Updated: Dec 2, 2019
Coddled in the gentle heart of Piedmont in Northern Italy, Nebbiolo reigns supreme, and is cultivated in the surreal incubator that is Barbaresco. A recent Autumn visit could not have been timed more perfectly. Upon arrival, the sublime hillside vineyards were ripe with grapes, and weary, glassy-eyed harvesters lined the tight, curvy and often precarious roads.
Sublime: "of such excellence, grandeur, or beauty as to inspire great admiration or awe".
That evening and into the next day, the harvest was pervasive 24x7 with the buzz of tractors hauling freshly picked grapes to their designated de-stemmer/crushers, indicating the 2019 vintages were in progress as the growing season came to a close.
The environment this time of year is one of cool and damp, with blankets of fog settling into the nooks between the hills, as if to protect what remains of what was described as an excellent growing season. Tre Stelle (Italian for "3 stars") was home base for days of exploration and a deep dive into the local wines. Staying at the cozy Cascina delle Rose was a perfect spot to hold-up with mother/son Giovanna and Riccardo offering genuine hospitality, including Riccardo - hands still raw from wrapping up the season's harvest earlier that day - offering a personal/private tasting of their expressive wine, representing the region at its best.
Tre Stelle allowed easy access to the relatively sleepy towns of Neive, Treiso, Barbaresco (the region's namesake town) as well as the larger, more bustling city of Alba. Truffle season, in full force, brought out the earthy delicacy's seekers, ready to pay high-dollar to shave the smooth goodness onto their fresh pasta, pizza, or whatever the mushroom, chocolate, nutty flavor might enhance. I had the opportunity to experience the "truffle culture" first hand, having lunch on an outdoor patio in Neive, where the charismatic owner/host paired me with a lovely local who only had an hour for her lunch break and needed a place to sit in a packed restaurant. The waiter weighed the truffle at my table, told me the cost per once, then shaved it real-time onto my fresh pasta. After serving it up with a local 2008 Barbaresco, I inquired as to the wine's origin, to which he replied, pointing his finger over the balcony..."there".
Nebbiolo here is more approachable and somewhat less tannic than the possibly more well-known "Barolo" - a stone's throw away. Also making a strong showing is the local Barbera, with its more fruit forward, yet structured feel - a bottle of which graced my cozy digs for the week in Tre Stelle, consoling me after big days of exploration and what remained of lunchtime pizza from Alba one day.
Departure from this region was difficult to say the least, as my travels concluded with a quick jaunt to Lugano, Switzerland, a wine soaked day on Lake Como and the craziness that is Milan.