Neil Duarte's Vino e Cucina d'Italia

A Fortuitous Choice — A Visit to the Zunino Winery

Normally when Terry, my wife and photographer, and I tour wineries either in the US or Italy, I make an appointment or at the least have plans as to which wineries we will visit. That way I can schedule the time available in the most efficient manner. However, on our last trip to the Langhe Valley in Piedmont, home of both Barolo and Barbaresco wines, an unexpected pleasure occurred.

When neither of the two accommodations at which we normally stay in the town of Serralunga D'Alba was available on all of the dates we needed, we were forced to find an alternative for one day of the stay. Fortunately for us, we found the Albergo Trattoria del Castello in the even smaller village of Baudana, just two kilometers down the hill from Serralunga D'Alba.

Unbeknown to us until we checked into the hotel (albergo means "hotel" in Italian), Albergo Trattoria del Castello also includes a small winery. Both the hotel/restaurant and the winery are owned and run by the Zunino family. The hotel and restaurant can be reached at www.ristoranteserralunga.it while the winery can be accessed at www.zunino-baudana.com .

In a brief conversation with the desk personnel while registering, the subject of our visit arose and when the hotel staff learned that we were there to develop material for an article on wine, they asked if we were interested in a brief tour of the winery of Azienda Agricola Zunino Attilio located on the premises. Never ones to miss the opportunity to find another good small winery, we agreed to a brief tour later in the afternoon. This turned out to be a most fortuitous choice.

The establishment was started in the 1950s by Piera and Basilio Zunino as a small trattoria. Like many of the inhabitants in the area they also made their own wine for personal consumption. Today their children operate an excellent small hotel and trattoria with a magnificent view of the valley. Personal winemaking has expanded to where they produce and sell a range of typical Langhe wines using Chardonnay, Barbera, Dolcetto and Nebbiolo grapes grown on their hillside estate surrounding the hotel. All of these are either DOC or DOCG wines.

taking wine from barrel.
Senora Marisa Zunino draws Zunino Barolo from a barrel in the cellar. Photo: Terry Duarte.
Our hostess for the late afternoon tour was Senora Marisa Zunino who with her two brothers runs both the hotel/restaurant and the winery. Despite the short notice and brief time available, Senora Zunino had prepared a plate of appetizers featuring local salami and cheese to go along with the wine. Unfortunately, our time schedule permitted only a tasting of their Barolo wines and sampling of the appetizers.

The tasting was held in the barrel storage area which allowed us to literally taste some of the wine drawn directly from the Slovenian oak barrels. In the past I have tasted too many really good wines in the Langhe area to say that the high quality of the Zinino wine was a surprise. We tasted both the 2004 and 2005 Zunino Barolos and both were excellent. Their labels carry the words "Sori di Baudana" that indicate the location of the vineyards. Both vintages were deep ruby red in color and intense in their noses. They featured the classic long, smooth Nebbiolo finish. Both vintages are highly recommended.

My only regret was that our time constraints precluded a tasting of all of the offerings from the Zunino Estate. I hope to correct this when we next return to the Langhe Valley area. For those who visit Serralunga D'Alba , a stay at Albergo Trattoria del Castello would be a convenient base from which to tour the numerous and excellent small wineries in the area. It also offers its own very good wine and local cuisine in a beautiful setting. And Senora Zunino's hospitality is truly warm and enjoyable.

March 2010

Back to Neil Duarte's Vino e Cucina d'Italia