Plan a Wine Country Escape...to Italy’s Piedmont Region
Sep 29, 2016 10:14AM
By Fran Miller
Piedmont's Prunotto Winery and vineyards
It’s harvest season in wine country and perhaps the most magical time to visit. Cool mornings give way to warm, sunny afternoons and the scent of fermenting grapes is nearly as intoxicating as the final product itself. Bay Area residents naturally think of Napa or Livermore when planning a wine country escape. But how about taking your wine wanderlust a bit further abroad? It’s harvest season in Italy too, after all, and there’s no better place to experience the spellbinding transformation of the humble grape.
Pick any bucolic Italian region and you can’t go wrong: Veneto, Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany, or Umbria to name a few. Our current wine wistfulness has us day dreaming about the mountainous Piedmont region in the north (where it also happens to be white truffle season – but more on that later.) Piedmont’s prime wine-growing areas of Langhe, Roero, and Monferrato contain thousands of individual vineyards that blanket the soil-rich hills from which luscious Nebbiolos and Barberas originate. Five of these vineyards belong to the Antinori family whose 26 generations of winemakers have enabled them to create exemplary expressions of the region’s native grapes.
Their highly regarded Piedmont winery, Prunotto, is in the township of Alba, located midway between the legendary wine zones of Barolo and Barbaresco. Known as the Langhe, the area is home to more than 35 DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) and DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Conrollata e Guarantita) zones. Prunotto sits on a smooth plain surrounded by vineyards that snake across gentle hills and small, sloping valleys. Once a Roman settlement, the territory retains its castles and medieval villages, and begs to be explored.
One of the oldest wineries in Piedmont and one of the first to export Italian wine to the thriving U.S. market in the 1930’s, Prunotto’s 100 plus years of operation in the region give it a deep understanding of Piedmont’s native grapes and its varied terroir. The perfect place to learn about these grape varieties – Nebbiolo, Barbera, Dolcetto, and Arneis – and to experience Prunotto’s many celebrated wines, such as their decadent Vigna Colonnello, is at their recently transformed farmhouse on their Bussia estate. The Antinoris turned the relic into a modern, elegant tasting room and wine shop with views of the estate vineyards. Guests are welcome with or without an appointment.
But Piedmont is more than wine; it is also home to food traditions known around the world, from it’s grissini breadsticks, Carnaroli rice, Nutella, fine cheeses, and yes, its famous white truffles that lend an ethereal essence to every dish. Each year, for a few weeks in October and November, Alba becomes a hub of truffle mania. Concerts, food stands, and guided truffle hunts lead furtive foragers in search of the elusive fungi that grows only in northern and central Italian hazelnut and oak forests, making fall the perfect time to experience the culture, cuisines, and wines of Piedmont.