Wine Talk

Snooth User: castagne

Hi! Is anybody willing to help a new poster (me) plan a short trip to Piemonte Italy?

Posted by castagne, Dec 10, 2012.

I'm thinking about taking a short trip to Piemonte, mainly to try the highly-reputed wines of the region.  I'm not interested, though, in setting up visits to wineries. What I am thinking of doing is going to Slow Food recommended restaurants in Piemonte, and asking the owners or staff to help me select a wonderful wine from the region   and then asking them to recommend foods based on the wine I have chosen.  Does that sound like a good strategy?

I'm not really worried that a restaurant will stick me with some $1000 bottle of wine.  I'm actually a bit more concerned that the restaurant will assume I only want a middle-priced wine, when actually I am probably willing to go for something higher priced.

What would you expect to pay for a great quality wine in a Slow Food trattoria in Piemonte?

(I do speak enough Italian to negotiate a conversation about price and food choices.)

Thanks for any guidance you can give.  I really know very little about these wines and I am very curious about their reputation, and would like to sample some very representative wines matched with traditional food of the region.

 

 

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Replies

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Reply by napagirl68, Dec 11, 2012.

Hi, and welcome!

I did a search on the site articles and found a person who has listed some wines from that region.  Here is the link:

http://www.snooth.com/profiles/Anna+Savino/

She may be a source for knowledge of that area.

Cheers!

Napagirl

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Dec 12, 2012.

Anna is feet on the ground here, good call by NG.

Piemonte is actually pretty big.  I went to Lago Maggiore, West side of the lake and guess what?  It's in Piedmont, but not all that close to, say, Barolo.  But I still recommend a trip there--because if you go to Stresa on Lago Maggiore, there's a wine shop called La Cambusa, with a fantastic proprietress, and wrote a post about it.  It could be the perfect introduction to the wines of Piedmont.  Summer, you swim in the lake, winter there is skiing nearby. 

On this subject, I was thinking today that I would like to spend a year in Ghemme, Barbaresco and Barolo learning to grow Nebbiolo.  So let me know how your trip goes. 

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Reply by castagne, Dec 12, 2012.

 

Hi,

Thanks very much for these replies and the link to Anna Savino's previous entries.  Should I just wait with fingers crossed that Anna Savino sees my query, or is there a way I should try to flag her on Snooth?

Foxall, I discovered your entry on La Cambusa snooping around Snooth.  It sounds like a great find, but I can't make it there this trip. I am presently in Genoa and the impulse for this Piemonte fling is the upcoming long Christmas weekend.  Right now, the weather looks pretty good to rent a car and go up to Barolo country (and also hazelnut country) for few days, but then we have to be back in Genoa. (We've actually already booked Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas lunch on the coast.) I'm already a little nervous about the weather turning, because I don't want to drive Italian foothills in icy weather.  So Stresa will have to wait for another trip.

I'll definitely let you how it goes if it goes. (We may have to pull the plug if it snows.)  My experience of Italian wines is that it really matters what food you eat with them.  If we are going to make a special trip to drink Barolo, I want to go to the right kind of restaurant serving the right kind of food to show it off. I'm a little concerned that if I go to a Slow Food restaurant, the right wine will be Barbera, not Barolo. I absolutely do not want to go to a Michelin-star-creative-up-the-ying-yang place, but maybe I should to to a slightly more upscale traditional restaurant.  

I really don't know! Hoping Anna Savino or others can give guidance.  We'll have 3 dinners there, and I hope one of them is the snails of Cherasco, so I'm not averse to drinking Barbera or even the perfect white for some of those meals. But I definitely want one exemplary, optimal experience of Barolo in Piemonte at its best, so I know why others consider Barolo the best Italian wine. 

I'm also clueless as to what price tag I should be looking at for the bottle of wine, or whether I should be looking for a particular label and vintage as well.

Thanks again!

 

 

 

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Dec 12, 2012.

You can send Anna a message via Snooth--go to her profile and click on the envelope on the far right side, assuming that has not disappeared in the redesigns.  You have to be logged in for the envelope to show up.  Most people read their messages--I could cap on a certain Barolo expert and editor for not checking his--but they forward to your email that you registered with. Good luck.  And we'll all hope you have cooperative weather.

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Reply by JonDerry, Dec 12, 2012.

Sounds like a good idea, but don't rely too much upon the restaurants (people you don't know) to sell you the best wine for the money. For a visitor, they are just as likely to recommend something they have trouble selling or maybe even a bottle with questionable storage. Maybe I'm a little pessimistic, but try to read up on the wines a little bit before you head out there.

The best value Barolo's right now seem to be Burlotto and Brovia...vintages 99', 00', 01', 04' should be drinking well. 06' is probably too young for Barolo but might be nice for Barbaresco. As far as Barbaresco, I've enjoyed Sottimano and Produttori del Barbaresco. Both offer good value for their stuff, and a good, solid producer who make both is Vietti. Look for Langhe Nebbiolo if you're on a tighter budget, some of the above producers make it also (Vietti, Produttori, etc.)

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Reply by castagne, Dec 12, 2012.

Thanks again. I will drop Anna Savino a note.

Thanks, Jonderry, good advice.  I hope my research leads me to learn what I should expect in price for the vintages and producers you specifically mentioned. Since I am only going to Piemonte to experience the wines, and specifically Barolo (otherwise, I'd stay in much warmer Genoa!), I feel paying for quality makes eminent sense, although spending multiple hundreds on a bottle of wine is beyond me.

I've targeted restaurants for my wish list -- Il Centro in Priocca, Del Belbo Da Bardo in San Marzano Oliveto, Da Renzo in Cervere and pehaps Pane e Vino in Cherasco and/or Boccondivino in Bra -- because they were recommended, not just for food, but  for equitable treatment of first-time guests and also excellent extensive wine lists.  But I will definitely read up as much as I can about these wines 'twixt now and then.

 

,.

 

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Reply by Anna Savino, Dec 12, 2012.

Hi guys!!! I am here !!! Thanks for dropping me a line:) i have been so busy working at my new job in a winery in barolo that i havent had much time to look at snooth! Anyway i would love to help you out! Let me read the thread better and i will get back to you soon! Thanks again guys! Cin cin

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Reply by Anna Savino, Dec 12, 2012.

The restaurant that comes to mind right off the bat is Bovio in la morra...bible of a wine list but more trattoria style with decent prices (45€) sample menu http://www.ristorantebovio.it/web/ristorante.asp

For lunch i have been wanting to try schiavenza trattoria where they serve there own barolo in serralunga http://www.schiavenza.com/web/index.asp

Da renzo in cervere is fantastic although a little outside langhe area and i live in bra so can def help you out here!

I will keep thinking..when exactly are you coming? Pane e vino might e exactly what you are looking for !

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Reply by castagne, Dec 12, 2012.

Thanks! 

I'll be coming the 21, 22, 23 if it doesn't turn icy.

I was interested to read on your blog that you are not much of a meat eater.  Neither am I. It's one of the reasons I've never gone out of my way to get to Piemonte to try Barolo wines because I've always been under the impression that the optimal pairing is beef.  I'll go for the meat if that is optimal, but I'm curious to hear your thoughts about that.  I have heard people often order cheese for their secondi in Piemonte.

I dont want to say I'm not concerned about price, because I don't want to pay hundreds of dollars for a bottle.  However, it is possible that I will only drink one bottle of Barolo in my entire life to accompany a meal that is cooked by talented Piemontese cooks who know their wine and their food, so I'm not inclined to try to chisel away at the price and defeat the purpose.  I can definitely go above 45e for a menu, and above 100e for wine. I still prefer relaxing setting however. No hush-hush and slavish service.

I culled my list of target restaurants based on Osterie d'Italia and Chowhound raves about certain restaurants, some of which overlap. I'm also only looking at places for dinner that have a hotel in town so I don't have to drive after drinking. I've thus far shied away from La Morra partly because I worried that the constant tourist flow into that picturesque town weakening restaurants.  I'd rather not be surrounded by non-Italians! I see that Osterie d'Italia recommends L'Osteria del Vignaolio.

What is your experience of trusting sommeliers in the region to help select a great bottle, and then how knowledgeable and trustworthy are stuff in recommending dishes? I noticed on your blog how you were unhappy with a waistaff's recommendation in Verduno. 

If you'd like to suggest some great Barolos to try while I'm in the area, I'll look for them on menus.  One that was brought to my attention was Arborina 2001 -- but I really feel over my head here, not even beginning to know what I should eat with such a wine.

Sorry to be so verbose (but this is Wine Talk!)  It is very kind of you to take time to share your knowledge. I appreciate it.

 

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Reply by castagne, Dec 12, 2012.

PS: When I said I don't want to pay hundreds of dollars, I meant just for the Barolo or whatever wine.  If the meal is more than a hundred for 2 people, independent of the wine. I can deal with that.  I'm chewing over in my head at what price point I'm not going to enjoy drinking a bottle of wine because the price bothers me.  Part of the reason I can't decide is because I don't know how much on typically pays for a truly excellent bottle of Barolo in a restaurant in Piemonte.

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Reply by Degrandcru, Dec 12, 2012.

I would stay in the city of Alba. If you are not interested in visiting the wineries the little villages like Barolo or La Morra get boring very quickly. Alba is a beautiful, walkable little city with many things to do, great shopping and a huge variety of excellent restaurants. Lot more variety then the villages.

I highly recommend:

Enoclub, www.cafeumberto.it - the restaurant is downstairs, great atmosphere, we had a sample menu, which was excellent, great winelist as well

Piazza Duomo, www.piazzaduomoalba.it - you mentioned you don´t want Michelin stars, unfortunately this one has some, but its so much worth going, but make sure to make reservations

There are dozens of other great restaurants & Trattorias in Alba in all price classes. I ate much better there then in the villages and all the restaurants have great wine lists.

Was there this summer and when I´ll go again (for sure I will), I will plan more time in Alba.

 

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Reply by castagne, Dec 12, 2012.

Thanks for chiming in, degrandcru, but I had already given it a lot of thought, because I know Alba is an important city culturally, but I ultimately decided don't want to stay in Alba. I actually live in the countryside -- farms, animals -- and never get bored (I find shopping tedious), and in my many travels around Italy, I have greatly enjoyed staying in agriturismi, villages, etc.  I may spend an afternoon in Alba, however, which so many people admire, and if I think I can handle another meal, then Piazza Duomo has been highly recommended to me before.  I can handle Michelin stars as long as people don't stand over me and tell me how to eat and it's okay to laugh and converse.  

 

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Reply by JonDerry, Dec 12, 2012.

Would definitely look for Brovia Castagne...

-Fratelli Brovia Barolo "Rocche" or "Garblet Sue", shouldn't cost you much more than 100/E per bottle at a restaurant.

Here's a link to Greg's list of the top 6 Barolo Producers

Others mentioned are Rinaldi, Giacomo Conterno, Bartolo Mascarello, and Giuseppe Mascarello, but if it's value you're in search of, seems like Brovia and Burlotto are the way to go.

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Reply by Degrandcru, Dec 12, 2012.

Castagne, I am not into shopping myself either, but my wife for sure is, so Alba was great for both of us. I do get bored in the countryside (at least if there is no winery around), never lived outside of a city, so probably just not used to it. I know what you mean about the Michelin restaurants, happend to me in Strasburg, where I felt completely in the wrong place. Food was great, but the ambiente just way to stiff. Piazza Duomo is fine, its very OK to laught and converse there...

Anyway, have fun in Piemonte, for sure you will taste some of the greatest wines ever.

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Reply by castagne, Dec 13, 2012.

JonDerry, thanks very much for that intelligence.  The more I think about it, the more it makes sense to stay in Barolo or La Morra, or someplace that is right on the same soil, at least for one night, if I can find the right restaurant + nearby hotel.

Degrandcru,  I had the same uncomfortable experience in Athens at Michelin-starred place, but then a totally relaxed and open feel in Northern Spain, but then back to religious ceremony in Madrid. I think Da Renzo in Piemonte might have Michelin stars, but I am fairly committed to going there.  As for living in the country, once you learn to talk to the animals, it gets more interesting.

 

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Reply by castagne, Dec 13, 2012.

A question for anybody who can shed light on decanting and Barolo specifically:

I've been reading up as suggested, and one of the things that keeps coming across in reviews is that many of the Barolos that have been recommended to me are best when de-cated for 2 - 5 hours.  

Should I be looking at older wines? (Or longer meals?)

 

 

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Reply by JonDerry, Dec 13, 2012.

The issue with older is if the restaurant is really storing these wines correctly it's going to mean expensive which would really test your hundreds of dollars comments, so then you might be tempted to go for a lesser producer which wouldn't be good. Else there may be storage issues at the place and you increase the risk of getting a less than stellar bottle.

That said, maybe you'll be able to find a middle ground and buy one (or more) with 10-15+ years of age at a reputable restaurant that won't have crazy prices. If you dare to drink young and have a longer dinner, I hear that Mascarello Monprivato 07' (top producer on Greg's list) is great, it retails for $100 here in the states so it's well within your range if you can find it. Maybe have them decant it straight away while you take a lazy walk somewhere just before dinner ; )

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Reply by Anna Savino, Dec 13, 2012.

So if you do stay in La Morra I would say try Bovio... it definitely won't be touristy especially during that time. Piemonte is great because you don't get that overly Disneyland tourist attraction feel. Lots of locals also go there for high quality food and wine. You will also be close to Cherasco where all the restaurants are pretty much a safe bet and then Cervere is not too far away! You could even check out the Wine Bank in Pollenzo at the University of Gastronomic Sciences.

As for which producers to look out for you really can't go wrong! There are so many good ones it is hard to say. I think if you can find vintages like 96 98 and 99 those would be amazing... otherwise 01 04 and even 07 are already very good. I recently drank a Paolo Conterno 04 which was amazing, and they decanted it about half hour before:) 

I say... don't put too much pressure on yourself and you are bound to have an enjoyable experience. I know you don't want to visit wineries but if you feel like popping in at a very high esteemed winery Vajra in Barolo, I would be happy to have you taste some Barolos in a laid back environment:) Can't wait to hear about your experience.:)

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Reply by castagne, Dec 13, 2012.

Thanks to you both! This has all been really very helpful to me.  The current state of my thinking/understanding is that what I am hoping to find is a restaurant with whom I can communicate that I am looking for a quality experience of Barolo and their food but who won't assume that means "safe" or "middle-ground" or "Americanized" -- and yet deals with me straight on the price parameters.

I have a lot of sympathy for restaurants in Italy that are doing something quite specific, at a very high level, and they end up in guidebooks, and then a lot of inadequately informed tourists like me show up thinking this is something they should "experience."  I can imagine they feel rather weary by the end of truffle season.  That has been my hesitation about Bovio.  They've earned the right to focus on people who have educated themselves to appreciate their cellar.  But if you reassure me I belong there.... 

I hope to be better informed by the time I get to Piemonte, and I do speak enough Italian and know how to behave, but i hope they are willing to meet me haflway.

It will be a road trip.  I don't mind switching hotels each night for such a short visit. At this point, I hope I can still get room at the inn at some of the more famous places!

Anna, thanks for the invite to the wine tasting, and we'll see if we can.  I will be sure to report back.

 

 

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Reply by Anna Savino, Dec 13, 2012.

Oh yea... about being veg in piemonte it USED to be super hard to deal with... Pasta with RAGU...Polenta with Wild Boar... Carne Cruda.. just about everything on the set menus are made with meat. However, if you call in advance the restaurants are doing a much better job of accommodating those needs and like you said with all this great CHEESE here in PIemonte, who needs meat for Barolo! However since meat dishes are such their specialty I do feel like i miss out sometimes and can't fully judge restaurants because of that.  

In any case, Some restaurants even have a giant cheese cart full of smelly cheeses which they roll on over to the table for "dessert":) There is a great cheese shop in Bra called Giolito.

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