I've written plenty about Olek Bondonio and his great Barbarescos and other traditional Langhe wines and I'm not the only one. Since starting his winery in 2005 on a family estate in the commune of Barbaresco, Olek has managed to gather quite the worldwide following for his traditional Barbarescos and a handful of traditional Langhe wines like this one. This despite the fact that he produces next to no wine. I visit the azienda and taste at least once a year and every time I see him he seems to be covered in dirt. Not surprising since he spends so muchtime in his vineyards. In fact, the azienda logo is a tractor. Not the typical landowner's crest, castle or portrait of a decrepit ancestor found on so many of these wines but a modern piece of farm equipment. The same one he almost randomly ran me over with on a bike ride through the hills here a couple of years ago. Most great winemakers will tell you that the wine is made in the vineyard and while I'd never argue with that, very few of these winemakers are actually out there doing this backbreaking work. For as much work as he gives the vines, the wines get almost no attention. Olek's approach to winemaking is a custodial one; start with the best fruit your terroir can give, crush it and make sure nothing goes wrong until it's time to bottle. I know that's an oversimplification of things but it's not far from reality here.
We don't often hear the words affordable and Nebbiolo in the same sentence but there a few examples. The Langhe Nebbiolo designation is the only way for Barolo and Barbaresco prodcuers to declassify their production into a d.o.c. wine. this usually means young vines, fruit from vines on less than perfect and often undesirable terroirs, less time aging in cask and sometimes no cask at all. Olek's Langhe Nebbiolo is all sourced from Roncagliette (Olek's home vineyard, aka Gaja Sori Tildin and Costa Russi at $300 per bottle) and Starderi in Neive.This is not only my favorite Langhe Nebbiolo but nothing even comes close in my opinion. In fact, there are countless Barolo and Barbaresco DOCG wines at twice the price and more that don't deliver at this very high level. This "baby Barbaresco" has all the pretty aromatics and flavors you might expect from a wine with much more pedigree and a complex profile that belies its humble appellation. A perfect school night wine and a good reason to let your more precious bottles live to see another dinner. A bottle from last night showed all of the fireworks of the varietal; deeply perfumed and dark fruited with the slightly chewy, ashen tannins you expect in traditional Nebbiolo with ripe cherries and firm acids on the finish. Just the thing with a fresh batch of agnolotti dal plin to go with this week's cold snap here in LA.
N.B. there isn't much of this available and the only other retail source in the US who managed to get any of this is listing it at $34.99