A Wine Lover’s Diary, part 720: Piemonte Tour

Thursday, May 16th: Our Air Canada flight to Milan was scheduled to leave at 8:10 pm. Because of refueling issues we spent 3 hours on the tarmac before take-off.

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Turin fountain

Friday, May 17th: A bus took our group to the Grand Hotel Sitea in the heart of Turin, where a plentiful spread of hors d’oeuvres had been set out for us with copious bottles of Martini Prosecco.

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Grand Hotel Sitea hors d’oeuvres

Our group of 22 gathered in the lobby to walk over to dinner (in a light rain) to Ristorante Consorzio, via Monte de Pietra n.23. The menu: chicken liver mousse amuse gueule; Scotch egg in a cream sauce on a bed of spinach topped with grilled pancetta; marrow bone with flakes of cod with small ravioli stuff with veal, pork and rabbit; grilled beef and potatoes; a dessert of chocolate sauce with cauliflower (!), baked, salted capers (!!), hazelnuts and ice cream. Delicious! The wines: La Morella Cortese 2017 and Cascina Roccalini Barbaresco Roccalini 2015.

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Turin by night

Saturday, May 18th: After breakfast, a walking tour of Turin conducted (in the rain) by our small but exquisite guide, Monica Gnocchi. She explained that Turin was the first capital of the reunited Italy. It boasts the largest outdoor market in Europe.

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Porta Marmorea in Turin

Dropped in to Baratti & Milano, an historic coffee house established 1858, for a hot chocolate drink or a Vermouth cocktail invented by Carlo Alberto, who has a street named after him. We stopped for pizza at Fratelli Cozza accompanied by a bottle of Terre del Principato Falanghina 2018. Went shopping for a waterproof jacket since the one I brought with me did not keep me dry.

Back to the hotel for a nap before preparing to go to dinner at Del Cambio Ristorante, Piazza Carmignano 2 – a very elegant, Michelin-starred restaurant that opened its doors on November 5th, 1757. (The restaurant’s excellent house spumante, produced by Contratto – 80% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay – is disgorged on November 5th.)

We had a glass in the wine cellar, an Aladdin’s cave of wines from all over Italy and the rest of the world. The impressive collection of French wines is kept in a special room, behind bars. The restaurant was frequented by Mozart and by the father of modern Italy, Cavour, who sat by a window so he could see signals from the legislative building flashed by mirror summoning him back to vote on some issue.

The dining room has mirrors around the walls decorated by life-size photos of people who are witnessing an event. They are all staff members of the restaurant.

The menu prepared, by Chef Matteo Baronetto:

Bread leaf with sausage • Del Cambio salad (with 24 ingredients!) • Piemontese-style agnolotti • Veal fillet au hazelnut gratin with orange, potatoes and turnip • Wines: Where Dreams.… Jermann 2015, Barolo Bussia Prunotto 2013, Barbaresco Nada Firorenzo Rombone 2012, Tarasco uve passite Cornarea 2015

Wine of the night: Barbaresco Nada Fiorenzo Rombone 2012.

Sunday, May 19th: After breakfast we left the hotel to drive to Fontanafredda in the hills of Langhe.

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Fontanafredda

A splendid tasting before lunch beginning with Contessa Rosa Brut 2012 (Pinot Noir with 10% Chardonnay, six years on the lees with a dosage of 1967 Barolo at 9 g/L.)

  • Fontanafredda Gavi 2018
  • Fontanafredda Marin 2015 (Riesling & Nascetta)
  • Fontanafredda Dolcetto Le Lepre 2017
  • Fontanafredda Langhe Nebbiolo 2017
  • Fontanafredda Barolo 2013
  • Fontanafredda La Rosa Barolo 2013
  • Fontanafredda La Rosa Barolo 1999

Then in to lunch in the winery’s gorgeous kitchen.

entrée – a welcome vitello tonnato tagliato al coltello (veal with tuna and mayonnaise sauce)• uovo in camicia, fonduta di parmigiano, tartufo nero – everyone likes it :) • agnolotti di lidia al sugo di arrosto – the most important dish of the restaurant, it is fresh filled pasta • faraona al forno con patate di montagna – Guinea fowl with potatoes gelato fiordilatte mantecato al momento – our special dessert, ice cream creamed at the moment • Wines: langhe bianco marin fontanafredda, barbera superiore borgogno, langhe nebbiolo mirafiore, barolo riserva fontanafredda

After lunch, back on the bus to drive to our hotel, Il Boscareto in Serralunga d’Alba. While some of our group bussed into the town of Serralunga to visit a wine bar, Deborah and I decided to relax at the hotel. Dined late in the hotel. I ordered tripe, much to Deborah’s dismay – and a bottle of Batasiolo Langhe Nebbiolo 2017. And so to bed.

Monday, May 20th: Our visit this morning is to Elio Grasso in Monteforte d’Alba. Their Riserva is called Runcot (local dialect for “short, steep slope”), which unfortunately we did not get to taste. They also make a Chardonnay called Educato. Our impressive tasting consisted of:

  • Elio Grasso Gavarini Langhe Nebbiolo 2018
  • Elio Grasso Barbera Vigna Martina 2016
  • Elio Grasso Barolo 2014
  • Elio Grasso Barolo Gaverina Chiniera 2015

Bought two bottles of the Barbera.

Off to lunch at La Ciau del Tornavento, where we lunched on our last trip to Piemonte. We toured the extra ordinary cellar (70,000 bottles – the finest cellar I have seen) with a glass of Contratto spumante.

Then upstairs for a Michelin-starred lunch:

Black cuttlefish cappuccino, potato fondant, enkir wafer • Risotto with anilla, marinated Mazara prawns, burrata cheese and capers • La Piemontese: Sanato veal breaded in breadsticks, lightly smoked, Asiatic salad and hazelnuts cream • Strawberry and rhubarb soup, white chocolate mousse and strawberry ‘granita’; Wines: Langhe Bianco “Le Coccinelle” Brandini 2016, Barolo Martinetti 2011, Moscato d’Asti Saracco 2018

After lunch, bussed to Produttori del Barbaresco, the famed co-operative with 54 farmer-members. Founded in 1958 by a local priest and 27 growers, the Produttori own collectively 110 hectares of Barbaresco vineyards. Members are paid according to sugar levels, colour and tannin quality for their grapes. The Produttori produce on average 600,000 bottles and in 1967 started making nine single-vineyard bottlings (which they will only produce in good vintages). They do not fine or filter their wines. We tasted:

  • Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco 2015
  • Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco 2013
  • Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco Riserva Ovello 2014
  • Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco Riserva Rio Sordo 2014
  • Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco Riserva Muncadota 2007

Rio Sordo Barbaresco 2005

Tuesday, May 21st: After breakfast we bussed to Luciano Sandrone in the town of Barolo (some of the group decided to shop in Alba). Sandrone has 27 hectares of vines and produces about 11,500 to 12,000 bottles a year; two-thirds are Nebbiolo-based wines and one-third Dolcetto. Here we tasted Sandrone Nebbiolo Valmaggiore 2017 and Sandrone Barolo Le Vigne 2014 (a blend of four different plots).

Luciano propagated a single vine, which grew tall but had a virus. Once he had enough plants he produced a wine he called Vite Talin, named for the grower in whose vineyard the original vine was found. The 2013 vintage as awarded 100 points by Robert Parker. Enjoyed a visit by Barbara Sandrone during the tasting.

Lunched at Bovio in La Morra. We sat al fresco with the winemaker, Matteo Franci, and drank his delicious Gianfranco Bovio Alessandro Langhe Chardonnay 2017 while we admired the magnificent vista of Barolo vineyards. Then from magnum, his Gianfranco Bovio Regiaveja Barbera d’Alba Superiore 2015. The menu: Russian salad; veal tartare with truffles and parmesan slivers; veal with parmesan sauce; tajarin pasta with pork and veal ragu, roast goat, asparagus and potato.

After lunch a visit to Domenico Clerico in Monforte. In the cellar we tasted from the barrel the Ginestra Barolo 2017. Upstairs in the tasting room we sampled Clerico Trevigne Barbera 2015, Clerico Capisme-e Langhe Nebbiolo 2017 (a local dialect term for “Do you understand me?”), Clerico Arte 2015 (a blend of Langhe Nebbiolo 90% and Barbera 10%), Clerico Barolo 2014, Clerico Ciabot Mentin Barolo 2012 and the splendid Clerico PerChristina Barolo 2010.

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Domenico Clerico winery

On the drive back to the hotel we passed through the village of Monforte, but the main intersection was blocked by a huge bus that had somehow got wedged on the sidewalk and couldn’t be moved, much to the delight of the locals who were hanging out of their windows to enjoy the spectacle. Unfortunately, our driver, in trying to make a U-turn, backed into a BMW which compounded the delight of the spectators.

Back at the hotel, sat out on the terrace drinking Batasiolo Gavi 2017. No need for dinner.

Wednesday, May 22nd: After breakfast we drove to Alba to visit the ancient cellars of Pio Cesare, the only winery in the centre of the city of Alba. The winery was founded in 1881. They currently own 170 acres of vineyards. They produce 400,000 bottles, which bear the original label designed by the founder in 1886. We tasted two wines from the cask before trying bottles of Pio Cesare Barolo 2015 and Pio Cesare Barbaresco 2015. The winery has also made a Chardonnay called Piodelei (“For the ladies”) since 1934.

Bussed to the town of Priocca for a Michelin-starred lunch at Il Centro. A welcome glass of Cascina Cuvée Zero Rosé spumante with a mushroom tartlet, foie gras encapsulated in a red gelatin and deep-fried focaccia.

In the dining room, the first wine was Coste delle Rose Rorero Arneis 2018. First course was a tiny omelet the size of a chestnut with salami; tuna with cream and green peas; steamed prosciutto with potato salad and mustard seed; rabbit with grilled zucchini on smeared egg yolk; tajarin pasta with veal sauce; lamb chop with scalloped potatoes. Dessert – Tiramisu. The wines: Stella Stravrisan Barbera d’Asti 2017, Prunotto Babaresco 2015, Cascine Gavetta & Cogno Roberto Gavetta Barolo 2013 (in magnum).

After lunch we drove to Stresa to check into our hotel – Grand Hôtel des Îles Borromées with its commanding view of Lake Maggiore and a welcome cocktail at the Hemingway bar.

Thursday, May 23rd: This morning, a ferry boat ride to the Borromean Islands, stopping at Isola Bella to admire the gardens and the grotto with its white peacocks and then Isola Pescatori for lunch at Verbana Risorante, where we consumed several bottles of Ca’ del Frati Lugana I Frati 2017/18.

Back to the hotel to pack then on to our farewell dinner at the 2-star Ristorante Piccolo Lago on the tiny Lago Mergozzo.

Ungot from Mergozzo Lake, marinated and smoked trout, powder of bread and balsamic vinegar, resberry vinegar jelly paired with Langhe Arneis Duprinus 2017 “Ghiomo” • “Au Koque” carbonara paired with Barbera d’Alba 2015 “Alberto Voerzio” • Loin of veal, crumble of polenta and Sichuan pepper, goose foie gras sauce paired with Ghemme Collis Breclemae 2011 • Butter sponge cake with blueberries, mou sauce, hay ice cream, lavender jelly paired with Moscato d’Asti La Rosa Selvatica 2017

Friday, May 24th: Bussed to the airport in Milan. Deborah and I are flying Easy Jet to London to see old friends for three days (staying in a house in Hampstead that used to be owned by Connie Booth and John Cleese, who built the shelves in a bedroom cupboard with his own hands, apparently).

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