Drop Dead Gorgeous Italy

Panorama: Snowy Red Rooftops

Just a few minutes outside of Alba, you're in serious wine country...and in the Italy you always imagined. The rolling hills are covered with precise rows of grapes, still beautiful even though now completely bare. Medieval towns sit atop the hills. About a dozen massive castles grace towns nearby.

It was breathtaking even though the clouds were so heavy with snow we could hardly see anything. I can only imagine what this area is like in the spring when the plants are just blooming, or in the fall, during the wine harvest. I can safely report that this part of Italy, called the Langhe, rivals any part of the country I've seen. Trust me: It's worth it.

And then there's the wine.

We drove through several little towns on our way to Barolo (same as the wine), just outside of which is the Vaira winery, belonging to the gentleman we met at the restaurant last night. The winery is a family affair. His wife and eldest son Giuseppe also work with him there.

Panorama: Barrels of Whine

Giuseppe, 20, a student at the University of Torino studying wine-making, met us and showed us around. He was like no 20-year-old I had ever met.

Fluent in both English and French besides his native Italian, Giuseppe, known as Beppe, seemed to know everything there was to know about wine-growing and wine-making. I wasn't too sure why he was studying it at college, but he insisted there were still things he could learn in the classroom. He travels often to the States as a representative for his parents' winery -- his first visit on business there when he was 16. (Is your 16-year-old ready to go to New York to represent your business? In another language? By himself?)

Beppe waxed poetic when he talked of wine, and then poured it for us to taste. Wine-making was a passion for the Vairas, not a business, he told us. And when he said it, you actually believed him.

He took us to see the family's snow-covered vineyards, from which they make some 150,000 bottles of wine a year. He showed us how they cut the plants back in the winter, but not too much.

They're like human beings to us, he said. Sometimes we let them grow longer. It's like a child who has to study. You can't just tie them to their chairs to make them work. They need freedom.

Did he just say that?

Panorama: Castle

By Daniela Deane |  January 27, 2006; 8:45 AM ET  | Category:  Alba , Wine
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