Just before heading home for Christmas, a few of us decided to celebrate the old-fashioned way – by cramming into a taxi van (“il pullman” as Massi, my auto-hookup, calls it), careening down a dirt road and up a rather windy hillside, and visiting Rivetto, a small producer of some of Piemonte’s exceptional wines.
We were greeted at the cantina by Enrico, the scion of the Rivetto family, and a fourth-generation winemaker. He gave us a thorough tour of the Rivetto property – a hilltop production facility, tasting room, naturally climate controlled storage cellar, and hotel, with 95% of the grapes that they’ll eventually turn into wine sloping down the hills around. Interestingly, although Rivetto makes some exceptional Barolo wines – a deep, tannic red wine considered by many to be one of the best Italian wines – the particular hill on which Rivetto is perched, between the towns of Serralunga d’Alba and Lirano, is not actually in the Barolo denomination area. Basically, what this means is that although a good portion of the grapes Enrico is growing in the property surrounding his winery are nebbiolo, the grape from which Barolo is made, the nebbiolo vines that he uses to produce his hallmark wine are actually grown one hill over, in a small plot barely visible from our side of the valley.
The Rivetto label dates back to the early 20th century, and the family has owned their current property since the 1940’s. However, they have been making wine in the region since the 1800’s – the incorporation date simply refers to when those past-generation Rivetto’s stopped making wine just for their own personal consumption and pleasure, and started selling it to their neighbors. They now sell to a few more people than just those neighbors – Enrico mentioned sales trips to South Korea, and while we were in the warehouse I just about tripped over a stack of cases being shipped out to Rutherford, CA.
After being forced to traipse around the spectacular estate featuring views of hilltop towns and, um, the Alps, on a sun-drenched December Sunday, we were finally able to quench our thirst with a lineup of Dolcetto, Barbera d’Alba, Nebbiolo, and a few Barolo’s thrown in for good measure. We also tried Nascetta, a new product from the winery using the only white wine varietal that is native to Piemonte. They are also currently working on developing a sparkling red, made from nebbiolo, and I’m super pumped about it (take, THAT, lambrusco).