Discovering the Under Discovered in Barolo – In Search of Chiara Boschis

You’ll have to wait for my book, “Under Discovered: Piemonte through the eyes of its women” to get the full story.  In the meantime, I thought I’d introduce you to some of the wonderful women and their families who will populate the pages of my book.  Many I’ve known for nearly 14 years, but a few I’ve only just met through the process of researching my book.  One of those women is the effervescent and immensely talented Chiara Boschis, winemaker and owner of E. Pira e Figli in Barolo.

WInemaker Chiara Boschis at home amongst her treasured nebbiolo vines
Winemaker Chiara Boschis at home amongst her treasured nebbiolo vines

On Monday, I introduced my Vail Daily readers near and far to Chiara.  You can read more about her at:

http://www.vaildaily.com/article/20130331/AE/130339983&parentprofile=search

What I didn’t tell you was how I discovered this well-known, under-discovered maven of Barolo.  Serendipity is wonderful and often its surprises can yield incredible fruit.

After a grueling month of first getting my husband Dani off on his long trip to Israel, I was off on my odyssey in Piemonte.  I arrived in Treiso at Agriturismo Il Bricco evening of March 19th.  The journey had taken nearly 27 hours, but I was excited to be back in the land of the noble grape.

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday took me back and forth between Treiso, Barbaresco and Barolo interviewing fascinating women and men from the winemaking families of Cantina del Pino, Marchesi di Gresy, Gaja, G. D. Vajra, Livia Fontana and Cascina delle Rose.  Although I still had interviews to conduct at Deltetto, Ca’ del Baio and Matteo Correggia the following week, the weekend gave me a much-needed break to process all that I had learned in the hours of interviews.  Most of all, the weekend meant market day in Alba.

The Alba mercato is located on the fringes of the old city.  During the week the area under and around the massive roof is a parking lot.  But on Saturdays it becomes an expansive gastronomic venue.  Everything one needs to make prepare a stunning Piemontese feast – including the utensils, gadgets, pots and pans – can be found at the market.  Ok, so you have to shop elsewhere for the treasured tartufo bianci in autumn, but even the clothes and shoes to wear for the occasion can be purchased here.  Nothing like an hour walking around, envying the availability of beautiful vegetables, cheese, meat and seafood to remind me of what I miss most about living in Europe.  Why can’t we have markets like that in Colorado instead of the over-priced weekend farmers’ markets?

Pasta Perfection in the Alba mercato                    Mediterranean Mollusks

WIth that obligatory stroll through the mercato complete, I drove back to Il Bricco, deposited my goodies – chestnut honey, roasted hazelnuts, lace scarves and the Parmigiano-Reggiano given to me as a gift from the cheese couple I wrote about last year – and headed west to Barolo (see below).

Husband and wife cheese merchants in the Alba mercato

I was on a mission.  Ristorante La Cantinetta was my destination.

And we’re off!

With the best intentions to write everyday, I set up my blog. Unfortunately, the umbilical cord that keeps the lifeblood of our internet addiction flowing – wifi – has been unreliable.

I arrived in Geneva mid-afternoon on Tuesday, March 19th, after a long journey from Denver to Washington D.C. onward to Frankfurt – now there’s a marathon of a flight connection! – and finally Geneva.  It was my intention to jump into the rental car and drive either to Chamonix or Courmayeur since I didn’t believe for a moment I could survive the long drive – particularly through Torino – after such a long plane trip.  But the weather was so beautiful and the roads fairly empty that when I popped out of the Mont Blanc Tunnel at 4:30 in the afternoon, I kept going.  And yes, it is possible to drive for four and a half hours without radio, CD or MP3!

Snow had fallen in the Alps the night before, treating me to stunning views of trees covered with fresh snow and soaring alabaster peaks against a bluebird sky.  I’ve seen Mont Blanc from nearly every angle, including once from a low-level flight in Swiss International Airline’s brand new A340 on a journalist’s junket, but never quite so unforgettable as this.

Anyone who lived in Europe when the 7-mile long, two-lane tunnel was transformed into an inferno the morning of March 24, 1999, can’t possibly enter the tunnel without a little uneasiness.  I can’t.  This was the part I worried about the most as I drove through the Arve River valley to the tunnel.  If I had felt the least bit tired, which I wasn’t, I would never have taken the risk of entering the tunnel.  Not fair to anyone.  Driving through the Mont Blanc tunnel is one of the few times I witness restraint on the part of Italian and French drivers as they respect the speed limit and the 500 foot distance required – and monitored – between vehicles.

Once out of Valle d’Aosta and into the flatland between mountains and hills, the Alps bordering France and Italy appeared, drenched in the rose-colored light of the setting sun.  Monte Viso, the triangular peak that is the highest in the Cottian Alps, soars above its neighbors.  A solitary soldier, seen from miles away.

IMG_1768

The remainder of the long drive was fairly easy, even the rush hour traffic of the frequently maddening tangenziale circling Torino to the west.  The Asti Est (east) exit that used to be a transition from the relative ease of the autostrade to the confusing maze of construction zones and then onto the Asti-Alba road, lined with prostitutes and slowed by gawking truck drivers.  But now, with the autostrade completed between Asti and Alba, the once 30 minute drive is reduced to a quick 10 or 15, depending on how brave one is push the speed limit.  Something Italians generally have no problem with doing!

Arriving in Treiso and finding the Argiturismo Il Bricco beyond the church, high on the bricco (hill), was easy.  So many times before I had driven through the square.  Nothing had changed in the past 14 years except for appearance of the restaurant and bar Profumo di Vino, the successful brainchild of Mexican chef, Guillermo (Memo) Field.

Chef-Restaurateur Memo Field Cloudy Day View of Agriturismo Il Bricco

 Plates of local cheeses and tender, tasty salami with a basket of feather light grissini helped down my throat by the family’s Barbera d’Alba was all I needed.  The 28-hour journey was over, but the adventure was just beginning.

"Snack" at Agriturismo Il Bricco

 

It will take me a few days to catch up on my writing, but I will.  So much to process after 9 interviews!

Welcome to my bare bones blog!

Someone once told me setting up a blog was easy.  Someone was wrong!

In the last few weeks of titanic struggle and frayed nerves while waiting online for a GoDaddy tech – only to have him read something from the internet I’d just found – I’ve discovered that it isn’t “point and shoot” technology.  Or in the case of a blog, point and write.

Yes, there are free travel blogs available, but with stern warnings about using it for commercial purposes.  And let’s face it, this is a commercial purpose.  So even though I’m a “reformed” lawyer, old habits die hard.  Needless to say, I rarely take the easy path!

But ending up with something sterile and lacking in bells, whistles and widgets isn’t all that bad.  At least it’s a platform for me to share with my readers Piemontese stories related to me by its women over the next 10 days.  It’s the first major step to “Under Discovered: Piemonte through the eyes of its women.” If all goes according to plan, you will be able to put it on your Christmas shopping (or wish) list.

The next 24 hours will be stressful traveling, but once I settle down at Agriturismo Il Bricco in Treiso, I will be back online writing and sharing pictures.

In the meantime, enjoy this fun picture of the wine dragon at Villa Tiboli near Canale in the Roero.

Wine dragon at the Villa Tiboldi near Canale in the Roero district.
Wine dragon at the Villa Tiboldi near Canale in the Roero district.

 

Wine is an expression of culture made by man, not just by nature. Wine families are the ultimate vinous artisans.

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