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!