I met Ambra Tiraboschi, who looks rather like Maria Callas in the photo she puts up in her stand at Vinitaly, many years ago at Bordeaux's Vinexpo: It was the end of a very long day, my feet wished they belonged to someone else, and I had stopped to say hi to Paolo Abbona of Marchesi di Barolo. Sat down too, and found myself sipping a rather nice sparkling wine that turned out to be a Lugana from the southern shores of Lake Garda.
When I asked whose it was, Ambra raised her hand and smiled. Since then I've made a point of stopping by her stand at Vinitaly every year, usually managing to catch her husband Franco too (he prefers to stay out of the limelight), and have noted with considerable pleasure that since I began liking their wines others have too.
This year we began with:
Cà Lojera Lugana 2007
Pale brassy yellow with brassy reflections. Elegant bouquet with honeysuckle and white berry fruit mingled with apricot and green peach. Deft. On the palate full and rich with powerful white peach supported by deft citric acidity and sufficient sweetness that give it a pleasant languor as well Quite pleasant, and will work very well with fish or white meats, and be a good choice as an aperitif too. Worth seeking out.
Cà Lojera Lugana Superiore 2003
Brassy gold with brassy golden reflections; quite charged -- the vintage was powerful, and it fermented in large wood, spending a number of months in it thereafter, with frequent battonages. The bouquet is fairly intense with butterscotch and airy white blossoms mingled with hints of caramel. Quite fresh, and clearly from a hot vintage; as it opens some gunflint and pungent floral accents emerge. On the palate it's quite fresh, and full, with bright grapefruit and very ripe pineapple that flows into a long pineapple laced finish. Pleasant, and will drink very well with rich fish dishes including fattier grilled fish or creamy fish risotti. It's a beautiful expression of a torrid vintage, and shows, as if there were any need, that Lugana can age well.
Cà Lojera Lugana Riserva Del Lupo 2004
Cà Lojera means "the house of the wolves," and is a reference to the fact that homes along the lakeside were used by smugglers, whoul would warn passersby to keep their distance by saying there were wolves about. The wine is a lively greenish gold with greenish highlights, and has a fairly rich bouquet with savory accents and some crisp tropical fruit mingled with airy minerality. On the palate it's full, with ample lemony citrus fruit supported by peppery notes that provide depth and lead into a clean tart finish with some smoky overtones. Pleasant, and will be nice as an aperitif or with flavorful fish; it has a lot to say.
Cà Lojera Garda Chardonnay 2007
I tasted this the first time I stopped at Ambra's stand in 1998, and have been tasting it every year since then. It's a beautiful brassy gold with some greenish reflections, and has a powerful bouquet with butterscotch and honey mingled with some lemony fruit and green apricot with underlying mineral accents. On the palate it's full and languid, with clean rich lime and apple -- ripe delicious -- fruit and quite a bit of glycerin that makes for a decidedly creamy mouthfeel, and flows into a clean rich finish. Very nice, and has held up very well. A fine expression of a very good vintage.
Cà Lojera Chardonnay Garda 2001
This time's vintage; it's deep gold with lively golden reflections The bouquet isn't as rich as the 97's; it has clean minerality with some bramble and underlying butterscotch, which is capitalized in my notes. On the palate it's very much alive, with rich lemony citric fruit supported by glycerin and slight savory accents that flow into a clean savory finish with nice acidity to perk it up and keep it on its toes. Quite nice, and would have had me crowing in admiration if there weren't the 97.
Ambra and Franco could, if they wanted to, make Bardolino as their red wine. They have chosen not to because they wouldn't make much, and what little they made would "be a drop in an ocean." So they instead plant Cabernet and Merlot, which stand out more.
Cà Lojera Monte della Guardia Rosato 2006
Dusky pink with brilliant reflections. The bouquet is rich, with bright forest berry fruit and raspberry fruit supported by clean brambly acidity. On the palate it's fairly rich, with lively forest berry fruit supported by clean slightly greenish acidity that flows into a clean finish with bitter accents. It will be quite nice as a picnic wine or with simple foods; there's not quite enough tartness to it -- rather, a slight sweetness -- for it to work with things such as fried foods.
Cà Lojera Garda Cabernet 2004
Brick ruby with black reflections. The bouquet is typical of Cabernet, with red berry fruit mingled with bell pepper and cedar-laced spice, and underlying vegetal accents. Nice balance, and quite fresh. On the palate it's medium bodied with clean rich berry fruit supported by smooth sweet tannins that have some peppery vegetal accents and clean pencil shaving bitterness, and flow into a clean fairly tart berry fruit finish. Pleasant, and will drink very well with simple grilled meats or light stews; expect it to go quickly.
Cà Lojera Garda Merlot 2004
Delicate brick ruby with brick reflections and some almandine in the rim. The bouquet is delicate, with black currants and some vegetal caccents supported by spice and moderate mentholated acidity. Graceful. On the palate it's medium bodied and very smooth, with bright red berry fruit supported by clean sweet tannins, while direction comes from deft acidity that leads into a clean, slightly tart fruit laced finish. It will drink nicely with simple grilled meats or light stews and will go quickly; by comparison with the cabernet it's a bit more approachable, what an Italian might call ammiccante, in other words giving a come-hither look.
Want to know more: Cà Lojera's Site
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