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.
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!