I knew my group would be in for a major learning experience when I scheduled our visits in Barbaresco. The first stop was Gaja, the most exclusive winery in the region, and the second a visit to Produttori di Barbaresco, the co-op that produces wines for a collective of 54 farmers. Angelo Gaja has done more to put Piedmont on the map than anyone. He is an ambassador that has promoted these wines and this region for decades. His single-vineyard Barbarescos are extremely hard to find and command prices of over $300.
Alessandra Forlani, Gaja import director, showed us around the winery, which is joined to the Barbaresco castle, an incredible building which they have restored into an incredible wine tasting facility and art gallery. Halfway through the tour, she took me aside and said that Angelo Gaja remembered me from last time, and would join us for the tasting. Turns out that Angelo is an avid cyclist, and rides some of the toughest hills in Piedmont!
It was back in February when I met with Richard and Ann Opper, a couple who asked me to put a bike and wine trip together for them and their friends. They said it could be in any wine region, my choice, and that the biking should be challenging, but not ridiculously hard. It took me all of a minute to come up with the Piedmont region of Italy. It is incredibly beautiful, I love the wines (Barlo, Barbaresco, Barbera) and the hills are more difficult than Tuscany, but not as crazy as the Dolomites.