The 2016 harvest will be our sixtieth!
If it was a marriage, it would be the “Diamond Wedding”. For us, members and directors of La Torre, this milestone is of a great satisfaction and a source of pride, but also an opportunity for a very special toast and to rediscover our roots.
At La Torre, we really put the land and the people at the center of all. And to the words of those who were there since the very beginnings, we decided to entrust the transcription of memories and our history.
To those young people who have chosen to engage with us, instead we ask to carry on this project at their best, with the eyes and heart open to the future.
We like to present our history through many voices and many faces: a history of land, of sky and of seasons.
But mostly a history of people.
I love to work in team, it’s not in my nature to command alone. Indeed, I feel gratified to have around people who help me to carry out a project. This is a difficult matter, cause almost no one likes to endanger what he has, for the good of the others: personal availability is a rare “commodity”.
I’m President of La Torre di Castel Rocchero since 2006: I took this office after the failed merging with the winery of Ricaldone. Today, I am 56 years old, I would like to stay in my place for another 10, and then leave.
We have already done a lot: we have changed the way to be of the winery. The base of associates has an high average age, so we are looking for new members, as we would like to give continuity to the history of La Torre. The statute would tie us up to 2056: we still have a long time to work together.
My land is located in Castel Rocchero and Fontanile. It sums up 28 hectares and confers all here: Brachetto, Chardonnay, Moscato, Barbera, Cortese. Since 1983 I drive Cascina Scapiano that belonged to my mother. Then I expanded the company and now I have also acquired the Corte del Cavaliere (Court of the Knight).
Since joining the Board of Directors of La Torre di Castel Rocchero I’ve always been a bit on the opposition side. I came from the neighboring village, Alice, and I was seen somehow like a stranger here.
When we took the leadership of the winery, we had no specific managerial knowledge: it has all been reset and we started again among enormous difficulties. The network of contacts I had built up over the time really helped me a lot, so when I asked for assistance in developing La Torre di Castel Rocchero I always found someone willing to lend a hand.
I would like to mention two people, among the others that, just in the transition period, have been very close to us: Giovanni Cavallo and Giovanni Baldizzone.
Gianpaolo Menotti, Associate and President
The land here belonged to my father, then I bought it myself. We had a very large company, but Dad had an accident that forced him to sell a part of it.
I started to do this work when I was a child. I like this way of life: there is freedom, you stay always outdoor. I grow Moscato, Brachetto, Barbera over eight hectares of land of my own plus four under rent. I am a wine lover. As Giuliano Noè says, when we open a bottle if we should think to all the work behind it, we really should kneel.
The Torre of Castel Rocchero has been doing great strides in recent years. Despite being a small winery, with less than eighty members, it has its own agronomist following all operations in the vineyards and teaching a wine culture, the culture of good produce; with this help, even bad vintages allow us to have good grapes. Among all members we talk a lot, and I’m on the Board since I was twenty. We manage the winery as if it was our home. For us, the first rule is that the associate is the center and the master of all this, thus he should be paid to the best of our possibilities. We have decided to remunerate the grapes on the basis of their quality, practically the deserved price. In other realities they share what remains at the end of the year, we instead, decide at the beginning of the year which is the aim to reach and we pursue it. To do that, we sometimes do very long harvests, waiting for the perfect moment.
We have renovated everything, with large investments and have had important results.
The future? To be honest, I don’t want to work for many more years. I have the great satisfaction of having helped this structure, that was taken for dead, to become a real dynamic winery: this is enough for me.
Giuseppe Bolla, Associate and Vice President
I attended the oenological school of Alba until 2002, then I had different experiences in local companies: Toso, Perlino, the Consorzio of Brachetto and that of Asti sparkling wine. In 2006 in Castel Rocchero they were meant to merge with another winery, but 80 per cent of members were against. This split led to a change of administration.
One Saturday while I was in the vineyard, Gianpaolo Menotti asked me if I was interested in working for the Torre di Castel Rocchero. He didn’t have to ask me twice: my whole family worked here for generations.
I had the necessary technical expertise, but I was inheriting a complex situation. I started immediately: September was the last month of work at the Asti Consortium, in October, I started working here. Certainly there were structural problems that needed to be solved through reasoned investments. But this is a very suitable area for growing grapes: it is 450 meters above sea level, a layer of white grounds that gives great perfumes, the average farm size is small which allows us to tune the quality perfectly. We have a wonderful landscape, much photographed, laying in the “buffer zone” of UNESCO World Heritage.
We worked, we are working. The goal that I have in mind now, with President Menotti and the board of directors, is a visibility project, significant for the region and for the cellar. We don’t lack anything, and this will be the challenge for the next four or five years.
Luca Mignano, Oenologist and Director of production
I am from Canelli. I worked in a company in the confectionery sector. Fifteen years ago, I was 30, I made a decision: I would have taken a piece of land and I would have grown vines. So, with the money of my liquidation I bought the land in Castel Rocchero, where I already had a small house.
Now I have six hectares of vineyards: Barbera, Cortese, Moscato. Especially in the beginning my father, who knew the job, helped me a lot. Here I already had friends, boys from this small town I was going out with.
Being a farmer is a particular job. I really appreciate the independence, the chance to work without a real boss, just following the rhythms of the earth.
Fabio Marian, Associate and adviser
I’m 32 years old, mother of a girl of six. I’m in the board of directors of La Torre di Castel Rocchero.
In my life I already worked as a clerk for eight years in a company of the agricultural sector. Then I decided to make a strong change.
So I rolled up my sleeves and took over the family business with my father Giuseppe.
My grandparents came here in ’55 from Castel Boglione. They were sharecroppers. Then with small savings they bought some plots and worked them. My father has worked many years in the agro-mechanical sector. Today we have three and a half hectares, and two years ago this has become my full-time job.
I’ve always seen the Torre from my home. It has represented my horizon since I was a child. Of course it has not always been prosperous and productive as it is now. But we never abandoned, we have always believed in it. And now there are people who work well, people who believe in it. I believe, there is also the sweat of my family on these hills. I want to leave my fingerprint: it is my future, and perhaps that of my daughter Michelle. I would like to build for her this opportunity.
A generational change is about to start, and I think that there is a return to agriculture.
I dream of expanding the property to six, seven hectares. I grow Dolcetto, Moscato, Cortese, Chardonnay, Brachetto.
My father gives me a hand, but all manpower is mine: it is a job that gives me great satisfactions. To taste my wine during the harvest, to understand that it is good and people likes it, it makes me feel good. My dream? To target new opportunities for trade. Traditional, moving the point of sale on the road front, and new, through the net, the website and social networks. I hope that with the passing of time the 300 hectares whose fruits converge today on La Torre, will be taken over by new young farmers and will not be separated.
Monica Caruzzo, Associate and counsellor
Aldo e Teresa Ivaldi
What wine would prefer Aldo Ivaldi, 86 years old? “Mej che’l Barbera …” (Better than Barbera…. says in local dialect) he laughs. “We were producing four or five kegs”.
And Teresa, his niece? “Every wine is fine, but I prefer Brachetto”. Teresa has two sons aged 35 and 40. She’s been a long time away from Castel Rocchero, before for her studies then for his job. Now she’s back, and look after the family vineyards. Woods and land together Ivaldi family owns 10 hectares, but only three have vines.
The family of Aldo (born in 1930), has owned the farm since 1911. In the thirties they restructured it and they were producing 14 kegs of wine. Aldo has inherited many vineyards from his father. Aldo is the last of four children: in addition to him, Francesca, Tommaso – Teresa’s father – e Giovanni.
Teresa’s father was always trying to keep a hectare of Barbera, one of Dolcetto and one of Moscato. In 1952 they produced 80 hectoliters of wine, 50 of which were of Moscato.
In the beginnings Aldo brought the carboys where to put the wine from his own house, because in the winery there was still nothing.
“The first tractor we used had girdles, in the seventies. Nobody had seen many here around. We were working with the ox, through narrow rows of vines and steep slopes.
I was also coming from my house to see who was taking the wine away – says Aldo. They were stealing it; there was a man working in the winery that was making it disappear. It was during the Seventies. Then we came here in eight people, sleeping with our clothes on, on the cots. We came with the rifle, and I even shot. Just imagine that once, even the winepress brought by the associated to help the winery, disappeared.
Who knows who took it? Can you imagine how is it easy to steal a winepress? ”
Aldo was the first to participate to the Corsa delle Botti (Barrels Race) of Nizza Monferrato for winery La Torre: Castel Rocchero is the winery that has won more consecutive races.
Aldo Ivaldi and Teresa Ivaldi, Associates
My mother had origins from Romagna (the area around Rimini), and read a lot of books. Maybe she found my name, Alis, in between the pages of one of those volumes. And for my brother Soarez too. He went to stay in Acqui, and so now with my other brother, Domenico, we have a total of seven hectares, divided between Barbera, Dolcetto and Brachetto.
I was born in Castel Rocchero, so I remember of this winery ever since. I clearly recall in the sixties, long queues of oxen and chariots, unloading grapes until one o’clock at night; in January, we were sleeping on large bags of corks, when we were filtering Moscato through Dutch jute bags.
The farthest place from Castel Rocchero where I went it has been Romania, in 1993. Ceausescu had just died, there was nothing; I couldn’t wait to go back to Castel Rocchero.
Alis Bensi, Associate
I’m 71 years old. And yet I run 6 or 7,000 kilometers a year on my motorbike. I have a Honda maxi scooter. I come and go from Castel Rocchero to Turin: I enjoy these hills with their ups and downs, I never choose the highways.
All my life I have been employed by others, now I want to do what I like.
My relationship with Castel Rocchero is wonderful. If I could live there I would give years of life in change. It is really a big regret not being able to live in the house that my father left me; but we go there during summers and weekends. I have all my friends in Castel Rocchero and I was also on the board for economic affairs of my parish: my fellows elected me!
I own only one hectare of vines. Overall, for the winery, I’m like a needle in a haystack. No one has fewer vines than me! I enjoy it, and I do a little ‘hard work’. Last year I taught my son, Marco Bottero, pruning. He is 39 years old and when I have some hesitation he tells me: “We are not going to sell the land.”
I have seen the birth of the winery: there is a picture of the laying of the first stone and I’m the young altar boy in the foreground next to the old priest.
There was a wonderful atmosphere that day: it was the fulfillment of a wish of our fathers. There was a lot of people: I remember the mayor and a senior mason – it was my cousin Efisio Bottero – who had also prepared lime. That old bricklayer laid the foundation stone in the presence of the village authorities. It’s been 63 years since that day, and now we get closer to the 60 vintages: in its own small way of being, La Torre di Castel Rocchero has always been on the forefront and it seems to have passed the crisis of recent years, unlike other wineries. Its strength is in its members and administrators: people in fact. The strength is the ability to maintain equity between work and remuneration, and have maintained a recognizable identity.
Giovanni Bottero, associate
My grandfather was making the wine at home, but then arose some bureaucratic problems. So he began to bring the grapes to Alice, to the old winery, with oxen. In those years it was decided to create a winery in Castel Rocchero, but they parted and built two: a Democrat in the village, and La Torre, who had a liberal orientation. I can still see the image of the masons building the wall.
I remember years with a lot of must, the jute sacks of Muscat and the women washing them.
I started working when I was 16. I used to work by season. We were using the winepress. When it was full they unloaded everything by hand, then they were removing the press, carrying it to the tower in six or seven people, walking on gravel. Then again to the weight; they were making piles out of the pressed stuff and when there was enough, the truck was loaded and they were breaking the forms with the hoe. We were straining until midnight, but it was a happy exhaustion, because we had created something that belonged to us, something that was deeply ours.
I have a son in law who works in the bank. Once he told me that he wanted to work my land, and also to buy some more. So for a whole year I noted all the expenses of the company, a precise statement of income, and I showed him how much you earn, without considering the uncertain. He gave up.
Together with Alis, I keep the shop open on Saturday afternoons and Sundays. It is a point of pride: before, for 52 Saturdays, 52 Sundays, 15 days in August, as well as at Christmas, and all the religious holidays the shop was always closed. We have started to keep it open. I had no experience, but I started to do it anyway; now we have created a good flow, with satisfactory results. At first we only opened on Saturday and Sunday mornings. But then, we said, why not in the afternoon? And why not on holidays? Today we have only five closing days in the whole year: New Year, Easter, 15th August, Christmas and 26th December.
Mauro Gaviglio, Associate
“Do you know which was the first DOC wine? It was the Ismarus, in the Odyssey, dated around the eighth century BC; Homer describes for the first time not a simple wine, but a wine of a precise place, namely Ismarus in Thrace. Ismarus still exists, there they produce Capiteux red wine.
Odysseus receives the gift of twelve wineskins of Ismarus wine from the priest Marone, and then uses it to make Polyphemus drunk to free himself and his teammates.
I love the history of wines and grape varieties. I’ve been studying them all along my life. I also love music, art and the history of mountaineering.
I worked for about two years at the Cantina La Torre di Castel Rocchero as an accountant. I saw it taking shape from a land of vineyards. Those two years have been very useful to me, I felt the belonging to my village, and also to the winery La Torre, ever since.
I was born in 1931 and immediately after the war here was like hell. I’ve known many Agostino Braida, typical characters of Fenoglio novels: poor peasants overwhelmed by fatigue and tiredness who, thanks to their sacrifices, have enabled their children and grandchildren to become respectable farmer-entrepreneurs.
In 1947 my uncle, il Cavalier Giovan Battista Bolla, with other vignerons constituted one of the first agricultural cooperatives of transformation in the area, located in Alice Bel Colle. After a few years they decided to build the winery La Torre. In 1956 there was the first harvest.
There were just a few more than a hundred members. They had big problems in opening up a loan: the practice was lost – or someone had made it disappear – so the loan was late in coming. In order to get it more easily we had to transform the company from limited liability to unlimited. So all members responded on their own.
I remember the bottle of the founders, it is still in the foundations. There was a scroll inside, I had written it with my own hand. At the time I was soaked in liberal principles, and I loved this project, its social and economic soul at the same time.
The first year we transformed 15 thousand tons of grapes, of which 9 thousands of Barbera, about 3 thousand tons of Dolcetto, and as well of Moscato that was going to Canelli, to Robba.
Barbera and Dolcetto were instead purchased by Dezzani and went to Cocconato.
The rest was sold to the minute. There was a transporter, Benito, who bore the wine to Milan, Turin and Genoa homes. And then another courier, Visca, went to Asti for small deliveries.
I also remember the first customers, small traders from Cuneo, we called them “the Narsulen”; they were arriving with their small trucks, loading the wine in little barrels and paying with rolls of cash. Some larger customer was brought by my uncle after his experience in Alice Belcolle.
My first salary, I remember it very well, it was 35 thousand lire: I felt rich, but maybe I was just rich of youth.
After so many years since then, I want to extend a grateful thought to the entrepreneurial and technical leadership of La Torre di Castel Rocchero. They continue today with passion and dedication the work we started.
“Semper ad maiora canamus” (Let’s sing always to the best).
Paolo Bolla, first employee at La Torre of Castel Rocchero