Sunday, January 29, 2012

Langhe Report: First Snow of 2012 (and It's a Big One)

From the "Cuckoo for Cocconato Files

Just the beginning...
Have you ever gotten into a car and headed to a place, feeling there was something waiting for you that you might not be waiting for yourself? Yesterday (Day 3) in Alba after I finished my appointment with the Pio Cesare folks, I looked towards Asti and wondered if I should be driving up there. I sent a text to my colleague, Robert Bava, but didn’t hear back. I took that for an “all clear.”

As I neared Cocconato I started to see a light dusting of snow, and as I climbed the snow started to fall a little harder. If I had not been born a fool, I would have turned around right then and there. But I didn’t.

As it happened I met up with Roberto and we went to the winery and tasted though some of his wines, talked about some new projects and spent a pleasant enough afternoon.

I had left my travel partner John back at the hotel in Serralunga, as he was nursing a stomach virus and was in no condition to travel, or to eat or drink. I was flying solo. But I was in Bava’s hands, how bad could it be?

Roberto's wife, Galatea, trying to cheer me up
Roberto is the quintessential optimist. His whole family from his wife, to his brother, his son and his dad, they are all pretty strong folks. No fear; no reason to. Everything will turn out OK

Maybe it’s Roberto’s faith that keeps him ever the optimist. But when we came out of the winery the snow was coming down harder. And when we left the restaurant there was no one on the roads.

As I piled into my car to make the drive back, Roberto followed me to make sure I would get out of the small road. But it was not to be. I couldn’t make it up the hill in my little car, too slippery. “No problem, Alfonso, just stay with us and get up in the morning.” Problem was, my pal back at the hotel and the hotel was closing the next day for a month. Oh, and we had an appointment. So reluctantly I took him up on his offer and went to sleep.

I woke early (Day 4) and the place was covered under what seemed at least a foot of snow. I know one of these possible things was going to happen on this day:
1) I was going to learn how to put on snow chain in Italy.
2) I was going to crash down a snow covered mountain
3) I was going to die

Roberto’s whole family, his wife, son, even his 80 year old father, were out in the courtyard, clearing the snow, while I wrestled in four languages with directions to put the darn chains on. I finally got them on, somewhat, and the area was cleared for me to head out.

2 ½ hours later, on a trip that should take, at most, 1 hour, I arrived at the bottom of the Serralunga road. I still had to go up, get John, pack and move to the next place. Oh, and male an appointment that we were really late for now.

Trying to figure out Italian Snow Chains
I almost didn’t make it twice. I had taken off the snow chains, as I really hadn’t put them on correctly and they were making a funny sound and an even funnier smell. But I really could have used them. Somehow, I gathered all my goat sense and made it to the top. John was feeling better, and the hotel folks offered to put the chains on again, this time correctly.

As we headed to the guest house the hotel had offered to provide for us, our lead car was having trouble going down the road. I took that as a sign and begged off their hospitality. One of the best moves I made all day. Not because of anything except my total fear of getting stuck. I am writing this from a warm hotel room in Alba (with Wi-Fi) so perhaps it was a good decision. Hell yes it was.

We made it to our appointment, Marchese di Barolo with Anna Abbona. As always, Anna was a gracious host and she spent many hours with us going over the wines. John was feeling better, so we tasted through 5 Baroli and a handful of whites and Barbera wines along with a tasting of traditional Piemontese foods. Things were looking up.
As Roberto Bava said in a text so early this morning when I was in my first panic, “ah ha, it will be a good day, I am positive.” So says the happy guru of Cocconato. Words to remember and ways to learn from my Piemontese cousins.

Sometimes life hands you inevitability. How you react and what you do with it is all up to you, whether you are on (or way off) the wine trail in Italy.

Real Time Analytics