One of our main draws for coming back to Italy was to visit the Piedmont wine region. Our wine palettes expanded beyond the Sangiovese grape as we discovered the Nebbiolo grape- bringing Barbaresco and Barolo- and there was no doubt that visiting this region would be spectacular.
Similar to the day trip wine tours we did through Chianti, Chianti Classico and Montalcino through the Tuscan regions, we searched for small group tours that would take us through a variety of wineries around the Piedmont Region. We were lucky to find Piedmont Food and Wine who set up a full day tasting to three vineyards, lunch, and tour of some local towns all with a private wine specialist. I could not believe for the price we had this opportunity to have our own wine tour experience.
Our morning started by getting picked up at our hotel and meeting our guide, Lucca- a lawyer turned gastronomer. We were already bursting with excitement as Lucca educated us on our ride. Our first stop was an enoteca in Neive, Al nido della Cinciallergra, that sells typical products from Piedomont. We had our first taste of wine and lesson in tasting while learning about the various items in the store Piedmont is known for, particularly hazelnut.
It was magical driving through the hills of Piedmont and spotting the small towns nestle in between through the endless grape vines- a view I could definitely get used to!
The first winery we arrived at was Marchesi di Gresy in beautiful Barbaresco where we were greeted by Jeff, a New Zealand native and the cellar master. Jeff took us around the cellar, explaining the process and his passion for Barbaresco and the Piedmont wine region before we sat down for a generous tasting.
We had the opportunity to try multiple wines, including a vertical tasting of their Barbaresco, in enormous Riedel Barbaresco glasses. Our unanimous favorite was the 2011 Gaiun Martinenga Barbaresco as it was wonderfully balanced and delicious.
Full with plenty of wine, we headed to the small town center of Barbaresco for our lunch at Trattoria Antica Torre, named as it sits next to the tower (“torre”) in the village. We (uncharacteristically) passed on wine with lunch. If every tasting ahead gave us as much amazing wine to drink as Marchesi di Gresy, I would not be walking – it would be a crime to pour any of this delicious wine!
We did fill our bellies with traditional pasta of the region- tagarin. This type of noodle is extremely fine and thin, giving the dish a more predominant “pasta flavor”. Mine was dressed with butter and sage and Kevin opted for the ragu- both were very tasty. Dessert was also included in our lunch so I ordered the panna cotta and Kevin got the “torta di nocciole” (hazelnut). This was the perfect lunch spot in the heart of Barbaresco under the tower.
It was time to move from the Barbaresco region into the Barolo region. Our next stop was Ceretto at the Monsordo Estate which boasted a more modern interpretation of a winery. We visited the cellars filled with (what felt like) hundreds of barrels before going to their observation deck that overlooks the acres of vines. After getting the groundwork for their grapes, we were ushered into a private tasting room above the vineyard.
This tasting was more unconventional. We were given a list of wines that we picked to include in our tasting- a challenging decision for the list was quite extensive. We started with a red blend, an Arnes (white varietal this winery is known for) and, of course, a Barolo. While we could have tried more wines, we ended up talking to our tasting guide and Lucca extensively comparing American wines (Cult Cabs) and our impressions Asti, the festival and Douja d’Or with all the interesting dishes (donkey) to try.
Our next winery was Aurelio Settimo in La Morra for their award winning (including winning Douja d’Or) Barolo.
While we were scheduled to have a more formal tour of the facility, a large group from Norway unexpectedly arrived for a tasting so Lucca took us around the grounds. We learned that the Dolcetto grapes are harvested first and picking for this season was complete about a week before. This is in contrast to Nebbiolo grapes that are picked last during the October fog (“nebbia” in Italian means fog). Our tasting that followed included many wines but most impressively a vertical Barolo tasting.
As we drove back to Asti, we enjoyed Lucca’s company speaking to him as if we known him far longer than a few hours. He even provided us with several recommendations (and the best napkin map of Asti) for places to go around Asti, including Tasté Vin wine bar. I respect him for following his passion in food and wine, leaving the safe or traditional path behind. I hope we have the courage for that one day.
This tour was truly an amazing day, not just for the amount of wine we tried (and it was a lot of wine) but a wide variety that showcased the region’s treasures.