Stops on a Wine Geek Road Trip:

Wine Road Trip Mile 676: Italy

Heading north out of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, I skipped the rest of the Rhône—St-Joseph! Hermitage! Côte Rôtie! Oh well!—then stopped for croissants and coffee at a bar overlooking the Isère River in Grenoble. From there, the road curved up into the Alps, then down into Italy and to Piedmont.

I’ve always harbored a fantasy of moving to Piedmont, so it was extremely convenient to find that the 17th-century castle at the top of the hill in Castiglione Falletto, next door to the Vietti winery, was currently for sale, according to Vietti’s Luca Currado. And only $2,500,000 for an entire castle! “But you have to maintain it,” Currado added. This was a good point; for instance, one might have to repair scratches to the exterior walls caused by people (like me) who drive by without paying attention to how far their side mirrors stick out.

Currado’s family has grown Nebbiolo grapes in Piedmont since the 1600s; today, they own vineyards in all nine villages of the Barolo region. They also produce some of the region’s most acclaimed wines, like the 2007 Vietti Barolo Rocche that I tasted with Currado over dinner in Alba that night, a polished, luscious red with tea leaf and dark cherry notes. Currado mentioned that when Alba was a Roman town, the emperor talked about “the fog grape” (nebbia is Italian for fog; hence, Nebbiolo). “In Tuscany, they have ‘under the Tuscan sun,’” he said with a shrug. “In Piedmont, we have ‘under Piedmontese fog.’”

“I’m still blown away by that castle being for sale,” I said.

“You know, in old times, the owner of a castle had the right to spend the first night with the bride of anyone who got married in the village,” Currado said thoughtfully. “I don’t think that’s the case anymore, though.”

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Video: Italian Wines