Festa del Barolo
BY ANTONIO GALLONI | JANUARY 23, 2024
Festa del Barolo is right around the corner. As we make the
final preparations, so many memories of the 2023 edition come rushing back. In
2023, we presented an expanded program of tastings, seminars and dinners. This
is a look at some of the many highlights.
The inaugural Festa del Barolo-Los Angeles was a huge success. The walk-around tasting featured ten growers, each of whom presented several wines.
Festa del Barolo 2023 kicked off with our first events in
Los Angeles. We were fortunate to have a perfect day. To be sure, Los Angeles
makes for a great escape from New York winters. A mild, sunny day with plenty
of California sunshine helped the wines show at their best. We did two events:
a walk-around tasting featuring ten growers and their 2018 Barolos, followed by
our traditional big bottle Gala Dinner, both held at Ristorante Marino in Santa
Monica. We had never done a walk-around tasting before. I found the more
informal vibe vis-à-vis the seated masterclass format we use in New York to be
very relaxed and perfectly suited to the crowd. Dinner was a great hit of
iconic wines served by producers and guests who dug deep into their cellars to
open their very best. Brothers Sal and Mario Marino cooked a fabulous dinner.
The Los Angeles Piedmont contingent showed up strong for our Gala Dinner. These are some of the wines we enjoyed.
Overall, it was the generosity and camaraderie of the day
that I will remember most.
Vittore Alessandria (Fratelli Alessandria), Mario Andrion (Castello di Verduno) and Fabio Alessandria (G.B. Burlotto) at our Verduno dinner, the first in a series of thematic, village-focused dinners at La Festa del Barolo.
A few days later, we were back in New York. I have always
wanted Festa del Barolo to offer the ultimate educational experience for
readers who love the great wines of Piedmont. To that end, we launched the
first of a series of dinners focused on single villages. In 2023, we focused on
Verduno, with stellar lineups from Fratelli Alessandria, G.B. Burlotto and
Castello di Verduno. Vittore Alessandria, Fabio Alessandria and Mario Andrion presented
the wines. The energy in the room was tremendous. Although one of Barolo’s
historic villages, Verduno has long been in the shade. That has changed over
the decade thanks to the efforts of a small group of elite wineries. What a
night. This year’s dinner focuses on Serralunga d’Alba.
A stunning collection of vintages at our Bartolo Mascarello dinner, where we served wines back to 1955.
Thursday evening, we gathered at Legacy Records for a breathtaking
of Bartolo Mascarello Barolos all the way back to 1955, all served from
magnum. It was another fabulous evening full of beautiful wines and
conversation. Tracking the estate’s evolution over the last several decades
made for an incredible evening. All the bottles were sourced directly from the
winery, meaning provenance was as perfect as it could be. The older vintages,
served from 1.9 bottiglioni, were especially memorable. Giacomo
Conterno’s Barolo Riserva Monfortino will be the focus of this year’s dinner.
Aldo Vacca explains the unique characteristics of Barbaresco single vineyards at our Produttori del Barbaresco lunch.
Another goal of ours has been to open Festa del Barolo to
include the other noteworthy Nebbiolo wines of Piedmont. We were delighted to
host Aldo Vacca of Produttori del Barbaresco for a lunch featuring all nine of
the Produttori’s 2017 Riservas. This was one of our most popular events of
2023, a testament to how loved and respected the Produttori are. Here, too, the
discussion was wide-ranging. Tasting the nine Riservas side by side is always
such an illuminating experience, as the only thing that changes is the site.
This year, we will take an in-depth look at Roagna’s Barbaresco Crichët Pajé,
specifically focusing on all the vintages Luca Roagna has made since assuming
primary responsibility for the wines starting in 2001.
Guests often put together tables with their friends and focus on specific themes at the Gala Dinner. This group enjoyed a spectacular collection of Barolos from Giuseppe Rinaldi.
Festa del Barolo’s Gala Dinner and Charity Auction is now a
time-honored tradition. Hosted at The Pool, one of New York City’s most iconic
dining rooms, the Gala Dinner, showcases top Piedmont wines in a super-classic
setting endowed with the essence of New York City character. Each grower hosts
a table and pours library wines while guests bring bottles to share at their
tables. It is no exaggeration that the Gala Dinner sees the most jaw-dropping
collection of older Barolo opened on a single night anywhere in the world. The
only thing that comes close was the LA version! We tasted a stunning range of
wines at our table, ranging from the iconic wines Bruno Giacosa made during his
peak to bottles from lesser-known producers such as Pianpolvere Soprano. Too
many great bottles to remember them all. As always, the generosity in the room
was beyond measure.
The Saturday morning masterclass always offers a mix of education and entertainment mixed with poignant moments that are reminders that these wines are made by people and families rather than companies.
The following morning, we hosted the 2018 Barolo
Masterclass. In my clearly non-impartial view, the Festa del Barolo Masterclass
is the single greatest Barolo tasting anywhere in the world. Fifteen top wines
are presented in perfect condition. Guests have plenty of time to taste through
the wines and ask producers questions. The entire morning is videotaped for
future reference. As a critic, even I don’t have an opportunity to taste this
many elite wines in such ideal conditions. Clearly, 2018 was a challenging
vintage for Barolo, and yet the best examples showed very well. Presenting this
seminar with 15 growers in attendance and an audience of some of the most
expert Piedmont tasters in the world is always an enormous privilege.
The Grill's burger is legendary and makes for a fine New York City lunch alongside a collection of superb Barolos.
From there, we adjourned to The Grill for another Festa del
Barolo tradition, the Barolo and Burgers lunch. Guests have an opportunity to
revisit some of their favorite wines from the morning session while enjoying
The Grill’s fabulous burger. After months of intense planning, Festa is
wrapping up. This is the one moment when I can relax a little. I went back and
enjoyed some of the wines I thought showed especially well. As much as I enjoy
tasting wine, sometimes it is also great to just have a glass or two. Drinking,
not tasting, as I like to say. And for those who have asked, the Carrot Cake is
gone in 2024, and we are serving Chocolate Cake!
More Gala Dinner wines...
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