Tag Archives: Roero

The Roero Region of Piemonte




by Emanuele Caruso, Obiettivo Cinema s.a.s.
and Under Discovered Productions LLC

Enjoy a REAL reality video about the under discovered lives, history, and culture of the Piemontese wine families.

Click here for video link.

Not famous for being famous!

These people are not famous for being famous.

They are famous for making incredible wine and keeping cherished traditions alive in a world that so desperately needs reality.

Chiara Boschis
Chiara Boschis
Look upstream, not only downstream

It seems the wine programs are always about the downstream part of the business and typically the only wine producers featured are the big, uber-famous ones. They are great and open many doors for the wine regions.

But what about the those like Giulio Grasso, Toni and Carlo Deltetto, Silvia and Claudia Cigliuti, Elisa Semino, Chiara Boschis, Nadia Curto, those who populate the pages of my book, Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonteand SO VERY MANY MORE too numerous to list?

Wine producers
Piemontese vintners at Cà del Baio winery.

They are citizens of the wine world who rise long before sunrise for work wherever they are needed — in the blazing hot or freezing cold vineyards (pick your season, they are always there), in the cellar doing an array of tasks that involve all the senses and strength, or working at the whim of the market to sell their wines.

What about their stories and those of their ancestors who lived through poverty, pestilence, fascism, war, and occupation? That’s the reality that brings to so many of you the wines you love.

We will march onward to bring our documentary series to life, but in the meantime I want to share the lovely work Emanuele Caruso did during the difficult, smoggy 2017 autumn and while he was preparing to release his highly acclaimed film La Terra Buona. Emanuele is an amazing artist and, along with the wine producers, speaks beautifully from a rich Piemontese heart and soul.

God bless them all!

Hope you enjoy. Spread the word about this truly magical wine region and the under discovered stories of her inhabitants, culture, and history.


Cascina delle Rose
Bringing the Nebbiolo grapes home to the cantina at Cascina delle Rose in Barbaresco.
Jeffrey Chilcott
Jeffrey Chilcott, cellar master at Marchesi di Grésy winery in Barbaresco.
Davide Sobrino
Davide Sobrino and his father Italo in the vineyards of their family’s Cascina delle Rose in Barbaresco.

Carlo Deltetto (1922 – 2017)

Passing of a Patriarch

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 Piemonte was 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.

Carlo Deltetto (1922 – 2017)

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.

Catterina and Carlo Deltetto with their baby boy, Antonio (Tonino)

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.

Four generations of the Deltetto family

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.

Three generations of Deltettos – Lidia, Carlo the Younger, and Toni. Nonno Carlo’s winery is in good hands.
Carlo Deltetto the Elder’s granddaughters and heirs to his vinous legacy, Claudia (left) and Cristina, with the first of the next generation of Deltettos, Lidia.

Labor of Love – Roero Families

The Roero Families

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.


Deltetto Extra Brut Spumante Rose Metodo Classico from Nebbiolo and Pinot Nero.
Deltetto Extra Brut Spumante Metodo Classico Rosé from Nebbiolo and Pinot Nero.


Cantina Marsaglia
Castellinaldo d’Alba

Emilio and Marina Marsaglia with their partners (and children) Monica and Enrico.
Emilio and Marina Marsaglia with their partners (and children) Monica and Enrico.                 Photo Credit – Vacchetto


Monchiero Carbone

Monchiero matriarch and founder of the winery, Clotilde Valente Raimondo.
Monchiero matriarch and founder of the winery, Clotilde Valente Raimondo.


Matteo Correggia

Photo Credit: Alisha Quinn Bosco
Photo Credit: Alisha Quinn Bosco


Don’t forget to subscribe to Wine Families for all the updates and sneak peeks between now and launch day on June 2, 2016 in Barbaresco!

LOL Cover - FINAL - JPG - low rez

Piemonte is Piemonte


I was delighted to read Will Lyon’s article in the Wall Street Journal – “Why Piemonte is the new Burgundy.” I’m always thrilled to see Piemonte get such positive, enthusiastic ink, particularly in the Journal. I’m even more delighted to see Punset amongst the list of recommended wines since it’s long overdue for feisty organic pioneer Marina Marcarino and her wines to receive such accolades!

So my hat is off to Mr. Lyons for such a nice article; I must respectfully demur, however, and note that Piemonte is not the new Burgundy. Nor the old. Piemonte is Piemonte. And, as Barbaresco producer Giovanna Rizzolio pointed out, it is Italian.

Breathtaking autumnal view of the Langhe's vineyards with Monte Viso standing guard to the west.  Photo Credit: Pierangelo Vacchetto
Breathtaking autumnal view of the Langhe’s vineyards with Monte Viso standing guard to the west.
Photo Credit: Pierangelo Vacchetto

Piemonte has its own heart and soul that is reflected in its wines. And its heart and soul emanate from the cornerstone of the region – the wine families.

It’s a little sad – at least to me – that Piemonte’s wine families were not mentioned. Without their indomitable spirit and unyielding drive, the incredible oenological delights wine lovers are finally recognizing would not be possible.

The wine families of Piemonte are the source of the charisma and individualism of the region’s wines. Some prime examples include Chiara Boschis of E. Pira e Figli  whose noble red wines reflect her spirit and passion;

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

Ornella Correggia whose courage in the face of unfathomable grief made it possible for her children Giovanni and Brigitta to be one with their late father’s vision of Roero at the winery that bears his name – Azienda Agricola Matteo Correggia. 

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

Giovanna Rizzolio of Cascina delle Rose Barbaresco who fought a tsunami of opposition to be the first woman in Barbaresco to own and operate her own winery;

Giovanna, Italo with Davide (left) and Riccardo (center).
Giovanna, Italo with Davide (left) and Riccardo (center).

the Rocca sisters – Daniela, Paola and Monica – of Albino Rocca in Barbaresco whose own beautiful oenological signature was written on their 2013 Barbaresco, their first vintage to emerge on their own without their late father, Angelo Rocca.

The Rocca sisters - Daniela, Monica and Paola - with their late father and Barbaresco visionary Angelo Rocca.
The Rocca sisters – Daniela, Monica and Paola – with their late father and Barbaresco visionary Angelo Rocca.

and the Grasso family of Cà del Baio in Treiso in Barbaresco and Deltetto family of Canale in Roero;

photo 5
Joined through the marriage of Paola Grasso and Carlo Deltetto, Cà del Baio and Deltetto wineries will share the future through the next generation – Lidia and Anna Deltetto.

…..and so on (it will all be in my book “A Labor of Love – Wine Family Women of Piemonte.”)

Incidentally, I don’t believe Piemonte is the “new Burgundy.” Piemonte is AND ALWAYS WILL BE Piemonte. I kind of feel passionate about that if you haven’t noticed!

Please never forget that the soul of Piemonte’s wines are forever tied to the families who create them. Their’s truly is a labor of love! 


Elide Cordero: Cultivating Culinary Perfection

Long before the Cordon Bleu and Culinary Institute of America were founded, there were mothers and grandmas who taught their female offspring to cook, binding generations together with culinary traditions. In Piemonte, Italy, this “nonna culture” has cultivated many fine chefs. Elide Cordero, Chef/Co-owner of Ristorante il Centro in Priocca, Italy is a culinary offspring of that culture. 

Chef Elide Cordero of Ristorante Il Centro is equally at home in nature and her kitchen.
Chef Elide Cordero of Ristorante Il Centro is equally at home in nature and her kitchen. Photo courtesy of Il Centro.

Piemonte, the large province located in northwest Italy, is home to a diverse landscape that yields a cornucopia of agricultural bounty, perfect for instilling in her inhabitants a rich culinary legacy. In the mountains, milk and cheese are the primary products. The region’s sub-alpine hills are home to Alto Piemonte’s vineyards. On the flatlands, fed by the Po River, cattle, rice and crops such as beans and other vegetables flourish. Finally, vineyards and hazelnut groves carpet the undulating landscape of Langhe, Roero, and Monferrato. That’s just a bird’s eye view of the region’s agrarian landscape.

The rolling, vineyard covered hills of Piemonte lie within a stone's throw of the majestic Pennine and Cottian Alps.
The rolling, vineyard covered hills of Piemonte lie within a stone’s throw of the majestic Pennine and Cottian Alps.

It’s in that surrounding Elide’s grandmother and mother nurtured her culinary roots. At her family’s restaurant Il Centro in the Roero town of Priocca, Elide Cordero has blossomed into one of Italy’s leading chefs, although in her shy, modest manner she’d deny that stature. Her well-deserved Michelin star gives the Cordero family’s restaurant global notoriety, but Elide, like her cuisine, has remained humble and true to the region.

Chef Elide Cordero of Ristorante Il Centro.
Chef Elide Cordero’s uniform is a starched white chef’s jacket, black pants and  her ever-present strand of pearls. Photo courtesy of Il Centro.

Unlike many of her peers who earned degrees at expensive private culinary schools, Elide studied at one of the oldest and most prestigious of all – the family kitchen. Her earliest memories were of a yearning to cook. Under her grandmother and mother’s tutelage in their farmhouse kitchen in Pocapaglia, 32 miles south of Torino, Elide fell in love with nature’s bounty growing just beyond their kitchen door. The two women she loved and admired most showed her how to coax delectable flavors out of the simplest ingredients. Those experiences set her on a path well-deserved fame.

Youthful Farm Life

The evolution of Elide Cordero’s culinary prowess began on her family’s farm.  Growing up in the middle of nature instilled in Elide a solid work ethic and keen appreciation of the seasonality of food and the time needed to produce it. Elide finds the ability to buy strawberries from some distant land in the cold of December unnatural.

Food has a seasonality that should be respected. Gone are the days we pined for our favorite fruit or vegetable to be ready for harvest. Strawberries in spring. Melons in summer. Grapes in autumn. Today, Western societies have settled for “on-demand” food, available anytime of the year. As Elide notes, the demand may be met, but the price paid is quality and health.

On Elide’s parents’ farm, chemicals – a given in today’s industrialized farms – were eschewed. It was unheard of to alter a plant or animal’s development. Nature would take her time.  She needed no interference from man’s chemicals. Fertilizer came from cows not a chemical plant miles away.

In the face of commonplace economic hardships, farmers like Elide’s father, Francesco Mollo, possessed a complete understanding of nature’s ways. They knew the origins of everything their families ate and respected nature for providing it. Sadly, industrialization of the food industry has tainted – perhaps forever – the land once so lovingly tended.

The knowledge transfer Elide enjoyed came each day after school when she and her brother Giovanni would tend the farm animals and harvest vegetables and herbs for dinner. She then would help her mother Francesca cook. It was a hard, demanding life, but in her words, “It was a life lived from the heart, so it wasn’t tough.”

Wood, not gas, fired the stoves of Elide’s childhood home. In winters, Elide would accompany her father to collect wood. The wood’s use was dependent upon its characteristics. Slow burn was obviously best for the kitchen. Rovere and Quercia – types of oak trees – are prized for their very slow, even burning characteristics. Elide’s daughter Valentina fondly remembers peering through a hole in the top of the stove while her grandmother added more wood to fire a slow-cooking dish.

From this respect for nature that cocooned her budding culinary skills, Elide learned how to coddle a product, developing its best flavors. It’s the essence of her philosophy in her kitchen at Il Centro. The best products cooked in the correct manner – usually slow – yield the best dishes. That philosophy, engrained in Elide long before she became a chef, drives her creative cuisine that pays homage to the rich Piemontese culinary heritage.

Journey to Il Centro

Elide’s journey to Il Centro began in her early 20s. Her workweek consisted of 8-hour days in a garment factory followed by evenings helping on the farm. Fridays didn’t signal an end to work. Weekends presented another work opportunity when she would travel about 16 miles to work as a server and a barista at a bar in Priocca.

In early 1980s’ Piemonte, restaurant excursions were primarily weekend events. That’s when bars such as the Cordero family’s Il Centro would be transformed into restaurants serving patrons celebrating birthdays, weddings, christenings and first communions. Elide had little interest in serving. Cooking for restaurant patrons was closer to her heart.

The alchemy of cuisine energized Elide and filled her dreams. An encounter with a “coup de feu” when she met Enrico Cordero helped make those dreams come true.

Lighting Strike

Love at first sight is often viewed as a cliché. Not for Elide and Enrico. Within 6 months of love’s lightening strike, they celebrated their nuptials. Once again, Elide’s culinary education was in the hands of two women, her mother-in-law Rita and Enrico’s grandmother Lidia, each with a love of cooking. A year later, they welcomed their first child Valentina into their lives.

A culinary love match - Elide and Enrico Cordero.
A culinary love match – Elide and Enrico Cordero. Photo courtesy of Il Centro.

Mornings found Elide in Il Centro, behind the bar, making coffee. Afternoons she moved to the small kitchen for her cooking education. With no formal culinary background, Elide stressed over the dishes she prepared.

Her first task was learning to make pasta. Piemonte is famous for its traditional pasta – agnolotti di plin, small ravioli; and egg-rich tajarin, a tiny version of tagliatelle only 1/12” wide. Making each is time-consuming and challenging, but Elide mastered the techniques. Then came desserts. Although happy to be cooking, she yearned to expand the bar-restaurant’s menu.

Piles of thin, egg-rich tajarin are created twice a week at Il Centro.
Piles of thin, egg-rich tajarin are created twice a week at Il Centro.

A few years after Valentina, her brother Giampiero was born. The little family was complete. Six years after her wedding, Elide realized she needed to venture to other restaurants to absorb knowledge from seasoned chefs to achieve her full potential.

Elide’s first culinary experience beyond Il Centro was a 3-day stage with Georges Cuny, a French chef in Piacenza she discovered through a long-time customer. The short stage yielded a wealth of knowledge that helped her better organize and operate Il Centro’s kitchen. But since she believed “the hand of woman is very different than that of a man,” Elide wanted to continue her education under the guidance of a woman chef. She found that opportunity in the medieval hilltop town of Montemerano, halfway between Florence and Rome.

Chef Valeria Piccini’s restaurant Da Caino is located in an agricultural zone much like that surrounding Elide’s beloved childhood home. Here Elide reveled in learning new techniques under the guidance of the Michelin two-star chef. Having enhanced her culinary repertoire, Elide now had the confidence she needed to take Il Centro to the next level. Chef Piccini urged her to take the plunge.  And plunge she did.  

Creating an Epicurean Center of Excellence

Enrico Cordero’s chef-father Pierin bought Il Centro in April 1956. For 100 years before and in years since he purchased Il Centro, it had always been a bar first, restaurant second. The restaurant concept didn’t fit Elide’s vision. The pool table and pinball machine certainly weren’t suitable furnishings for a white linen restaurant. The tiny kitchen was woefully inadequate. Changes were needed.

In the late 1980s, the transformation from bar to world class restaurant began. Although the entrance is still a bar where patrons can enjoy a coffee or something a bit stronger, the pool table and pinball machine are gone.  In their place is a small, discrete private dining room with soft lighting under the original vaulted brick ceiling, giving guests a feeling of renaissance dining. The elegant, but non-pretentious main dining room is bright and airy with pale yellow walls and stately white molding.

The kitchen more than doubled in size, becoming a stage for Elide and her team’s epicurean performance six days a week.

Her expansive modern kitchen is Chef Elide Cordero's second home.
Her expansive modern kitchen is Chef Elide Cordero’s second home.

Elide’s dessert station was once her entire kitchen.

Il Centro - Kitchen 2

Below, in the belly of the building is a treasury of wines Bacchus would envy.

Il Centro cellar
Photo courtesy of Il Centro.

As it always has been, Il Centro remains a family affair.

The Cordero Family in the cellar at Il Centro
The Cordero Family in the cellar at Il Centro. Photo courtesy of Il Centro.

Valentina, now a journalist in New York City, spent her childhood with her brother Giampiero working with and learning from their parents. Even now, when she visits from New York, Valentina joins her family in the restaurant.

Valentina Cordero
Valentina Cordero. Photo courtesy of Il Centro

Giampiero, a graduate in enology of the prestigious Alba enological school, now works in the front of the house with his father Enrico.

Giampiero Cordero
Giampiero Cordero in his “office.” Photo courtesy of Il Centro.

Together, they manage the impressive wine cellar and insure Elide’s beautiful cuisine receives the presentation it rightly deserves.

Enrico Cordero and son Giampiero in Ristorante Il Centro's lauded wine cellar.
Together, Enrico Cordero and son Giampiero manage Ristorante Il Centro’s lauded wine cellar. Photo courtesy of Centro.

The road from the farmhouse kitchen in Pocapaglia to the heady atmosphere of Il Centro, where people from around the world flock to enjoy her cuisine, has been a long, but happy one for Elide. Her smile and her delight at creating simple but sumptuous dishes out of Mother Nature’s bounty are key ingredients in Elide Cordero’s cuisine.  Her successful journey from farmhouse to world class restaurant kitchen where she cultivates culinary excellence is now complete.

Il Centro front
Photo courtesy of Il Centro.

Discovering Under-Discovered Piemonte

Seeking the Sun in Piemonte

I’m in Piemonte now, spending a month wrapping up final interviews and research for my book project on the wine women of the Langhe and Roero.

It’s mid-May, a time when the weather can be unpredictable, but is generally kind to visitors and vintners. Although snowstorms still plague my home in the Colorado Rockies, here the sun is shining. At my agriturismo in the countryside, I am suspended between Heaven and earth, azure blue skies and rolling green hills.

Panoramic view of the Barolo appellation and the Cottian Alps and Alpes Maritime in the background as seen from Diano d'Alba.
Panoramic view of the Barolo appellation and the Cottian Alps and Alpes Maritime in the background as seen from Diano d’Alba.

Unfortunately, my experiences haven’t always been like today. The shyness of the sun in those early trips nearly foiled later adventures to the region. How I came to love this land and find a connection so deep that I am consumed with writing about it is something that did not come easy.

Since so many of my storytelling-moments involve Piemonte, people often people ask why I’m drawn to the province, particularly the Langhe and Roero, the two most prominent wine districts (my apologies to Montferrato and northern Piemonte wineries). It’s a fair question and actually quite easy to answer. This region in the northwestern corner of Italy is an endearing amalgamation of people, culture and natural beauty that literally bewitched me.

Spell-binding autumn colors of Piemonte's vineyards can still be seen and enjoyed on cloudy, autumn days.
Spell-binding autumn colors of Piemonte’s vineyards can still be seen and enjoyed on cloudy, autumn days.

A year passed before I experienced a sunny day in Piemonte and saw for myself what I had only seen in photographs – vine-covered rolling landscapes peppered with medieval hilltop towns against a backdrop of snow-covered alps far away on the western and northern horizons.

Reconnaissance Mission

In early November 1999, I set out on my first Piemontese adventure with my mom and my mini-Schnauzer, Otis.

Otis the Wine Dog
Otis the Wine Dog was welcome everywhere we went in Europe.

My mom was visiting and my husband Dani was in China overseeing a shipbuilding project at Jiangnan Shipyards in Shanghai, so this was a great opportunity to take mom on a reconnaissance mission to learn about this under-discovered region. We lived in neighboring Switzerland, so I loaded up mom who was visiting from south Louisiana, and Otis who enjoyed the benefits of Europe’s enlightened pet access rules into our white Ford Explorer for the nearly 5 hour drive south from Zurich.

Dani with the Wine Panzer at Marchesi di Gresy in Barbaresco appellation.
Dani with the Wine Panzer at Marchesi di Gresy in Barbaresco appellation.

Anyone who knows Piemonte knows Mother Nature usually unleashes her foul mood on the region in November after (hopefully) holding rains in abeyance through the autumn harvest. At a minimum, there’s always fog. But there is also rain. We had rain. Lots of it. Walking a dog in the pouring rain through sticky mud was not the experience I sought. Frankly, I was miserable.

In those days before bloggers and writers began spreading the gospel of Piemonte, there were few travel resources in any language much less English. A few of my colleagues at Swiss Re gave me tips, but for the most part, I didn’t know where to go or what to eat. I was just told it was hard to make a bad choice. My mom was along for the ride. Normally someone who wanted to be in full control, she happily ceded control to me. You might say it was a classic case of the blind leading the blind.

I discovered agriturismo Villa Meridiana on the outskirts of Alba. Perched on a west-facing slope high above the town with a view, I was told, of the Roero to the north and the Langhe to the west, it was one of the few agriturismi in existence at the time. As I had discovered when I booked, it was full. No one had told me early November was still high season when gastronomes across Europe descended on Alba to dine on and purchase tartufi bianchi d’Alba.

Sunset over Alba from Villa Meridiana on a later trip to the region.
Sunset over Alba from Villa Meridiana on a later trip to the region.

Fortunately, the owners had two vacant apartments in Neviglie, a hilltop hamlet in the Barbaresco appellation about 10 minutes to the east. We were delighted, but the terrifying drive on narrow, winding roads in pouring rain in what we would in later years dub the “wine panzer,” proved to be an unexpected stressor. Wine was needed.

We spent four rainy days and nights there, only once venturing outside at night. Although we didn’t discover very much beyond the apartment’s door, each day we had a delightful time buying grissini, bread, salumi, cheese and, of course, wine from the mercato d’Alba and small salumerie, panetterie, alimentari and enoteche.

A wide selection of delicious Piemontese specialities are always available at Alba Market on Thursday's and Saturday's, year round.
A wide selection of delicious Piemontese specialities are always available at Alba Market on Thursday’s and Saturday’s, year round.

The experience connected me to the region and I knew I would return if for no other reason than to see the sun shining on the vineyards.

Still Seeking the Sun

During the first February of the new millennium, I made my second trip to Piemonte, this time with Dani and my ever-present companion, Otis. Still not the best seasonal choice, but at least the persistent clouds didn’t rain on us. Although we didn’t see the vistas the Langhe was known for, the abundance of medieval villages, seemingly ghost towns in the mid-winter cold, held gastronomic secrets we soon discovered – excellent, family-owned restaurants.

Fog in autumn and winter can create beautiful scenery when settled into vineyard lined valleys.
Fog in autumn and winter can create beautiful scenery when settled into vineyard lined valleys.

We couldn’t have asked for a more appropriate introduction to classic Piemontese cucina. It was as it should be: simple, fresh and made with love. Needless to say, the concept of eating food grown within a few miles of the restaurants was a fabulous discovery.

The basics in all traditional Piemontese restaurants: fresh grissini and local cheese, salumi and, of course, wine.
The basics in all traditional Piemontese restaurants: fresh grissini and local cheese, salumi and, of course, wine.

The warmth of the food and those who prepared and served it made us long for more. We still hadn’t seen the landscape nor had we truly experienced the wine culture. That would soon change in a – positive – seismic way.

Discovering a part of New Zealand in Barbaresco

It wasn’t until later that year, again in November, when I saw the bright sunshine and what the clouds and fog had hidden from me. The trip began as expected: foggy days and even foggier nights. On the third day, an early season snowstorm blanketed the near naked vineyards with snow so that when the clouds surrendered to the sun, we discovered the landscape in all its splendor.

Early winter snow blanketing the vineyards of Martinenga. (Photo courtesy of Marchesi di Gresy).
Early winter snow blanketing the vineyards of Martinenga. (Photo courtesy of Marchesi di Gresy).

Snow-covered vineyards, azure blue sky – we call it “bluebird skies” in Colorado – and soaring mountains on the horizon made the wait worthwhile. Perhaps it was Mother Nature’s way of making visitors to the region worthy of witnessing the splendor she could unveil.

On that trip, we not only discovered what fog and clouds had hidden from us, but it was the beginning of our adventures in wine. After the brief period of sun, the snow melted and the fog returned. Piemonte was once again shrouded in her foggy winter mantle.

Nevertheless, despite the fog and daunting directions, we discovered the Kiwi wine wizard, Jeffrey Chilcott, maître de chais of the vaunted Barbaresco winery, Tenuta Cisa Asinari dei Marchesi di Grésy.

Marchesi di Gresy Maitre de Chais Jeffrey Chilcott
Marchesi di Gresy Maitre de Chais Jeffrey Chilcott

Nestled on the slopes of the Martinenga ampitheatre, it’s not an easy place to find, particularly when the pea-soup thick fog obscures signs. But we persevered and our lives changed forever. We quickly discovered it wasn’t just sun that had been missing, but an anglophone wine sage to guide us through the exciting world of Nebbiolo, Barbera, Dolcetto, Arneis and all the other varietals that make their home in Piemonte.

At Home – Briefly – in Piemonte

Fast-forward 15 years and over 20 trips to this morning in the Langhe. Once again, I’m rewarded with deep blue skies above, but now it’s lush green below my feet that dominates the colors of the landscape. Nascent grapes are profiting from warm, sunny days and vines are growing fast to produce leaves that will capture the nurturing sun’s rays.

Early season Dolcetto grapes in vineyards of Cantina Gigi Rosso in Diano d'Alba.
Early season Dolcetto grapes in vineyards of Cantina Gigi Rosso in Diano d’Alba.

Another vintage is dawning in the heart of Piemonte. I’m here to witness it and share with you stories of Piemonte’s wine families and their region.

Come back in the days ahead as I share stories and guide visitors to some of the under-discovered places that enchant us. Needless to say, I will introduce you to many people who have become dear friends, including Jeffrey, the tall Kiwi of Martinenga.

Ci vediamo tutti!

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

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