March 23, 2011

Today we were up at 8 am for our 2 hour drive south down thru Bologna, then west, and finally a bit northwest to visit the Violi family in the town of Montericco di Albinea just outside of Reggio Emilia. Anyone who drives on the Autostrada (freeways) in Italy will see a unique freeway side franchise business scatered across Italy. The AutoGrill is a very popular freeway rest stop that offers a market, quick food, and even good restaurant eating at some locations. Some are freeway side, and others are built on a freeway overpass.  We found the AutoGrill a great place to stop.
The Violi family own Azienda Agricola San Geminiano, which is the name of their Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale production (real traditional balsamic vinegar).  In partnership with the Violi family, Darrell was able to be the first to import this rare and historical vinegar into the U.S. back in 1982. He has maintained a true family friendship with the Violis over the years, which was very warmly evident the moment we got out of the car.
We arrived at Azienda Agricola San Geminiano around 11am. After a very kind greeting, we were walked down to the Acetaio, or "vinegar house" and shown the Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale production inside.  After viewing the vinegar production, we walked around the original home to see the church that was built in the year 1000 on the Violi property. Next was a tasting of Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale, and finally a treat of Paola's home made Nocino (walnut liqueur).
Italy's very first Cuisinart?
After tasting Mrs. Violi's very special Nocino walunt liqueur, we were led into Mr. Violi's rare whiskey and liqueur collection room.
After our very lovely visit with the Violi family,  we headed back to the Autostrada to make our way west and north to the small town of Cocconato. Cocconato is in the Piemonte region about 40km north of Asti, and about the same distance east of Torino.  The weather was perfect and the 3 hour drive went by very quickly for all the delightful changes in scenery.  Cocconato is the home of the Bava family who own and operate the Bava winery there. 
Mr. Bava and his three sons Roberto, Paolo, and Giulio run the family business. Although Cocconato is a very small town situated on the top of a hill, we did manage to have a bit of difficulty in finding The Bava home and cellar named Casa Brina.  No one answered at Casa Brina, so it was down off of the hill and on to the winery.  We toured the winery then were treated to a tasting of their brand new Anniversary creation of a very special vermouth called "Vermouth di Torino." It was made to celebrate the 120th anniversary of the House of Cocchi. We also tasted their famous Cocchi Americano aperitivo. After the tasting we were taken to Casa Brina.  It was a quick freshen up in our rooms, and off to the center of town to eat a late dinner at the best restaurant in town.
The famous breadsticks of the Piemonte:  Le petit bâton de Turin
Darrell's first taste of his grandfathered creation: Vermouth di Torino
An interview of Paolo Bava
After a long, but  wonderful day sleep came late as we finally returned to Casa Brina after midnight.