Friday, January 27, 2012

Langhe Report: From Ovello to Novello to Bolly in only 14 hours

Day 2 started out early in Barbaresco to visit with Aldo Vacco at Produttori. Aldo was running late, but Luca met us with hot espresso. Luca’s grandfather was one of the very first to help set up the cooperative and at only 26 his life’s course it set. Like a monk, Luca diligently explained to us all the new improvements and the comings and goings (one grower recently passed and the property was sold to another grower, etc.) along with the new construction at both of the facilities. The places are beautiful and I will have to post on that progress in another post.

Aldo showed up and led John Roenigk and I through a tasting of the 2007 crus. I noticed Aldo seemed pretty excited. As we worked our way through the wines from Muncagotta to Montestefano to Asili, across the hilly vineyards of Barbaresco, Aldo got more and more animated. Now Aldo is a pretty sedate fellow. But with wines like this and with Produttori essentially being a hue control experiment for the quality of Barbaresco, I could sense Aldo, after all these years, is more than a director of a winery. To me he represents one who is actually charting the course for a village of winemakers. And not just any village, but a spot on earth where one of the great wines is made. And yes, there are people in the village who also chart their own destiny, folks like Gaja and de Gresy.

We moved into the 2008’s and Aldo really couldn’t contain himself. “For me possible the vintage of the decade,” Aldo tried not to say it, fearing it would sound like hype. But anyone who has ever been with him knows he is not one prone to exaggeration. The 2008 we tried was deep, rich, full, balanced and delicious. I could feel why he would say something like that.

We took a quick trip to the storage (and larger) facility, to see the new addition (really a beautiful sight). “We started this project in 2008 right before the Lehmann Brothers crisis started. If we had known then what we know now, we probably wouldn’t have started. But we did, and now it is finished. And it is all paid for.” Even in crisis times there are people who know how to do the right thing, make it through a tough time and come out the other end. There is more demand today for the wines of Produttori than ever.

Aldo had to run to pick up his son, so John and I stopped for lunch at the nearby Antica Torre. We were early but soon the room filled up. I saw a chap who looked familiar. He eyed me ever so slightly. He turned out to be Sergio Esposito, who several years ago moved back to Italy, to Genoa, and was in Barbaresco for the day. We sat nearby and Sergio shared a bottle of 1979 Produttori Barbaresco with our table. Very generous gesture. And the wine was in great shape, having only moved several feet in 32 years. What a treat, something that can happen on the wine trail in Italy, once in a while. Thanks, Sergio.

Later in the afternoon we headed to Novello to meet up with Valter Fissore of Elvio Cogno. It was starting to get colder, threats of snow were reported. Inside the warm tasting room of Cogno, we went through a battery of wines, starting with a wine made famous in the blogosphere, Anas-Cetta, the Nascetta white. Now a Langhe DOC, we sampled the 2010. Valter was also animated. Maybe the cold weather was making these guys move a little faster, I don’t know. The 2010 was well balanced and had that steely minerally quality when young. Later that night we tasted the 2008 at dinner and could see the evolution as the wine mellowed and crept into a more comfortable skin, slightly resembling Riesling without the high concentration of fruit a German wine can typically exhibit. I commented to Valter about something like that and his reply was, “Riesling, my favorite wine!” Here we were in Nebbiolo Valhalla and something like that reaches my ears. Something I actually think from time to time as well.

The Cogno post also need to be written, but not when I am sleep deprived and needing to get on the road for another day. I could sense John was really immersed in this tasting, and we lingered, even though both of us were fighting off maladies. Needless to say, the wines helped our condition. I have never seen the wines of Elvio Cogno as delicate and elegant as I have on the trip. Complimenti, Valter.

Before we parted, Valter took us to the nearby Locanda nel Borgo Antico, where chef Massimo Camia and his staff plied us with wine and an array of culinary dazzlement, starting with a bottle of Bollinger. The young sommelier was confidant and like everyone on the staff, fully committed to the service aspect. Impeccable wine, food and service in a very beautiful and alto-Borghese atmosphere.

Yes, it’s getting colder outside. But this is what it is, a fast account on a day to day basis, from the Langhe. More to come.

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