The unexpected visit to meet Edoardo and his wife Stella in early 2019 was arguable the most surprising and rewarding winery visit of the year for Kelsey & I. First off, Kelsey was six months pregnant and thus we were trying to keep things simple and not push the envelope (which is not easy for me to do). Edoardo had come across my plate when researching the extremely unknown production area of Domodossola, essentially on the Swiss border.
Moreso than anything else I wanted to take a drive to an area I’ve yet to explore. Kelsey was feeling up for it after a lovely visit to the gardens at the Villa Taranto on Lago Maggiore about a half hour from Domodossola. I called Edoardo that morning and said I’d love to meet him and learn more about what he’s doing.
We arrived around 4:00 to a world surrounded by mountains where heroic winemaking is on full display. There we were happily greeted by Edoardo and Stella whose tiny winery was built into (ask edoardo to remind me what that building was before) the mountainside with a half a hectare of vines hanging on for dear life.
Edoardo started making wine in 2016 after a few harvests in Australia and four years in Barolo learning how to make wine. It was his time in Australia that gave him time to reflect on just how lucky he was to be from such a unique winemaking region. His time there, along with the encouragement of Stella who he met while living abroad, is all he needed to take the leap.
Amazingly Domodossola and the the Ossola valley have 700 years of winemaking history but yet at present there are just one or two other wineries making wine commercially – most of which is produced by those who come to stay here in the moutains at the various agriturismi for a few days. Edoardo’s jaunt into serious, natural winemaking is something unique to the valley.
His approach is one that I respect greatly as he plans to work with the varietals that have always been grown here, which is insists include Merlot, as well as Prunent – a Nebbiolo biotype – grown here for centuries, Barbera, Dolcetto, Vespolina, and the list goes on. In fact, his blend PSP is a celebration of this grape diversity as it’s a field blend of up to 13 grapes. The vineyard this comes from (confirm age) has been planted this way forever and thus Edoardo wanted to leave things the way they are.
Edoardo is a smart kid and based on the fact that he’s studied winemaking and worked around the globe (particularly in Australia where you could argue wine is maybe made more in the cellar than the vineyard) he is making wines the old fashioned “natural” way w/ a hand from modern technology. He believes in temperature controlled fermentations and swears by a piedi cuve as far as a native yeast starter. He also keeps a careful eye on the wines and is not afraid to rack when necessary, often an excuse in natural winemaking that can yield defects.
The Ossola valley is one where vineyards lie at an average of about 500 meters, surrounded by stunning mountains. It is located almost an hour North of the villages of Alto Piemonte like Ghemme, Boca etc. The weather is much more extreme in comparison. The biggest difference is that in the Alto Piemonte villages cold air can just pass through whereas in the Ossola valley it gets stuck in between all the large peaks (some as high as 2,000 meters).
The typical training method is called “Topia” a type of pergola system that spring from terraces built into the mountainsides. This pergola keeps grapes out of reach of animals, which run wild in the part of Italy. It also helps limit the affects of frost on many of the grapes grown here. In Edoardo’s mind this is the best training system for Nebbiolo. Given the amount of snow here, even on warm vintages, there is generally plenty of water. In fact, Edoardo stressed how much water plays an important role for the valley and it’s one of their most important local currencies.
I admire Edoardo’s project most for work he is doing to maintain many old vineyards in the valley that were otherwise going to be left for dead. As I noted there is one principle producer in town and from what Edoardo calculates, upwards of 75 independent farmers who sell fruit to this producer. The majority of these farmers are tending to a quarter of a hectare or less with obviously limited financial reward for doing so. Many of these folks are getting up in their years and thus are beginning to consider abandoning their vineyards and the next generations in their families have little desire to do the hard work necessary to keep things going. Enter Edoardo who is either purchasing or renting these vineyards, most of which are 50+ years old, from these farmers.
In fact, the first vineyard he came into comes from a trip he took to the bank in town to get financing for his project. That morning, an older gentleman came into the bank frantically asking for help as his wife was on his case to sell his vineyards or just get it over with and rip up his vines. He was asking the bank to help him find a buyer and low and behold 4 hours later Edoardo walked into his first vineyard in the Valle d’Ossola.
In total there are 7 different sites throughout the valley with different expositions and different varietals. One vineard was home to 20 different grape varietals on only about a quarter hectare. The wines Edoardo makes are made to maintain this history!
Podere San Brizio (patron saint of Domodossola)
Varietal : Merlot 15%, Nebbiolo 15%, 12 different grapes 70%
Varietal : Prunent 100%
Visit Edoardo Patrone’s Webiste
(It’s in English!)