I’ve been negligent in keeping up with this, one of my favorite pieces to write on my blog. I have various reasons for that which I will share with you simply for therapeutic purposes. Susie and I have moved from our spot out at Roche Harbor, to a place closer to town. I don’t know about you, but I hate moving. It takes a lot of time to get settled into a new place, and it certainly screws with your schedule. So, instead of getting up early to accomplish necessary tasks around the new place, I decided to get busy writing again, and there is no better place to start than Bits & Bobs.
The cool thing about this new house is the outbuilding which will serve as a new studio for my Youtube channel. It also has a great place for me to store my wine! It’s an older building, so it is taking a lot of work to get it ready for shooting episodes. As a result, I have not put an episode up since my interview with Marilisa Allegrini which I shot while in Fumane, at Villa Della Torre, an estate owned by Allegrini which has been transformed into a place for folks to stay, (they have some very tasteful rooms to rent) a tasting room and a really cool place to host guests. I am getting ready to start shooting episodes again and should get things going in another week. It’s really hard for me because I have some momentum going on the channel and I hate to lose that.
Going back to our experiences while in Italy, it was a highlight of my career to have an opportunity to interview Marilisa Allegrini. If you haven’t had a chance to watch it, I encourage you to take a moment and check it out. Marilisa and her brother own this winery in the area of Verona, and their flagship wine Amarone, is some of the best in the world. We actually uncorked a bottle to drink during the interview. To put things in perspective, it was only four days to Vin Italy, one of the biggest wine tasting events in the world, held in Verona. Of course, Marilisa is deeply involved in this event. They were preparing Villa Della Torre for hosting three rather large parties for those who would be attending Vin Italy. There was a lot going on, and despite that, she took the time to be interviewed and have lunch with Susie and me. That is something I will never forget, so please take some time to watch the interview, she is a special person.
While Susie and I were in Italy, I wrote a couple of articles about our stay in the Barolo region. I hope you had a chance to read them. We visited the wineries of Vietti and Oddero. It is always special to visit wineries in the old world. The scenery in the Barolo/Barbaresco region is stunning. During our visit to each winery, I had a chance to taste through some amazing wines.
I have so much more to write about our trip, but for now I will close by thanking all of you for your support and comments. It inspires me to keep up with my writing.
I think that most of my readers know that when it comes to value wines, one does not have to look any further than Spain. I know that most of my picks for the month come from this great wine producing country. However, there are many other spots in the world to find wines of good quality without the big price-tag. Portugal is one of my go-to spots for finding such wines aside from Spain. Being Spain’s next-door neighbor probably doesn’t hurt. It is from Portugal that I have discovered an amazing red blend at a price most anyone can afford.
May Pick Of The Month
2014 C Santos Lima Confidencial Reserva Tinto (Lisboa, Portugal)… $13.
It’s called Confidencial Tinto because it’s a smart-ass way of keeping the grapes that are used in the blend confidential. That is a pet peeve of mine, but I’ll let it go this time. Whatever the blend, it has resulted in a deliciously complex red that will satisfy both the new and old world palate.
Blackberries all day on the nose with dark cherries and earth underneath, with a hit of tobacco and leather. Smooth, structured tannins, support notes of blackberry and dark cherry notes. Intense and balanced at the same time. Earth and leather lie underneath the fruit notes with a kiss of tobacco and minerals. A delicious and long finish with notes of minerals and tobacco holding court and leather coming in late. For thirteen bucks you get a whole lot of wine, with complexity, and a nice balance of fruit and minerals. I would suggest decanting this for about an hour before consumption and you will be rewarded tenfold. (B+)
Unfortunately we were only able to visit two wineries in the Piedmont region due to scheduling issues. However our last stop before heading to the Italian Riviera was Poderi e Contine Oddero, and it was well worth the stop.
One of the oldest wineries in Barolo, their first bottling was 1878. We were greeted by seventh generation Oddero, Isabella, granddaughter of Giacomo Oddero who at 95 years old is still deeply involved in the winery. Oddero is located in the Santa Maria, La Mora region of Barolo. Aside from vineyards located in the Barolo region, they also have vineyards in Barbaresco, which as Isabella pointed out are a little more difficult to manage because of the distance from the winery. All of the fruit they source is estate fruit with total holdings of 35 Hectares or 86+ acres. Certified organic, Isabelle spoke of the challenge of maintaining organic practices, but also noted that it is for the benefit of future generations. She also expounded on the challenge of viticulture as the effects of global warming are becoming more and more evident. She pointed out the challenges of vineyard and canopy management as temperatures increase each year. Her passion for viticulture and deep respect for her grandfather were evident.
Isabelle took us into the winery and the first room was filled with artifacts that Giacomo has saved from the winery past. It was quite interesting to see the equipment used in the days of yesteryear. Oddero has not allowed themselves to be influenced by the wine critic superstars who have tried to encourage wineries to adopt new world practices in the old world. They firmly adhere to old-world practices in handling fickle Nebbiolo, the grape of Barolo and Barbaresco. Large puncheons are employed in the aging of the juice with the oldest holding 10,500 liters (this is it’s last year, being 65 years old). Their philosophy is to properly manage the vineyards, so they will produce excellent fruit and then make sure they don’t screw it up in the winemaking process. As most wineries will tell you, winemaking starts in the vineyard and Oddero practices that philosophy vehemently. They ferment each vineyard lot separately and then blend them carefully to attain the quality they are looking for.
No new oak for their Barolo or Barbaresco! However, they do use new oak for their Barbera, simply because Barbera is low in tannins and it responds better to new oak. After using the barrels for a couple of years for Barbera, it is ready to nurse the Nebbiolo. Oddero is looking for expressive wines, that reflect terroir and the vintage. They are both feminine and powerful at the same time and will benefit greatly with aging.
Isabella spent some time explaining how her grandfather, Giacomo and several other wineries pulled together to protect the integrity of the Barolo region. Today, the designation D.O.C.G. for both Barolo and Barbaresco was spearheaded by her grandfather. Giacomo also made sure that only grapes grown and wines made in the Barolo or Barbaresco regions could have that appellation on their label. He is a man of action and integrity, and it is obvious that this intensity and passion has been passed on to his children and grandchildren.
After the tour of the cellar, Isabella tasted me on a few of their wines. I was most excited to be one of the first to taste their Riesling which is a new experiment for them. In one of their vineyards which we could see from the winery, they tore out all the Chardonnay vines and replaced them with Riesling.
The Riesling had a nose straight out of Germany with hits of petrol and rubber boot. It was light on the palate with notes of petrol, mandarin orange and hits of white pepper. I think they are on to something and I’m excited to see how it will evolve. It had just been bottled, so I know it will change a bit over time. We tasted through their reds and I have to tell you that I felt as if I were in Nebbiolo heaven. Although we started with the Barbera D’Alba (which was exceptional) the rest were Nebbiolo.
The 2017 Oddero Langhe Nebbiolo was definitive Nebbiolo. Rust, red flowers and a touch of herbs with earth and strawberry notes lying underneath. This is their entry level Nebbiolo and if you want to know what Oddero is all about, this is an excellent place to start.
Isabella couldn’t say enough about the 2016 vintage. Their 2016 Oddero “Gallina” Barbaresco certainly is a testament to the quality of the vintage. Very aromatic with notes of red flowers, pomegranate and licorice. On the palate it is somewhat open-knit, making it approachable at a young age. Don’t misunderstand me, this baby will age easily for up to twenty years. However, it is friendly now. Notes of tart cherries, pomegranate, red flowers, spices and licorice with just a hint of coffee. Nice expansion on the mid-palate where just a touch of rust lets you know it’s Nebbiolo. Beautiful integration and balance, it begs you to pair it with food. This baby is all about elegance, finesse and old world at its best.
We tasted through several of their Barolo, including the 2015 and 2011 “Brunate”, and the 2015 “Villero”, all Cru vineyards. Their straight up Barolo, which is an incredible value, is a result of blending three Cru vineyards. The topping on the tasting cake was the 2009 Oddero “Vignarionda” Riserva Barolo. With ten years under its belt, it was starting to show the intention of the winemaker. Worn leather, herbs, cherries and pomegrante defined the palate with meaty, refined tannins. Notes of mushroom sneak in underneath with a kiss of coffee bean and hints of fennel. I was amazed at how well this gem was showing its aging potential. It could easily go another ten to fifteen years, although I don’t know if I would have the patience, as it is drinking so incredible now.
I was blown away at the opportunity to visit such an iconic winery in this well-known region of Italy. The chance to taste such incredible wines and meet a seventh generation Oddero is a highlight in my wine career and one I won’t forget.
The moment we started planning our trip to Piedmont and the land of Barolo and Barbaresco, I got butterflies in my stomach. I have long been a fan of this old world wine region. The reds of Barolo and Barbaresco are some of the best in the world and some of the few that find themselves aging in my cellar. Barbera is the staple red of this region and one of the best food wines you will find, with its nice balance of acidity, fruit and earthiness. Dolcetto is also in abundance with Arneis being the most common white wine you will find there.
The plan was to visit three wineries while we stayed in Castiglione Falletto, an appellation in the Barolo region with a quaint little village and of course, a tower! Our first winery visit was Vietti.
Tasting The Wines of Vietti with Emanuela
Emanuela guided us through the winery of Vietti with her impressive knowledge of the wine region and wine in general. Vietti, like most wineries in the Barolo and Barbaresco region, started off small. Now, with the popularity of the wines growing, Vietti found that their humble beginnings could not keep up with demand for their wines. They built a second winery down the hill from Castiglione Falletto to handle their mainstay wines and devoted the original winery to their vineyard designate Barolo and Barbaresco. Their cellar was impressive, made up of several floors dug underneath the winery. As they grew, they expanded underneath to try and keep up, finding this impossible, thus adding another facility.
Just one of the many barrel rooms underneath the winery filled with puncheons.
Running out of room!
It was quite interesting to listen to Emanuela discuss the techniques employed by the winemakers. Terms like “submerged cap” was a new one to me. During initial fermentation, a cap is formed on the fermenting grape juice which is either punched down to stir, or they pump from underneath the cap, over the top to break it up. Many wineries in the Barolo and Barbaresco region employ a tactic called submerged cap. At some point during the fermentation process, after punching down or pumping over, they allow the cap to form, then submerge it into the juice for a period of time. The submerged cap is meant to add complexity to the wine that simply punching down or pumping over will not achieve. Nebbiolo is a thick-skinned highly tannic grape but lacks color. Submerging the cap also gives the wine a little more color. Of course, this technique is only used on better vintages.
Another practice that is used throughout this region is the use of 5,000 to 5,500-liter puncheons. Most barrels used in both the new world and old world wine-making are 225-liter barrels or barriques, which is what most of us are familiar with. The larger oak puncheons used in Barolo and Barbaresco are generally used with Nebbiolo after they have been used for aging Barbera which benefits from new oak contact. After being used for a couple of years, they now use them to age Nebbiolo, the grape of both Barolo and Barbaresco. Emanuela explained to us that Nebbiolo, unlike other varietals, does not do well with new oak treatment. Because it is already high in tannins, the new oak just adds more tannins, making it austere and tight. Therefore, they like to age Nebbiolo in neutral puncheons, of which some are used for over 50 years! Why such large and expensive vessels to age the wines? Emanuela explained that they allow very little oxygen to reach the juice while it is aging which is critical since the wine is in barrel much longer than average. By the way, puncheons can run between $14,000 – $25,000 per unit depending on the size. That is a huge investment, and one of the reasons why both Barolo and Barbaresco tend to cost a little more at the store. However, compared to some wines they are a value.
After our tour, Emanuela opened a few bottles for me to taste. I was very impressed with all their wines including a dry and delicious Arneis (one of the best I’ve had), a Dolecetto, Barbera, “Perbacco” Nebbiolo, Barbaresco and Barolo. Keep your eyes open for the 2016 vintage out of Piedmont. The winemakers are very impressed with this vintage, saying it is the best of the millennium so far. The 2016 Vietti “Perbacco” Nebbiolo is proof of that. Excellent balance and integration of fruit, acidity and tannins. It will certainly age but is drinking fabulous now. Notes of strawberries, sour cherries, leather, tobacco and just a touch of rust with a solid backbone of red flowers and a long finish. I have long supported Vietti, and I was glad to have a chance to visit them.
The next day, Susie and I set off for Oddero, one of the oldest producers of Barolo and Barbaresco with their first bottling in 1878. That will be the subject in “The Land Of Piedmont” Part II.