Last November, in my capacity as Chief Wine Sherpa for Wine On The Road, I led a small group of adventurous travelers to Piedmont, Italy, during the annual truffle festival. We focused on visiting wineries with which I had special relationships, and as a result we were able to access some behind-the-scenes experiences not available to the general public (for more information on WOTR tours, including upcoming visits to Champagne and Burgundy in France and Piedmont and Campania in Italy, call me at 303-522-6738, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or go to www.wineontheroad.com).
As with my previous stints in this capacity, I had an absolute blast. In this and a prior column (check out Part I) I’ve tried to give you some idea of what it’s like to seriously taste through the wines of a particular region in the company of some like-minded fellow travelers. Last time I detailed this Piedmont Unfiltered tour through the Barbaresco sub-region. This time I’ll focus on the rest of the trip, primarily in the sub-regions of Barolo and Dogliani.
As has been my recent custom, I will list my wine notes for bottles tasted during the trip, as well as those from relevant samples recently sent to me, at the end of the column in a sort of shorthand that goes like this: appearance (if relevant)/aroma/taste/acidity & finish. If I can find a retail U.S. price then I list it, with “N/A” meaning that the wine is not generally available in the U.S. Each tasting venue was accessed either by private appointment (in the case of wineries) or in the course of a meal (usually reserved in advance including those at Tota Virginia, our hotel and home base for this tour).
WHERE WE LEFT OFF
We last peeked in on our journey after an incredible visit in Neive with Andrea Sottimano. That afternoon, day four of Piedmont Unfiltered, once we had made a quick tour of the charming hill town of Alto (Upper) Neive, we headed back across the countryside to Ceretto Winery, which is primarily known as a Barolo producer but also crafts excellent Barbaresco. The highlight of this visit was a barrel tasting underneath La Cubo, a futuristic, artistic rendition of a barrel room spectacularly located on a hillside near the town of Barolo. Our host was Roberta Ceretto, and this behind-the-scenes experience was followed by dinner at La Piola, a restaurant owned by Ceretto in Alba.
The next morning we arrived at Azelia in Castigione Faletto, just across a vine-covered valley from our lodgings at the Tota Virginia. At Azelia, owner and winemaker Lorenzo Scavino, son of Luigi (one of first winemakers in Piedmont to implement a green harvest), grandson of Paolo, showed us a wood clock made by his great, great grandfather (also named Lorenzo). We toured the winery, which was quite messy during what had become a very late harvest, and even ogled some custom rectangular tanks had been installed to save space. Azelia’s Langhe Nebbiolo in particular drew my notice. This beauty has no wood aging but it could definitely improve in the bottle for up to another decade.
From Azelia we headed over to the town of Alba and Prunotto Winery, a part of the Antinori empire. Tiziana Gallo showed us around the modernly appointed premises and then took us to lunch at Caffe Umberto, just off the town’s central square. From Prunotto we trotted off to Marchesi di Barolo back in the town of Barolo. Marchesi is worth a half day just to view the historic winery and get a sense of the region. Dinner that night was at Tota Virginia.
The next day brought Rivetto near Sinio, where Enrico, the fourth-generation owner and winemaker, regaled us with tales of his family’s business. Housed in a winery they bought in 1932 (the old Count Faletti residence, after which Castiglione Falletto is named), 2014 will be the first vintage in which all production will be certified organic. A full 40 percent of the energy used by the winery is from rooftop solar panels! Rivetto is one of only 22 nascetta producers, which is the Langhe’s answer to arneis, and the only one with north-exposed vines and a seven-room B&B. He’s also the only Barolo producer I know of with a blog which is also translated into English.
M. Abbona, whose owners include father Marziano and his recently married daughter Chiara, brings us to Dogliani, a dolcetto paradise and one of the few Piemontese areas that contain a DOCG for this otherwise plebian grape. Abbona is also part of the winery lodgings trend and will soon have a 9-10 room hotel, immediately after they finish building Chiara’s new home in the building next door. There we were treated to a tour, tasting, and lunch, made in the winery’s kitchen by Chiara’s mama.
Then Attilio Pecchenino, another long-time friend, showed us around his family’s winery, just over the hill from Abbona. Perhaps the most mentioned item here was the auto mower, which roved autonomously and cut the copious grass that grew wild next to his family’s agritourismo. But the wines were characteristically rustic and wonderful, and dinner was at Osteria Battaglino in the town of Dogliani.
While every moment spent in Piedmont’s wine country is a thrill, the next morning held some particularly special moments. Domenico Clerico is a winemaking legend. He has no children but an incredible staff, and his new, ultramodern winery was recently completed just below the hill town of Monforte. It was incredibly special for him to join us as we tasted his superlative wines, and after the tasting he signed bottles and posed for pictures with the entire group.
Lunch at La Cantinella in the town of Barolo, one of my favorite trattorias in the region, preceded a visit to Fratelli Revello in La Morra, housed in a beautiful complex immediately next to that famous hillside and owned by two youthful brothers with the next generation coming along. Here we sampled several premium Barolos including their extraordinary Rocche dell’Annunziata. Our final night’s dinner, a tartufo bianco (white truffle) extravaganza, was held back at our lodgings, the Tota Virginia.
Thanks to everyone who has helped turn my Wine on the Road tours into such a smashing success. We travel the world in search of authentic, luxurious, wine country experiences and have several trips upcoming. This spring we start out back in Piedmont and bring along Rob Zack, the Executive Chef of the Hotel Jerome in Aspen (www.wineontheroad.com/winebeesandcheese.php). In the fall, we first head out to explore Champagne and Burgundy in France (www.wineontheroad.com/champ-burgunfiltered.php), and then move on to Campania, including private tours of Naples and Pompeii (www.wineontheroad.com/campaniaunfiltered.php). Regardless of where we end up, I hope to see you all very soon in wine country. Happy trails.
WINE, BEES, AND CHEESE TOUR OF PIEDMONT, ITALY WITH EXECUTIVE CHEF ROB ZACK OF THE HOTEL JEROME IN ASPEN: APRIL 27 – May 4, 2014 – INTRODUCTORY RECEPTION AT THE HOTEL JEROME IN ASPEN: JANUARY 30, 2014
There will be an introductory reception for this tour in the Living Room at Aspen’s Hotel Jerome on the afternoon and evening of Thursday, January 30, 2014. Enjoy Piemontese wine and snacks while we talk about the trip. No reservation needed and I will be there to answer any questions you may have. Take a look at the tour at www.wineontheroad.com/winebeesandcheese.php.
CAMPANIA UNFILTERED WITH ANDREA FRIZZI AND IL POSTO RESTAURANT: SEPTEMBER 14-21, 2014
Explore one of the world’s most renowned wine regions with behind-the-scenes access to top winemakers and their incomparable wines. With Wine on the Road tours, Il Posto’s chef/owner Andrea Frizzi and wine writer Ben Weinberg have created the ultimate in wine-focused, behind-the-scenes wine country experiences, combining award-winning wines and exquisite dining and lodging with uniquely local flair and flavor. Check it out at www.wineontheroad.com/campaniaunfiltered.php.
Highlights of the Campania Unfiltered tour include:
• Seven days in Campania during the heart of harvest focused on acclaimed wine estates, wineries selected by Andrea and Ben for their distinctive expressions of local terroir and culture
• Up-close-and-personal time with well-known winemakers, as well as one-of-a-kind, winery-focused tours, tastings, meals and lodgings
• Superior accommodations at the Radici Resort in the heart of wine country
• A cooking class with Andrea focused on regional specialties and techniques
• Privately guided tours of bustling Naples (the “Great Pizzas” excursion) and hallowed Pompeii
• Unique non-wine experiences such as helping to make world-renowned Mozzarella di Bufala in its hometown of Caserta, attending cultural events, and joining up with locals for evening activities
• Optional activities such as visiting local markets, personal appointments with select artisans who handcraft unique local products, golf, and spa treatments
Price is $5,995 per person, paid in U.S. funds ($), based on double occupancy for between eight-and-twelve paid attendees, land only, excluding airfare, gratuities and other optional activities. For additional information on this extraordinary touring opportunity, or to download the Preliminary Itinerary and Booking Form, go to www.wineontheroad.com/campaniaunfiltered.php.
WINE ON THE ROAD’S LUXURIOUS, BEHIND-THE-SCENES WINE TOURS
With Wine On The Road (www.wineontheroad.com), my wine-focused touring company, you can enjoy the ultimate wine country excursion with special access to top winemakers and their incomparable wines. Wine On The Road offers intimate wine country tours that combine award-winning wines and exquisite dining and lodging with uniquely local flair and flavor. We lodge at excellent and luxurious wine country estates (in the past we’ve occupied ancient yet completely restored castles as well as five-star resorts, all with modern amenities). We eat at authentic local restaurants and visit wineries that embody the best, most authentic expressions of local wine grapes.
Planned excursions in 2014 include a trip to Piedmont, Italy in late March (www.wineontheroad.com/winebeesandcheese.php) and Oregon’s wine country (email email@example.com for more detail ) in late April. We will also be heading to Italy’s Campania (www.wineontheroad.com/campaniaunfiltered.php), embark on a combined visit to Champagne and Burgundy (www.wineontheroad.com/champ-burgunfiltered.php), and France’s Burgundy and Bordeaux with time in Paris (email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details), all in late 2014. You can learn more about these trips, book private groups in wine country world-wide and request more information on any of these extraordinary travel experiences by visiting www.wineontheroad.com or emailing me at email@example.com.
Day 4 – Ceretto Winery
2012 Barolo Brunate (barrel) $N/A
2011 Barolo Brunate (barrel) $N/A
2012 Arneis Roero Blange $19
2008 Barbaresco Bernadotte $100
2009 Barolo Brunate $90
2006 Barolo Bricco Rocche $100
Day 4 – Dinner at La Piola (Alba)
2011 Ceretto Nebbiolo Langhe Argante $N/A
2007 Cascina Monastero Barolo Annunziata $N/A
Day 5 – Azelia Winery (Castiglione Faletto)
2012 Dolcetto d’Alba $17
2012 Langhe Nebbiolo $22
2009 Barolo $40
2009 Barolo Bricco Fiasco $60
2009 Barolo Margheria $75
2009 Barolo San Rocco $90
Day 5 – Prunotto Winery (Alba)
2012 Grignolino $N/A
2012 Barbera d’Asti Fiulot $17
2009 Barbera d’Asti Costamiole $N/A
2010 Nebbiolo d’Alba Occhetti $N/A
2009 Barbaresco Bric Turot $68
2008 Barolo Bussia $90
Day 5 – Lunch at Caffe Umberto (Alba)
2012 Prunotto Arneis $20
2009 Prunotto Barbera d’Alba Pian Romualdo $N/A
1994 Prunotto Barolo Bussia $90
Day 5 – Marchesi di Barolo Winery (Barolo)
2011 Nebbiolo d’Alba Michet $N/A
2006 Barbaresco Riserva $N/A
2009 Barolo Cannubi $65
Day 5 – Dinner at Tota Virginia Hotel (Serralunga)
2001 Azelia Barolo Bricco Rocche $N/A
Day 6 – Rivetto Winery (Sinio)
2012 Nascetta $39
2010 Barbera d’Alba Zio Nando $33
2010 Barbera d’Alba Loirano Soprano $N/A
2009 Barolo Serralunga d’Alba $55
2007 Barolo Riserva Leon $70
2006 Barolo Riserva Leon $70
2008 Barolo Briccolin $130
Day 6 – Lunch at Marziano Abbona Winery (Dogliani)
2012 Cineria Bianco Langhe (Viognier) $N/A
2012 Dogliani Papa Celso $20
2011 Barbera d’Alba Rinaldi $30
2008 Langhe Rosso Zero Sulfiti $N/A
2009 Barolo Terlo Ravera $61
Day 6 – Pecchenino Winery (Dogliani)
2012 Dogliani San Luigi $20
2009 Barolo San Giuseppe $75
Day 6 – Dinner at Osteria Battaglino (Dogliani)
2011 Pecchenino Dogliani Superiore Siri d’Jermu $27
2010 Pecchenino Dogliani Superiore Bricco Botti $40
2008 Pecchenino Barolo Le Coste $65
Day 7 – Domenico Clerico (Monforte)
2012 Dolcetto Langhe Visadi $16
2011 Barbera d’Alba Trevigne $30
2008 Barolo Pajana $90
2008 Barolo Ciabot Mentin $120
2007 Barolo Percristina $160
2007 Barolo Aeroplanservaj $150
2005 Barolo Percristina $160
Day 7 – Lunch at La Cantinella (Barolo)
2009 Cascina Adelaide Barolo Cannubi $60
2009 G. D. Vajra Barolo Albe $39
Day 7 – Fratelli Revello Winery (La Morra
2012 Dolcetto d’Alba $17
2011 Barbera d’Alba Ciabot du Re $22
2009 Barolo $43
2007 Barolo Gattera $50
2006 Barolo Giachini $50
2004 Barolo Conca $70
2008 Barolo Rocche dell’Annunziata $90
Day 7 – Dinner at Tota Virginia Hotel (Serralunga)
2012 Pecchenino Bianco Langhe Maestro $N/A
2011 Sottimano Barbera d’Alba Pairolero $23
2004 Renato Corino Barolo Arborina $75
2006 Pio Cesare Barolo $60