Dario Borgogno is a gentle, unassuming man. He is not flashy, nor is he the type to bring attention to himself. He is simply a farmer who happens to make great Barolo. Dario’s humility yet quiet confidence likely comes from his grandfather, Bartolomeo Borgogno who took the grape growing lessons he learned from his father and established the family’s first proprietary vineyards in the small hamlet of Garbelletto, just below the town of Castiglione Falletto, in 1924. Bartolomeo loved being amongst his vines and was most content out in the vineyard working the soil, pruning and harvesting which he did into his early 90s. His fruit was highly regarded and he sold it to producers in the surrounding Barolo area for decades until his son, Dario’s father, started actually making wine in the early 1970s under the name ‘Cavalier’ (a term of endearment which also can mean, Prince or Doctor) Bartolomeo. Today, it is Dario and his son, Alex, along with Dario’s wife, Marriaje, who are running the four hectare estate which is planted mostly to Nebbiolo with a few plots of Barbera and Dolcetto, all farmed sustainably without any chemical intervention. Dario continues to make the wines like his father did in the traditional manner with long fermentations and aging in large oak ‘botte’ casks in the tiny cellar next to the family home.
The total production for Cavalier Bartolomeo is only about 1,500 cases across seven different wines: the two Barolo Crus of Altenasso and San Lorenzo, Barbera d’Alba, Dolcetto d’Alba, Langhe Rosso, Barolo Chinato (which is excellent and we wish we could get our hands on) and Grappa. Thus, we were pretty thrilled to be able to purchase this 2013 Altenasso for the club. Dario aged the wine for 20 months mostly in neutral botte with a few new barriques, put it back in stainless steel tank and then aged it in bottle for two more years before release. The nose is unmistakably Barolo, expressing aromas of black plum, violets, red licorice, candied orange peel, tobacco leaf, dried earth and ground red peppercorn spice. Flavors on the medium-bodied palate continue in the darker red-fruited realm with plum and cherry, which comes through particularly on the finish of semi-firm tannins. While it’s clear this wine has a long way to go with its admirable Barolo structure, it is in a really silky place right now and feels ready to go with an appealing delicacy and warmth that is hard to resist.