Tuesday, May 29, 2018

A Day In Barbaresco

Barbaresco. Barolo. Alba. Asti. Monferrato. Langhe. Roero.

I started learning about these names and places, along with others, almost two years ago. For those new to the world of Italian wine, this region is home to a number of iconic Italian grape varieties, chief of which is Nebbiolo, named after the fog -- nebbia -- which is common in the hills of this area in the fall. The variety is essentially grown nowhere else in the world but here, and it finds its ultimate expression in Barolo and Barbaresco, often referred to as the "king" and "queen," respectively, of Italian wine. Other well-known wines made here include Barbera and Moscato d'Asti.

Un cappuccino, always a good start to a day in Italy.

Breakfast in the Marguerita guest house.

Yesterday morning, we drove to the heart of the Barbaresco vineyards, then on to Ca'del Baio, a winery owned and operated by the Grasso family whose patriarch, Julio, won an Italian winemaker of the year award in 2016. We were met by Julio's oldest daughter, Paola, for an orientation of the vineyards, then she led us to the winery for a tasting and lunch.

Paola Grasso with the village of Barbaresco in the background.

Mandy and me

At Ca' Del Baio, we would be treated to an extraordinary side-by-side tasting of six vintages, spanning from 2001 to 2015, of Ca' Del Baio's Barbaresco from their Asili cru. As we did so, Paola explained the characteristics of each vintage's growing season, often including particular weather trials, be they hail, weeks without rain, weeks with rain or racing to harvest grapes before bad weather could degrade an otherwise promising crop. I had to laugh, however, when she explained that she did not engage in the "poesie" (poetry) of the sommelier and looked to us to describe the characteristics of the wine.

After the tasting, we were treated to a simple but delicious cold lunch that concluded with flan and tortes made by Paola's mother, Luciana.

Hands down, best ham and cantaloupe I've ever tasted.


Luciana and Suzanne Hoffman

This is a good point to explain that this tour was organized by Suzanne Hoffman, author of the book, Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte. Suzanne first started coming to Piemonte when she lived and worked in Switzerland with her husband. Over the years, she started becoming acquainted with various wine families here, and she eventually decided to write a book focusing on the stories of families where women had come to play key (and nontraditional) roles in the wine industry here. 

Because of Suzanne's personal relationships with a number of families, she was able to organize a tour here that offers us a window on the families and industry that most others are not afforded. Such was the case at Ca' Del Baio.

Such was also the case later in the day at Tenute Cisa Asinari Dei Marchesi Di Grésy, owned by Alberto di Grésy. There, we had an after-hours tour of the winery and tasting conducted by cellar master Jeffrey Chilcott, a native New Zealander who has been living and working in Piemonte for decades.

Jeffrey Chilcott leading us on a tour of the winery and cellar

The tasting was an embarrassment of riches. First up, a Sauvignon Blanc, hardly a wine typically associated with Piemonte, but one which surprised and delighted many of us, myself included. That was followed by a Chardonnay before we moved into Nebiollos and Barbarescos, including some older vintages. I loved every wine and will definitely be looking for the brand back in the U.S.

Albert di Grésy dropped in unexpectedly on our tasting to say hello.

After the tasting, it was off to dinner at a small, informal place in yet another village, joined by Jeffrey Chilcott as well as several people from Ca' Del Baio. It was quite the evening, featuring local dishes and, of course, lots of local wine. Another grueling day in Piemonte, packed with food, wine and lots of laughter and happy memories.


  1. Incredible advertisement for iPhone 10, but it isn't just the quality of the shots, but the eagle eye behind the camera. So much fun to have you along to capture these wonderful moments in "film" for us! Thanks, Giuseppe!