Stopping to Smell the Barolo

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By Emily Aschbrenner The other morning, as I pulled my car over in a huff of expletives and reached for my drivers license and registration to pass to the officer who had just caught me allegedly barreling (I maintain it was more of a roll) through a stop sign, I was struck with a sharp realization: I needed to slow down. And not just on the road.

My days have me scurrying from tastings to client meetings to press dinners to drinks with the newest editors, all the while texting, tweeting, emailing, conference calling—after all, multi-tasking is the hallmark of a great publicist. As one in the food and wine industry, it’s unfortunately all too easy to overlook the many beautiful tastes, smells and flavors that frequently cross my path. As I sat and gave my best pathetic, please-give-me-a-break face to the oppressing officer, I was consoled only by the fact that I would soon be boarding a flight to Italy to lead a press trip to Piemonte with our client, Beni di Batasiolo.

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Upon arriving to Piemonte I was still moving at California, stop-sign running speed. I made enthusiastic introductions among the six journalists we were hosting. The drive into the Barolo region was vibrant with our various tales of origin, but when we turned up a very windy road and reached the peak of Serralunga d’Alba that looked over Batasiolo’s vineyards and its luxury resort, Il Boscareto, we were hushed. As we took in the sweeping bluffs of Nebbiolo grapes and ancient hilltop towns, time stopped. Here, we were insulated from the harried modernity of our daily lives.

The Batasiolo press trip was categorized by many similar moments. Lively, laughter-filled conversations were often quieted by the experience of something only to be described as magnificent—the sultry palate of the 2004 Batasiolo Coda della Bricollina, a forkful of insalatina tiepida di piccione, fegato grasso e rape rosse, the topography of vineyards as seen from the top of the Barolo museum. Batasiolo’s proprietor, Fiorenzo Dogliani, joined us for every meal. To be around him was an education in savoring. His speech, his movements, the way he discussed his wines, his laugh—he knew well how to enjoy every moment, and find pleasure in life’s simplest things. This attitude of appreciation permeates everything borne out of Fiorenzo’s vision, expressed most poignantly in his wines.

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The splendor of those sun-soaked Piemonte days, the confluence of thoughtful and interesting minds, the re-discovery of the intimacy of savoring a sip, a bite, or a moment were just what I needed to catch my breath. I returned to San Francisco with a rejuvenated appreciation for, well, everything. And while I may never be cured of my Cyborg-like texting speed and industrious schedule, I can thank Batasiolo and the Dogliani family for helping me to know when to take una pausa, and stop and smell the Barolo.

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