At McDuff's suggestion, I left the safe, fortress-eque confines of the Lab and ventured out into the world to meet Guiseppe Vajra and taste the wines of his family's domain.
I need to get out more often.
Guiseppe was charming, engaging and extremely knowledgeable about his family's vineyards and viticulture. The wines he poured -- from an unexpected Piemontese Riesling to the single-vineyard Bricco delle Viole Barolo -- were exceptional.
The Vajras farm organically and pick by hand. The wines are beautifully expressive of their terroir. And they have some sensational parcels, including vineyards in the Serralunga across the autostrada from Bruno Giacosa's famed Le Rocche del Falletto.
The 2007 Langhe Bianco is made from Riesling vines that Guiseppe's father planted in the early 80s. When I said I hadn't realized that Riesling was allowed by the Langhe DOC, Guiseppe told me, "They allow it, but it's not recommended." Should be. This is sensational wine, a very serious dry white, and a definitive triumph of vineyard over varietal. The finish is so purely mineral that you can differentiate between limestone and granite.
The domain's tête de Cuvée is a single vinyard Barolo, the Bricco delle Viole planted just after the Second World War. Guiseppe poured the current release, the 2004 vintage. The wine is densely structured, with layers of fennel spice, red fruit, dark berries and a clear vineyard signature. It is very young, but unlike other "traditional" Barolos I know, this is extremely approachable even now.
The whole catalog is worth seeking out, especially the rustic Langhe Rosso Kye made from Friesa, a traditional Piedmont grape perhaps related to Nebbiolo. And if you get a chance to taste with Guiseppe, you don't want to miss that opportunity.
Elvino sourced Piemontese cheeses and fresh bread to pair with the wines. And Bart Miali's shop and inventory is looking better every time I stop in.
I will definitely try to make a habit of getting out of the Lab.