Women are now as important to the lifeblood of many Barbaresco wineries as the juice they extract from their grapes. Once in the shadows, societal changes broke the shackles that kept women out the family business and hereditary fortunes in patriarchal Italy.
Think about the changing face (actually, gender) of the heirs of Barbaresco’s wine families – women. Two wineries he praised – Cà del Baio and Albino Rocca – have three sisters who have or who will inherit the winery, carrying it on to future generations.
Not so long ago, Luigi, Ernesto and Giulio Grasso’s Cà del Baio, borne of hard work and determination, would not have stayed in the family given Giulio’s heirs are only women – Paola, Valentina and Federica.
And the three Rocca sisters, Daniela, Monica and Paola. What courage and talent they have displayed since the tragic death of their father! Mr. D’Agata has rightfully given their incredible work at Albino Rocca the credit they deserve.
Needless to say, Giovanna Rizzolio of Cascina delle Rose had to swim upstream against a very strong current to create her beautiful, successful winery on her family’s land.
And there are some dynamos! Elisa Scavino, Francesca Vaira, Isabella Boffa Oddero, Maria Teresa Mascarello, Gaia and Rossana Gaja, and Marta and Carlotta Rinaldi, just to name a few.
This is not to take away from the guys. Just to note the changes afoot in the vineyards and cantine of the Langhe, Roero and Monferrato. Otherwise, why would I spend two years to date researching and writing about them? Still many wonderful stories to uncover and share in the hills of Piemonte.
It’s a question many Anglophone oenophiles ask when discussing their winery adventures in Piemonte’s Langhe.
Most often, the answer is “yes.” Those who answer affirmatively know the delights of educationally intense oenological experiences with Chilcott at the famed Barbaresco winery, Tenute Cisa Asinari dei Marchesi di Grésy. Whether a Nebbiolo novice or an experienced lover of Barbaresco’s strong tannins that, as legendary winemaker Franco Boschis says should, “stab the palate,” a wine tasting with Chilcott should top every wine traveler’s bucket list.
Recently Greg Eyon, partner and wine director at Vin48 in Avon, crafted a solution for Barbaresco-philes. The same week the skiing world schussed into Beaver Creek and Vail for the 2015 Alpine Skiing World Championships, Jeffrey Chilcott sped through Colorado, with a whistle stop in Vail Valley.
On Tuesday, February 3rd, Chilcott poured flights of three of Marchesi di Grésy’s wines, including Barbaresco Martinenga, for diners in the bar and main dining room at Vin48. To drink the rich and expressive wines of Marchesi di Grésy is to sip fruits from ancient times.
Ancient Roots of Barbaresco
Barbaresco, like all of Langhe, is steeped in ancient history. The famed Marchesi di Grésy winery lies in Martinenga, at the base of the south facing natural amphitheater above the Rio Sordo valley. Long before vineyards carpeted the Langhe hills, Martinenga was home to vast oak forests, symbols of strength to barbaric tribes who preceded the Romans in Barbaresco. The Liguri Stazielli worshipped there to the Celtic god of strength “Martiningen.” Conquering Romans kept the war theme and named it “Villa Martis” in honor of Mars, their god of war. It’s also the birthplace of Roman Emperor, Publio Elvio Pertinace in 126 A.D.
Worshippers still flock to Martinenga, a temple of strong, bold Nebbiolo wines from Barbaresco’s largest cru monopole. The 29.5 acres of prime Nebbiolo vines bear fruit for Marchesi di Grésy’s three Barbaresco D.O.C.G.: flagship Martinenga and kingpins, Camp Gros and Gaiun.
Like many Piemonte family-owned wineries, the di Grésy family’s continual presence on land Alberto di Grésy now farms began centuries ago. In 1797, the noble di Grésy family purchased the Martinenga property to add to their holdings atop the area’s highest hill, Monte Aribaldo in nearby Treiso. For nearly two centuries, the di Grésy family produced and sold their prized grapes in the Alba grape market each autumn.
Alberto di Grésy assumed control of the estate in the 1960s. Not surprisingly given di Grésy’s drive and determination, he grew weary of seeing others reap the rewards of converting the fruits of their labors into wine. In 1973, in the early days of Angelo Gaja’s successful Herculean efforts to place Barbaresco on the same world stage as the older, larger and much revered Barolo denomination, di Grésy produced his first distinctive wines labeled with the family’s crest.
With excellent fruit from four estates in the Langhe and Monferrato zones, di Grésy grew his portfolio to 16 red and white wines. Thanks to his dedication to the terroir and the highest standards of vineyard and cellar practices, Marchesi di Gresy’s wines now reach discerning Barbaresco lovers across the globe.
Mastering the Cellar
Chilcott’s tenure with Marchesi di Grésy began in 1991. He didn’t settle down full-time at the winery until 1998, following a few years of “door knocking” that lead to work in Burgundy and wine regions of New Zealand and Italy. As cellar master, Chilcott manages the day-to-day operations in the cantina, but he also has an important marketing function as one of the winery’s Anglophone emissaries.
The seasons have blurred for Chilcott and there is always something for him to do. Neither grapes nor wines can wait when attention is needed. Throughout the year, Chilcott works closely with winemaker Matteo Sasso and oenological consultant Piero Ballario. After the rigors of the harvest and demanding work in the cellar thereafter, Chilcott returns to New Zealand for well-deserved rest and visits to his native country’s expanding wine regions.
It was on his return leg across North America of his recent New Zealand trip that Chilcott is stopping briefly in Colorado.
The first wine in the Marchesi di Grésy flight was 2011 Dolcetto d’Alba from vineyards that ring Monte Aribaldo. Although Langhe’s Dolcetto sadly is falling out of favor, due in part to a greater choice of white wines in the region, Marchesi di Gresy and their customers have enjoyed increased sales in the United States. Chilcott describes the 2011 Dolcetto as “quite rich for a Treiso Dolcetto.” The warm vintage with a lower crop yield produced a “nice extract, made just right in tanks without too much skin contact.” Dolcetto is perfect for daily enjoyment as an aperitivo or at any stage of the meal. Although they make world famous wines, it’s humble Dolcetto that graces family tables of Langhe winemakers.
The global popularity of Nebbiolo from all regions of Piemonte, particularly the Langhe and Roero, continues to climb. Made from the same varietal as its big brothers Barbaresco and Barolo, this wine sells for a much lower price, yet has the potential to age. The ruby red 2013 Martinenga Langhe Nebbiolo emerged from a vintage that worried many producers in the early rainy months of the growing season, but finished strong after the sun emerged in June to produce an excellent, late-picked crop. Unlike Barbaresco, this Nebbiolo sees no oak and ages in cement tanks. In spring 2014, the winery bottled this Nebbiolo Chilcott describes as “classic and very inviting, an almost extra-virgin style, great for casual dining.” Chilcott suggests Langhe Nebbiolo for frequent enjoyment of the powerful varietal.
The grand finale of this well-chosen triumvirate of Marchesi di Grésy wines was 2010 Barbaresco Martinenga. Chilcott believes this wine “gives a great opportunity to show why Barbaresco is enjoying a good time in the marketplace beside the strong character Barolos.” Labeled as a “super balanced vintage,” 2010 produced Barbaresco possessing great aging potential and displaying “super correspondence between nose and palate.”
On a personal note, the wines from Marchesi di Grésy were the first Piemonte wines my husband and I purchased in 2000. Recently, we opened all three of the winery’s Barbarescos from 1997. Made from grapes from different parts of the same vineyard, each wine maintained its bright, garnet color and had its own distinctive aromas and flavors ranging from red fruits to barnyard and earth. Fifteen years after bottling, the wines are still fabulous representatives of the hot, yet highly regarded vintage. The remaining bottles will contain to develop beautifully over the coming years.
Where to Find Marchesi di Grésy outside of Italy
Marchesi di Grésy’s lovely Langhe wines are sold throughout the world. If you wish to locate the wines in any country except the United States, contact Marchesi di Grésy directly.
Marchesi di Grésy’s USA representative is Dalla Terra of Napa, California. Contact them for assistance in finding these wines in your state.
One of the many amazing things about the women of Piemonte’s wine families is their uncanny ability to multitask. And one of the all-time multi-tasking greats is Mamma Luciana Grasso of Ca’ del Baio’s Grasso family.
With husband Giulio and their three daughters Paola, Valentina and Federica, Luciana runs the winery at their Treiso estate in the Barbaresco denomination.
Her multi-tasking jobs include running the business side of the winery, taking care of the household, tending to two very active granddaughters, Lidia and Anna Deltetto, and now, raising goats as part of her future cheesery.
Never far behind Luciana, is Milo, trusted Jack Russell mix, and Pora. Rocky II has been sent to prison on the winery grounds after raiding the chicken coop.
The most recent two-legged additions to the Grasso family are daughter Paola and son-in-law Carlo Deltetto’s lovely daughters Lidia and Anna Deltetto.
Of course, an army marches on its stomach and at Ca’ del Baio Luciana does a wonderful job keeping everyone’s bellies full and taste buds delighted. Her cuisine was born to pair with the luscious wines of the estate.
Luciana’s biggest contribution to the family’s wellbeing is the love she showers on her family and friends.
In all, she’s a Barbaresco treasure, carrying forward the traditions of the past and linking them to the future.
The 2014 vendemmia (harvest) was just beginning. Nails had been bitten off and nervous eyes were trained on the sky while hands were pressed in prayer. The growing season started well in May, but soon morphed into a cool, wet summer when hot, sunny days interspersed with gentle rains should have been the norm.
What would the autumn bring?
Although Giovanna doesn’t grow any white grapes – a strategy nearby Cantina del Pino’s Renato Vacca shares – those that do were optimistic about the early results of the harvest thanks to late August sunshine and warmth. Now it was on to the diamonds of the vineyards and the most important grape of the region – Nebbiolo.
The Dolcetto was safely in the cellar, so Giovanna and her husband Italo and their boys Davide and Riccardo turned their attention to the noble red and its sister, Barbera Donna Elena.
Join me once again as we follow Giovanna’s diary of the family and their kind friends and guests as they work hard to bring in the precious grapes before Mamma Nature puts an end to Indian Summer in the Langhe.
Nebbiolo Time in Tre Stelle
Wednesday, October 1st
08.30 – Time to pick-up samples in the vineyards for analysis
18.00 – The analysis indicates it’s the right time to start picking the Nebbiolo. Tre Stelle vineyard is normally picked before Barbera and even more so this year because the forecasts were showing bad weather starting from Sunday 5th.
Thursday, October 2nd
Morning: While waiting for the persistent autumn fog to go away, prepared the staff in the cellar then met friend and fellow winemaker Teobaldo Rivella. Afterward, time for a quick lunch with friend and wine journalist, Tom Hyland, who was visiting for a few days for tastings.
13.00 – Finally Giovanna, Italo, Davide and Riccardo start picking Nebbiolo from the Tre Stelle vineyard.
19.10 – Six hours and 10 minutes later, the first section of the vineyard is finished. Davide and Riccardo collected the boxes while Italo prepared the cellar for crushing.
19.45 – Crushing begins with a soft crushing of the first Nebbiolo grapes (20 °C – Babo 21.30)
21.00 – In the cellar, all is finished and cleaned. The must normally macerates for 1-2 day with skins before the sugar fermentation begins. TIME TO PREPARE DINNER!
21.15 – Cascina delle Rose’s Louisiana and Texas importer Greta Corona arrived from her trip to France.
21.30 – Time to eat! Homemade focaccia with Salami and a selection of cheeses. Time for sweet dreams.
Friday, October 3rd
05.45 – The morning dawned with a clear and limpid sky and a chill in the morning air. Today Greta joined for picking, her 6th year to harvest with the family at Cascina delle Rose!
08.10 – Greta, Giovanna, Italo and Davide started with the older Nebbiolo vines of Tre Stelle.
11.00 – The harvest goes on. So happy for the great weather today! Grazie Mamma Nature!
12.15 – Lunch break and time to relax to recharge “the batteries.”
13.35 – Back to the vineyard while Giovanna and Riccardo wait for new guests to arrive.
17.00 – Riccardo gives a tour and tasting for guests.
18.30 – The guys start collecting the boxes with the help of a special driver from Baton Rouge, Louisiana (home of the LSU Tigers!)
19.30 – All the boxes are loaded onto the trailer for the ride back to the cantina!
19.40 – Due to the very warm day, the grapes were not pressed in the evening. After a long, warm day in the sun, now the grapes need to cool down a bit so the full boxes were left on the trailer in the tractor shelter, well-protected from humidity.
21.00 – Dinner of Vitello Tonnato, Pepperoni (cooked in the oven) and ravioli with a bottle of Langhe Nebbiolo and a bottle of Donna Elena Barbera.
Saturday, October 4th
06.15 – Again, not a cloud in the bright sky! Whew!
07.45 – The previous day’s grapes slept well in the protection of the shed and are now ready to be crushed.
08.30 – The grapes look great and healthy. Everyone is very satisfied! (17°C – Babo 21)
09.15 – Time to head back to the old vineyard of Nebbiolo Tre Stelle.
11.50 – The vineyard is finished. The grapes were collected and taken to be crushed immediately. Thanks to the chilly morning temperatures, the grapes were fresh and didn’t need to be cooled like the day before.
12.25 – The must is pressed and sampled. (18°C – Babo 21)
12.50 – Lunchtime break of some panini followed by a much-needed rest.
14.00 – Time to start picking Nebbiolo in the Rio Sordo vineyard. Today in the vineyard are Greta, Giovanna, Italo and Davide as well as Riccardo who was waiting for the agriturismo’s new guests and then conducting a wine tasting for 10 people. The tour and the tasting gives the guests an opportunity to experience the beginning and the end result of the harvest!
19.00 – Time to take the boxes of collected grapes back home to the cantina.
19.40 – Early dinner of the season’s last tomatoes with mayonnaise, pasta with homemade pesto, small chocolate pralines from Cherasco.
21.30 – Davide and Greta left the table for nighttime truffle hunting with Dora and Pippo.
Sunday, 5th October
06.15 – Woke up to clouds and a bit of rain, Mamma Nature’s reminder that autumn will be ending soon.
07.30 – Grey and foggy in the valley. Time to press the Rio Sordo grapes picked yesterday (16°C -Babo 20).
10.30 – The sun came out of hiding and a timid wind dried the grapes. Giovanna and Greta headed out to the Rio Sordo Nebbiolo vineyard that was started yesterday. The boys arrived a little later.
12.30 – Time for the happy group to take a break for food and rest.
13.40 – Back to work! The weather was not so clear, so time to finish the Nebbiolo before the weather changes.
17.40 – The men start moving the boxes of grapes to the cantina.
18.50 – Time to crush the beautiful grapes.
19.30 – Check the new must: Babo 21, great! Davide starts to pump up the Tre Stelle.
20.15 – A well-earned special party evening with some friends – our “sister and brother” Page Elizabeth and Alan – to celebrate Greta’s birthday! Toasts of Champagne and Spumante at home and a big, scrumptious dinner at Osteria Italia in San Rocco Seno d’Elvio. Sadly, this is Greta’s last day at Cascina delle Rose. Tomorrow she will fly back home to Louisiana.
Monday, 6th October
06.30 – Another cloudy and foggy dawn in the valley, but there are many things to check in the cellar, including pumping up.
10.30 – Only Davide and Italo in the Barbera vineyard this morning.
12.30 – Greta is ready to leave, but Giovanna is not ready to see her dear friend go.
Pumping up continues……
13.30 – After a quick salad, it’s time to get back to the vineyard again to pick until evening. The grapes are really beautiful which makes work a little easier….and joyous!
19.10 – Six hours later and the picking is finished. After a really long day, Davide, Riccardo and Italo begin taking the boxes with grapes back to the cantina.
20.30 – All the grapes picked today are finally at home and is time for Davide and Italo to pump up.
22.15 – Finally, it’s dinnertime: pasta al forno and apple cake.
Tuesday, October 7th
07.00 – A cloudy and humid day begins.
07.30 – Time to press 118 boxes, each containing 22 kg (49 lbs) of beautiful, ripe grapes.
08.45 – Pumping up time again.
10.15 – Italo and Davide head out to the Barbera vineyard again.
12.30 – Lunch of tuna and bean salad. Pumping up continues.
13.30 – Riccardo, Italo and Davide continue picking until the rain begins to fall.
15.15 – The rain starts so the workers head home with the trailer to seek protection for the boxes filled with grapes.
16.45 – A new sail in front of the cellar is protecting the work and it is now possible to press.
18.00 – All is complete, but need to continue pumping up some Nebbiolo from Tre Stelle and Rio Sordo!
21.30 – Time for a well-deserved quiet dinner: cotolette alla Milanese and sweet frittini with homemade chips (not the French one; the Italian chips!).
Wednesday, 8th October
06.45 – Cloudy skies, again. More pumping up.
09.00 – A gentle breeze, perfect for drying the grapes, comes up. Italo, Davide, Riccardo and Pietro are working this morning. It’s a nonstop day – a lunch of panini in the vineyards. No rest.
13.30 – Giovanna is pumping up.
15.00 – Great news! Relief! Six hard workers from Norway help to harvest the Donna Elena Barbera! Great friends.
18.30 – The big group of kind, helpful Norwegians return to Cascina delle Rose and our boys pick up 179 boxes (Not only did they help pick the grapes, but Oddrun took the lovely photos).
20.30 – Back home to press.
21.00 – Strong men Jon and Kjell helping to press the grapes. Giovanna’s so grateful!
22.30 – Crushing and pumping up is complete. What’s next? DINNER!
23.30 – Midnight is approaching, so it’s time for a well-deserved dinner.
Thursday, October 9th
06.30 – Finally, clear skies at dawn. Only a light fog in the valley. More pumping up.
08.30 – Back to Donna Elena Barbera and the last vines of Nebbiolo Tre Stelle.
15.40 – Hard to believe, but the harvest is finished! Running (slowly) at home for to press the last grapes of the 2014 harvest
18.00 – Back home, cleaning the clippers.
18.30 – Time to press the last fruit of one year of hard work. Compliments to Davide who did an excellent job!
20.00 – Pumping up. This will continue for the next 8/14 day, until the end of slow, careful fermentation.
Now the Dolcetto is making the second fermentation, malolactic.
23.00 – Something special from Norway: Fantastic salmon and dill sauce (by Simona, Davide’s wife and soon to be a mamma!)
After this, will there be a holiday? No, but thank you for this nice thought! There’s a new vineyard at Cascina delle Rose that needs to be prepared! Work never ends, but it’s so joyous when done with people you love.
P.S. You might be wondering why there are no harvest photos of Giovanna. Good reason, she was taking photos when she was working in the vineyards or at home working with guests and cooking!
Note – Cascina delle Rose is not only home to beautiful wines, but is also one of the region’s first agritusimi. It’s a wonderful place to stay and experience the agrarian culture of this historic wine region.
Cascina delle Rose Strada Rio Sordo, 58 12050 Barbaresco (CN) Italy Tel.+39 0173 638292 / 638322 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
From far away, wine lovers romanticize about the process of making wine. They long to participate in a harvest, to experience the crush of vinous fruit and inhale a winery’s intoxicating, musty odors fermentation creates.
Yes, the transformation of fruit into fermented juice is a magical experience. For those whose connection with wine is primarily the vinous stream from a bottle poured in their homes or at a restaurant, it’s a bit of a fantasy. I urge wine lovers to experience a harvest, since to do so is to understand the high risks, the incredibly difficult, stressful work and the sheer joy that comes with producing wine. In short, it’s an experience that enhances appreciation of the men and women who toil in vineyards and wineries across the globe.
Since the mid-1990s, Giovanna Rizzolio has been welcoming visitors to her agriturismo by the same name. She was one of the first in the Langhe to provide lodging of this type. Soon, some of her guests – particularly Oregonians – began returning to help her bring in the grapes from her 3.6 hectares.
Twenty years later, Giovanna with her husband Italo Sobrino and their two sons, Davide and Riccardo, tend to Cascina delle Rose’s vineyards and make excellent wine below their home and the agriturismo’s rooms. Lots of life happening under one roof on three levels!
Giovanna’s captivating stories of her nonna Beatrice inspired me to begin an odyssey I’m still on: committing to paper many of the stories the Langhe’s and Roero’s strong women. Giovanna’s story is one of courage and unyielding determination in the face of Barbaresco’s patriarchal society buried like the vines deep in Langhe clay.
As the first woman to own and run her own winery in Barbaresco, Giovanna surmounted many obstacles and avoided trapdoors on her climb to success. But today, with her small family Giovanna, has succeeded in garnering accolades for her wines from across the globe.
This year, given the difficult summer growing season – cool and somewhat wet – I asked Giovanna to keep a “day-in-the-life” diary of the harvest. Mamma Natura is smiling on them now, giving them more sun and warmer temperatures. If she continues her generous gift of good weather, the increased hang time for the Nebbiolo grapes will yield a lovely crop from which Giovanna will begin to work magic in her cantina.
Since Cascina delle Rose only produces red wines, their harvest work in the vineyard begins a little later than those wineries with whites, but preparations have been underway to prepare for harvest when the grapes tell them it’s time to head home.
Vendemmia 2014 Begins
Here are the highlights of “harvest week one” that Giovanna shared with me. Much more to come:
Sunday, September 14th
16:00 – We finished sampling Dolcetto grapes from Tre Stelle and Rio Sordo crus.
17:00 – Samples are taken for analysis
Monday, September 15th – The Harvest Begins!
08:00 – The results of the analyses of the Dolcetto grapes arrived. We decided that today is the best day to start the harvest.
08:20 – The 2014 harvest begins with Dolcetto’s Tre Stelle vineyard!
Observation – The weather is great!
12:40 – We need a short lunch break!
13:00 – We return to the vines; the harvest continues.
14:00 – A couple of guests from the Agriturismo join is to experience the harvest
Observation – The afternoon is warm and sunny.
17:30 – We are starting good. Not much more to pick in the old vineyards of Tre Stelle.
18:30 – The vineyard is finished, so not the guys are collecting the boxes.
19:00 – We are preparing the entire staff for crushing process. Some clouds in the sky, but no rain yet.
19:15 – We are now ready to crush the first vineyard harvested in 2014!
20:00 – Crushing is finished. It’s time to sample the must (23°C – Babo 19.10). Not too bad at the end. J
21:00 – The Agriturismo’s guests are all out for dinner, so Giovanna starts cooking: pasta with home ragù and Dolcetto 2012 is on the menu this evening.
Observation – The first day ended with a thunderstorm in the Barolo area. Barbaresco was luckier since no rain arrived. Not so tired. The guys know that the hardest work will arrive within approximately 15 to 20 days when the Barbera and Nebbiolo will be ready to come home.
Note of the day – The grapes – that have very sensitive skins and stems – seem to have suffered a bit in the strange summer. But with no hail and great September weather, they will have a great balance, but sugar level is a little lower than in past years.
Tuesday, September 16th
06:40 – Our day starts early. Lazy Jack has difficulty waking up! J
08:00 – While Giovanna and Riccardo are busy with the Agriturismo’s guests, Davide and Italo start with the Dolcetto’s Rio Sordo vineyard, the only one located just a few meters from home. The guests will join the guys in the vineyard later.
12:20 – Lunch break! A few panini and a tiny bit of relaxing.
12:40 – Back to the Rio Sordo vineyard.
13:00 – Davide’s wife Simona joined us for the harvest.
18:45 – Dolcetto 2014 harvest is ended and the guys will start to collect the boxes of grapes.
19:30 – We are now ready for crushing.
20:10 – Dolcetto crushing is finished and samples done (22°C – Babo 19.80) J!!!!
20:15 – It seems that the Tre Stelle vineyard is wanting to start with fermentation. Maybe tomorrow?
20:30 – Preparing to go out for the evening with Elizabeth Page (Giovanna’s “American sister” – our Dolcetto label is dedicated to her!) and Alan to celebrate his birthday. A totally relaxing evening tonight!
Note of the day: We had great weather. Quite chilly in the early morning, but the day developed very well; 25°C (77°F) in the afternoon.
Wednesday, September 17th
Observation – As expected, Tre Stelle vineyard grapes slowly begin fermentation.
Thursday, September 18th
Observation – The crushed Rio Sordo Dolcetto grapes begin their fermentation. Nice color and a great bouquet are developing. Three times a day, we conduct a soft and long pumping-over.
Stay tuned….much more to come from Cascina delle Rose in Barbaresco!
The Grasso family of Ca’ del Baio, a century-old Barbaresco winery in Treiso, experienced the pain of loss on March 11th with the passing of their patriarch, Ernesto Grasso. Surrounded by the family that loved him dearly, Ernesto passed with the same dignity with which he lived, in the house he built over 5 decades ago.
On that late winter day, the Grasso family’s hearts collectively entered a winter of loss shared by all those who loved Nonno Grasso and the family that always surrounded him with love.Nonno had been in failing health, but he still was able to participate in the winery’s work – including the 2013 harvest – and two years of delightful times with the fourth generation of his family, Lidia Deltetto.
The Legacy of Ca’ del Baio
Ernesto Grasso’s grandfather moved his family of six – including his son Luigi – from Calosso d’Asti to Treiso in 1881. The wine made from the great Asili vineyard in Barbaresco Ernesto’s grandfather acquired as a wedding dowry from his wife’s family is today one of the Barbaresco appellation’s prized treasures.
Immediately after completing his military service during the First World War, Luigi married and founded Ca’ del Baio. Luigi’s wife gave him five children of which the first four were girls. In those days, the patrimonial system made it unthinkable for women to inherit land (what would Luigi say about his three granddaughters working the winery now!). In 1922, Luigi’s prayers for a son were answered with the birth of his youngest child Ernesto.
Throughout the Fascist regime, Ernesto remained a bachelor, a stigma the Fascists branded with a special “bachelor” tax. Ernesto obviously was waiting for the right woman to come along. And she did. In 1956, he married Fiorentina Cortese, the woman with whom he would share the next 58 years of life.
In the 1950s, Ernesto built the family’s home next to the ever-expanding cantina. It was then he stopped selling the family’s prized grapes and began the legacy he passed to his son Giulio – bottling wines under the Ca’ del Baio label. Ernesto and Fiorentina, later joined by Giulio and his family, lived in the house Ernesto built until he passed quietly in his own bed.
The Future is Secure
For some time Giulio has been running the family’s winery, but Ernesto remain engaged in the day-to-day operations and watched with great pride as his three granddaughters – Paolo Grasso Deltetto, Valentina and Federica – took their places with Guilio and their mother Luciana in the winery. How times have changed that the absence of sons as heirs no longer deals a fatal blow to an estate. Thank God, because Ca’ del Baio will live on through the hard work of Giulio and Luciana, and their three daughters!
Soon, Paola and husband Carlo Deltetto’s second child will join sister Lidia in the next generation of the two esteemed wine families. No doubt the knowledge his legacy is in capable hands helped him peacefully join his father to become Ca’ del Baio’s newest guardian angel.
Although I met Nonno Ernesto at the turn of the millennium, I can’t say that I really knew him. We didn’t share a spoken language, but we exchanged knowing smiles that we shared a love of his wonderful family and the wines they produce. I got to see him in the winery, around the tasting and dining tables, playing tug with Rocky II and, best of all, seeing him play with his great granddaughter Lidia.
In March 2013 during a research trip for my book about the women of Piemonte’s wine families, I once again was invited to join the four generations of Grassos around their dining table for lunch. With Lidia in her happy world of pasta on one end and Nonno Ernesto on the other end of the table sitting next to Nonna Fiorentina and two generations of Grassos in between, I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming emotion of joy at being able to share part of their daily routine with them. It’s an indelible image in my memory. Such a privilege to be able to know them as family. So much life happens around Italian dining tables and those snapshots of their life will live inside me forever.
Thank God family togetherness on a daily basis still exists in the hills of the Langhe!
In 2004, my husband Dani met Paola and Valentina Grasso at a Barbaresco tasting in the village by the same name. He was snakebit by the wines and charmed by the knowledge and professionalism of the two young Grasso women. Fast forward 10 years. The three sisters – Paola, Valentina and Federica – work alongside their parents, Giulio and Luciana Grasso.
The Grasso family’s wine growing roots were planted in the 1880s when the family owned the entire prized Asili vineyard outside of Barbaresco. Giulio’s mother and father – Ernesto and Fiorentina – built the house and cantina on the current location in the 1950s. The site’s rich history dates to Napoleon, but you’ll have to wait for my book “Under Discovered Piemonte” for that! Luciana and Giulio represent the fourth generation of Ca’ del Baio – house of the bay horse. Oh yes, there is even a story about the horse! Given women can now work in the wineries – but only in recent decades – the future of Ca’ del Baio is secure in their three capable daughters.
In July 2010, Paola culminated her 7 year courtship with Carlo Deltetto at the alter of the Lady of the Assumption church in Treiso. Carlo is the son of noted Roero winemaker, Antonio (Tonino) and Graziella Deltetto.
The marriage of the two families created a buzz about whether new winery would emerge from their union. However, it seems Carlo and Paola are committed to their own families’ brands. The buzz will no doubt continue now that the two families share the fourth living generation – Lidia Deltetto, born December 17, 2011.
Giulio Grasso is committed to sustainable farming and a respect for the generations of traditions in producing the big nebbiolo wine of the region. The family’s production philosophy can be summed up as follows:
dedicate meticulous attention to each vine, especially during the pruning which is essential to well-balanced plant growth;
allow each single vintage to express its own, different identity;
bring out the genuineness in each wine by intervening as little as possible in the winery;
operate a sensible pricing policy, with no unjustified mark-ups.
Only native yeasts are used in fermentation. Synthetic herbicides and chemical fertilizers were banished from the vineyards many years ago. Only a small amount of sulfur dioxide is added to the wines. Otherwise, it’s just Mother Nature with a little help from Giulio and his daughters responsible for the high quality wines Ca’ del Baio produces.
More information on the family can be found at their informative website noted above.
Nearby Lodgings (less than 5 minutes from winery): Cascina delle Rose (bed and breakfast) – Tre Stelle Agriturismo Il Bricco (bed and breakfast) – Treiso Villa Incanto – Treiso Hotel dei Quattro Vini – Neive
Nearby Restaurants (less than 10 minutes from winery):
Profumo di Vino – Treiso
La Ciau del Tornavento – Treiso
Trattoria Risorgimento – Treiso Osteria Unione – Treiso
Antica Torre – Barbaresco