Turbiana and the White Wines of Lugana DOC, Italy

I met Ambra Beradi of the Consorzio Tutela Lugana at the 2018 Wine Writer’s Conference in Walla Walla, Washington when I was looking for light and delicate white wines at the opening tasting reception. 

I was hooked instantly by the fresh, aromatic profiles of the wines from Lugana DOC.  I was even happier when Ambra freed up three bottles for me to take home to pair with an Italian-themed tasting menu.

Lugana was named the first white Italian DOC 50 years ago, and uniquely, half of it is in Lombardy and half in Veneto.  Situated at the southernmost tip of Lake Garda, and only 65m above sea level, there’s little frost here because of the warming effect of the lake.

Lying half way between Milan and Venice, Lugana is a small area of only 2,113 ha covered with clay and gravel that the late ripening Turbiana grape loves.

Now we just need guests.

Turbiana is often confused with Verdicchio, but it’s actually more closely related to Trebbiano di Soave and all 3 grapes prefer different soils.  Lugana wines must be 90% Turbiana, and any other grapes used must be grown in Lugana.

We enjoyed the Tenuta Roveglia, Vigne di Catullo Riserva, 2015 from 50 year old vines with a profile of high acidity, almonds, soft white flowers, lemon mousse and saline olives, and Ottella’s Back to Silence, 2017 aged on the skins and in terra cotta amphorae, also with great acidity, pear, quince, herb, ginger, white flower blossoms and a medium body.

Both were delicious and paired well with seared scallops, tagliatelle with parsley, Pecorino and pine nuts, risotto Milanese, west coast sashimi, and a caprese salad.

The late harvest (Vendemmia Tardiva), botrytis affected semi-sweet Rabbiosa from Marangona Cantina, 2015 was a serious match made in heaven with Cambozola cheese, walnuts, and apple strudel.

These are not wines that try to impress with power.  They’re studies in delicacy and subtlety.  The ones we paired were absolutely outstanding and such a tribute to this tiny wine region that is punching above its weight out there in the world.  The Consorzio Tutela Lugana is doing a great job at educating global wine lovers about its product. If you can find Lugana DOC wines in your market, buy them.  They’re great value, reasonably priced (US$18-25), and accessible to all drinkers.

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Expression, Champagne Geoffroy, Brut, Premier Cru, Cumières, Champagne AC, France, 2011 + 2012, 12.5% abv, C$80

Something extremely exciting happened to us about a month ago when our family welcomed a brand new baby granddaughter to the clan.

To welcome this adorable nymph to the world, we opened a bottle of Geoffroy ‘Expression’ champagne.  We selected this grower champagne precisely because we’d actually visited this house on bottling day in 2014.  So, sharing our story of the visit and a bottle of it with our family brought us great joy.

The Expression is Geoffroy’s premier cuvée and is made from wine taken from two years (2011 and 2012) and three types of grapes – 50% Pinot Meunier, 40% Pinot Noir, and 10% Chardonnay.

Pale lemon on the eyes with aromas of lemon, Granny Smith apple and fresh yeast. The palate has high acidity, a feathery and long lasting mousse, and flavours of applesauce and sharp lemon zest with custard.

Tasting with Rene Geoffroy in July 2014

Fresh and delicious, this champagne is WSET Very Good, and perfect for toasting new babies.

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Loïc Mahé, Gourmandise du Gue d’Orger, Savennières, Loire Valley AoC, France, 12.5% abv, 2015, US$20

Straight from Savennières in the Loire Valley comes this precise, biodynamic red wine made of Cabernet Franc by Loïc Mahé.

On the eyes, it’s translucent ruby with a nose of light raspberry and strawberry, with green leaf, schist and earth.  

The palate is dry with juicy acidity, feathered tannins and flavours of red cherry, plum, raspberry and spring leaf in a stoney frame.

WSET Very Good, there’s a slightly unbalanced lighter nose against the deeper palate.  But otherwise, it’s bright, tart and delicious.

We enjoyed it with barbecued smokies and fresh vegetables to herald in summer.

Take a minute to check out Loïc’s website.  It’s all in French, and is full of interesting information about his philosophy and making wine in Savennières.  You can read a Winellama review of his Anjou Villages red wine here.


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Syrah, Ramey Wine Cellars, Sonoma Coast AVA, California, 2013, 14.5% abv (US$59)

Four years ago this month, I graduated with the WSET Diploma – a credential anyone who works in wine and spirits will know is that difficult.  Drinking lots of interesting things to support my wine studies and habit has never been a problem.  Finding time to record and write about them has. DSC_0003

But last month, I retired from my day job.  So, now I have time and wine.

It still feels a little like an endless holiday.  But so far, I can confirm retirement is the best job I’ve ever had.

In celebration, while in the US, I bought this and opened it in February 2019 at 5 1/2 years old.

Deep garnet on the eyes, this 92% Syrah has a nose elevated with great fruit – blackberry and cassis – alongside purple flowers, light peppermint, pine tips and cured meat.

The palate is developed with layers of blackberry, salami, black olive, cedar, pine, and mint leaves.  Not boozy in the slightest despite the 14.5% abv, it’s absolutely ethereal for a red wine and enjoys a lengthy finish.  The 8% Viognier adds fruit and sets the Syrah to perfection.

And yes, the wine was much better and significantly more complex than the book.

WSET OutstandingDSC_0006

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Barolo, Ferdinando Principiano, Serralunga, Ravera di Montfort, Barolo DOCG, Italy, 2011, 15% abv. C$45

We enjoyed this just inside the recommended drinking window – I’m not patient when it comes to holding wine.

I was very nervous when I removed the capsule to find what looked to be a moldy cork.  It was dry and broke off when I opened it, but the wine was clean and unaffected.

Straight from Piedmonte, this wine is a pretty, translucent ruby on the eyes.  The aromas show a nose of cherry with dried leaf, petal and pomegranate.

The palate is dry with powdery tannins, some fresh and lightly developed fruit – strawberry and red plum – and significant dried grass, tarragon and cedar with dried rose petals.

WSET Very Good, and available worldwide.


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Chardonnay, Wayfarer, Wayfarer Vineyard, Fort Ross – Seaview AVA, Sonoma County, California, 14.5% abv, 2014, US$89

So, a Winellama walks into the new Las Vegas Total Wine and asks whether they carry any wines from California’s Fort Ross-Seaview AVA. “Oh no, most definitely not,” she is told.

Except they do, because after an hour of browsing, I found one.

One bottle – in a store the size of a football field.

It’s at that point that I realize the employee has no idea what an AVA is.

Sigh.  No matter – what a one it is. Gold on the eyes, it has a nose with ripe apricot, fresh Macintosh apple, Meyer Lemon, kernel and rich brioche. With its high acid and juicy palate, it is creamy and deeply layered with flavours of more red apple and peach, honey, spring flower, nuts, French bread and butterscotch. It spent 15 months in oak barrels, and was bottled unfined and unfiltered.

This wine is stunning – WSET Outstanding. Nuanced and light on one hand with the fruit and high acidity and the sparkly minerality, there is at the same time, a contrasting complexity with the creamy body, brioche, nut and butterscotch custard.

Opened and enjoyed at 5 years old in Las Vegas on vacation.

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Red wine speed tasting at the 2018 Wine Media Conference in Walla Walla, Washington

By the time the long weekend spent at the 2018 Wine Media Conference (WMC) was over, I estimate I had tasted well north of 100 wines.

Winemaker Muriel Kenyon proudly served a Merlot dedicated to her ancestor.

This is why we spit.

While most of these wines were from Washington State and the surrounding Walla Walla, Red Mountain, Lake Chelan, Horse Heaven Hills, and Columbia AVAs, there were others from Oregon’s Willamette Valley, and many from Napa Valley and other Californian AVAs.  A special workshop by the Lugana DOC Consortzio who attended from Italy established it as one of my new favourite regions for delicate, white wines.

One of the highlights of each WMC is always the speed tasting.  Think of this as a form of speed dating – but with wine instead of people!

There are always two of these – one for the reds, and one for the whites and rosés.  This involves 1 hour, 10 wines from participating wineries, lots of spitting, and 6 minutes for each wine of fast fingers to type up tasting notes and to post them online simultaneously.  This, as I’m sure you can imagine, is no small or easy feat.

My small table of just three keen wine writers experienced the following wines –

Browne Family Vineyards – Cabernet Franc, 2015 – I bought this the next day which should tell you something about the crunchy red raspberry profile.

Dama Wines – Collage, 2014 – A 2018 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition silver medal winner.

Dunham Cellars – Cabernet Sauvignon, 2014 – I went to their extremely impressive owner-hosted gala dinner event.  Their wines are delicious, and the cool tasting room is at Walla Walla’s Airport District.

Mansion Creek Cellars – Red Dog, 2015 – I was apparently the only one at the event who knew the grape for this wine, Tinta Cão, means the name of the wine, ‘Red Dog’.  This falls under the category of useless-things-you- learn-when-taking-the-WSET Diploma.  I bought their Field Blend the next day.

Brooks Wines – delicious and from Oregon’s Willamette Valley

Troon VineyardCuvée Pyrénées (62 Tannat + 38 Malbec), 2016 – I visited their Carlton, Oregon tasting room in 2016 and bought their Vermentino.

Stone Hill Winery – Chambourcin, 2015 – This winery is located in Missouri.  I hadn’t tried a Chambourcin before…

Tertulia Cellars – The Great Schism Reserve, 2014 – From Walla Walla, absolutely tasty, and definitely hands down winner of the best bottle labels.

Otis Kenyon Wine – Merlot – Winemaker Muriel Kenyon regaled us with the story of her family history in Walla Walla and who this wine was named for (a struggling dentist who ended up serving time for arson, left town and was presumed dead for decades). I kid you not!

L’Ecole 41 – Cabernet Sauvignon, 2015 – The subject of another post and earlier winery visit.

Any way you slice it, the speed tasting events are always fun.  Just remember to enjoy the wine, but spit when you must.

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