Earlier this summer we received an invitation to visit the historic Giordano winery and to tour the famed Piedmont wine region of northwest Italy. For those who read Bacchus and Beery, you know what fans we are of Giordano wines, their high quality and value. Our Giordano journey started in the quaint town of Alba, whose roots date back to pre-Roman times.
Alba also serves as the de-facto capital of the Langhe region, known not only for centuries of wine production but also white truffles and is the home of Nutella hazelnut / chocolate spread. As for the wines, the region is known for Barbaerra, Nebbiolo, Barbaresco and the highly sought after Barolo, made from Nebbiolo grapes.
After our flight into Milan and the two hour drive through rural countryside, we arrived in Alba in the early afternoon. To stave off the effects of jet-lag, we dropped off our bags at the hotel and made the short walk to the piazza (town square) where we found narrow streets lined with beautiful 13th and 14th century buildings, restaurants and shops, creating an almost picture post card illusion. The afternoon was pleasantly warm so we stopped into a local bistro for charcuterie, a bit of pasta and a bottle our favorite local white wine, Gavi di Gavi. It was a great start to what would become an amazing few days.
The next morning, Sunday, we were met by our tour guide, Giorgio, who was very excited to share his native Piedmont with us. We toured the many hillside towns like La Morra and took in the views, castles and of course a bit of wine. Our early start to the day meant there were very few tourists and we felt like we had these picturesque villages to ourselves. In general Piedmont is not an area that is heavily visited, so the pace is slower and there is not the crush of summer tourists found in other parts of Italy. The entire Piedmont region feels real, it feels Italian.
Touring picturesque vineyards and later the town of Barolo was the highlight of the morning. The Castello Falletti itself is breathtaking with parts of the original 10th century structure still intact. The Castello sits on the highest point for miles and the views of vineyards, rolling hillsides and smaller castles go on forever. Of course we had to stop for local dishes and more importantly a few glasses of the famed Barolo wine, the “king of wines and the wine of kings.” A moniker that is well deserved…and maybe we had more than a couple of glasses while we absorbed the Italian atmosphere and hospitality.
Monday, we arrived at the Giordano winery in the mid morning. As we walked up the steps to the offices housed in what looks more like a wine country estate, we were met by Alessandra who had been our travel contact and was so instrumental in assisting us with trip planning. Since we had traded many emails over the previous weeks, seeing her was more like a reunion than a meeting. Before visiting the area vineyards and the Giordano winery, we sat down with CEO SimonPietro Felice and Marketing Director Filippo Bernacco to hear Giordano’s plans to bring their wonderful wines directly to the American wine lover.
We discussed a bit about the 100-year history of Giordano wines and the fact that the winery to this day is still owned by the Giordano family. Simon and Filippo shared their plans for The Italian Wine Club. We learned that Giordano Wines, who pioneered the direct from the winery to the consumer concept as early as the 1950’s, is bringing the same concept to the U.S. via The Italian Wine Club. While many American wineries sell directly to their customers, regulations make it more difficult for Italian producers to achieve the same goal. However, Giordano Wines has been working with an American team to make this a reality. Although The Italian Wine Club is only available in a few states now, more will be coming on line in the next year. It was obvious to us that Giordano’s The Italian Wine Club not only offers wine lovers great wines at great prices, but will also offer an opportunity to have a tiny slice of Italy delivered to their doorstep.
Outside the winery doors we met family patriarch, Ferdinando Giordano as he completed his daily inspection of the cellars. Mr. Giordano struck us a kind and unassuming Italian gentleman. Inside we were greeted by head winemaker Andrea Morro, who has been at the winery over 25 years. Unlike most American winemakers dressed in plaid shirts and work boots, Andrea wore tailored slacks, polished shoes and a Giordano apron which we would later see on others in the winery. Andrea’s pride in his work at Giordano was obvious. Our first stop was in the fermentation room filled with beautiful large oak casks where the prized Nebbiolo and Barolo sat waiting until it is transferred into smaller oak barrels (barriques). These large oak casks are not widely used by winemakers around the world but are traditionally a part of creating the best Barolo and Nebbiolo. I’m sure heaven must smell much like this barrel room.
Andrea explained his winemaking techniques and how he strives to make each wine unique, enjoyable and approachable. Sometimes Andrea would speak so passionately he could only find Italian words to express himself. Fortunately, Alessandra was there to bridge the language barrier with translation. While at the winery we also toured the barrel rooms, brick walled cellars or infernot where over 50 years of Giordano’s finest vintage wine is stored and fermentation tanks. Giordano has an area reserved for small batch fermentation tanks where Andrea makes some of his best wines, many of which are included in Italian Wine Club shipments.
We left the winery to explore some of the nearby Nebbiolo vineyards and meet some of the vineyard workers who have been part of the Giordano winemaking tradition most of their lives. The highlight was our stop at an old house where we shared wine and stories with a few of the veteran vineyard hands while taking in a panoramic views of Langhe. At his point we really began to understand what the 100 year old tradition of Giordano Wines was all about.
Just as we thought our day was coming to an end, the hospitality continued with something of an Italian feast back at the winery. Course after course of local meats, fresh vegetable dishes and pasta were paired with Giordano wines. As we ate and drank our group became more festive and we were joined by more of the Giordano wine family.
But then everything got quiet, for just a moment. We could hear some commotion from behind the old stone wall. To our surprise the chef rounded the corner with a sparkling birthday cake in honor of Donna’s birthday. Obviously, Alessandra had done her homework. The fresh fruit tart cake paired perfectly with the popping bottles of Giordano Prosecco.
As I look back on our Giordano adventure, I don’t know why I was surprised by Donna’s impromptu birthday celebration. It is this combination of Italian hospitality, quality, value and attention to detail that has kept Giordano Wines an Italian and European favorite for over 100 years.
(Disclosure: Travel and lodging expenses paid by Giordano Wines)