Alba has been the heart of Italy’s greatest wines for roughly two millennia, give or take a century. Southern Oregon is becoming a wine making center and getting some recognition for quality wines and great experiences that go with visiting Oregon’s most scenic wine region. If you don’t count Peter Britt’s pioneering wine making efforts, we’ve been at it for just a few decades. Local wine makers are getting some name recognition but nothing compared to the giants of the Langhe. Names like Conterno, Ratti, Mascarello, Ceretto and Gaja resound like rock stars of the wine world. We really ought to be having wine making and viticulture exchanges. Alba is our sister city but, when it come to wine, we are still the little sister.
Italian is one of the most beautiful languages spoken. No, it is the most beautiful. For fifty-two years we have had really wonderful personal contact with some of the nicest people in the world and they all speak Italian. We have been all too comfortable to let them speak our language which most of them do quite well. We have missed opportunities to connect verbally with an older generation that never needed to learn English and with some very modern Albesi who just choose not to. Our schools mostly ignore the language of Dante, Puccini and Fenoglio because there is no commercial advantage to speaking Italian. What they are missing is what the Italian language does for the soul. Words form our thoughts and Italian words evoke some very beautiful thoughts. Speaking Italian is transformative. While the wine may have a little to do with it, speaking Italian brings out the romantic in those who give it a try.
Medford has some very creative and industrious people. Harry and David Holmes saw a market for Oregon fruit and their legacy is the corporation that now bears their names. E.M. Tucker grew up in Josephine county and created the ubiquitous Sno-Cat that has been carrying explorers over the earth’s frozen frontiers for decades. These local entrepreneurs are Medford’s past and there doesn’t seem to be a new generation to replace them. Alba’s industrial boom occurred right after World War II when small family businesses evolved into Ferrero, Miroglio and Mondo Rubber. While we’re learning Italian we ought to be learning how they grew a confectioners shop into the world’s most reputable corporation or how a company making rubber balls for a quaint local sport is now providing all the sports surfaces for the London Olympics.
The cuisine of Alba and the surrounding Langhe is indescribable. With its roots in peasant fare and the tables of Italian royalty, Piemontese cooking to be found in Alba is unequaled. Alba has become the Mecca for foodie pilgrims from all over the planet. The food of Alba is so much in demand that local entrepreneur, Oscar Farinetti, has created the Eataly food empire. Now gourmets in Tokyo, New York and other world cities can enjoy what our friends in Alba have been enjoying forever. If you ride the new Italo train, the “Ferrari train”, you can enjoy Eataly’s fine food as Italy passes by at 300 kilometer per hour. The restaurant Piazza Duomo in Alba’s main square is rated among the top restaurants in the world. Our local chefs should take advantage of our connection with Alba and spend some time in their sister city. We might think about borrowing a few of theirs.
Opportunities missed are not necessarily opportunities lost. We just need to find more ways to enjoy having the greatest sister city in the world.
Printed in the Medford Mail Tribune