The best way to get a real sense of the magnificent Grand Cru vineyards of Elio Grasso is to lace up your hiking boots. It’s a million dollar view from the top of Gavarini. The medieval castle of Castiglione Falletto to the left. Conterno’s Cascina Francia to the right and the ever present Alps always in the distance. One handful of Gavarini’s chalky sand speaks volumes about the incredible tension and crackling minerality in the finished wine. Of course, we tried to make it up there in the middle of winter– that didn’t go as well.
That drive was made without a phone and with my Michelin map spread across the dashboard. That is until the serious snow started falling just outside of Mount Blanc. With my nose pressed close to windshield, my right arm frantically cleared the window of fog because amazingly, the crappy rental’s defroster actually made the visibility worse. Nine harrowing hours later, I stumbled my way to the kitchen of the Grasso household, frozen and starving, where a bowl of fresh pappardelle in a rabbit ragu was set in front of me by Gianluca’s mom and a glass of Langhe Nebbiolo was poured into oversized crystal. I’ve never eaten so well.
A quick walk through Ginestra loads your boots with the calcareous clay that imparts its infamous power & length. For the past 35 years, Elio and his son Gianluca have produced world-class Barolo from these incredible sites, culminating in this year’s releases: the 98-point Gavarini, 97 Ginestra and the now legendary, 100-Point Rüncot Riserva.
As you can imagine, Grasso is a helluva lot more famous now than when I first tasted his brilliant Langhe Nebbiolo. The Nebbiolo combines grapes from all three famous vineyards, each imparting their distinctive personalities into a bottle that is greater than the sum of its parts. The Langhe is made in tank, with warmer, shorter fermentation than the Baroli, allowing for the more Burgundian side of Nebbiolo to emerge.
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