Dispatch: Arrival in Piemonte
So, after resting and recuperating for a few days in Morgon, it was time to head south to where my love affair with wine really began: Piemonte.
I woke up and left the Beaujolais headed for what I had hoped would be a lunchtime stopover in the Alps before arriving in Italy, only to have my little piece of shit Nissan Micra rental car decide go ahead and start to fail at life right there on the highway outside of Bourg-en-Bresse. This was the second time now that the car had started shaking and losing power on the road, so I drove right to the nearest dealership. This being France and it being 12pm, I had to wait at a very depressing shopping mall for 2 hours just for the garage to open back up.
Finally, with some negotiation, the car was seemingly fixed and I was back on the road for a white-knuckled drive through the Alps, praying that my car would not break down in the middle of the Mont Blanc tunnel.
Thankfully, miraculously, I arrived in one piece. I quickly changed and ran back out the door to meet some friends for my first Piemontese dinner.
I had plans to eat dinner at a famous wine nerd spot called Vinoteca Centro Stroico in Serralunga d’Alba.
On my way through the Alps, I was speaking to Elisa Scavino who had agreed to help set up appointments for me in Piemonte and when I told her my dinner plans, she just laughed and told me that she and a friend would meet me there.
Her enthusiasm and quick agreement let me know that I was in for something special.
The walls of Vinoteca Centro Storico are lined with bottles you really want to drink.
This is Elisa. She totally set up my whole visit and loaded my schedule with a ton of great appointments and food recommendations.
This is Riccardo Sgarra. He was sommelier in Torino before leaving to work with the Scavinos.
I love Riccardo and Elisa. It is a rare and incredible thing to walk into a restaurant in a quiet, hilltop wine town, 3000 miles away, and feel immediately at home. To meet two people for the first time that you click with like you have known them for years.
After I remarked on the amazing selection of Champagne that Alessio, the proprietor, had amassed, Elisa asked "Dan, honestly, why would we not have Champagne?" So we ordered a bottle of Agrapart Cuvee Terroirs which was on the list for I think 40 euros. Apparently the Piemontese drink more Champagne than anyone outside of France. The Agrapart was easily crushed in conjunction with the most tremendous salumi setup of all time.
Then we drank Langhe Nebbiolo 2010 from Bartolo Mascarello which was, without question, the most delicious bottle of basic Nebbiolo that I have ever tasted. This offered more pleasure than 95% of wines that I have had in the last 3 years and I believe this bottle was going for 25 euros on the list.
We had all the Piemontese hits that night: carne cruda, vitello tonnato, raviolo al plin con burro e salvia, tajarin al ragu, etc. but after the salumi and Champagne I was having too much fun for pictures. But… I did manage to go back to Vinoteca Centro Storico at least 3 more times, so here are some collected images of awesome stuff I had there.
Burrata e Pomodoro (truth on a plate)
Real deal pasta pomodoro (yup)
What happens when you ask for just a little plate of cheese. These were stunningly delicious.
Super dope panna cotta
What you want after a day of tasting Barolo. (I said this place had serious wine, right? not just Piemonte but the whole world.)
View from the top of Serralunga d’Alba
At rest at Vinoteca Centro Storico, awaiting an aperitivo.
In all honesty, Vinoteca Centro Storico is a dream of a restaurant with the most tremendous selection of wines; incredible, inexpensive food; and real energy and soul. I would eat here every day if I could. While I was in Barolo I basically did.