How it all began
To make our dream come true, we first had to find the ideal house. We thus embarked on a thorough search of the local area. It took us a number of years but we eventually struck lucky. In 2001, in fact, we had the opportunity to buy a large farmhouse complete with vineyards, fields and woods that had been left in a state of abandon for more than 30 years. It was a fantastic property in the San Luigi hills, just a few kilometres outside the town of Dogliani, where some of the finest Dolcetto di Dogliani cellars are situated.
Studying an antique map from the middle of the 18th century, we discovered that the house had originally been called Cascina Corte. We decided to revive the name, which likely refers to a certain Ignazio Corte, born in Dogliani in the early 18th century, who enjoyed a brilliant career at the Royal Court in Turin, eventually becoming Lord High Chancellor.
The building actually predated Ignazio Corte, who bought it and converted it into a manor house, embellishing it with stucco-work, archivolts, oval windows, coffered ceilings, doors and decorated lintels, and extending the staircases.
In spite of the many years of neglect, these features were still visible as a testimony of a magnificent past. We had found a place that met our expectations at last: a beautiful house, old and charming, and still entirely authentic, with no ugly modern buildings nearby – just vineyards all around. Another plus for urbanites like ourselves was that it was just a few kilometres out of town, not in the middle of nowhere, but also afforded a breathtaking view of Monforte, Mondovì and the Alps. In 2002, we got down to work on restoring the property to its former glory. At that stage, we still had no idea of how much effort the job would require, and how many difficulties we were going to encounter along the way. But our enthusiasm was sky-high and we were totally focused on planning work, fixing time schedules and establishing priorities.
Our idea was to revamp the winery as quickly as possible to launch our business. We thus drew up a list of the jobs that needed doing:
The rearrangement of the vineyards
The building of a cellar
The refurbishment of the house
Given our lack of experience in the winegrowing sector, and appreciating that improvisation was out of the question, we soon began to rely upon two respected professionals – the agronomist Giampiero Romana and the oenologist Beppe Caviola – to supervise our work in the vineyard and the cellar.
We were told by the previous farmers that the vineyards had been planted immediately after the Second World War, that they yielded only small amounts of grapes – but grapes of high quality. They had been exploited for many years to grow grapes to sell in bulk and a lot of basic work has to be carried out on them: the poles and wires had to be replaced and many vines had gone missing, lost in the course of time and never replanted. Despite everything, we stuck to our romantic vision and, instead of uprooting vines and changing the plots radically, as many people suggested, we decided to reorganise them meticulously.
In 2002 we applied for organic certification and were granted it after three years, in 2005.
In 2003 we also decided to plant two new vineyards directly in front of the house on well-aspected plots where the vines had been uprooted and replaced by sunflowers some years earlier. We planted a barbera vineyard and a nebbiolo vineyard, thus expanding and diversifying our wine production, which had originally been confined to Dolcetto.
Once work on the vineyards had been completed, we had to address the problem of building a cellar. In spite of its size and the fact that it was surrounded by vineyards, the house only had a tiny cellar. What we wanted was a simple but functional, well-equipped facility with a constant temperature. So we decided to build the cellar below a small hillock adjacent to the house itself. While we were excavating the hill, however, we did everything we could to conserve the original cellar, which currently serves as our tasting room.
Cascina Corte Today
In the years following 2003, we increased the number of our vineyards and expanded our production range to include wines such as Riesling and Nascetta, and subsequently Freisa and Pinot Nero.
After four years of work (two to reorganise the vineyards and two to build the cellar), we at last possessed the wherewithal to produce our own wine. Before that, in the early years, we were only able to vinify in the space placed at our disposal by our oenologist in his cellar in Dogliani.
We had come a long way yet we still had to address the job of refurbishing the house itself – and you can imagine the effort that took! The photos give you a clear idea of the state the house was in. But despite everything, after another two years or so, in September 2008, we were able to make the big move and come to live at Cascina Corte.
A little at a time, we also completed work on the guest rooms, which we conceived as rooms like the others in the house, redecorated with old family furniture. Our aim was to create an atmosphere that was cosy and not anonymous. We like the idea of people feeling at home, almost as if they’re part of the family.
Amalia and Sandro
The Dogliani Area
Cascina Corte looks over the plateau of Carrù to the southwest and the Maritime Alps and Mont Vis in the distance. To the northwest, the landscape is less expansive and has the hilltop town of Monforte d’Alba as its backdrop.
Here we are at the very heart of the Langhe hills, and the scenery is stunning.
Dogliani is easy to get to by the hill roads from Barolo, Monforte d’Alba and Belvedere Langhe, and from the Monchiero-Farigliano valley road. Just short of the top of the highest of the San Luigi hills, which stretch from Dogliani to Monforte, a dirt road on the right leads to our farm.