As I was finishing my pasta dish, I noticed I’d switched to a spoon, to lick up every bit of the house-made tortellini stuffed with delicate Maine crab, drizzled with a light parmesan crema, surrounded by a hedge of pumpkin passato and liberally showered with fresh herbs: a blissful combination. Luckily, this was only a half-order, as we’d started with two Neapolitan pizzas.
Driving around the enigmatic, fog-shrouded Piedmont region of Italy, I saw steep vineyards that fall away from the winding, mountain roads, and medieval castles looming out of the haze on every other hilltop. I recalled the great Barolo and Barbaresco wines from this region are made from the nebbiolo grape—and nebbia is the Italian word for fog. Why was I wending my way through this misty part of northern Italy? To learn about wine and terroir—and sales, too.
The sign outside the entrance to the winery of Angelo Gaja, in the Piedmontese village of Barbaresco, says volumes in little: Gaja—four letters on a square plaque, gray on gray, like a cornerstone on a civic monument.
Not as elegant as I had expected, but perhaps understandable given the vintage. Very perfumy, with stewed fruits and tar leading from nose to palate. A twinge of crowbar would keep the blind taster in Piedmont, as would the tannins, which are still choppy and aggressive. Needs time.