Minnesota visits Barolo: Podere Ruggeri Corsini

We met Nicola Argamante during his Minnesota visit in January, on a night that was 10° below zero

We met Nicola Argamante during his Minnesota visit in January, on a night that was 20° below zero

Way back in January, we met Nicola Argamante of Podere Ruggeri Corsini during a winemaker visit in Minnesota.  He braved -20° F temperatures to sell his wines around the midwest, a dedicated man! We told him that night that we would like to visit when we were in the Piedmont this summer, and we did!

As you drive to visit, you may need to pull over for a minute, just to enjoy the view (Castiglione Falleto)

As you drive to visit, you may need to pull over for a minute, just to enjoy the view (Castiglione Falleto)

Barolo can be a confusing word.  Yes, you can sit in the town of Barolo, drinking a glass of Barolo wine from the Barolo region.  There are a total of 11 communes located within the Barolo DOCG region, and all may produce Barolo wine.

Podere Ruggeri Corsini winery is located just a short way out of Monforte d’Alba. If you do your homework carefully and make sure you have the correct location (sometimes an address, sometimes GPS coordinates) in your GPS receiver, you can find the winery.  Even if it seems like you are at the end of the road! As we drove in, we were thinking: “Can this be it?”

Do your homework in advance with your GPS, because you'll need a little faith, could this be it?

Do your homework in advance with your GPS, because you’ll need a little faith, could this be it?

As it turns out, we just needed to keep going past the abandoned stone house to Nicola’s winery, which was very nice. If you’re going to visit wineries in this region on your own, you’ll need to arrange your visit in advance as only the biggest wineries have tasting rooms.  One benefit is that you’ll usually be hosted by the winegrower and you’ll have a very personal visit.  Isn’t that worth it?

Sophisticated tasting room sign

Sophisticated tasting room sign

What a treat to meet Nicola on his home turf.  We only briefly saw his wife and partner, Loredana, as she was headed out to the vineyards as we arrived.  Nicola and Loredana were both involved in the academic side of winemaking at the Oenology and Viticulture school in Alba until 1995 when they decided it would be more fun to make wine than to teach it.  Today they farm 10 hectares (25 acres) of vines surrounding their winery.

Nicola showing us their vineyards right next to home and the winery

Nicola showing us their vineyards right next to the winery

Barolo wines are always made 100% from the Nebbiolo grape, grown on south facing slopes in the Barolo DOCG region.  Besides the variety of soils, there are a variety of winemaking techniques and wineries or individual wines may be informally known as “traditional” or “modern” or somewhere in between.

One of the indicators of modern vs. traditional is the container used for the mandatory aging of the wine (at least 2 years in wood for Barolo).  The large slavonian oak barrels below are called botti and range in size upwards of 2000 liters.  These are the traditional barrels used for aging.  The small 225 liter French barriques shown in the foreground are a more modern container, imparting more color and oak flavor compared to the botti.  Podere Ruggerie Corsini uses a variety of barrels, as many wineries do, to fit with their aesthetic of how each wine should be aged to best showcase its’ individual characteristics.

I had an “aha” moment when Nicola explained that a small winery may not harvest enough grapes to fill all their large botti, so even when they would prefer to use the big barrels, some of their young wines would spend time in smaller containers out of necessity.  The grape yield is different every season, so it’s a continual juggling match!

Many Barolo winemakers use both botte (the huge barrels) and barriques

Many Barolo winemakers use both botti (the huge barrels) and barriques

When we went into the tasting room to taste, Nicola and Loredana’s academic backgrounds were obvious.  We were in a beautiful classroom!  Nicola gave us an excellent introduction to the topography and geology in the region as we sampled through the wines.  What a surprise in a small family winery!

Nicola's history in academia was evident, this was a real education center!

Nicola’s history in academia was evident, this was a real education center!

Now, whenever we open a bottle of Podere Ruggeri Corsini wine, we think back to our visit on a sunny day in May.  Thanks Nicola!

What fun to taste Nicola's at his home, right next to his family's vineyards

What fun to taste Nicola’s at his home, right next to his family’s vineyards

Bonus: Podere Ruggeri Corsini Wines in Minnesota!
We love visiting small winegrowers, but getting their wines back in the US can be a challenge.  After the few bottles we bring home are gone, how do we get our hands on more? Thanks to Weston Hoard, Nicola and Loredana’s wines are available throughout the Midwest.  In Minneapolis, you can find them at France 44, Sunfish Cellars, South Lyndale Liquors and other wine shops.

We carried the Autenzio back from Italy, all the others are available locally.  Yay!

We carried the Autenzio back from Italy, all the others are available locally. Yay!

Search out Nicola and Loredana’s wines, you’ll be in for a treat! The Barberas (there are two different ones) are very nice and would be within nearly anyone’s budget at around $20. The Barolos are more expensive at $40-60, but they are very reasonably priced for single cru wines from the famous Barolo region. Or, you could stop by our house, I’m always ready to open a bottle to share!

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