The Monferrato and Langhe hills in northwest Italy are where you’ll find some of this country’s greatest treasures. Including wine, of course.
Over the Veteran’s Day weekend, eight of us (three were veterans) piled into two cars, drove across the northern part of Italy, and stopped near the town of Dogliani. Our plan was to enjoy some terrific food and sample superb wines.
This growing area has such a wide variety of great wine! Vineyards here produce zesty sparkling wines, crisp whites and juicy reds. Wine industry experts generally agree that the world-renowned Barolo and Barbaresco (from one of my favorites: the Nebbiolo grape) are Italy’s best wines. So we had some work to do.
Our first stop was at the Deltetto winery in the village of Canale. I’ve visited with Antonio Deltetto in his well-organized cantina on four or five occasions, but this time, his son Carlo led our tasting.
Deltetto is one of the few wineries in this area to produce more whites than reds. They take great pride in using the Favorita, Arneis, or Cortese grapes indigenous to the Langhe hills. For me, the Arneis wines are especially refreshing and crisp, with a hint of apricot. Some would say to pair these wines with a light appetizer, but I would happily enjoy it with any pasta dish.
Of course, Deltetto also bottles some pretty significant red wines, too. Grapes they produce include Barbera d’Alba, Nebbiolo, Pinot Nero, and one of my new friends, Dolcetto (pronounced “dohl CHET to”). In spite of its name, this grape does not become a sweet wine. On the contrary, Dolcetto has a rich taste of ripe cherries and blackberries. It has a pleasant flavor and color, but does not overwhelm you with too much alcohol or strong tannins. It is a wine you can pair with pretty much anything.
After our tasting, we drove about three minutes for lunch at a delightful trattoria in the center of Canale called Tre Galline (meaning “three hens”). Clean, inexpensive, delicious.
Next stop was to see my friend Angelo Ferrio at his cantina, called Ca’ Rossa. Angelo produces some good white wines, and has won many national and international awards for his superb reds. My advice is to not fool around, just go out right now and buy his wine called Mompissano. It is made with 100% Nebbiolo grapes, aged in huge oak barrels for 18 months, then rests in the bottle another 4 months before going to market. In my opinion this wine stands up to any Barolo or Barbaresco. Because those wines (also made with Nebbiolo) bear the famous name, they cost twice as much, but, again, buy Mompissano from Ca’ Rossa. You will be happy.
Our third winery of the weekend was a new one for me. Just outside a small village called Serralunga is the estate of Ettore Germano. Today the winery is run by his son Sergio. In addition to being a vivacious and passionate guy, Sergio also likes to experiment. He still produces excellent traditional reds (his Barolo “Prapo’ ” is especially good) but also has started producing a pleasant white called Nascetta from a little-known grape only grown in this area. Beyond that, Sergio has also planted Reisling, a grape normally associated with Germany and a slightly sweet white wine. I tasted his and would happily drink it again.
The final important stop for us was a meal at L’Osteria del Vignaiolo. I’ve eaten here maybe 15 or 20 times and it is quite simply one of the top ten restaurants ever (it is one of the places I always take clients on a Wine Friends tour).
Whether it was the fresh white truffles grated in wafer-thin pieces over tagliatelli, or the artichoke, parmesan, and tomato dream, or the sinful cheese plate or the masterpiece of a dessert, the meal was knock-your-socks-off fabulous.
Some might think there is a more respectful way to pass Veteran’s Day than feasting and drinking all weekend. I am a proud vet, and can think of no better way to salute my brothers-in-arms past and present than to spend time with people I love doing what we enjoy most.