Enough of this fresh mountain air, I was missing the joy of sucking car fumes and jostling the crowds for my morning cup of coffee. I decided to take an over night trip to Turin which is about a two-hour train ride from Pettenasco. My room was a few blocks from the Porta Nuova terminus and I got to go about looking for wine bars. Now in Italy nothing is as straight forward as one might think and you would think that wines bars would be a dime a dozen in the capital of Piedmont but the front desk at the hotel was of no help and in my meandering around the city I ran into a few but unfortunately they were not open in the afternoon and when I returned in the evening they were still closed. The city had some beautiful piazzas and wide boulevards and it was great to feel the energy of the crowd while I walked around.
I did have a tasting, I was walking and spied a shop, “Vino Quotidiano” with some spigots on the wall and hoped they served wines by the glass. It turns out that it was a wine shop and the spigots were to serve wine in “sfusi”, young fresh wine for immediate consumpsion that you would come in with an empty bottle or jug to be filled. Your everyday wine and at 2-3 euro a liter, it was cheaper than water. The very hospitable gentlemen in the shop, Paolo Valentino took pity on me and offered me a couple of samples from the spigot, a drinkable Barbera and an organic Dolcetto. I enjoyed the Dolcetto, it had a very interesting aroma profile and if I had a spare liter bottle handy I would have filled it up and taken it back for home consumption. Paolo was a fellow wine enthusiast and offered to take me to cantina the next day to drink wine but unfortunately I had to leave the city that day but I appreciated the offer.
Before leaving the next day I heard about the car museum in town so I took the subway a few minutes south of the city center and made my way to the museum. It was a huge building and I had high hopes for I would see in the museum, but alas it was closed that Tuesday morning. On the way back to the subway station I did stop by the Eataly store. Beautiful huge warehouse with a great selection of overpriced food and spirits, just like in New York.
Sampling the local wines in Piedmont has been harder than I anticipated. I thought just being in area would have given me access to an ocean of wine. I’m finding out that not having a car and relying on the notoriously shaky Italian mass transit system presents challenges and visiting wineries here are not like stopping by at a winery in New York or California.
This past Thursday I decided to do a day trip to wine country again, this time I was running solo. Since the Gattinara region is the closest I decided to spend the day there. As it turns out, there is no direct rail service to the town of Gattinara. After much computer time looking for ways to do this trip, I was able to figure out that I can take the train a nearby town down the road and walk to Gattinara (ab0ut 40 minutes). After catching an unbelievably slow local train, I made it to my destination, the town of Romagnono Sesia. As it turned out it was a unusualy hot day and that 40 walk to Gattinara burned off a lot of calories and sweat.
The first cantina I stopped at the outskirt of town was Anzivino, a label I was not familiar with. In the small tasting room the very hospitable host poured me three red wines. I started with the 2006 “Bramettera” which is about 85% Nebbiolo with the rest local grapes. It was medium red with a nose of candy pencil shavings with notes of cigar box on the fruit with firm acids and a nice finish. Next up was the 2006 Riserva Gattinara. It was dark red with an amber robe and had the same candy pencil shavings on the nose as the first wine, silky with graphite on the fruit with firm but manageable tannins. The last wine I tried was the 2006 “Faticato”. Nebbiolo from 50-year-old vines, it was dark red with a nose of stewed fruit and chewy fruit with some mint tones on the finish, firm tannin and a nice hit of acid at the finish. It was a nice wine.
I left the cantina and finally made it to the town of Gattinara. Not a very big town and surprisingly the only cantina I found was the cantina for the Gattinara Cooperative. I started with their entery level Nebbiolo, the 2009 Spanna. About 85% Nebbiolo with the rest Vespolina. It was light red with bright fruit. Next wine I tried was the 2004 Gattinara. Dark red with an amber robe, it had an interesting nose of stewed red fruit and sweet graphite and was chewy and chunky with silky tannins and at 8 euro a bottle interesting enough for me to buy one. Couldn’t find any other wine stops in Gattinara so I made my way back to the train station for the ride home. One stop away was the town of Ghemme which I recognised as another Nebbiolo town so I decided stop off to seek out wine cellars and try the local juice. Big mistake. Ghemme is a small town and I had arrived at the start of the siesta which means that everything except the coffee bars were shut down tight. Nothing was open and that included anything having to do with wine. And of course the next train out didn’t leave for a few hours so my time in Ghemme consisted of walking around the central piazza and drinking lots of coffee. I think the next wine outing will be to go to one of the local towns that have a few enoteche and drink the local juice hassle-free.
Finally got a start on my wine tour Wednesday. A couple of the locals decided to spend the afternoon visitng the local wineries so we filled up a couple of cars with the locals and my colleagues and headed out to the wineries. The Gattinara and Ghemme wine appellations (and towns) are about a half hour drive from home base so it was decided to start there. The wineries in this part of the country still observe siesta so we made our first appointment for 2:00. I suggested Cantine Vallana since I’ve had their wines in New York and in fact I had their wines last month when the New York distributor of the wines held their portfolio tasting at the Metropolitan Pavillion. The winery has been a family run operation for genertations and they use a low tech in making their wines.
After a drive along lake-side, mountain roads we arrived at our destination where we were promptly greeted by the matriarch of the Vallana family who handed us off to our host for the afternoon a member of the family and the winemaker, Francis Fogarty. (now that’s a fine Italian name). It seems that the maternal side of the family is Vallana and the paternal side are the Fogarty’s. Francis’s English was very good and took us on a tour of the facilites starting with the large concrete barrels where the wines ferment and then down to the old cellars. At the end of the tour we ended up in the tasting room which looked like a Bavarian hunting lodge and at where they stored bottles of their library wines. The oldest bottle in the collection had the vintage year of 1692! It was time to taste and Francis asked what should we start with. I felt that we should start with a lighter red so I suggested the 2011 Grignolino. It was light red, almost a rose with a barnyard and dried mushrooms on the nose, bright fruit and nice astringency on the finish. A nice starter wine.
Next up was the 2009 Spanna which is 90% Nebbiola with the rest of the blend the local grape Vespolina. Dark red to black with a slightly closed nose of violets, it was velvety, dry with juicy tannin and bitter almond on the finish.
The 2004 Bocca. which is the name of a local village, was dark red to black with floral, dark violets on the nose with chewy violet fruit and bitter almond notes and firm acidity on the finish.
The 2004 Gattinara was medium red to dark with a nose of sweet smoke and violets with silky fruit, firm acids and dusty tannin on the finish. It was a very nice tasting on one of the few sunny days of the week.
We spent more time at Vallana than we anticipate so we had time for one more stop and headed into the town of Ghemme where we stopped at the cantina of Lorenzo Zanetta. We were poured the 2005 Ghemme which is 90% Nebbiola and the balance Vespolina. It was black in color with a brown robe and a nose of black licorice and dark fruits, it was concentrated and tight with a meaty finish and firm tannins.
On my way to Piedmont. A grueling nine-hour flight from New York to Moscow to change planes to Milan. Then a bus to the train which took me to my destination, a small town called Pettenasco on Lake Orta. The resort is a long uphill climb from the town. Everything involves climbing. Climb a big hill to work, climb a big hill to get back from the local village. At the resort we are fed all vegetarian meals and all delicious of course since it is Italy. Working on my planning my wine trips but having a hard time since I’m finding out that many of the wine towns don’t have direct rail connections and the Italian bus schedules are a mess. Did have my first glass of wine a couple of days ago at the local bicycle club which has a typical Italian bar. The local house wine is a Barbera and at 1 Euro a pop, I can’t complain about the price. Will make it to Gattinara tomorrow.
On Saturday night Snooth, an online wine magazine, held their people’s voice awards grand tasting. The event was held at the Altman Building where I’ve attended wine events before.
This tasting was strictly a consumer event so it was more of a party than a business event; not that that’s a bad thing. The event had a good crowd with a good vibe and I managed to find enough interesting juice to keep me occupied.
I started the evening with some Pinot Noir. I had visited Cambria’s tasting room up in the hills when I did my Santa Barbara wine tour so I sampled the 2011 Pinot Noir “Julia’s Vineyard”. It was young and purple, juicy with bright cola fruit and nice balance. From Matanzas Creek, the 2011 Sauvignon Blanc was a mouthful of grapefruit. I stopped at Willamette Valley Vineyards and had the 2009 “Bernau Block” Pinot Noir which was light red with a nose of smokey black cherry, velvety with citrus notes on the finish. From Ferrari-Carano I had the 2010 “Siena” which was medium dark with a nose of dried herbs and red leather fruit on the balanced finish. I continued with Cali and had the Twomey Cellars 2008 Merlot. Dark red with black licorice on the chewy fruit. Silver Oak poured a couple of vintages on their Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2006 was black, tight with dark plum on the nose with some camphor on the tight finish. I thought the 2008 was hard and unbalanced. Chappellet Winery poured some interesting juice. The 2010 Signature Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon was black with a nose of dried herbs, it was big and chewy with a dusty finish. Their 2009 “Pritchard Hill” Cabernet Sauvignon was inky black with a closed nose, very concentrated with firm, dusty fruit on the finish. Jordan Vineyard’s 2010 Russian River Valley Chardonnay was the toasty and buttery style. They poured a library wine from a magnum, the 2003 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon was medium dark, concentrated with a nose of camphor, finished firm with crisp acids.