The Wine Drinker

This is the Dead Letter Office of my wine writing. These stories ended up not fitting on our company's Facebook page (Piedmont Wine Imports) or website,, for reasons that I think are clear once you scroll through a few posts. Less professional musings, impressions that ultimately never got past the rough prototype stage. Um... enjoy!

Sunday, September 20, 2015


Paderna is almost in Liguria. At lunch the influence is obvious, the minestrone is thick and doused with pesto. Chiara would prefer I arrive on a different day. But Monday is my only option. I realize that embarrassment is the origin of her preference. Their new rented cellar is a big anonymous concrete structure just outside of Paderna, with busted windows and no amenities for winemaking. Cleaning (necessary after almost every step) takes forever. She thinks I will mind watching them clean up the mess. The floor isn’t slanted to allow liquids to flow to a drain, there are no grated drains of the type you see in almost every other cellar in the world.

Still, it’s an improvement on their former cramped space, now used exclusively for ageing wine. Judging from the 2014’s (the first wines assembled in the cellar) the facility is not holding Oltretorrente back: the wines are brilliant, in both senses. Tasted at lunch and then again at dinner with the WOOFers (see below) Cortese, Timorasso and Rosso showed cleaner, brighter, fresher, better than ever before. It was a troublesome vintage that played to the personal tastes of Chiara and Michele, yielding lighter wines with lower levels of alcohol.

Now I’ve eaten at every restaurant in Paderna. There are two. The second may have opened since my last visit. It is willfully contrary: the first place focuses on fish, the new one meat. Their wine lists both mine heavily the 30 estates of the colli Tortonesi, with no overlap. It’s silly, and frustrating to Chiara.

It is hard to overstate how much I like this person. Chiara has an incredible smile, she tells interesting stories (and is really funny) she frets about the present-and-future of this little start-up winery in a way that I live her pain and stress. They are replanting 1,000 Barbera vines a year in their fields, planta that were dead before Chiara and Michele arrived. They fight to get Italian restauranteurs to pay for the wine they receive. The attitude of the proprietors (particularly of the better places) being, “there is someone else in line behind you, pester me and I’ll shove you out of the way.” They borrowed a little money from parents to start the place, and I think a grandparent takes care of their two small children (aged 5 and 3) during harvest and other stressful times, but in effect Oltretorrente have done something exceptional: struck out on their own, started something new. 

Walking through fields to see new plantings of Timorasso (and lamenting the ever-present creep of flavescencia) I feel incredibly connected to Chiara. I share her dream. It is essential to me that it succeed. Have you ever met a person that dragged your jaded existentially-wandering self to the very moment you are inhabiting, that gave off such a wallop of real vibes that you were forced to be in the present? She does that. Intensity. Honesty. She’s real, and you feel it.  

I see Chiara’s struggle, and for some reason really feel it. These people are talented like few others. They will make it. Michele has been awake for three days, watching the crush of Cortese. He fell asleep in a lawn chair before lunch, as French helper Rafa (another great, positive guy) cleaned out orange cassette.


Post a Comment

<< Home