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Inside the Bottle: My first smell of Poderi Colla's Barolo Dardi le Rose was mesmerizing. I tasted a 2001 vintage of it in Los Angeles at a BYO Barolo event. In the company of Barolo juggernauts like Giacomo Conterno, Cavallotto, Giacosa, both Mascarellos and many more, this wine of sublime finesse went straight to the top of my list, as it did with many other talented sommeliers in the room.
Few things are more thrilling than tasting one of the world's greatest wines for the first time. With the help of Alfio Cavallotto, one of the greatest winemakers in Barolo, and one of the Colla's biggest fans, an appointment with the Collas was arranged. Our visit with the Colla family was one of the most memorable I've had at any estate in Europe. Tino Colla and I hit it off immediately, and before long we began selling their wines.
The Poderi Colla Bussia "Dardi le Rose" comes from one of the most venerable houses in the Langhe. With over 300 years of experience, the Colla family, former owners of Prunotto (during their most legendary years, 1956 to 1994) began their first family estate, Poderi Colla, in 1994. While they strive to make wines of finesse and polish they don't compromise Barolo's capability for great ageability and deep complexity.
This wine is a stunner, expressing classic aromas of dried rose and orange peel, sour cherries, tobacco and leather that beckon your nose as far into the glass as it can go. The subtlety of the wine is extraordinary for a young Barolo and can be matched only by a few of the greats, like Guisseppe Mascarello's Monprivato. Aromatically, the wine offers a brilliant constellation of classic Barolo scents. On the palate, the typically stern tannins of a young Barolo are finely polished and are buoyed by the refreshing acidity from the site's high elevation. The palate aromas mirror the nose and add brown earth, dried cherry, aperol, toasted cedar, almond flower and fresh porcini. Floral and savory to the bone, this near masterpiece lends itself to a perfect Italian feast. One of the greatest wines in our collection, this should be drunk when you feel the desire to lose yourself in a wine of pure Piemontese dialect and culture. You might need at least two of these.
Other Stuff: It was this vineyard that, in 1961, Bepe Colla (who at the time owned the famed, Prunotto) decided to make the first commercially sold single-vineyard bottling of Barolo. It wasn't a random decision, nor was the accidental that when Bepe sold Prunotto, he put all of his money for Barolo on this cru.
The Dardi le Rose vineyard faces South to Southwest, at about 300-350 meters above sea level and is on clay, limestone marls and some sandstone, all a perfect combination for a great vineyard site. The wine is raised in large slovenian cask for a little over two years and is bottled without filtration.
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Vallelonga is the flagship of this dingy-sized operation. It is indeed a small cantina but mighty, like its appellation. What is most striking about Nebbiolo grown in the soil of Lessona is its subtle and equally substantial aromas that are unlike any expression I’ve experienced with this varietal. It hits all the markers expected from Nebbiolo (rose, tar, anise and great structure) but here they transcend the weight and power of the Langhe with an angelic rise of elegance from the glass—especially whenever Northern Piedmont’s maestro enologist, Cristiano Garella, is involved. A very well-respected wine writer once mistakenly lumped Lessona into the mix of all of northern Piedmont Nebbiolo wines as “a rather less pure form than a great Barolo.” This oversight is easy to make if a Lessona is tasted next to its local brethren, or to a Barolo where it’s like putting a ballerina in the ring with a boxer.
Famous Italian wine writers of the late 1800s and early 1900s considered Lessona wines the greatest reds in all of Italy, and in the right hands it can represent one of the most pure expressions of Nebbiolo. The weight and power of Nebbiolo from further south (in the Langhe) often overwhelms the senses when compared to Lessona’s hyper-detailed and intricately refined expression. Lessona’s volcanic soil, with its metal and mineral streak in the palate, is impossible to miss, and the grape is equally obvious. It could be the Chambolle-Musigny of Piedmont, and no one who knows and drinks (not only tastes) Burgundy would dare ding one because of its finesse and purity. Like Lessona, some of the greatest Chambolle-Musignys can get lost in the context of bigger wines and can be better served alone.
Fabio’s Coste della Sesia Nebbiolo grapes are entirely grown within the Lessona appellation, but due to an archaic technicality, it’s not labeled as such because the winery it’s made in sits only fifteen feet over the border of Lessona and primarily in Coste della Sesia appellation, so it can only be labeled as a Costa della Sesia; it’s obvious that a wine should be labeled by the origin of their grapes, not the location of the cellar it was crafted in. (I apologize for the repetition of this paragraph if you've read Fabio's profile as well.)
The details: Fermentation in stainless steel for over three weeks, followed by aging in old 225 liter barrels for thirteen months. Fermentation is spontaneous and the use of sulfites is kept to a minimum—only 30ppm at bottling, which is near half the average for handcrafted, boutique fine wine. The vines are a mix of young and old, with the average close to twenty-five years.
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