Tag Archives: Ca del Baio

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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LABOR OF LOVE: ENCHANTING READERS EVERYWHERE!

So what has been happening with Labor of Love?
Short answer: A LOT – BOOK LAUNCH!

Mi dispiace! A great deal has been happening and I’ve been quite remiss in updating my blog for my loyal followers. I’m thrilled to say, it’s all been good and getting better for me and for Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte.

Kicking Off Second Printing with Kickstarter

In April 2016, we were wildly successful with our Kickstarter campaign to raise capital for a second printing of the “opera” dedicated to the wine families of Piemonte.

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From Padua with Love

That same month, the Italian shipment of books arrived at Cà del Baio in Treiso (Barbaresco) from Verona Libri’s bindery in Padua in preparation for the June 2nd world premiere of the book.

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Sneak Peek and Love in the Press

Then came a raid on the books stored at Cà del Baio when several Langhe Ladies seized the opportunity to give journalists at Nebbiolo Prima 2016 a sneak peek of Labor of Love. Journalists weren’t the only ones seeing Labor of Love for the first time. As you can see from the video of Barolo vintner Chiara Boschis presenting the book, the Langhe Ladies enjoyed their little public relations coup.

Girl power in Alba during Nebbiolo Prima
Girl power in Alba during Nebbiolo Prima

The word was out and soon the local press was telling everyone about the book and the American woman who wrote it.

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La Repubblica
La Repubblica, June 1, 2016, by Fabiola Palmeri.
“Rehearsal” Supper at Ristorante il Centro

The Cordero family provided me with a gastronomic retreat from the heat and the hectic pace of interviews over the three-year odyssey to research Labor of Love. It seemed fitting that their restaurant in the Roero town of Priocca d’Alba would be the venue for our gathering of out of town friends and family the night before the book launch at Cà del Baio, not unlike the rehearsal celebration the night before a wedding.

Since I was like a deer caught in the headlights and not focusing on photography or notes that night, I am grateful to Claudia Kiely for her photographs she shared with me and to Keith Edwards and his wife, Parlo, for being attentive guests who help record the evening’s food, wine, and images. Check out Keith’s lovely post on his blog, Mise en Abyme. 

Ristorante il Centro in the center of the Roero town of Priocca d'Alba.
Ristorante il Centro in the center of the Roero town of Priocca d’Alba.
Elide Cordero, chef and co-owner of Il Centro.
Elide Cordero, chef and co-owner of Il Centro.
Stairs to one of the most intriguing restaurant wine cellars in Roero.
Stairs to one of the most intriguing restaurant wine cellars in Roero for our aperitivo.
Il Centro wine cellar.
Il Centro wine cellar.
Marchesi di Grésy cellar master, Jeffrey Chilcott, sharing his vast knowledge of Piemonte and its wine and food with Rusty and Susan Richardson and Bruce Kiely.
Marchesi di Grésy cellar master, Jeffrey Chilcott, sharing his vast knowledge of Piemonte and its wine and food with Rusty and Susan Richardson and Bruce Kiely.
Smoked sturgeon with tarragon and anchovy sauce.
Smoked sturgeon with tarragon and anchovy sauce.
Veal leg with cooked under salt served with a dollop of Cavour sauce
Veal leg with cooked under salt served with a dollop of Cavour sauce
Lumache (snails)
Lumache (snails)
Not a snail person? No problem. There was a delicious quail dish as an option. I had snails!
Not a snail person? No problem. There was a delicious quail dish as an option. I had snails!
Ravioli stuffed with pork ribs
Ravioli stuffed with pork rib meat.
Oven roasted lamb shank
Oven roasted lamb shank
Mascarpone cream with coffee gelato
Mascarpone cream with coffee gelato

Of course, I couldn’t let the evening go by without presenting dear Elide with a copy of my book.

Giampiero, Elide, and Enrico Cordero with Suzanne after yet another gastronomic feast at il Centro.
Giampiero, Elide, and Enrico Cordero with Suzanne after yet another gastronomic feast at il Centro.
Launching “Labor of Love” into the World

Finally came the world premiere of Labor of Love at Cà del Baio in Treiso on June 2, 2016. Rain failed to dampen everyone’s spirits. In fact, the inclement weather necessitated a change in the seating arrangement to a “theatre in the round.” It was an intimate setting for an emotional presentation.

Members of 20 of the Labor of Love families, other wine producers, friends, dignitaries, and our guests from America, Israel, and Switzerland, including my editor Elatia Harris (whom I was meeting for the first time ever), gathered around, protected from the rain. Wine producer, historian, and author Maurizio Rosso of Cantina Gigi Rosso introduced the book in Italian. With her own wit and infectious laugh, my dear friend and Barolo vintner Chiara Boschis translated for the Anglophone guests in the audience.

I began by introducing Alberto di Grésy, proprietor of the highly respected Barbaresco winery Marchesi di Grésy whose words are the first of the book:

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Suzanne e altri
Suzanne Hoffman with Labor of Love photographer Pierangelo Vacchetto (center) and Alberto di Grésy of the Barbaresco winery Marchesi di Grésy (and that’s dear, sweet Aunt Angela Scavino speaking with Silvia Altare on the left).

Then, fighting the emotion that had been building for three years, I introduced each of the 22 families. I’m told there were no dry eyes in the audience.

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Teresa Vacchetto, Suzanne Hoffman, Pierangelo Vacchetto, and Maurizio Rosso of Cantina Gigi Rosso at the launch of Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte.
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Suzanne Hoffman (right) with my trusted translator, Barolo vintner Chiara Boschis, listening intently to Maurizio Rosso’s introduction at the launch of Labor of Love.
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!
Labor of Love at Castello di Monticello

Three days later on June 5th, at the Castello di Monticello in Roero, was the subject of an interesting panel discussion that focused on my motivation to write the book, why I chose these particular families, and, oddly enough, which wines from the region are my favorite. I’ll save that answer for another post! The Labor of Love photographic family trio of Pierangelo Vacchetto and two of his children Elisabetta and Eugenio, organized the event in the historic landmark.

Contessa Elisa Roero di Monticello graciously hosted us with Silvio Artusio Comba, mayor of Monticello, Giancarlo Montaldo, Carlo Passone, and my dear friend and translator for the event, Barolo vintner Chiara Boschis for the panel discussion about Labor of Love. 

ROERO EVENT

Castello di Monticello, ancestral home of the aristocratic Roero family.
Castello di Monticello, ancestral home of the aristocratic Roero family.

Once again, many of the wine families in Labor of Love attended to lend their support. Now all 22 had shown their enthusiastic support of the book at an event.

Contessa Elisa
(L-R) Silvio Artusio Comba, mayor of Monticello, Suzanne Hoffman, Contessa Elisa Roero di Monticello, and Labor of Love photographer Pierangelo Vacchetto.
Barolo vintner, dear friend, and excellent translator Chiara Boschis and Suzanne.
Barolo vintner, dear friend, and excellent translator Chiara Boschis and Suzanne.
(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.
Saying Good-Bye

Of course, I couldn’t say good-bye to the ladies of Labor of Love without our traditional feast together. This year, the ladies took Dani and me to the La Morra dining oasis Ristorante Bovio. 

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(Back Row: L-R) Maria Teresa Mascarello, Marina Macarino, Elisa Scavino, Daniela Rocca, Isabella Oddero, Francesca Vaira, Silvia Altare, and on the front row, Marta Rinaldi and Suzanne.
Labor of Love Comes to America

Soon it was time to head back to the United States to receive the shipment of 1,200 books from Verona Libri and to launch Labor of Love in the United States.

Almost there...
Almost there…
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Holding the baby!
Welcome to Colorado, Labor of Love!
Welcome to Colorado, Labor of Love!

I wasted no time in delivering books to the Bookworm of Edwards, the venue for the U.S. launch, and giving the very first book out of the U.S. shipment to Alisha and Giuseppe Bosco. Alisha has three photos credited in the book and she and Giuseppe have been incredibly supportive throughout my labor of love odyssey.

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Alisha and Giuseppe Bosco with Suzanne Hoffman (center) at Zino Ristorante in Edwards.
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Cafe and independent bookstore The Bookworm of Edwards – first delivery and venue of Labor of Love’s USA launch on July 7th, 2016.
Sending Labor of Love to Kickstarter backers!
Sending Labor of Love to Kickstarter backers!
Reviews!

Elisa Pesce who writes the delightful blog Uncorkventional attended the launch in Treiso. About three weeks later I discovered her beautiful post that gave me a chance to relive that emotional day when the wine families of Labor of Love experienced the book for the first time.

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Thank you, Elisa, for this lovely ending to your post:

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One of the biggest challenges for independent authors is getting their books on the radar of journalists to review it. Fortunately,   Giancarlo Montaldo witnessed firsthand the love the families of Labor of Love had for the book and he published my first newspaper review — a lovely, positive one — in the Gazzetta d’Alba.

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So who will be next to review my opera?

What’s Next? LAUNCHING IN AMERICA!

The Bookworm in Edwards, a vibrant independent bookstore and cafe in the Riverwalk complex along the Eagle River, frequently hosts author events. They are very welcoming and supportive of new authors, particularly those from Colorado. They graciously invited me to present Labor of Love for the first time in the United States on Thursday, July 7th.

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And more events to come in Denver, San Francisco, and beyond!

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Where can I find Labor of Love?

Labor of Love will be available at the Bookworm in Edwards, through many wine shops and restaurants, and in August, Amazon. To find out how you can obtain this groundbreaking book the Piemontese wine families have embraced, contact Suzanne Hoffman at suzanne@winefamilies.com.

Window of Zanoletti bookstore in Alba, Italy.
Window of Zanoletti bookstore in Alba, Italy.

LABOR OF LOVE – Barbaresco Families

 

Twelve hour days, seven days a week over the last two months slowed me down a bit in keeping my loyal readers apprised of the final stages of writing and producing my first book. It’s time to announce the Labor of Love Barbaresco families that were so gracious to open up their lives to me. Barbaresco – specifically at Cà del Baio in Treiso – is where “Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte” will launch on June 2, 2016.

On February 19, the photographs, primarily from Pierangelo Vacchetto and his daughter, Elisabetta, and son, Eugenio, traveled through cyberspace to Verona, Italy where VeronaLibri will begin the process of preparing the photos for print. Now comes the final, nerve-wracking days of the last proofreading, fact-checking, and lots of prayers before designer Cindi Yaklich of Epicenter Creative in Boulder, Colorado, hits the button to send the completely designed 9.25″ x 11.5″ (23.5 cm x 29 cm), 320 page book to Verona.

In addition to the six families below, I would like to thank Marchese Alberto di Grésy and cellar master Jeffrey Chilcott of Marchesi di Grésy in Barbaresco, Renato Vacca and his father, Adriano, of Cantina del Pino in Barbaresco, Aldo Vacca of Produttori del Barbaresco, and Andrea Sottimano of Barbaresco for their kindness, invaluable guidance and resources.

So, without further delay, here are the six Barbaresco families in Labor of Love:

Cà del Baio (Giulio and Luciana Grasso family)
Treiso

Giulio and Luciana Grasso bottling their precious Barbaresco Valgrande with two of their three daughters Federica and Valentina.
Giulio and Luciana Grasso bottling their precious Barbaresco Valgrande with two of their three daughters Federica and Valentina. Photo credit: Elisabetta Vacchetto

 

Albino Rocca
Barbaresco

Albino Rocca with his granddaughters (L-R) Paola, Monica, and Daniela.
Albino Rocca with his granddaughters (L-R) Paola, Monica, and Daniela. Photo credit: Vacchetto

 

Punset (Marina Marcarino)
Neive

Marina Marcarino of Punset.
Marina Marcarino of Punset with Giuggliola (the star of Marina’s cat family)  at sunset in Neive in January 2016. Photo credit: Vacchetto

 

Cascina delle Rose (Giovanna Rizzolio)
Barbaresco

Giovanna Rizzolio and husband, Italo Sobrino (rear), with their sons Davide and Riccardo.
Giovanna Rizzolio and husband, Italo Sobrino (rear), with their sons Davide and Riccardo. Photo credit: Vacchetto

 

Gaja 
Barbaresco

(L-R) Lucia, Gaia, Angelo, Rossana, and Giovanni Gaja on via Torino in Barbaresco. Photo credit: Andrea Wyner
(L-R) Lucia, Gaia, Angelo, Rossana, and Giovanni Gaja on via Torino in Barbaresco. Photo credit: Andrea Wyner

 

Cigliuti
Neive

Renato and Dina Cigliuti with daughters, Claudia and Silvia, and Claudia's daughter, Giulia (left).
Renato and Dina Cigliuti with daughters, Claudia and Silvia, and Claudia’s daughter, Giulia (left). Photo credit: Vacchetto

Buon compleanno, Mamma Luciana!

Mamma Luciana

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.

Luciana Grasso and her canine companions Pora (left) and Milo in the Moscato vineyard during vendemmia 2014.
Luciana Grasso and her canine companions Pora (left) and Milo in the Moscato vineyard during vendemmia 2014.

With husband Giulio and their three daughters Paola, Valentina and Federica, Luciana runs the winery at their Treiso estate in the Barbaresco denomination.

Partners in wine and life, Luciana and Giulio Grasso.
Partners in wine and life, Luciana and Giulio Grasso.
Giulio and Luciana Grasso with daughters Valentina, Paola and Federica (left to right), Rocky I and Milo (in Luciana's arms)
Giulio and Luciana Grasso with daughters Valentina, Paola and Federica (left to right)

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.

Luciana's granddaughter, Lidia Deltetto, with Luciana's newest addition to her menagerie - goats.
Luciana’s granddaughter, Lidia Deltetto, with Luciana’s newest addition to her menagerie – goats.

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.

Milo Grasso, Luciana's trusted constant companion and guardian.
Milo Grasso, Luciana’s trusted constant companion and guardian.

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.

Luciana's son-in-law Carlo Deltetto with his two daughters, Lidia and infant Anna.
Luciana’s son-in-law Carlo Deltetto with his two daughters, Lidia and infant Anna.

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 in her kitchen. Like the saying, "Don't mess with Texas," Luciana is a fierce protector of her brood. But a very cheerful one. Walk softly and carry a huge knife!
Luciana in her kitchen. Like the saying, “Don’t mess with Texas,” Luciana is a fierce protector of her brood. But a very cheerful one. Walk softly and carry a huge knife!

Luciana’s biggest contribution to the family’s wellbeing is the love she showers on her family and friends.

Luciana and my husband Dani, surrounded by family and friends in the winery's tasting room, celebrating their birthdays together in 2008.
Luciana and my husband Dani, surrounded by family and friends in the winery’s tasting room, celebrating their birthdays together in 2008.

In all, she’s a Barbaresco treasure, carrying forward the traditions of the past and linking them to the future.

Luciana and Giulio Grasso with four generations of Grassos in the Ca' del Baio tasting room.
Luciana and Giulio Grasso with four generations of Grassos in the Ca’ del Baio tasting room.
My husband Dani and me (right, back row) enjoying a great evening with our two adopted families - Grasso and Deltetto.
My husband Dani and me (right, back row) enjoying a great evening with our two adopted Piemontese families – Grasso and Deltetto. That’s Luciana and Giulio in the center.

Buon compleanno, cara Luciana!

Passing of Ca’ del Baio’s Beloved Patriarch

Ernesto Grasso – 1922 – 2014

Fiorentina and Ernesto Grasso
Fiorentina and Ernesto Grasso

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. 

Sign of the noble vineyard of Valgrande, a great Barbaresco produced by the Grasso family of Ca' del Baio.
Sign of the noble vineyard of Valgrande, a great Barbaresco produced by the Grasso family of Ca’ del Baio.

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!

Three generations of Grasso winemakers - Giulio, his father Ernesto and Paola Deltetto Grasso (in the back)
Three generations of Grasso winemakers – Giulio, his father Ernesto and Paola Deltetto Grasso (in the back) – Photo courtesy of Valerie Quintanilla
Four generations of the Grasso Family in the winery's tasting room.
Four generations of the Grasso Family in the winery’s tasting room.

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.

My Thoughts

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.

Ernesto Grasso enjoying a game of tug with Rocky II
Ernesto Grasso enjoying a game of tug with Rocky II

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!

Lidia Deltetto enjoying her pasta at lunch with three other generations of Grassos
Lidia Deltetto enjoying her pasta at lunch with three other generations of Grassos
Nonno Grasso and the ever-loyal Ca' del Baio winery dog, Milo.
Nonno Grasso and the ever-loyal Ca’ del Baio winery dog, Milo.

 

Piemonte – Early 2013 Harvest Report

On both this blog and suziknowsbest.com, I strive to include valuable content from talented bloggers and experts.  Wine expert, blogger and fellow Piemonte-phile, Valerie Quintanilla of GirlsGottaDrink.com, is someone whose witty and informative narrative style is a delight to include on Winefamilies.

It’s the vendemmia (harvest) in Northern Hemisphere vineyards.  And one of my favorite Northern Hemisphere wine regions is Piemonte.  Valerie lives in Alba – I’m jealous – deep in the heart of Piemonte’s hills.  So since she’s there and I’m in snowy Colorado, she penned an overview at the ongoing vineyard activity in the Langhe and Roero regions of Piemonte for my readers.

With my own glass of Barbera d’Alba Superiore from G. D. Vajra in hand, I’m about to hit the “publish button.”  I hope you will grab your favorite Piemontese wine (or try out some of Valerie’s wonderful suggestions below) as you take an armchair journey to the autumnal vineyards of Piemonte.  I know you will enjoy it.  And we still have the Nebbiolo harvest to go!

Valerie Quintanella doing what readers should do when taking this armchair harvest trip to Piemonte
Valerie Quintanilla doing what readers should do when taking this armchair harvest trip to Piemonte

Piedmont Harvest 2013 Report: Early October
By Valerie Quintanilla

The 2013 Piedmont Harvest has the makings of a good year!  But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  We still have a few weeks to go and as different producers have told me, rain in the last few weeks can change everything.

Mother Nature’s insistence that late winter and spring should be cold and rainy in Piemonte (and many other wine regions such as Napa and Valais) made vintners as gloomy as the weather.  In Piemonte, bud burst was on average two weeks late and the vines struggled in the cold, wet weather.  Finally, in mid-June the sun came out and the vines sprung into action producing what looks to be beautiful fruit.

Better late than never! Early July grapes on the vine at Malvira in Roero.
Better late than never! Early July grapes on the vine at Malvira in Roero.

With harvest well underway, the first grapes picked were whites: Moscato, Chardonnay, and Favorita. From there, it moved to Arneis (also white), and Dolcetto, kicking off the reds. Barbera harvest has started in some areas, but not all. It depends on the location and the producer.

Autumn colors of the vineyards around Treiso in Barbaresco appellation.
Autumn colors of the vineyards around Treiso in Barbaresco appellation.

All around, the vibe is that the grapes are showing good quality, and good quantity. The lack of rain means these healthy grapes are maturing well with no mold issues and good air circulation.

Over the past month, I visited various producers and took notes on the 2013 Piedmont Harvest:

Cascina Bruciata
Zone: Barbaresco
Annual Production: 80,000 – 90,000 bottles

During a visit with winemaker Francesco Baravalle in mid-September, he praised the healthiness of the grapes thanks to wind cooperation and dry conditions. Francesco said the 2013 Piedmont Harvest will be slow, similar to 2010, which suggests a classic vintage.  Though, he cautioned that rainy conditions could change things.

Azienda Agricola Deltetto
Zone: Roero
Annual Production: 170,000 bottles

On Saturday, September 27th, Carlo Deltetto explained that harvest normally starts the second week of September.  However, the 2013 Piedmont Harvest didn’t kick off till September 20th.  By the 27th, they were halfway done with Arneis and Favorita (both white grapes).Carlo

Carlos’ take on the vintage is that nothing strange is happening.  The grapes are good quality and quantity.  The Pinot Noir (which the winery uses for its methode champanoise Spumante) looks fantastic. The Arneis is coming in very fruity thanks to the weather conditions – not too warm, which preserves freshness (tip: put 2013 Arneis San Michele on your list, based on this, it’s bound to be a beauty). The Nebbiolo also looks good.

Barrel room at Deltetto in Canale
Barrel room at Deltetto in Canale

Moccagotta
Zone: Barbaresco
Annual Production: 60,000 – 65,000 bottles

On Wednesday, October 2nd, winemaker Martina Minuto explained that green harvest helps a great deal on time in the vineyards in terms of labor and also helps with grape health and maturation. Green harvest generally takes place around veraison when the grapes begin to ripen, changing from green to purple.  Producers prune the least desirable grapes, making way for better nutrients and maturation for the best bunches.

Martina Murito of Moccagatta.
Martina Minuto of Moccagatta.

Moccagotta started the Chardonnay harvest on September 23rd and finished in two days. Dolcetto was next, taking 1.5 days.  On October 2nd, they were taking Nebbiolo samples from the vineyards to check the progress of the grapes.  Martina said if the weather is sunny, they would likely harvest Barbera the week of October 7th.

Azienda Agricola Ca’ del Baio
Zone: Barbaresco
Annual Production: 120,000 bottles

ca del baio sign

On Thursday, October 3rd, the youngest of the three Grasso sisters, Federica, told us they were expecting to harvest Riesling the following day.  She updated me that the grapes look really good with good alcohol degrees, which means great wine. Takeaway: Get yourself a bottle of Ca’ del Baio’s 2013 Riesling.  Weather permitting, the Grassos anticipate harvesting Barbera the week of October 7th.  Federica echoed the sentiments of other producers: the grapes are healthy, good quality and good quantity.

Three generations of Grassos in the bottling room at Ca' del Baio (left to right: Giullio, his father Ernesto, Paola Grasso Deltetto (background) and Federica)
Three generations of Grassos in the bottling room at Ca’ del Baio (left to right: Giulio, his father Ernesto, Paola Grasso Deltetto (background) and Federica Grasso)

 Mid-Harvest Conclusion……

Overall, it’s looking like we are in for a classic 2013 Piedmont vintage.  If the weather continues as it has, that means the Barbaresco and Barolos will show great structure, will be well-balanced, and will develop well in the bottle for decades.  Bottom line – 2013 should be a vintage to lay down.

Grapes today....wine tomorrow (or a little later)
Grapes today….wine tomorrow (or a little later)

Be on the lookout for another 2013 Piedmont Harvest Report as Nebbiolo harvest kicks off!

About Valerie Quintanilla

One of Italy’s newest expats, Valerie has taken up residence in the beautiful hills of Piedmont, Italy. Follow her wine, food, and travel adventures on her blog, GirlsGottaDrink.com, on Twitter @Valeriekq and on Instagram.

Ca’ del Baio

Ca’ del Baio
Trieso
http://www.cadelbaio.com

Four generations of the Grasso Family in the winery's tasting room.
Four generations of the Grasso Family in the winery’s tasting room.

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.

Carlo Deltetto and Paola Grasso
Carlo Deltetto and Paola Grasso

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.

Lidia Deltetto and Ca' del Baio winery dogs, Rocky II and Milo
Lidia Deltetto and Ca’ del Baio winery dogs, Rocky II and Milo

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.

Valgrande vineyards
Valgrande vineyards

More information on the family can be found at their informative website noted above.

Portfolio:

Barbaresco Asili
Barbaresco Valgrande
Barbaresco Pora
Barbaresco Marcarini
Langhe Nebbiolo Bric del Baio
Langhe Nebbiolo
Dolcetto d’Alba Lodoli
Barbera d’Alba Paolina
Langhe Chardonnay Luna d’agosto
Langhe Chardonnay Sermine
Langhe Riesling
Moscato d’Asti 101

Winery tours:
By appointment only.  

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

Treiso with the Cottian Alps (Italy's western border with France) in the distance. by Robert Alexander
Treiso with the Cottian Alps (Italy’s western border with France) in the distance.
Photo Credit: Robert Alexander