Joy spreads through me. My heart swells and feels lighter at the same time. All senses are alive—activated, engaged, delighted.
I push the gas pedal a little more to help the car get up the steep and winding road. Vineyards surround me. Up ahead, I see a sign—Barbaresco—and my smile grows.
I’m in Italy’s Piemonte region for my wine mecca. I made this pilgrimage in 2004, but much has changed since then—both in Piemonte and me.
What hasn’t changed is my love of Barbaresco—the wine that is. See, Barbaresco is a wine region, a village, and a wine. Clear as mud, right?
Similar to Champagne, you can only call a wine Barbaresco if it hails from the specific region, is made from a specific grape (in this case Nebbiolo), and adheres to specific regulations.
I visited seven wineries during my stay. Most in the region are family-owned. The viticultural approach has been organic long before it became a “thing.” The people are friendly and low-key, and most tastings are free. Amazing, when you consider the quality and class of wines you’re tasting. Favorites from my visit include Ceretto, Cantina del Pino, and Bruno Rocca. I also recommend Moccagatta, which I visited in 2004.
Lest you think Piemonte is all about wine, let me reassure you that the region has strong and delicious culinary traditions too. It’s the land of risotto, white and black truffles, and chocolate. Need I say more? Well, I will. I enjoyed Piemonte-style beef on two different occasions and, of course, the ubiquitous gelato.
I stayed in Alba because it’s a lovely city of more than 30,000 people and has many restaurant, shopping, and lodging options. I couldn’t have picked a better Airbnb flat. When I opened my kitchen and bathroom windows, I saw the main square with the Duomo and heard the buzz of activity. In the morning, the smell of Nutella greeted me when I walked out the door. And my host invited me to her home for Sunday (noon) dinner—a five-course, classic Piemonte meal with wine. The first course included Russian salad, baked vegetable omelets, and bread. We then moved on to agnolotti in two different sauces (sage & butter and ragù) and octopus with potato. The last two courses were chocolate flan and fruit. I barely ate the rest of the day.
Do you like excellent wine and food? Maybe Piemonte should be your mecca too.