I’m still here!

To all my loyal followers of my blog and my weekly column in the Vail Daily, my apologies for being off the air since October.  I’m still here!

Most of content went into my column and, needless to say, it’s been a great ski season! But I’m back and have lots of great stories about our beloved wine families!

Ci vediamo, tutti!

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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

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.

Can’t visit Barbaresco now?

Can’t visit Barbaresco now?  Whether you are planning a trip to the region or want to take an armchair trip, EnotecaMarcella.com is a great destination.

This recent post Marcella Newhouse shares with us is a wonderful pictorial trip to this fabulous wine region.  She poetically describes the beauty, cuisine, people and, of course, wine of the region.

Click the link and take a trip…..preferably with a glass of the beautiful wine from this appellation!

Next generation of women winemakers in Piemonte, Lidia Deltetto with the Ca' del Baio winery dogs.
Next generation of women winemakers in Barbaresco (or Roero), Lidia Deltetto with the Ca’ del Baio winery dogs.

Enoteca Marcella’s Advice

Wine expert, Marcella Newhouse of Enoteca Marcella, has some great advice on opening those special bottles of wine.  In her post, “So when are you going to open that?,” Marcella ponders that ago-old question, “why isn’t the bottle as special as I remember it?”  Her discussion of the abstract concept of wine appreciation is worth the read.


Raclette Paradise at Chateau de Villa

As readers of my reviews know, I lived in Switzerland for over 2 decades.  We had a home in Valais near Crans-Montana for 25 years, so I know the south-central canton of Valais quite well.  Many wonderful gems that escape visitors’ notice, particularly Americans, can be found in the Valais.  One of those special gems is Chateau de Villa, a veritable raclette and wine paradise.

Unusually heavy Easter snow blankets the 16th Century Chateau de Villa.
Unusually heavy Easter snow blankets the 16th Century Chateau de Villa.

This 16th century chateau lies above the valley town of Sierre, bordered above by the lower vineyards of the Cote de Sierre and just west of the imaginary, but realistic roestigraben (the linguistic border between French and German speaking Switzerland also know as the “potato ditch”).  Is that a good enough description or would you prefer satellite coordinates?  Just wanted to set the scene for readers because its location is part of its magic.

Summer is a great time to dine under the chestnut trees at Chateau de Villa.
Summer is a great time to dine under the chestnut trees at Chateau de Villa.

Recently I returned to Valais and was delighted to discover than in this world of tumult and unpleasant changes, one cherished thing has remained the same.  The Chateau de Villa is still the best place on the planet to enjoy delicious raclette des alpage.  Well, perhaps sitting in an alpine hut enjoying the raclette where it’s made could top it, but only by a small margin.

To begin with, there is nothing kitsch about Chateau de Villa.  It is what it is – a 16th century chateau that houses an oenotheque with a vast selection of local wines and a lovely restaurant specializing in this region’s signature products – dried meats and cheese, particularly raclette.  If you are unfamiliar with the vinous delights of Valais, this is just the place you need to go to explore these treasures.

The best way for me to describe the food and wine at the Chateau is to take you through a typical meal.  But first, let’s order the wine.

The Oenotheque at the Chateau de Villa is a great place to taste and purchase Valais wines.
The Oenotheque at the Chateau de Villa is a great place to taste and purchase Valais wines.

Under Discovered Wine Treasures

Starting with white isn’t merely the usual Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio choices so prevalent in the US.  Yes, you will discover wonderful Chardonnay (Simon Maye et Fils is one of the best I’ve had from anywhere, but not always available outside the cellar) and Sauvignon Blanc, but you should go for the local varietals such as Fendant, Petite Arvine and Paien/Heida.  There are over 20 different types of white wines on the restaurant’s massive wine list.

Terraced vineyards make the vendange a tricky exercise.
Terraced vineyards make the vendange a tricky exercise.

One of my favorites is Paien (Heida).  It’s a Savagnin Blanc that grows primarily in the mid to upper valley reaches of the Valais wine region.  You will not find this wine anywhere outside of Switzerland.  Actually, it’s hard to find outside of Valais.  My two favorite producers of this varietal are Mabillard-Fuchs and Simon Maye et Fils, but only the former is on the list.

Of course, Fendant (made from the Chasselas grape) is the most common white wine in the region.  Cheese must be in its DNA because it is a perfect pairing for all cheese dishes.  Fendant goes well with dried meats and sausages, too.

Different red varietals are also abundant on the wine list at the Chateau de Villa. There are fifteen different reds on the wine list.  My favorites – because they aren’t found anywhere else – are Dole (Gamay and Pinot Noir), Humagne Rouge and Cornalin.  More and more producers such as Nicolas Bagnoud and Simon Maye are making stunning Pinot Noirs that are gaining notoriety beyond Switzerland’s borders.  One restaurant in Alba in the middle of Nebbiolo country carried Simon Maye’s old vines Pinot Noir before the wife and chef-owner split.

Like all winemakers in Valais, Nicolas Bagnoud works hard during the vendange.
Like all winemakers in Valais, Nicolas Bagnoud works hard during the vendange.

Cornalin is a lovely red that goes great with red meats, particularly game.  Again, Nicolas Bagnoud is an excellent producer of this red considered one of Valais’ treasures.  It’s production dates at least to the early 14th century.  Unfortunately, you won’t find Bagnoud’s wines on the list, so go for another great producer, Gregor Kuonen.

Syrah from Valais is a very special wine, too.  It’s from clones of Tain l’Hermitage in the opposite end of the Rhone River in the Valle du Rhone north of the river’s delta.  This is very special Syrah.  Simon Maye was one of the first Valaisanne producers to grow Syrah and the winery’s old vines Syrah would rival many of its famous southern, French cousins.

I could go on and on, but I’ll let you discover these treasures on your own. One word about price.  Make no mistake, Valais wines are expensive.  If you spend time in the vineyards and caves of Valais, you’ll understand why.  Production is small and the labor required to produce these crafted wines is great.  Just enjoy it!  Surely from the over 600 different wines on the list you’ll find something to your taste and budget.

Fromages des Alpages

So let’s turn our attention to food.  To start, we always order a few plates of viande sechee for the table – three to four people to one plate if you’re having raclette is a good ratio.  Each plate contains meat from three different producers.  Your server will give you a clear explanation of each.

Viande sechee du Valais from three of the top producers make a great entrance into a delicious Valaisanne meal.
Viande sechee du Valais from three of the top producers make a great entrance into a delicious Valaisanne meal.

Since you’re about to indulge in a fabulous meal that is anything but low fat, don’t skimp on the calories or fat grams.  Throw caution to the wind.  With your viande sechee you will receive cornichons and the famous Valais walnut rye bread with pats of sweet, creamy Flora butter.  Spread the butter on the nut bread, put a piece of viande sechee and a cornichon on top and then savor this lovely flavor combination that is so uniquely Valaisanne.

There are a few other meat plates that are delicious starters, but I’m a creature of habit and always enjoy viande sechee when I visit, particularly the high quality meat Chateau de Villa serves.

So, we next order raclette forfait.  This is a degustation of five different raclette cheeses made in the alpages of Valais and bearing the AOC designation.  The Chateau only serves Raclette du Valais AOC from the alpages in the Rhone River’s lateral valleys that stretch from just east of Lake Geneva to the Valle des Conches further upstream from Brig.  The alpage choices change frequently, but the general areas remain the same.  Over 12 metric tons of cheese are served here annually.  Potatoes go hand-in-hand with the raclette and some of the fondue, so they serve over 600 kilos of potatoes each month.

Raclette oven gets used a great deal each day.
Raclette oven gets used a great deal each day.

“Master Scraper” Alexandre “Alex” Alder is in perpetual motion as he not only scrapes the cheeses, but serves each one as well, describing it in detail as, with a bit of panache, he places the plate before you. I am always amazed at how he keeps track of everyone’s plate and knows who in the room is having what.  He’s simply brilliant.

Maitre Racleur Alex Adler masterfully scraping raclette.
Maitre Racleur Alex Adler masterfully scraping raclette.
How does Alex keep up with the five different cheeses?
How does Alex keep up with the five different cheeses?

Ask Alex for some religieuse.  It’s the crispy, somewhat burned melted rind of the raclette.

Delicious religeuse will confirm to you raclette is a heavenly treat!
Delicious religeuse will confirm to you raclette is a heavenly treat!

The perfect partner for your raclette is the endless supply of small potatoes kept warm in a quilt-lined basket and bowls of cornichons and picked onions you’ll be served.  Ask for the pepper mill if your server forgets (it gets VERY busy, so please be patient….have another glass of wine and the passage of time will not matter).

You'll never run out of cornichons for your viande sechee or raclette.
You’ll never run out of cornichons for your viande sechee or raclette.

After you complete the tour des alpages, Alex will ask you what you would like to have again.  I love strong cheeses, so I go for eastern Turtmann, Gomser and Simplon alpages that are usually on offer.  Ask Alex for a map of the Valais that notes each alpage of origin.  He will gladly mark which ones you’ve had.

Map of the different alpages of Valais Chateau de Villa sources its raclette du Valais AOC.
Map of the different alpages of Valais Chateau de Villa sources its raclette du Valais AOC.

There was one slight change recently made.  Instead of an unlimited amount of raclette for a flat price, you “only” can get seven servings and will have to pay for each additional one.  Since eight is my maximum and only on a dare, trust me, you will not be paying for additional servings.

Holy Trinity of Valais - Molten raclette, potatoes and pickles.
Holy Trinity of Valais – Molten raclette, potatoes and pickles.
One swift stroke with a knife and the melted raclette slides off into a perfect puddle of cheese.
One swift stroke with a knife and the melted raclette slides off into a perfect puddle of cheese.

The fondue choices are also wonderful; however, I make delicious fondue, so I always go for what I can’t get at home which means this high quality raclette. If you do order fondue, go for the fondue aux tomates.  It’s typical to the region and is also known as Fondue Valaisanne.  Instead of dipping bread into the creamy, melted cheese and tomatoes, you will get raclette potatoes over which you ladle the molten cheese.  Superb!  Don’t forget the fresh black pepper.

Fondue Valaisanne also for by the name Fondue Tomate. Instead of dipping bread, the cheese is ladled over small potatoes.
Fondue Valaisanne also for by the name Fondue Tomate. Instead of dipping bread, the cheese is ladled over small potatoes.

ONE NOTE OF CAUTION: Many people do not realize the danger in drinking water – particularly cold water – with fondue and raclette.  You should drink only wine or hot tea that aids in the digestion of the cheese.  You will not feel very good if you have water while eating.

The Chateau de Villa is an excellent place to visit when you explore the wine families of Valais.  Make sure you visit the oenotheque before you go in for dinner as it closes early.  Seating outside in summer is quite pleasant.  Parking can be a hassle.  If there are no places along Rue St. Catherine, there is a lot on the west end of the street.  You can have pleasant walk to and from the restaurant.  Just follow that wonderful smell of melted raclette and you’ll find it!

Cows naturally battle for domination in the alpages.
Cows naturally battle for domination in the alpages when they aren’t grazing on the tender alpine vegetation.

Elisa Scavino – Alchemist of Barolo

Piemonte – the land where Nebbiolo not only grows best, but the alchemy of grapes to wine would delight Bacchus himself.  One of the region’s rising alchemists is 31 year-old Elisa Scavino.  Her family name should be familiar to any Barolo-phile since she is the granddaughter of Paolo Scavino, founder of the venerable Castiglione Falletto winery bearing his name.

No signage outside, but no mistaking where you are once inside
No signage outside, but no mistaking where you are once inside

Although famous for its 7 Baroli produced from grapes of 19 single crus in 6 of the 11 Barolo appellation villages, Paolo Scavino’s portfolio also includes other lovely wines of distinction.  What I love most about Piemonte – what’s missing from Tuscany, in my opinion – is the broad range of different interesting varietals, both red and white, the Langhe and Roero offer.  That’s certainly not missing at Scavino.  Six other wines grace the winery’s portfolio, all beautiful expressions of the region’s varietals.

This month I visited Piemonte to continue research for my book, “Under Discovered: Le Donne di Piemonte.” One of the women of Piemonte who will grace my book’s pages, Paola Grasso of Ca’ del Baio, introduced me to Elisa.  Since I restrict my writing to family owned wineries where the “family business speaks to the culture of wine,” in Paola’s words, I delighted in the opportunity to meet someone from the famous Scavino family.

Discovering a Barolo Treasure

On my last full day in Piemonte, I drove to the Scavino winery, spitting distance from our agriturismo, Gioco dell’Oca, on the outskirts of Barolo.  The winery’s buildings reflect its owners: non-pretentious, but distinctive.  Setback from the busy Barolo – Alba highway, the winery lies behind a lovely iron gate with a simple “S” on each panel.  Other than the obscure sign I barely saw from the highway, it was the only clue I was in the right spot.

The familiar tinkling sound of bottles moving along a bottling machine’s conveyor belt greeted me when I walked through the massive wooden doors into the courtyard.  It seems like everywhere I went, something delicious was going into bottles, some for sale now, some to age for a few more years.

After a few short minutes alone in the tasting room, the door opened.  In trotted a large, somewhat smiling yellow lab, Lino (short for Ercolino), and Elisa Scavino.  The first thing I noticed about Elisa was her smile.  Unlike many people whose smiles are restricted to the muscles around their mouths, Elisa’s smile sparkled in her dark, half-moon eyes as well.  My intuition is usually spot-on.  It was screaming, “This is going to be a wonderful experience.”  It certainly was.

Lino, Elisa's constant companion
Lino, Elisa’s constant companion

No more “Due di Picchi”

Elisa has plenty to smile about.  Like Paola Grasso, Elisa was born in a time when women are no longer relegated to the shadows.  “Women’s work” no longer excludes making wine.  Elisa is a member of a growing demographic of talented, rising stars of Piemonte: young women.

Elisa and Lino
Elisa and Lino

Since the 1980s, Piemontese women now possess career choices.  However, for Elisa, there was no “choice” to make, only opportunity to grasp.  She was born into a wine producing family.  To her, like Grasso, there was never any doubt she would be a winemaker.  Since early in her life, Elisa worked hard to join her father Enrico’s profession.  To her, to be a successful winemaker is to honor her father.

It’s a good thing women are now accepted in the wine industry since so many of the prominent Piemonte houses will pass into women’s hands in coming decades.  This was not always possible.  For generations, the birth of daughters and no sons doomed estates.  Given the culture of the times, having girls was akin to being dealt a “due di picchi” (bad hand) at cards.  Those times have changed.

In the 1980s, women like Chiara Boschis and Livia Fontana graduated from the “school of hard knocks” after learning viticulture and oenology from their fathers.  These pioneering women emerged as Barolo’s first women wine producers.  When Barolo master, Bartolo Mascarello, passed away in 2005, daughter Maria Teresa assumed control of the family winery, continuing in her father’s footsteps.  Now, Elisa and sister Enrica, Marta Rinaldi, the three Grasso sisters – Paola, Valentina and Federica – and many other women are in line to inherit generations old wineries.  The future of great estates is no longer at risk to the whims of genetics.

One of Barolo's first women winemaker's, Chiara Boschis, at home amongst her treasured nebbiolo vines
One of Barolo’s first women winemaker’s, Chiara Boschis, at home amongst her treasured nebbiolo vines

Cracking the Educational Glass Ceiling

Although daughters of wine families could learn winemaking from the time they first walked, formal wine industry training was not possible.  Only in recent decades did the famous Wine School of Alba (formerly the Royal Enological School) Domizio Cavazza founded in the late 19th century accept women students.  Elisa and two other women, including Rosanna Gaja, comprised one of the earliest classes of women oenologists the famous school graduated.

For Elisa, however, the only education she wanted was the one she got in the vineyards and cellar with her father.  Her parents encouraged her to consider other studies, such as science or classical studies, but only wine school’s six-year program would do for Elisa.

Next, Elisa graduated with an oenology degree from the University of Torino’s three-year program.  Since long before her first awareness of Barolo’s special nature with the release of 1985 vintage in 1989, Elisa knew what she wanted to do in life.  She now had the tools to do it.  In January 2005, Elisa returned to Castiglione Falletto and took up her position in the family business.

Finding Her Place

Family businesses often are daunting places to launch careers.  Pressures to contribute and learn all aspects of the business, including marketing and competition, created new challenges for Elisa.  No longer were her days in the vineyards part of crafting career aspirations.  This was reality, not dreams and longing.  Her career took flight as she accepted the heavy responsibility that comes with being a member of a wine producing family.  Elisa considers that time to have been a “big moment for her” in her “changing life.”

Shortly after graduating, with older sister Enrica, Elisa made her first marketing trip to America.  Enrica, who studied languages and now handles marketing and sales for the winery, wanted Elisa to experience firsthand the their wines’ American market.  It was an eye opening experience.  Following the birth of Enrica’s first child in 2011, Elisa assumed more responsibility for traveling the world to show the wines.

Aging wines to their perfection takes time and money.
Aging wines to their perfection takes time and money.

Elisa enjoys tasting their wines with clients in different countries, but home definitely is where her heart lies.  Although Elisa cherishes her earliest childhood memories of her father playing the harmonica while he drained casks in the cellar, she loves her work in the vineyards most of all.  She explained to me how liberating she finds the lack of control one has when growing grapes.

Elisa finds “playing and interacting with nature” and following “nature’s philosophy” less intimidating than working in the cellar where she must confront the alchemy of the wine.  Control is crucial in the cellar. I envy Elisa’s ability to eschew control and let nature take its course. It’s a gift.

The vineyards of the Barolo appellation stretch for miles across the Langhe's rolling hills.
The vineyards of the Barolo appellation stretch for miles across the Langhe’s rolling hills.

No doubt, Paolo Scavino would be proud to see his granddaughters, members of an evolving generation, walking the path he laid for them when he started his winery in 1921.  No more shadows for the women of Piemonte.

Ornella Correggia: A Piemonte Woman of the Vines

Writing this article about Ornella Correggia for an upcoming Matteo Correggia wine dinner at Zino Ristorante in Edwards was a warm up for Chapter 2 of my book, “Under Discovered: Piemonte through the eyes of its women.”  Ornella  is a humble, kind and serene woman whose innermost courage and strength helped her endure the unimaginable loss of her husband, Matteo, 12 years ago.  She is a woman who is easy to spend time with and hard to say “good-bye” to as I discovered in March when I visited her at the winery outside of Canale in the Roero district of Piemonte.

I hope you enjoy this glimpse at a woman I greatly admire.

Behind the Scenes: A Piemonte Woman of the Vines

Ornella Correggia (right) and her daughter, Brigette
Ornella Correggia (right) and her daughter, Brigette

Ca’ del Baio

Ca’ del Baio

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.


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


The wines of Matteo Correggia Downunder

Sara Palma of the Roero’s stellar winery, Matteo Correggia, will be in Australia next week showing their beautiful wines.  There are two dinners – Sydney on the 29th and Melbourne the 30th.  Thirty days hath April, so I can’t think of a better way to end the first full month of spring (or fall) than attending a Matteo Correggia wine dinner.



You ask, why would I highlight this event?  Simple.  Ornella Correggia is one of the fascinating, courageous women profiled in my upcoming book “Under Discovered: Piemonte through the eyes of its women.”  Needless to say, the wines are beautiful and Sara is a delight.  Her knowledge of the wines and effervescent enthusiasm makes for an entertaining and educational wine experience.  Not to be missed!

Ornella Correggia (left) and Sara Palma in the winery of Matteo Correggia, Canale, Italy
Ornella Correggia (left) and Sara Palma in the winery of Matteo Correggia, Canale, Italy


Some helpful blogs

It’s another snowy day in the Colorado High Country.  I’m working on the introduction to my book, “Under Discovered: Piemonte through the eyes of its women.”  It required me to think back to my first visit to Piemonte nearly 14 years ago.  One thing that sticks out in my mind was the paucity of English language information available on Piemonte many thirteen harvest ago.  Now, the quality offerings in bookstores – online and brick-n-mortar – have increased.  Online blogs provide great sources of information as well.  There is a plethora of wine, food and travel blogs, but here are a few of my favorites on Piemonte.  Their authors have extensive, personal knowledge of the region and they keep their blogs current (which many do not!):

Enoteca Marcella by Marcella Newhouse – http://enotecamarcella.wordpress.com/

Marcella is a tried and true Piemonte-phile, as are all the bloggers I’m listing, who lived for a while in the region of the noble grape.  How could they not be given the gastronomic treasures one can find in the rolling hills of the Langhe and Roero?   Marcella’s blog is wine-centric and provides some excellent insight into the region’s beautiful wines.  WIth over 13 years of experience of working in all facets of the wine industry, she is a trusted resource on the wines of Piemonte.  Needless to say, Marcella is friends with one of my favorite Barbaresco producers, Renato Vacca of Cantina del Pino, so that was all the reference I needed!

Travel Langhe by Robert and Leslie Alexander – http://www.travellanghe.com

Fifty-nine TripAdvisor readers reviewed Robert and Leslie’s “Travel Langhe” to give them a five “star” rating for their custom wine tour company.  They are located in Neive in the Barbaresco appellation, but they possess extensive knowledge of the all the wines in the Langhe and Roero regions.  Their website is chocked full of useful travel information.  Judging by the high quality, family-owned wineries on their list, they can put together a wonderful tour of the region for any oenophile who is familiar with Piemonte or one in the nascent stages of their Piemontephilia (a condition that can only be treated – never cured – by frequent trips to the region supplemented with regular doses of Nebbiolo based wines!).

Robert is also a fabulous photographer.  Just look at this beauty he shot of Trieso in the Langhe near Barbaresco.

Treiso blanketed in early morning fog.
Treiso blanketed in early morning fog.                   By Robert Alexander
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.
by Robert Alexander

Carpe Travel by Elaine Schoch and Valerie Quintanilla http://carpe-travel.com

This is a great travel blog not just for Piemonte, but the world.  The ladies have a particularly good feel for family travel since Elaine travels often with “The Princesses.”  Smart, because my three granddaughters have been on the road (and air) with their parents since they were born.  Now in their early teens, they are seasoned travelers with a keen appreciation for life beyond their neighborhood.  But I digress.

Valerie is moving to Piemonte in June, so expect some great information on Piemonte to be added to the blog.  Also, Elaine is a great photographer.  The Carpe Travel Facebook page is a great place to look at some of her stunning pictures, particularly the one of Barbaresco and the Alps in the distance.  Seize the opportunity to visit the website and their Facebook page.

Tu Langhe e Roero (Turismo in Langhe e Roero)http://www.langheroero.it  

Tu Langhe and Roero has been the guide for us in Piemonte from our earliest trips.  Too bad their great, informative blog wasn’t available back then!  Nevertheless, it is a great “boots on the ground” resource for travel to the Langhe and Roero regions of Piemonte.

Of course, there are a number of other sites and as I learn about them  I will update this space.  I haven’t personally met the bloggers above, but I have communicated with them and we have mutual friends.  They are very knowledgeable and I’m sure would be of great help to you on your travels there.

TripAdvisor is a trusty resource for wining, dining and playing in Piemonte.  But it’s a good reference point to use to cross check recommendations and see what visitors who took the time to write reviews have to say.  I must admit, there are some pretty good reviews on TripAdvisor by someone called “Villa Arneis.”  Uh hum.

Also, I’m updating – when possible – my list of winery contacts and suggestions for lodgings and restaurants.  Of course, any one of the above bloggers can help with that, too.  The more quality info, the better.

Buon viaggio!



Wine is an expression of culture made by man, not just by nature. Wine families are the ultimate vinous artisans.

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