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Hail the truffle season! Alba is decked out in her colors for today’s festivities: a food fair, medieval parade, and donkey race.

Tis the season of porcini mushrooms in every form: dried, fresh, fried, under oil, in creamy risotto, atop piles of steaming pasta.

You know you’re in Barolo country when even the salami contains Piedmont’s most prized wine.

The parade begins and drums echo off the ancient stone walls.

Donkeys are pulled from work routines at local farms to race—reluctantly—in two heats and a final showdown.

Some actually do run, like this little fella.

On day two, we venture into the Barolo countryside. Here, crows audition for Hitchcock atop a bell tower in Serralunga, one of Barolo’s 11 villages.

Founded in 1982 by two cousins, CONTERNO FANTINO recently underwent renovations. The pool here feeds a waterfall in the winery’s cellar. Very cool!

Elisa Conterno—a real dynamo—walks us through her family’s portfolio of wines.

Pausing for a Kodak moment with the bottles. No better way to remember what you drank! For us, that included a dolcetto, barbera, Mon Pra blend, nebbiolo, and 3 Barolo cru.

Here, a Kodak moment with Ray and Madelyn Miamidian.

A happy group—and who wouldn’t be after 7 wines at CONTERNO FANTINO? (Clockwise from left: Pat & Geoge Trombetta; Dolce Vita co-owner Claudio Bisio; Madelyn and Ray Miamidian)

We duck into the CASTLE OF BAROLO to look at the topographical map.

Lunch at La Cantinetta in Barolo concludes with a silky panna cotta sprinkled with toasted hazelnut crunchies. Mmm.

The tasting room at CERETTO. Behind, their vineyards and bizarre bubble-enclosed overlook.

Awaiting our pours of CERETTO Blanghe (arneis), Nebbiolo d’Alba Bernardina, Barbaresco Asili, and Barolo Prapó. All stellar!

Ray and Maddie send a message back home. (It says, “Hello, Kirstin! Wish you were here.”)

Truffle hunter Carlo meets us in the hazelnut grove for a morning outing.

A glorious specimen of Alba’s prized white truffle, already claimed by a top restaurant.

Black truffles like this are also native to the Langhe hills.

Carlo and his truffle dog Lara share a moment. Now 10 years old, her nose works as good as new.

Before lunch at a cheese farm, we meet their newborn donkey. Less than an hour old, it’s already standing—and contending with Claudio’s affections. Protective mamma repeatedly inserts herself between him and her foal.

Maddie enjoys the stories behind Bricco dell’ Uccellone, the wine that put Barbera on the map, at GIACOMO BOLOGNA / BRAIDA.

George tries to out-do the spit-bucket scene in the movie Sideways.

They made it. We ate it. Bagna cauda, risotto with porcini and turkey sausage, and tiramisu were on the menu at the cooking lesson in our home in Varinella, near Gavi.

Our dining room table, set with bagna cauda pots and a decanted 1997 Barolo cru, Marchesi di Barolo, from our cellar.

Our day in Gavi featured two small producers. First up: FONTANASSA, whose round-faced owner resembles this Bacchus.

Next, we head to IL POGGIO, where winemaker Francesca Poggio and her young pup offer a warm, personal visit on a misty fall afternoon..

Francesca Poggio is grandniece to Vittorio Soldati, founder of Gavi winery LA SCOLCA (pictured), located just across the street. Both benefit from the chalky soil of the Rovereto subzone.

Ray tries to persuade Francesca to trade homes (complete with wine cellar).


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