Wine & Travel

Snooth User: Richard Foxall

If you ever go the Italy's Lake Country, this is where you buy wine!

Posted by Richard Foxall, Jul 20, 2012.

As I've mentioned elsewhere,  I took a recent European vacation.  Since I traveled with my family, we didn't plan the trip around wine country. However, we did take a week in Stresa on Lago Maggiore, which is (just barely) in Piemonte. While wandering around the first night, we stumbled down a side street and came upon the most amazing little wine shop, Enoteca La Cambusa.  Living in (North) Oakland, California, I have access to a lot of wine shops, well known and otherwise, but this one just blew my mind.  Here's a photo of the outside:

(From the wine shop's website.)

When I walked in the first night, the proprietress (whose name I never got, to my embarrassment) was explaining ripasso wines to a couple interested in Amarone.  I eavesdropped for a bit as she explained to them that the well-known Amarone they were looking at was going to disappoint them, while the ripasso she suggested would be a lasting memory.  (The couple were English speaking, and la donna was speaking fluent but charmingly accented English, making the eavesdropping possible.)  After the couple moved on, I asked a few questions about the labeling of the ripasso wines. My children then came in, grabbed me, and insisted on going to dinner.  The owner recommended a child-friendly restaurant around the corner.

I came back the next day and overheard the owner now talking to a man in German about a "birthday bottle."  She nodded over my way when I walked in--good memory!-- and when she was done with the German-speaking customer, I asked in German how many languages she spoke.  She laughed and said, "Ich spreche nur ein bisschen Deutsch."  ("I speak only a little German.") I responded in German that her German was better than mine, and her English better than my Italian.  I thanked her for the dinner recommendation and told her that the restaurant (Papagallo) had a terrific Dolcetto from Giacosa that I had drunk the night before.  She said she had a Dolcetto from a female winemaker that I really ought to try.  I'd already picked out a bottle of 2004 Antichi Vigneti di Cantalupo Ghemme, so I said I would try it the next time.  She commented that I had picked a good vintage of the Ghemme (thanks, Snoothers, esp GdP, for my rudimentary education in Nebbiolo). Then it was off to Papagallo again--the kids loved it, as I told her--where again I had a terrific wine.  (Arneis from Roero, bottled by Chiarlo, for those keeping score.)

After putting the kids to be, my wife and I opened the Ghemme,  As the owner of the shop said, it's a professional's wine--you take your time, hold it up to the light, don't drink it all at once.  We drank about half the bottle, then turned in for the night.

While I was browsing the store that night, I took a few pictures of the incredible stock.  The shop has been in business for 50 years, the owner's parents ran it before she did (and probably before she was born), and have kept back some amazing wines.  My pictures are below.  (I apologize to the owner that I had my flash on--not good for the wine if everyone is doing it, as the shop assistant pointed out to me--but the pictures tell an amazing story.

That's every vintage of Ornellaia from 1998 on.  Part of the larger collection of Super Tuscans: