11 November 2015

2015 ITALY Castagnole delle Lanze 15 - Fine Wines

In the afternoon we visited two wineries. One was La Spinetta (click here to read more), which is very special to us. We went to one of Chef John's Chef's Tables featuring this winery. We sat next to Giorgio (his family founded the winery) and made great friends within one dinner. We also loved his wines so much that we bought a number of bottles on the spot and promised one day to visit his winery.

That night we told Chef that we wanted to join his next culinary tour. The very next one was full, but he pinky swore with us that we could be on the 2015 tour. And here we are!! Unfortunately Giorgio (fourth generation wine maker) was in England, so we were not able to see our friend again at his winery.

The cellars at this winery are fantastic. Mia was our guide. When we approached the cellars, she pushed a button and within maybe half a minute the lights slowly went from dark to light-ish. It was as though they did not want to "startle" the wine with a sudden bright light. "Yes," Mia said, "light, sound and vibration all have an effect on the wine making process."

The cellars are underground and look more like a Roman spa with its lighting effects, arches, columns, and coved ceiling. Instead of bathing water, however, there are hundreds barrels and thousands of bottles of wine. I don't know why, but we all felt the need to whisper while here. Of all the cellars we saw, I think I got the biggest emotional feeling from this one ... calm, quiet, peaceful, almost religious. 

Other areas had the big wooden kegs we have seen before. I just loved the rhinoceros logo burned into the wood.
Here are some fun examples of the rhinoceros logos. Wish we could have bought a poster, but alas, none for sale.

Here are the wonderful barbaresco (if barolo is king of red wines, barbaresco is the queen) and other wines we tasted here. Some we had actually tasted and purchased at Chef's Table back in the USA. We also learned that the first moscato ever from a single vineyard was produced here in 1978.

Lynn chats with Mia. He surprised her with a little conversation in Japanese. He learned this through his many years of karate and jujitsu training.

The second was Tenuta Olim Bauda Winery (click here to read more). Our host was Gianni Bertolino, also a fourth generation winemaker. He is a quiet man, down-to-earth, warm, but a serious guy. I know all the winemakers we saw are serious about their process and products, but Gianni seemed particular passionate. Maybe this is because he has personal and intimate involvement in every step of the sustainable agricultural practices used here.

Although the family is in the process of expanding, the operation is small compared to most we saw. Gianni offered the philosophy behind their wine making process. Just his explanation of choosing wood barrels was fascinating. And he gave us insight into the vast investment to start-up a winery. Each large wood barrel holds 25,000 liters of wine and basic per barrel costs start at $10,000.

After the winery tour, Mike asked about the house next door. Gianni explained the house is a 13th century estate and that at one time the 19th century Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi lived there. He invited us in. It was lovely. Much of the original furniture remains. We saw the staircase to the family quarters, the dining room, and a parlor.
A portrait of Verdi hung on one wall. Gianni said they found it in the attic after his family bought the estate. Every detail (ceiling frescoes, chandeliers, mirrors, wallpaper ...) of these three rooms is amazing. Wish we had time to learn more of the history. 

Next we went to the tasting room a small building near the house. The room was filled with books and more antique furniture. The rustic table was set elegantly with a huge platter of sliced cured meats, aged parmigiana cheese, and breads. On the table were jars of the sandy, marl clay soil from the vineyards. Gianna mentioned that the roots of the old grape vines grow between 20-30 meters down to find water and support the plants in this soil. At last, we tasted the splendid barbera and moscato wines produced in this winery. No disappointments here!

Our last food and drink of the day was back in Alba, a few blocks walk from the hotel (near the carousel). Osteria dell'Arco (click here to read more) participates in the slow food movement mentioned earlier. It is hidden down a small alley and is probably not seen by many tourists, but fun and lively with locals. Our host was Mario and our chef was Maurizio Dellapiana.

Again, many little dishes which filled us up. The menu included shrimp and pickled veggies, stuffed pepper, masticated code fish, ravioli with porcini mushrooms and potatoes, egg cocotte with white truffle, and Torrone pudding. And wines with every course. Mario looked after us personally and integrated his knowledge of the slow food movement with each course. Here are the appetizer and dessert courses. We ended with a choice of grappa or amaro as we went out the door. A nice sleeping potion!!

As we wandered the few blocks back to the hotel, we continued talking about food and wine and how fun this trip was. No crowds, stores lit for window shopping, flags flying to remind us of the festive weekend. We just could not ask for a better end to the day.

To read more about Alba, click:




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If you have visited any of these places, we would love to hear your comments. Or send us recommendations of places we should not miss.