Happy New Year! 2015 Vintage in Review

wingnut2Happy New Year! Here is a look back of the seasons of 2015.
winterSome good snow in the winter, great for the vines, very little snow so far this winter 2015/2016, but we still have a few months to go.
Spring 2015
summerSummer 2015
fallFall 2015, best fall colors in the last few years.
Our last tour in 2015 was New Year's eve with a very nice family vacationing in Italy for the holidays from Greece.

2014 Harvest Photos


2014 Hazelnut Harvest

First signs of the 2014 grape harvest is the hazelnut harvest
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Vaccuming up the nuts is a very dusty job
Unloading the hopper on the harvest machine into a trailer pulled by a tractor
When full the nuts will either be sold in bulk for Nutella or processed in many different products from flour to roasted hazelnut snacks
Hazelnut (1)
Hand vacuuming up nuts the machine can't reach
While the hazelnut harvest is in high gear these nebbiolo grapes are slowly ripening, Nebbiolo is the last red grape here to be harvested.

Growing Fast

Here in G.D. Vajra's Serralunga vineyard their nebbiolo is growing fast, keeping the growers busy training the vines through the training wires
Over in La Morra no growers can be seen but they are sure to be close to their lunch packs
Also in La Morra netting for protection from hail damage is put back into place after working the vines
Travel Langhe is is also back in the vineyard at our favourite place for tastings " The Ciabot"

Harvest at Azienda Agricola Stra

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At Azienda Agricola Stra in Novello, the whole family gets involved in harvest. Rain is predicted so everyone is hurrying to bring in the grapes. Above is Roberto with son Paolo below.
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Even Nonna, grandmother, is working hard. We first tried their Langhe Nascetta at Cafe Novel in Novello, we loved it so we made a visit to taste the rest of their wines and we were not disappointed. Maresa and Roberto are perfect hosts with a beautiful winery and a small agriturismo with 4 apartments.
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Nebbiolo for Barolo and Barbaresco is why we are here, harvest time is always a fun reminder of that.
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This autumn has been especially cool and foggy, more like November weather. The leaves are starting to turn colours, we hope the rain and wind stay away so we can have some stunning fall colours this year.
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When the alcohol fermentation is complete the skins and seeds drop to the bottom of the tank, it's now time to drain off the free run wine, a very messy job.
After draining, the door is opened to start the really fun job of shovelling the pomace into the basket press
Looks like Lorenzo is having a great time filling the basket
After pressing (gently) the basket is taken outside to lift it off the giant muffin of pomace
Then load it onto the tractor for delivery to a local distillery to be made into Grappa (Brandy).

2013 Harvest !

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Harvest is underway here in the Langhe, just outside of Neive on the way to Mango is a well positioned vineyard called Sterpone in the borgata with the same name. Robert spent the early morning shooting harvest of our friends Susan & Franco Rocca

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Franko unloads harvest tubs…..

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Todays grape varietal is Barbera
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While a friend stops by to chat, Susan say "hi" while continuing to pick grapes.
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All the grapes are harvested by hand in the Langhe.
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A very happy winemaker with this years crop of Barbara grapes.
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Robert prefers to shoot photos instead of picking during harvest.

Getting Ready for Harvest 2013

Veraison has started in the Barbaresco vineyards of Neive therefore harvest is about a month away which means most wineries are making room in there tanks for the coming harvest by spending the month of August bottling. We are helping our friend Ornella, owner & winemaker at Pelissero Pasquale bottle her 2011 Barbaresco Bricco San Giuliano.
Bottling starts with Ornella's homemade Brioches on a barrique.
While we eat our breakfast Ornella's husband Lorenzo sets the pressure on the pump
The first bottle is used to check the fill level
once everything checks out we are off and running filling 6 bottles at a time, they are then passed over to the corking machine, the light behind the bottles is used to periodically check the fill level.
The last stop before the bottles are laid down in cages for an additional year of bottle aging.
Ornella's cousin stops by for a quick chat and of course to sample the new wine.

Bud Break 2013 !!

On Sunday (the 14th of April) sap was flowing from almost every vine in Neive
A little speck of sun
Then on Monday, the moment everyone is waiting for, the official start of spring "bud break"
With all the rain and now temp's in the mid 70's ( 23 C.) the cover crops between the rows of vines is growing fast

Bottling Wine

A lot of bottling is done in February throughout the wine region. Leslie is helping Ornella bottle her Rose, Chardonnay and Dolcetto. To speed up the process Ornella brings in a mobile bottling rig. At 1500 to 2000 Thousand bottles per hour once everything is set up things can be a little hectic but the day sure goes by fast, The bottles are loaded into cages that hold about 450 bottles then back into the winery for the next step labelling.Bottling2
Four bottles at a time it's amazing how fast you go through a pallet of bottles which hold about 1300 bottles.
With the lights of Neive in the background the last bottles are loaded at 8:30 after almost 15,000 bottles of wine the job is done.

Our first guest blogger !!!

Valerie Quintanilla has gone from being a repeat costumer to a friend. Being a travel writer we thought she would be the perfect person to be a guest blogger on our blog. when asked she (along with her incredible energy) jumped at the chance. Check out her travels at traveling the world according to me mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
The Vineyards of Barolo By Valerie Quintanilla
Okay, let’s get the pleasantries out of the way. Last year my cooking pal and I did a heel to toe Italy tour, driving south to north. Our last stop on this gluttony train: Piemonte. Little did we know the beautiful world had something extra special in store for us, which I like to call Robert, Leslie and Cotta Alexander.

I promised I’d be back a year later to spend about a week on the chalky soils. Oh, and I made good on my word.

Robert and Leslie set me up at an adorable little B&B in their Barbaresco town of Neive,
Dimora San Sabastiano. Right next door to my guide/hosts! So, let’s talk about Saturday. I was off with Robert for a wine tour at Barolo’s Giovanni Rosso in the village of Serralunga. We picked up two others from the US, Drew and Jamie from DC and made our way thru the hills.
Val with Sign 2012
We arrived at the winery and a British chap, Evan, greeted us with promises of a vineyard tour. That morning we spent a couple hours hitting most of the winery’s vineyards. It was my first time in Piemonte’s grape trenches. Pretty cool. We hiked around, scouted out the vines – young and old alike. Then, headed back to the winery to taste (not drink, Evan set me straight on that. Stupid Americana!)
Botte tasting 2012
But, we didn’t just taste wines. We hung out in the barrel room for about two hours tasting right from the barrel. Barolo requires three years prior to bottling after harvest. So, we were sniffing, swirling, and slurping the 2011s, 2010s, 2009s. Can’t wait to go back and get the Vigna Rionda Barolo wine when it’s bottled.

Read more of my travels and adventures (the best WITH Robert and Leslie Alexander) in the coming months here and on
my blog.

Ciao Ciao!
Evan-group in vineyard 2012

2012 Harvest has started!

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The first grapes of 2012 are starting to be picked, these are pinot noir for a local sparkling wine.
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It's a very steep vineyard in Valdivilla.
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It has been seriously hot and humid here which makes harvesting extra hard. Everyone is waiting for a thunderstorm to clear the air.
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Seasonal rhythms

vine triming
As the vine trimming season draws to a close, and green harvest is mostly done, most of the vineyard work shifts to the winery to prepare for harvest
Sticky 2012
At 8:00 in the morning the humidity was higher than the temp this means we are going to have a very sticky day
The best way to beat the heat is to grab some bubbles a chef knife and a friend with a ready glass for sciabola.
Dolcetto 2012
It's only the end of July but these Dolcetto grapes are telling us harvest is just around the corner. Some wineries say they may be starting harvest mid August.

Vinitaly 2012

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Vinitaly in Verona is the world's largest wine fair, made up of many buildings referred to as "pads", with the bigger wine regions having their own building like Sicily(above photo).
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Living in Piedmont we tried to spend as much time as possible in other regions tasting different wine.
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High on our list of other regions was Franciacorta, tasting and finding new bubbles.
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Our friend Ornella joined us in our hunt for new bubbles.
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Inside and out, the media was everywhere, taking photos and shooting videos.
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Vinitaly is not just for wine buyers, it is also for the winemakers looking for new equipment for making wine.
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Here is a booth selling corks.
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Plastic harvest tubs and everything else you could imagine is there on display.
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Most winemakers need barrels, pick your forest, size and toast.
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After having gone to Puglia this spring, we didn't feel too bad about not having enough time to taste some Puglia wines.

Vineyard Class

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Today we met up with our wine friend, Matteo, to vist a new Barolo producer, Simone Scaletta, (first vintage 2002) and learn a little bit more about vineyard work. Before going into the vineyards, we tasted the wines with Simone. He uses small barriques for most of his wines, but only a small percent new, he has a very light touch with the wood component. We liked the all his wines very much, they have character and so do the labels.
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With the village of Novello on the horizon, we head into Simone's nebbiolo vineyard. It's only 2 days to January, but the sun was warm as we walked through his vineyards.
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Lesson 1, pest control for the vines, plastic "houses" are placed in the vineyard to catalog possible problem bugs, mostly looking for signs of the insect Tignola, which it's larvi eats the insides of the vines, leaving them with dangerous holes or rotten inside. Thankfully, this isn't a big problem in his vineyards, but his is only being careful and watching for them.
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We're glad we are not the folks who "get" to survey all the yummy goodies caught in the trap .
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While explaining his winter pruning routine, Simone answered an old question of ours. The question was, why is it the next step after pruning and pulling out/down all the old vines, that the work of bending over and tying off the one remaining shoot for the upcoming year is always done in crappy weather? We learned that with the bad, foggy weather comes high humidity that allows the vine to be bent with a lot less chance of breaking. If it does break, that vine will not produce fruit in the coming year. He explained the if 1 or 2 breaks when bending, he stops and waits for more humid weather which makes the vines more pliable.
Everyone had a great time, but Cotta had the most fun of all of us running through the vineyard. We need to find some weinie boots to help with the mud caked paws!

Barbera il Gusto del Territorio

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Last week was the annual Barbera tasting in Costigliole d'Asti. We decided to go on the "Trade Day" which was Monday, which we always prefer for a couple of reasons. It' s normally less crowded, self service and it's fun to taste with other restauranteurs and winemakers.
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We went together with our friend Ornella, owner-winemaker of Pelissero Pasquale in Neive. For us it was a great opportunity to taste 100+ Barberas with a winemaker who grew up with these wines and compare her thoughts to ours.
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Also at the tasting was our friend Sebastiano, owner of La Crota, a restaurant and wine shop in Calosso AT.
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After tasting all the Barbera we wanted to, we realized there was a grappa tasting in the next room. More alcohol, just what we needed!
Barbera Grappa 100
Different shades of grappa.
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Some of our favorites from the tasting were Elio Perrone Mongovone Barbera d'Asit, Sciorio Barbera d'Asti Riserva II, Cascina Garintina Barbera d'Asti Superiore Nizza and Stella Barbera d'Asti Bricco Fubine and many more but too many to name!
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One last taste!

Harvest 2011

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Our friend Fabrizio from Francone (a local winery here in Neive) called last Tuesday to tell us they were harvesting chardonnay for their spumante (sparkling) wine this Thursday August 11th. Most grapes used in sparkling wines are picked before they are completely matured in order to have higher acidity, an important factor in guality sparkling wine production. Robert met up with the crew at 7:30am to photograph the journey that grapes take to start the process of becoming wine. The crew of eight, working in pairs of two, were able to pick all the grapes by 6:30pm in this vineyard of just under 2 acres ( .75 ha ).francone 2164
With clean harvest tubs the picking begins. Clean tubs are important because the grapes are not washed before pressing. Everything in the tubs gets pressed with the grapes.
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Fabrizio and his wife are careful not to look down the row as to be reminded of the back breaking job in front of them.

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Once full the tubs weigh about 55lb (25 kilos).
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When a row is completed the tubs are loaded onto a sled pulled by a tractor. here driven by Fabrizio's brother Marco.
The grapes are brought to the crush pad at the winery where they are loaded into a pump which sends them over to the press.
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After pressing, the grapes macerate for about 30 minutes, then the fresh juice without skins, pits and stalks is pumped to a large stainless steel tank to begin fermenting into wine.
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Before dinner all the tubs must be cleaned with this power washer.


We spent a few days in Tuscany in Montalcino. It was very different from Piedmont,
with lots of brown countryside, olive trees, cypress trees and sangiovese. IMG_8456 - Version 2IMG_8438 - Version 2
This is Enoteca La Fortezza, the regional wine shop for Montalcino inside an old fortress. Here you can get a map of Montalcino wineries, find many choices of Brunello by the glass, half glass or taste and a great place to buy wine. Seating inside and outside and for a small fee you we walk around the top of the fortress to get a better view of the city and surrounding area.IMG_8447 - Version 2
At the Montalcino market, we found Porchetta, whole roasted pig!IMG_8462 - Version 2
The olives trees had baby olives starting to grow and mature. We tasted and found some great olive oil to bring back to Piedmont.
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We visited the Brunello producer, Mocali, located just south of the village of Montalcino. We tasted 13 wines plus their biological olive oil.
There was bruschetta on almost every menu, here we are having lunch at Alle Logge di Piazza in the center of Montalcino. We drink a lot of rose wine during the day because it was very hot out. Rose made from sangiovese grapes. Tasty! We also drank our fair share of sangiovese, Rosso di Montalcino and of course, Brunello di Montalcino.IMG_8505 - Version 2

Nizza è Barbera

Barbera Festivals aren't new to us but this was our first time in Nizza Monferrato. A very well planned event with lots of new labels of Barbera for us to try and no surprise that we found some new favorites.

The tasting was of Barbera made in and nearby Nizza Monferrato. A great way to taste many new wines or current vintages for a small entrance fee of 5 euros that includes the glass. We met up with our friend, Adrian, who lives nearby and had a fun day of tasting. The festival was throughout the city with many food vendors, specialty products and lots of live music on almost every corner. We have already marked our calendar for next year!

Getting to Know our New Neighbors

Just across the piazza and down the street from us is Longoria, yet another winery with in crawling distance from our home.

We hade a wonderful time meeting Carlo, along with his wife. who showed us around the property.

The wines all showed well but it was a bit to cold in the tasting room, as a result, the reds were a little closed so we all
decided to come back when the weather warms up. Since we are neighbors, no problem to stop back later in spring!

Gabrielle............ working on winter pruning, he's 84 and still works 6 days a week.

The new clone of Barbera (cross between Barbera and a palm tree) is showing up in a few vineyards here in
the Langhe, expect tropical fruit on the nose!

Best Vineyard Sites

We just had our second snow this winter and its almost all gone . Snow melt patterns were used here hundreds of years ago to
find the warmest microclimates on a given hillside. This area is saved for producers top Nebbiolo, usually their Barbaresco or
Barolo. Above is the sweet spot in Cru Montersino.

Just to the east of Barbaresco, all the prime spots are snow free. In the foreground is Cru Gallina, one of the top vineyards
in the Neive sub-zone of the barbaresco region. In the distance to the right of the tower of Barbaresco is Cru Montefico
one of our personal favorites in the Barbaresco sub-zone in the Barbaresco region (wow doesn’t that roll off the tongue nicely)

Stumbled across this chart in USA Today. We find this a funny because pasta is never a main course. Here in Langhe,
pasta is served as a primi (starter course) and always a small amount hmm... must be because pasta is eaten every day
as a primi for lunch and dinner.

Winemakers Love Snow

After a very dry winter so far, we awoke to 12 +” of snow Sunday morning. Local kids were using the street next to our
house as a sliding hil,l good thing it’s a one way coming down

Growing up in Minnesota we are used to seeing lots of snow removal equipment, however, after 3 years here
we have never seen a city/county snow plow. All the streets are cleared by local growers (farmers) with there
own tractors, theses guy’s do a great job. Above is Giulio from Fattoria San Giuliano, a winery just down the
street from us.

Snow can be a big pain in the butt in hilltop towns with narrow streets with nowhere to put all the snow.
However, snow is very good for the grapevines. With all the hills here in the Langhe, rain turns into run off
very quickly whereas snow melts slowly allowing it to seep into the soil slowly.

More Barbaresco

When we first moved to “cru Montersino” just outside of Treiso, we were very
curious as to why there were hazelnut trees and not vines in a small section of
the cru. To us, this spot seemed like a great place for nebbiolo, which grown here
would qualify it to be labeled as Barbaresco.

After 18 months of wondering, in March of 2009 we woke up to chainsaws
cutting down the hazelnut trees. We can finally see are home from the road

Striped clean we soon learned after talking to the locals that Cru Montersino in
the Barbaresco zone was about to get a little larger. A long and very costly
project, only to be done by someone with lots of patience. In this case the
winery of Orlando Abrigo from Treiso

The first big step is digging up all the old tree roots. It is incredible the
investment that goes into such a project, keeping in mind the first bottle of
wine is at least 5 to 6 years away. Normally the first vintage or two is usually
released as Nebbiolo d’Alba, that means the first bottle of Barbaresco can
be up to 8 years away or longer after starting this project

Irrigation is not allowed in Italy therefor the next step is digging hundreds
of feet of trenching used for distributing and removing rain water

We lost count at 15 of how many of these rigid pipes were installed along
With cement distributing boxes

The trenches were from 4 to 8 feet deep (very OSHA approved working conditions)

After the trenching gravel was used for back filling. It appears fiat makes just
about everything one would need in Italy

After back filling the soil was turned over followed by final grading

Now the fun starts using GPS guided lasers to achieve the best positioning
for the vines. Strings are staked out to form the vineyard’s final layout for
the hundreds of poles needed to support the training wires.

The poles are pushed in to the ground one at a time, a very slow and tedious Job.
After 7 months it is starting to look like a vineyard, although one without vines
and row end posts yet

The first of some 3,000+ vines of nebbiolo is planted.

After planting, all that is exposed is a few inches of wax covered vine

Now that the trees have been replaced by a new vineyard, Cru Montersino
looks complete. We will let you all know when we try our first wine from this new vineyard.

Vineyard Prunning

It’s the time of the year when the growers are thankful for the lack of snow, which can make winter pruning a
lot more difficult, with temps in the high 30’s to low 40’s, one would think gloves and an heavier jacket would be needed.

This is very labor intensive work, always done by hand, after pruning, a game of tug-o-war is “played to remove
all the vine material then it is laid in the center of the rows to be mulched up by tractors.

Meanwhile, back at the cantina, winter means time to rack wine. This means transfering all the wine in barrels to large s.s. tanks
then taking the barrels outside for steam cleaning after which the barrel stacks are rebuilt and refilled with wine, not bad
work on a sunny day here at the Fontanabianca winery in Neive. A great view of our new town in the background, Neive alto.

However this work can be miserable when your cold and wet and without any sunshine to warm you up.

If you are a shop keeper rather than a winemaker, you just close up shop for a few weeks and go south
to warm up. We have turned into weather wimps, back in Minnesota we would be very hapy with lows
of 30 and high’s in the 40’s, but now we are freezing in these temperatures and all bundled up like it
minus 20 F.

Visit to Bera in Neviglie

On a quest to find more good Alta Langa Sparkling wines we recently visited Bera in Neviglie.
We tried all the wines that were available and we’re very happy with what we found.
They have a full line of wines all done very well.
The Bera Brut Alta Langa was one of the best Alta Langa Spumante we have tried so far. It is a good representation of the Alta Langa DOC.
Made with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes grown above 400 meters to meet the requirements of the DOC along with being made “metodo classico” (meaning made like Champagne with a second fermentation in the bottle)
The wine was crisp, yeasty, toasty bread notes and the perfect dryness for our tastes.

The red wines were all of good quality consisting of Dolcetto, La Lena Barbera d’Alba, Langhe Nebbiolo, Sassito Langhe Rosso and
Barbaresco. Our favorite red was the Sassito Langhe Rosso, made from a blend of 70% Barbera, 20% Nebbiolo and 10% Merlot with 4 years aging, two of them being in wood. Tasty!

Lastly, we finished the tasting with a Moscato Passito “Nuovo Messagio”. We don’t drink a lot of Passito but this one really hit the spot.
Rich and spicy, not at all syrupy or cloying. We were tempted to drink the whole bottle!

Food and Wine

Some tastings turn into a “ drinking”, a good thing when the wine shows well as they did at a recent
tasting at the Rapalino winery in the village of Nevigle. Claudio Rapalino (shown) along with his
brother Marco, who are continuing the family tradition started by his father and grandfather.

As we’ve spoke of before there is a festival every week in many towns all over Italy.
Our town had a culinary fair showing off the famous local dishes, above is Bagna Cauda
made from anchovies, garlic and olive oil. Served as a hot sauce fondu style that you dip
raw meat and or vegetables into.

A hands on demo on making Tajarin as Tagliatelle is called locally. They are discussing
whether to use 35 or 40 egg yolks per kilo of flour ( no joking ) in this very rich hand cut
thin pasta.

Dolcetto in a Barrel ?

Yes it’s true the farther you get from Barbaresco and the closer one gets to Dolcetto di Dogliani
( the home of great Dolcetto) the more often you run in to a producer doing interesting things
with dolcetto such as the above photo of Dolcetto going through it’s Malolactic fermentation in an
french oak barrel (BARRIQUE) We’ve often felt most Dolcettos could use a little oak even though
we could get shot for thinking such lunecy here in Barbaresco

Last of the fall color on a rare clear day the whearher this fall has been very cloudy/rainy/drizly

So what better thing to do but go to a pary for a newly remodled and enlarged winery at Adriano

when your perents own a winery, one learns to pour wine like a pro before you finish grade school


OK it’s not really a wine bar but it’s the BOFFA winery in “downtown” Barbaresco
who has an outdoor patio where you can purchase a glass of their wine to enjoy
the sunset with a view of Mt.Viso.

Fantastic view of the Roero wine region across the Tanaro River just below the patio

Cotta is a big fan also, maybe because of all the salami treats she can nab

A very cool tasting room !

Over looking the last of Nebbiolo being harvested in Cru Montersino, just south of Trieso,
near the southern end of the Barbaresco region

Taking a couple of visitors to a tasting at CA’ ROME we think we’ve now seen the coolest
tasting room in all of Langhe. The wines are great too which we’ve known for a long time
but had never seen the cellar, only driven by about 200 times over the years. We had no
idea what we were missing.

Nebbiolo starting the long journy to become Barbaresco. This Nebbiolo is from Cru Cotta
from the Neive sub zone of the Barbaresco region and is under going one of it’s 4 to 5
daily pump overs.

Monforte Italy rocks!

With a recent group of visiting wine lovers we spent the day exploring Monforte d’Alba.
We started the day with a visit to Podere Rocche dei Manzoni winery (some times winery names
can be a bit to long) we’ve wanted to see the winery since their recent completion of a new
aging cellar.

It’s not all fun and games in wine country, we earned our lunch
by hiking through a dolcetto vineyard with a long climb to our
picnic spot.

Enjoying lunch in Monforte before touring Conterno Fantino
a very beautiful winery with great wines, they even make a chardonnay that Robert will drink.

Harvest 2010 !!

Harvest has started, first the whites Moscato, Arneis, Chardonnay, then in a few
weeks the reds, Dolcetto, Barbera followed by the king of grapes Nebbiolo.
Davide (on left) winemaker/owner of the Vigin winery gets some help from Teresio
loading Moscato grapes from his Canta vineyard just outside Treiso.

Robert chats with Davide’s father Lorenzo about this years harvest who is happy
with both the weather and the grapes. It’s early but so far 2010 looks good.

We were in Asti a few days ago and our usual parking spot was being covered with
dirt for the upcoming horse races called “Palio di Asti” a very big event.

The entire town is decorated with flags and banners.

Summer is fading

Now that summer is coming to an end, so is the “trimming the vines season”
Next up is harvest.

Living in a part of the world where the internet has not taking over we've learned
the best way to find out what is going on is to head to our local caffe (coffee shop)
and read the flyers posted on the bar front.They are very accurate and always up to date.

Cotta’s first visit to a Michelin starred restaurant Antine, she was a perfect
quest, she even got a tour of the kitchen where she showed off her
new “bang bang” trick to chef/owner Andrea Marino

In the vineyard

Helping out the neighbors (Vigin) in there moscatto vineyard. This is a very
old vineyard with narrow rows, with out enough space for a tractor to pass
for trimming the vines so this work must be done by hand.

This photo of our court yard shows the crazy weather we can have here in
Langhe surrounded by black clouds with a spot of sun in the center.

Summer should be called tractor season they go non stop 7 day a week
sun up to sun down this one spraying for powdery mildew in the valle grande
vineyard just out side Treiso.

Some times spraying is done by helicopter, trust me that black spot in the
clouds is a helicopter Robert will gladly except an old Telephoto lens for
his new digital rebel (good luck whit that)

The UK

Last week took a road trip to England to help a friend move some wine back
to Italy. We found in a bit strange after 650 miles through France saw no vineyards
but spotted this sign so we must have been close to Champagne.

Robert was in foodie heaven in the country only few hours and scored
some great Thai soup and ......lots of curry!

fantastic curry the national dish of England

And not to be forgotten the former dish of England fish and chips with
mushy peas.


Now here is something you don’t see in the states , at a recent town
festival the grade school was selling wine as a fund raiser.

yet another wine tasting this new event called N1 “nebbiolo-prima”
is mainly for wine writers, bloggers and buyers These producers look
like they will be glad to get home this evening, they must do alot events can
be very time consuming and hard on the feet.

Chiaro with our friend and fellow blogger, Darryl go over there tasting notes

2007 BARBARESCO'S are released !!

Getting ready for the first of three blind Barbaresco tastings
24 Tonight. Last Friday was the start of the annual
“iL Barbaresco A Tavola”

The British are coming! No it’s just our expat (friends) mate’s joining us for our weekly
english lessons (a few more years of this and we will be unable to speak American
at all).

When trying the new Barbaresco’s it is customary to taste through the wines two at a time, however
it will take’s us 4 1/2 hours to work our way through all 24 wines and the 7 course dinner.

Bud Break

Bud break is here. Soon all the vineyards will be crawling with workers
Trying to stay ahead of the vines.

We found a new spot for good food and music (yes Richard its jazz)
in the village of Barolo its name is Rosso Barolo They have a very
cool jazz bar downstairs

The wine program and wine list is top notch

Gavi or bust

Despite the advantages that GPS has endowed us with, it doesn’t always work. On a recent fact-finding mission to Gavi (and Tortona) we had a 10am appointment with www.morgassisuperiore.it so we put the address into TomTom and set off with plenty of time to spare. At 9.45am with just 4km to go, according to TomTom, we found ourselves on a snow covered icy track at the top of a hill with sheer drops either side. Not unusual in this part of the world where tracks through vineyards are sometimes considered major thoroughfares. We telephoned, apologised made a nervous 10 point turn and 30 minutes later were sampling the considerable delights of Timorasso and Cortese in the form of Gavi and a Gavi Superiore. Here were white wines with a complexity and length that is hard to find in Italy and that would benefit from some ageing. A desert wine, La Cortesia, was delightfully delicate and could serve as an aperitif, compliment foie gras and most deserts.

An excellent “workers’ lunch” in a cellar restaurant in Gavi set us up for the afternoon tastings. First was at http://www.lacolomberavini.it/ where we were again delighted by the Timorasso: Il Montino 2006 a first time 3 bicchiere Gambero Rosso award winner. A whole bunch of varietals were sampled including: Nibiò, Barbera, Croatina, Bonarda each with their own individual characteristics and some, along with a Cortese and Rosato, available “sfuso” (bring your own bottles!). Elisa and Piercarlo are excellent hosts and a favourite of David Berry at www.bbr.com.

Last but not least, we spent 2 1/2 hours in the delightful company of www.claudiomariotto.it/. Claudio is a passionate exponent of Timorasso and believes that it is exceptional and deserves a reputation ahead of Gavi. Hard to dispute in our opinion and the range of vintages opened proved that this wine can definitely improve with age. His Pitasso 2004, 2005 and 2006 all won 3 bicchiere. The reds were pretty decent too. The tasting was turning into a party as his brother Mauro and various colleagues turned up for a glass and cheese toasted on the stove but it was dark and snowing heavily and the driver was getting twitchy so we bade our farewells.

A lot more work

Wine makers are getting ready for a lot more work during the labeling
process, in the past the control tag (fascetta) was only required for D.O.C.G.
wines about 15 to 20% of their production. New laws in 2010 mean almost
all of their wines will need the control label.

Small producers who did this one at a time by hand in the past are
now looking for machines to do this tedious work.

However these machines don’t always get it right.

This is the closest thing to coffee to go in Italy, gotta love it!

Fun Wine

Living next to many different winemakers gives us the
opportunity to try their experiments, we’ve been drinking
our way through 100 liters of a Nebbiolo and Sav. Blanc
Rose blend made by our friend Enzo from La Ganghija.
Luckily for us Enzo didn’t care for the wine but we love it
and are happy to drink our way through it 2 liters at a time.

The other night at the neighbors we drank an 2003
Cortese it was fantastic not fresh and crisp the usual
descriptors used for this varietal but mellow and creamy
with tons of carmel

Road trip and snow

We did some scouting this weekend for our spring trips to the Franciacorta
wine region,which is about 3 hoursnorth east of Barbaresco.
Was fun but way too cold.

Our first snow arrived on the 17th of December, only 2 inches but enough for a
white Christmas.The garage is packed full with fire wood so Robert parks under
the bedroom balcony to maintain his recored of never scraping the car here in the
Langhe. He does not miss that old MN sport of scraping and shoveling snow.

Testing out the new stuffa, made it to 93 F

Treiso covered in snow.


A couple of weeks ago we went to a giant Barbera
wine tasting that was a great way to compare many different
producers using only one varietal.

There were 4 tables each with about 75 wines to pick from, almost 300 wines in total.

Chiaro and our friend Richard talking a break from some very hard work!

Cotta choosing our next wine to try.

Fall and Tastings

The fall colors this year is the best we've seen yet !
Another great tasting/winery tour with our expat friends at RESSIA
A very passionate wine maker Fabrizio

Fabrizio Ressia's line up of wines.

A must try and very interesting Dry Moscato this will be our aperitivo
wine next summer and our spicy food wine this winter.

Carlo (Darryl) Warning Chiaro to stop finding new producers who make great wine.
This is starting to get expensive !

More wine

This weekend was the annual "Barbaresco Week-End" wine tasting held in the
Barbaresco city hall. Chiaro with our expat friends Andrea and Lesley as we "work"
are way through 51 2006 Barbaresco's, La Ca Nova winery was the favorite
of the day. We exempt our usual favorites from judging Sottimano, Moccagatta,
Ca del Baio, Vigin, La Ganghija etc.

Everything is a family event in Italy, good training for Oliver

The quote of the day go's to Carlo a.k.a. Darryl " A nothing nose
with a hint of what i don't like"

The last pressing of 2009 at Vigin ( Cru Cotta ) this pomace is off to the
distillery to be made into Grappa (rocket fuel )

Birthdays and Tastings

Chiaro celebrating her 40th at her friend Chiara's 50th surprise birthday party at
La Ciau del Tornavento (way to go Bob). Yes that is a freshly sciabolaed
bottle of Cristal however we still prefer Bille.

birthday(week): wine at the Piacere Barbaresco tasting with our friend and
Treiso neighbor, Andrea. The tasting was a hit, they decorated the elementary
school gym like a vineyard.

A new event this year at the tasting was a hit. The 9 glasses in the background
had extracts of veris wine smells for to to try identifying, if you got all 9 correct
you win a bottle of Barbarecso

Zero tolerance in ITALY (NOT) you have to love a country that has a huge
wine tasting in their elementary school caffeteria along with a temp wine shop
in the front office. The tasting lasted through monday so, no school !!

A suprise find

Showing off a few of our favorite wineries to some recent visitors,
shown here is moccagatta. After this tasting we went to visit a winery
very close to our home, after driving by it for 2 years let's check it out .....

We soon realized what we were missing. We've had a few of their
wines over the years and always liked them but had never tasted through
their full line wow! The nose on the pinot noir smelled just like a Willamette
Valley pinot noir and tasted great. They also make some very unique whites.
we are going to be learning more about Poderi Colla

At dinner this past weekend we asked for some salt. Great idea and
presentation very cool! (salt and pepper is rarely seen on tables here in

Vineyard work

Spring has quickly turned into summer, the vines are growing very fast
and are in constant need of training and leaf pulling.

Even Robert, he's helpping the neighbors Vigin in their nebbiolo vineyard
"Cru Montersino" next to our home (in the back ground)

O.S.H.A. would have a field day here, however nobody seems to get hurt.

We spotted imported wine for the first time at the big super market in
Alba but nothing worth buying, bummer we miss Oregon Pinot noir

JAZZ & La Morra Barolo

Jazz is very popular here in Alba it's as if we've moved to Chicago except the
shows here are usually free, always outdoors and wine is everywhere.

If we don't show up at a tasting with puppy cotta we are not let in.

Cotta greeting her friend Nicola who organized today's tasting of barolo's
(2005) from the sub region La Morra. Below are a few standouts from todays
tasting (no special order)




There was only 720 bottles of IL LAURO made. Very strong
eucalyptus in the nose was catnip for Robert.

SAN BIAGIO also makes a Cru Barbaresco from Montersino
the vineyard our home is in, we're exited to try this wine soon.

Sign's of the times ?

On via Maestra, the main shopping street in Alba, a new wine bar opened last
week called GOLD, very upscale and flashy. (look for a full review in the future at
our Alba Wine Bar page)
Times must be good ?

Wow the first P.O.S. system we've seen in a bar in the area, the next thing you
know they'll be getting that internet thing.

Ever thing you need to know about gold is on the back wall

However on the other side of Alba we saw this sign

Times must be bad ?

More Wine !

we went to a Barbaresco tasting this past monday comparing
the 2005 and the 1999 vintage's of 20 or so different producers
all showed well but as to be expected the 99's were very charming.
some of our favorites below (no special order)


Summer is here so is the start of endless wine festivals.
Our first one this season was great, 3 euros gets you a glass and
there was lots of Barbera to try.

Taking a break from tasting Chiaro shows a producer her art work.
He invited us to tour his cantina later in the week.

The side streets are filled with venders selling cheese, art and even tractors.

10:00 in the morning and Chiaro has to wait in line for a taste of Barbera.

Sign's of Spring

Outdoor dining has returned

Vineyard workers burning brush between the road and vine row's

Trimming the hazelnut grove's for next winter's fire wood

Bottling Rosé outdoors!

This past monday we stopped by the Nada Giuseppe Winery to watch
them bottle their rosé. The equipment is a little more specialized ( for rosé )
so they are using a mobile bottling machine. All of their other wines are
bottled in the winery.

This self contained bottler is delivered by a flat bed truck, then setup on the ground.

Barbara loading bottles with Valle Grande vineyards in the background

Nella and Giuseppe along with there grandson filling cages that are moved into
the winery for labeling at a later date.

Rosé from 100% Nebbiolo, just in time for spring!

Visit to Sciorio in Costigliole d'Asti

We first met Giuseppe last fall at Eataly in Torino. He was pouring his
white wines, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, in the wine shop for
the customers to taste. We liked both of the Whites alot and bought some
that day. Last Friday, we finally made it to the winery and got to taste
all the wines and see the cellar. The winery has been in the family
for many generations and is today run by Giuseppe and his family.

We first tried some tried some young Barbera d'Asti right from the Botte
then finished our tasting upstairs where it was warmer.

Giuseppe's wines are a great example of a gem of winery, along with it's vineyards,
situated outside of the well known zones of Barbaresco and Barolo.
He pours alot of energy and unique ideas into varietals like
Barbera, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvingnon and Chardonnay.
We have found that wineries outside of the Langhe,
when they get it right, like here at Sciorio, the wines are a
tremendous value for the quality. We enjoyed all the wines, but
especially liked the Barbera d'Asti and the Monferrato Rosso(Syrah).
Sciorio does a private label for a restaurant in Portland, OR called
Alba Osteria & Enoteca. A place we are sure to check out next time we are
in Portland. Giuseppe said the food is very authentic Piemontese
which is a rare find in the US.

The cellar is very beautiful and will definitely be on Leslie's list to paint

Aperitivo !

What's an Aperitivo? Here in Piemonte the word becomes a verb meaning
let's meet for a drink. There are some noticeable differences from the American
In Italy it is always at a bar/cafe; these terms are interchangeable, hours are
from about 5:30 to 8:00(so you have time to get home for dinner, they eat
late here).
The drink of choice is usually wine, here in Alba bubbles are very
popular; Champagne, Franciacorta, Prosecco or local sparkling wine.
Food is always served with your drink order and is always
included in the price.
The food is bite sized snacks whose quality can vary
that you eat with a toothpick or your fingers.
Very trendy bars will sometimes offer their snacks buffet style on the counter.
Here are some examples of the snacks "stuzzichini":

Bulgarian Bubbles?

What can be more interesting than trying new bubbles
from off the radar wine regions.
Recently we tried a wine from Bulgaria.

Edoardo Miroglio
Brut Rose
Metodo Classico 2006

It appears to be vintage, the label says 2006, but we are not
clear on Bulgarian wine laws.
It was disgorged in September 2008.

We poured some and gave it a try. Light salmon in color with a fine bead
of bubbles. Looks promising. We try a taste. Very dry and crisp with
lots of cherries and fresh cranberries. Balanced with a nice yeast component.
Fairly strong enjoyable yeasty finish. We approve.

A few days later we tried their rose made from Pinot Noir even though
it was a 2005 still showed lot of fruit. Makes us want to try a current vintage.

A GREAT FIND: Casa della Torre

You sure can't judge a wine bar by it's door. We have been walking
by this place for years and finally gave it a try, once inside we found the
perfect definition of a vineria (think wine bar mixed with coffee shop,
neither of which exists separately in Italy). The place is great and the staff very
friendly, it's called Casa della Torre. It is located on a side street off the
main walking street in Alba. From this lesson we have decided to give
the other wine bars we've been walking by a chance and do little "mini" reviews
on all the wine bars in Alba(This could take awhile, there are ALOT of wine bars).

A back bar to be proud of with great stemware along with very serious
coffee. By definition a vineria is not a restaurant, however you wont go

With every glass of wine you get a fancy plate of snacks, always delicious
but varies day to day, hour to hour. The wine by the glass is unusual too,
most vinerias in the area only serve local wine, but this place always has some wine
from someplace else, like Chile, Spain or other regions in Italy.
This is great because we go a little crazy drinking barbera and nebbbiolo
everyday, even though we love it. It also has ample choices for "bollicine" bubbles.
Bubbles are the most popular aperitivo in Piedmont wine bars. You don't see
very much Prosecco but alot of Franciacorta, Champagne and of course, locally
produced bubbles which most are quite good.

Bugs in wine

Nearing the end of our 2nd harvest. I finally get the joke producers (wine makers)
tell about why vegetarians shouldn't drink wine.

This nebbiolo is getting a little extra air during it's pump over.

Fall is just around the corner

Veraison (grape ripening) has begun in the vineyard behind our home, harvest will be here soon

Very happy to hack our iphone !!! works great wow email at home what a great idea
( Wine - Mustella)