On a recent trip in August to visit my fiancée in Switzerland, we decided to take a little weekend trip to one of my favorite wine regions of Italy: Piedmont. We had been staying in Luino, a quaint small town just right across the Swiss border, on the beautiful Lago Maggiore. From there, Piedmont is a short two and a half hour drive away. Perfect for a little getaway.
We arrived on a glorious day and quickly learned we were lucky to have such good weather after a week of relentless rain. I had been to Piedmont on previous trips, but never during this time of year, when the vines are getting heavy with lush fruit, almost ready for the great harvest.
Since we arrived in the late afternoon, we only had time to visit one wine maker, but a very special one indeed. Located in the town of Barolo, we had the incredible opportunity to indulge in the wines of Chiara Boschis, winemaker and proprietor of E. Pira & Figli. One of the first emerging female winemakers of Barolo, in an industry previously dominated by men, Chiara paved the way with her philosophy and approach in creating naturally powerful Barolo with great finesse and stunning elegance. After our delightful tour of the small winery, we tasted her Dolcetto, Nebbiolo, Barbera, and two Barolo (2009 Barolo Cannubi and 2010 Barolo via Nuova). Needless to say, we walked out of the winery skipping, excited with the anticipation of enjoying our newly purchased treasures from such a special producer.
The next day happened to be an Italian national holiday called Ferragosto. Consequently, everything in town shuts down, and rightly so! Italians truly understand the importance of coming together with family and friends and celebrating the occasion with abundant food, wine, laughter…and even dancing. Luckily I had some insider information of a celebration in the town of Bussia. That early evening we arrived and immediately followed our noses to the top of a small hill where a church was situated, and rows and rows of tables were aligned around a large grill, wine stations and an open-air dance floor.
There’s a saying, “When in Rome…,” and as cheesy as it sounds, it is clever advice. Going where the locals go, and immersing yourself in customary traditions is the best way to experience a culture. Looking around at the crowd, we were the only “outsiders” in attendance, and we couldn’t have felt more welcome and happy to be a part of such a memorable experience.
That evening we had some delicious grilled pork ribs and sausage along with vedure fritte (fried vegetables). Of course, these things were further enjoyed with a lovely Dolcetto, whose lingering dark fruit flavors lent well to the salty but juicy pork. We just couldn’t get enough!
The following day we had to head home, but not without stumbling across a lovely restaurant serving a special seven-course lunch for Ferragosto in which we delighted in without a blink of an eye, sipping on refreshing glasses of Roero Arneis in the August heat. But alas, our trip had come to an end, and we drove home with full tummies and simply unforgettable memories. Ci vediamo Italia!