It is unusual these days to come across high-quality small producers in the Barbaresco or Barolo zones that are not already highly celebrated or on their way to Napa-styled new wineries and manicured sterility. We've been following Olek Bondonio for more than a dozen years but he makes so little wine and it has such a devoted following (largely in the UK and Northern Europe) that we have not found a meaningful offer until now.
His wines are not generally reviewed but he is an inspired artisan who understands his property and his vines very well. The association with Gaja creates a fascinating contrast, as explained below. His wines come with a strong recommendation to anyone who is interested in exploring and understanding where Piemonte is headed.
Olek Bondonio is a perfect ambassador for the "new” or nowadays, not-so-new generation of Piemontese winemakers who have traveled, seen the world, and returned to an old family estate to make wine with a traditional style using the advantages of modern technique and care.
Tasting with Olek at La Berchialla
Olek is a warm, charismatic, and quirky kind of rogue. His enthusiasm is infectious. Whether it is for his wines, the local peasant sausage, or his ancient Fiat Panda..."A great car!" Olek is someone who sees and appreciates true value and worth, from wherever it may strike him. He has a refreshing vision and is clearly quite unusual, but his story is perfectly typical. His family has owned prime vineyard land in Barbaresco for generations. After oenology school in Turin, he traveled the world, making wine in both hemispheres before returning to La Berchialla, the family's farm atop the Roncagliette cru in Barbaresco.
He now makes wine under the family name from grapes that his father customarily sold to the Produttori. Olek's new "winery," such as it is, is built into the converted outbuildings around the house at the bricco or top of the Roncagliette vineyard. It is a cru as famous as any in Italy, if not the world...yet it is more or less unknown under its own name. Indeed, Roncagliette is not familiar even to the most dedicated of the cognoscenti. However, when it is identified by the trademarked proprietary names of its most famous landowner, Angelo Gaja, it becomes clear why this wine is so very important. Gaja's Roncagliette goes under names as famous as his own: Sorì Tildìn from the vines lying immediately below and to the east of Bondonio's plot, and Costa Russi which occupies the majority of the remainder of the cru below.
The contrast of these two neighbors is both jarring and fascinating: the might, the style, and the majesty of the iconic Gaja compared with the bucolic humility and simplicity of Bondonio. It is a riveting comparison. Their wines come from the same place yet they are a world apart.
We are offering a small allocation of the current releases. This is a pre-arrival offer. Wines are due in May.