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.