Tag Archives: Deltetto

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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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!

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