Alison Levine, Satisfying the Palate: Dreaming of La Raya Winery in Gavi, Italy | vintage

Alison Levine

It’s a new year and with it comes making decisions and setting goals. For me, my goals have always been about travel. Where to go? When can I go? Although travel is not on my agenda at the moment, I dream of the trip to Italy I took a few months ago and the few days I spent at Locanda La Raia in the Gavi region of Piemonte, Italy.

While Piemonte is best known for its red wines, such as Nebbiolo, Barbera and Dolcetto, Gavi, a region of 11 cities in the province of Alessandria, produces dry white wines made from Cortese grapes.

Gavi is located in the southeast of Piemonte between Liguria and Lombardy and only 30 kilometers from the sea. Gavi has hot summers and cold winters, but temperatures are mild due to cool breezes from the sea. The mountain slopes consist of limestone, red volcanic soil and clay. These are the conditions in which the Cortez, a grape that dates back to the 17th century, thrives.

It was these circumstances, and the proximity to Milan, that prompted Cairo businessman Giorgio Rossi to buy La Raia property in 2003. From the beginning, Giorgio’s daughter Caterina Rossi Cairo and her husband Tom suggested embodying the principles of biodynamics, and La Raia obtained Demeter’s certificate in 2007. In 2015, Giorgio’s son Pietro, a Milan corporate lawyer, joined his father in overseeing the property.

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La Raia, located 100 kilometers from Milan, can be reached by car. Exiting the highway is an industrial area but a short distance away are the rolling hills of Gavi. Pietro told me that his father “never expected to find such a beautiful place so close to Milan”, but that they actually did.

La Raia has 48.5 hectares of planted vineyards, 40 in Cortese, eight in Barbera, and half a hectare to Pinot Noir. From 40 hectares, La Raia, under the direction of winemaker Clara Milani, produces three elegant Gavi wines.


Gavi DOCG is a mixture of corticosteroids from all over the property. It is fermented using selected stainless steel genuine yeast and spends four months on the crop. 2020 Gavi DOCG has a beautiful nose with pink and stone fruit leaves. There is also a slight note of hay. On the palate, the wine is fresh and bright with a nice texture and acidity beautifully envelops the palate.

• Gavi DOCG Riserva Vigna Madonnina

To make a reserve of Gavi wine, fewer crops are required, and the vineyard must be declared. Only a few producers at Gavi make Gavi Reserva and La Raia is one of them.

Gavi Reserva from La Raia comes from the vineyard of La Madonnina, located on a hill facing southeast. The grapes are hand picked, distilled and pressed. The wine is fermented with original yeast in stainless steel, spending a year and a half in the sediment, followed by six months in the bottle.

2018 Gavi DOCG Riserva Vigna Madonnina With notes of citrus, pulp of lime, apple and crisp pear, it has a brighter and richer nose than Gavi DOCG. Delicious wine has a more intense taste and mouth-watering finish.

Made only in the finest grapes, Pisé is the most important Gavi from La Raia. The grapes come from La Cascinetta, which is located at an altitude of 300 meters above sea level and is one of the oldest vineyards in La Raia.

The grapes are picked by hand, gently pressed, then fermented in neutral oak, and left on the thigh for a year. The wine is then transferred to stainless steel tanks where it spends another year on the shelves. It is then packaged and kept for six months before being released.

Pesée was first produced in 2005 and is a wine intended for aging. 2018 Pisé is the first wine in which wine is fermented from oak, resulting in a deep, rich nose of baked red apple, lemon and spice. The wine has a long, intense, and flavorful finish.

La Raia is more than just a lively winery. The 180 hectare property offers a complete experience. There is a winery, a lake, three rental apartments, a 12-room boutique hotel, and a restaurant. They also grow wheat and rye, produce honey, and raise Vasoni cows (Pimontes breed of cows). Additionally, the Cairo Rossi family owns an art institution, Fondazione La Raia, spread throughout the property, in vineyards, woodlands, and fields, which are site-specific works by international artists.

I enjoyed two nights at Locanda La Raia. The boutique hotel is located in a converted and renovated former post station. Large windows overlook the vineyards, and the spacious rooms are a blend of rustic and modern charm. On my visit to La Raia, I visited the winery, ate in the restaurant, swam in the pool, relaxed in the garden, and enjoyed drinking Gavi wine. I dream of coming back again soon.

Scott Sedgley, Mayor of Napa, welcomed officials from the Consulate General of Italy in San Francisco to announce a new sister city partnership between Napa and Montalcino, Italy.

Sasha Poulsen, record

Alison Levine is the owner of Please The Palate, an event planning and marketing agency. Freelance writer, she contributes to numerous publications while eating and drinking her own way around the world. Alison is also the host of the wine podcast Wine Soundtrack USA and co-host of YouTube’s Crush On This videos. Contact her at


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