I spent Saturday evening at Antonio Galloni’s La Festa del Barolo, and had such a wonderful, amazing time that I felt I needed to share the experience with you all.
Widely regarded as the preeminent reviewer of Italian wine in America today, Antonio Galloni started this event two years ago. He modeled it after Daniel Johnnes’ La Paulee, an epic celebration of Burgundy which has grown to 4 full days of tastings, seminars, auctions and dinners. La Festa is much more modest in scope (thus far) — an afternoon tasting of new releases hosted by the owners/winemakers from 15 of the top estates in Barolo, followed that evening by a sit down dinner featuring gems from the producer’s cellars as well wonderful wines brought by the guests themselves to share with their fellow enthusiasts.
The lineup of owners/winemakers in attendance was mind-blowing in its scope and quality — Roberto Voerzio (Roberto Voerzio), Roberto Conterno (Giacomo Conterno), Luca Currado (Vietti), Chiara Boschis (E. Pira – Chiara Boschis), Enrico Scavino (Paolo Scavino), just to name a few — and the opportunity to interact with so many of them personally is almost unheard-of. It’s like attending the Major League Baseball All-Star Game and having the chance to hang out on the field and talk shop in the clubhouse with people you’ve only ever dreamed of meeting. It was simply thrilling on so many levels.
This year’s event was held at Del Posto, probably the top Italian restaurant in New York City and a fantastic venue for an event of this size and complexity. The cooking was done in house, and the wine service accomplished by a team of sommeliers brought in from many top Italian restaurants around the country just for the occasion.
The event began with a reception featuring glasses of Ruinart Blanc de Blancs 2002 in the salon as guests were arriving and getting their wine contributions checked in. Once seated, each 10-person table was initially served the wines brought by their host winemaker — in our case, the Roberto Voerzio Barolo Rocche dell’Annunziata / Torriglione 2004, which was drinking absolutely beautifully. Also on the table was a bottle of Roberto Voerzio Barolo Cerequio 2008 left over from the afternoon tasting, but that didn’t make it around to our end of the table.
Once those were consumed in short order, the wines brought by the guests at the table began being presented and poured by the wait staff. Those included, in rough order of appearance:
- Berteletti Gattinara 1964
- Pianpolvere Soprano Riserva 1990 (magnum)
- G. Conterno Monfortino 1970
- G. Conterno Monfortino 1971
- Brovia Rocche 1978 (magnum)
- Vietti Rocche 1999
- Cavallotto Riserva San Giuseppe 1990
- Mascarello Barolo 1978 (magnum)
- Vietti Rocche 1982
And finally, to cap off the evening, we had a magnum of Roberto Verozio Riserva Capalot Brunate 1996, which was absolutely stellar.
Each of the wines had something to say and much to appreciate, but for me the most amazing experiences to be had in that incredible lineup were the Conterno Monfortino 1971 (surprisingly vibrant, nuanced and elegant), the Vietti Rocche 1982 (similarly complex and ethereal), and my wine of the night (WOTN) the Mascarello Barolo 1978 (so powerful, deep, rich and complex it was something to behold).
The food was an excellent representation of some of the highlights of Piemontese cuisine, starting with an excellent rendition of the traditional vitello tonnato (sliced pork), then moving on to two different pastas (which were sublime) and a wonderful entree of perfectly grilled New York Strip.
While the locus of the evening was the table at which you were seated and served, there was lots of walking around and sharing tastes among folks who knew each other. Because VinConnect partners with three winemakers among the 15 in attendance (and we know well several of the others), we were frequently circling the room shaking hands and making introductions.
I’ve been asked a couple of times since the event “was it worth it?” If you simply add up the value of the (admittedly spectacular) dinner and the (admittedly amazing) wine brought by the winemaker at the table, it would be impossible to recoup the $700 cost of the dinner ticket (plus the cost of the wine you brought to share).
But that’s not really the point. How can one put a price on the chance to meet, talk, share and taste with many of the best winemakers in Barolo? Or the value of tasting so many amazing, rare, fascinating older Barolos that one might never again come across? Or the value of the wonderful conversations at table with others equally (or more) passionate and knowledgeable about Barolo? You simply can’t put a price on those things.
And so, for me, that makes the Festa del Barolo certainly something I’ll look forward to doing whenever it is announced again (next year or beyond). I encourage you to keep your eyes out for it as well, and to consider attending — if you’re passionate about Barolo, it’s a simply amazing experience that can’t be replicated…