Le Cascinette is an eleven acre wine producing estate with its vineyards, winery, and gardens in Masserano, Italy. Masserano is a small hilltop town in the foothills of the Alps in an area of northern Piedmont known as Alto Piemonte. Le Cascinette was founded by Carlo Forzani and Reka Ludanyi, both lawyers in Connecticut who retired to devote themselves to this venture. Our estate brings together three vineyards: La Panizza was worked by Carlo's great grandparents, Il Cascinetto has been worked by close family friends for 65 years, and Il Chiose d'Olive by another family member for over 30 years. Our winery is located in the family home in Masserano built by Carlo's great grandparents in the 1890s.
For over two centuries the foothills of Alto Piemonte, with their volcanic soils and moderate climate, have produced some of Italy’s finest wines. Alto Piemonte is now experiencing a renaissance in winemaking. We are reclaiming our ancient vineyards and winemaking practices to produce modern wines of distinction. At Le Cascinette we believe that organic and biodiverse farming practices and traditional, natural winemaking produce the finest wines. We are also blessed to be located in an area with a long history of fine Italian cooking and hospitality. At our winery we pair wine with the fine food of Piedmont. We want to bring to our guests the wine and food, the history, and the lifestyle, of this special land. We have designed dinners, wine pairing and cooking classes, and custom tours of our region to share this experience with those who visit us.
Lunch after the harvest in our winery kitchen. October 2019
A Brief History
For centuries the foothills of Alto Piemonte have provided sustenance for the people who live here. With their temperate climate and fertile soils, these hills produce a bounty of agricultural products. Cows, sheep and goats graze in Alpine meadows, providing milk, butter and an array of fine cheeses. Heirloom rice and corn grow in the valleys. Mushrooms, chestnuts and salad greens grow wild in the forests and in between vineyard rows. Family gardens and orchards produce an abundance of heirloom vegetables, fruits, and flowers.
And from our vineyards comes wine, the most iconic of agricultural products. Winemaking is a partnership between nature and the winemaker which transforms the grape into a food of daily sustenance and conviviality. Wine nourishes the body and engages the mind, invites thought and conversation, and brings people together. Wine is thus more than just wine: it is an important cultural product. The vintages stored in the family cellars are a part of the family’s story, a part of it’s ancestral endowment, and an element of family continuity across the years.
In our town of Masserano, as in the rest of Alto Piemonte, the vineyards, orchards and vegetable gardens covered the hills until the mid-twentieth century. For most families the walk to the vineyard to tend the grapes, work in the vegetable garden and tend to the animals was a daily ritual that defined life. At home the family cook prepared meals that respected the primary ingredients that had been gathered. This was home cooking born in the forests and fields and nurtured in the family kitchen. The kitchen was, and remains, the center of family life here, the place where food is prepared, meals are enjoyed around the family table, and all things of importance are discussed. Most of this work in the field and in the kitchen was and is still done by hand, forging a bond between the worker and the earth, between the cook and the ingredients.
After the two world wars Piedmont industrialized rapidly. The factories in nearby Biella and Torino offered jobs in textiles and in automotive manufacturing which became an easier way to earn a living. Many of the vineyards were abandoned. But the agricultural traditions persisted, as did winemaking in small family vineyards and in a few remaining commercial wineries. Those families which produced wine continued a long tradition of fine wine making and created our classic viticultural area that is today known as Bramaterra, literally meaning “Longing for the land ”.
Today a new generation is reclaiming these ancient vineyards and the traditional ways of making wine. The post-war experience with modern agriculture has shown that natural farming practices and biodiversity are the key to healthy and sustainable food production. In the cellar the old ways of making wine, allowing nature to take its course with natural yeasts and simple techniques, have been re-discovered. Now many of the best wines are again produced using traditional methods.
My great grandparents worked in the garden, in the orchard, and in the vineyard on the hill behind our family home in Masserano. I have walked in these forests, fields and vineyards during the many visits to Masserano since I was a child. I have been fortunate to share food and wine, and lively conversations about life in Alto Piemonte, in the kitchens of family and friends.
Le Cascinette was founded to reclaim these ancient vineyards and wine making traditions to produce modern wines of distinction. It is also our privilege to carry on the rich tradition of Piemontese cooking and hospitality and to share these gifts with our guests. We do so with respect for this land and its products, for the tradition of hand craftmanship, and for the importance of daily life and work. We regard ourselves as stewards of this land and of this way of life. We want to leave these vineyards teeming with life and preserve these traditions for the generations who come after us.
Mario Delmastro and Carlo Forzani celebrate the 2013 harvest at the Il Cascinetto vineyard. Mario’s father-in-law planted this vineyard over 60 years ago and Mario has been the vineyard master for over 35 years. The Il Cascinetto vineyard is now part of Le Cascinettte and Mario continues with us as a consultant.
Reka Ludanyi in our cellar next to newly bottled 2017Nebbiolo del Chiero. October 2019.
Mario Delmastro is the vineyard master at our Il Cascinetto vineyard and a consultant at Le
Cascinette. Mario has over 35 years of experience in viticulture and producing natural wines.
Alessandro Negri is a partner at Le
Cascinette and Mario’s consulting partner. Alessandro is a professional viticulturist in
the neighboring town of Lessona.
Alessandro’s Nebbiolo del Chiero, which he makes with his father, has great purity and finesse. Here we taste Alessandro’s 2015 vintage, still in the cask in May 2017.
Gianfranco Negri, right, is our neighbor in Masserano and an informal consultant. Here we taste his 2010 Nebbiolo del Chiero, only two weeks old and fermenting in stainless steel. He is assisted by his brother-in-law Carlo Aimone.
Michele Colombo is our
agronomist, advising on viticulture
and vineyard management. Michele also does our European
Union regulatory work
and advises on vineyard
Davide Bianchetto is a partner and our food and event consultant. Davide graduated from culinary school and helps manage his family’s retail food business.
Bianchetto’s is their fine delicatessen, meat and cheese
shop in the neighboring town of Cossato. The family also owns and operates the popular Cafè Mazzini next door.
The Bianchetto family at Bianchetto's, their fine food shop.
The vegetable garden at the Il Cascinetto vineyard ready for planting in May.