Poderi Colla Bricco del Drago

Living at the edge of the Presidio in San Francisco, there’s nothing better than taking walks through the winding trails and forest down to the edge of Crissy Field, where we like to watch the surfers battle the waves beneath the Golden Gate Bridge. Riley and I bundle up in our SF uniform of Patagonia jackets and Giants baseball caps to protect from that cool Sunday morning fog before heading out into the rustic charm of the forest inside a city. The aromas of wet leaves beneath our feet, wild mushrooms at the foot of the pine and eucalyptus trees, vibrant wild berries and wildflowers peeking out from between the branches, and more often than not, the faint aroma of a fire in the fireplace from one of the old officers houses along the path make a better welcome to the day than any cup of coffee ever could.

There’s comfort in the rustic beauty of it all. It reminds me that I don’t want everything to be too polished or pretty in life - sometimes you just want to taste what’s real. On our walk back home the conversation often turns to one of our favorite topics, what to cook for dinner that night. But really, what we’re asking is what meal pairs with a day spent in the woods inspired by history, nature, and a favorite weekend tradition?

This unique blend of Dolcetto and Nebbiolo is as close as you can get to capturing our morning forest walks in a bottle. Rustic aromas of earth, wild herbs, smoke, and game are livened up by a hint of wildberry and sour cherry tartness to freshen your palate and keep you coming back for more. I adore this wine after a foggy day outside when I’m preparing something comforting like pasta bolognese, braised rabbit, or an eggplant gratin. The fresh energy in this wine will cut through the earthiness and heaviness of these dishes, while simultaneously celebrating the overlaps in flavors and aromas of each. I should point out that this wine benefits from decanting to let the full array of flavors and aromas develop. So open the bottle before your hike or decant into a larger vessel a few hours before dinner before pairing with:

Curious to learn more?

Commercially, the Langhe region is nearly synonymous with great value Nebbiolos. Where Barolos and Barbarescos demand high price tags and years in your cellar, Langhe wines are known to over-deliver on both price point and “readiness” in their youth. So if you, like me, saw Langhe on the bottle and assumed this was a Nebbiolo, you’re not alone! This unique blend of Dolcetto and Nebbiolo has become a bit of a trademark for the Colla family. 85% Dolcetto and 15% Nebbiolo, this wine seems to defy classification in the Italian region - not to mention it’s a real doozy for blind tasters studying for exams. In fact, it’s legally classified a mere Italian “table wine” simply because it isn’t 100% Nebbiolo, but please don’t let that fool you into thinking this isn’t a praise-worthy bottle.

The blend for this wine has been developed with careful attention and consideration to the quality of the grapes at hand. The soil and microclimate of the chosen vineyard site for the Dolcetto give the wine an incredible complexity and structure, which is then purposefully softened with the addition of the Nebbiolo. While Nebbiolo can be austere in its youth, it’s also known for its finesse and elegance in the glass. The two grapes are harvested by hand and vinified separately to ensure that each is matured to the optimal point. It isn’t until much later that the two grapes are blended and set to mature together in oak barrels for at least a year.

The Colla family and wine go back over 300 years in the Langhe region of Italy. Starting in 1703, Carlo Colla and his son Stefano sold simple casks of “vino negro” produced on their land in Santo Stefano Belbo. Over the years, the following generations of the Colla family purchased ideal vineyard sites, honed their skills producing top quality still wine - then sparkling wine - and saw to the importance of single vineyard wines as each plot under their management became as familiar as the back of their hands. Yet it wasn’t until 1994 that the winery Poderi Colla was founded by Tino Colla when he merged properties with his niece, Frederica. Together they managed three major winemaking terroirs, each one able to produce wines of unique character that represented the traditional styles of the region, and paving the way for a new chapter in the family history.

The Colla family has achieved a well-deserved reputation for producing the only “table wine” from purely native grapes of such high quality. They weren’t tempted by blending international grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot like so many others, and they weren’t stubborn in the idea that only pure Nebbiolo can make a great wine. They looked back to the traditions of their region - to the unique native grapes tended with organic farming and green harvesting techniques - in order to create a wine for the next chapter of the region. With this blend of the past, they have challenged the ideas of what will be celebrated on the international market (and at home) and they have shown that staying true to your roots can bring the ultimate success.

        * Photos of the family and the vineyards courtesy of Federica Colla