Saturday we left Florence to head to northwestern Italy and the region of Piemonte, home of the coveted and ultra expensive white truffle, and world famous wine regions like Barolo, Barbaresco and Asti. The region itself is rather unknown outside of food-and-wine-geek land, but to us wine lovers it is a Mecca on par with Bordeaux, the Douro or Burgundy.
Indeed the genesis of this entire Italian adventure can be summarized by a dinner my wife and I shared at Araxi in Whistler in November. One of the eight courses was a poached egg over gnocchi and covered in shaved Alba white truffles and paired with a 1999 Barolo. Incredibly simple – a handful of ingredients – but entirely blew our minds. We determined then that we must visit this region. So here we are!
The drive itself was not entirely fun; fast roads, lots of tunnels and quick turns, and moderate traffic. It was also about 4 hours long. Three quarters of the way there we stopped in Genoa which is a curious and large port city that caters to transient tourists like us, as well as lots and lots of shipping. Nothing really engaging to speak of; a bustling and disorganized city crammed against steep hills by the Mediterranean Ocean – but a welcome opportunity to see another city, eat a quick pizza and get back on the road again.
Once finally off the main highway and navigating closer to Barolo (evidenced by the signs) things started to get exciting. Thick, old vines in the vineyards hinted at what was to come, but our jaws truly dropped once we came over a rise and saw the vista of the Barolo valley before us, literally hundreds of acres of vineyard within eyesight and dotted by 17th century castles and little towns with soaring cathedrals. We’d been on the road for hours, and very near our guesthouse, but we couldn’t cease stopping to take pictures.
The guesthouse was worth arriving at, however, as it is itself perched perfectly on a hillside, overlooking this expanse of perfection.
The property, only open since November of last year, is called Palas Cerequio and is owned by winery namesake Michele Chiarlo. Cerequio is the name of the vineyard surrounding the guesthouse and is shared by some of the top names in Barolo: Chiarlo, Gaja, Pio Cesare, and a couple others. The wines bearing the name Cerequio are all over a hundred dollars per bottle so sleeping amongst the vines is obviously quite a treat.
Our first night, we unpacked and then got a tour of the guesthouse by operators Roberto and Jayne Stroppiana. We ordered a bottle of 1998 Michele Chiarlo Cerequio Barolo, made from the vines 20 feet away, and enjoyed some pasta and a cheese plate as the sun majestically set on the 30C day. Not a bad life, we thought, and how lucky we sometimes are.