Where to Eat and Drink in Barolo:

There is something very special about the wine region of Barolo, located in the Piedmont region of Italy (“Piemonte” in Itailan). Maybe it is the beautiful rolling hills, surrounded by vineyards. Or maybe it’s the laid-back atmosphere of the people who live and work here. It might also be the care, passion, and authenticity of the winemakers and their wines. No matter, Barolo is a “must visit” for wine lovers everywhere. 

 My husband and I visited the Barolo region in early September. We stayed for a weekend and visited a handful of carefully-selected wineries. We stayed in a charming farmhouse B&B, situated amongst the beautiful Piedmont hills. Our B&B also happened to make their own wines. The entire experience of our weekend in Piedmont can be summarized in a few words: romantic, educational, unfussy, picturesque, and memorable. As a wine lover, food and travel enthusiast, and blogger, I’d like to share with you my favorite Barolo wineries and eateries!

Cantina Mascarello Bartolo: Perhaps the most highly regarded winery in the Barolo region, Cantina Mascarello Bartolo is a “must visit” for all wine lovers. Why? Well, the Mascarello Bartolo wines are nearly impossible to find in Italy or internationally. The winery produces a relatively small number of bottles each year, and they are sold out well before the wines are even bottled. They take special care to produce their wines using traditional methods, and they have an extremely loyal following of wine-loving customers around the world. Despite the high demand for their wines internationally, the owner of the winery, Maria Teresa (daughter to the late Bartolo Mascarello), makes only enough wine to comfortably sustain her business, her family, and her employees. Moreover, she refuses to substantially raise the price of the wines, as she believes it would be unfair to the winery’s long and loyal customers. There is no greed or pretense here – just a passion for producing high quality wine in a traditional way. Due to the high demands for Mascarello Bartolo wines, you can’t buy the wine at the winery. Fortunately, you can still have a free tasting and tour of the cellars. If you’re a true wine-lover, don’t pass up this opportunity to experience the Mascarello Bartolo wines. You must call ahead to make a reservation. The winery does not have a website. Phone number: +39 0173 56125.

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Podere Ruggeri Corsini: Podere Ruggeri Corsini is located in the country, nearly halfway between Monteforte d’Alba and Barolo. Our tasting here was perhaps the most educational experience we had during our visit to Barolo. Podere Ruggeri Corsini is a wonderful family-run winery with reasonably priced wines and excellent customer service. The tasting was free, and it was extensive. The wines were all very high quality, with my favorite being their Barolo from Bussia. The entire tasting experience at Podere Ruggeri Corsini was laid back, relaxing, informative – and delicious, of course! They also have the cutest little dog that likes to join in on visit. Call or email to make a reservation. +39 340 6741204.

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Brezza Giacomo e Figli:Located in the town of Barolo, Brezza is a popular winery that also owns a hotel and restaurant. As the name would suggest, the winery is owned by the Brezza family. The Brezza estate spans over 22 hectars and dates back to 1885. Brezza had by far the most wines of any of the tastings, with multiple Barolos that I loved. Bonus? The wines are all sold at very affordable prices! You can reserve a tasting and tour by appointment only. Check out their website for more information.

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Tenuta Montanello: This is the farmhouse B&B we stayed at during our trip to Piedmont. The location is perfect, nestled in the heart of Castiglione Falletto. The prices are reasonable, the scenery is unbeatable, breakfast is included, and the rooms are very comfortable. If you’re looking for a relaxing and authentic place to stay during your visit, I highly recommend Tenuta Montanello. Above and beyond having a wonderful stay here, Tenuta Montanello is also a very small family-run winery. Their wines are all quite elegant and very inexpensive when compared to other wineries in the area. They have an outdoor seating area that overlooks the surrounding vineyards. My ultimate recommendation for Tenuta Montanello? Stay here. Have a complimentary wine tasting. Buy a few bottles of their amazing wines. Crack a bottle (or two) while relaxing outside and taking in the views. Then – voila! You can walk right to your room and go to sleep when it’s time ☺

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Scarzello: This was the last wine tasting during our stay in the Barolo region. In this case, it’s appropriate to say “we saved the best for last”. In my opinion, Scarzello’s wines were by far the most elegant and high quality of all of the wines we tasted. The price tags are a bit higher on their wines, but it is completely worth the additional cost. Scarzello is a family run business, located in the town of Barolo. The setting for our tasting felt like we were casually enjoying wine in someone’s living room. They make very few bottles of wine per year when compared to other wineries in the region, so definitely pick up a few bottles while you’re visiting! Tastings by appointment only.

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La Case della Saracca (in Monforte d’Alba): La Case della Saracca is a small restaurant and B&B, located on an otherwise very quiet street in Monforte d’Alba. It’s a locals favorite, and for good reason. This place is just cool. It’s where I recommend you eat for aperitivo or dinner – but you MUST make reservations. In high season, you might consider making reservations a week or more in advance. The building itself was restored to preserve a medieval atmosphere, but with a modern twist. If you’re lucky enough to score a reservation for dinner, you will be guided upstairs, where there is only one table on each level, for a total of 8-10 tables max! The small number of tables is also why it is very difficult to score a dinner reservation. The restaurant sounds fancy, but it’s not expensive, and their wine list is WONDERFUL (they even had Mascarello Bartolo wines). The food was great. If you can’t score a reservation, come for aperitivo anyway. They have the best aperitivo around. You buy a drink (they have a great selection of wine by the glass, cocktails, and so on) and you help yourself to the very generous and extensive buffet of snacks. More information can be found here

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Trattoria Cascina Schiavenza: We lucked out and got a table for lunch without a reservation here. Cascina Schiavenza has superb wine, food, and views. Established in 1956, Cascina Schivenza is a family-run restaurant and winery located in the region of Serralunga d’Alba within walking distance from the castle of Serralunga. Mum Lucia and her daughter prepare typical Piedmont dishes, specializing in home-made pastas. This is a great option for lunch or dinner. Make sure you try some of their Barolo wine with your meal! Reservations can be made HERE.

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The vast majority of Piedmont wineries (including the Barolo region and other regions) require reservations for tastings. Additionally, the wine region of Piedmont is quite large. If I were to do the trip all over again, the only thing I would do differently would be to hire a local guide. First, local guides know how to pick the best wineries based on your tastes and budgets. You would not have to worry about any of the planning or making reservations at individual wineries. Secondly, hiring a local guide is great because you don’t have to DRIVE! There is no “easy” way around the area – taxis are not common (and they are very expensive). Therefore, you must typically drive around the region. There is a lot of wine to be drunk, and having transportation taken care of is a HUGE benefit – for your enjoyment and for your safety! I highly recommend reaching out to Amanda for your wine and food tasting and tour needs!

For more posts like this (and delicious authentic European recipes), visit www.thetravelingcookabroad.com

Name: Cammy Romanuck Murphy

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Someone pinch me, my visit to Giacomo Conterno

Ok I am not the type of girl who asks for jewelry or a designer name bags for Christmas, although its not a bad thought.  However if you are going to spend money on me I much rather it be in wine.  And thus every year my only Christmas wish is some bottles of Giacomo Conterno Barolo to be waiting for me under the tree.  Honestly my favorite wine shop who knows me so well, order it specially for my Christmas gift because they know my husband will be there like every year to buy for me to place under the tree. These bottles mind you only come out on very rare occasions, and if I have the possibility to drink them myself we can safely say I won’t waste a drop.  For many years Giacomo Conterno has been one if not the one, my most favorite producer. I fell in love with Nebbiolo when I tasted one of their Barolo Cascina Francia.

So after much courage to meet the man responsible for such amazing (for me) life changing wines, I piggybacked on a visit to Conterno with some friends, who were very gracious to support by almost embarrassing awe. We arrive to a beautiful modern looking structure, where we were greeted with wonderful hospitality and asked to make ourselves comfortable in their waiting room. We were escorted to this cubical like room with huge windows and a wonderful panoramic view, where there were plenty of couches and comfortable seats to be had. We sat there waiting anxiously sipping some some sparking water before being invited into the cellar.

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I have never been so nervous in my life, I don’t know I guess its like meeting your favorite rock star, or movie star.  I felt star struck, I am such a geek. The secretary Stephanie was very professional and sweet.  She took us to their tasting room where we before going into the cellar she had explained to us about their vineyards and some of the history of the estate.  Giacomo Conterno’s first vineyard purchase was a large piece in the vineyard Cascina Francia, a vineyard located in Serralunga d’Alba. This vineyard is prime Realestate, great Southern facing exposure and about 400 meters above sea level making this area perfect for Nebbiolo grapes. In Serralunga d’Alba you have the oldest soil structure of the Barolo area. Where the hills from Treiso, to Castagnole Falletto/Serralunga d’Alba hills and then down to the Langhe Dogliese, reach a ripe old age of over 14 million years coming from the Serrafallian age.  This was the first point of land when the Padano Sea was moving out to later become the Mediterranean Sea. This land formation is made mostly out of Lequio which is seen as alternating layers of sand, sandstone and marl.  As a matter of fact we were talking about the Francia soil being a red sand and a brownish marl, this helps to give the Nebbiolo its complexity and muscle.

They recently have had the opportunity to purchase a few hectare in a vineyard very close to the Francia vineyard, called Cerretta. They purchased this vineyard in 2008 and at the beginning have only made Barbera d’Alba and Langhe Nebbiolo, with the hopes to make a Barolo when the time is right.  Roberto said that at the beginning when they first started to work the land, it takes a few years until you can see the difference in hand on the vines.  Its not that the grapes were of poor quality and they certainly could make a stunning Barolo but like many new things it takes some time to break in.  So for the first few years only a Langhe Nebbiolo would be made from this vineyard.  Now you are able to find on the market a Barolo as well from the Cerretta vineyard.  What I like about the Cerrettais it has so much elegance and red fruit and a sweeter Nebbiolo tannin where the Francia has all the muscle and power.

We had the chance to taste out of barrel and tasted Barbera d’Alba from Ceretta and Francia 2016, amazing, stunning vintage.  Barbera loves the heat and in ’16 it was a hot and dry vintage so these two Barbera were just big juicy and very giving. The Barolo we tasted was also from tank and was 2013, a rocking vintage especially for the Nebbiolo. It was a nice summer, warm and sunny days with cool nights and we got rain when it was time so for the Nebbiolo had a great hang time.  Today the 2013’s great structure both powerful with supplant tannins, we did find out that the whole lot of the Francia for the first time will all be made into Monfortino!  Monfortino is their Riserva so this wine will spend a few extra years in the large oak barrels before being released. I guess I am going to have to be very good that year for santa will have to stock up on Monfortino 2013 :)

I brought up the question about organic farming, this seems like a good topic because it is a buzz word for just about everyone.  I was pleasantly surprised by Roberto’s answer, he simply said “apart from my family here at the winery two things are the most important. One is the vineyards and the second are my clients.  The vineyards are the most important thing for my wines, if I don’t bring in the best quality grapes I am not going to get the best results. I do not want to follow a trend to make organic wines if I cannot be completely in control of what is going on in the vineyards, I want to be more than organic or natural.  What we do here is we work the land as we see is best, then when the grapes have finished fermentation and are ready to be transferred into barrels we do an analysis of the wine to see if there are any residues left, every test comes back with zero. By not having any residuals means that there is nothing in the wine.  This is exactly what we want. This test we do is for no one but ourselves to see that what we are using are good for the vines and leaves no residue. This brings me up to another fact, that we will begin to test other products for the vineyards. Products so natural that you can literally drink this stuff. We are working with a team of scientists, as well as some of the professors from the enological schools here in Italy to study these products to see if this will be the future.  You see we are not organic, we are at the next level.”

I cannot say enough that the dedication and passion for precision and perfection were found in every aspect of the cellar.  They produce about 30,000 bottles and every single one of them was personally looked after and taken care of as though there were an only child.  The winery was completely spotless and not one thing was out of place. Not one stain of wine on the floor and the presentation and tasting were nothing but a wonderful explanation of all the hard work that goes into a great bottle of wine. Thank you.

Thinking of Touring Alba? Here are some places not to pass up.

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When taking a minute to drive the hillside roads of the Langhe coming in to the town of Alba Italy, you can see from many vistas along the way, many of the medieval towers that are still standing today. The city of Alba once known as the City of a hundred medieval Towers.  These Towers were built in the 14th and 15th centuries and many of them have been ruined in wars and one in particular was during the attacks of the Barbarians after the fall of the Western Empire.  The city of Alba is now a part of the UNESCO world Heritage and is considered to be the center for the Barolo and Barbaresco vineyards making it the central meeting point for many wonderful things.   Here in Alba you will find the famous White Truffle and once a year during the month of October they host a festival for all things truffle and Alba related.  During this gastronomic festival you can take place at the White truffle auction where the largest White truffle that has been found around the Langhe area will be auctioned off and normally at a very high price.  One other thing not to miss at this festival is the Palio. This race had originated in Medieval times in Siena and has since then made its way to the Asti area. In Asti this race takes place on the third Sunday in September. Alba does things a bit different and uses some Piemontese humor while doing so.  The difference is in Alba they don't have horses they have Donkeys.  Not an animal uncommon to the Langa, but makes a whole lot of fun seeing these guys in a race.

Another wonderful thing about Alba is this is the birthplace of Nutella, the creamy chocolate and hazelnut spread that has made so many childhood memories.  Could also be a nice little treat for adults, too. I know there is always a jar of Nutella in my cabinets at home.  Here in Alba is the Ferrero factory where over 10.000 employees work around the clock to make sure those wonderful little chocolate hazelnut treats get shipped all over the world.  What is wonderful about having the Ferrero factory located in the center of Alba is that about 4 times a week they toast chocolate and that they have to toast so much of it that walking around Alba center you are engulfed with this wonderful chocolaty smell.  It tends to make me a bit hungry.

On Saturday mornings in Alba (Ferrero will be toasting away lots of chocolate) and in the center of the City there will be their weekly farmers market.  This market takes place on the two main streets Via Maestra and Via Cavour and will also be located in a few different Piazzas: Piazza Savona, Piazza Duomo, Piazza San Giovanni, and the Piazza  where the market is located more frequently throughout the week (Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday) is Piazze Senatore Ovaldo Cagnasso. On Saturday the Piazza where I recommend not missing is the Piazza Pertinace: here they have the Mercato di Terra where there are many wonderful local, organic producers from this area and whom have the best quality products by far. Need some hazelnuts, I recommend going there.

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Now we will shift gears to some other fun things to see and do in Alba.

Places to eat!

Piazza Duomo This is a 3 Michelin starred restaurant and is well deserved. In 2016 Chef Enrico Crippa received from the guide The Word’s 50 Best Restaurants received number 17. Not too bad, if I do say so myself. I highly recommend making a reservation for this restaurant if you wish to visit. You can contact them for either lunch or dinner bookings from their website.

Osteria dell’Arco is one of the sister restaurants a part of Slow Food. Here you will eat very good typical Piemontese food. Things not to miss are the Carne Cruda, and the Tajarin with 40 egg yolks. They are typically closed on Sunday and I recommend making a reservation. You can contact them from their website.

Gusto Madre If pizza is what you are craving then I recommend taking a stop here. It is not your everyday pizza experience when you eat at Gusto Madre. Here I recommend getting one of their tasting menu’s so you can try their different takes on their pizza’s. Take not that is not easy to get a reservation here as they are super booked but with some advanced planning it can be made possible. They are closed on Sunday lunch and all day Tuesday, for booking please see their website.

Bove’s here is where the American comes out in me. If you are having a withdrawal from a great Hamburger don’t worry I’ve got you covered. Boves started as a butcher in it’s first life then realized that they understand meat probably more than the average person and decided to reinvent themselves with hip cocktails and a meat based menu. Another place I reccemend making a reservation here’s the link.

Osteria del Vicoletto is a nice quite traditional place that won’t break the bank. The kitchen is simple and delicious. They are located on Via Barter 6 - Alba, Italy and are only open for dinner. You can make a reservation by phone at +39 (0)173 363196.

Things to do and see:

A walk down Via Maestra - Alba, a pedestrian street only where there are many wonderful caffe’s, gelataria, and specialty stores. If you would like to get some local products or a special bottle of wine you will be able to pretty much find everything Piemontese you are looking for.

Duomo di Alba, Cattedrale di San Lorenzo the original structure was to been built in the 5th century and then rebuilt a few times after in the following centuries. When you visit this Catthedrial you can see the layers of history of the several different constructions.

Underground Alba, to visit the original Alba, the Alba Pompeia. You are able to visit the Underground Alba on Saturday and Sunday by reservation only. Typically it is a tour offered in Italian. You can arrive to Alba Underground at Piazza Risorgimento 2 in front of the Tourist office. Tel:+39 339 7349949

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Sitting at a café having a coffee or an aperitivo and watching the people walk by is something to pass some time and is very relaxing.

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.

Tocca te Silvia Altare di Cantina Elio Altare

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Elio Altare 2006 Barolo Classico and the Barolo 2009 Cerretta

Elio Altare is a radical. He woke up one day with an idea to change the name and idea of Barolo once and for all, and well, he did. Barolo used to be known well it used to be not so well known or not known at all in the 1950’s, 60’s, until the mid to late 70’s early 80’s. Elio understood that there was something special about the Nebbiolo grape and something could be wonderful coming out of the Barolo wines. He one day packed up his bags and headed off in his (what is today) vintage Fiat 500, that was not in the best condition at the time.   His direction was France, Burgundy. After a long trip Elio finally arrives at a winery that he was familiar with. Elio parks next to the bright red Porsche and proceeds to the door to ask to have a tasting. A gentleman answers with a suitcase in hand, “Can I help you?” He asks. Elio “I would like to know if I could come to have a tour of the winery?” The reply from the Burundian winemaker was “we are closed, it’s Friday afternoon and I have my Porsche parked outside ready to go to Nice where I plan to spend the weekend on my boat. “ After hearing this Elio was devastated, but also made him think if this winemaker can have a Porsche and a boat why can’t I?

After this trip he headed home to clean things up a bit. His idea was to modernize the winery to use barrique barrels instead of large botti. To ferment in stainless steel instead of wooden fermenters. To have the winery be sterile and not a mix of a chicken coop, tractor garage and ageing room.  In the middle of the night he would head out to the vineyards where he would for the first time in this area begin to cut off certain bunches of grapes to ensure that the ones hanging would ripen better and have more concentration. This today is called green harvest and is practiced in almost every winery. He would talk about his ideas to his friends and classmates and from this started a gang of modernists called today the Barolo Boys.

Since the year 2000 Elio’s daughter Silvia has been looking after the winery. I think today she has gained full responsibility of the winery as he has a few other projects he has been looking after. I think that Silvia has some big shoes to fill, and I think that she is doing a great job. She is charming, charismatic, and full of passion and excitement for what she is producing. If you are in the area or if she is in your area you should really go to visit her and chat a bit.

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I recently had the chance to work beside Silvia at a tasting in Trieste. It is funny because working in a winery really the only time we get to see our neighbors is when we attend tasting events. So I tasted her line up, the 2011 Barolo I have to tell you a lot of the 11’s are drinking great now and this was one of them. Fresh, fruity, elegant, with soft ripe tannins, this bottle would not last long in my house.

The 2009 Barolo Cerretta, this is coming from a vineyard located in Serralunga d’Alba. An area known to make stronger wines, on this wine I got a lot of darker fruits, tobacco, and even truffles. The tannins were well intergraded and they had a bit more presence than the 2011. Which is good because I like a lot the tannins I have tasted in the 2009’s, they are a bit more nervous.

Lastly was the Barolo 2006 Classico, which is a blend of three communes in Barolo. This one rocked the house and could have been my overall favorite from the whole tasting! This 2006 showed very young for being 10 years, it had all the classic Nebbiolo nuances, the red cherries, dried rose pedals, leather, tar, and almond oil. The tannins are soft and elegant and displays great this important classic vintage.

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The Harvest Report 2012 - Should I stay or should I go??

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Harvest work didn't scare me away as now it is my first official year here in Piedmont. I came in 2011 to work harvest but had arrived in the end of August. In 2012 I was here during the summer months and got to see the year build up. The vintage 2012 was a big year for me I got married, I moved out of the country, and I got my first foreign speaking job. Mind you I did not speak very good Italian but it was helpful when finding a job that my English is pretty good. I had in mind to work in a tasting room tasting and educating guests on Piedmont and even more on Barolo and Barbaresco. My first job-seeking stop was a hit, I drove up the steep driveway to Brezza knocked on the office door and luckily there was Enzo Brezza in the office, by himself, and not on the phone (nor did the phone ring during our meeting). In my super broken Italian I asked if he was looking for some help in the tasting room and he kindly invited me in to the office and then for a tour in the cellar. At the end of his explanations of the winery he asked me if I could start the day after. Of course I agreed. I went home super pumped, and so it began.

That summer as I remember it, in Neive it was super hot during the day the temperature was between 35-40, I remember like it was yesterday I was wearing my blue dress talking to my mom on the phone telling her that I have never been so hot in my life I was suffocating.   Then September came finally, and so did the rain. It hailed a few times in Barolo damaging a good amount of the fruit in some of our vineyards. But the rain never seemed to halt. I remember Enzo pacing back and forth in the office rubbing his head every time he walked toward the window and saw that it was still raining.   Finiamo questa vendemmia, mai. “We will never finish this harvest”, he would say in a worried tone to me. “We cannot harvest during the rain, we need to wait at least a day for the grapes to dry off before we can start to harvest, and if this rain does not stop and the sun does not come out we could also have problems with mold.” The sun did not come out, the rain did not stop, and every once in a while we would have a surprise of hail. In the end we did finish. We finished the harvest late.

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We fermented and kept separate our vineyards of Barolo and had aged them like we normally would. Enzo would come into the office every once in a while after tasting the barrels and would say “I don’t know if we are going to make cru Barolo for this vintage I might just blend the vineyards together and make a Classic Barolo.” So we waited until August 2015 when we decided to bottle. Normally before we bottle Enzo will set up numbered glasses for me to taste and give him my opinion. When I started to taste through the 2012 I was completely blown away by the elegance and the sweet Nebbiolo fruit that hit my tongue. At the end the Nebbiolo in this vintage turned out to be spectacular, power with elegance and a real great expression of the terrior, tasting the lineup today you really get a feeling of a classic vintage a bit more of the sensations of a cooler year. I see a great potential for these wines and I think that they will have the age ability of the 2010’s but will be able to be enjoyed younger, thanks to that great fruit.

Enjoy!

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Here I come Fratelli Alessandria

Fratelli Alessandria Verduno Pelaverga “Speziale” 2014

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I have driven by this winery many times. It is located in the heart of the town Verduno, but I have never stopped by. This year it will be on my “to do” list. After having done a little bit of research on this winery it seems as thought they have been making wine since the 19th century and have been making it well, so well that they have received two medals one from King Carlo Alberto and the other from Count Camillo Benso from Cavour. This says a lot because one: the King Carlo Alberto loved his Nebbiolo and Barolo but most of what he drank as the story goes, was wine from the town Barolo given to him from the Marchesa (a female Nobile Giulia Falletti di Barolo who was very passionate about her Nebbiolo so much so that she gave the name Barolo to this wine). So the fact that Carlo Alberto was also enjoying Barolo from Verduno is also pretty good. Another thing is that the King every once in a while enjoyed a glass of Pelaverga.

Pelaverga has two different varietals one which is believed to be the original varietal grown in the north around Torino (Saluzzo) is called Pelaverga Grosso. As you can imagine the berries of this varietal are larger with respect to the better-known Pelaverga Piccolo (small). And story has it that the Pelaverga Piccolo was brought to Verduno in the 18th century by Sebastiano Valfre’.   A genetic study has shown that actually these two varietals are not related in any way. I’m thinking because both varietals have similar characteristics in the glass and act the same in the vineyards that they were thought to be related.

The Fratelli Alessandria has given to their Pelavera the name Speziale. This in Italian is a play on words it has double meaning bother spices and special or “especially spicy”. This wine took a while to really open up to its full potential but I blame that a bit of the vintage, 2014 was not the easiest year to produce wine. Once it did open up, this wine then showed all the signature characteristics of a Verduno Pelavera. Strawberry fruits, fragrant flowers, and that hint of peppery spice. I am very excited to taste their 2015 once it has been released and get a chance to visit their winery and meet the family.

The Queen of Barolo Chiara Boschis

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E. Pira Chiara Boschis

Barolo 2002 Cuvee Chiara

This was a gift from Chiara, and a very good one at that!

I don’t know how many of you actually have met or know Chiara, but there is no one with her energy, rambunctiousness, or passion. She is definitely a spark of energy and great inspiration. Being one of the first women to take on a task of running a winery in Barolo, Chiara is a very important part of how Barolo became what it is today.   She was also the only woman to be a part of the modernist movement “Barolo Boys”. Working only 6 hectares and producing a small quantity of bottles Chiara is able to really have a good eye on quality control over the whole process.

I have to say it has been fun that we have been tasting some difficult vintages lately because it helps to show who can swim and who will sink. Chiara in 2002 was the wine of the night and as the judging panel had said that hands down from the Piedmont area the Cuvee Chiara 2002 was the best 2002 they have ever had. Now we are tasting this wine in 2016 giving it 14 years of age. This says a lot for a wine who had such a horrible vintage, with all the rain and particularly hail in the Barolo area a lot of producers didn’t even think or have the courage to make a Barolo in that year.

Right off the bad this wine was fresh super fresh, black fruits, herbs, chocolate. In tasting the finish lingered on the pallet and the tannins were again right there, fresh, clean. WOW! As it continued to sit in the bottle the wine continued to get better. It was too bad that we didn’t wait another 5 years because this wine really had the potential to continue to age wonderfully.   And what a surprise that would have been. Thank you Chiara.

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Easy Breezy Brezza

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Brezza Giacomo e figli Barolo 2003 Cannubi

Not many people can say that they get to work by the side of an important wine maker. I can. I have been working with Enzo Brezza and his family for the past 4 years, and I can say that I have learned a LOT. It has been an honor to watch first hand the thought and detail that goes into every bottle, be able to taste frequently from the barrel, put in my opinion and help out whenever needed. It also has been wonderful to get all the secrets and hear the stories and unwritten history about Langhe. These stories I will fill you in on later posts.

Back to the wine, Cannubi is probably the most famous MGA (menzioni geografiche aggiuntive) in the Langhe. This is likely because it has the most history, it could actually be the first planted vineyard in Barolo. The name on paper dates back to a bottle of Nebbiolo coming from Cannubi (Cannubio) in 1752. This is 100 years before the name of Barolo (not the town but the wine). So that means that the farmers and locals knew that Cannubi was something special. Was it the positioning? Could be because Nebbiolo a very hard grape to grow due to it’s long ripening season ripened much better on this hill. It is the first one to bud and the last one to be picked, and back in those days the contadini (farmers) were harvesting their Nebbiolo in November. Today for example we harvest more in October. The soil in Cannubi is made up of Sant’Agata Fossil Marl and Diano Sandstone, these soil structures are very poor and thus making it wonderful for grape production.

The 2003 vintage was a record breaker of all sorts. It was one of the hottest vintages in all time. You ask why on earth would I be interested to taste a hot vintage wine one you would think is not meant for ageing and now being 15 years old? Because even in the toughest vintages great winemakers will stand out. It is a sink or swim vintage and I think that Brezza Cannubi 2003 is still fresh and lively. Never judge a wine by it’s vintage, and here on the nose it is like to walk into a pastry shop. The sweetness of powdered sugar and candied fruit are in the air. You still have the nuances of violets and rose. On the pallet the finish almost never ends. Tobacco, chocolate, and dried orange peel yet it is fresh, the acidity is vibrant and it does not seem tiered it still has the potential for another 10 years. Cannot wait to taste it then.

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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!

Oddero made the night!

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Barolo 2007 Bussia Soprana Vigna Monoca

From my last visit to Oddero I have to say that I was very impressed by the wide tasting range that we lucked out to arrive upon.   Oddero is situated in La Morra and I was pleasantly surprised to find lots of vineyard diversity in their lineup. Normally Vintners don’t travel too far from their home but the sister team Mariacristina and Mariavittoria along with their daughter Isabella have taken a risk with careful planning, of course. They have vineyard holdings in some of the most renowned cru’s in Barolo making them a power house for success.

Bussia Sporana is a vineyard located in the area of Monforte d’Alba, this vineyard name you will find on many labels but who is responsible for making it famous is Poderi Aldo Conterno. In Monforte they were not afraid to make some of their cru’s out of site gigantic so the sub classification of Soprana (meaning top) and Vigna Monoca helping to give it some place on the map.

This bottle was going to be served at Christmas and I needed something special and it was one of the two top wines of the night (the other I will write later). With the help of Marta who convinced me that the 2007 was exactly the vintage and wine that would be best for such an occasion. I took the risk, typically I'm not a huge fan of 2007 vintage the wines tend to be a bit flabby and over ripe. However not in this case the wine was fresh, tannins were present but not overpowering, with hints of tobacco and chocolate. Made for the wine of the night and my guests seemed to be very pleased!!