I know enough about French, German, and Spanish wine to feel pretty informed when I make purchases. I am very fluent with domestic wines (although more so Oregon and Washington than California). I feel pretty stupid when I am confronted with Italian wines though.
I feel like I know Tuscany well enough, but I'd like to branch out. The first two areas I'd like to learn more about are Alto Adige and Piedmont. Alto Adige seems to grow many of the varietals that I like (Loire, German, and Alsatian whites are my favorites). I'm also intrigued by the reds of Piedmont.
I feel a bit overwhelmed though, too overwhelmed to just go into my local wine stores and ask for help. I like to have a bit of knowledge before I go in, enough so that I can tell if the person knows what they are talking about.
That being said, any ideas on how to start? Can anyone give producers to look for? Is it possible to find any Barolo or Barbaresco on a budget (under $30/bottle)? How to choose which Barbera and Dolcetto? Anything about Alto Adige?
Even better if you know a store in or around Seattle that deals with these.