Lunch at La Casaccia
For the first time, all four Ravas are at home! Margherita and Marcello are serious world travelers, India, Burkina Faso, Portugal, South Korea, plus all the countries that sell La Casaccia’s wine. We take a family portrait to celebrate the event. My intermittent inclusion in the photos confirms the mathematical proof: 1 Murrie = 2 Ravas.
My travel to Italy included more and different airports than expected, so I arrive late to lunch. Margherita and Elena run a small agriturismo at the farm (when time permits) with a cozy but fully-functioning restaurant kitchen. Meals here are always a healthy treat! Within moments of wandering into their courtyard I’m eating a salad made from the last of the season’s tomatoes grown in Margherita’s kitchen garden, along with cheese, psychedelically meaty and juicy salami made in their village of Cella Monte, and locally grown hazelnuts that the family just toasted.
It’s a wonderful way to ease into a week of farm visits. There is so much familiarity. Margherita was in North Carolina barely over a week ago. We careening around the state with a rotating cast of characters from the PWI ranks. She is unremittingly friendly, and very good at handling all the curveballs I throw her direction.
While I feast Giovanni and Marcello leave to clear a fallen tree from the road, and bring back firewood for looming winter. Margherita makes her father change his clothes before the photos begin. I understand, but also kinda wish we took snapshots of the Giovanni in his torn work attire. These people are real farmers, for lack of a better phrase. The do daily physical labor, they are not overseers distant from dirt and lifting. I make the distinction because I think it is one of the critical differences scrubbed away as wine crosses the Atlantic. There are many types of wineries, many ways to make wine successfully. I like working with farmers like the Ravas. Their daily connection to their land leaves a fingerprint on the wines we import.
With lunch we taste a handful of new vintages that were not ready when we collected wine in preparation for Margherita’s American tour.
The 2014 metodo classico bubbly is appley and accessible, a great start to a meal. Margherita hopes to do a stage at a small organic Champagne estate soon. The long lees aging and tiny batch size for this wine contributes to its sporadic availability in North Carolina. We’ll get one last delivery before New Year’s: grab them swiftly is my advice.
The 2017 Grignolino is intense cranberry fruit at this early stage. The wine was bottled in July. Summer months without rain and a “this is the new normal” torridly hot summer created Grignolino with tart intensity that I will find irresistible come summer 2019.
By contrast, the 2013 Ernesto Grignolino has mellowed to a point where Giovanni is contemplating releasing it (at last!) The wine is aged in big tonneaux, as was the tradition in Cella Monte before the arrival of cement and stainless steel. Ernesto (named after their great-grandfather, who fought in World War I) macerates on the skins for 6-7 days, which is long by modern Grignolino standards. The grape imparts abundant tannin from its numerous seeds (Grignola is Piedmontese for seed/pip) so long aging is necessary. The wine is appealing. Margherita worries that some customers will be bothered that it contains a little sediment. I am unconcerned. It’s an education issue. Filtration robs a living wine of so much. We aren’t selling Parmalat ultrapasteurized milk.
The 2017 Freisa smells of ripe strawberry compote. The warm summer gave this wine an almost candied cherry character. A gregarious aromatic red at a price that should make drinkers of both. Langhe Nebbiolo and Oregon Pinot swoon, and buy cases. Freisa is remarkably ageworthy.
We have to be swift. The Ravas are preparing for agriturismo guests. And for me,
a trip to Barolo calls and a dinner with Renata Bonacina from dacapo winery. It’s amazing to visit restaurants where the amount of Rinadi and Mascarello that is allocated to the state of North Carolina for a vintage is just sitting on the cellar shelf. The feasting continues.