2006 Giovanni Almondo Roero
We were having dinner with Gianluca Grasso just on the outskirts of La Morra-- a great little restaurant called Osteria Veglio (if you go to Piemonte, don't miss this place!). We all ordered the stewy rabbit dish, a Veglio specialty. Gianluca, one of Barolo's most talented young winemakers, surprised us. "Do you know Domenico Almondo?" Great question. We'd been trying to get an appointment with Almondo for over a year. Each time, we'd struck out. "Let's get Almondo's Roero. It's another kind of Nebbiolo -- one that dances."
Indeed it was. Unlike the heavier, more muscled Nebbiolos of Barolo and Barbaresco, this 2006 Roero was opulent, but so incredibly light on its feet that one had a hard time believing it was made from the same grape. The tannins were soft, the sweet fruit more forward and spicy -- so precise. Gianluca had it just right (as always). With the rabbit, it was sublime -- gently cutting the rich sauce while working in perfect harmony with the light meat of the coniglio.
Gianluca picked up the tab, but that didn't keep us from pushing the envelope. "Gianulca, can you get us in to see Domenico?" Gianluca laughed. "I'll see what I can do."
A couple of days later, we left the bowl of Barolo and drove a half-hour to the hills of Roero. Domenico was waiting for us, a quiet guy with the winegrower tan that covers forearms to hands, knees to sock line. It didn't take Sherlock Holmes to figure out that this guy lives in his vines. We piled into his truck and headed to the hillsides and the precious Almondo holding called Valdiana.
"Five million years ago, these hillsides were underwater. That explains the soil. It's an usual mixture for Piemonte," said Almondo. "It's maritime soil: sand, silt, limestone, some clay. I can't compare my wine to Gianluca's. It's something else, another kind of Nebbiolo."
The vines here are manicured, and, as is generally the case, when we got back to the cellar, we found much the same. The cellar was spotless, and as Domenico described the vinification of our Nebbiolo, we could see that in this cellar, everything had been calibrated after years of trial and error.
How does Domenico make this dancing Nebbiolo? First, it's the soil, that sand. As always, the sand provides lift and vibrancy. Next, it's a fairly short vinification, just 7-9 days. Long enough to capture the wonderful red-fruit spice and elegance of one of the world's most sophisticated grapes, but sufficiently short to keep hard tannins at bay. Fifteen months in cask (half) and barrique (the other half) and this gorgeous red wine has essentially made itself.
The problem at Almondo? Huge demand. This is THE estate of Roero, so after some cajoling, and a couple more calls from our friend Gianluca, we were able to snag a bit for WineAccess. Is this the best red wine value in Piemonte? Could well be.
Tasting Notes from the WineAccess Travel Log
"Beautiful, deep ruby color. Vibrant aromas of red fruit, pine needles, spice, a touch of earth. Medium-bodied, bright and opulent on the palate with layers of fine, lively fruit. Excellent (!) long, fresh finish. Drinks beautifully now, but this one will surprise you. Drink now-2015."