Thursday, December 13, 2018

Julia Kemper Wines - Organic Vineyards in the Dão


Our first stop in the Dão wine region of Portugal was at Quinta do Cruzeiro where Julia Kemper Wines are produced. As we headed up to the vineyards, I felt like I was hiking through the woods at camp but the high heeled boots of our leader suggested we were in a more civilized place. All of the vineyards are surrounded by pine forests with eucalyptus and olive trees bordering the edges. There was a freshness in the air that Julia said came from the surrounding mountains, the diverse plant life and colorful mushrooms suggested something more enchanted. Julia shared her history with us as we walked. The farm has been in her family for more than 400 years, it was always taken care of by the men in her family.

In 2000, Julia was a lawyer in Lisbon when her father requested that she take over running the family farm. Why me, she thought. She would have to quit her job and begin a new life and she was not sure that she wanted to do that. She was also hesitant because she knew what a tremendous responsibility it would be and her father stipulated that she could never sell it, it must remain in the family.

She was also surprised that she was chosen. It was always the men who had been in charge. Growing up, she had never even been invited into the cellar to see the process of making wine. The family had always sold the majority of the grapes they produced, they typically only made a small amount of wine for the family and for friends. Their wine making was more of a hobby that they were passionate about but it was not the farm's main business.

After 3 years she finally accepted. She arrived in 2003 to find that things were not as she would have liked. She found piles of old containers from the 1930s, partially buried, that once had held chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. She was horrified to realize how the farm had been run during the previous century. She immediately made the decision to go organic. She also made the decision to stop selling the property's grapes. She wanted to make wine from the farm's grapes and sell that instead.

For the next five years, she began changing things. She chose not to produce wine during that time. In addition to getting the property cleaned up and properly disposing of the chemical mess of the past, she also brought in some French wine consultants. While they helped with the studies of soil and climate to determine where each variety of the native vines should be grown, she was most interested in learning how best to sell the wine that she planned to produce.

While Portugal has long been known for their field blend wines, her consultants advised her to make varietal wines instead. They believed that making wines from single varieties of grapes would be easier to sell on the world market. As consumers became more savvy about the different types of wine available, they would be able to distinguish which varietals they preferred.

Once she had decided on her business plan, she needed to create a brand. Julia joked that as with many Portuguese, she had a long list to choose from as her full name is composed of 14 names. As a lawyer, she was practicing as Ana Julia de Melo Kemper. She decided on Julia Kemper believing it would be the easiest to pronounce in the international market and feeling strongly that the initials JK had been lucky for others throughout history.

"Currently, the wines are being sold from Canada to Beijing", she stated, "It is not only my full time job, it is my full time passion." What she initially construed as a burden has become, "a very pleasant life, though it is a lot of work, it is worth it." She still feels like she is learning how best to handle her new role and she shared she surrounds herself with good people to help her. The 60 hectare estate has 20 hectares under vine. The vineyards sit on soils composed of granite, schist, and quartz on three plateaus. The vineyards are now certified organic using many bio-dynamic principles. Julia summed up her journey, "I became organic because I was organic. I am happy to take care of my family farm and make the type of wines I like and want to drink."

The Tasting
Elpenor Vinho Branco 2017 - This white is fermented in stainless steel, it is crisp and fresh with grapefruit and a light mineral finish.
Julia Kemper Vinho Branco 2016 - About 25-30% of this white blend spent time in new French oak giving it a slight creaminess to the texture yet still fresh and light with pear and citrus aromas and flavors with a light tropical note in the finish.
Julia Kemper Reserva Vinho Branco 2015 - This Encruzado-based wine spent one year in new French Oak giving it a rich, full bodied, creamy feel with vanilla hints mingling with the peach and grapefruit aromas and flavors through the lingering mineral-laced finish. Julia called this one a winter white.
Elpenor Tinto 2014 - This red blend saw no oak. The wine is fresh and juicy with black cherry aromas and flavors and a tart, peppery finish. The label for this line was inspired by a picture of a caterpillar taken in the vineyard. It was peacefully living there because the vineyards are organic.
Elpenor Reserva Touriga Nacional 2014 - This velvety red wine spent four years in oak barrels. It has fresh aromas and flavors of ripe black cherry and blackberry with a slight almond skin note in the lingering finish.
Julia Kemper Curiosity 2012 - This red wine is composed primarily of Alfrocheiro with 10% of Touriga Nacional, it spent 2 months in three year old French oak barrels. It was fruity with raspberry and cherry with a light floral note of violet and hints of fresh herbs through the persistent finish.

If traveling to Portugal, this winery is on the Dão Wine Route. The wineries that are part of this group are tourist friendly, though reservations are required.


Tuesday, December 11, 2018

A Tour and a Tasting at Mauro Veglio


Late in the afternoon, Daniela Veglio, Mauro's wife, met me outside of the winery to show me the surrounding vineyards and tell me their story. It all began with Mauro's grandfather, Angelo Veglio. Angelo was a sharecropper and part-time butcher who had a dream of owning his own vineyards and making wine under his own name from the local grapes that he loved. In the 1960's, he was able to purchase his first property located in Gattera and the realization of his vision began. By 1979, he was able to buy a rundown property called Cascina Nuova with a farmhouse which now, after many additions, houses the current tasting room, cellar and winery.

Angelo had three sons but only Mauro shared his dream. Mauro Veglio took over in 1986 when he was 25 years old. He began the restoration of the Cascina Nuova property and started experimenting with different winemaking and vineyard techniques. Mauro Veglio started his own brand in 1992. These were the years that the Barolo Boys began making waves through the region. Daniela shared, "Most of the people here were just farmers, peasant workers, stuck in the hands of the buyers that set the price for the grapes. What could anyone do? You can't hold onto your grapes forever, they have to be sold. Our parents and grandparents had struggled to survive, the Barolo Boys came from the lowest level of society. After traveling and seeing more of the wine world, we learned it was important to work together and share our experience for all to be successful."

They began to improve the quality of their wine faster this way. The winemaking in the region began to change. For the first time, reduction of yields in the vineyards became important as did cleanliness in the winery. "It has been good for everyone, it has become difficult to find a bad wine in the region."

I briefly met Mauro outside of the winery where he was relaxing. They had just completed bringing in all the grapes and the end of a good harvest showed on his face. He kindly went back to the vineyard with me for a quick photo-op before returning to the winery to oversee the clean up.
Daniela and I went into the tasting room and she introduced me to their nephew, Alessandro. Alessandro is the son of one of Mauro's brothers, he began making wine in 2005 under his own name but decided to join Mauro and Daniela in 2017 bringing five additional vineyard hectares to their venture.

As they set up the wine for the tasting, Daniela spoke of traveling to sell their wines in the 1990's. "The first time new people tried Barolo, they were shocked at its structure. They see the list and see the names and prices. They want to taste the most expensive and famous wine from the area but then they were surprised at what it is."

Alessandro expounded, "It is quite strange when I hear about the early years of my aunt and uncle. When they spoke with people as they began to travel, the Barolo name was somewhat known but not many had tasted it yet. Many people found it to be very aggressive at first taste. It is what we have always had, for us, it is not so tannic."

Currently, Mauro Veglio  produces 120,000 bottles a year from their 19 hectares of vineyards located in La Morra, Monforte d'Alba, and Barolo. They use no chemical pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers relying on pheromones to confuse harmful insects and limit their reproduction and cover crops composed of beneficial plants and manure. Mauro and Daniela's respect for Alessandro's work is what led to their initially sharing cellar space with him and their hope now is to see him continue their work throughout the coming years.

The Tasting:
Mauro Veglio Dolcetto 2016 - Simple, smooth, and easy drinking with fresh black cherry aromas and flavors and a light floral note.
Mauro Veglio Barbera d'Alba 2017 - Fresh and fruity with sweet ripe plum aromas and flavors and a touch of minerality in the finish.
Mauro Veglio Barbera d'Alba Cascina Nuova 2016 - From older vines than the previous wine sourced from the vineyard around the winery with sweet red fruit aromas and a light spicy finish.
Mauro Veglio L'Insieme Langhe Rosso 2015 - A blend of 40% Nebbiolo, 30% Barbera, and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, this wine was created in the 1990's to accommodate the newly initiated Nebbiolo drinker but is still an important wine in the line. Rich ripe red fruit aromas and flavors with vanilla, and spice.
Mauro Veglio "Angelo" Lange Nebbiolo 2017 - Named after Mauro's father and Alessandro's grandfather, floral rose and fruity cherry flavors, fresh and aromatic.
Mauro Veglio Barolo 2014 - Fresh and round with intense red fruit aromas and flavors with a touch of vanilla; cohesive and elegant with a savory note in the persistent finish. Made from the youngest grapes from the La Morra and Monforte d'Alba vineyards.
Mauro Veglio Barolo Arborina 2014 - Elegant, fresh and aromatic with delicate floral notes of rose and fruity raspberry and black cherry flavors, nicely balanced with a spicy, mineral-laced finish. My favorite of the tasting.
Mauro Veglio Barolo Castelletto 2014 - Big shoulders, more tannic and intense with more concentrated aromas and flavors of mixed berry jam with dried herbs and a licorice note in the lengthy finish.

All of the wines are highly recommended.


Thursday, December 6, 2018

Tasting Bersano


A couple of weeks before I went to Piemonte, Paolo Lovisolo, Bersano's Direttore Commerciale, was in Houston for a tasting at Vinology for a tasting with some local wine professionals.

He poured everyone a glass of Gavi, a crisp white wine, to get started.
"Piemonte is a region that is not so easy to approach. Everyone knows Barolo and Barbaresco, the vineyards and hills are Unesco World Heritage Sites but it is still a region that is difficult to understand." Giorgio Caflisch, an Italian wine teacher at The Texas Wine School, volunteered that he tells his students that Barbera is the gateway to Piemonte wines. Lovisolo agreed with Caflisch and then continued his story.
Bersano is a historic company founded at the beginning of the 20th century in 1907 by Giuseppe Bersano, who had a passion for wine. Initially, he bought grapes from local growers but then began investing in land for Barbera believing that would be the future of the company. His uncle, a lawyer, joined the company and began marketing the wine. He also helped to purchase more vineyard land. The two felt that vineyard management was the key to making great wine. Time would move on and the company would eventually be sold to Seagram's who sold off some of the premium land holdings in Barbaresco and Barolo including the Castle of Barbaresco which is now owned by Gaja. The company would change hands again in the mid 1980s.

Today, Bersano is the largest private owner in Piemonte with over 230 hectares of vineyards in ten estates. While the focus is on Barbera in Asti, they also produce Gavi, and have 12 hectares in Serralunga, the highest village in the Barolo region. Lovisolo described the company as classic producers wanting to express the soul of the microclimates they possess. He said the company has no interest in making international style wines, they wish to focus on the uniqueness of their vineyards. They vinify and age in the region's traditional ways using big barrels that hold 10,000 liters.
The company is located in Asti where Barbera is the most important grape. It is planted in the best positions and in single vineyards, because of this, Lovisolo stated that he believes that Barbera d'Asti is better than Barbera d'Alba.

The company has also produced white Gavi wines for 40 years. They don't own the land from which these grapes are sourced but have had a long-term handshake deal to rent the the land. Gavi is made from the Cortese grape and comes from the Gavi village. The vines are grown on calcareous soils with some clay. The area receives some wind from the seaside at night causing temperature drops which help to maintain the grape's natural acidity. Lovisolo stated the the region has more ocean influence than most of Piemonte.

The Tasting:
Bersano Gavi 2017 - Easy drinking and crisp with good acidity, delicate and elegant with light floral notes, pineapple, tangerine, and a mineral-laced finish.
Bersano Barbera d'Asti 2016 - Fresh and fruity with red cherry and hints of eucalyptus, an easy drinking wine. This wine is a classic blend from several areas, fermented in stainless steel before being aged in large barrels for three months.
Bersano Ruche - Aromatic with rose and red fruit with velvety tannins, fresh acidity, and a spicy white pepper finish. Lovisolo referred to it as "easy to appreciate and enjoy" and alerted the group that most is sold in the Italian market. They only have 25 hectares of these grapes, the wine is produced only in stainless steel.
Bersano Barolo Nirvaisco 2013 - Big tannic structure with red cherry, dried herbs and hints of leather with a lengthy finish. Lovisolo stated, "This is not an easy wine, it is not for beginners, it is finesse in a glass."
Bersano Barolo Riserva 2011 - Intense aromas of black cherry, mint, and hints of violet with a slight savory note and a persistent finish.

We followed this with a vertical of the company's Barbera d'Asti from the Nizza sub-region. Bersano has a 55 hectares spread through four estates. Nizza, located in Monferrato in the heart of the Barbera d'Asti district, became its own DOC in 2014 and is known for its high quality Barbera. The wines age for 18 months minimum with Riserva wines aging for 30 months.

Generala Nizza Riserva 2014 - Fresh, fruity, young and drinkable. After a wet, cool, and cloudy summer, September sun ripened the grapes fully.
Bersano Barbera d'Asti Nizza Superiore 2010 - Leathery. It was a great vintage though this bottle was a little tired. From a wetter than average year which began with a colder than average winter followed by a hotter than average summer.
Bersano Nizza Barbera d'Asti 2007 - Fresh aromas of red cherry with good acidity and a light spicy finish. From an early harvest, after a hot and dry summer.
Generala Nizza Riserva 2015 - Less acidic than the 2014 with mixed cherry/berry and a hint of chocolate. A cold winter, rainy spring, and hotter than average summer.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

A Tour and Tasting Lunch at Réva



Réva, a luxury retreat tucked in between the hills of Monforte d’Alba, was a bit of a surprise to me. With golf, a spa, a pool, hot tub, gourmet restaurant, and woods for truffle hunting, it completely exceeded my expectations of more of the expected beautiful views and great wine.

Daniele Gaia, Réva Sales Manager, led my on the tour of the vineyard and joined me for lunch along with a wine tasting. He shared that the owner of the winery is Czech and that the name Réva translates to grapevine. 

The vineyard was beautiful and full of grapes on the brink of harvest. While the expected local grapes Nebbiolo, Barbera and Dolcetto were all present, I was surprised to learn they also have Sauvignon Gris in the vineyard. I later learned from winemaker, Gianluca Colombo, that it is one of his favorite wines and he was excited to see how it would perform there.

The winery was established in 2013 in the heart of the Barolo area. Their vineyard practives are focused on sustainable and organic grape growing. Réva is dedicated to maintaining a healthy plant diversity in and around the vineyard with more than 130 varieties of herbs and grasses growing. They choose to use only certified organic fertilizers. While in the winery, they work exclusively with native yeasts and limit the use of sulphur as much as possible. 

The gourmet restaurant, FRE, is managed by Chef Paolo Meneguz, who has honed his skills in multiple Michelin rated restaurants in Europe. I enjoyed an abbreviated tasting menu for lunch featuring classic Piedmontese dishes. 

Meals can be ordered a la carte or tasting menus from 4-10 courses are also an option. The kitchen can be viewed through glass doors when sitting at the Friend’s Table which is where Gaia, Colombo, and I ate.

We started with the 50/50 Sauvignon Gris and Sauvignon Blanc which is labeled as Langhe DOC Grey 2017. There are only 6,000 bottles produced. It was deliciously drinkable and fresh with citrus, tropical notes and hints of sage. Gaia shared that the labels were inspired by the owner’s admiration for the work of Petr Nikl, a Czech artist.

Lunch started with the Dolcetto d’Alba 2017 which was fresh, fruity, and delicious. The chef paired it with a Russian salad which is similar to potato salad. I had this three times while in Piemonte, this was my favorite rendition. 

Next up was the Barbera d’Alba Superiore 2016, this dry red had sweet, ripe raspberry aromas and flavors with a fresh, spicy finish and was served with carne cruda all’albese, also known as steak tartare made from the local beef.

The Nebbiolo d’Alba 2016 came next. This everyday Nebbiolo was very approachable and full of red rose aromas. It was served with a freshly made, hand cut pasta called Tajarin which is yellow colored due to the egg yolk used. It was topped with a meat sauce.

While we were enjoying this wine, Gaia also poured the Barolo 2014 which is sourced from multiple vineyard areas. This Barolo Classico was approachable and delightful with the pasta. Full of floral and herbaceous notes over ripe berry flavors. It was full bodied and surprisingly soft, yet still with noticeable tannins.

For the lunch finale, I was served Barolo Ravera 2013, this fresh, lively, and elegant red stole the show with floral notes, mixed berry flavors, and hints of tobacco with velvety tannins. This wine comes from the Ravera, a single vineyard in Novello. When I returned to Houston, I found it at both Cru and Vinology.

After lunch, we headed into the winery where Daniele Gaia pulled tank samples of both the Sauvignon Gris and the Barbera. Even at this early state, it would appear that 2018 will be an excellent year for both.

Hotel guests can enjoy the spa and the 9 hole Executive Pitch and Putt course with their stay. The infinity pool and hot tub provide the perfect place to relax after a day of wine tasting while the terrace is the perfect place to relax with friends over a glass of wine. 
The winery is tourist friendly for day trippers as well. While I just visited here for a tour and tasting, I would definitely like to stay at this 12 room boutique hotel the next time I visit Piedmont. 

All of the wines are highly recommended.



Saturday, December 1, 2018

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Pertinace - A Tour and a Tasting



Cesare Barbero, Managing Director and Enologist, greeted me in the tasting room to show me a selection of wines and share some of the history of the co-op with me before we took a tour of the large production area. Cantina Pertinace was founded in 1973 by his father, Mario Barbero. It is a cooperative winery that includes 17 growers from just seven families. They are a tight knit group who have worked together for years. Their goal is to make high quality yet affordable wines from the region. The winery is located in Treiso in the Langhe and produces about 650,000 bottles per year.

The name Pertinace is the name of a Roman emperor who was born in the area in 126 AD. He became ruler at 73 years old after many successful years as a general in the military. He was chosen for his honesty and strength with the hope that he could stop the corruption that existed throughout the Roman empire's government. Unfortunately, he was killed after 87 days in office. The name was chosen because it signifies a person who follows his dreams and ideals with strength and passion.

We went back to the tasting room and Barbero poured a few of the wines for me while we waited for our ride to tour the vineyard areas.
Pertinace Langhe Arneis 2017 - This wine is made from a local white grape and stays on its lees from September until January which adds some weight and creaminess to the texture, it was aromatic, crisp and fresh with floral notes and flavors of pear.
Pertinace Dolcetto 2017 - Cesare Barbero confirmed that this wine is one of his favorite anytime drinkers. He finds it harder to sell in the U.S as it is a lesser known varietal that many people assume is sweet due to the grape's name. He likes to serve it slightly chilled and added it makes a good by the glass wine for restaurants. The wine is dry and easy drinking with fruity aromas and flavors of black cherry.
Pertinace Barbera d'Alba 2016 - Round and fruity with plum and a bit of almond, a very fresh and pleasant wine.

Our ride arrived and we headed up into the vineyard. Going up was a bit of a thrill ride, I thought our vehicle was going to flip over backwards at one point but it was well worth it for the gorgeous views all around. It was a brisk morning in early October in the Marcarini Vineyard, the day started off very cool. Barbero explained that the leaves had just started to change color a couple of days before, shortly after they harvested. There is a statue of Bacchus, the god of wine, up at the top who watches over the vineyard. We toured through several areas, the views were all spectacular. Barbero shared that the group had a total of 90 hectares under vine, primarily Nebbiolo. 

After the tour, we headed back down to the winery to finish the tasting with a line up of Barbaresco wines. Though each wine was made from Nebbiolo grapes grown in the same general area from the same vintage with the same production method, each was unique due to the terroir variations in the different vineyards.
Pertinace Barbaresco 2015 - Chocolate cherry aromas and flavors with a a hint of licorice in the finish. This Classico wine was sourced from multiple vineyard areas and blended to create the most approachable and also affordable wine in the lineup.
Pertinace Barbaresco Marcarini 2015 - Soft yet still nicely structured, this wine was more elegant and expressive with floral notes of rose and dried cherry with a lingering spicy finish, it was my favorite of the three.
Pertinace Barbaresco Nervo 2015 - More powerful and robust, this wine had the biggest structure with a long life ahead of it. The nose was a bit less expressive than the previous, it was more austere, it had ripe dark berry flavors and had a similar persistent spicy finish.

The also have a line of Grappa, all very different in style, the Grappa di Dolcetto was my favorite in this grouping, it was warm, elegant and aromatic.

A big thank you to Cesare Barbero for giving me the tour and making sure that I had another fantastic visit in Piemonte.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

A Tasting at Bruno Rocca



I arrived at Bruno Rocca in the afternoon for a tasting. Elena Oberto met me outside where they were in the process of bringing in some Barbera grapes. She led me up to the tasting room and showed me the line up of wines that she had set up for me. After I asked some questions about the different sub-zones, she took me back out onto the terrace and laid out a map of Piemonte to help me get a better understanding of the lay of the land. That was just the beginning of what turned out to be an exceptional terroir tutorial.

Piemonte is located at the foot of the Alps bordering both France and Switzerland. Within the greater area, there are 59 different production regions making wines from about a dozen grapes in many different styles. The red Nebbiolo wines from Barolo and Barbaresco are the king and the queen of the area. Langhe is a sub-zone lying south of the capital city of Alba on the right side of the Tanaro River. Inside this larger area, lie the production zones for these two premium wines. Barbaresco is much smaller than Barolo and has a smaller production as well. We went back inside and started the tasting. 

I was surprised to see their white of choice as the region has a few native white varieties. Elena explained that Bruno had obtained a small plot of Chardonnay as part of a package deal when he purchased a Barbera vineyard in Nieve. Originally, he considered selling the grapes to another producer but then he decided there would be benefits in having a white wine in his line, particularly to use with paired dinners. He has been producing it since the 1990's and it is now an integral part of the line. Originally, he treated it more like a red wine using 100% oak but now only 20% of the wine spends time in French Oak barrels. 
Bruno Rocca Cadet Chardonnay Langhe 2016Fresh, fruity, and crisp with classic apple and citrus aromas and flavors and a lingering mineral finish.

From our vantage point on the terrace, we were not able to see the Barbera growing areas but Elena did show me examples of the different types of soil that their Barbera is grown on in Alba and Asti. Both of these wines were fermented in stainless steel and spent 12 months aging in French Oak barriques.
Bruno Rocca Barbera d'Asti 2016 - Fresh and fruity with bright red cherry fruit and a crisp, food friendly acidity with a mineral-laced finish. This wine came from the village of Vaglio Serra where the vines grow in soils composed of limestone, sand, and red clay.
Bruno Rocca Barbera d'Alba 2016 - Spicier and slightly rounder with a similar freshness but with a red plum character and a white pepper finish. This wine was sourced from the village of Nieve from older vines growing on limestone and blue marl.

Bruno Rocca Barbaresco 2015 - This Classico wine was elegant with floral aromas and a surprisingly approachable fruit-filled finish. The grapes came from three vineyards in Neive - Cru San Cristoforo, Marcorino, and Fausoni which have clay soils with sandy veins running through them. The wine was vinified in stainless steel and aged 18 months in French Oak barriques before bottling.
Bruno Rocca Barbaresco Currà 2015 - Softer and also very approachable, yet still very refined with light floral notes of rose with bright red cherry fruit and a fresh, lingering mineral finish. This wine hails from the Cru Currà vineyard in the village of Neive where the soils are calcareous with Sant'Agata marl and sandstone chips. It was fermented in stainless steel and spent 12 months in French Oak barriques and 12 months in large French Oak barrels.
Bruno Rocca Barbaresco Currà Reserve 2013 - This wine exhibited more intense rose floral notes and had a spicy, black fruit character with a bit of licorice in the persistent finish. It came from the same vineyard as the previous wine but from a specific block which has shown itself to create wines with greater depth. It was both fermented and then matured for 24-36 months in oak barrels. Elena referred to the "sweetness in the bouquet".

Beautiful and elegant, each was a delight to taste and all are recommended.

Since  I returned to Houston, I have enjoyed one more of their wines. The Bruno Rocca Trifolè Dolcetto d'Alba 2017 which is on the wine list at Coppa Osteria. The grapes for this wine are sourced from the village of Barbaresco. Fruit forward with black cherry aromas and flavors, Dolcetto is considered to be an anytime wine, it was absolutely delicious with our pizza and pastas.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

A Tour and Tasting at Oddero Poderi e Cantine



One of my favorite stops on my Piemonte journey was at Oddero Poderi e Cantine which is located in the Santa Maria area of La Morra. Seventh generation family member, Isabella Boffa Oddero, led the tour and tasting for me. Isabella’s grandfather, Giacomo Oddero, is the fifth generation to make wine here and her aunt, Mariacristina, currently oversees the production. After five generations of the family men building the business, this is the first time that women are in charge.

The family’s Piemonte wine grape growing roots go back to at least the end of the 18th century though 1878 was the first year that they bottled wine under their own name. A church with its own vineyard called Bricco Chiesa was their closest neighbor. The family tended the vines for years before eventually buying the vineyard a few rows at a time and eventually adding it their estate in the 1800s. The family now has about 86 acres located throughout the region and they only use their own fruit for production, they do not buy from other growers.

Giacomo was instrumental in helping the area gain first DOC and then DOCG status. He has been devoted to maintaining the region's traditions from wine to truffles to hazelnut production. Isabella shared her concerns about losing some of the biodiversity around their estate as more of the area is developed. Some sites have experienced landslides from deforestation. Isabella shared that more of the region's truffles are coming from Roero now because of this as well. 

The farmhouse and surrounding vineyard have always belonged to or been tended by the Oddero family. The Bricco Chiesa vineyard is the historical production center of the winery and is now certified organic. As we walked back through the vineyard, the vines were heavy with grapes which were expected to be harvested within the week. Isabella explained that their vineyards went partially organic starting in 2008 and they plan to convert even more. She shared that organic vine growing is becoming more common in Barolo as the families that live there note more environmental changes. She stated, "I believe in organic, I believe its our future, but consumers who want organic products need to understand that it is a different way of doing things and it is more expensive. When problems occur, it can result in tremendous losses. It takes incredible commitment to be certified, it is quite complicated but it is important for our employees, the environment, and our own health." She shared that they have an interest in biodynamics but are not ready to pursue that certification yet though they have added some of the principles to their vineyard care like beehives from which they make organic honey.

We headed back toward the winery where they have a small museum on the property. Isabella was quick to demonstrate some of the equipment used in the earlier days of production like an old hand pump from the 1800s and we picked up heavy chestnut carriers which workers used to carry 50 liters of wine. Inside the winery, they keep an ancient press which is also no longer used. It is positioned next to some groovy looking cement vats, painted by family members, that are in use. The concrete vats are for both vinification of the wine and they are also used as a temporary holding container for wine that is being transferred from the oak casks before bottling. They engage in some experimental winemaking because being open to new ideas is important to them but tradition is crucial, they prefer to age their wines in large oak casks because as Isabella stated it was important to the family to "respect the identity of the territory."

The original cellar was built at the same time as the farmhouse. The only change that has been made to it is the addition of new flooring that is easier to clean. It is full of different sized oak barrels, most quite large. The different containers are used for different wines though there is no formula, it can change every year. They do put Barbera in their new oak to season it, typically for 2 years, before using it for Nebbiolo wines.  They make Barolo from five different single vineyards, all historical sites for vine growing with the best sun exposure. Isabella shared, "We feel so lucky to get to work with some of the best soils in Barolo." Her grandfather began purchasing the sites after WWII, when many families left the region for jobs in the city. "We feel so fortunate for his vision. With our recent addition, I finally know how he felt to obtain the lands and to know this is now mine." Last year, the family purchased a small plot of old vines in the Monvigliero Vineyard. They have not produced wine from it yet. They are in the process of converting it to organic and replacing some Barbera vines with Nebbiolo.

It was wonderful to see a family business that is full of love and respect for the members and their community and to know the passion for the region and the wines will continue through the upcoming generations.

The tasting: 
Oddero Langhe Bianco 2017Fresh and citrusy with a mineral finish. This wine is made from 100% Riesling for the first time, it is a small production and is very difficult to find in the U.S. It is also the first year that the family has used a screw cap closure.

Oddero Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza 2015 - Fresh, fragrant and spicy with rich, red fruit aromas and flavors and a juicy finish. This vintage came from a warmer and drier year than is typical but underground water from a rainy, snowy winter kept the vines healthy and balanced. Isabella shared her concerns about the new labeling requirement coming in two years when producers must choose between having Barbera d'Asti on the label or Nizza, they will not be able to do both. She is concerned about consumer's lack of recognition for what the Nizza designation means, beautiful location with great soils producing excellent quality grapes. She would like to be able to continue with both on the label.

Oddero Langhe Nebbiolo 2016 - A bright, pure expression of Nebbiolo with red cherry, floral violet, dried herbs, and a hint of tobacco with noticeable yet not obtrusive tannins. Isabella feels this wine gives a nice look at what the vintage will offer when the Barolo wines are released. This wine is actually sourced from the same Barolo vineyard area but comes from much younger vines, it is a true "Baby Barolo."

Oderro Barbaresco Gallina 2015 - Firmly structured yet still refined with a silky texture, very elegant and approachable with classic aromas and flavors of red cherry fruit, violet notes and a long, spicy finish. The Gallina Vineyard is located in Neive on sandy soils which receive full sun in the hotter hours of the day.

Oderro Barolo 2014 - Less red fruit nuance, more forest floor and truffles with a long licorice-laced finish, a firm structure balanced with fresh acidity. This classic Barolo is a blend of four vineyard areas this year. In addition to the usual Bricco Chiesa, Capalot, and Fiasco vineyards, grapes were also sourced from the Villero vineyard as they chose not to produce a single vineyard wine from that area this year. While many critics have said this wasn't a good vintage for the region due a rainy summer and hail storms, quality is present in this wine. Isabella stated, "I love this vintage a lot, I think its very classic, they did a great job in the vineyards bringing in only the best fruit, I think it is well-balanced and elegant."

Oddero Barolo Brunate 2009 - Forest floor and red rose aromas dominate the nose with softer than expected tannins and a rounder feel flavored with red berries and dried herbs in a soft, lingering finish. The grapes for this wine are sourced from the Brunate vineyard, an organically grown historic vineyard in La Morra with 11,000,000 year old Tortonian soil composed of clay, sand and limestone, the production is small with only 1,800 bottles produced. 

Oddero Barolo Bussia Vigna Mondoca Riserva 5 Anni 2012 - Bigger and more powerful with grippier tannins, flavored with dried herbs and spice, this wine had a long, juicy, mineral-laced finish. The Mondoca vineyard in Bussia is located in Monforte d’Alba. The vineyard has 50 year old vines that naturally produce less fruit due to the stress created by the ancient calcareous limestone soil, only 3,000 bottles produced.

Oddero Barolo Vignarionda Riserva 10 Anni 2008Even at ten years old, this wine was very austere and tannic, it is less fruity with intense aromas of truffles, forest floor and a bit of tar with a lengthy licorice-filled finish. It comes from one of the most historical vineyards in the hills of Langhe. The big structure, pronounced aromas and complex flavors suggest that this wine can be aged for a very long time. The winery chose to hold it for 10 years before releasing it because of this intensity. A huge treat to try, with only 2,000 bottles produced.