Friday, July 25, 2008

Vignaioli Santo Stefano Wine Travel Adventure

Beneath the shadow of the Barolo Castle, lunch awaited. After a nice espresso at the Old Café next to the Osteria where we eventually had lunch (in 86 degree heat and a nice 60% humidity), we made a not-so-quick stop in the regional wine shop to peruse the Barolos of the area. This lovely little wine haven is under the Castello di Barolo offering tasting and education. That day there were three types of Barolo to be sipped the first coming from different soil than the classic Barolo and this one was very light in color and depth as well as flavor. The second one was a finely blended version of Barolo, one of the modernists versions and very warm and soft on the tongue. This was a nicely balanced wine (very ready for consumption). The last one was a classic or traditionalist Barolo and was very dark in color and of course, had deeper tannins thus not as smooth to the palate.

For these two “pigs”, the balanced modernist version was destined for their wine cellar (costing, mind you, a lot more than the classic version), this wine was from Bergera Pezzole, labeled as Le Strette 2004, estate bottled. Happy as a clam with two bottles in her possession, they pointed their toes towards Belbo on a hunt for i Vignaioli di Santo Stefano. With a few stops here and there to ask directions, they wound up falling into the large cellars of Vallebelbo and while there, decided to stock up on the classics; Asti, Moscato and Brachetto (gotta LOVE that cherry red color with frizz)! While there, directions to “the boys” (i Vignaioli) were obtained and as heavily loaded as the mini mouse car was, they headed to the hills!

I Vignaioli di Santo Stefano are in a locale of Santo Stefano Belbo; way, way up top to the crown of the hills. Numerous switchbacks greet you on a road big enough for one car or a tractor as it winds up, up and away. Vineyards on steep slopes covered both sides of the old mule road; “Good lord” she thought, “How in the world do they harvest on these slopes, let alone work the vineyards daily without losing it?” Just as that thought crosses her mind while approaching the cellar drive, a weary, sweat-drenched soul pops out of the brush with his weed whacker and mask, leaving behind him a steep hill of vines. She does not want to know the cost of the wine because she realizes the price no matter what it is, is worth it; what kind of crazy fool works on slopes so steep their legs at the end of the day must ache from the effort to stay upright? Watching the scene before her she realizes few wineries in Napa Valley are anything close to the difficulty of these vineyards.

This stop was for a Moscato Golden Piglet had been searching out for, for quite a while. He quickly purchased a case (the heat was killing us all) of their elegant, long-necked bottles of frizzy, sweet, golden colored Moscato d’Asti. Looking at these bottles she realized this was a first, she had never before seen a wine with bubbles in anything but the classic champagne-type bottle. Moscato runs at 5.5% vol making this an easy aperitif or desert wine. While packing the box into the “mouse on wheels,” the young wine keeper gave them a bottle of their more expensive Moscato Passito 2002, labeled “Il” to test out. Next trip they can go back during the cooler weather and buy up a few of the Passito and really enjoy the heady pleasures of Moscato.

There was also a stop to the Mango Castello and wine shop to test out the Moscato on display. As it turned out a case of another wonderful delectable sweet/dry wine headed to their cellars. This was from the hills of Mango known for its Moscato. This one was labeled Tintero Moscato d’Asti, D.O.C.G., Sori’ Gramella 2007, 5% vol. and this ones goes down like silk! ;-)

Lastly but definitely not least, she must mention the grappa purchased at Grinzane. Never before had she tasted anything in the grappa department as divine as this amber colored ambrosia! This was called “Elisì” from the wonderful distillery, Berta, check out the link regarding the history of this four generation family in the distillation business!

This particular grappa is made up of 50% Barbera 1996, 25% Nebbiolo da Barolo 1999, 25% Cabernet 2001. The French Barriques are 225 liters of Troncais d’Allier, with a finished product at 43% vol. with a beautiful amber color.
Elisì is the result of careful selection of the best grappa products, refined for the last 10 years in those French barriques. Assembly of the different years and various grape varieties, bestow the elegance, complexity of aromas and emotions to this grappa that only the great, distilled liquors of the world can transmit.

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