Vibes & Photos From A Week In Piedmont

Day 1 )

My annual pilgrimage to Barolo & Barbaresco. Jet lag works in our favor coming from Hong Kong, so within a few hours of a mid-morning touch down at Milan’s Malpensa airport we are in the wine country. Neive-Barbaresco is our usual first-up choice as it’s 15 minutes close than the villages of Barolo.

Neive from Hotel Castelbourg which is a wonderful little hotel and wine bar (http://www.castelbourg.com/welcome_eng.lasso).

After a non-descript Fontanabianca Arneis ( note to self to ensure a better expression tomorrow ) we brought out the big guns with a Bruno Rocca Barbaresco
“Rabajà” 2009
which was probably not the best style for an afternoon warming up more than expected. Still, the class was there to show well, with ripe dark red and black fruits, sucking up the discernible new wood notes- palate was long with crafted oak in support.

Neive vineyards

Adjourning for a rest, we reconvened for dinner at the local favorite little restaurant and wine bar in Hotel Castelbourg. Great wine list with fair pricing and you can always bump into a local grower or wine maker keen to have a chat about the growing season.

Traversa “Sori Ciabot” Barbaresco 2007 opens up very stinky with at best iron-mineral infused, soupy red fruits in a old dry leather frame. One thing that is a bit frustrating is the lack of decanters in some of the small local eateries. You just know a wine like this needs air- anyways, on return and as expected, the wine cleaned up and fleshed out beautifully on the palate with drying tannins.

Sottimano Barbaresco “Fausoni” 1996 was appropriate as the vines are from just south of the old town; actually reminding me I must get up early and do that lovely walk from Neive to Barbaresco that starts here. No decanter and again it would help! Pretty happy with this wine as the cork showed some seepage- malty oak integrated with licorice and strong brown earth. Enjoyed the exceptional length of the wine and the way it freshened up with food- Tajarin by the looks of things?

AlanK off the forum wanted to move upstairs to the balcony and work through his stash of Germans he’d accumulated on recent travels - I politely told him to piss off and got a massive glass of Albino Rocca 2011 nebbiolo to watch the stars and enjoy the fresh mountain air with. Very dancy and primary, with a great display of nebbiolo structure in a lovely naked of oak rawness.

Day 2) Jet lag sees you up early so it’s a great opportunity to take a long stroll through the vineyards. I highly recommend the vineyard walking guides for Barolo & Barbaresco available at the tourist offices in most of the villages. Coupled with the detailed Enogea maps and you have your own ready made tour- which also offsets the upcoming day’s indulgences.

A Neive- Barbaresco- Neive circular route is a brisk 1hour 50 minutes in the cool and misty morning air.

Strategic Air Command bunkers? Nope, Gaja!

Ovello.


We now moved on to lunch in Alba at Piazza Duomo in Alba ( http://www.piazzaduomoalba.it/en/ )-

I’ll post pictures for the foodies of the spring menu and the wines were just the two. 2011 Giovanni Almondo Roero Arneis “Bricco delle Ciliegie” is my favorite Arneis thus far. Just poetry in purity and a ripe tropical joy of the vintage. So much interest for such a modest price. Bravo!

The red was a Conti Bocca DOC 2005 nebbiolo blend which was a relief for two reasons. It was a not a gamble with the degustation with it’s modest price and food-friendly ways and we’d managed to not get to the magnificent Barolo/Barbarescos on the wine list. I’ve been holidays for 6 weeks and the credit cards smoking.

The Boca, a historical DOC created in the 1969, is a fine wine of the tradition of Novara’s Hills. It born from the mix of three kind of grape: 70% of Nebbiolo, 25% of Vespolina, 5% of Uva Rara. Beautiful perfume and the lean palate with its piquant acidity worked well with a number of dishes.

Spring Degustation-




Felt great after lunch- not too uncomfortable. Some locals complain there’s not enough in the servings at Piazza Duomo. Anyway, we navigated our way to a new young gun Barbaresco producer Olek Bondonio.

Roncagliette vineyard. Gaja’s Sorì Tildin and Costa Russi are from this Cru site- Sorì Tildin is in view at the mid level of the photo with the vine rows moving off diagonally down and left.

Family farmhouse La Berchialla.

Olek Bondonio- ( http://www.olekbondonio.it )


Dolcetto 2012- Delightful and fresh; lovely purity as the wine sings from the glass. Good weight and texture- faint pippy grip in the finish. I would drink this every night of the week.

Barbera 2011- Olek loves his Barbera. I can see why. This is layered and up front. No pretenses, the old fruit gives a creamy texture with some light spice from the old wood. Again,very drinkable.

2011 & 2012 Roncagliette from the barrel. The 2011 was excellent. Very good length and with fresh and florally red fruits on the front and mid palate. High levels of finesse and fruit purity. 2012 was unfinished material.

Olek suggested his Barbaresco will have great longevity in good vintages. I bought a few cases of his 08 and he said it would do 20 years or so comfortably. If you like drinking wine with a sense of place and backing a very nice bloke, source out some of Olek’s wines. Available in Australia which he has a passion for from his time working in Mildura/McLaren Vale and general bumming around the countryside surfing.

Day 3) Wine Tasting at Cappelano in Serralunga d’Alba. ( http://www.cappellano1870.it )

After a recent fantastic 1958 Cappellano I hoped this would be a real treat of a tasting. We met Augusto, who had been up since the wee hours taking advantage of a full moon and doing barrel transfers.


Cappellano Barolo 1958- This wine still had a youthful focus on the nose. Quite remarkable really. A black & red fruited mix, with a lift of cherry-menthol. It is amazing how this wine fills out its edges on the palate with a fruit creaminess, then there’s an alluring varietal austerity in the middle, prior a mix of tertiary fruit complexity dancing off toward the long finish. Amazing wine!

Would score very highly in the point department.





2008 Otin Fiorin Pie Franco Barolo- had been open most of the week but what a WOW on the nose where there was no signs of oxidation ( I’ve tasted at G Mascarello and his Monprivatos been open for weeks ). Wonderful aromatic definition and freshness, very elegant, traditional and long. No austerity and a joy to drink. Sold out! But I did secure a magnum.

2008 Otin Fiorin Pie Rupestris Barolo- Just opened. Some light oak and muscular dark fruits, fleshy, generous fruit on the edges, with a palate austerity at the centre. Long wine with sweet fruit and sine tannins that funnel on the finish. I bought a six pack.

We also bought some 2011 Dolcetto which showed best on day two ( like so many ) and was an ideal, easy going but somewhat firmer style.






The mystical Barolo Chinato. Made with China Bark and Barolo giving a delightful, fortified digestive style of wine that everyone should try once.

Moved to Alba for the night and stayed near the square at Relais Al Bel San Domenico which is run by the food writer and son of winemaker/owner of the Moresco Barbaresco site sold to Gaja. I’ve had the 1970 Barbaresco of his fathers- I know there is a bit of a cult interest in these wines though in discussion with his son we wondered if it warranted.

Dinner at La Piola ( http://www.lapiola-alba.it/en ) which is a very relaxed restaurant serving food from the Langhe/Roero hills.

Ceretto Barolo Zonchera 2008 was the perfect Barolo for dinner showing quite an amazing level of approachability. Soft and defined, oak is present but background in style, never a moment that wasn’t a drinking pleasure. This could be under the radar for 2008 as I understand it is declassified Bricco Rocche?

Day 4) Wine Tasting Bartolo Mascarello. Lovely day so we had a quick stroll about the hill of Cannubi prior to the tasting. Cannubi being one of the vineyards making up the Mascerello Barolo “blend”.

Cannubi with Barolo in the background.

Maria Teresa Mascarello always does a passionate and informative winery tour & tasting.


Bartolo Mascarello 2011 Dolcetto- Pure cherry fruit to the core. Lively wine, some phenolic grip on the finish which would soften nicely in a few years or overnight with an open bottle. 13% alcohol has been creeping up over the years according to MT. Fruit from two of the Barolo vineyards.

Bartolo Mascarello 2010 Barbera - Classical expression from a classical vintage ( 2010 Barolo watch out ) with dusty red and black fruit shades. Austere on the palate with some spices; typically high acidity.

Bartolo Mascarello Freisa 2010- Piercing nose, wild in nature, in a floral spectrum. A little reductiveness but the palate vibrancy suggests a great food wine. Fruit grips the finish.

Bartolo Mascarello Barolo 2009- Ripe and almost malty-chocolate like fruit with classic rose petal nuances. Drinking amazingly well now! Early drinking? Great length but I’m not sure the fruit can fill it out in time.

Bartolo Mascarello Barolo 2008- This is stunning Barolo. I took a few cases home as a testament to the wine’s magnificence. Thanks Mum, the wines went from HKG to Australia last night and are safely tucked away in my cellar.Beautiful fruit. Complex already but not a suggestion of early development as there is a focus and power evident. A gloriuos myriad of red and black fruits, licorice-tar and a fine run of minerality. Front and mid palate have a good layer of fruit, with the back palate showing a varietal austerity prior a flood of rising tannins. Exceptional.


Osteria More e Macine is a great little restaurant/wine bar in La Morra. I’ve eaten here before a number of times and the food is great, with a solid wine list at excellent prices. Just dropped by for an afternoon drink

Elio Altere Barbera 2011- A wine of considerable polish. Creamy layers of dark Barbera fruit rides along the acidity in a gratifying style.


Dinner wines-

Moccagatta Bric Balin Barbaresco 2008- Long day but I do remember this being fantastic. It’s really settled since I tried it on release at Cellar Door. Drink now or in 10+ with a spicy fruit /oak combination in a superb length.

And a very funky Cappellano Barbera 2008-somewhere over the next few days I poured another bottle down the sink as the funk too much!

Day 5) Trekking the vineyards to burn off the calories. I highly recommend this if you have plenty of time. Barolo- Castiglione Falletto is an hour or so then on to Serralunga and Monforte a few more hours.

Castiglione Falletto from the Castellero vineyards in Barolo.

2009 Gianni Voerzio Barbera d’Alba “Ciabot Della Luna”- Although this was quite a modest wine, the region is plentiful with wonderful Barbera south of 20USD on restaurant wine lists. This bottle was enjoyed in a small wine cave near the top of La Morra.

Osteria Era Nuova ( osteriaeranuova.it ) Alba was a great place for home made Piedmontese food.

Rivetto “Zio Nando” D’Alba Barbera 2009- This is a very smart Barbera which is crafted with a clever mix up of large Slavonian and small French barrels. Very hedonistic in texture, with dusty cedar oak perfectly integrated and the fruit in prefect line and length along the palate. What I liked about the wine was its completeness- the high acidity of the wine never once poked through; balanced oak and fruit worked in harmony from start to finish.

Day 6) Touring the Alps and dinner at Castello Verduno ( castellodiverduno.com/eng ) in the Barolo commune of Verduno 5 minutes from La Morra. We were now staying in La Morra for our final few days at a pretty cosy organic Mill which had a magnificent breakfast spread ( http://www.fiordifarine.com/eng/ ).

Before dinner, I had a few drinks with Olek Bondonio and his wife who reside at Castello Verduno. His 2010 Barbaresco normale continued to impress.

Bartolo Mascarello Barolo 1996- Cocoa with tar, dried flowers and prunes. Fills out well; pries open slowly to fill out an impressive length- fine tannins persist on the finish. Excellent wine with the only detraction being the pruney notes becoming a little dominant mid-bottle prior to being wrestled beneath better red-black fruit flavors.

Castello Verduno

I didn’t tire looking toward the Alps. This from La Morra toward Novello.

The organic breakfast spread at B&B Fior di Farine.

Day 7)


Another dinner at Castello Verduno. I wanted to try the local degustation.

Cappellano Barolo “Pie Rupestris” 1998- There was a lactic stink that blew off revealing a very complex nose of forest floor, spring mulch with classic undertones of tar, roses and minerality. Traditional Barolo from the Gabutti vineyards in Serralunga- there’s a great precision to the wine that exaggerates the length all in a relaxed but authoritative framework. Great stuff and I bought a six pack of the 2008.

Castello di Verduno Barolo “Massara” 2001- There’s a lot of erosion at the top of the vineyard and this gives a great earthy-mineral dimension which balances the traditional and extracted dark fruited notes. Great length and poise; the wine’s freshness throughout gives the wine solid marks. Five years from its best.





The sunsets over La Morra and another trip is over- a glass of Cappellano Barolo Chinato takes me back as I type from the 50th floor of a Hong Kong apartment.

Uhhmmmnnn! Hello! The pictures, the food, and the wine! Nuf Said. Well done!

Thanks for the write up and pictures Jamie. Would you recommend a visit to Cappellano?

Nice!

I never tire of reading about or looking at pictures of Piemonte - nice job!

Beautiful! Thanks for posting.

Well done, Jamie. Thanks for posting these photos and notes. Gorgeous.

Looks like fantastic trip! The Cappellano have escaped me but sounds like I should seek it out! Thanks for sharing!

Fantastic. Brings back fond memories of our trip to the region years ago. You hit some amazing spots.

Thanks for posting this.

Cheers,
Doug

Which Mascarello wine is it that has the note “No Barrique, No Berlusconi” on it and where can I purchase it? flirtysmile

Has Cappellano escaped the crowds because the late Teobaldo Cappellano requested no point scores from critics?

His son, Augustus, is a nice guy. Very welcoming and proud. Highly recommend a visit if you’re in the area.

Jamie,
What a great write-up & great pictures! I have never visited Piedmont, but it is on my list of places to go.

My favorite is the definitely the “No Barrique. No Berlusconi” label!

Yes.

Antonio used to include tasting notes without scores in the Piedmont report, but Parker would not allow that at the WA. I am hopeful that Antonio will go back to that with his new site.

From a purely selfish point of view, I am happy about this, but these wines need to be recognized now as among the best in the world.

The Barolo in several vintages. It is one of a number of art labels they have used over the last 2 decades since Bartolo could no longer work the vineyards. Unfortunately, they were inlcuded as limited editions, only one per case and not in all cases. You can see many examples on my Bartolo page:

http://www.finewinegeek.com/mascarellob/

The Berlusconi one is the most famous. Check out the flap:

http://www.finewinegeek.com/mascarellob/1999Berlusconi.html

Thanks for the info, Ken. That’s a pretty epic label.

Loving this thread. Thanks so much for contributing all of the photos, links and talent!

Best,

Kenney