Yesterday was Cantine Aperte in Piemonte. And that meant the wineries as well as numerous cantine sociales would be open for tasting. I, of course, was on my way to visit one of my favorite wineries in Asti province. I decided to travel to Castelnouvo Don Bosco, but in the way the bird flies. Actually it was the long scenic route when one takes into account the endless hilly landscape that one needs to negotiate along the way. Breathtaking scenery. Since I traveled mostly through narrow hilly curvy roads—often quite rustic in pristine alcoves of this province—it was difficult to just stop and take a photograph.
Every now and then, while traveling through the Astigano hill country, I caught glimpses of castles perched on green hilltops. Castle and vineyards—so romatic is this combination of human history immersed in the Piedmontese wine tradition.
I finally arrived at the Cantina Graglia, one of my favorite wineries in the Castelnuovo Don Bosco area. Graglia produces what I consider to be one of the best Malvasia di Castelnuovo Don Bosco Spumates from the Malvasia grapes cultivated in the Castelnuovo di Don Bosco production area.
Renaldo Graglia also produces wines from the following grape varietals: Barbera, Bonarda, Freisa, Grignolino, Nebbiolo and Arneis. I have been drinking their wines already for 15 years—and I always go back to get more—and Sunday was the perfect day to do it. Sunny, pleasantly warm, a light breeze blowing, and no rainstorm threatening in the clouds above the Monferrato. What more could I want?
My favorite ones are of course the Malvasia sweet wine and spumate they produce. Incidentally, Graglia’s Malvasia sweet wine is also used for making Panettone….delicious! And then imagine how wonderful the Pantettone tastes with a glass of spumante.
Graglia’s Barbera d’Asti Superiore “Bric d’la Buta” vintage 2005 is one I truly like—this particular wine is excellent for making Brasato. If you are not using Barolo, then this wine is an excellent choice.
Good hearty Piedmontese cuisine is just around the corner …I stopped to eat at Ristorante Fonte Solforosa in Fraz. Bardella outside Castelnuovo Don Bosco. A group of people were already waiting a half an hour before opening for lunch. I got there just in time, otherwise there would have been no place free! Rule to remember when in Piedmont: go where the locals eat (and try to reserve a table if you can). The dining room filled up pretty quickly—this appeared to be a very popular place to eat.
For each course we could eat as much as we wanted—the waiter constantly bringing more food to the table. The typical Piedmontese tradition is to eat a diverse assortment of foods for each course.
What did they all serve us? We started off with savory Piedmontese salami, cooked salami and ham This was followed by Vitello tonnato (veal topped with tuna fish sauce), Flan di carciofi (flan of artichoke), Tartare di fassone alla Piemontese (steak tar tar), Toma con Speck (Toma cheese with smoked ham). I am not ashamed to say that I devoured several servings of the appetizers served—I simply could not stop eating—the fresh country air and local wines simply encourage gusto. Then more dishes came…Ravioli con ragu, Tajarin con Funghi, Brasato, Coniglio (rabbit), and delicious cooked vegetables. Dessert was special like in most Piedmontese restaurants where I have eaten: Bunet, Panna cotta and Torta di pesche.
Photograph by Kairn Susan Fester (c) 2012
By the end of the meal my stomach was hurting because I ate too much! Wow, what a meal! I will never forget it. Delicious to the last crumb. The mid day meal lasted three and a half hours—typical Piedmontese.
The day took on a very special Piedmontese character. One of the owners just published a book too. La Gatta Stolta by Malvyna Lasepo and Mario Gallino (Sottosopra Edizioni, 2012). Here I found a local Piedmontese author–in the middle of the wine country. A curiously interesting story about experiences of social media; an account that many of us could probably relate to in one way or another, or at least be amused by it. While sipping on a glass of wine between courses, I was reading bits of the book. Where else could I enjoy something like this?
Driving back to the Monferrato was not as quiet and relaxing as the morning’s trip. I even passed a herd of Fassone Piemontese.
Later in the afternoon the hilly roads were quite busy for it seemed everyone was out venturing around in search of cantines to visit.
That was my day of “doing” Cantine Aperte 2012, and enjoying the lovely wine of Renaldo Graglia.
By Karin Susan Fester © 2012