The Wines of Ca Lojera
In March, Cathy Huyghe and I were lucky enough to enjoy dinner with Ambra and Franco Tiraboschi of Ca Lojera who produce beautiful wines from Lugana using only estate grown grapes.
The Lugana DOC sits directly south of Lake Garda straddling the Veneto and Lombardy regions of Italy. It is a small DOC that grows a little over 1000 hectares of vines.
Lugana white wines must be at least 90% Trebbiana di Lugana, also called Turbiana locally. This is the Verdicchio grape grown in Lugana’s chalky soils. It should be noted that Trebbiana, also known as Ugni Blanc, is a different grape variety. (The original post left that ambiguous. It has been clarified below.) Each of the Ca Lojera whites are 100% Turbiana.
dinner at Ca Lojera from left: Angelo Perreti, Fillipo Fillipi, Franco Tiraboschi, me, Ambra Tiraboschi, Paola Giagulli, photo taken by Cathy Huyghe, March 2015
Aged Ca Lojera wines are wonderful – full of life, freshness and viscosity both, with a mineral drive that ages towards infinity. The young wines masquerade as simply approachable. They can trick your palate into thinking the wine is merely quaffable, but there is subtlety to them worth investigating, that also fleshes into a special wine with age.
Even more, the people. It’s dinners like this that make everything else worthwhile. Angelo Peretti, the Internet Gourmet, kindly arranged the dinner for us. Fillipo Fillipi of Fillipi winery, and Paola Giagulli also joined us. A perfect group.
Following is a glimpse of the Ca Lojera story as told to us by Ambra and Angelo, who also served as our translators for the others, with snapshots from the evening.
Franco Tiraboschi, March 2015
Ambra: Franco sold real estate. I was a hotel keeper there in Verona. We didn’t know anything about wine. in 1992 we bought the property to resell. The grapes were ripe but they sold for too little so Franco decided to make wine. Then he fell in love with wine.
Angelo: So they had no need to make wine. They could do what they wanted. It was a second career with much luck.
We begin dinner with a 2008 Turbiana Spumante.
Ambra: The 2008 Turbiana had too much acid so Franco made sparkling with it. He made all of it sparkling. Franco is incapable of doing anything small. Only a small wife. Nothing else. [laughing]
The sparkling wine does not say Lugana on the label. Cathy and I ask about it. There is laughing all around as they answer.
Ambra: Franco does not like regulations. Bureaucracy he does not like. He must make things when he wants to.
Angelo: The spumante is not registered Lugana. Franco forgot to do the paperwork.
sitting beside Franco Tiraboschi, photo by Cathy Huyghe
We begin to discuss what wines we will open.
Angelo: They are the only producer in Lugana that can offer a lot of vintages of Lugana because they did not sell it. They did not realize how to sell it at first.
Ambra: We needed a lot of time to realize how to sell.
Angelo: So now they have a lot of old vintages and people come here to buy because white Lugana ages in a wonderful way.
Ambra: 1992 our first commercial vintage. 1999 the oldest we sell now.
The food begins to be served. We begin with mixed salumi and vegetables. One of my favorite moments with Angelo happens as a result. The simple passion of it gives window to his character. With it I also learn something about cured meats that makes sense as soon as he says it but I wouldn’t have realized.
Angelo: It is very important to have salumi by hands. You can feel how sweet it is by your hands. The smoother it is, the sweeter it is. You must try it with two slices. One with your hands. One with a knife. And they will taste different.
I follow Angelo’s advice. The creamy salt of the salumi goes perfectly with the fresh chalkiness of the sparkling wine. We return to discussing Ca Lojera history.
Ambra: I worked in the fields with Franco for 17 years. Then it was necessary for someone to sell the wines. So, we decided he would stay here in the winery, and I travel to sell the wine. I do not like it but it is necessary. Usually once a month, I go somewhere.
We open several vintages of Ca Lojera. A 2002 Superiore, a 2003 Riserva del Lupo, alongside a 2011 Superiore, and a 2011 Riserva del Lupo.
Angelo: Old Lugana are very mineral. They have a smell of petrol. They are lighter in structure. Young Lugana are more fruity. In my opinion, the 2003 is the best Lugana ever produced but I do not say I love the wine. It is not love that I have for the wine because love can end.
I taste the 2003. It is wonderful. Emotionally overwhelming with beautiful balance of fresh fruit and petrol, a persistent spice. Notes that are almost waxy with mixed yellow fruit, star fruit and a fresh lake breeze finish. There is a hint of sweetness but only a hint. This is a wine that has a lot to say. I agree with Angelo that it is beautiful.
Angelo: The 2003 describes this land, this territory in a better way. In the 2003 Lupo, I identify Lugana. It was a horrible vintage. A hot vintage. But It tastes Lugana. In the worst vintages, Crus emerge.
Franco nods and explains the 2002 of the older wines is his favorite but he really likes the younger wines. He likes the freshness and the fruit. He believes the 2011 Riserva del Lupo is a special wine that will have a lot to say. I comment that the wines are full of life. Angelo agrees.
Angelo: I love humanity behind wines. I taste that here.
Cathy asks Franco how his winemaking has developed since he started.
Angelo translating for Franco: My way of making wine has not changed. Something has changed and it is in the vines. There are better practices taking care of the vines.
Angelo: He changes. He has a wider oenological and agricultural culture. Now he knows the temperatures he prefers.
Angelo translating for Franco: Yes, the cooler the better. I like to have very slow fermentation so I decline the temperature. Because the lower the temperature, the slower the fermentation, the better the wine.
sitting beside Ambra Tiraboschi, March 2015, photo by Cathy Huyghe
Ambra agrees. She used to make the wines with Franco and comments on what she learned from 17 years in the vineyard and cellar.
Ambra: We had a consulting winemaker for a while. He said, fermentation is the most difficult part of winemaking. It’s true. If you do not know how to hear the fermentation, if you cannot hear the music of the fermentation, you will never make a personal wine.
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