Saturday in Piemonte was an immense day. After a relatively relaxed 9.45 start we arrived in Barbaresco a mere 15 minutes later from our hotel in Alba. This wonderful DOCG wine region is made up of many different parcels and many varied soils and microclimates. At Bruno Rocca, you get the most amazing perspective of the natural amphitheatre of vines which make up the Rabaja vineyard.
Bruno first bottled wine under his own label in 1978, prior to which all their fruit had been sold to other producers. The estate has gone from strength to strength and now is one of the most highly regarded estates in the region.
Elena gave us a brief overview of the estate before we headed into the elegant tasting room for a quite sensational tasting. Seven wines ranging from Chardonnay through Barbera to a selection Barbaresco and Riserva Barbaresco. Elena was exceptionally eloquent and detailed in the presentation of the terroir, the assemblage of the wines and conducted the tasting with great charm and humour. A terrific start to the day.
Just a five minute ride away was Rabaya ristorante in Barbaresco village. The place was heaving with Italian families and oozed a relaxed, enjoyable atmosphere. The promised light lunch was delivered and we munched our way through a pumpkin creation, slow braised beef and a trio of stunning desserts – all washed down with some delicious Arneis, a Barbaresco 2006 and some Moscato d’Asti.
After a quick pitstop in Alba we headed down to Barolo where our destination was one of my favourite estates, GD Vajra. Very much a family run estate, third generation Guiseppe Vajra hosted our visit with great humour and self deprecation. The place was very busy and almost the whole family was out in force, welcoming and guiding people through the winery and hosting tastings. We caught glimpses of Aldo and Milena, the current owners, and Isi – the youngest of their three children. Only Francesca, who has hosted us previously, was missing due to being in the US.
We tasted through Riesling – a surprise for everyone – Barbera d’Alba, Freisa and four contrasting Barolos including an aged 2008 Luigi Baudana.
There was just enough time to get back to the hotel, change and head out to the World Truffle market which takes place every Autumn in Alba. A gourmet heaven, the place was redolent with the unmistakeable aroma of this incredible fungus as well as full of stalls with fresh cheeses, salami, hazlenuts and more. Too much to do and not enough time!
Dinner was held at the Michelin starred Larossa Ristorante in Alba. Modern and contemporary we settled into a quite extraordinary and very different type of meal. Billed as five courses and five wines, we lost count of all the little extras before the first course arrived.
Everything was delicate precise and exquisitely presented. Raw veal in a miso broth, veal tongue with foie gras and rich reduction, a rare fish from the pacific, an amazing raspberry and chocolate dessert. A feast for the senses and paired with a superb selection of wines.
There was no let up on our final day. 9.30 departure and we were on our way to Strevi about an hour east of Alba.
This is where you find the wonderful Marenco estate. Family owned, it comprises 80 hectares of Moscato, Bracchetto, Albarossa, Barbera, Dolcetto and various others.
This is my all time favourite winery, which we have been visiting since 2006 and the warmth of welcome we receive is truly breathtaking.
Gian and Michaela hosted our visit as always and we piled into a couple of cars for a quick tour of the vineyards and the stunning views from their farmhouse surrounded by vines.
Then it was back to the winery for a tasting of a selection of their wines, accompanied by delicious salami, stunning cheeses, pan fried ravioli and this was before lunch! Michaela and Gian are delightful hosts and you immediately feel totally at ease as they convey their passion for their wines.
They both joined us for lunch at Ristorante La Curia in Acqui Terme which was another high quality affair.
Elegantly plated starters of polenta, porcini, squid followed by a variety of pastas, cheese and dessert.
Max was a genial host and we washed it all down with sparkling Piemontese wine, Timorasso, Dolcetto and of course the Marenco Moscato d’Asti.
A fabulous end to an intense but highly enjoyable tour.