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Monday, February 27, 2012

02/28/2012 - Americans with Italian Hearts

As the Slow Living Crew can attest, it is easy to leave your heart in Italy.  We all want to bring a taste of it back home to keep the memory alive.  Our guests in this show have not only done that for themselves, but have created something to share with others - so we can all enjoy a taste of Italy - from artisan cookies and confection, to a marvellous book set in Umbria, and some amazing Italian-inspired wines from a family-owned, small St Helena vineyard.

Suzanne Carreiro and William McBain
From Napa, Inc
Something other than wine,
Artisan Italian Cookies and Confection

We’re a small artisan bakery, makers of authentic Italian cookies and confections. Our recipes come from Italy, but we hand make everything in small batches at our St. Helena, California commercial kitchen. We currently have four Italian sweets. We’ll soon have two beverage mixers–Vin Brulè (Hot Spiced Wine Mixer) and Bellini (Raspberry Peach Sparkling Wine Mixer).

You might have noticed that our cookie and confection packages say, “Look for Suzanne’s book, The Dog Who Ate the Truffle…” If you like our sweets, we think you’ll also like the book that’s based on the people Suzanne met and the recipes she collected while living in Italy’s region of Umbria for 1-1/2 years. The book, published by Thomas Dunne Books, is available at most major bookstores, and online. To see the book’s trailer, get travel tips, and learn more,

An inside glimpse from the Slow Living "investigative crew"........ We found out that the couple were actually first time sweetheasts back in school, before "re-finding" each other, falling in love all over and uniting to build this business - really a business of love and a perfect Slow Living story!  Here's the two lovebirds back in the day!

About Suzanne Carreiro and her book,
The Dog Who Ate the Truffle: A Memoir of Stories and Recipes From Umbria.

by Suzanne Carreiro,  August,  11, 2009

Ciao a Tutti,

During my long culinary career, I had always wanted to write a cookbook, but my life as a single mother kept me too busy to do it. Finally with my son off to college, I decided to move to Italy to write a book and to fulfill my teenage dream of immersing myself in a foreign language and culture.

So a couple of years ago, I shipped twelve boxes of personal items to Italy, rented out my house in the Napa Valley, and moved to Umbria to do research for my book. (Note: Umbria is bordered by Tuscany on the west. The Marche region and the snow-capped Apennines form the eastern boundary, and Lazio surrounds Umbria in the southern region.)

Before moving to Italy for a year, I had previously spent six months in Umbria–during which time I fell in love with the region. I adored my adopted Umbrian family, and I was especially fond of Mario (my Umbrian “son”) who had patiently tutored me in Italian during my first five-month stay. When I returned to stay for a year, I was welcomed by Mario, his partner Michela, and his family like a lost parente (relative). During those twelve months of living as part this old Umbrian family, I cooked with the family and dozens of other people.

While I lived in Umbertide, I was immersed in the daily lives of my adopted family. I gained insight into the cuisine, customs, and lifestyle that few outsiders are privileged to have. I attended birthday, holiday, and graduation celebrations. I was one of the first to visit Michela in the hospital, just hours after she gave birth to a baby boy. I went into forests inhabited by wild boars and poisonous viper snakes to gather truffles and wild asparagus. I harvested grapes to make vinsanto wine. With a family who lived up the hill from me, I picked olives and watched them being pressed. So many adventures—and they’re all in my book.

Benessere Vineyards
Jack Stuart

Benessere is the Italian word for well-being. We are a small, family-owned, quality producer of Italian varietals, located north of Napa Valley where the soil is well suited for growing grapes.

In 1994 John and Ellen Benish acquired the property, restoring the winery and residence. Their first release was 135 cases of 1995 Sangiovese. Since then they have added other Italian varietals, including Pinot Grigio, Moscato di Canelli, Sagrantino, and Aglianico. We make two proprietary blends, Sorridente (“smiling”), and Phenomenon. Oh, and we produce two awesome Zinfandels.

The property is steeped in local history. Originally a cattle ranch, the land was converted to a thoroughbred horse operation, complete with racetrack. Occasionally we discover horseshoes in the vineyards. The next owner planted most of the 42 acres to grapes and transformed the barn into a wine cellar, leaving old stall doors as a reminder of the past. Local Indian tribes used obsidian from a nearby formation for tools and arrowheads. Our “Black Glass” Zinfandel vineyard is aptly named, as fragments are still found between the rows of vines.

The Benish family chose the name Benessere to convey the unique qualities of the wholesome lifestyle found in their charming corner of the northern Napa Valley. To hear the Italian pronunciation go to

Jack Stuart, General Manager and Winemaker

Jack Stuart was General Manager and Winemaster of Napa Valley’s Silverado Vineyards for 25 years.  He is recipient of the Robert Mondavi Trophy for Winemaker of the Year of the International Wine and Spirit Competition, as well as accolades from the Wine Spectator, the Los Angeles Times, the Wine News and numerous other journals. 

Stuart established Silverado as a national brand known for the quality of its wines.  He directed four major winery building projects and developed seven different vineyard properties in Napa and Sonoma counties.  In his management capacity, he oversaw production, public relations and marketing, finance, personnel, and government relations.  He is now Winemaker and General Manager of Benessere Vineyards.

Active in industry affairs, Jack Stuart is past president of both the Napa Valley Vintners and the Stags Leap District Winegrowers Association; he is co-founder of the North Coast Pierce’s Disease Task Force.  Stuart was instrumental in the development and passage of two important industry bills in the state legislature.  He sits on the Enology Committee of the American Vineyard Foundation and chairs the Projects Committee of the Land Trust of Napa County.

Stuart is a fifth-generation Californian who grew up among Santa Clara Valley orchards.  He received a bachelor’s degree from Stanford and took his graduate study in viticulture and enology at the University of California at Davis.  He lives in St. Helena with his wife, Loraine, a community advocate and director of St. Helena Family Center.   

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