Winter is here (well, sort of in the Colorado Rockies) and it’s never too early to start planning your summer escape in the Alps. I highly recommend a retreat from the world — digital and otherwise — with a trip to Des Martin’s Rifugio Valliera in Castelmagno.
In 2007, Barolo wine producer Chiara Boschis, her brother Cesare, and her fellow group members of the Des Martin consortium turned their attention to Castelmagno to renovate buildings and revive the area’s cheese-making traditions. At the timberline in the commune are abandoned hamlets where families once lived off the land year-round. The group purchased half of Valliera, a hamlet nearly 5,000 feet above sea level at timberline. They named their consortium “Des Martin,” after the hamlet’s last inhabitants. Yet another group that shared the vision purchased the remaining Valliera property, and the hamlet’s renaissance was under way.
That same year, Des Martin hired an experienced casara (cheese maker) who began experimenting with various forms at a nearby dairy during the construction of Des Martin’s casei-ficio (creamery). By 2015, the Des Martin cowherd exceeded 40 head. Chiara often quips that while other women buy great cars and take exotic vacations, she buys cows.
Chiara and the other members of the consortium dream of more groups coming to the mountains to transform the remaining hamlets. Already her fellow Barolo producer Elio Altare has rejuvenated mountain life in the hamlet of Campo Fei above Rifugio Valliera. Life begins anew above timberline.
In June 2015, Agriturismo Des Martin opened. The nine (9) apartments provide warm, homey lodgings for visitors seeking the peace and tranquility that communing with nature and the past provide. Chiara envisions the rebirth of a vibrant mountain culture through her passionate nurturing of agricultural restoration.
Book soon for this unique mountain experience!
Piemonte is calling!
For more information on visiting Agriturismo Des Martin or to book an exclusive, customized Labor of Love tour of Piemonte, contact Suzanne Hoffman at email@example.com.
Saturday evening, August 26th, Carlo Deltetto (senior), the beloved patriarch of Azienda Agricola Deltetto in Canale (Roero), slipped away from our earthly presence. Despite his advanced age,nonno Carlo’s passing was unexpected.
Since Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemontewas published on June 2, 2016, I have had the delight of adding boxes and in some cases generations to many of the 22 genealogies in my book. This is the first time I’ve had to write an end date and it saddens me so.
Dani and I chose to spend Christmas with the Deltetto and Grasso families last year. We were so honored to be included in this wonderful family celebration and it was the most precious gift of love I’ve ever received. Nonno Carlo’s wife, Catterina, had been in hospital in the weeks leading up to the holiday, so we went with the family on Christmas Eve to give Natale greetings to Carlo and Catterina in their apartment at the family’s winery and residence in Canale. He was so cute and so happy to have the family around him, particularly his great granddaughters Lidia and Anna. Later in April, I caught a glimpse of nonno Carlo at the winery and a gave him a quick hello, somehow feeling he was frailer than he had been at Christmas. But his big smile was still there and I’ll always remember that moment.
I would like to share some of the Deltetto chapter of Labor of Love in honor of this gentle, kind man with whom I did not share a language of the tongue, only one of the heart through our mutual love of Roero and his family. It was because of what happened on the 26th of August, when one of the older generation of pioneers of the modern Piemontese wine industry passed away, that I so feverishly wrote Labor of Love. The stories of these wonderful people must be preserved. No one can destroy memories and rewrite history if enough of us know the stories.
Excerpt from Chapter 9, Deltetto, of Labor of Love
Roots of a Winery
Azienda Agricola Deltetto is located on the outskirts of Canale, the center of Roero. It’s only a few miles north from Alba across the Tanaro River, but geologically and thus viticulturally, Roero is quite different from the Langhe. Roero’s sandy soil provides a perfect environment in which Arneis, the wine that drew us to the area, can flourish.
Carlo Deltetto, grandfather to Carlo, one of the current proprietors, founded the family owned and operated winery in 1953. Nonno Carlo was born in 1922 in Rabini, approximately three miles northeast of Canale in the Province of Asti. His childhood on a farm in Piemonte mirrored that of many other agrarian families in the first half of the 20th century. Hard work. Long days. Trials and tribulations.
World War II — whether the decimation of the Italian troops on the Eastern Front, in Russia, or at home during the German occupation — touched nearly all families in Piemonte. The Deltetto family was no exception. Following the July 1943 ouster of dictator Benito Mussolini, the new Italian government signed the “Armistizio Badoglio,” a truce named after the newly installed prime minister, Pietro Badoglio. Sadly, the armistice signed on September 8, 1943, did not bring peace. The 20-months-long German occupation that followed — and the partisan resistance it triggered — made peace an illusory aspiration for war-weary Italians.
In an attempt to block the Allied armies advancing from the south, German forces flooded into Central and Northwest Italy, including Piemonte. During the Nazi and Fascist Black Shirts’ reign of terror, Roero was a hotbed of partisan resistance fighter activity. Italian soldiers who did not side with the Fascists became enemies of the occupation. Carlo Deltetto was one of many soldiers who, after the Italian Army’s surrender to the Allies, left their posts and walked home.
Carlo had been a member of the 34th fanteria (infantry) in Fossano, 28 miles to the southwest of Canale. He was tired of war. He only wanted to return home, to work and not to fight Italian brothers. Carlo and his three comrades, still dressed in their Italian Army uniforms, walked through woodlands to avoid capture by the Germans or Fascists. Suddenly, a German patrol confronted them. As the Germans approached the four former Italian soldiers, Carlo believed the death he had eluded during his military service was near. The German soldiers spoke among themselves as Carlo stood trembling, wondering what they were saying. Finally, he understood the gestures the Germans added to their incomprehensible words. They were free to continue home. How many such stories were there where a family’s future rested on the capricious decisions of wartime enemies? I shudder to think of what we would have missed had Carlo Deltetto met a different fate that day.
In 1956, Carlo married Catterina Occhetti. No, I didn’t misspell her name. Toni said the additional “t” made its way into her first name as the result of widespread illiteracy at that time. Carlo had founded his winery in a rented cellar in Canale in 1953. The early years were difficult for them, particularly for Catterina. In the tradition of the times, newly married couples lived with the husband’s family. Young brides took on many responsibilities of housekeeping in their new homes. In Catterina’s case, before she had children of her own, she cared for her husband’s four unmarried brothers. Like so many of Catterina’s contemporaries, she worked both at home and in the office. At the winery, Catterina attended to administrative matters and, since it was long before labeling machines, hand labeled each bottle of wine they produced. At home, she fed the Deltetto men and washed their clothes. Catterina had studied to be a teacher, but her career aspirations would have to wait.
Carlo and Catterina had two children, Antonio, known as Toni to family and friends, who was born in 1957, and Silvia, who sadly died in 1993 at the age of 31.
In 1960, Carlo moved from his rented cellar to the winery he had built and that Toni would one day run with his own son Carlo. Without the burdens of caring for so many people, Catterina could finally begin her career. In 1965, she began teaching in the primary school in Canale and continued into the 1990s.
The Legacy Continues
The harvest, an early one this year, is well underway, so the family will say their tearful good-byes and resume their work in the vineyards of the winery their beloved late patriarch established.
In his Facebook posting announcing the passing of his grandfather, nonno Carlo’s grandson and namesake, Carlo, thanked him profusely for his love, guidance, and joy of life. Carlo and his two sisters, Cristina and Claudia, now bear the heavy weight of carrying on their grandfather’s legacy their father, Toni, recently passed to them in an inter vivos (living) transfer. It is this continuity and dedication to preserving their heritage that I’ve grown to love so much about the Piemontesi.
God bless you, nonno Carlo, as He has blessed us with your presence in our lives and the wonderful winery and family you have left behind. Thank you for giving us such a beautiful family that we have come to know and love as our own.
Truffles & Turkey Thanksgiving in Piemonte November 19 – 26, 2017
Come discover the secrets of under-discovered Piemonte, Italy with me, Suzanne Hoffman, and my local team of certified tour professionals. I am the author of the award-winning, groundbreaking book Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte. Since 1999, I’ve traveled over 25 times to this bewitching gastronomic haven.
Enjoy all the comforts of home — including being made to feel at home — at the Locanda di Marchesi Alfieri on the grounds of the San Martino di San Germano family wine estate in San Martino Alfieri where their family has resided for centuries.
November is the time of year Mama Nature does her best work with that diamond of the soil, tartuffi bianchi (white truffles). We will have white truffles at three Michelin star restaraunts and dine at other wonderful, traditional Piemontese trattorie and wine bars.
Thanksgiving Truffle Feast
And what better way to have a celebratory Thanksgiving feast than to dine with Chef Enrico Trova at his Slow Food restaurant, Osteria del Diavolo, in Asti? Chef Enrico spent 15 years in Los Angeles, during which time he delighted celebrities and gastronomes alike at his Beverly Hills restaurant, Amici. Amongst other delectable dishes, Chef Enrico will prepare a turkey with his own Piemontese twist — AND white truffles!
Labor of Love tours are like land cruises. From the time you check in at Marchesi Alfieri until you say “Arrivederci,” everything is included, except of course those personal goodies and souvenirs you want to take home with you. Even delicious torrone from the sisters at Basano Coraglia await you in your room upon arrival…and you can buy more to take home with you when you visit their lovely shop in nearby San Damiano.
You’ll enjoy trips to wineries such as E. Pira e Figli, Cà del Baio, Paolo Scavino, Marchesi di Grésy, G. D. Vajra, Deltetto and many more, in the Langhe, Roero, and Monferrato areas where family members will guide you through tastings of their beautiful wines including some of the finest Baroli and Barbareschi the region has to offer.
Gastronomic Experiences with Vintners
Wine producers will join in meals, enhancing your oenological experiences and giving you more personal contact with these passionate vintners.
Two “light” buffet dinners paired with the estate’s wines at Marchesi Alfieri after long days exploring the region are a welcome break for that “at home” feeling.
Art, Architecture, History, and Culture
Touring some of Piemonte’s castles with noted art restorer Marie-Hélène Cully will give you a deeper understanding of the history and culture of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
More Gastronomic Adventures
Visits to markets, cooking classes, and tours of farms with chefs who buy their fresh, organic products from them will enhance your enjoyment of cucina Piemontese.
All this and so much more awaits you in this enchanting, under-discovered northwest Italian region.
What Labor of Love tour guests are saying:
“This trip was an experience that no other person can provide. Suzanne’s personal relationships with the vintners and restaurants in Piemonte cannot be duplicated. It is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity.” – Carole W. (April 2017)
“This is not a ‘tour.’ It is an exceptional experience. Being welcomed by the wine makers, the chefs and the restaurateurs as friends of Suzanne’s and not as a ‘tour group’ made all the difference.” – Linda M. (April 2017)
“We have been to Europe many, many times and this trip was one of the best experiences we have had. The tour was exceptionally well-organized and all of the winemakers that we visited were personal friends of Suzanne’s, so consequently we were welcomed like family. The winery owners gave us very personal tours and in many cases they join us for lunch or dinner. I would recommend this trip to anyone that wants an up-close personal experience in Italy.” – Karin and Dean J. (April 2017)
Find out more!
Tours are strictly limited to 12 people, so contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on this tour, future tours in May and June 2018, and how to organize your own custom group tour of Piemonte.
Vail Symposium goes beyond the bottle
with the Chiara Boschis
Suzanne Hoffman, author of award-winning “Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte,” will moderate the event
VAIL, Colo. – June 30, 2017 – There are few liquids more complex than wine. Each bottle of wine is unique, reflecting the terroir in which it was grown, the process in which it was made and the people who watched over it every step of the way. On Tuesday, July 11, guests will be able to go beyond the story that is told on the wine label and hear, firsthand, from Chiara Boschis, one of the Piemonte’s region’s most fascinating winemakers.
Barolo winemaker Chiara Boschis’ family history is as deep and rich as the soil in which her grapes grow. It includes a riveting story involving the German occupation of Piemonte, Italy during World War II and, later, the exchange of young prisoners from Barolo for an entire vintage of a precious wine.
Suzanne Hoffman, author of award-winning Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte, has come to know Boschis well through the writing of her book and her visits to the region. As Hoffman leads the conversation, Boschis will talk about the deep history of her family, her winery and her own growth as a farmer, a defender of nature, a winemaker and a daughter. This is a rare opportunity to have a very personalized interaction with one of the leading vintners in the world.
“Personally, I want people to see a real winemaker, a farmer as she delights in saying, not a pop culture version that we see on TV and in magazines,” Hoffman said. “I want people to hear directly from this vibrant, passionate woman what it takes to balance the demands of the global wine market, which means traveling frequently and also welcoming clients to Barolo; the day-to-day operations of the winery cellar and the vineyards and the job she loves the most, caring for her 90-year-old father, revered Barolo vintner, Franco Boschis.”
Boschis is widely recognized as one of the first women producers in Barolo, although she comes from eight generations of winemakers. In 1981, the Boschis family acquired the E. Pira e Figli estate, occupying some of the most prestigious land in Barolo. In 1990, Chiara Boschis took over the operation on her own, bringing dedication, charm, patience and determination to every aspect of production in order to raise the quality and image of the winery to that which it enjoys today. In 2010, her younger brother Giorgio joined her, contributing a wealth of experience both in the vineyards as well as in the cellar.
“My goal is to introduce Chiara through my Q&A with her, but then to open up the floor for questions from the audience,” Hoffman said. “She can talk the legs off a coffee table — people hang on to every word she says — and she will love interacting with the audience. People will not want this to end. I also want people to leave with a deep appreciation of the hard work and manual labor that goes into producing a bottle of wine.”
As a winemaker, Boschis is a master of balance, crafting finessed and sophisticated wines that are some of the most aromatically dynamic expressions of Barolo today. But she is a farmer first, dedicating herself to the philosophy that quality begins in the vineyard where her impact on the environment is greatest.
“This program provides a wonderful opportunity for our community to get up close and personal with Chiara and hear her story,” said Kris Sabel, executive director of the Vail Symposium. “So often these events are wine tasting dinners which, while satisfying, can be quite expensive and focus more on the individual wines and food pairings than on the personal story of the winemaker, her love of the land and history of the people who have been creating amazing wine for centuries.”
The doors will open at 6:30 p.m. and feature a reception where attendees can purchase and sample Boschis’s wine. After the program, Boschis and Hoffman will be signing copies of Hoffman’s award-winning book, “Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte” will be on sale at a special price of $48 (regular retail price is $55) plus tax with $5 of every purchase benefitting the Vail Symposium.
If you go…
What: Beyond the Bottle
With: Barolo winemaker Chiara Boschis; moderated by Suzanne Hoffman, author of “Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte”
Cost: $25 online before 2 p.m. on the day of the event, $35 at the door, $10 students and teachers
More info: Visit www.VailSymposium.orgor call 970.476.0954 to register. Attendees should utilize public parking structures. Summer parking is free in the Vail and Lionshead parking structures.
# # #
About Vail Symposium
Over the past 45 years, the Vail Symposium has touched thousands of lives with its rich and varied history. Created in 1971, the Symposium was conceived by community leaders to create ideas and goals, attracting not only the majority of townsfolk but also policy shapers from across the state and nation. Throughout the years we have diversified and expanded our scope with a dedication to education and cultural programs which provide lifelong learning opportunities for everyone who lives in or visits our community. The Vail Symposium is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
Media Contact: Katie Coakley
“A visual temptress” is how JancisRobinson.com wine book reviewer, Tamlyn Currin, described Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte.
What a delight to see my independently published book, my labor of love, garner a place on the esteemed 2016 wine book list in Jancis Robinson’s newsletter and a receive a positive review.
Please enjoy Tamlyn Currin’s review on “Book Reviews 2016: Places Well-Known” on JancisRobinson.com. And yes, getting lost in the rain and fog while in search of wineries is all part of the process of getting to the heart and soul of Piemonte and her people.
And yes, getting lost in the rain and fog while in search of wineries is all part of the process of getting to the heart and soul of Piemonte and her people.
Tamlyn Currin’s Review of
Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte
“This was the second large hardback book to come my way for reviews. This is rich in colour, a feast of glorious photographs and illustrations on thick, sumptuous-feeling pages, and is laid out with a feeling of space and light – a visual temptress.
Suzanne Hoffman has chosen remarkably specific subject matter. It’s not just about one, well-publicised region of Italy, it’s about the women in that one region, and furthermore it’s the women in the wine families of that one region. It’s unusual for a wine book to have such a narrow focus, and the pitfalls are obvious, so it was with some trepidation that I opened these pages. Hoffman is American, from Louisiana. An attorney and journalist, she’s lived in five different states and spent 20 years in Switzerland, and it was while in Switzerland that she discovered Piemonte, visiting more than 20 times over a 14-year period. Her indefatigable curiosity and a growing love for the wines and the region led to this book.
Labor of Love is in many ways a history of Piemonte. The overview, which includes a great map of the provinces and some of the DOCs of Piemonte, has an ‘At a glance’ page with timelines of the rulers and occupiers of Piemonte, and the first chapter of the book is about the remarkable Giulia Colbert Falletti, Marchesa of Barolo, 1785-1864. Through the stories of these women, we see a changing Piemonte as it is shaped and scarred through the First and Second World Wars, depression, poverty, the disastrous vintages and the sublime vintages, oenological revolutions, scandals and a growing international respect and demand for wine from this region.
Hoffman selects 22 wineries from Barolo, Barbaresco, Roero and Monferrato. With each, she describes her first trip to the winery, her first meeting with the woman (or women) involved. Clearly in almost awed admiration of these women, Hoffman then recounts the family past, often following the thread from great-grandmother to grandmother to mother to daughter, bringing ghosts back to life, and acknowledging, to the outer world, the tremendous work that these women have done – so much of it unseen.
Some of the stories are deeply moving. She tells of the staggering courage of Beatrice Rizzolio of Cascina delle Rose as she stood between the guns of German soldiers and local teenage boys, telling them, ‘They are young. Shoot me, I am an old lady’ – this being the same woman who burst through the prison gates with a wagon-load of food for starving wartime prisoners, and ordered the gobsmacked German guards to feed them. She writes about the quiet depth of resilience and strength in Ornella Correggia, who picked up the pieces of their shattered lives when her young husband was killed in a freak accident in the vineyard, and she and her two young children carried on making wine and carrying his vision. She writes about ordinary women who struggle to juggle child rearing and homes with demanding jobs, and women who helped hide young partisan resistance fighters from the Nazis. It’s a book full of memories.
It’s a very personal story. I was surprised at how much of Hoffman’s life and emotions are told in these pages. I wonder whether she identifies with them in some way. It’s almost as much Suzanne Hoffman’s journey through Piemonte as it is the stories of the women of Piemonte. Her family birthday celebrations, her friendships, her travels, her own roots, her love of cooking, her fears, her own memories and inspirations are woven inextricably into each chapter. Sometimes I wondered if perhaps there was too much of the author – I don’t really want to know, for example, what she wore when she met Chiara Boschis, whatever the temperature might have been or whatever Chiara herself was wearing. I wasn’t sure whether what she ate with her Mom on her first trip really added to the book in any way. But arguably she has gone behind closed doors, sat at kitchen tables over cups of coffee, befriended women, sifted with them through old family photos. A wine journalist sits at these tables and asks questions about the age of vines and lees stirring, listens to summaries of the vintage; Hoffman has asked questions about courting, love, babies and hardship, listened to stories about German occupation and tragic personal losses. She has spent hundreds of hours understanding the challenges of being a woman in the not-too-bygone days of male-powered Piemonte (‘women who failed to produce male heirs were seen as weak. Even if a woman produced many girls, other women looked down on her as though she were childless’) and the different, modern-day challenges of being a woman in Piemonte wine. Perhaps the only way to tell these tales is to walk right through them, side by side with the women one writes about. Perhaps her stories of getting lost in the rain and fog en route to wineries is part of what this book is about – the simple, gritty, everyday humanity behind great wines.”
Note: Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte is available in the USA on this website, at all USA Eataly stores, and Amazon.com and in Piemonte through Cà del Baio winery and fine bookshops in the region.
LABOR OF LOVE
CHRISTMAS AND HANUKAH
USA SHIPPING SPECIAL!
USPS PRIORITY SHIPPING (1-3 BUSINESS DAYS DELIVERY) AVAILABLE BY SPECIAL ORDER!
The time has passed to be assured of receiving Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemontein time to be under the tree for Christmas or to give to that special someone for the first day of Hanukah. Until Tuesday, December 19th, I am offering Priority Mail shipping for $12 for up to two books in lieu of $7.00 media shipping for one. The book sells for $55.00.
It has certainly been a momentus year for Barolo with the sale of a historic winery in Castiglione Falletto to an American businessman. Yes, it was definitely their choice to sell and no doubt a painful decision to make. For the good of the region and the selling family, we wish them all well.
But as the year winds down and rumors of a more painful sale of another Barolo family-owned winery — one not in my book! — fly everywhere, I opened Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonteto read again, and find reassurance in, the passionate words of Elisa Scavino of Azienda Viticola Paolo Scavino when I asked her about the possibility of the “Tuscanization” of Piemonte. Hers was not a unique answer to this question I asked of many families.
So, will iconic Barolo wineries remain in the hands of the Piemontese or end up owned by faceless, souless foreign corporations? No one really knows. The economy and financial considerations may be what dictate the future. What I do know is that I am even more dedicated to hearing the wine families’ stories and committing them to paper for all to read in years to come. Their history must not be forgotten.
Post Script (12/5/16): As the rumors of a seismic sale swirl around the hills of Barolo, it has become painfully apparent that the low birth rate in Italy (and all of Europe) could be the catalyst for sales now and in the future. If readers look at the genealogies of each of the 22 families in my book, they will see an unmistakeable thinning of generations over time, the reasons for which are many.
Of course, it only takes one to carry the estate forward into the next generation. However, when there are so few offspring — as we’ve seen in so many of wine families across Italy — the future of the estate as a family owned and operated entity relies on a near 100% occurance of the same passion to perpetuate the patrimony in future generations.
I’m optimistic that will be the case with the current generation of wine family women of Piemonte. Beyond the horizon, it’s anyone’s guess.
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.
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.
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 classicogrew.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tom Hyland’s new book, The Wines and Foods of Piemonte,provides Anglophone wine explorers with a comprehensive and insightful guide to the under-discovered northwest Italy region.
The Road Less Traveled
Author, freelance wine journalist, and diehard Italophile Tom Hyland’s first trip to Piemonte was in 2001, shortly after I first ventured south from Zurich to the splendid gastronomic region in northwest Italy. When the new millennium dawned, only dabs of ink had been spilled for Piemonte in Italian travel guides. It was as though the historic wine region, home of unified Italy’s first capital and one of the wine world’s most prestigious varietals, was an afterthought. Social media then consisted of actually communicating face-en-face and modern blogging was not yet common. Let’s just say, both of us, like many others traveling this under-discovered region, were left on own to figure out where to go, what to eat, and, most importantly, what to drink. Perhaps that was a good thing in retrospect, but not everyone has over a decade to get to know a place.
Today, nascent Piemontephiles, as well as seasoned wine explorers, have a wealth of information available in cyberspace and bookshops. The plethora of wine tourism blogs and the publication in my many languages of more books specifically about Piemonte have helped spark interest in the region. Tom Hyland’s latest book, The Wines and Foods of Piemonte (University of Nebraska 2016), is one of those and serves as a valuable addition to the resources available on Piemonte.
I met Hyland the same way I met my editor, Elatia Harris, and many others who helped me write, launch, and promote my own book: on Facebook. We were both in the throes of researching and writing books on Piemonte, only it was my first project and he was a seasoned pro. Hyland possessed something I lacked: a deep knowledge of Italian wines from all regions. Reading his posts on his blog, LearnItalianWines, helped me with my research. I’m a wine family expert; he’s a food and wine expert. We share the same passion for giving voice to the vintners to inform, educate, and inspire. I’m delighted he published his book this past summer — just a month after Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte — because the books are perfect companions.
Guiding Oenophiles Through Piemonte
In his introduction, Hyland declares his love of Piemonte and reverence for the families whose vines are anchored deep in its soil. The book opens with his admission that has “a love affair with Piemonte.” I know that feeling. It’s impossible not to love the region if you enjoy indulging in scrumptious food and wine and immersing yourself in the culture that is an integral part of its enjoyment.
“Piemonte,” he says, “is more of a destination for the serious wine and food lover.” Agreed. Perhaps this is why books like Hyland’s have been slow to evolve. The need was there, but the demand was slow to grow.
In The Wines and Foods of Piemonte, with the help of renowned vinous cartographer Alessandro Masnaghetti’s maps and Hyland’s own photos of places, faces, foods, and wines, he builds a perfect foundation for nascent Piemontephiles and adds to the knowledge base of those with years of experience in the region. Hyland’s lovely cover photo of the expansive beauty of the vineyards with the snow-capped Alps over 40 miles, yet seemingly a short away begs the reader to enter the book.
The heart of the book opens with a geographical explanation of Piemonte, the second largest region in Italy after Sicily. The four major wine districts are home to a wide variety of grapes, a distinctive feature of Piemonte’s viticulture. Hyland explains each zone, noting signature varietals such as Nebbiolo, Barbera, Dolcetto, and Arneis, and more obscure ones such as Pelaverga, Ruché, Freisa, and Grignolino. It’s far more than the “overview” he claims it is in his introduction.
Throughout the book, Hyland weaves quotes from and references to some of the region’s highly respected producers such as Mariacristina Oddero, Alessandro Ceretto, Angelo Gaja, Enrico Scavino and Giovanna Rizzolio, to name just a few. The effort to have the vintners speak for themselves was well spent since Hyland connects readers to them and transforms what could have been a dry recitation of technical aspects of viticulture into something far more engaging. Hyland’s photos that capture the vintners’ personalities, particularly the one of Mariacristina Oddero, add to the vintners’ words.
Hyland gives us further insight into the philosophies and passions of vintners with a section of interviews of distinguished vintners and — because food is the perfect partner of wine — notable chefs. Luca Pellegrino of Ristorante Le Torri in Castiglione Falletto, one of my favorite restaurants in the Langhe, answered Hyland’s question about unusual wine pairings with “salmon filet with a Barolo.” I must admit that I have tried that pairing at home and I loved it. I was delighted to see an interview with Dario Marini of il Fierobecco in Maggiora, a restaurant we discovered in 2015 on a visit to Lorella Zoppis Antoniolo in Alto Piemonte. A trip up the A26 from the UNESCO World Heritage site wine areas of Langhe, Roero, and Monferrato is well worth the drive to visit Antoniolo and dine at il Fierobecco.
Finally, Hyland’s four appendices provide very useful quick references for his highly recommended wines, recommended restaurants, a glossary of wine terms, and classic examples of Piemontese foods. Just what the savvy wine tourist needs at his or her fingertips while exploring the region.
There is no such thing as knowing everything there is to know about Piemonte. It’s such a beautiful, diverse region where opportunities for adventures are endless. Hyland’s book has broadened my knowledge of the vinous and culinary landscape of Piemonte, adding to what I’ve learned through my own 17 years of oenological experiences I’ve enjoyed there. The Wines and Foods of Piemonte is a great guide book for those making their first journey to Piemonte, a journey they will no doubt repeat many times.
The Wines and Foods of Piemonte is a small, softcover book that fits quite nicely into a carry-on to read on a transatlantic flight to Italy and to have handy on gastronomic explorations of this expansive region’s wine areas. It will certainly be with me on my next trip!
The Wines and Foods of Piemonte by Tom Hyland is available on his website and at the bookstores in Eataly locations in Chicago and New York City.