Day 3 in the Langhe – Damilano, Flavio Roddolo, Cappellano and Barolo

I’m getting a bit behind here, but thankfully I’ve taken good notes. Day 3 in the Langhe was the best yet. We woke up to brilliant sunshine, which made the beauty of the region really stand out.

We headed out to our 10am appointment with Barbara Levi-Cavaglione at Damilano, near the town of Barolo. Barbara gave us a tour of their new winery building and took us into their modern boardroom where she poured us everything in their line-up (and taking pity on my lack of Italian, she spoke to us in very good English).

Here’s what we tasted:

  • 2007 Damilano Langhe Arneis DOC – very dry, not fruity like many Arneis we tasted over the last week. It would be a good wine with fish (3.5).
  • 2007 Damilano Dolcetto d’Alba DOC – tonnes of pepper from the people’s wine of the Langhe… a bit young, but tasty (3.5).
  • 2006 Barbera d’Alba DOC – Lots of pepper, bell pepper and dark cherry (3.5).
  • 2004 Barbera d’Alba DOC Lablu – Beautiful nose of big cherry fruit and pepper. Yum (4).
  • 2005 Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC – It had just been opened, so it came across as very tight and closed. After a while in the glass, it showed really nice cherry fruit (4).
  • 2004 Barolo DOCG Lecinquevigne – Now we’re talking. This wine had that fantastic cherry fruit and rose petal on the nose… Yum! Barbara actually gave us each a magnum of this to take home. Loved that (4.5)!
  • 2004 Barolo DOCG Liste – This is an amazing bottle of wine. I tasted it at the Vancouver Wine Fest and loved it… Being at its winery made it even better The nose was amazing, with some prune to the edge of the cherry liqueur and tar, with an amazing finish. Wow (4.5).
  • 2003 Barolo DOCG Liste – Barbara poured this as an example of wine from the very hot 2003 vintage. It may not have the complexity of the 2004, but it’s ripe fruit made it very tasty in that cherry brandy kind of way (4.5).
  • 2004 Barolo DOCG Cannubi – This wine’s grapes come from what have been described as the Grand Cru of Barolo’s vineyards. It’s a complex and structured bit of juice, folks. I’d love to have this wine at home in 7 – 15 years (4.5).

We actually sat with Barbara for well over an hour and even met one of the 4 cousins that own the winery, Margherita. When we left, it was after noon and time to head into the village of Barolo to find a place to eat.

As we drove in, Rachel spotted a couple she knew from Amelia in Umbria, Guglielmo and Rita. We sat down next to them in the sun outside the Enoteca della Posta di Barolo and had a delicious lunch of veal tartare, eggplant and a really tasty plate of pasta with porcini mushrooms and sausage. Of course there was wine. We had a local 2005 Bovio Langhe Nebbiolo Annunziata DOC which was simple and tasty…. and went perfectly with the company and the food.

Next up was what proved to be a highlight of the trip. We headed out to see Flavio Roddolo at his cantina (winery) near Monforte d’Alba. Rachel had visited him a month or so ago and had fallen in love with what he is about – growing the grapes and making the wine in a simple way. No new barriques, no fancy micro-oxygenization… he lets the grapes and soil do the talking.

I really liked Flavio. He was generous with both his time and his wine. We received a full tour of the winery, his new cantina and the small cellar from the 1700’s, where he ages his wine in older oak casks. It was great hearing Rachel and him speaking Italian and to see Flavio open up as both the words and the wine flowed.

He grew up at the winery and actually disliked the business until he was into his teens. It was then that he grew to love the place and the wines his family was making. In 1993 Flavio decided to start bottling his own wine instead of selling it off to other producers.

Today, it’s just Flavio and the grapes on the property and he is considered one of the rising stars of the region. He does it all there – vineyard maintenance, wine-making and tasting room duties. He has a group that comes each year to help him pick the grapes, but other than that it’s a one-man show. It’s Flavio and his considerable skill at making the grapes speak through his wine.

We first tasted the 2007 wines from their stainless steel tanks… He said it was a great vintage and from what we tasted, the wines show incredible promise. We had his Dolcetto d’Alba, his Langhe Rosso (made from a small parcel of Cabernet Sauvignon grown on his property), the Barbera d’Alba, the Nebbiolo d’Alba and his Barolo… wow.

He then took us back down into his new cantina and pulled samples of the wines from the oak casks. We tasted the Langhe Rosso and the Barolo. It was pretty amazing to see how the oak softened the youthful wine.

It was then, with our education of his new wines complete, that we headed into his tasting room to try his current bottlings. Here’s what we tasted:

  • 2006 Dolcetto d’Alba – purple and intense;
  • 2005 Dolcetto d’Alba Superiore – deep, dark, tannic and delicious. Its edges were softer and the flavours more full than the regular Dolcetto. It’s a fantastic wine;
  • 2004 Barbera d’Alba – peppery, dark and beautiful;
  • 2004 Nebbiolo d’Alba – wow, I loved this wine… and it’s a favourite of Flavio. It had beautiful pure cherry and leathery flavours of the earth;
  • 2003 Barolo – what else can I say but, “Wow”? I wanted to roll around in this wine. It took the Nebbiolo and added levels of earthy and liqueur-like complexity to its flavours. Fantastic.

As we were leaving with our wine (how can you not buy some of his beautiful juice?), Flavio also gave us a bottle of his 2002 Barolo, saying that it would prove that even in off years, a good wine could be made. Coming from him, I believe it.

From Flavio’s, we headed to a 4pm appointment at Azienda Agricola Teobaldo Cappellano. Wow, this guy is a character (and I mean that in a good way). He does things his way and does them incredibly well. For a bit of a summary of what he’s about, visit The Rare Wine Co. for an article on him and the winery. They point out that, “in 1983 he banished all journalists from his cellar, unless they agreed to review his wines without scores. (He sees ratings as divisive among growers.) And he could be the only person today producing a Barolo from ungrafted vines.

While there, we tasted 2 wines from the barrel, his 2004 Barolo Rupestris and the 2004 Barolo Franco. In keeping with his views, I won’t put a number on them. Let’s stick with outstanding. Considering that his total case production is fewer than 800 cases per year, it was quite an honour to taste these from the barrel. If you can find one (unfortunately, I doubt it), grab it… it’s true old-style Barolo. I love the quote from The Mystique of Barolo, “Making Barolo is hedonism, it is art. Wine is hedonism. But wine, too, needs identity: I need to be able to say ‘This is Barolo…’‘” It is.

We were so excited about that day, we picked up some steak on the way back to Bra and started in on some wine. 🙂 We opened a 1999 Pio Cesare Barolo and an amazing 1999 Paolo Conterno Barolo, Ginestra Vineyard. I’ll review both of these wines sometime soon.

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