How many times have a driven through Alessandria and Gavi, on my way to another place? In the past five years though, this has begun to nag on me. “Why aren’t you stopping at Gavi? How is it you’ve been selling and serving the wines of La Scolca for over 30 years and you’ve never made the time to visit the Villa?” No one needed to guilt me about this; my childhood Catholic sense of guilt did the job well enough. Finally, I got off my high horse and made the appointment.
My fascination with this wine had to do with two people, Gerald Asher, the San Francisco wine writer and importer (at the time) and Franco Bertolasi, a wonderful Italian restaurateur in Dallas who had a world view and an expansive and open palate. These two men schooled me in the wonders of not just white wine (after all there was much good Chablis and Montrachet to be had in those days) but in the importance of great Italian wine. In those days, white wine more resembled “orange” wines and in no way were they as desirable. But Soldati was working inside his fortified villa to craft and hone and perfect not just the wine but the perception of the wine. White Italian wine? Hah, who cared? Soldati did, as did Asher and Bertolasi. And so, they mentored me and prepared me for the future just as Giorgio prepared Chiara for their future.
It’s very much a family business and a small business. But in no way is it small minded or looking in. On this visit I met a young man who had recently been hired to work in their financial side. He was born and raised in San Angelo Texas. His brother works for a distributor in Austin. And he was there to help develop an international monetary and trade strategy. After all, America is still growing along with China, India, and Kazakhstan (yes, they sell well there too).
I met Chiara in Texas, doing one of our many wine dinners in the back room at Jimmy’s. She was ill that day with a sinus infection, but she “soldiered” on. I made a note to get to the winery while her father was still working there.
Giorgio is a legend. His advances in wine-making in the region have lent to the other winemakers a platform for the world. He is a true servant leader. His winery, the inner working of it, resembles a finely tuned watch. I stood on the dais of the main wine-making building (they’re soon expanding) and looked out over the tanks. The harvest had recently been brought in. The place was literally humming. And it was perfect. Functional, beautiful, as it had been planned to be. The wine gods were smiling.
2012 wines that were in various stages of fruit juice to wine. Like a very happy scientist, they had samples from any number of tanks. Giorgio was excited; there was something of the young boy behind his eyes, full of life and anticipation. Waiting for the wine never gets old, there’s always something new to be learned, always something around the corner. He poured us a taste of one of the wines, “It’s not yet wine,” he said, “but it’s going to be soon.” No hype. Steady.
“Gavi dei Gavi” D’Antan the wine in this bottle only arrives after ageing in the cellars for up to ten years. This wine, resulting from “strictly traditional, using ancient methods, manuals and handicrafts,” is deep yellow (“orange” wine fans note). It reminds me of those wines that harken back to an era before so much noise and technology. It’s Giorgio’s legacy Gavi dei Gavi and one that my friend Franco Bertolasi would have loved had he stayed with us here on earth. And surely Mr. Asher, I’d love to know his thoughts on this new, old wine.
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written and photographed by Alfonso Cevola limited rights reserved On the Wine Trail in Italy
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