Following grape logic in Piemonte: Casa Wallace

A sunny Saturday with a little autumn haze on the rolling hills of Piemonte was a perfect day for picking grapes with Claudio Cepollina and Sarah Wallace in the vineyards of Casa Wallace. He is Italian and she, American. They raised their children near Genova while Claudio worked first as a shipping broker then as the co-owner of an artisanal chocolate company. Since 2000, their main focus has been the vineyard even though they only moved into the farmhouse full time this fall.

In the early days, Claudio sought the help of an enologist and the first vintages, 2004 and 2005, were made according to rules and formulas. Then, as he explains in this video, he realized that even the best enologist only knows about 5% of what is going on when grapes ferment and age. So, he decided to let the enologist go and “follow the logic of the grapes”.

Sarah, his collaborator and partner at Casa Wallace, is a dynamic, generous and energetic woman, who seems to be able to do five things at once. She manages the Bed and Breakfast at the vineyard in addition to other projects/work that have nothing to do with wine.

Casa Wallace vineyards are planted, tended and harvested according to organic and biodynamic principles. After a morning of picking, we all headed for the house while the tractor came by to pick up the grapes.IMG_6216

We had a simple lunch in the courtyard of the cascina.

Sarah and Claudio paused for a minute after lunch.

At the end of the day, we gathered at the entrance to the cellar where the grapes were arriving from our afternoon of picking.

Claudio was up on top of his large wooden tini checking the must that had passed through the de-stemmer and soft pressing machine.

In the Casa Wallace tradition, Claudio made a small container of grapes for the women to press with their feet. What a foot massage!

After a long day, Sarah relaxed for a moment with a glass of her favorite, Casa Wallace Gold 2012 made with Sauvignon Blanc. After alcoholic fermentation, the wine is left to macerate on the skins in barriques. During the course of several months, it also goes through malolactic fermentation. The result is a smooth, rich, structured white that is still fresh and wonderfully drinkable.

A large group gathered in the kitchen where Claudio and Sarah made dinner for a crowd with good humor and a reggae soundtrack.

My favorite wine of the day was Casa Wallace Dolcetto 2006. Unlike any Dolcetto I’ve ever tasted, its rich and complex fruit aromas and flavors were accompanied by velvety tannins. It was earthy but elegant, a testament to the first year that Claudio gave in to following “grape logic”.
The next morning, we all had breakfast in the large kitchen of the B and B. Staying at Casa Wallace was like stepping outside of place and time to return to an era when neighbors, friends and family gathered to share work and good times together on the land. I’m already looking forward to going back.

Casa Wallace wines are not yet available in the US, but they may be soon.
For more information, contact the vineyard.

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Tags: biodynamic, Casa Wallace, Dolcetto, Italy, organic, Ovada, Piedmont, Piemonte, wine
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