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 13, 2015

Wine and peace.


September 12, 2015
It was hard to leave La Casaccia. The people are so wonderful: happy, nerdy, full of positive energy and locally grown vegetables. Federico, Alejandro, Margherita and I went for a run through the hills around Cella Monte this morning. Alejandro, who jokes he runs as much per year as I run per week, and Margherita, who is more of a yogi, peeled off after seven steep kilometers. Federico, who is a former cross country runner, and I continued for 13. It felt good, and tough. I was buzzing from the exercise for most of the day.
But I had to go. We looked at early stages of fermentation in tanks of Grignolino and Chardonnay before I left. The Chardonnay was picked first and tasted of wine, it bubbled away happily and will reach the finish line in three or four days. The Grignolino is still mostly must, picked two-three days ago but already in motion thanks to the vintage’s awesome yeast. La Casaccia pumps over their wines every four hours to keep dry caps of grapes from forming, and makes all the wine in large cool (roughly 17-22C) stainless steel vessels.
The 2015 metodo classico bubbly (50% Chardonnay / 50% Pinot Noir) already tastes great, like grower Champagne. Ready for sale in five years maybe!
I knew Carussin would be different. The people are different. Incredibly warm, open-minded, a lot more crunchy. The place is sprawling, a wonderland of WOOFers and wild vegetation, art and animals of all shapes. Donkeys, sheep, dogs. In an hour I met Italian friends, a group of visitors from Japan, a long-term cellar helper from Japan, a very cool woman from Montreal who has been helping at Carussin for a month with a goal of working in the wine trade in Italy, and a French woman who has recently been living in Torino. Carussin’s second house, where the workers reside, is like an all-ages younger-than-me college dorm room for people obsessed with biodynamic farming.
Luca (the oldest son or Bruna and Luigi, and the brewer) is here. Today the bottling line is running for 2014 Asinoi. Bruna (who runs the show) said they picked beautiful Moscato grapes yesterday. It seems to be a happy harvest for everyone in Piemonte. I think work ended in a frenzy on Friday at many estates because rain is predicted on Monday.

September 13, 2015

Real rain is falling. Last night Luigi (the real farmer) from Carussin looked approvingly on sprinkles and said they would freshen the grapes without preventing harvest on Monday. I wonder how he feels about this mess. From what I’ve heard rain was expected tomorrow.
Rain on a Sunday. Maybe it’s perfect. It certainly creates some scheduling questions for me. Nobody is picking fruit in the wake of this deluge. I awoke to the sound of wooden shutters banging against the house, and thunder. First groggy reasoning posited the noise came from upstairs neighbors: the WOOFers. Two minutes later I realized it was 8am on a Sunday, with no scheduled grape picking: the WOOFers were asleep. Last night we shared a beer. It was symbolic, cursory maybe, but appreciated. I returned home from a mellow evening in the Carussin courtyard and was invited for a drink from the illuminated second floor balcony. Sitting around a table were a Brazilian couple, two young Italian guys and a woman from Perigord that I met earlier in the day. We all spoke in English. I only stayed for one drink. In spite of their manners, I’m relatively certain these people don’t want to party with a random 40-year-old. Also, I’d had a couple beers (and a glass of local apple juice!) with Luigi for dinner. We ate fried dough topped with lardo (healthy!) and a plate of salami and bread. Definitely all I needed. Luigi was tired from a full day in the cellar, but it gave us enough time to talk about recent wines and new projects. They have a liter-bottle wine that I’m very excited about, and a new Grignolino with great labels, wild aromas and an altruistic aim. They donate a euro per bottle to a reforestation project in Ecuador. These farmers understand the grim future with climate change, and are taking action.

I went to the supermarket. I’m not thrilled to rely exclusively on food from my hosts. The beer and wine selection was too grim, worse than a Food Lion, maybe worse than a US convenience store. In a wine industry town only rock-bottom bargain shoppers buy wine from the supermarket. Shiraz from Sicily, beer for hooligans and hardcore drunks. I bought water and organic volkorn bread, and made peace with mostly mooching for another day.

It’s afternoon. Upstairs, the WOOFers are playing ping-pong. Rain is gone, hazy sunshine makes being outside appealing. I need to drink a big American coffee. Tractors and hay bales are strewn around this patio. The view is appealing. Looking south over the ruined wall you see hilly vines, apple orchards, Carussin and a dozen scattered farm buildings.

Coffee will break the inertia. In 90 minutes I will meet Franco Penna at Cascina Barsel in Canelli. It’s a short drive or a long walk. I need to wrestle control of my body back from the expansive lunch Bruna prepared in her kitchen on the top floor of Carussin. Italian meals are a sneak attack. It starts simply, you consume in moderation beans and mushrooms and tuna, then agnolotti made by grandma filled with pork dressed with butter and sage (maybe a little less moderately that course) then the coq au vin alla Carussin arrives with a side of carrots, and its all over. For you: not for the meal. I ate a leg, an earthy dark meat (two shades darker than the birds at home, like chocolate) drumstick from a bird that ranged just outside the cellar’s walls until a fateful meeting with Nonna. Bruna and Luca are too sensitive to do the dirty work, but they’ll feast on the end product.

We talked about Ed Mitchell and Michael Pollan, val d’Aosta wines and poor younger brother Matteo starving in Norway (Bruna delivered 10kg of pasta and meat to him in June), Italian success at the US Open, the joys of Bonajuto chocolate and travel in Sicily. We ate almond cookies and watermelon. I excused myself to make phone calls in the dim wifi of their courtyard, and to sip an espresso. Everyone needed to move, Luca to stretch his legs, Luigi just to the couch for a siesta. Life really doesn’t get better than that.

A Norweigan woman arrived at 3am. That’s the rumor. I have not seen her, she may be asleep still. One of the Italian guys invited me to grill dinner with them al fresco this evening. I should think of something to contribute, and find it. A large amount of wine, for example. The WOOFers drank 3 bottles of wine before 11am (it’s their one day off) and more are arriving….


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