February News: Destination Italy

At the end of this summer, in mid-September, Cheese Journeys visits Northern Italy—a food lover’s paradise and land of Barolo, truffles and world-class cheese. Cheese Journeys CEO Anna Juhl teams with award-winning cheese book author and Wine Spectator columnist David Gibbons to co-host this 10-day adventure, featuring an itinerary brimming with exclusive, behind-the- scenes visits to exceptional producers and purveyors of this region’s most notable foods and wines.

New to the Cheese Journeys roster in 2017, this tour dives deep into the magic of Northwest Italy, beginning with a tasting tour of the culinary and fashion capital, Milan, before heading south to the picturesque vineyards and fields, valleys and forests of the Langhe. Here, a recently restored 19th century villa close to the village of Castiglione Tinella, serves as our home base for the first seven nights of the trip.

This scenic region is home to the visionary Slow Food movement. Our group indulges in wine and cheese tastings; exclusive, private tours of the University of Gastronomic Sciences, Slow Food’s academic arm, and the Cravero family’s affinage facility, a fourth-generation exporter of Italy’s finest Parmigiano Reggiano; and a private dinner with the Essex St. Cheese family of European cheese producers.

More highlights of our 2017 Northern Italy journey include special tours, tastings and access at Slow Food’s biennial cheese festival, called simply “Cheese.” This celebratory gathering takes over the entire town of Bra and draws more than 150,000 cheese aficionados from around the world to attend educational sessions and browse market stalls laden with the finest cheeses, inviting visitors to deepen their appreciation for cheese and the people who make it.

After our fill of the cheese party, we say ciao to Bra and experience some of Italy’s finest wines, touring our favorite scenic vineyards and tasting the iconic styles of the region-- Barolo, Nebbiolo, Dolcetto and even a racy Champagne-style wine made in the heart of Barolo country. A trip to the Langhe would not be complete without learning more about the region’s famed truffles. Foragers among us will be delighted as we go truffle hunting with our local trifulau (truffle hunter).

Our earthy bounty will be part of one of many mouthwatering feasts, expertly prepared by Cheese Journeys’ private chef, Sylvain Jamois. Chef Sylvain sources local produce and delicacies, crafting delicious family-style meals at our villa. His meals have been a memorable highlight of Cheese Journeys European itineraries since we began in 2014. We spend at least one morning in the kitchen, joining Chef Sylvain for a hands-on cooking demonstration as he shares his secrets to preparing great Italian fare at home.

Of course, cheese is at the heart of our excursions, and guests are treated to private visits with producers of Castelmango, a unique and storied mountain cheese made in the foothills of the Alps; diminutive leaf-wrapped Robiolas from a farmstead goat cheese producer; and unique cake-like after-dinner cheeses crafted in a remote hillside hamlet by the acclaimed Beppino Occelli. Weather permitting, we hope to enjoy a rare peek inside a traditional cheese making hut, used for centuries as part of transhumance, the migration of cows (and cheesemakers) to high alpine pastures to feast on summer fodder.

After a week at our luxurious villa, we work our way north to our new accommodations on the scenic shores of Lago Maggiore near the Swiss border. We’ll spend a full day in the picturesque Val d’Aosta, home to many world-famous delicacies including Fontina, polenta, cider, cured meats and unique wines. Once ensconced in our lakeside hotel, we look forward to a private motorboat tour of the Borromean Islands, with their ornate 18th century palaces and lovely formal gardens. Our final adventure is an exclusive tour and tasting at the caves of Luigi Guffanti, selector and affineur of more than 500 of Italy’s finest cheeses, many of which are not exported to the U.S.

This new Northern Italy itinerary has been so popular that the 2017 tour is already SOLD OUT. Contact Anna to put your name on the waiting list or sign up for the 2018 excursion. If the travel bug insists you set out in 2017, a few spaces remain in upcoming tours to France, England and Pennsylvania.