Sunday, April 27, 2008

Elephants Are Dancing in Alba

Finally, an appointment we weren’t too late for. We were already in Alba, so chances were we wouldn’t get lost. I felt us getting closer. After a bit of friendly correspondence with Bruna Manzone from Ceretto we were finally there. We would be their guests for two nights at Bricco Rocche.

Everything about Ceretto can be summed up in this phrase: The elephants are dancing.
There is a bit of controlled chaos in the current cycle of the Ceretto Empire. I think it is an exciting time.

Piedmont has really hits its stride in these days. They seem to be at peace with their markets, having spread out to a larger world base while still keeping their uniquely provincial perspective. They have jazz and foam and Spada and can be in Milan in little time or anywhere they want to be. Many of the young winemakers spend time in New York; some of them even have flats there. So this quiet little Langhe can serve to recast their ambitions for the larger world stage.

The wines are made for the world at large and when in history can one say that about Italian wines with more resolve than now? So the travel and the exposure have paid off.

The plan was to meet in the afternoon and tour one of the Ceretto wineries, do a little tasting and then the next day visit several more and finish with lunch at one of the family restaurants called Piazza Duomo.

Confession: I have struggled in Texas with getting the Ceretto wines off the ground in the manner in which they seem to have been accepted in some of the more cosmopolitan world markets. These are not Bar-B-Q and Barbaresco wines. What started out years ago as a conscious effort to strive for higher expression of winemaking aiming toward sophisticated levels of cuisine, what some might even call alto-borghese, has not always been how things in Texas have played out. That is changing, ever so slowly. One should not be too old to hope to see it eventually come to a fuller realization. I anticipate eagerly, living long enough to witness it.

After a tour with Ellan, their young American assistant, and a tasting with Gianluca Picca, a sommelier and now sales manager for the family, we drove to Castiglione Falletto where Bricco Rocche sits. It is easy enough to find with the glass cube that marks the space. But oddly, when one spends time there, waking up early in the fog and walking around the grounds, one feels a little awed about being able to sleep around the vines that create so much joy for people around the world. I guess I’ll never really get over something like that; the urban dweller in me finds it hard to believe.

I love going to Castiglione Falletto, it seem like the heart of the Barolo zone, to me.

We had a long day of driving hard and hitting several wineries, so my colleague and I opted for beer and pizza the first night, a little break from all the great new expressions of la cucina Italiana that we had been witnessing the past few days. The next day we were slated for a lunch with Federica Ceretto at the Piazza Duomo restaurant in Alba, one of the family culinary jewels.

As the new day dawned, we would be going to Barbaresco, to the winery in Asili, for some barrel tasting. We went in the car with Gianluca, a transplanted Roman, who travels 40% of the time. He lives above the winery in Asili and loves it, when he has those rare moments at his home base. He seems to have assimilated quite nicely into the Langhe environment; I saw an intense and engaged face as he walked around the cellars.

Later on, in Alba, we met up with Federico, or Fedé as he was called. Fedé reminds me of an Italian Bono with a dollop of Elvis Costello. His is an animated young man who has definitely sewn some of his wild oats. Now he is engaged and will be married later this spring, and is drawn up in the pageant of the family celebration. We sat in the restaurant below the sprawling Francesco Clemente fresco.

Chef Enrico Crippa sees Piazza Duomo as an international dining destination. Influenced by a youthful stay with Gualtiero Marchesi, and three years spent for him in Japan. Pristine food, fresh ingredients not over manipulated, wonderful flavors, colors, aromas, the whole gestalt of the table. And the Ceretto wines, where they shined brilliantly with the meal.

You can read elsewhere about the wines of the family. My intent is to encourage you to visit Alba and find the wellspring where the wines and the food pay respect to the same goddess, Mother Earth.

And to be baptized with Moscato d’ Asti in this shrine, that is a dream, from the Wine Trail in Italy.


Anonymous said...

Like the Ceretto Cube

Anonymous said...

Wow! Great photos, Alfonso. I heard it said by Don in San Francisco at Ottimista, after his Vin Italy trip; that the young winemakers in Piedmont are coming out with amazing knowledge and education. Knowledge about the world market and education beyond their years in onology. It's so refreshing after beliefs of a lazy generation of young people abounds us. And after the discouraging news of fake Brunellos, it's great to have a glimps of positive Italian winemaking in our future.
Thank you!

Unknown said...

So, AC, where does one find these Ceretto wines, because we dine a la carte all the time!

Alfonso Cevola said...

JImmy's has some, as do Sigels, Centennial, Goody Goody, Majestic, some Krogers and Tom Thumbs,Central Market.

@Marco- It's a hip Cube, dude.

@JC -Don't get too discouraged over Brunello deal. Your guys are doing it the correct way.

Anonymous said...

Lovely article, Alfonso! Enjoyed meeting you both even if for a short time and hope to be able to welcome you or your friends again soon!

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