As I was flipping through photographs from my book, Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte,I recalled how those beautiful mother-daughter relationships in Piemonte’s wine country motivated me during my labor of love. So I thought I’d share some photos from my files of wonderful mothers of Piemonte.
A groundbreaking book about generations of inspiring women in 22 Piemontese wine families coming
into their own as vintners and leaders
I am Suzanne Hoffman, the author Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte, a book unlike any ever written about wine families. I tell the hidden stories of the women of 22 wine families rooted for generations in the Italian wine region of Piemonte. Whether famous the world over or known only within Italy, each family is rich in history. Wine family women in Piemonte are stepping out of the shadows as owners and vintners, undreamt of a generation ago. And how that came to be is a story I have held in sacred trust…until now.
Who am I to write this book?
I love food. I adore wine. I am Sicilian on my mother’s side. I was born and raised in the rich gastronomic culture of south Louisiana as a member of the third generation of a vibrant, loving Sicilian family of immigrants. Being Sicilian means knowing and craving tradition – in wine, in food, and in anything to do with the family. From the moment I first set foot in Italy in 1975, I’ve been on a very natural path to becoming a wine family expert. It has taken many years.
“With her sensibility and passion, Suzanne has slowly come ever closer to our culture and has absorbed its intimate values. Only the completion of this wonderful book will contribute to the legacy of female culture in the millennia-long history of Italian civilization.” ~ Maurizio Rosso, author, historian, and owner, Cantina Gigi Rosso (Barolo)
It could have been an opera; it could have been a novel…
I lived and worked in Switzerland for 20 years. Traveling the short distance to the Langhe, Roero, and Monferrato regions of Piemonte pulled me into another world that I instinctively understood and felt as though I belonged to. I heard stories drawing me into an immense 19th century novel of sacrifice, joy, loss, and triumph.
The lives of these families – some aristocratic, some rising from abject poverty – were worthy of great Italian opera plots. All the while I was witnessing a tremendously moving process – an agrarian society coping with seismic change.
The shedding of societal norms that kept women in the shadows – queens in their houses, but serfs in the wineries and vineyards – meant that wine family women could now share control of their families’ patrimonies, and take a firm hand in shaping their own destinies. Daughters began to take the reins of some of the most famous wine brands in the region, unimaginable only a few decades ago. To see an entire generation of women rapidly striding into the forecourt of the region’s lifeblood industry awed me.
Oh, my – I felt such urgency to tell the story of this transformation, and to tell it as the wine families themselves experienced it. Time was of the essence. Many patriarchs and matriarchs were approaching their 90th year. Would I tell their stories in time for them to read the book?
The first wine family women to inspire me to write Labor of Love were Giovanna Rizzolio of Cascina delle Rose in Barbaresco, and her late grandmother Beatrice Rizzolio. The stories of many other women and their families soon captivated me. You can see why they are special.
Beatrice Rizzolio faced down Nazis during the German occupation and is memorialized in the garden of the Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. Yet few, outside the family know of her heroism. I happened to see photos of her in various stages of her life, and asked for the story of the woman with infinite gravitas. That’s how I came to know her. This was a woman who never had a moment’s trouble knowing the right thing to do, even when doing it might have cost her everything.
Beatrice’s granddaughter Giovanna Rizzolio overcame societal scorn as she, a single woman, struggled to build a successful winery in her family’s ancestral country house in Barbaresco. She was alone, she had few allies, and many saboteurs. Her wine is internationally recognized and her life has blossomed as she never thought it would.
To the west in Barolo, the very young Chiara Boschis convinced her father to purchase a winery after a centuries-old farming family ran out of male heirs in 1981. Today, the gutsy, beloved woman who never spent a day as an oenology student is one of Barolo’s most notable winemakers – male or female.
Isabella Oddero of Poderi e Cantine Oddero originally chose a career in international marketing, far away from her family’s generations-old winery in Barolo.
But the deep instinct that keeps Piemontese families together brought her back to help save and contribute to the patrimony that generations of her grandmothers had helped to create. Family, wine, land: the youngest, like Isabella, hear the call as plainly as their ancestors did.
These women, their Piemontese sisters — and the men and children in their lives — are real people who want you to know where they came from and who they are. What began as a modest effort to write about the families I knew best exploded into an odyssey of over 200 hours of interviews and countless email exchanges with members of 22 families. I was given access to private histories, family photos, and I was given trust – most precious of all.
“This book IS a labor of love, for the author and her subjects. You can sense it on every page. But most of all, this book records the spirit of what fuels wine. It’s an essential contribution that helps to fill the gaps in the history of wine. It’s essential, especially, for those of us who love what wine brings to our lives.” ~ Cathy Huyghe, wine industry journalist and author of “Hungry for Wine: Seeing the World Through the Lens of a Wine Glass”
“Thank you for your incredible work. I can really feel your love for the story of our region. We could not ask for more.” ~ Isabella Boffa Oddero, Poderi e Cantine Oddero
My determination to share these stories with the world before more of the wine family elders died drove me to create my own publishing company. The slow machinations of traditional publishing were not for me. Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte is the flagship publication of Under Discovered Publishing LLC in Vail, Colorado. The stories of wine families across the world are still to be told and Under Discovered will produce them.
Labor of Lovewill be a beautiful 9-1/4” x 11-1/2” (23.5 cm x 29 cm), 320-page hardcover, jacketed book containing 22 chapters about the wine families, plus an introductory chapter on Giulia Colbert Falletti, the Marchesa di Barolo, considered to be the mother of modern day Barolo wine. It will look like a coffee table book, but read like a novel. The chapters were written to be read independently, but will captivate readers such that they may find it hard to put down this treasure.
Each chapter begins with a genealogy of the family to provide a generational roadmap for the reader, particularly useful for those families with more than eight generations on the land they now farm.
The chapters, based on interviews I conducted with families and individuals, are beautifully designed to draw readers into this special world – a centuries-old agrarian life committed to family and land and wine.
The book is filled with vibrant, captivating color photographs of landscapes and family members…
…and family photos from generations past
Each chapter ends with an overview of the family’s winery to give readers a feel for the size, age, and location of each winery.
My Stalwart Team
Independently publishing a book of this magnitude and superb quality – worthy of the families who placed their sacred trust in me – required that I assemble a team of high-caliber editorial and design professionals.
PHOTOGRAPHERS: In the final year of Labor of Love’s development, my trio of photographers from Alba, Italy, in the heart of Piemonte – Pierangelo Vacchetto and his daughter, Elisabetta, and son, Eugenio, all Piemontesi themselves – traveled about the Langhe, Roero, and Monferrato wine producing areas to capture real life photographs of the 22 wine families.
EDITOR: Elatia Harris, my developmental and conceptual editor, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is a writer and editor with a long list not only of publications about food and culture but also of satisfied clients, including myself.
COPY EDITOR: Jody Berman of Berman Editorial in Boulder, Colorado, an editor, writer, proofreader, and publishing consultant, performed the final copyediting of Labor of Love.
DESIGNER: Cindi Yaklich of Epicenter Creative in Boulder, Colorado, put her more than 30 years of experience to work designing the entire book. Her front cover design is a mesmerizing representation of the love and tenderness inherent in the hard work done by the wine family women in their vineyards.
And what will readers get for my labor of love?
Do you know families who live far, far away, making their living from the land in a remote and beautiful place? Making one of civilization’s highest gifts, vintage after vintage, for hundreds of years? Have you listened to the voices of women reared in tradition as they assume leadership and experience their power for the very first time?Labor of Love delivers these behind-the-label stories, in the words of wine family members who have lived the life up to now known to so few. There is harsh labor, there is a far-seeing vision, and there is splendor in stories like these.
How Clotilde Rey, the mountain village schoolteacher, understood finance and risk, and became a revered Gaja matriarch
How Carla Oddero, the pharmacist, made years of real estate investments to bless her family with cru vineyards
How La Mej, a gutsy young woman from Canale who started working as a child of nine, lifted her family from deep rural poverty and created a winery that her descendants run today as Monchiero Carbone
How Super Nonno, the patriarch of the Grasso family of Cà del Baio, inspired his three adoring granddaughters to join the family winery
How Cornelia Cigliuti chased pesky chickens in her vineyards, making a diversion to save her family and partisans they protected from the Black Shirt fascists on the Bricco di Neive.
You can see the unique and characteristic stories emerging from my labor of love. You can feel my sense of mission. As I write this very day, Piemonte wine families are taking the night watch to keep the caterpillars from destroying the tender buds on their vines. Their labor never ends.
Bringing my labor to life
Printing and binding, the next step in bringing Labor of Love to life, is now in the hands of VeronaLibri, a leading printer of art and museum books based in Verona, Italy, a city where books were first published over 500 years ago. The first printing is 2,000 copies. An additional 1,000 copies may be ordered shortly after publication.
The publication date of Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte is set for June 2, 2016, in Barbaresco, Italy.
Want to support the next step of bringing these wonderful stories to a wider audience across the globe? Go to my Kickstarter project page and check out the great rewards available to supporters, including books (free shipping and reduced prices available in US and Italy, respectively), unique items featuring the copyrighted cover art, and exclusive Piemontese wine family experiences.
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.
Another week has gone by and the release date for Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte has inched ever closer.
This week I’d like to introduce you to the four fascinating Roero wine families who shared with me their family histories and their stories of love, tragedy and triumph. There are still many more stories to discover in the land of Arneis, Nebbiolo, Rocche and the masche(wicked witches of the forests) that lies north of the Tanaro River from the Langhe.
Roero, my friends, is not poor relative of the Langhe. It is a rich, vibrant region waiting to beguile the most diehard Langhe-phile! All you have to do is cross the bridge and explore.
What a great week it has been for my upcoming book, “Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte.”
I’m not surprised to see so much interest in the stories of the families behind the bottles of wines from the Langhe, Monferrato and Roero regions of Piemonte. My book includes stories from 22 wine families – some very famous, some not, but all wonderful examples of the passion and courage it has taken over the centuries to turn this special part of Italy into one of the most notable wine regions in the world. I loved hearing stories their stories – and still do – and found it such a privileged to be trusted with telling them.
I recognize Piemonte is one of the largest regions of Italy and these are but three of the wine zones, but this is merely the beginning of my discovery and the telling of these stories. In addition to these three zones, Alto Piemonte and Gavi are brimming with stories. And that’s just Piemonte’s wine country. Wherever there is a wine family, there are stories.
My hope with “Labor of Love” is that my curiosity and prodding will inspire other families to begin their own exploration and preserve these precious stories that hold in them the traditions that have kept this region alive for generations.
I embarked on my labor of love odyssey intending to interview, research and write about 10 families in Roero and Langhe, the two places I knew best in Piemonte. That was March 2013. By the time I returned to Italy in June, the list had grown. In June 2015, when I finished the last of well-over 100 hours of interviews, I had the stories of 22 wine families of Langhe, Roero and Monferrato – plus a little something from Alto Piemonte – to share with the world.
Thousands of emails and countless hours since March 2013, when the clock struck midnight on December 31, 2015, my writing was finished. Now it’s time to introduce those I have carried with me day and night in my heart for nearly three years.
The Barolo Wine Families
The women of Barolo and their families who will come alive in ways Piemontephiles never expected are:
Coming soon! Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte Suzanne Hoffman Foreword by Maurizio Rosso Release date: June 2, 2016 Treiso (Barbaresco), Italy Conceived in Italy
Publisher: Under Discovered LLC, Vail, CO Editor: Elatia Harris Designer: Cindi Yaklich, Epicenter Creative
Copy Editor: Jody Berman, Berman Editorial
Eugenio Vacchetto Printer: VeronaLibri, Verona, Italy
Suzanne’s Journey on a Road Not Taken
In November 1999, my Piemontese odyssey in Italy’s Northwest began. Over 20 trips and 14 years later, on March 19, 2013, I arrived for a different reason. Now my purpose wasn’t to drink and eat as though Bacchus himself was my guide. This time it was to travel a road not taken. I was writing a book. This was the first of many trips to interview wine families I had known for years and many I met because of this project.
Writing was not a foreign experience for me – not as an attorney, nor as a journalist – but this was my first book. It was one I was driven to write as the desire to commit to paper the images and words of Piemonte’s wine family women – and their men – burned in my soul.
Life planted the seeds for this venture shortly after the summer of 2005 when I lost my mother, my companion along with Otis, my Miniature Schnauzer who traveled with us on that first trip to Piemonte in 1999.
These were difficult days for me. I yearned for a closer bond with the wine families we had come to know, particularly the women who nurtured those lives. My grandmother, Frances Castrogiovanni Manale, had been my family’s strong connection and, although she had been gone for over 30 years, I felt her presence when I listened to stories the wine families shared with me.
The wine families are linked to one another through their traditions, their land and the labor of love they share. The generational links are the women, particularly the grandmothers. In the words of Nuto Revelli, revered Italian author, they are “l’anelloforte” (the strong ring). They keep traditions and stories alive. They nurture the future of the family.
To me, the wine families represented constancy, familial love and a strong connection to place. To hear their stories about their grandmothers – many of whom lived centuries ago – was once again to be in my own grandmother’s kitchen in New Orleans. To smell her Sicilian cooking. To feel her soft, peaches and cream skin as she hugged me. I needed that, and more. Perhaps deepening my connections with them through my own labor of love could help me heal my wounds of loss. Grandmothers, even if they are someone else’s, always make us feel better.
Now, after nearly three years of countless emails and over 100 hours of interviews over wine tastings, delicious meals and walks through vineyards and cellars, my book containing the personal stories 22 wine families of the Langhe, Roero and Monferrato regions of Piemonte shared, we with are moving to the next phase – production.
In celebration of completing months of intense work writing and editing with my editor Elatia Harris, I would like to share today the beautiful cover design created for my book soon to be printed in Italy.
Pierangelo Vacchetto and his daughter Elisabetta Vacchetto of Alba, Italy, took the two photographs on the cover. They are two of the three Vacchettos who are capturing the images of the wine families for “Labor of Love.” Eugenio, Pierangeli’s son, is the third. Cindi Yaklich of Epicenter Creative in Boulder merged their two photographs to create this beautiful cover design. You’ll have to guess who the subject is!
Elatia Harris is finishing the editing. Cindi is now working on the interior book design while Jody Berman of Berman Editorial is copyediting and proofreading. It’s all coming together.
Check back next week for the answer to the question, “Which Italian printer will transform Labor of Love into a treasured keepsake?”
Trivia question: Where in Piemonte is this and whose hands are those? Answer next week!