Off to Vo’ Vecchio, just west of Padua.
My directions are spot on. The drive is mostly flat except for the part between Padua and Vo’. The road gets narrow. So narrow that back home it would be considered a single lane. The Fiat fits just fine even when a large “peloton” of pro cyclists come flying down hill from the opposite direction. It felt like the side mirror caught some spandex here and there but none of the cyclists seemed to find the situation alarming enough to slow down, or go single file. And by the time I’m over it I find myself in the middle of the tiny village of Vo’. Two turns later I’m on Via Nina and at the end of it I find Alla Costiera. It looks like a farm. I see animals but no people. A few minutes after knocking on what looks like the kitchen door a 60-some year old lady comes out from behind the house. In a few not so Italian words I try to explain that I’m looking for Filippo, Filippo Gamba. She kind of acts like she understands and says something about calling him. Then she disappears. The place is quiet. I see vineyard and other kinds of farmland. Chickens roaming around, some sheep, a dog, a haystack. No people. Then, after a few minutes, a small cargo vehicle shows up and two actual humans get out. Filippo and a young woman. He is apologetic and says he had the date of our appointment mixed up.
After a quick view over his 7 hectares of land we go into the tasting room part of the cellar.
Cold. Again. Because Filippo didn’t expect me all the wines we taste are a little too cold. They all taste very good, though. And they help me understand Filippo’s Italian. At some point his father walks in with what must be Filippo’s 3 year old son. Filippo continues to tell me about his organic certification and biodynamic inspired methods. His oldest vines are about 70, the youngest 15 years old. He runs this operation by himself and makes about 30,000 bottles of wine per year. All wines mature in cement. The ‘08 Vo’ Vecchio has spent a year in Hungarian oak barrel. Part of why this visit is fun is that it’s so different from the previous one. Filippo is a hard working straightforward dude with a big smile and strong hands. His farm and the land around it look different, too. The animals, the hills on the east side, plains to the west and south. That must be at least part of an explanation for why Alla Costiera’s wines are different.
Too bad but, I’ve got to say goodbye and ask for directions towards Montecchio Maggiore.
What’s with all the happy couples in our portfolio? Fillipo Gamba and his wife have the mischievous banter of a duo that know their partner well… and still like each other! Inside-jokes, sideways glances, sparkle in the eyes. La Segnora likes Spanish telenovelas, we discuss their virtues and compare the Iberian versions to Mexican-American equivalents. It’s a serious atmosphere. When in Italy with our wine growers I’m surrounded by this stuff. Happiness. With the Gambas it feels like I’m along on their date, a sense magnified by the swank restaurant where we shared a really excellent lunch. They picked a good spot, the Trattoria al Sasso, a modern and ambitious hillside restaurant loomed over by sheer faces of trachyte, a strong calcerous marl that you can see in ancient building in Rome. For once, the food in a dressed-up place over-delivered on its promises. Ravioli with pumpkin was better than fresh pasta ever is in the USA, a really delicate, indescribable texture. The lamb chops were phenomenally flavorful, and fried chicken and artichokes were pretty decent, too.
The Gamba’s reasons to be happy together go beyond full bellies: a new kid, a thriving small organic farm, apparent health. Their vineyards are near Vo Vecchio, a village dominated by a Venetian-style old stone courtyard, basically a church and administrative buildings, built by a long-since forgotten (by me) aristocrat. And little else. The land around Vo is mostly flat, with narrow straight roads runing high along boundaries between fields probably best-suited for rice. This land was drained, reclained from sea and swamp. The hilly volcanic colli Eugenei where Filippo’s vines bask was once the only terrestrial space here. Parts of Holland look like this lowland, except for the sunshine!
The couple farm seven certified-organic acres, using biodynamic methods. Ambient yeast from nature begins fermentations in their cellar. Except for a Merlot, all wines are produced in cement tanks. And production is small. The Biancone Tai that we import is made in less-than 3,000 bottle batches. The 2013 is seductively aromatic: you should get some! A col fondo (on lees) Prosecco is the liquid highlight of our lunch, one day it will offer a funky, more-serious alternative to Alla Costiera’s popular-but-good DOC Prosecco. At the end of our meal Fillipo shares his plans to grow Corvinone, Turchetta, Cavarara, rare grapes that he’s had planted for 5-6 years now and are very specific to this corner of the Veneto. I’m interested. As good as Alla Costiera’s current Bordeaux-varietal reds are, I feel they remain second-best to the indigenous variety white wines that he grows.
I like being around people who clearly enjoy each other’s company. It gives me the sense that the world truly works, dystopias can be avoided, life is nice. Small dogs and happy children are being herded by grandparents in the driveway of Alla Costiera as I depart. The sun is shining, our friends are puzzling over the muscadine jam I gave them. “Indigenous to North Carolina,” I explained. I hope it defeats their initial skepticism. Maybe the positive vibes coming off all the biodynamic wine make famiglia Gamba so quick to smile!
I visited Filippo again. It was February and it rained so much, the vineyards on the plains west of the Colli Euganei looked like rice paddies. I felt good about accepting Filippo’s invitation to meet him and his wife Elisa at a restaurant in the hills. Warm and cozy. All the wines we tasted were good. I started thinking about a plan for the order in which we can bring them to you right away.
Hanging out with Filippo and Elisa was great. Elisa was pregnant and her due date was that day. We talked about parenthood more than about anything else….
Dinner was delicious, that goes without saying.
The 2013 Prosecco is on its way to us. I’m excited.
Elisa and Filippo’s second son, Luca was born on Feb. 20.
Alla Costiera Prosecco DOC Certified organic. This wine is 100% Glera from 15-75 year-old vines grown in calcerous marl soils immediately to the west of the Colli Euganei. Charmat method secondary fermentation, 60-day elevage before bottling. Vintage dated Prosecco made in roughly 3,000-bottle batches.
Certified organic. Moscato grown in calcareous marls in the colli Euganei. Spontaneous yeast fermentation in enamel-lined cement tanks. Unfined and unfiltered. 1,500 bottles produced.
Organic: Certified Organic; Practicing Biodynamic
Soil type: Calcareous Marl Soil
Grapes: Garganega Tai Serprino 10% moscato
Method of fermentation: 8 months in vitrified Cement
Bottles made: 2,200
Alla Costiera Vo Vecchio Rosso Riserva DOC