricably into each chapter. Sometimes I wondered if perhaps there was too much of the author – I don’t really want to know, for example, what she wore when she met Chiara Boschis, whatever the temperature might have been or whatever Chiara herself was wearing. I wasn’t sure whether what she ate with her Mom on her first trip really added to the book in any way. But arguably she has gone behind closed doors, sat at kitchen tables over cups of coffee, befriended women, sifted with them through old family photos. A wine journalist sits at these tables and asks questions about the age of vines and lees stirring, listens to summaries of the vintage; Hoffman has asked questions about courting, love, babies and hardship, listened to stories about German occupation and tragic personal losses. She has spent hundreds of hours understanding the challenges of being a woman in the not-too-bygone days of male-powered Piemonte (‘women who failed to produce male heirs were seen as weak. Even if a woman produced many girls, other women looked down on her as though she were childless’) and the different, modern-day challenges of being a woman in Piemonte wine. Perhaps the only way to tell these tales is to walk right through them, side by side with the women one writes about. Perhaps her stories of getting lost in the rain and fog en route to wineries is part of what this book is about – the simple, gritty, everyday humanity behind great wines.”

Note: Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte is available in the USA on this website, at all USA Eataly stores, and Amazon.com and in Piemonte through Cà del Baio winery and fine bookshops in the region. 

Christmas and Hanukah Shipping Special

LABOR OF LOVE
CHRISTMAS AND HANUKAH
USA SHIPPING SPECIAL!

USPS PRIORITY SHIPPING (1-3 BUSINESS DAYS DELIVERY) AVAILABLE BY SPECIAL ORDER!

The time has passed to be assured of receiving Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte in time to be under the tree for Christmas or to give to that special someone for the first day of Hanukah. Until Tuesday, December 19th, I am offering Priority Mail shipping for $12 for up to two books in lieu of $7.00 media shipping for one. The book sells for $55.00.

This limited offer is only available by special order to suzanne@gmail.com by Monday, December 18th. NO DELIVERY GUARANTEES POSSIBLE, but USPS claims it is a 1-to-3 business day delivery. 

Signed books are available, but personnally inscribed books will not be available in the USA after midnight MST Friday, December 16th until January 5th, 2017.

Merry Christmas! 

Happy Hanukah! 

And a great start to the new vintage!

🍾🍷🍾🍷ONWARD TO 2017! 🍾🍷🍾🍷

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What does the future hold for Barolo?

Will Barolo wineries remain in Piemontese hands?

It has certainly been a momentus year for Barolo with the sale of a historic winery in Castiglione Falletto to an American businessman. Yes, it was definitely their choice to sell and no doubt a painful decision to make. For the good of the region and the selling family, we wish them all well.

But as the year winds down and rumors of a more painful sale of another Barolo family-owned winery — one not in my book! — fly everywhere, I opened Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte  to read again, and find reassurance in, the passionate words of Elisa Scavino of Azienda Viticola Paolo Scavino when I asked her about the possibility of the “Tuscanization” of Piemonte. Hers was not a unique answer to this question I asked of many families.

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Sisters Enrica and Elisa Scavino with their beloved Aunt Angela in the cantina of their family winery, Paolo Scavino in Barolo.
Sisters Enrica and Elisa Scavino and their beloved Aunt Angela, seen here  in the cantina of their family winery, Paolo Scavino, are tied to their ancestors who have been and descendents yet to come through their land..

So, will iconic Barolo wineries remain in the hands of the Piemontese or end up owned by faceless, souless foreign corporations? No one really knows. The economy and financial considerations may be what dictate the future. What I do know is that I am even more dedicated to hearing the wine families’ stories and committing them to paper for all to read in years to come. Their history must not be forgotten.

Post Script (12/5/16): As the rumors of a seismic sale swirl around the hills of Barolo, it has become painfully apparent that the low birth rate in Italy (and all of Europe) could be the catalyst for sales now and in the future. If readers look at the genealogies of each of the 22 families in my book, they will see an unmistakeable thinning of generations over time, the reasons for which are many.

Of course, it only takes one to carry the estate forward into the next generation. However, when there are so few offspring — as we’ve seen in so many of wine families across Italy — the future of the estate as a family owned and operated entity relies on a near 100%  occurance of the same passion to perpetuate the patrimony in future generations.

I’m optimistic that will be the case with the current generation of wine family women of Piemonte. Beyond the horizon, it’s anyone’s guess. 

Natale, Piemonte Style

Natale in Piemonte

Just past sunrise on a crisp, bluebird sky morning in June 2007, I boarded the train at Sierre station for Geneva Airport. Behind me was over 20 years of life in Valais filled with warm memories of loved ones, many of whom, like my parents, were no longer of this world.

My mom and dad -- Gloria and V. J. "Bob" LeBlanc -- on one of their many visits to us in Switzerland.
My mom and dad — Gloria and V. J. “Bob” LeBlanc — on one of their many visits to us in Switzerland.

To say I was sad to repatriate to the United States is an understatement. Robert Goulet’s words he crooned to Vanessa Redgrave’s Queen Guinevere came to mind. There really was no season to leave Valais, certainly not summer, not spring, not autumn, and definitely not winter, the season filled with Advent and Christmas, my favorite time in Europe.

Nine years later, we decided to spend another Christmas on the eastern side of the Atlantic, but this time in the hills of Piemonte, my continueing connection with Valais, not high in the Pennine Alps in Bluche. As I began writing my packing list, I thought it would be fun to share an excerpt from my book, Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte, about Christmas (Natale) with the Deltetto family.

It is with this lovely Roero family and the Grassos of Cà del Baio in Barbaresco — a family to whom the Deltettos are joined through the marriage of Carlo Deltetto and Paola Grasso — that  we will be spending Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day we will join the two families in the Cà del Baio tasting room in Treiso. These are some of their traditions that we will be privileged to experience.

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Celebratory Food and Wine

Toni Deltetto’s decision in 1997 to plant Pinot Noir led to a new, exciting market for the winery: bubbles. What began as a fanciful endeavor to produce spumante for both private consumption and presents for friends and clients quickly evolved into a major part of the Deltetto portfolio. In 2003, Toni released approximately 100 bottles of his first Spumante Extra Brut metodo classico. By 2015, after major renova-tions to his cellar and the addition of state-of-the-art equipment, Toni and his son Carlo were producing on average 25,000 to 28,000 bottles of sparkling wine per year. From the original Extra Brut offering, the portfolio grew to three different styles for all tastes: Extra Brut, Extra Brut Rosé (a blend of Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo), and Brut. Although the costly, labor-intensive process is the same as Champagne production, Toni and other European producers outside of the French appellation were forbidden to use méthode champenoise on their labels. But thanks to great marketing and the assistance of wine writers who help educate consumers, global demand for well-priced, beautifully produced Italian spumante metodo classico grew.

Deltetto Extra Brut Spumante Rose Metodo Classico from Nebbiolo and Pinot Nero.
Deltetto Extra Brut Spumante Rose Metodo Classico from Nebbiolo and Pinot Nero.

The sparkling wines are very important to the Deltetto family, not only for the excellent return on their investment, but for the pleasure the wine brings them and their clients. “There is no occasion that we don’t open a bottle of bubbles when a friend comes over, with a cele-bration of something very nice, or to comfort us when something goes wrong,” Toni said. Christmas is one of those celebrations when they pour copious amounts of their spumante.

The Deltetto family -- (L-R) Claudia, Graziella, Lidia, Cristina, Toni, and Carlo.
The Deltetto family — (L-R) Claudia, Graziella, Lidia, Cristina, Toni, and Carlo. Photo Credit: Elisabetta Vacchetto.
Natale, Deltetto Style

Having lived in Central Europe for so many years, I particularly enjoy European Christmas traditions. After years of experiencing the joyous holiday in Switzerland and developing traditions with cherished friends, I felt lost when I moved back to America in 2007. It seems the French and the Italians do Christmas — at least the feasting — like no others on earth. The Deltettos are no exception.

After months of hard work in the vineyards and cellars, one would think wine families have a chance to relax and enjoy the season. In fact, they are nearly as busy at Christmas as they are during the harvest. Wines coming up, as well as those aging, need attention in the cellar. Clients near and far are anxious to buy wines for their own celebrations. Packages usually filled with tasty goodies are packed and sent to importers and representatives around the globe. Since the producers are masters at multitasking, they manage to keep their clients, their wines, and their families happy while they dive into their own Christmas celebrations.

In 1992, Toni and Graziella moved their family into their new house, where they now live above the tasting room. The wood-fired oven built into the wall of the tasting room became the star of their Christmas Eve tradition that lives on today — pizza al forno legna — pizza baked at 700° Fahrenheit. It all began as a ruse to distract the children when Santa Claus arrived upstairs. While the children feasted on pizza in the tasting room, Santa Claus quietly delivered presents that they would discover later. When Cristina began dating Giorgio, an experienced pizzaiolo, Toni passed the pizza-making responsibilities on to him. “Giorgio is a great pizza maker, and he has a lot of fantasy in doing them,” said Claudia, who helps Giorgio make the pizza dough. He makes 10 different types of pizzas with sausages, ricotta, stracchino, onions, and several other tasty, fresh ingredients. According to Claudia, no one has a favorite, and they delight in tasting the wide variety of pizzas Giorgio creates.

Giorgio Faccenda, with the aid of his wife Cristina Deltetto, keeps the supply of pizzas going on Christmas Eve in the Deltetto winery's tasting room.
Giorgio Faccenda, with the aid of his wife Cristina Deltetto, keeps the supply of pizzas going on Christmas Eve in the Deltetto winery’s tasting room.

Since Carlo and Paola married, the Deltetto and Grasso families share their Christmas Day feasts, rotating between the families’ two homes in Treiso and Canale. By early Christmas morning, the fire that had been stoked to make pizzas on Christmas Eve cools to about 400° Fahrenheit, a perfect temperature for baking bread. After days of work in which everyone pitches in, it’s time for their Christmas feast.

That March evening after we enjoyed Graziella and Cristina’s Friday “light” supper, Toni recited the Christmas menu as though he was savoring the dishes still nine months away. They begin with foie gras paired with bubbles — spumante from Deltetto and Champagne. Toni admitted it’s not a very Piemontese dish, but he said it is irresistible with the bubbles. The least sinful of the luscious dishes is panzanella, a salad that features fried rosemary bread cubes, quail eggs, pine nuts, and pomegranate.

Antonio Deltetto proudly displaying the panzanella salad.
Antonio Deltetto proudly displaying the panzanella salad topped with quail eggs.

Traditional Piemontese meat dishes include carne cruda (finely chopped raw Fassone veal), tajarin al sugo (thin golden noodles rich in egg yolks and topped with meat sauce), brasato (beef braised in Nebbiolo), tagliata di fassone (seared Fassone beef sirloin served rare), and bollito (thinly sliced beef stew similar to the French pot-au-feu). Like the meat selections, there are several pastas to choose from: tri-colore agnolotti, small ravioli signifying the colors of the Italian flag — beet colored (for red) stuffed with fish, shrimp, salmon, and roe; spinach (for green) stuffed with fonduta; and normal pasta (for white) stuffed with meat. Of course, numerous bottles representing many memorable vintages are sacrificed in the course of this feast. Dessert always includes pears cooked in port with honey, vanilla, black pepper, lemon, and lime zest. Tajarin requires approximately two dozen egg yolks for each kilogram (2.2 pounds) of flour, resulting in a large bowl of egg whites. Nothing goes to waste in a Piemontese kitchen, neither food nor energy. By late Christmas Day, the pizza oven cools to approximately 180° Fahrenheit, perfect for baking meringues made from the leftover egg whites. The combination of food and wine for celebrations like Christmas allows the wine families to enjoy the fruits of their labor and prepare their spirits for the coming vintage.

Carlo Deltetto and his beloved maternal nonna Bibiana on Christmas Day 2015.
Carlo Deltetto and his beloved maternal nonna Bibiana on Christmas Day 2015.
Deltetto and Grasso families celebrating together at the Deltetto home on Christmas Day 2015.
Deltetto and Grasso families celebrating together at the Deltetto home on Christmas Day 2015.

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