Category Archives: Labor of Love

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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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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SAN FRANCISCO – PIEMONTE: SHARE THE LOVE

SPREAD THE WORD!
SHARE THE LOVE!
POUR THE PIEMONTE WINE!

San Francisco, here we come!


Prima Vini e Ristorante
Walnut Creek, CA
Friday, September 9th
5:30 – 8:00 p.m.

Enthusiastic audiences in Piemonte and Colorado have been enjoying my readings and discussions about my new book, Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte, made more delightful by their connection with the families through the wine in their glass. 

Prima’s wine director and co-owner, John Rittmaster, has assembled an impressive line-up of visiting vinous royalty for a wine-book pairing aperitivo at this transcendental TGIF Piemontese experience.

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CALL FOR RESERVATIONS!
Books will be available for purchase and signing at the event
!

San Francisco Wine School
San Francisco, CA
Sunday, September 11th
2:00 – 5:00 p.m.

Come join Master Sommelier David Glancy and me (Suzanne) for a Piemontese experience unlike any other available on the eastern shores of the Pacific.

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Award-winning wine writer Fred Swan, who is on the faculty at the school, has put together, has worked tirelessly to put together an amazing tasting list of 30 Piemonte wines from 12 different producers in the Langhe, Roero, and Monferrato areas of this iconic Italian wine region.

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The program includes David Glancy’s guided tasting of four lovely Piemontese wines with my input vis-à-vis a reading and discussion about the book and the families. Afterward, enjoy a walk-around to taste the other 26 wines assembled for this celebration (which it truly is).

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You can reserve and pay online. Easy peasy! Books will be available for purchase and signing. This event is open to the public. A special, reduced rate applies for industry professionals.  

Expand Your Vinous Horizons!

Yes, I know California’s wine country cocoons San Francisco and that Cabernet Sauvignon, not Barolo, is king there. But even in Piemonte they enjoy other region’s wines, so why not grab this mind-expanding, oenological opportunity, join me in the City by the Bay on the 9th and 11th of September, and meet the visiting vinous royalty from Piemonte!

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Labor of Love Review – Gastronome Extra!

 

Another glowing review of Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte! 

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Gastronome Extra

Gastronome Extra is the seasonal online magazine of the United States bailliage (chapter) of the international gastronomic society Chaine des Rotisseurs. The centuries old organization that King Louis IX — St. Louis — founded in 1248 as a guild of goose roasters is a premiere gastronomic organization that promotes culinary and oenological education and camaraderie at the table, something much-needed these days. From its inception, the Chaine served as a vehicle to develop and preserve culinary techniques.

The Chaine was resurrected in Paris in 1950 after two world wars that decimated the French food and wine industries, and a 200-year hiatus due to the French Revolution when guilds fell out of favor — an understatement. Today, the modern Chaine consists of over 25,000 passionate supporters of fine dining and protectors of the culinary arts in over 80 countries, including the United States.

The Review

The cover of Gastronome Extra’s summer issue features Elisabetta Vacchetto’s beautiful photo of Barolo living legend Chiara Boschis. Open up the magazine and on page 11 you’ll find a glowing review of my book, Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte, the cover of which Chiara’s hands grace.

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Cover of Gastronome Extra! Photo credit — Elisabetta Vacchetto
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Labor of Love Cover Design by Cindi Yaklich (Epicenter Creative) and photos by Elisabetta Vacchetto and Pierangelo Vacchetto.

Note — one correction in the Gastronome Extra! article — we did not sell out the first printing. We had to reduce the first run by 1,000 books when we chose to print in Italy, so we ran a Kickstarter campaign to fund that 1,000. In less than three months since publication, we sold well over half of the first edition, a large number of books considering our constraints as an indie publisher, but it is incorrect to say we sold out the first edition. See the Labor of Love Kickstarter campaign for further details.  

Other Reviews of Labor of Love

Visit my Press & Reviews – Labor of Love page for more reviews of my book.

Share the Love — Spread the Word — Pour the Wine

The book and Labor of Love’s wine families will be the focus of several upcoming wine-book pairing events in California, Colorado, and Louisiana. These events will feature wines from the wine families in the book, foods of the region, and book reading and signing with a healthy dose of spirited conversation about this beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site.

September 9th — Prima Vini Ristorante, Walnut Creek, CA
September 11th — San Francisco Wine School, S. San Francisco, CA
September 23rd — Book Bar, Denver, CO
October 25th — Rebellion Bar & Urban Kitchen, New Orleans, LA
October 26th — Swirl Wine Bar & Market, New Orleans, LA

 

And more to come on the East Coast! Watch this space.

WINETWOFIVE: All in the Wine Family

 

All in the Wine Family

Valerie Caruso and Stephanie Davis, the wine educator brains behind the popular website and weekly podcast series WineTwoFive, graciously invited me to participate in this past week’s podcast they titled: All in the Wine Family (click to listen — preferably with a glass of Piemonte wine in hand!)

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They aired the podcast the morning of my author event at the energetic tea room with a vinous twist PlatformT in Glendale (Denver).

PlatformT in Glendale (Denver), CO.
PlatformT in Glendale (Denver), CO.

The tea room that also serves a wide variety of other libations such as coffee, wine, and spirits, and savory and sweet bites to pair with the drinks, is the brainchild of Law Brothers Group of Denver.

Every other Thursday, the bright gathering spot in a new commercial development on the corner of S. Colorado Blvd. and S. Cherry Creek Drive — just steps away from my old flat on Cherry Creek — becomes a venue for author events. It’s a small, intimate setting that allows authors the opportunity to connect with readers. I’m truly grateful to the Law Family for their dedication to supporting writers, particularly independent authors like me. 

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The bar served “Chapter 3” wines — Matteo Correggia — from Denver’s Giuliana Imports for their by-the-glass wine special: Roero Arneis and Roero Nebbiolo.

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We raised our glasses to Ornella Correggia and all the wonderful wine families across the world who toil to make the vinous creations we all enjoy. With that, I began my reading followed by an intriguing question and answer session and book signing.

Reading to my readers

During question and answer, the WineTwoFive ladies shared with the enthusiastic audience some of their thoughts on Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte. 

Valerie Caruso (left) and Stephanie Davis (right) with me at PlaformT.
Valerie Caruso (left) and Stephanie Davis (right) with me at PlatformT.

A great time was had by all, particularly me! Thank you, Jeremy, Ron, and Chris Law for your kind hospitality and to Naomi Boylan of the Law Brothers Group for organizing this special evening for me and my oenophile readers.

Thank you, Jeremy, Ron, and Chris Law for your kind hospitality and to Naomi Boylan of the Law Brothers Group for organizing this special evening for me to connect with my oenophile readers.

Next Event
Thursday, August 11th
Ridge Stree Wine/Breckenridge Cheese & Chocolate
Ridge Street Alley (near corner of Adams St. & Main St.)
Breckenridge, CO
6:00 p.m.
SEATING LIMITED!
RESERVATIONS ADVISED!
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Where to buy the book?

Wine Families Web Store — only availability of signed books online

Amazon

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LABOR OF LOVE WINE-BOOK PAIRING EVENTS!

 

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!  

Piemonte Celebrations! 

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.

Signing vintner Giuliano Iuorio's book at Cà del Baio. What a thrill for me!
Signing vintner Giuliano Iuorio’s book at Cà del Baio. What a thrill for me!

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! 

(L-R) Bruce and Claudia Kiely, Suzanne and Dani Hoffman, Susan and Rusty Richardson.
(L-R) Bruce and Claudia Kiely, Suzanne and Dani Hoffman, Susan and Rusty Richardson.
Introducing the USA to Labor of Love at Bookworm

The Bookworm in Edwards Riverwalk hosted the USA launch on July 7th. Nearly 70 people joined for the aperitivo featuring wines from Cà del Baio (Chapter Six), Matteo Correggia (Chapter Three), and Marsaglia (Chapter Seventeen) that Jarrett Osborn, owner of Riverwalk Wine & Spirits, poured.

Jarrett Osborn of Riverwalk Wine & Spirits pouring a glass of Ca' del Baio Barbaresco Vallegrande for Dean Johnson.
Jarrett Osborn of Riverwalk Wine & Spirits pouring a glass of Ca’ del Baio Barbaresco Vallegrande for Dean Johnson.
Photo credit: Townsend Bessent
Photo credit: Townsend Bessent

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.

Nicole Magistro and Suzanne Hoffman. Photo credit: Townsend Bessent
Nicole Magistro and Suzanne Hoffman.
Photo credit: Townsend Bessent
Upcoming Events!

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
6:00 p.m.
PlatformT
Glendale (Denver), Colorado

Books available at the event!

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Ridge Street Wine/Breckenridge Cheese & Chocolate
Breckenridge, CO
Thursday, August 11th
6:00 p.m. 

Books available at event!

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Prima Vini e Ristorante
Walnut Creek, CA
Friday, September 9th
5:30 p.m. reading followed by tasting of an awesome wine line up!

Books available at event!
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San Francisco Wine School
San Francisco, CA

Sunday, September 11th
2:00 p.m.
Details coming soon!

Book Bar
Denver, CO

Late September
Stay tuned for details!  

And more to come in Louisiana and Piemonte before the end of the year!
If you’d like to have me visit your town for a book-wine pairing event for your organization or at your local indie bookstore, email me at suzanne@winefamilies.com!
ARNEIS ASKS THAT YOU WATCH THIS SPACE!

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BOOK REVIEW: SASSI ITALY TOURS LOVES “LABOR OF LOVE!”

 

Read Sassi Italy Tours lovely review of Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte.

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You can then purchase your very own signed copy here on my website.

But first, enjoy this excerpt from the book?

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Chapter Three – Matteo Correggia

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.

Ornella Correggia and her daughter, Brigitta. Photo Credit: Carlo Avataneo
Ornella Correggia and her daughter, Brigitta. Photo Credit: Carlo Avataneo

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.

Matteo Correggia. Photo credit: Azienda Agricola Matteo Correggia
Matteo Correggia.
Photo credit: Azienda Agricola Matteo Correggia

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)

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