Friday, November 23, 2012

Day 2 - November 5, 2012

I woke up super early due to jet lag.  I was down at breakfast as they were setting up a very impressive spread of food and caught my first view of just how beautiful this area is through the window of the hotel.  Clear blue skies and the snow covered Alps framing a view of the green rolling hills covered in vines.  Wow, what a sight!

Breakfast at Corte Gondina was excellent and is just one of the many highlights of staying at this great property in La Morra.

Our first visit of the trip was at Vietti in Castiglione Falletto.  We were warmly greeted there by Luciana Vietti, the mother of current winemaker and family owner Luca Currado.  Luciana was a wonderful host and showed us some incredible history contained within the walls of the current structure where wine is made now.  What a fascinating history this family has and it was great that they preserved the historical aspects of the building when they modernized it.  After showing us the facility including where they make and age their wines, we moved to the modern and comfortable tasting room.  I've been a fan of Vietti wines for years now and it was great to see a new set of great wines just entering the market.  The 2008 Baroli are fresh, pure and powerful.  The whole set of wines was great including the Barbera d'Alba, Dolcetto and Langhe Nebbiolo.

This was a dazzling way to start the trip.  Such passion and generosity from Luciana.  It was so much fun.  One of the very best visits of the trip for sure.

Lunch was next door to Vietti at Le Torri in Castiglione Falletto.  The lunch was good - pretty much in line with most other places we had lunch.  Nice homemade pastas, killer views of the valley below and good service.  Besides our group there was only one other person in the restaurant.  It lacked energy to me as a result.  The setting is spectacular though.

Our afternoon appointment was at Elvio Cogno.  I was introduced to the wines while in Bonaire on a dive trip at the fantastic Italian restaurant 'Capriccio'.  I have really enjoyed Elvio Cogno's Barbera and more recently some of the 2007 Barolo.  I had high hopes for this visit.  

I made a mistake on the time of our visit; we showed up an hour early.  This caught the people there off guard.  It was a genuine mistake - we apologized and offered to come back at the scheduled time (one hour later) but they asked for a few minutes, so we waited.  The property itself is unbelievable.  Spectacular views, infinity pool, outdoor kitchen and an old building that had been modernized.

The visit starts and is led by Nadia Cogno.  It was clear from the start that this woman had no interest in spending time with us.  She showed no passion or enthusiasm.  Her answers to our questions were one sentence.  Clearly, she wanted to be doing something else.  She gave us a half-hearted tour of the wine making facilities, which were quite impressive.  We were quickly moved to a tasting room and presented with a price list.  This was the only place where we were giving a price list.  I didn't mind paying for the tasting though as I know making wine is expensive.  My issue was with her sour attitude.

The wines showed nice - we tried their Langhe bianco and the 2009 Barbaresco.  I will have a hard time buying these wines again after this visit.  I really like the style of the wines - so pure and elegant but Nadia's cold demeanor really turned me off.  It was, by far, the worst visit of the trip.

Dinner was at Osteria Veglio - a neighborhood place down the hill from the center of La Morra.  I loved this place.  The cooking was rustic and local - exactly what I love.  The service was genuine.  The wine list very good.  I spotted a 2010 Giacomo Conterno Cascina Francia Barbera that wasn't on the list on another table and we started with that.  It was fantastic.  My starter was an excellent ravioli that reminded me of the soup dumplings I had in Shanghai.  They were killer.  Our second wine was a brilliant 2006 Castello di Verduno Barbaresco from the Rabaja vineyard.  Polished and fantastic.  Eric and I had the lamb chops and they were just superb.  We walked out very satisfied.  It was probably the best dinner of the trip.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Impressions from my trip to Piemonte - November 2012

Sunday - November 4th

Arrived on the overnight flight from EWR.  Picked up the rental car at MXP airport and headed for La Morra.  The drive was relatively easy until we got close to Alba, then the GPS started getting confused with all the changes to the roads in the area.  Make sure you have an up to date GPS when traveling in Piemonte. We reached our hotel Corte Gondina and met Bruno.  I had to laugh when I first met him because he probably thinks I am slightly mad.  There was a lot of back and forth about appointments, dates, times, changes and questions.  Lots of questions.

Lunch was at the local Osteria More e Macine.  A very cool and boisterous place with the menu written on a chalkboard.  The wine list was deep and reasonably priced backed up by a large walk-in wine cellar.  Food was very good all around.  The white truffles here looked fantastic and the pricing was reasonable.  I wish we had come back for dinner here.  The vibe was really fun.

Our first wine visit was in Barbaresco at Produttori di Barbaresco.  The distance from La Morra to Barbaresco isn't much but with all the twisting roads it takes about 25 minutes or so.  Barbaresco is a tiny little hill town.  The main strip holds a few places to taste wine and two Michelin starred restaurants.  The tasting room at Produttori di Barbaresco is open to the public and doesn't cost anything.  We tasted through a range of wines that included a 2007 Riserva.  The most impressive wine of the tasting was the 2005 Barbaresco, it was the most expressive of that group.  The Riserva was a close second as it showed the most polish and potential of the bunch.  Pricing to buy the wines was much lower than in the US - this would be theme throughout the trip.

Dinner was at Bovio in La Morra.  This is an impressive restaurant that is not to be missed.  The service, decor and wine list were my favorites of the trip.  The food was good but short of excellent for the most part.  My brasato al Barolo was slightly disappointing.  The wine list was a thing of beauty though with excellent stemware and polished wine service.  We had our wine of the trip here 2008 Elio Grasso Barolo Vigna Chiniera.  What an extraordinary wine!  From the moment the cork was pulled this wine was explosive.  The waiter put the wine into a fancy decanter but that wasn't really necessary.  This is a wine of considerable elegance and I'm going to be buying several of these.