Caves Cooperatives de Donnas, Vallée d’Aoste $28
Just northwest of Piemonte, you begin your ascent into the Alpine, bilingual, French-Italian region of Valle d’Aosta. Donnas is the first subregion along the Dora Baltea river and the name of a small, high-quality cooperative made up of 23ha and 20 members. It’s Alpine wine (1300-1700ft) in the largest game of Shoots and Ladders, cum-Vines-and-Trellising, you’ve even seen. The terraced vineyards are hewn from the granite and quartz mountain sides. Nebbiolo here (called Picotendro) is a harpsichord where Barolo is a cello.
Ioppa, Ghemme $48
85% Nebbiolo and 15% Vespolina from Romagnano Sesia in Novara. Fermented in steel for 3 weeks then 48 months in big Slavonian oak casks and bottle refinement for a least two years. Ghemme is the higher altitude cousin to Barolo. The Ioppas have owned vineyards and made wine here since 1852. Currently they farm 27 hectares.
Luigi Ferrando, Carema Etichetta Nera $108
Located in Piemonte on the border of Valle d’Aosta, Canavese is famous for its steep terraced vineyards. The Ferrandos painstakingly cultivate their Nebbiolo vineyards on the mountainside terroir of Carema, in the very shadows of Monte Bianco. The resulting wine is very different than its more famous cousins from Barolo or Barbaresco and is sought after by connoisseurs for its finesse, complexity, and longevity. The Ferrando’s also produce Erbaluce, Canavese’s famous and equally exceptional white wine. Carema was once unknown to almost anyone who did not live within 50 kilometers of Torino, but there is a growing respect for these compelling, almost mystical wines in the American market.
La Miraja, Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato $27
The singular wines of La Miraja have heretofore been impossible to find in the United States. The estate is nestled within the original castle of Castagnole Monferrato, constructed in the 11th century and retrofitted to serve as a cellar in the 1400s. In this armory-turned-cellar, Eugenio Gatti turns out Barbera d’Asti, Grignolino, and his fabled Ruché. A seventh-generation viticulturist, Eugenio personally tends to the oldest vineyard of Ruché in Castagnole Monferrato, the original birthplace of Ruché. It is here that Eugenio Gatti devotes his life’s work to producing 840 transcendent cases of wine each year.