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A Magical Italian Wine Shop in Stresa on Lake Maggiore

IMG_0236Standing along the Via Cavour in the town of Stresa on Lake Maggiore is a wine shop that belies it’s ordinary appearance.  La Cambusa seems to be just another local shop selling wine, olive oil and dry foods.  Baskets of pasta bracket the entrance. On your right as you go in is a wall of spirits, with a very good scotch and bourbon

Via Cavour

Via Cavour

selection.  To your left there is olive oil.  So far this is nice, but not special.

Then you turn the corner however, and the actual wine shop unfolds in the back rooms.  Suddenly a wine lover has entered a

A surprising Scotch selection

A surprising Scotch selection

candy store of Italian wine, and the selection is staggering.  There are big names, names every wine lover would know such as Sassicaia, Tignanello and Gaja Barolo and Barbaresco.  There are also a myriad of other names, many of which you could not get in the United States.  If you really must go for the big names there are ridiculous verticals of them, including 11 different vintages of Gaja Barbaresco!  That was pretty typical of the classics.  One of my favorites was a vertical of Sassicaia, arranged vertically in one corner. It truly was a vertical vertical.

We had a tasting arranged here through our tour guide, but I had a hard time taking my

Tignanello anyone?  Anyone?

Tignanello anyone? Anyone?

attention off the surrounding walls.  There were walls of Barolo and Barbaresco, a wall of Brunello and one of Amarone.  I kept wandering around and just sort of staring.  In the meantime someone was opening bottles, so I wrenched my attention back to the small tasting table, although it would be continuously interrupted by short strolls through the wine as the night progressed.

The shop is run by Rosaria and her son, Ruben.  Clearly this is their passion, and it was evidenced by the zeal with which Ruben opened, explained and poured each bottle.  They brought out some local cheese, cured meats, olive oil and assorted spreads as well, so it was almost a meal that went along with the wine.  Here’s what we tasted.

2013 Lunae Colli di Luni Vermentino – this was clean but still complex, with a long

Lunae Vermentino

Lunae Vermentino

finish.  The palate was fruity and bone dry.  A streak of minerality runs through the wine and provides great structure.  It reminded me a bit of Chablis.  Very, very good.

2012 Borgogno Era Ora – from Barolo producer Borgogno comes this unusual white for the region, produced from Riesling grown near the sea in Piemonte.  It is clean and crisp, with just a tiny hint of the petroleum marker you would expect from a mature German Riesling.  It’s hard to identify.  The vines are young, so this should improve in subsequent vintages.  Ruben informed us he successfully identified this grape variety in a blind tasting, and that is impressive.

Now the reds – and this is where some of it gets crazy good.

Cascina Garitana Caranti Barbera d’Asti – I was so caught up in wandering around I never did write down the vintage of this wine.  It was too young at this point, and carried a high amount of acid.  Still, you could see the fruit through that and it finished very long.  Let this sit in the bottle for a long while, decant for two hours or drink it with some acidic foods.

2011 Scagliola Sansi Barbera d’Asti Superiore – now this is crazy good.  Barbera is

Crazy good Barbera

Crazy good Barbera

generally known for higher acid and medium bodied wines that pair well with food.  This particular one is a huge, full bodied wine with unbelievable dark fruits, a rich delicious profile that lasts throughout the experience, and a long finish.  It is, in summary, crazy good stuff.  It was 24 euro a bottle and well worth it.  We bought a bottle to drink back at the hotel over the next few days.  This might be available somewhere in the US.  First class wine all the way and an eye opener Barbera.

2011 Monferrato Rosso – this is a blend of 50% Cabernet, 25% Barbera and 25% Nebbiolo, which is a bit unusual.  It was very good, carrying a deep red color and aromas dominated by the cab.  The cab also carries into the palate.  Another rich and long finishing wine.

2010 Scagliola Sansi Selezione Barbera d’Asti – yet another huge Barbera, and this one checks in at 15.8% alcohol.  It was a little too warm, and the alcohol was really front and center.  If this had been ten degrees cooler it would have been incredible.  Who knew they made Barberas like this?

While that ended the tasting for the first day, Ruben mentioned another wine he had coming in the following morning, that would be worth a return visit.  It seemed like the thing to do, so we showed up shortly after noontime.  Ruben quickly produced a bottle of something really incredible, and which is one of the best wines we’ve tried in a very long time.  You have to like big reds, because that is what this is, big and red.  Add in a bunch of other superlatives and you get the idea.

2007 Cascina Garitina Neuvsent Vigna Vecchia “900” Barbera d’Asti – this is

An unbelievably rich Barbera

An unbelievably rich Barbera

dark and almost inky black, with a slight red tinge at the rims.  It is not showing any age in the glass. The nose is deep and rich and filled with black fruits.  On the palate it doesn’t disappoint, and reminds one of Amarone.  From 100 year old vines the wine just keeps delivering, throwing dark fruit and tobacco notes across every taste bud you have as it drenches the palate.  The vines were planted about the year 1900, and they use “900” to signify that.  We both loved it as much as Ruben, and actually had him ship us a case home.  I have no idea when it shows up, but we’re certainly looking forward to it.  This has to be good, because we were just discussing how expensive it was to ship wine home the night before, yet we did it anyway after tasting this.

As an aside, Ruben mentioned that the 2010 Barolo vintage is one not to be missed, so you might want to keep an eye out for them when they arrive.  I’d certainly take his word for it.  These people know Italian wines.

A vertical vertical of Sassicaia!

A vertical vertical of Sassicaia!

We left La Cambusa amazed, more educated in Italian wine and somewhat poorer.  If you are in the Stresa area and love wine you have to visit the shop.  Make sure you go all the way in back.  They’ll probably be pouring something.  Don’t overlook the oil and food offerings as well, as everything we tried during our tasting was delicious.  When you do visit, say hello to Ruben and Rosaria for us.  They were gracious hosts and wonderful people to meet.   If you’ve got the pockets and want an eleven bottle vertical of Gaja Barbaresco, or a ten bottle vertical of Sassicaia, or anything else related to Italian wines, then this is the place.

A votre sante!

12 comments to A Magical Italian Wine Shop in Stresa on Lake Maggiore

  • […] just wonderful people.  Surrounding you in La Cambusa is a dizzying assortment of Italian wines.  There is an 11 bottle run through vintages of Gaja Barbaresco.  Similar assortments of the big names in Italian wines also abound, with Sassicaia, Tignanello and others you would expect.  What you don’t expect is the breadth in each however, and the sheer variety in each varietal.  There are walls of Barolo and Barbaresco, a wall of Barbera, a wall of Brunello and countless others.  The real treasure here, however, are the bottles of smaller producers you will have never heard of, but which Ruben knows well and can describe in detail.  These might be small production Barberas that are fuller and richer than any you have ever tried or even knew existed.  It could be a native Piemonte white wine with herbaceous notes and a rich texture made with a grape totally foreign to you, or just unexpected as the Riesling was.  It is all of these things and more.  We wrote a separate article on La Cambusa, as it really needs a broader treatment, and you can read that here. […]

  • Terry Curran

    My husband Kevin and I met Rosario while on a tour in 2006. We purchased several bottles of wine, packets of spices and balsamic vinegar. We enjoyed our visit to her shop and to Stresa so much, we returned in 2007. She welcomed us back warmly and served us a beautiful lunch in her back room. Again, we purchased wine and had it shipped back to the U.S. Both times, all the bottles made it safely to our home. We plan on making a third trip to Stresa in 2015 and look forward to visiting Enoteca La Cambusa and seeing the lovely Rosaria again.

    • admin

      We really loved our stay in Stresa as well, and La Cambusa was one of the highlights. During our tasting Rosaria had all sorts of treats out for us to sample along with the wines. They are fabulous people. Our wine also arrived in the US unscathed, so I would not hesitate to ship with them again. We are jealous however that you are returning next year! We will probably go back sometime in the not too distant future.

  • Barbara Bianchi

    I will be coming to Stresa in May and am definitely making this store a priority.

  • Kellie

    They say a picture is worth a thousand words. The Tignanello pic sold me:) I was looking for a store with older vintages of super Tuscans. Many thanks! We are headed to this one this weekend.

  • Pinky Feakes

    Please help
    How do I get in touch with La Cambusa in Viar Cavour 27 Stresa on Lake Margiore
    in Italy

    Do they have a web site? Please help

  • Pinky

    Hi
    Please help
    The above mentioned wine shop in Stresa on Lake Margiore?
    I have been trying to contact them without success can you help me? Do they have a web site? A number? an address?
    I would so appreciate it if you can help me
    Thank you

  • Puy

    je vous demande :
    le tarif dd Grappa di Barolo staveccia
    vos conditions d’expéditions vers Bandol France
    cordialement

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