So, Sinio is right in the middle of the Barolo, Barbaresco and Dolcetto regions. With only 7 major communes in Barolo, we decide to hit that one first (and, as it turns out, last).

The first stop is La Morra. Not because it has an Enoteca Comunale (like a tasting room for that commune’s wines), but because it has sweeping vistas of the entire Barolo region. On the way there, we’re shocked at the vast number of vines on the hills. The density of the vineyards themselves is as common in Sonoma or Napa, but it seems that every square foot of space in the region is planted (unlike Sonoma and Napa). Combine that with the fact that the vines are trellised to resemble 6 foot high walls, and the “maze” of vineyards is incredible.

We get to La Morra and the entirely friendly (and fluent in English) lady gets us to the right spot. We enter the enoteca and make a friend. Nicola (that’s nee-COH-lah; a guy) is friendly, loves wine, loves food and lives 20 meters away. He helps us with some Barolo selections and several tastings, as well as dinner suggestions and reservations. After probably an hour in there, we step outside and notice that the sun has broken free! Picture-snapping ensues, and we head out to the commune of Barolo.

Barolo is pretty dead, by the time we get there. We mistakenly step into a producer’s cantina instead of the commune’s and end up paying €10 to taste 4 wines (only 2 barolos). The wines weren’t that great, but the situation could have been worse. We could have been tourists in Napa Valley and paid as much to taste Beringer’s wines or something. We eventually find the right spot, but it’s closed by the time we get there. After walking around a bit, we elect to head on to the other four communes. In Serralunga, we snap some castle pics and when lured into a small wine bar by Sinatra’s crooning, we find out why everywhere is so dead: harvest. We have a glass of wine each in the company of the 3 dogs, 2 cats and 1 person that seem to inhabit the town, then move on.

We manage to hit all but one of the communes before dinner, and with 30 minutes left to spare, we head back to La Morra for our dinner reservations. We arrive on time and see a couple we met earlier in the day (Bill and Jen from New York, who were staying at an agritourismo in La Morra. Sounded wonderful and cheap… Perfect).

The Journey to the Castle

I went to get the car this morning after not paying for parking again. Are the small town Italian police lazy about issuing parking tickets (I would be) or are rental cars somehow immune to parking fees? I half-worry that somehow it’s all automated and since I can’t really read most of the signs, I’ll get a huge bill to pay as I’m leaving the country.

Nancy makes a comment regarding how nice the autostrade are on our 2 hours journey to Sinio. I’m thinking the same things as I glance down at the toll ticket on the console that we picked up about an hour ago. When we approach the pay booth for the toll ticket, I think, “Now we find out how the really nice highways are paid for.” €5.90. Not too bad, considering tolls have been €1-2 so far for much shorter jaunts.

Along the way, we stop at a gas station and get a slice of pizza to go. Sadly, this is the best pizza that we’ve had so far, and probably the cheapest. Topped with arugula, it has a nice sauce and a decently crisp crust. Maybe the pizza gets better as we go south.

We arrive at the castle on the wettest day of the trip so far. The sun is threatening to break free of the clouds tyranny, but so far their hold is strong. The castle is as picturesque as the brochures & website indicate. It’s owned by a couple from San Francisco and it’s been renovated over the course of seven years. We’re greeted by one of the owners, James. He familiarizes us with a few things and after about 15 minutes we get our key and head upstairs to our chamber.

We drop everything off and head out to explore the town… which, it turns out, is not so big. That out of the way, we decide to head off and explore the Barolo region…