Thursday, May 12, 2016

Labor of Love: The Wine Families of Piedmont

As an Italian wine blogger you meet many people around the world and is one of the greatest parts of what we do.  It's all about the connections you make and great people you meet.  I wanted to share with you an interview with Suzanne Hoffman, whose website, Wine Families, shares stories of wine families and their regions around the world. 

As a recent published author myself I wanted to talk about Suzanne's new book, Labor of Love,  and give you a background on why this book was created.  Winemakers have wonderful stories to tell and this showcases the wine families of Piedmont.  Unfortunately I've yet to meet Suzanne face-to-face, but hopefully one day we'll have the opportunity.
Labor of Love Wine Families of Piedmont
Suzanne Hoffman and her dog, Arneis

What got you started as a wine, food and travel writer?

I’m an attorney and I spent most of my career in Switzerland where I worked for a large financial services company in Zurich and I also ran an aviation start-up project. After moving back to America to a small, resort community in 2007, I couldn’t adjust to solo practice. Too “solo” I suppose. I was restless. My passion for food, wine, and travel and all the incredible experiences I had in Europe over more than 20 years needed an outlet. In January 2012, I began writing a weekly behind the scenes experiential column in the Vail Daily. I worked – not merely observed – for some of Vail Valley’s and Denver’s best restaurants and then wrote about the experiences. Oddly enough, my first assignment was with Chef David Walford for a charity wine dinner in Beaver Creek with Andy Schweiger of Schweiger Vineyards of St. Helena, CA. Perhaps since my first story was about a wine family I was destined to become a wine family expert.

I know you lived most of your life in Switzerland, now that you've moved back to the United States how often do you get to venture back to Italy?

Not nearly enough. About once a year for a month or so at a time while I was researching Labor of Love. It didn’t give me much of a chance to explore more of Italy, but Piemonte is such a big region – second in size only to Sicily – so I never tired of my adventures there. Of course, my heart is still strongly connected to my former home canton, Valais, in south central Switzerland just north across the mountains from Piemonte. That will endure.

Is Piedmont your favorite region to travel to?  If so, why and what attracts you to this region?

I began traveling to Piemonte frequently in the early 2000s because it was only four hours away from our home in Switzerland. What started as easy-to-access long weekend adventures to an under discovered region soon blossomed into a love affair with Piemonte that I describe in my book’s introduction, “Falling in Love.” I’ll leave it to readers to discover in my book how that love affair developed. Let’s just say the wine families were like emotional magnets. I couldn’t resist.

Where did the vision of writing a "Labor of Love" come from?  Tell me a little about the book. 

When I first heard the stories about Beatrice Rizzolio and the challenges women of her generation faced during the Nazi occupation from her granddaughter Giovanna, owner of Cascina delle Rose in Barbaresco, I asked her if anyone had ever written about these women. Giovanna said, “No.” As I began to ask questions of more wine families, I realized that no one was chronicling these stories and those of other women whose names are not on wine bottle labels, but who had played important, mostly unseen roles in their families’ successes. In August 2012, while sitting with my husband, Dani, in my kitchen in Colorado, I said to him, “I want to write a book about the women of the wine families in Piemonte.” Dani said, “Ok.” And off I went in March 2013 search of more stories. I never looked back.

What was the best part about writing this book?

Having the opportunity to be the scribe of some of the most endearing, humble people I know. To be entrusted with the task of telling the world about the unknown women behind the labels of some of Piemonte’s most famous wines was a great honor. The most delightful experiences were watching young family members’ reactions to stories they had never heard before, or were hearing for the umpteenth time, but were still captivated. For example, the memory of the loving expressions of young Isabella Boffa Oddero as she listened to her iconic grandfather Giacomo Oddero recount the lives of his grandmother, mother, and wife, and their contributions to the estate’s patrimony still brings tears to my eyes. Quite touching to see her deep, abiding love and admiration for her nonno Giacomo and those three women beam on her face.

Why did you select these particular wine families to write about and why Piedmont? 

On my first research trip in March 2013, I started with the 10 families I knew well, some for 14 years at that time. Then, at the end of that trip, came the serendipitous moment when I met Chiara Boschis. To say that meeting her was seismic event in my life is not an overstatement. She tends to have the affect on most people. From there, serendipity took over and soon I had 22 families. I left so many wonderful families behind since I was only able to include 22 and that was hard squeezing into 320 pages! I don’t know if I should tell more Piemontese wine family stories before I take my “Labor of Love” series to another region such as Friuli or Sicily (where my relatives from my maternal grandparents’ side of the family are from). Perhaps my readers will give me some guidance on where I should go next.

What are your favorite grapes of Piedmont and Italy in general?

Simple – I love the underdogs like Arneis, Nascetta, and Brachetto, especially still Brachetto from Matteo Correggia and Sottimano. If you force me to name one, my favorite white varietal is Arneis, particularly from Roero. I named my toy schnauzer after the grape because “Arneis” in Piemontese means “rascal.” My Arneis is just that. Also, I associate the grape with many wonderful wine family experiences. Red grape? Well, it’s the Nebbiolo grape, of course. I’m becoming quite fond of Alto Piemonte and Roero Nebbiolo expressions, but who doesn’t love Barolo and Barbaresco? I certainly do.

Suzanne Hoffman has a kickstarter campaign in order to support the launch of her wonderful book.  It's ending soon so make sure you help her reach her goal so the stories of these hardworking wine families can be brought to the world.  


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