Departure dates: June 18-23
- Wine estates: Elio Altare, Conterno Fantino, Bruno Giacosa, Aldo Contero, Renato Ratti, Marchesi di Gresi, Produttori del Barbaresco, Braida & more.
- Explore 5 communes of Barolo (La Morra, Monforte, Barolo, Serralunga, Verduno).
- Visit Barbaresco & the new DOCG zone of Dolcetto di Dogliani.
- See the Wine Bank in Pollenzo, a project of the EU and Slow Foods.
- Lunch at the Marchese di Barolo winery.
Day 1: Barolo's Western Communes.
We begin at the birthplace of Barolo, "the king of wines and wine of kings." After a pick-up in Tortona (a short train ride from Milan), we shuttle to the Castle of Barolo in the Langhe hills. Here Barolo wine was created by the French-born Marchesa Giulia Colbert, a widow at the center of a circle of nobles, politicians, and enologists in the 1800s. After a tour of the castle, we'll gather in the enoteca for an orientation on Barolo's 11 communes, 3 mountain ridges, and historic cru. Then we lunch at the Marchesa's villa, now owned by the Marchesi di Barolo winery. Here we'll start exploring "modernist" versus "traditionalist" Barolo and the differences between west and east communes.
These themes continue during our afternoon tasting at Renato Ratti, a producer who led the renaissance in Barolo wine in the 1970s, along with Elio Altare and Angelo Gaja. The Ratti estate in La Morra has a brand new state-of-the-art winery, as well as a vast private collection of antique wine making artifacts, bottles, and 10,000 labels. Our third tasting introduces Pelaverga, one of Piedmont's obscure but delightful indigenous reds, made only in the commune of Verduno. We'll sample this at the family-run winery Fratelli Alessandria, plus their traditional-style Barolos and Barberas. A welcome dinner in the medieval city of Alba introduces the elegant French-influenced cuisine of Piedmont, which includes risotto, plin (tiny ravioli), wild boar and woodland game, and hazelnut-and-chocolate desserts such as the pudding-cake bounet. Includes: (L), (D).
Day 2: Barolo's East Side.
In the 15th century, the commune of Dogliani was known for its exceptional Dolcetto wine. According to legend, the Marchese di Clavesana issued an edict ordering that only Dolcetto be planted in his vast territories; violators would be beheaded. Today, Dolcetto di Dogliani still is considered the best of Dolcetto's seven DOCs and recently received certification as a new DOCG. We'll visit the standard-bearer of Dolcetto di Dogliani, Pecchenino, for an in-depth tasting. Afterwards we head to the Alte Langhe, climbing in elevation and arriving at Bossolasco, one of Piedmont's famed cheese towns. A mouthwatering picnic at an artisan cheese & salumi farm awaits us.
Then it's on to two of Barolo's eastern communes, Monforte and Castiglione Faletto, where Barolo's more structured, masculine, and long-lived wines originate. Guido Fantino and Claudio Conterno, co-owners at Conterno Fantino in Monforte, will guide us through their array of wines and delve into their various cru. Then we'll visit Aldo Conterno, one of Barolo's pioneers in Castiglione Faletto. Founded in 1870 and now run by fifth-generation brothers, this was the first Barolo producer whose wine was exported to the U.S. Son Giacomo will lead us through our tasting and discuss their traditionalist approach to Barolo and their new Super Piedmont blends. We return to Alba for another sumptuous piemontese dinner. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 3: Barbaresco.
Today we head to the town of Barbaresco to explore its eponymous wine. Aldo Vacca, managing director of the Produttori del Barbaresco, will be our host at this highly respected cooperative, offering a fascinating picture of how cooperatives work and an in-depth sampling of their benchmark Barbaresco. After lunch in town, we'll visit two highly esteemed Barbaresco producers with more modernist styles who each have a portfolio of exemplary cru, beginning with the Marchesi di Gresy or Bruno Rocca. Our third tasting takes us to Bruno Giacosa in the Barbaresco zone of Neive. Gambero Rosso called this winemaker "one of the last surviving wise old men of the Langhe."
A staunch traditionalist, Giacosa is known for his intimate knowledge of terroir, having spent 50 years acquiring grapes from the pedigree cru, from which he crafts his distinguished Barolos and Barbarescos. We'll then return to Alba for time on your own to explore this elegant little city, a gourmand's delight. Here you can search for older Barolo vintages in the well-stocked wine shops, pick up precious white truffles and yummy chocolate-hazelnut candies in the gourmet shops, or visit the piemontese baroque and medieval churches. Dinner on your own in Alba. Includes: (B).
Day 4: The wine bank of Pollenzo.
In the town of Pollenzo, King Carlo Alberto of Piedmont built a magnificent hunting lodge in the 1800s. Today this regal property houses a multi-million-euro food & wine complex, opened in 2004, which includes a professional cooking school, the 4-star restaurant Ristorante Guido, and La Banca del Vino, or Wine Bank. Located in the king's vast wine cellar, the wine bank is a new concept: an archive holding wines from 300 selected wineries of Italy that will be put on the market only when the wines have reached maturity. We'll tour this archive-cum-laboratory affiliated with Slow Food, have a tasting, and hear how the experiment is going. After lunch, we move towards Asti and visit Braida, the estate of Giacomo Bologna.
Now deceased, this man single-handedly revolutionized Barbera d'Asti, turning it from a rustic, farmhouse quaffer into a wine of great character and finesse. Giacomo's daughter, Raffaela, will recount this Cinderella story and guide us through the estate's bottlings, which range from a dry frizzante Barbera to barrique-aged powerhouses. After returning to Alba, those with stamina can enjoy an informal tasting at the hotel featuring Piedmont's lesser-known indigenous grape varieties, such as Arneis, Grignolino, Ruche, and Freisa. Dinner is at the Osteria dell'Arco, a restaurant associated with the Slow Food movement, founded 20 year ago by Piemontese native Carlo Petrini. Includes: (B), (D).
Day 5: Barolo's innovators.
Ceretto, producing wine for 70 years, has grown into a unique constellation of small-estate wineries with separate vinification facilities. Still family-run, Ceretto is known both for its innovative architectural commissions (e.g., the colorful Sol LeWitt chapel located in the Brunate vineyard) and, of course, for its portfolio of Barolo wines and benchmark Arneis. We'll visit their most historic property, another splendid hunting lodge of King Carlo Alberto. Afterwards we'll head up the road to Vietti, one of the most admired names in Piemontese wine.
Located at the foot of Castiglione Falletto's medieval castle, this estate's fame is based on single-vineyard Barolo from prized sites, but they also consistently sweep awards for their sumptuous Barberas. Our final tasting is at Elio Altare. Widely considered the most influential innovator in the Langhe during the 1970s, Altare was disowned by his father for his new ideas about green harvest and French barrique. But his methods have since firmly taken hold. Generous in spirit, Altare has been the personal mentor to dozens of Barolo producers of the next generation. Our farewell dinner will be in Alba at the Restaurant Piola, owned by Ceretto winemaking family. Includes: (B), (D).
Day 6: Arrivederci.
A shuttle to the Asti train station and assistance with your travel plans. Includes: (B).
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