-Enjoy private, sit-down tastings at Elio Altare, Aldo Contero, Renato Ratti, Marchesi di Gresy, Produttori del Barbaresco, La Spinetta, Braida & more
-See 5 of the 11 communes making up the Barolo DOCG zone
-Lunch at an artisan cheese farm in the Alte Langhe
-Dine at two wineries (Marchesi di Barolo & Brezza)
Day 1: Barolo's Pioneers.
Barolo is dubbed “the king of wines and wine of kings,” and today we see why. After a pick-up in Tortona, we shuttle to the Langhe (an hour’s drive). We begin at the historical birthplace of Barolo, the Marchesi di Barolo winery. It was here that the Marchesa Giulietta Colbert Tancredi produced the very first Barolo. And it’s here that we’ll have our first tasting over lunch in the winery’s private dining room.
In the afternoon, the focus shifts from 19th century pioneers to 1970s winemaking radicals. Because of Elio Altare’s game-changing innovations, such as green harvest and French barrique, the winemaker was disowned by his father. But his methods have since taken hold, and Altare has been an influential mentor to the next generation.
Then we go back to the 19th century at the Castle of Grinzane Cavour. Now a museum, this was the home of Italy’s first Prime Minister, Camillo Benso, Court of Cavour. Like an Italian Thomas Jefferson, this politician was equally adept at wine and became a seminal figure in the creation of Barolo wine in the 1800s. At the museum, a film will provide an excellent historic overview.
A welcome dinner follows in the medieval city of Alba, which introduces the elegant cuisine of Piedmont. Here menus are loaded with plin (tiny meat-filled ravioli), countless renditions of risotto, meats braised in Barolo, and delectable hazelnut-and-chocolate desserts. L, D Hotel I Castelli.
Day 2: Barolo Cru.
Brunate, Cannubi, Bricco Lucciani…. These are among the historic vineyard names that resonate with Barolo connoisseurs. Today we’ll taste cru Barolos from these and other star vineyards. We start at Paolo Scavino, a leader in the 1970s renaissance of Barolo wine and considered a modernist winemaker. You’ll see his impeccable cellar, which makes impeccable wine. Be prepared to swoon!
After lunch in the village of Barolo, we have to opportunity to taste several Barolo cru side-by-side at Damilano. This winery controls over half of the historic Cannubi vineyard and has parcels in other prized sites, such as Liste. Yet while aiming for quality, Paolo Damilano and enologist Beppe Caviola have also prioritized value. As a result, theirs are among the best price-value Barolos around.
Next, we head to the small family-run estate of G.D. Vajra. Founded in 1972, Vajra hews to tradition in its Barolo, but also isn’t afraid to experiment with unorthodox varietals, such as Riesling. We finish up the day with dinner at a Slow Food restaurant in Alba. B, D Hotel I Castelli
Day 3: Mountain Cheese.
Founded in 1870, Aldo Conterno was the first to export Barolo to the U.S. Today, the fifth generation runs the show, adhering to a traditionalist approach to Barolo while prizing fruit and freshness. Our eloquent host Giacomo Conterno will entertain and enlighten as he walks us through the family’s Monforte estate and pours both classics (Barolo) and novelties (Super Piedmont blends).
Then we head south into the Alte Langhe, the higher elevation zone of the Langhe, where hazelnut groves and pastures replace vineyards. Our destination is a cheese farm in Murazzano, a DOP area known for rounds of fresh cows’, sheep’s, and goat’s milk cheese. We’ll tour the family-run farm, where mama makes the salumi and daughter the cheese, then enjoy a buffet lunch.
Afternoon takes us to another Barolo tasting: Elvio Cogno. Located near la Morra, this estate was run by a lawyer from Turin before being bought by the Cogno family and completely renovated. Here they resurrected the nearly extinct nascetta grape, which you'll taste, as well as their stellar Barolos. We then return to Alba for dinner on your own. B, L Hotel I Castelli
Day 4: Barbaresco.
Today we head to the village of Barbaresco, on the alluvial banks of the Tanaro River. Here nebbiolo makes a more silky, elegant, perfumed wine, representing the “queen” to Barolo’s “king.” We’ll start with Marchesi di Gresy. Barbaresco’s oldest and largest winery in private hands, this modernist winery owns Martinenga, the only cru belonging to just one owner. Here Barbaresco sees some time in barrique.
That stands in contrast to our second winery, the Produttori del Barbaresco, one of Italy’s most highly respected cooperatives, which makes benchmark Barbaresco in a traditionalist style. We’ll hear how its 55 growers decide when to pick, how to pay, and what to bottle as a cru.
Our third visit is Albino Rocca. Now run by the founder’s granddaughters, it represents a typical Barbaresco winery: small production (around 50K bottles) and family-run, with the winery and household sharing one property. Dinner is at an osteria is one of the tiny Barolo villages. B, D Hotel I Castelli.
Day 5: Barbera's Standard-Bearers.
Today we focus on Barbera, Piedmont’s most widely grown grape. Until the 1980s, it was little more than a rustic table wine. But thanks to key innovators, it’s been transformed from a farmhouse quaffer to a wine of great character and finesse—another prized plum of Piedmont.
The story starts at Braida, the estate of Giacomo Bologna. Now deceased, this man single-handedly revolutionized Barbera d’Asti. We’ll hear this Cinderella story and taste through the estate’s bottlings, which range from a dry frizzante Barbera to barrique-aged powerhouses.
Then we head to Castagnolo Lanze, headquarters of La Spinetta. The Rivetti brothers have made succulent Barberas since 1985, but have also pioneered single-vineyard Moscato and added Barolo and Barbaresco to their portfolio, which achieved instant cult status. (In 2001, they also expanded to the Tuscan coast, founding Casanova della Spinetta.)
We return to Alba for some time on your own. You can search for older Barolo vintages in well-stocked wine shops, pick up white truffles and yummy chocolate-hazelnut candies in the gourmet shops, or visit the baroque and medieval churches. Our farewell dinner is in Barolo at the Brezza winery, where we’ll sample their wines in the restaurant of their B&B. B, D Hotel I Castelli
Day 6: Buon Viaggio! A shuttle to the Asti or Tortona train station and assistance with your travel plans. B.
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