Episode 125: Sassi Italy Tours With Sebastian Sassi

We have our sassy pants on, per usual, but in this episode Sebastian Sassi of Sassi Italy Tours shares some breakfast wine with us. We’re talking wine, travel, experiential education, and connecting to and preserving wine culture. After a little lingering in bell’Italia, the factoid takes us to Martinique – oh what a week!

In Our Glasses:


Steph: 2015 Fratelli Povero Roero Arneis ($13). This is a great value white wine that I picked up at Supermarket Liquors. Arneis from Piemonte is classically rich, structured and enticing. Beware not to serve it too cold! You will miss out on the extraordinary aromatics.

Sebastian: Barbaresco Mario Garibaldi 2006 – hopefully he saved some for his wife or he was in big trouble.

Val: Rothman & Winter Apricot Liqueur from Klosterneuberger (Austria’s Wachau or “Marillen” PDO apricots). The juice of these apricots is combined with eau de vie made with the same fruits to make this sweet liqueur at only 24% abv.


Main Discussion: Sassi italy Tours

About Sebastian:

Sebastian is the wine-geek counterpart to his art history-geek father Douglas in the pair that operate the boutique outfit known as Sassi Italy Tours.  Sassi Italy Tours is committed to offering a unique opportunity: a true-to-life emotional connection to Italy as it should be experienced, a psychological connection to what it truly means to be an Italian–not just a visitor to Italy.  Picking up in his father’s footsteps (Doug has been guiding both adults and student groups through Italy since the 1980s), Sebastian shares a passion for Italian culture and gastronomy, and for showing people out of the way corners of Italy not found from a tour bus window. 

While Doug continues to operate the art and art history tours of Italy’s ancient and Renaissance treasures, Sebastian focuses on small group private expeditions in wine country for discerning travelers who want to experience what life is really like for artisanal Italian winemakers.  Sebastian has a particular affinity for Piemonte, Lugana, the Veneto, and Friuli, and enjoys introducing guests to small scale elegant producers whose wines all too often are hard to find in the US.  He lives with his wife Brooke, stepson Seamus, daughter Sawyer, and son Jasper in Peyton, CO and enjoys hiking, biking, and photographing Colorado when he’s not plotting the next Italy adventure.

Getting Bit by the Italy Bug

As the son of an art teacher and historian, Sebastian learned early the value of “experiential education”.  When his dad upgraded a small arts department at a private school, they raised the bar to add a student exchange. The first program involved Italian students and exchange programs. Sebastian explains this feeling of the rich cultural exchanges with Italian students who come to the US.

Why Italy? It makes sense if you’re the art historian, as 25% of the world’s art treasures are concentrated in Rome and Florence. When Doug, Sebastian’s dad, retired from teaching, the travel aspect expanded after a back porch conversation in Maryland. This was in 2012.

So What About the Wine?

So where does wine come into the picture, other than it’s a natural cultural tie in with the Italian lifestyle where wine is an integral part of meals and togetherness? When you think about Italy, you can’t help but experience wine as an adjunct to the travel experience. This always fascinated Sebastian, who was aware of the nexus between wine, civilization, culture, and history. In his 20s and 30s he embarked on the wine journey as well.

Part of his influence on Sassi Italy Tours was to bring wine tourism into the picture. He began sharing his curiosity and developing a connection with where the wine comes from and travel destinations. How do we get ourselves a little more connected not only to what we’re drinking, but to enhance the travel experience? Blog posts like this only whet the appetite for more wine travel: https://sassiitalytours.com/2015/03/31/fun-with-wine-and-google-la-morra-edition/

Making a Difference

We had to ask about The Winefathers and the partnership with them. The Winefathers are a team effort by Le due Lucche from Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, otherwise known as “The Two Lucas”. Sebastian met them on social media and learned about their project where they help raise funds and awareness for little known wineries. The concept is similar to a crowdfunding effort to help salvage indigenous grape varieties, rebuild parts of wineries, protect traditional techniques, and help save this contribution to Italian culture – and wine.

This is something anyone can do, particularly if you want to be part of a wine family but can’t get on a plane as often as you’d like. Check out the various projects all over Italy at winefathers.com for more info and see how you can become a partner.

A Little Extra

There will be some bonus content for patrons, because we chattered quite a bit in this episode.

Talk about some #W25Challenge fun!

Sidehustle Wino was spotted on Twitter with some #W25Challenge fun.


There’s also a BEAUTIFUL post in our Wine Two Five Community Facebook Group by Ash Lombardo of the Biltmore Estate and a little about their wines.



Rhum Agricole de Martinique AOC

  • AOC created in 1996 for rums of the island of Martinique
    • Martinique is in the Caribbean north of St Lucia
      • It is a French island and part of the EU
  • Fresh, sugarcane juice is fermented and distilled according to strict regulations
    • cane variety, production, extraction, aging, storing, etc
  • 3 categories under the AOC
    • Martinique Blanc (white)
    • Martinique Eleve Sous Bois (golden/amber) – 12 months in oak barrel
    • Vieux Agricole (old/aged)
      • 3 years in oak minimum = VO
      • 4 years in oak minimum = VSOP
      • Up to 6 years for aged vintage date or XO



Wino Radar:

Sebastian: Inspired by the Winefathers, he’s working on a book about winemakers in Friuli-Venzia-Giulia

Steph: “I still have never seen Barolo Boys film! It is on my radar because Val and Suzanne mentioned it in their seminar in Portland. Tonight’s the night I’m watching it on Amazon.”

Val: Coravin has released some screwcap adapters. The jury is still out, but Oz Clarke and W. Blake Gray have given their reviews if you’d like to check them out:





Steph: My party loving friend, Cheryl, brought over a bottle of method champenoise sparkling wine from KarMa Vineyards from her recent trip to Lake Chelan, WA. We opened it as we were getting painted with glow-in-the-dark body paint for a fundraiser. Seriously! The 2012 Brut de Brut bottle was exquisite and exactly how Cheryl remembered it when she tasted it on her vacation. Isn’t that what we are all wanting?!

Val: K&L Wine Merchants. That’s where this apricot liqueur came from, as well as my recently acquired bottle of Red Breast Lustau Edition Irish Whiskey, the Alsace Single Malt, and other fun, funky, French fringe wines this week. I’ve been searching for Red Breast Lustau for over a year and was unable to score it here in town or other shops I peeked into when out of town. But I love how K&L stocks such a great variety and I can get anything delivered to my door with reasonable shipping prices. Also, their newsletter is one of the few that I actually read. Oh, and they have sales, auctions and insider advantages.

Sebastian: Shoutout to brother, Raphael, of Sassi Drawing:  https://m.facebook.com/sassidraw/ and @SassiDrawing

Also, shoutout to Valerie and Evan in Alba who help arrange travel and tours in Piemonte. Check out Valerie’s cool blog at: http://girlsgottadrink.com/

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Sebastian can be found here: