Things to do in Piemonte in winter months.

The idea to come and visit your favorite winemaking region during winter months when tourist season could be at it lull, is a good idea.  There are plenty of Christmas Markets to visit and and also some things to keep in mind while you are visiting. The pro’s to visiting during off season is you will benefit from the off season rates for flights, hotels and car rentals. The cons are because there is a low in tourism many places take advantage of the quite season as of recently there has been more and more movement in this area, so people are closing up shop and going to their favorite island to bask in some sun.

Winter holiday, here in Italy we take our holiday very seriously and holidays to keep in mind are 8 December Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Christmas 25th and the 26th is Boxing Day or the second Christmas day. The first of January is also a national holiday.  Normally during these holidays it will be hard to find places in the restaurants or hard to find a taxi service or driver services as many people will too be celebrating with their families and friends, or they will be just over booked.   Also keep in mind that if any of these holidays fall on on a Tuesday or Thursday most people will take advantage of having a long weekend and plan to do things in another area of Italy.  With this overload of Italians in circulation it will become more difficult to find tables in restaurants, long lines at the ski lift, difficulties also for making appointments in wineries they will become full very fast, and we must not forget about the traffic.  So keep in mind it is best to do a little research beforehand to make sure you are booked where you would like to go, instead of trying to pop into somewhere.

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Weather conditions it is winter here, we don’t tend to get to much snow and the temperature does not drop to often below zero centigrade. But it can and it does. So it is a good idea to bring some winter gloves, a nice warm winter jacket with a hood is a good idea incase you need in a pinch, a hat, a scarf, and a good pair of boots that are comfortable for walking and also are good in the snow.   Also here the cold weather doesn’t get us down.  There are plenty of things to do on the weekends, farmers markets, Christmas markets or festivals that will have you outside walking around.  It isn't uncommon to find many people eating drinking and dancing outside in the winter months.  It actually helps get rid of those cooped up winter blues we sometimes can encounter.

Christmas markets are plentiful here in Northern Italy as well as Germany, Austria, and other European countries.  The Christmas markets are nice, they will typically have some traditional music playing, hot dishes to eat, and one thing to keep an eye out for is the mulled wines “Vin Brûlée” that will help keep you warm and get you in the spirit.  Be careful as most people tend to add a little kick to the wine of either a Brandy or Rum.  Usually the people displaying their wares are artists or crafters if you would like to find something hand made this is usually your best bet.  Most of the items will be Christmas themed like tree ornaments, or cookies and candies, but sometimes you can find wooden products and jewelry, etc.

Some markets worth visiting:

Canale (Roero) every weekend, in the center from the first Saturday in December until the weekend before Christmas there will be different activities and also a market.

Alba (Langhe) Every Saturday Alba hosts a very large market where you can get everything from fresh vegetables, meats, cheese, to Italian made clothing, and household goods. But once a year they host a market dedicated to all things Christmas.  This year it took place on Sunday 18 December.

Torino being the larger city in the area they have a few more things going on than the other parts of Piemonte. Every day starting from the 26th November to the 8 of January they have a Santa Clause Village that is open everyday of the week from 10am until 11pm.  Located in Piazza d’Armi. It offers visits from Santa Clause, ice skating rink, and street food vendors.

You have a more Traditional Christmas market (Torino) open Monday to Friday from noon to 7pm, on Saturday and Sunday 10am till 8pm.  Located in Piazza Borgo Dora 34.  Here they have about 100 vendors, this market is half inside and half outside and there is a large variety of crafts, typical food products, and Christmas ordainments to keep you busy for a few house.  I typically go to this market every year as it has many wonderful things, and if you go on Sunday you can have the added bonus of the Antique market in the near by distance.

The idea of the Christmas market was started in the Germanic countries and to honor the idea in Torino they have an Ital-German market. Located in Piazza Solferino from the 8 November untile the 23 November.  This market embraces the Germanic traditions of Christmas and here you have the ability to taste your way though over 100 different types of beers!

One Christmas market that is very popular in the Langhe\Roero is the Govone market. Located around the Castle of Govone here this market is open weekends and holidays from 10am until 7pm and will run from 19 November until the 26 December.  This market brings in many from all over so be prepared if you don’t find a parking spot right away.  Also there is a wonderful Trattoria right next to the market that is not to miss called Trattoria Pautassi, they make some wonderful traditional dishes and if you are vegetarian have some delicious options as well.

Leave time for lunch.

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In many societies today I hear more and more people talking about how their jobs are so demanding that they only have time to quickly grab something from the kiosk parked right outside their office to bring back to their desk so they can eat while they are working. Fast paced life has people now eating and drinking on the go. Gigantic coffee mug in the car on the way to work, no good. The more convenient this world is becoming the time to escape from the everyday stress is become harder to separate from, great example smart phones. The most important thing people are quickly forgetting is the importance around the dinner table. When there is a meal to share this table will bring people together, this table entices conversations for people to take a few hours out of their day to interact with their friends and families. This table is like an Island away from the stress of everyday, and is quickly being forgotten. This table is something very important to Italian lifestyle and no matter how much the world is changing this Island will always bring people together to enjoy the time spent together, a glass of wine, and something wonderful to eat.

When you come to Piemonte one thing that must be respected is the time for lunch. Your body needs to be replenished, nourished and at lunchtime is the perfect time to do so. Piemonte has a culture of the locals stopping their workday around noon, sometimes a group from work will plan to go to have lunch together at the local Trattoria or Osteria and there they will sit and enjoy until they need to be back to work around 2pm. Typically this lunch will consist of a glass of wine, a starter followed by a plate of homemade pasta. Nothing fancy but just enough time to relax, socialize, and get away from some everyday stress.

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When you come to Piemonte here the home of Slow Food movement, the movement that has helped to preserve some of the food traditions that were in danger of going extinct. You come to a place that understands patience, has less stress, and knows how to enjoy the better things in life. I must admit here in Piedmont you eat very well. We actually say amongst each other that, it is hard to find a place to eat that is not good. With that said some of my favorite dishes from the area are: Vitello Tonnato thinly sliced roast beef with a mayo-tuna sauce. I know this combination sound weird but I swear once you try it you will be craving it when you return back home. Pepperoni ripieni con salsica di Bra, roasted peppers filled with sausage from Bra, the sausage from Bra is a specialty around this area. Made from 100% veal and specially seasoned with spices this sausage is typically eaten raw. Cipiola Ripiena this is a baked in salt whole onion that they take and hollow out add cheese and typically sausage to the onion, mash it all up then put it back into the onion skin. So good. Pasta Agnilotti del Plin a hand pinched small ravioli filled with a mixture of meats and green vegetables. The sauce for these ravioli typically are a butter and sage or the jus from the roasted meat. Tajarin, this is Piemontese for Tagliatele a hand cut pasta made with eggs. Typically for every kilo of flour you use you will need 40 egg yolks for this dough. The sauces for this pasta are either a sausage ragu or butter and freshly shaved white truffle. Yum! The beef here is a special breed called Fassone, that does not tend to get fatty. So you can easily eat it raw or when you sear a steak medium rare you can cut through it like butter.   Just some salt and oil and that’s it. Save room for dessert because when you get a fresh Panna Cotta there really is nothing like it.

While you are here you might as well tuck yourself in for a nice meal, some good company, and of course some excellent wines.  A short list of some of my favorite places to eat the foods I have mentioned earlier are:

Osteria I Rebbi - Monforte d’Alba

Osteria Veglio - La Morra

La Cantinetta – Barolo

Trattoria dei Bercau – Verduno

Osteria dell’Arco – Alba

Degusto – Neive

Ristorante Repubblica di Perno – Monforte d’Alba

Ristorante Casina Collavini – Costigliole d’Asti

You will probably find me at one of these places on my lunch break!

If you would like to make some of these traditional dishes at home you can look at Gianni's cooking blog at DoSomethingGood

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My top 10 Gelato places in Piemonte - Italy

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Some people might call us crazy, but that is just what makes this so fun. We have traveled every centimeter of Piemonte diligently tasting every gelataria that we come across. It was a lot of work, and sometimes a stomachache but we did it. And here are our Top 10 Gelato places in Piemonte - Italy. I am going to be honest Gelato or Ice Cream is one of my favorite things to enjoy. It always has been, as a matter of fact my parents to this day give me a hard time about my love for gelato. As the story goes, on graduation from Kindergarden you had the opportunity to tell the audience of parents what I would like to be when I grow up. The normal things that adults ask kids in hopes to get them ready to make that big decision before they head off to college. As most of the kids would reply “Astronaut, Doctor, or Lawyer” when it was my turn to reach the podium I was one of the last to do so with a last name beginning with W I responded that I would like to make Ice Cream. As it was my favorite childhood memorie. My sister and I would hop in the Van of my father and the three of us would drive over to Haywoods for Mint Chocolate chip, butter pecan, Rocky Road, or Moose Tracks sit outside and enjoy the nice summer days.   That was how I wanted to spend my adult years, bringing joy to families. A few minutes out of the day to enjoy together.

Wanting to bring people together with a smile I have here my list of the Top 10 Gelato places in Piemonte.

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  1. #10. Pepino - Torino, I have to tip my hat for Pepino making gelato since 1884. They are a larger more industrial operation today, which isn’t my norm but, they have mastered their flavors and are a staple here in Torino. So that is why they have made it to the list.

Piazza Carignano 8, Torino (TO)   website

  1. #9. Cremeria dell’Antico Borgo – Mondovi’ Located in the historic center of this beautiful little town for me it has always been a nice pit stop. Don’t be surprised if there is a line to get their gelato as this place is small and busy.

Piazza Maggiore, Mondovi (CN)

  1. #8. Mara dei Boschi – Alba Between Alba and Torino there is a lot of wonderful Gelatarie. This Gelato shop has two locations but the one I visit more often is located in Alba. I typically like to get from them their fruit flavors, they tend to work with more seasonal ingredients and project quite nicely their full flavors.

Via Vittorio Emanuele 17D, Alba (CN)   website

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  1. #7. Conogelato – Torino WHAT Buffalo milk Gelato!! So as it turns out there are also Bufala (the correct name in Italian) here in Piemonte. There is a farm located in the Providence of Torino where they have these wonderful animals and they are not only making milk for this amazing gelato but also cheese. The flavor I recommend trying is Fior di Bufala, they serve this flavor like a soft serve and it is so creamy and delicious, it will pair nicely with Nocciola (hazelnut) or Caramello (caramel). Yum!

Via Cesare Battisti 3, Torino (TO)   website

  1. #6. AgriSAPORE – Pralormo When taking a minute to drive some of the back roads of the Langhe/ Roero you will sometimes be pleasantly surprised when seeing a sign for Artisinal Gelato. There are two great gelato places off the beaten track the next one will be listed as number 5, and it is always nice when you can go and visit the cows then enjoy a scoop of their freshly made gelato! It is good too for people traveling with children as there is plenty of room to run and play. The flavors I recommend trying when there are Miele (honey) and Pasta di Meliga (polenta cookie).

Strada della Franca 5, Pralormo (TO)   website

  1. #5. Agrigelateria San Pe’ – Porino Another off the beaten path gelateria, and honestly I will make the drive to come out to this one. If you find yourself there on a weekend, be prepared for no sitting room and to wait a bit in line for your turn. The flavors that I recommend there are Torrone (a nugat with hazelnuts and honey) or the fruit flavors like Pesche (peach) or Fragole (strawberry). Because here the fruit grows amazing in this area.

Cascina San Pietro 29/A, Porino (TO)   website

  1. [embed]https://www.instagram.com/p/BJXHJ-NBg4h/?taken-by=amandaswineadventures[/embed] #4. Sacchero – Alba If you are a lover of Chocolate this is your heaven. The flavors that they make here are so full of flavor and creamy that I cannot walk by this place without stopping for a bite. Some of my many favorite flavors are; Chocolato (chocolate), Chocolato Pesca (chocolate peach), and Menta (mint). The mint is very rare when they make it, but when they do it is amazing.

Via Vittorio Emanuele 32, Alba (CN)

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  1. #3. Soban – Valenza Another gelataria with a long history of quality and taste. Founded in 1924 today this gelataria is still family run. Being pioneers of Tradition and innovation it is here that I will take a risk with the wilder more creative flavors. Like Parmesan and Balsamic vinegar, or Candied Orange and Saffron. Here I know I am in good hands and every time I go probably being that is a bit of a ride from my house, I will always have a second helping!

Piazza Gramsci 23, Valenza (AL)   website

  1. #2. Gelato I.G.P. – Bra This was a tough choice because there are many places I like to go when I am in Bra, but Gelato D.O.P. I just cannot walk by without stopping. The flavors here are so rich and great examples of the products they use that it is sometimes hard to choose which one. Also I recommend trying their Gelato pops, you won’t be disappointed.

Via Principi di Piemonte 63, Bra (CN)

  1. #1. Berlica – Gallo Grinzane Cavour My ultimate favorite gelato place. If you don’t believe me you can ask the people who work there. I am there almost everyday and never get tiered of the flavors they have to offer. Here the flavor selection is limited to a few key flavors that they do so well it will tickle your taste buds. The ingredients that they use to make these wonderful treats are the highest quality out there and you can tell. The flavors I recommend to try are Licorizia (licorice), Berlica (a chocolate, hazelnut), Menta (mint), Pistacchio (pistachio), Dolce Salato (salted caramel), and basically anything else that they might have at the time. You will think you are in heaven.

Via Garibaldi 123, Frazione Gallo- Grinzane Cavour (CN)   website

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Thinking to visit the vineyards in Piemonte, Italy? Why wait!!

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There are plenty of things to see and do and who wouldn’t want to take a visit to a Barolo or Barbaresco vineyard?

I mean the wine is what brought me to Piemonte. The finesse of Nebbiolo, the vineyards of Barolo and Barbesco all seemed so magical. I came to visit to see and taste the wines and meet the winemakers. Then I fell in love. One with the rolling hills covered with vineyards in Langa and two with a charming Italian man. (Ladies watch out for those Italians). I came to Piemonte because I was driven by my passion for the wine and the food. I was given the opportunity to work first hand in a vineyard to help out with the year’s production of Nebbiolo to make Barbaresco. I loved it, there was something about working with the grapes and making the wine and talking to people about what I was doing. There were so many visitors who would come to take a winery tour, come to taste the wines. They would want me to take them on the winemaking journey, to tour with them in the winery talking about what is going on, what we were doing and learn something new. The winery tour and vineyard tour was my favorite part, taking a walk on a crisp autumn morning when the vineyard leaves were beginning to change color. You can tell the grape varietal by the color the leaves change “Gianni one day said to me”, as we were taking a walk in one of the vineyards located in the Asti area.

We would wake up early every morning to be greeted in the cellar by a tractor full of grapes ready for the crush. All of these ruby colored grapes filling every single red plastic crate. When you hold up the Nebbiolo grapes to the sun you can see through them the skins of the Nebbiolo take almost a Rose’ color and in light become transparent.   The Nebbiolo is the king of the grapes here in Piemonte and in all of Italy. The essence of Nebbiolo is like no other, it is elegante, complex, and can sometimes be quite powerful. There is no other grape to compare it to. It is also one grape that does not ever show as wonderful when planted outside of it’s Piemontese home. Even in Piemonte the Nebbiolo grape is quite finicky, it really does not like to go too far away. Just like most Italians, their home is beautiful, their culture is wonderful, and it is hard to find another place in the world as wonderful as Italy.

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As the harvest started to come to an end, Gianni and I would take his fast car to the mountains to have a traditional Piemontese mountain meal. We would drive for hours on these windy streets to arrive to a restaurant that looked more like someone’s home and would be welcomed in to have an amazing meal. We would eat Polenta with cheese, braised meats (my favorite was always the wild boar), have a couple of bottles of Piemontese wine and enjoy hours of laughs amongst us as well as the warm and charming mountain people who were feeding us this wonderful meal. We would then finish the meal with some Genepy or some Amaro from the area. Then head off to some quite grassy spot and take a nap. With the wind blowing in our hair and the sounds of the leaves shaking and the slight kiss of the sun amongst our faces. This was heaven.  I will never forget these times, and this was what made understanding the simplicities of life and how it should be.

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It was hard to return to the states, the flat, same old, East Coast that I have always known. Now I knew something different. A new way of life, one for living.

Even to this day when we go to take a trip even if it is a couple of days, I miss the rolling hills of the Langhe. The picturesque views of the Alps, the windy vineyard lined streets of Piemonte. I am glad that I decided to live here, and I love being able to share with people the wonderful experiences that I have had over the years of life in Langhe. I am glad to be able to tour with people to have more wine tour experience in Piemonte. To get to know much better the area’s of Barolo and Barbaresco and to get to know well the people the families who are behind such breathtaking wines. I now get to know their stories, and can see and feel their passion. But not only for just the wine, but the land, the work that goes into it, their family traditions that have been passed down to them over the years. They like the vines are really attached to the soil, the land, the history. It is amazing to find these things, to be able to share these things with my guests, with you, this is what I love.

Looking to Bring Back Wine from Piedmont, Italy or Beyond? Take it back on the plane.

International travelers returning home who want to fly back with a taste of our region can bring back some wine with them. There are a number of practical reasons to do this.

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* You will unavoidably discover small, family run wineries, which don’t export to your part of the world.

* Even if the producer can be found at home, there are specific vintages that may not be available.

* Alcohol shipping laws are restrictive and it is illegal to ship to many countries without an alcohol import license, making the process complicated.

* Shipping costs are high and parting with your wine opens you up to other risks, like temperature fluctuations during transport, long shipping durations, and potential damage.

Transporting wine with you on the plane is a great alternative. Here is what you have to know to do this:

In general, you may take wine on the airplane providing it’s checked (as hold baggage). This is because liquids in carry-on (cabin) luggage are prohibited unless they’re in containers with a capacity of less than 100 ml; hence full size wine bottles are a no-no.

Watch Your Weight

Standard airline weight limits will apply, which is typically 23 kg (50 lbs) per baggage for international travelers. A typical bottle of wine weighs between 1.2 and 1.8 kg (2.5 and 4 lbs). Consider grabbing one of these useful portable luggage scales to know the weight of your suitcase before you head out to the airport and avoid excess baggage fees.

Duty-Free and Duty

Each country has a duty-free limit for alcohol, and may charge duty when you bring more than this duty-free limit. When travelling between two E.U. countries each traveller can take up to 90 litres of wine duty-free if it’s for personal consumption. The U.S., for example, has a duty-free limit of 2 bottles. If you bring more, you technically face duty of only $0.35 to $2 per bottle, but because this is such a small amount duty officers rarely bother to charge you and simply wave you through. See this travelling with wine and alcohol guide and check the details for your country. 

Always Use Protection

It’s critical to ensure that your wine bottles are well protected in your suitcase to avoid any unpleasant surprises at the end of the trip. If wrapping your wine bottles in clothes is not worth the risk, there are a number of products that will give you peace of mind. Remember it’s not just the bottles you may lose if they break, but your suitcase’s contents as well. For one or two bottles there are bottle protection sleeves, some of which use bubble wrap type technology, while others inflate around your bottle to protect them. You can use a Styrofoam bottle protector, which comes in a variety of sizes for different numbers of bottles.

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For those wanting to bring back a larger number of bottles, it’s worth investing in the Lazenne’s Wine Check luggage. This easy-to-transport, airline approved carrier features wheels and a handy strap, and can carry 12 or 15 bottles of wine depending on the model chosen. With the bottles packed, the carrier still meets the airline’s international checked-bag weight limit of 23 kg (50lbs).

You can order the abovementioned wine travel products and more from European online retailer Lazenne. They can ship directly to your hotel throughout Italy and Europe.

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Sometimes you just need a cocktail

Living in the Langhe can sometimes make you all wined out. And trust me after a long day of tasting wine sometimes you need a drink.

Here are some of my favorite cocktail bars and what to drink.

Manhattan:

Coming from the homeland of the perfect Manhattan, I find a lot of Italian bars just don’t know how to do it right. Could be the resources I mean here we don’t get a choice of 50 different small batch Bourbons and if you ask for a Rye Whiskey be prepared for a funny look.

Cocktail and Dreams: Castagnole delle Lanze (AT) - Via Roma 9

Tel: +39 338/7485745

The owner of this bar won an international cocktail competition and can shake up some wonderful things other than just a Manhatten.

Moscow Mule:

In summertime this drink is my all time favorite, it’s cold refreshing and uplifting. When I first arrived to Piemonte 5 years ago no one had heard of it, and let me tell you it was very difficult time for me. I mean, I had to drive over an hour to find ginger beer. Today there are a few key places that make this libation and the results are how I remember them back home.

Aromatario: Neive (CN) - Piazza Negro 4

Tel: +39 0173/677206

The bartender here worked for a hot minute some of the top bar/restaurants in London and has brought back to Italy a few tricks.

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Negroni:

This Italian classic is not always easy to find. A well balanced one that is.

The bar that I am going to talk about is my hands down favorite bar in this area. They are located in Santo Stefano Belbo and really you cannot go wrong with what you order, from the beer to the wine to the cocktails. Everything they have on their list is just wonderful and the brothers who own it are a riot!

 Bar Roma: Santo Stefano Belbo (CN) - Via Roma 16

Tel: +39 0141/844252

                        p.s. ask them about their Moscow Mule it’s also fantastic

Gin Tonic:

The English love Italian wine and the Italians love English Gin. The Italians love Gin period. Many of them today are making it a passion to collect as many different Gins they can find. Sometimes they even ask their friends to bring some bottles back for them from their travels.

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Degusto: Neive (CN) - Via Cocito 7

Tel: +39 0173/67380

Really if you come to Neive you don’t have to leave there is plenty of wonderful things to do here.

Soda: Alba (CN) - Corso Italia 6

Tel: 346/5938838

This is a vegetarian restaurant where the owner worked and lived for a few years in Santa Monica California and has taken his knowledge of interesting foods and passion for Gin here to the Langhe.

Wine Stories: Again in Castagnole delle Lanze (AT) - Via Ener Bettica 2

Tel: +39 0141/1766381

The owner of this restaurant is half Italian from Castagnole Lanze and half English. He grew up in London and has worked at some of the top restaurants in the city. This quaint little place has a wonderful patio where you can sit and enjoy your beverage.

Visiting Piedmont the Rough Guide

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First things first! You must realize that there is so much to see and do in Piedmont that it could literally take a lifetime to see, eat, drink, and do it all. From the history, to the food, and the wine (I’m talking like hundreds if not thousands of wineries to visit and the amount of great restaurants is endless. I mean I have been here for 5 years and still have a list a mile long.) It can be daunting and if you are in a rush to see and do as much as humanly possible I would consider looking into hiring a private guide.

This is good, why?

  1. Having a driver for the day who knows the area, this way you can relax, enjoy, and maybe eat and drink a little more than if you were driving.

  2. Someone who will be able to give you an full day education of the history, the traditional foods and the culture

  3. Someone who will can give you the breakdown between the beloved Barolo and Barbaresco regions

  4. English is seldom spoken here so to have someone who speaks English and can communicate with the locals for you is a big help.

  5. If you are planning to buy wine at the wineries and Enoteche your guide will be able to help you with shipping the wine back home for you.

If you are a wine lover and coming to explore the Nebbiolo grape I would consider spending at least one day to visit the region Barbaresco and at least one if not two days in Barolo. Make sure to do some homework and chose a few wineries beforehand to visit from a couple of the different towns. Keep in mind not to pack tight you schedule and to leave plenty of time in-between to take pictures, getting lost, and if you are really jiving with the winemaker that the tasting might take longer than anticipated. Like they might invite you to have lunch at their house. With that said normally a winery visit is about 1.5 hours or longer and no one is open during the sacred hours of lunch (noon till 2pm). One thing that is very important is to make sure that you make a reservation for your visit ahead of time. In Piedmont almost all of the wineries are small family run, and more often than not are located in their home. They want to have visitors and love when you come from all over the world to visit but respect and etiquette is important.  Some do’s and don’t: Do taste all the wines they would like to show you. Don’t say no I only want to taste this. You never know you might like more the wine you were going to pass on. Do ask if there is a tasting fee. A lot of wineries are starting to ask a fee to help with the costs of the bottles being opened. However a lot of places will wave that fee if wine is purchased, it’s a good excuse to bring home some bottles. If you like a wine and would like to retest a wine: Do ask for another taste. Don’t pick up the bottle and pour yourself.

Some recommendations of places I have visited and have found to be very accommodating and interesting. In the village of Barbaresco a visit at the historical Produttori del Barbaresco. This winery is important because it is one of the oldest running cooperatives in this area.

In Neive the neighboring town to Barbaresco and the largest producing area in the DOC I would recommend to take a visit a Pier Busso located in the heart of the Albesani vineyard. Great people and even better wines!

If you have time for a visit to Treiso where in my opinion the views from this village on a clear day are the most spectacular, have a visit a Ca’ del Baio another slam-dunk with the wines.

Now when we start to talk about Barolo a whole lot of things have just got that much more complicated. I know right. Barolo the king of wines, the wine for kings this phrase originated from the king of Savoia Vittorio Emmanuele II who just loved his glass of Barolo. Now I recommend in order to get the most out of Barolo you need at least 2 days to explore the 11 villages that make up this magical place.

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If you just have time for the greatest hits, the must visit villages are Serralunga d’Alba, this range of hills makes up an era of soil structure dating back over 10 million years. What this means, it is the oldest soil structure that makes up the Barolo area. This soil structure makes the wines from this area very complex, more tannic, and better for aging. A winery I recommend to visit Pira Luigi typically how they start their tour is on their balcony overlooking their 3 main vineyards Vigna Marenca, Vign Arionda, and Vigna Margheria. This is good to be able to see the different exposures talk about the minor differences in the soil and the microclimates.

Monforte d’Alba a majority of the more famous wineries come from this little hill top village. Monforte is not the highest area in Barolo but it is the steepest incline. A must visit winery is Conterno Fantino located in the Ginestra vineyard, right on the top. The view from the tasting room is breath taking; also the winery is really something to see.

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In Barolo you are in the heart of the Barolo area and some of the wineries here are the oldest. Barolo is where you really want to visit one of the traditionalists and one that still today remains the last of the Mohicans is Bartolo Mascarello Maria Teresa is an absolutely passionate and respectful of her family traditions and the great wines that make Barolo what it is today. Here you will be able to really see the original side to Barolo.

Then there is La Morra the highest area in Barolo I highly recommend to visit this town last because if you go to the top of the village there is a view point and a map that shows all the towns you have visited in both Barolo, Barbaresco and some of Roero. The winery to visit would be Elio Altare. This visit with his daughter Silvia will be completely different to the traditional style Baroloistas. Elio is the mind behind the modernist movement here in the Langhe, and the story that his daughter Silvia tells is just captivating. Silvia has some pretty big shoes to fill but I think she is doing a great job, her energy and enthusiasm for what she is doing you can really see in the wines they are outstanding and the whole visit is just a great experience.

If you need any other pointers or help planning your trip please feel free to contact me.  Buon viaggio!

La Spinetta does it Again

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Barbaresco 2012 Valeirano

This was the other most talked about wine of the night Christmas Eve. La Spinetta as a winery has a very interesting history (more to come). Giorgio Rivetti was one of the founding fathers for the “modernist movement” here in the Langhe region. There was a gang of youngsters in Langhe who were thinking of bigger and better things to happen within these two regions Barolo and Barbaresco. They were young and restless, they traveled all over the world to learn the techniques from other wine regions to then bring back to the Langa and break the tradition of wine making and the way people look at Nebbiolo today.

I must say in my experience with La Spinetta their wines have always been strong, brooding, and powerful just like their label (the rhinoceros). A wine you would typically want to give some time. However I was surprised and yes I happily had another glass of the 2012. There was so much finesse, fruit, silky tanning that this wine was almost gulp able. And who doesn’t want a wine that good? I am very much looking forward to trying the other 2012 cru’s.

Valeirano for me and also almost all of the wine making team at La Spinetta is the favorite of the single vineyards. Located in Treiso (one of the 4 villages of Barbaresco) and not so well known, Treiso has the highest altitude in the area and the soil in Treiso can range from an iron rich red clay to calcareous soils, making for much more structure, body, and force.