Today is our last day in Barolo…our Italian vacation is coming to an end! After a slow breakfast we drove through the area to see some of the other local villages.
The first was Serralunga…another hilltop town. We climbed our way to the top and stopped to take pictures. There were barely any places open…we have been told that this month many Italians take there vacation, so some of the shops and restaurants are closed. European vacation is much different from US vacation…on average we get about 2 weeks and Europeans seem to get about 4-6 weeks.
We continued onto our next place which was Monforte. This town had its old center on one side and its newer part of town on the other. We saw a large church in the newer area and stopped to take a look inside and snap some pictures before heading to the old center. After walking through the wall that surrounded the center we saw this town was an uphill through the cobblestone streets. As we walked up the main street, we saw an alley with a restaurant called, La Salita (www.lasalita.it).
We quickly realized we were in a restaurant which made very good food. The breads were all homemade as was the pasta and ice-cream. We ordered a tasting menu to split between us. The first course was steak tartare and a Russian salad. The tartare (raw meat) was served with a creamy goat cheese which was the consistency of butter. The Russian salad had peas, carrots and potatoes all mixed into mayonnaise. The tartare was the better dish. The second course was their house made potato gnocchi…served in a light olive oil with shavings of parmesan cheese and black truffle. The gnocchi was so chewy…it was like little pieces of doughy goodness. The third course was lightly seared steak served with sliced grilled tomatoes and hand-cut fries. Our tasting menu ended with a homemade strawberry ice-cream which was so light and creamy…and a chocolate cookie. Oh and did I mention each course was served with a glass of local wine? This restaurant was legit…
Since we decided it was necessary to eat a 4 course menu for lunch…it was nice to burn off those calories as we hiked to the top of the old town. We recognized the same brick/clay colored roof-tops and buildings, and of course we were rewarded with a spectacular view once at the top. After our climb back down, we drove through a couple other small villages before heading back to our B&B, which was holding a tasting in the wine cellar.
Of course we had a great time tasting the many many many wines of Cascina del Monestero (our B&B). There was one other English speaking couple on the private tasting/tour and the wine maker…who spoke all Italian. He walked us through the cellar having us taste the various types and vintages straight out of the barrels as we talked and tried to translate the Italian to English. After the barrel tasting, he brought us into the old stone tasting room where he had 10 different bottles lined up for tasting! He showed us the wine cork opener, pointed to the wine bottles and said he would be back. The four of us looked at each with smiles and began pouring. Now, maybe his intentions were for us to pick what we wanted to taste out of the line-up but how were we supposed to know which ones we liked without tasting them all? Hours went by…the winemaker would come in and out watching us drink. We decided to share a bottle of our Montefalco, Sagrintino with him, and we had to pour it through the little hand blown Murano glass decanter we had purchased in Chianti. He liked the wine…asking where it was from as he poured himself a second glass, but he loved the decanter. He made his wife come in to taste it and write down the website of the decanter for themselves.
Being it was after 9pm, we thanked everyone and walked up to our room where we ate some of our picnic foods and watched a movie before bed.
Red, itchy, rashy bumps…they started on Giff’s arms and then slowly creeped up around his neck and chest. At first, it seemed like a mosquito attacked him (he had about 40 bites on his arm and hand ) but then tiny little bumps started forming around the “bug bites” and he was constantly scratching. Giff started to research rashes on the Internet and then started researching bed bugs…what if? After a couple weeks of freaking ourselves out with what the rash could be, we went to the hospital to have him checked.
The hospital seemed more organized than Barcelona. It was similar to going to the DMV. You take a number, wait for it to be called…go to the window and explain what is needed. Then you go to a different part of the hospital depending on the need which in our case was the dermatologist, sign in at that counter and wait for the doctor. Thankfully, there was one person who spoke English and assisted us through the system. He took us to the second counter and spoke in Italian to the women who eventually had us take a seat. He came later to check in on us which was really nice. After about an hour, the doctor called Giff, and I was not allowed to accompany him. 20 minutes later, Giff came out with a prescription for cortisone pills and was given a cortisone shot in the bootie. He said the doctor didn’t speak a word of English…the trip was kind of a waste. They gave us a piece of paper and told us to go pay at the front counter. The English speaking guy at the front told us not to pay and if the rash didn’t settle down by the next day to come back.
We headed straight to Barolo to find lunch. It was raining and the restaurant was packed. We sat at a table and ordered risotto di Barolo which was an extremely rich creamy risotto infused with the local red wine. We ate lunch chatting with the people sitting next to us and then decided to check out a few other small villages in the area.
First, we stopped at an Enoteca which we found out was a cooperative for the area…meaning they took grapes from numerous farmers, blended it all together and made wine. We tasted a few of the wines and discussed the differences. We weren’t overly impressed, so decided not to purchase any bottles .
As we continued our drive towards the village of La Morra, we couldn’t resist pulling over on the side of the road to appreciate the utter beauty surrounding us. There were miles and miles of perfectly trimmed vines and farmland as far as the eye could see with little hilltop villages peppered throughout the landscape. We pulled the tripod out and took some pictures inside the vineyards as we tried to capture the scenery on film.
The village of La Morra was teeny and very quiet. We walked around a bit, buying an ice cream first and stopping at the lookout point which stood tall above the rest of the area. We took pictures of the statues, church and clock tower and after our short walk had seen La Morra.
We drove back to our B&B to unwind and enjoy our relaxing evening, eating our left over Parmesan, peaches and wine for dinner.
We found La Cascina del Monestero ( http://www.cascinadelmonastero.it) and got settled into our new B&B. We were excited to see it was a wine making property. The rows and rows of vines surrounded the huge house on all sides. The rooms were spacious and the property also had a pool in the back with a large outside patio. We sat out on the back patio staring at the vines, drinking a glass of wine and doing some “work” on the Internet. We spent most of the day watching the time go by and enjoying the beautiful property.
For dinner, we drove to the well-known town of Barolo…home of some of the best wines in the world. It was raining and a Sunday so many things were closed but we looked around the small streets and found a quaint restaurant for dinner, Enoteca Della Posta di Barolo.
This restaurant had a cute little patio with about 5 tables outside. The rain had stopped, so we sat outside and ordered a big salad followed by one homemade pasta in Bolognese sauce and one homemade pasta in a cherry tomato/basil sauce. The tomato sauce won the prize of one of the best pastas of our trip. The sweet caramelized onion was cooked down until it formed a thick scrumptious sauce and balanced beautifully with the stewed fresh tomatoes and basil. It sounds so simple but was so amazing….each bite one would just want to chew slowly and savor the divine juices flowing down one’s throat. When the waiter came over to take away our dishes, he asked if we wanted dessert and we ordered the same tomato pasta dish again. Who says dessert has to be sweet?
Well, having three pasta dishes seemed like a good idea at the time but once we were digesting…we realized we were extremely full. It was dusk and turning dark but we finished looking at the small town walking to the end of the street and taking some pictures of the big church and view of the valley below.
After our evening stroll we went back to our place, watched a bit of TV and fell fast asleep.
As we drove through the area of Piedmont we looked around pointing to which house we would like…is it the one in the bottom of the valley surrounded on all sides by perfectly groomed vines or the one at the top of the mountain looking down at all of the valley? We have seen a lot of vineyards in a lot of countries but this area has some of the most beautiful of them all. To add to the beauty…the grapes were starting to turn from green to a deep purple…we tasted a couple off the vine and they were already sweet.
Barbaresco was a darling village full of wine shops sitting on a hill surrounded by its vineyards. After a quick visit to the tourist office, we walked into a cathedral that had been turned into a wine tasting building. The ceilings and walls had ornate detail in both the paintings and woodwork, the way one would expect a church to look like…but inside were also numerous bottles of wine and a counter in the back of the room for tasting. This town makes a living on wine…everywhere we turned was wine….wine…wine. We tasted a couple of wines and chatted with the women who educated us on the various regions in the area. She talked about the typical wine in the area being less “oaky” than typical CA wines. We left looking for two other tasting rooms that had been recommended.
The village was basically one long street a few blocks long. We saw the place we were looking for, Cantina Boffa (www.boffacarlo.it). We picked out a couple of bottles we wanted to taste noting in the Chianti/Umbria area tastings were free vs Piedmont…the tastings were all at a charge more like the Napa Valley area at home although not as expensive. They had us sit on the back patio which had sweeping views of the vineyards while we sipped our wine and relaxed in the sun. They brought us some complimentary cheese and crackers and had us taste an additional wine before we purchased two bottles and went on our way.
We stopped in two additional tasting rooms, the first was Gigi Bianco (www.gigibianco.it) where the owner sat down and discussed her wines with us explaining the business had been in her family and was handed down to her. We liked what we tasted and bought a bottle although we realized Barbaresco wine is not exactly a bargain wine…but tasty all the same.
The last wine shop we visited preferred we don’t mention their name but they spoke no English…not even a drop and it was quite comical nodding our heads as he spoke fast and assumed we were picking up some of what he was saying…but we weren’t. It was very fun though tasting the different vintages. He would write down on a piece of paper a year like 1995, he would disappear for a few minutes and come back with a glass of wine he had just gotten from the tank of 1995 red wine. We would taste it as he talked about it in Italian and we nodded our heads, and then the whole scenario would repeat. He would write down another year like 1990, disappear and be back again with a different wine. Although we were having fun…we had an appointment with a vineyard in another town and were already very late…who knows how many years he would have gone back but we had to cut off the fun and head out of Barbaresco.
We were about 45 minutes late to our appointment in the city of Bra at a winemaker called Ascheri (www.ascherivini.it). Thankfully, they were ok with our tardiness and jumped right into our tour. One of the managers walked us through the warehouse showing us the machinery, huge metal tanks and dozens of barrels both the huge barrels and smaller ones. He talked about their wine making process, the local grape varieties and impact of different soil on each vineyard. He then walked us into the factory portion of their warehouse where they were actually bottling one of the white wines. He talked us through what the machine was doing pointing from the start where the machine turned the bottle upside-down (to make sure nothing was inside) to the nitrogen placed in the bottle so that when the wine was being placed inside, it would not come into contact with oxygen.
After our full private tour, we followed our guide into the tasting room where they had a plate full of local cheese and the city’s local sausage which dates back many generations and is found homemade from secret recipes throughout Bra. We picked a few wines to taste and he opened each bottle for us to compare and contrast. We were a bit buzzing by this point…it was a very long day of tasting local wines! We bought a few bottles and then walked around a bit to see the city.
For dinner, we just stayed in enjoying the property at our B&B and munching on the cheese and fruit we had purchased. Tomorrow we will drive just about 30 minutes or so to our next B&B to stay in the Barolo area for a few days.
Our early day started in a town called Canale…today marked the first day of their peach festival which was the main cash crop from many years ago. We had a scheduled visit with a local winemaker first and circled through the area several times until we finally found the vineyard.
Giacomo Vico ( http://www.giacomovico.it ) is a boutique vineyard dating back a couple of generations. Their vineyard was tightly planted on a steep hill resulting in the need to hand-pick each grape…it would be challenging trying to get machinery up there. We were given a warm welcome and through our English, their Italian and many hand gestures we had a great time spending a few hours walking through the warehouse, cellar and of course tasting the wine. We purchased a bottle after much conversation and thanked them for their time before driving the few blocks into the town center.
Canale was very lively with locals filling the streets and various bands marching up and down the alleys. There were wooden crates full of fresh and very ripe peaches being sold for a great price. We didn’t exactly need a crate of 18 peaches but couldn’t resist the temptation.
With our peaches and wine, we left the cheery town of Canale to see what else was in the area. We quickly realized we were driving through massive orchards full of peaches…we got out to take a few pictures and took just one that had fallen to the ground. As we continued to drive we pulled into a lot that overlooked a beautiful countryside area of vines. We took out the tripod and played, posing for the camera. After our modeling we ended up in the small village of Castellinaldo.
The village was teeny tiny and built on the top of a hill. We drove to the top and had lunch in what seemed like the only restaurant in town. We had homemade pasta with a Bolognese sauce and risotto. The food was very cheap and decent. We ate, took a few pictures at the top of the views and then hurried to our last vineyard appointment of the day, Chinato Della Tenuta.
Although the daughter-in-law of the winemaker was extremely friendly and knowledgeable about their wines…we couldn’t even find one wine we liked. They were so nice to spend hours with us discussing the local grape varieties and process of making the wine etc., but unfortunately we just didn’t like what they put in their bottles. They make so many different types of wine, sparkling to aperitif’s to white and red, sweet and dry…we thought maybe they should focus on just a couple of types and do it really well vs spreading themselves so thin.
We drove through more beautiful countryside before finding dinner at Pizzeria Forno a Legna Ristorante. It was a random restaurant on the side of the road between villages but we decided to give it a try. Why do we feel the need to eat so much food in one sitting? Do we think the food will not be available tomorrow? Let me be clear…I do not like feeling so stuffed that I am in pain, but that said…who is really going to turn down homemade Italian food?
We ordered tube pasta with a vegetable tomato sauce and a carbonara dish to start, wait no…we started with a salad then each had a pasta and then shared a pizza! It was excellent food and priced right. With our filled to the rim stomachs hanging over our pants, (so not hot) we drove back to our place and called it a night.