-Taste the pinnacle of Langhe wines in Barolo & Barbaresco
-Enjoy private, sit-down tastings at marquee wineries such as Silvio Grasso and Marchesi di Gresy
-Visit Alba’s famed truffle market in full swing
-Hunt for truffles in a hazelnut grove with a trifolau and his trained dog
-Feast on artisan cheese and salumi during a buffet lunch at a cheese farm in the Alte Langhe
Day 1: Barolo, The King of Wines and The Wine of Kings.
Beside the Tanaro River lie the beautiful Langhe hills, pinstriped with vineyards and crowned with medieval castles. Among the many tiny villages are two whose importance far outweighs their size: Barolo (pop. 679) and Barbaresco (pop. 656). After a pick-up in Tortona (see Trip Notes), we’ll shuttle to Barbaresco (approx. 1 hour). Here we’ll meet the region’s thoroughbred grape: nebbiolo.
Our first winery is the Marchesi di Gresy, the largest and most historic of Barbaresco wineries in private hands. Here we’ll see how this site-sensitive grape changes character when exposed to subtle variations in soil and vineyard position. We’ll also be introduced to Piedmont’s other leading players—dolcetto and barbera—plus regional newcomer sauvignon blanc.
Afternoon takes to the Barolo DOCG zone. A museum in the Castle of Grinzane Cavour provides a good historical overview of Barolo’s origins in the 1800s and the role played by Count Camillo Benso Cavour (later Italy’s first Prime Minister), Marchesa Giulietta Colbert Falletti, and King Carlo Albero in the creation of Barolo, known as “the king of wines and the wine of kings.” Then it’s time to taste! We’ll do so at Silvio Grasso, one of the new generation of Barolo producers that emerged in the 1970s. At this small, family-run estate, Marilena Grasso will personally lead us through an in-depth tasting that offers comparisons of different Barolo cru and vintages.
Come dinnertime, we’ll continue the Barolo/Barbaresco theme with dinner at the Ceretto winery’s restaurant, which looks out on Alba’s main piazza and Duomo. Here we can taste Ceretto’s wines, as well as a well-curated list of local boutique wineries. These will provide the perfect companions to such classic piemontese dishes as agnolotti (meat-filled ravioli), guanciale (braised beef jowls), and bounet (chocolate-amaretti pudding). D - Hotel I Castelli.
Day 2: Truffles and Mountain Cheese.
Every weekend in October, truffle hunters, gourmands, and restaurateurs convene in Alba. This morning, we too head to Alba’s famous truffle market, where truffle oil, truffle spreads, truffle books, and the whole tubers are for sale. There will be time to roam the enclosed market, as well as Alba’s gourmet shops, where you’ll find truffle goodies and other local specialties, such as dried porcini, arborio rice flecked with truffles, hazelnuts, and yummy chocolate. (Alba is headquarters to Ferrerro, which makes Nutella.)
Then we’ll head to the Alte Langhe (high Langhe hills), where Piedmont’s mountain cheeses are produced. Our destination is a family-run cheese farm in Murazzano, a DOP cheese zone. This family works with micro-sized dairy farmers to create a variety of fresh cheeses from goat, sheep, and cow’s milk. We’ll have a tour and a buffet lunch that features their various cheeses, plus local chestnut honey, cogna, fruit, and (we hope!) one of their light-as-a-feather hazelnut pies.
After lunch, it’s on to Barolo itself. We’ll walk through the charming village, stop by the Castle of Barolo, then visit the wine estate of the castle’s former owner, the Marchesi di Barolo. We’ll see the historic cellars where the Marchese Giulietta Colbert made the very first Barolo wine, then head upstairs for a tasting of the winery’s modern and classic styles of Barolos. Dinner is in Alba at a Slow Food affiliate restaurant, where we’ll hunt for truffles on the menu. B, L, D - Hotel I Castelli.
Day 3: Go Fetch!
This morning, we’ll don our galoshes and head into the hazelnut groves with a truffle hunter and his dog. They’ll provide an in-field demonstration of the dynamic that happens between a trifolau and his hound—the signals (in piemontese dialect, no less), the training, the special rapport.
After finding the buried treasures and giving the dog a final scratch behind the ears, we’ll head to our last wine tasting: Damilano in the village of Barolo. A no-pretensions estate (typical of Piedmont), they put their efforts into making top-quality Barolo that maintains an excellent price/quality ratio. We’ll taste three of their top wines. Aftwards, we’ll return to Alba for lunch on your own. From there, it’s a shuttle back to the Asti train station by 5 p.m. B.
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