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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Moscato d’Asti - What you really need to know

I am going to let it out, the good, the bad, and unfortunately the ugly about the Moscato grape and it's wines. I talk to a lot of people and well, most people tell me that they are not fans of Moscato d’Asti. When they were younger and willing to try this slightly sweet, fizzy wine they were quickly surprised by how sweet and unbalanced many of the wines that are easily accessible at the local liquor store are. There are many reasons as to why it is easier to find a bad Moscato than a good one. I am going to point you in the right direction to finding the best Moscato.

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When Moscato is picked it is harvested by hand, because here in the Asti - Langhe areas we have very steep slopes that are dangerous to drive tractors so hand picking is essential, and once in the vineyards the workers will go through each bunch one by one to make sure there are no rotten or raisin like berries. Those will come off. Then the grapes will be placed into small plastic baskets that are filled with holes for breathing purposes. This is important as during the warm summer days, you don’t want the grapes to be to hot or if one berry does break you don’t want that to start to ferment when you are on your way to the cellar. (This could create problems)

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If the grapes are hot, you will wait until they cool down to crush or use dry ice to lower these temperatures. The grapes need to be cool in order to maintain the most aromatics in the wine. Once the grapes have gone into the crusher de-stemmer they are moved immediately into a press to get the juice off of the skins.  From there the juice goes into a temperature controlled stainless steel tank where the temperature will remain under zero centigrade. This is important that the wine does not start to ferment until after it’s two filtration.These filtrations are to help take off the dirty sediments that might be left after the crush and pressing. The first filtration is used to take off the larger sediments and then after a much finer filtration to take off any sediments that might discolor or leave an off flavor to the wine. This process happens immediately in order to obtain a must as clean as possible. After this process has finished the grape must will stay in the tanks under -1° degrees centigrade until that barrel is needed to make wine. They can keep these barrels like this for months until the time is ready for the Moscato to be made. This is important because the longer the must stays in contact with the fine lees the more aromatics and complex the wine will turn out.

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Once the wine maker decides it is time for some Moscato they will slowly raise the temperature of the tanks at about 10 - 15 °C to get the fermentation going, at this point there will be selected yeast added to help with the fermentation process. Because this wine has been taken off the skins and filtered twice before the initial fermentation the select yeasts are very important for the wine. Without these yeasts you might wind up with a wine that has off aromatics and has too much trouble making the alcoholic fermentation.  The fermentation takes place in a autoclave* and this process can take 30 - 40 days total. Slow soft fermentation allowing the bubbles to gently integrate with the wine and making sure to keep those wonderful fruity flavors in the wine.

*An autoclave is a pressurized tank that has double walls to keep the bubbles in the wine.

Once the wine has finished the fermentation and the pressure of the bubbles in the wines do not surpass 2.5 bar of pressure then the wine is ready to undergo a sterile filtration that will remove any yeasts that might start to ferment in the bottle. Remembering that there is still a high content of sugars in Moscato, it is important to not have fermentation starting up again in the bottle!

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After this filtration process the wine is then ready to be put into bottle under pressure. The wineries will have to have a special bottling machine to keep the bubbles in the wines.

Just to stress a bit more, Moscato is a wine that needs a lot of care. I only spoke really about 3 filtration but in reality there are over 10 that will happen to the wine before it makes it into the bottle. This is a very delicate wine and runs a high risk of becoming spoiled, both in the winery and after the final product is finished. So from this it is best to know your wines and here are some things you should look for. To make a Moscato the winemaker must have a lot of passion for this grape as during the harvest the time to relax and have a good night sleep are few. (I know this as my husband painstakingly makes Moscato every year and thus late nights and early mornings)

Understanding that reading labels is not easy it is even harder to read and understand Italian labels. But I am going to help you to understand. Here are some quick pointers.

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First if a Moscato is coming from anywhere else than Italy, then it is not a D.O.C.G. Moscato d’Asti. These three words Moscato d’Asti D.O.C.G. are very important for the quality of the moscato. The  D.O.C.G. is a set of very strict regulations, in order to have this label on your wine it must pass a series of sever tests. In the vineyard, a chemical analysis, a blind tasting by other winemakers, etc. So when you see this you know you are at a good starting point.

If you see the name just Moscato written on the label without any other designation, this means they can make the wine how ever they would like and you could wind up with something flat, or overly sweet. Unfortunately this plus the overload of producers who need to have a Moscato to complete their catalog are some of the things that makes it very hard to find a good quality, hand crafted product. Moscato Madness if you will.

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Some of my favorite Moscato d’Asti DOCG wines on the market today:

Gianni Doglia: A small family run winery it’s just Gianni and his sister Paola taking care of the winery. They make about 80,000 bottles a year in which they have 2 Moscato wines, both of very high quality and both very different.

La Spinetta: One of the larger wineries in the area, but one of the first to take Moscato to another level of quality. Giorgio Rivetti and the beginning of his career was making up to 5 different single vineyard Moscato d’Asti wines to show off the differences from each vineyard. Today they only have 2 labels and maintain a consistent product every year. More about La Spinetta here!

La Caudrina: Another great family run winery, Romano Dogliotti in the 1970’s took over the family farm and put La Caudrina on the map with high quality Moscato d’Asti and also an amazing Asti Spumante. The next generation wine team for the Dogliotti family has added a few more wines to the family portfolio and have been maintaining a great quality. More about La Caudrina here!

Scagliola: The fourth generation of winemakers for this family has been recently taking over this absolutely beautiful property. Working together with the 3rd generation, family Scagliola are making still traditional wines as well as trying some new techniques. The wines are fresh, clean, and high quality! Also try their Brachetto.

Elio Perrone: A very small family producer working with only indigenous grapes from the Asti area, Stefano Perrone became famous for his wine Bigaro. A blend of Moscato and Brachetto grapes, made the same way Moscato is made so a bit fizzy and sweet with a great rose color.

Visit Turin - Where to Eat Drink and grab a Gelato

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Torino (Turn) is the birthplace for many things, it was the first city to import Chocolate, the creators of the Grissini (bread stick), and the parliament who united Italy. but one thing that when visiting Italy you will notice a very sacred time of the day (between 6 until 8) called Aperitivo. Thanks to Turin this too was the first place to take on this Aperitivo culture. It all started out as Turin is a Theater city and while the people getting out of work rather late, in order for them to make it to the theater in time, they went out for a drink and a small bite just enough to hold them until dinner time. In those days it was common to enjoy a glass of Vermouth, or a cocktail with the base of Vermouth (Negroni, Americano, etc)

With that said here are some great places to have a nice Aperitivo

Caffè Mulassano

Piazza Castello 15

Tel: +39 (0)11 547 990

This is the place where the Aperitivo started. They were also inventors of the Tramezino. My recommendation for this place is to grab a table, order up a nice glass of Vermouth over ice and snack on the classic Tramezino bite size sandwiches.

Rosso Rubino Enoteca Enotavola

Via Madama Cristina 21

Tel: +39 (0)11 650 2183

What could be better than enjoying a glass or a bottle of wine in a WINE SHOP, Nothing!! This place is small and hip and the staff is passionate and knowledgable. They have a crazy amazing selection of bottles to bring home too!

Caffè Torino

Piazza S. Carlo 204

Tel: +39 (0)11 545 118

In Torino there are a lot of historical bars but this one is located in front of the twin churches underneath the historic galleries in Piazza San Carlo. You can take a table outside and enjoy people watching in this historic Piazza.

L’Enoteca

Via Giovanni Amendola 8

Tel: +39 (0)11 440 7291

This place has style and class. Fun Fact: Piemonte is the largest Champagne consumer in Europe outside of Champagne. So if you are having a bubbles craving head over here for a glass and a plate of some of Piemontes finest Prosciutto.

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Snack Street foods

Gofreia Piemontèisa

Via San Tommaso 7

Tel: +39 349 392 6090

Hidden down one of Turin’s little sleep side streets, you have a place who decided to take a traditional country side street food and move it into the big city of Torino. You will never guess what it is. A waffle cooked very thin with a crunch made into a sandwich. I recommend trying the house speciality Gofre della Casa.

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Focacceria Lagrange

Via Giuseppe Luigi Lagrange 11

Tel: +39 (0)11 562 9244

This is a great place to sit outside and watch all the people go by while snacking on your favorite type of Focaccia. If they have the Reco you must give it a try.

Savuré

Via Giuseppe Garibaldi 38

Tel: +39 (0)11 1966 5300

Pasta fresca at its finest. They make all the pasta daily and will fix you up a plate to enjoy at the moment, of if you are on the run you can get the Agnolotti with a ragù to go.

For a great casual meal

Casa del Barolo

Via dei Mille 10

Tel: +39 (0)11 287 6272

Here you have a clean and modern setting of a restaurant with good traditional food and a solid wine list.

Closed Sunday and Monday

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Ristorante Consorzio

Via Monte di Pietà 23

Tel: +39 (0)11 276 7661

This place is a bit more hip and young, where you can taste some not so familiar local Piemontese grape varieties by the glass. Being a part of Slow Food they are very concious of the food products they are using but are not afraid to be a bit creative.

Closed Saturday lunch and Sunday all day

Osteria al Tagliere

Via Corte d’Appello 6

Tel: +39 (0)11 436 9551

You come here for some great traditional rustic no fuss dishes. The food here will never disappoint and you might get lucky to be serenaded with some traditional Piemontese music during your meal.

Closed Monday and lunch time during the week, Saturday and Sunday they offer lunch and dinner services.

*Save room for dessert and other sweet things!

Gelato

Mara dei Boschi

Via Claudio Luigi Berthollet

Tel: +39 (0)11 076 9557

I do not get up to Torino as much as I would like but to curve my craving for this gelato place I am lucky they have a sister store in Alba. The best flavors to get are zenzero (ginger) and strawberry or the Marotto (gianduja).

Ottimo Gelateria

Corso Stati Uniti 6/c

Tel: +39 (0)11 1950 4221

I don’t need to say to much as the name says it all, but this gelateria was voted the best gelateria in Torino by receiving 3 cones from Gambero Rosso

Gelateria Alberto Marchetti

Corso Vittorio Emanuele II 24 bis

Tel: +39 (0)11 839 0879

Artisanal and delicious the creamy scoops that are made fresh daily are worth a visit in itself. Some flavors to try are the Pistachio, Hazelnut, and the Torrone.

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As I keep going on and on about how Turin was the first of many places to do things or to invent things, because the kingdom of Savoy was very much interested in experimenting with foreign products they were the first city in Europe to start to work with chocolate. 

A fun little fact: when one of the many wars during the time of Napoleon, had blocked the Savoy Kingdom’s chocolate importation the city of Turin's chocolateers were in need of finding a way to use less of this precious product. They were forced to create something that would help to stretch out the dwindling chocolate supply. Luckily Piemonte is also famous for the quality of its Hazelnuts and close by to Turin you have the heavily planted slopes in the Roero where some of the worlds best and most flavorful hazelnuts grow. The Nocciola tonda Gentile they are called are noted for their smaller nut and rich flavor. Chocolate + Hazelnuts, from these two ingredients in 1886 Gianduja was born. Today many different chocolate places make these wonderful little pointed ingot shaped treats. Some not to pass up.

Baratti Milano

Piazza Castello 27/29

Located in the historic galleria Subalpina building built in the late 19th century you will be very impressed by how amazing this structure is. If you have some time you wohsl stop to have a coffee and admire one of the oldest most prestigious caffè houses Torino has to offer.

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Guido Castagna

Maria Vittoria 27/C

A small artisanal chocolate producer who offers an in house tasting where you are able to go through a bit of their different types of chocolates so you know which ones you would like to buy.

Guido Gobino

Via Giuseppe Luigi Lagrange 1

Great quality chocolates and a bit more well known in the area of Piemonte. Here you can stop in when you would like and try their different chocolates they have for sale that day or if you would like you can order up a tasting where they will prepare and array of different flavors and chocolate types.

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If you need some more great gelato places in the area of Turin or surrounding towns you can check out my post about my Top 10 Gelato places in Piemonte

If you would like to plan a small vacation in the Torino area I consider checking out a guest post from Patty with her Three day stay in Turin for Foodies

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.

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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Ressia - the beginning of a Classic!

Barbaresco Wine Tasting

Fabrizio is humble and passionate Barbaresco producer, and anyone who has the chance to meet him in his winery walks away with an unforgettable experience. Working only 5 hectars in the vineyard Canova located in the village of Neive, he grows Moscato, Dolcetto, Barbera, and Nebbiolo. Ressia has owned and farmed their land for 3 generations since 1913 and it was when Fabrizio’s time to take over he decided to build a winery and start to make wine. Little by little Fabrizio started to buy equipment, and expand the family’s farmhouse for the winery. [embed]https://www.instagram.com/p/BFYxvKqIdWZ/?taken-by=amandaswineadventures[/embed]

2015 Evien Bianco: a white wine from Moscato that undergoes a maceration of 2 days before fermentation starts, then 70% is aged in Austrian acacia while the rest remains in steel. Fresh, floral, aromatic, light body and great acidity.

2013 Evien Serie Oro: This wine is Moscato taken from a special selection in the vineyard that will then be aged in barrel for 2 years. Much bigger on the pallet, orange peel, floral, tropical fruits. Has the potential to age.

 

2013 Barbera d’Alba Superiore: 2 years in Botticella (the staves are French oak, and the heads are Slavonian oak). The Slavonian oak helps the fruit, more cherry notes raspberry, where the French helps to make the wine more round.

2012 Barbera d’Alba Superiore: round, sweet, red fruits, floral

2010 Barbera d’Albal Superiore: complex, red fruits, full on the pallet a really beautiful wine

2008 Barbera d’Alba Superiore: black fruit, vanilla, very smooth, rich

2004 Barbera d’Alba Canova: this wine is only aged in stainless steel. Typically when made this way the fruit and acidity is bright and lively. Typically a wine not for aging too long. Here the wine showed notes of cocoa, chestnut honey, bright acidity and a long finish. I am always impressed to see a Barbera of this style age so wonderfully.

 

2013 Barbaresco Canova: for Ressia’s Barbaresco will stay 26 months in Botticelle before it will be bottled. Fresh fruit, elegant, floral, Strawberries, smooth elegant tannins, rich and velvety.

2012 Barbaresco Canova: classic Nebbiolo, cherries, dried rose, fennel, and currants

2010 Barbareco Canova: red fruits, wild sage, herbs, and absolutely beautiful, long finish with silky tannins.

2009 Barbaresco Canova: great example of 2009, nervous tannins.

2008 Barbaresco Canova: classic fruit, fresh, sweeter tannin

2006 Barbaresco Canova: cherry Jell-o, chocolate, tannins are still hard

2005 Barbersco Canova Riserva Oro: this was the first vintage a Riserva for this house was made. Tobacco, chocolate, tea, blackberries, a full mouth feel, wonderful long finish.

 

I am very happy that I had the opportunity to taste through this wonderful lineup of great wines. I feel that Ressia has a wonderful representation of the fruit, the vineyard and the vintage. The wines are clean and expressive and have shown wonderfully a decade of wonderful wines. Since they make a very small amount of bottles you will not find Ressia everywhere so it is my suggestion the next time you are in Piemonte to stop by for a tasting.

If you would like other things to do while in the area of Barbaresco you can visit my blog here.

La festa del Ruché – Castagnole Monferrato

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Ruché: a grape varietal found today in Piedmont, it is believed that this varietal has traveled from France but there is no written documentation of this variety.   Ruché is a varietal typically found today in Castagnole Monferrato and has a very unique and special characteristic, an aromatic red grape varietal. Like most red varietals in Piedmont this varietal was always made into a sweet wine, and it wasn’t until the town priest, Don Giacomo Cauda who in 1964 was the first to make this varietal into a dry wine. Today there are a handful of producers working with this grape making it into a dry aromatic style, and here I have listed some of my favorites from the tasting of 12 producers.

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Bosco 2015 Ruché- right off, I think the bottle was just opened because we arrived early. There were tropical fruits on the nose and pallet and at first it reminded me a lot of Gewurztraminer. After we had made the rounds went back to have a proper glass because we enjoyed it so much and at that point had opened up greatly. Did not have that sweetness at first taste but had good red fruit, floral, showed much more elegantly and a long finish. Could be a bottle my husband and I could enjoy easily.

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Francesco Borgognone 2014 “Vigna del Parroco” – Francesco Borgognone has a close connection with priest Don Giacomo Cauda and today produce their Ruche’ from the same vineyard where the priest made his first dry Ruche’. The impression I got from Francesco was he had a great passion and understanding to this grape and was able to display it in its purity. This wine showed black fruits, violets, and peppery notes. This will be a producer I will visit in the next weeks.

Gatto 2015 Ruché – Gatto is an established family run winery since the 900’s in the area of Castagnole Merferrato, and amongst other wines are producing a wonderful example of Ruche’. The 2015 vintage is going to be a promising one for many different wines here in Piedmont. It is a BIG vintage very giving and really showing off the power of some of the grapes varietals. Here we have full mouth of darker fruit, floral wild rose, violets, and spice with some nice tannins.

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I plan to visit some of these producers and will report how the tastings went, with photos of their gnarly old cellars!

Got my fill of Barbera d'Asti and some other little treats!

Got my fill of Barbera d’Asti and some other nice treats, thank you Castagnole delle Lanze for such an wonderful wine and food festival. One thing that I love about living in Italy are the festivals. Every town has their specialty, weather it be foods, wine, or even antiques. Every weekend there is something to do here and people travel from all over to partake in the freshest ingredients.

Last weekend was the Castagnole delle Lanze Barbera d’Asti festival and there were about 23 different producers strategically placed around the historic part of the town. With every producer was live music and a different type of food to pair with your wine. Which means I got to taste a lot of wine, and here are the greatest ones that I have tasted.

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Barroero Barbera d’Asti 2013 Azzurra; Marco is the winemaker and makes about 600 bottles a year. Super small high quality production. This wine was wonderful showing fruits of blackberries, plum, iron kind of like raw meat (something very typical of Barbera) had a great acidity and a long finish.

Four friends who had a love for sparking wine during an ongoing dream in enology school had decided to try making a sparking from this area’s most prized grape Nebbiolo. They call them selves Erpacrife for (Eric, Paolo, Cristian, and Federico), and they make a wonderfully dry sparking wine. I have always said if you have fish and chips this would be the perfect wine. What they have been able to show here is the power of the Nebbiolo’s acidity. The 2011 Erpacrife Nebbiolo was wonderful, pink grapefruit, peaches, white flowers. The color they have been able to maintain from the Nebbiolo is the color of an onionskin pink. The vineyard where they collect the grapes is in the area of Alba Madonna di Como and here their vineyards are located in this amphitheater where the climate is a bit cooler, helping to mature the Nebbiolo slower and also maintaining sugar levels lower and acidity levels higher.

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Gianni Doglia had a few things to try at his stand, and so I did! First I tasted the Grignolino 2015 strawberry, floral, a bit of tannins showing very rich in the mouth. Everyone in this area seems to be very happy with the 2015 vintage, making bigger, fruit driven wine. The Barbera s’Asti 2015 was the bomb. Black fruits, plum, pleasant acidity (lot less meaty quality than the 2013’s).

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Dogliotti 1870 as you can imagine there are many generations of winemaking going on in this house. It all started in Castiglione Tinella and not to long after had decided to move their production area to Castagnole delle Lanze where the winery and family are currently today. Barbera d’Asti 2014, elegant, linear, red fruit, and floral respect some other vintages, has a nice clean acidity.

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This festival is always a good time, and I will plan to go again next year. I just hope it does not rain.

Cascina Castlèt - History Tradition Innovation

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In the small town of Costignole Asti in the Asti Monfferato hills following along a winding street surrounded by vineyards you will find the farmhouse of Cascina Castlèt.   A family that holds records dating back to the XII century. What once was the house that the family Borio called home they have now transformed it into a fully operating cellar.  Cascina Castlèt has managed to balance very nicely tradition with modern, both in the style of the cellar and expressions of their wines.

Mariuccia was and still is ahead of her time, when the winery was handed down to her by her farther in 1970 she was young and determined. Working with Giacomo Bersanetti she recreated her first modern label for the wine Passum in 1983, a Barbera that is treated kind of like an Amarone. Once the grapes are harvested they are placed into small shallow baskets and left to dry. The first part of this drying process takes place in a room with dehumidifiers and after a few weeks the wine is then moved to the attic where the heat from the sun and the dryness of the air will complete this process.

With other innovations and a will to keep tradition alive at Cascina Castlèt has something very special and very rare amongst them. A grape varietal that was commonly found in the Asti and Canelli areas, today Cascina Castlèt is the only remaining producer of this varietal. How they make this wine is also quite interesting because this varietal is very close to Nebbiolo it is the last varietal to come in the cellar and usually they have to harvest it before it is ready. They had mentioned that if they waited for full ripeness it could be as late as end of November/December. So what they do is the same process of the Passum wine they dry the grapes so that way it gives the skins and stems time to mature. This wine is not sweet and also it is not high in alcohol. When I tasted this wine vintage 2011 I got on the nose strawberry fruit, pink peppercorns, and some tobacco leaves. In the pallet this wine is assertive, a bit dusty feeling, the tannins are pretty rustic, I did have the same flavors in the pallet as the nose and the finish was long. This wine for me would be great on a cold day with a nice stew or braised meat.

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Now for my little guilty pleasure, I love sparkling Barbera! If I had a t-shirt that said it I would wear it. It is our wine that reminds me a bit of Lambrusco. Goj is the name of the wine and it is coming from the Piemonteìs dialect meaning a joyful moment, and this is exactly what it does for me. Light, fresh, and refreshing, this wine is better off with a few hours in the fridge before serving and goes excellent with BBQ, or even pizza. If you can get your hands on a bottle I recommend giving it a try.

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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Giuseppe Cortese - Elegance in Rabajà

Giuseppe Cortese Rabajà

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Giusepps Cortese as far as I can remember has always had a good name.  It has been recently that I have been taking more notice to the exceptional quality and dangerous drinkability of these wines. On several occasions both the judging panel and I have been completely wowed by how amazing these wines are showing.

The story goes that from the mid 1800’s the Cortese family has been farming the land in the vineyard Rabajà growing grapes to sell off to other wine producers. During that time they did not have the means to make wine themselves. It was in 1971 when Giuseppe decided to produce wine himself from his high quality grapes. The winery is run today by Giuseppe’s children Pier Carlo, Tiziana, and the gentleman I see quite often Gabriele, but it turns out you sometimes will still find Giuseppe working in the vineyards.

The vineyard Rabajà is located right in the heart of Barbaresco, with it’s calcareous soil and south western exposure is a great place for the difficult Nebbiolo grape too grow. There are a few key producers who have holdings in this wonderful vineyard and we will talk about those later on.

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The most recent wine that I have tasted was the Barbaresco Riserva Rabajà 2008.  Their reserva’s go above and beyond the minimal ageing requirements for Barbaresco Riserva. They age their reserva’s for 3 years and 3 months in barrel and then another 3 years minimum in bottle. So when the wine is released it is almost ready to be consumed. Nebbiolo likes about 3 to 5 years in bottle before consumption. This 2008 was showing amazingly, I really enjoy the friendliness of the 2008 vintage. It has a sweet tannin and great fruit, fresh red berries, sweet tobacco, and some candied orange peel. The finish was long and the tannins were just lovely. When a Nebbiolo wine shows like this for me it is my favorite, it’s like heaven.

A few months before now I went to have an aperitivo with a good friend and we just so happened to see a bottle of their 2004 Barbaresco Riserva Rabajà and we said, why not? I can tell you that bottle between the two of us did not last too long. I might be sounding a bit like a lush but when a wine is really good even for the people who don’t like to drink too much, it drinks quite quickly. It was a complete painting of how the 2004 vintage turned out. How the vineyards basked in the perfect weather conditions the slight breeze on a foggy morning in the autum, all of this was present in the glass. Sweet tobacco, violets, and autumn undergrowth.

Malvira’ Roero 2004 Superiore Trinita’

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Thanks to the great reputation Malvira’ has given to the Roero region. Today we are going to talk a little bit about a region not so well known. Roero is the region located on the left side of the river Tanaro where the Langhe is on the right. As history has it the Roero used to be more famous for it’s fruit and nut production than its wines. Here the soil is much younger than the Langhe and as a matter of fact when the Langhe was under water about 10 million years ago Roero was its sandy beach. Today things have changed and tasting some of the Malvira’ wines you understand the importance Roero plays not only for the white grape Arneis but also for the Nebbiolo grape.

Malvira’ is a 3 generation family run winery located in Canale the heart of Roero. The two brothers Massimo and Roberto are the main force behind the Malvira’ winery and are doing a fantastic job. They have the winery, a restaurant, and a hotel all nestled in their vineyards. Their vineyards Trinita’ is composed of 14 hectare facing south southwest, of which they grown several different grape varietals. The vineyard name has derived from a small church located on the property SS. Trinita’.

The vintage 2004 for many critics, enthusiasts, and journalists was a life-changing vintage. Very “classic” a wine that is best to be aged. However after talking with Massimo about the vintage he had mentioned that in the Roero a lot of their vineyards were struck by hail all except the Trinita’. And a relief at that, this wine was wonderful, it had a lot of elegance to it the tannins from this wine remained soft and subtle. There were the classic notes of Nebbiolo fresh red cherries, licorice, and mint. This wine for me was showing wonderful but also said that it could age another 10 years easily. If you have not had the chance to taste a Nebbiolo from Roero I highly recommend doing so. Also a note: that the Roero wines you can drink a bit younger because that sandy soils help to make more elegant right from the start. Enjoy!

La Caudrina and the return of Asti Spumante

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La Selvatica Asti Spumante

I possibly cannot stress as to how important the grape Moscato is. I mean in Italy is one of the oldest varietals, in Piedmont alone has been growing since the 1300’s, and also they have discovered some of its mutations include Chardonnay and Chasselas. Pretty cool huh? They have also found that the molecules in Moscato are responsible for the aromas and flavors that you will also find in Pineapple, honey, and sage.

On to taste some Moscato, come on don’t make that face. Living in Piemonte where it is very important to finish a meal with Moscato, I now have really come to appreciate this wine/grape. It is amazing how the aromatics of Moscato when you eat the grape and taste then the semi sweet sparking wines from Asti (Moscato d’Asti or Asti Spumante) you understand exactly how wonderful this grape varietal really is. Even the grappa made from Moscato is much more enjoyable thanks to these aromatics.

The Dogliotti family two generations of wine making but have been Moscato farmers for many more generations, are the kindest, most generous, and loudest people that I know. They are real Piedmontiés. And the wines that they make and the grapes that the family harvests are an important piece of Piedmont history and culture. I have been tasting a lot of Asti Spumante and Moscato d’Asti around these parts and I cannot say enough that hands down my favorite wines are from La Caudrina. Every year they have such a wonderful expression of the fruit, the acidity is bright and the wine is dangerously gulpable. Good thing it only has a max of 7% alcohol!

La Selvatica is taking it’s name from “the wild” would be it’s direct translation. They came up with this name for the wine because there once was an abandond cascina where their winery is today. This cascina had “wild” moscato growing all around it. By wild could be that it looked like it was a jungle because it was coming from a vineyard that had been abandoned. The woman on the label is one of Romano Levi's drawings (La donna selvatica).  I will talk about him and his importance another day.

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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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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.