I met Cà Lojera's 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. Much has happened since then; they've redone their cellars and added a restaurant, which is open for dinner during the summer months, and Ambra's daughter Alessandra has had two delightful children. I make a point of stopping by her stand at Vinitaly every year. This year her husband Franco, who dislikes the limelight, was not there, but there was another surprise: she had redone her labels, with drawings by Angelo Peretti, friend and colleague who is also Director of the Consorzio del Bardolino.
2010, says Ambra, was a difficult vintage with very uneven ripening thanks to the cool temperatures and rains; they had to work their way though the vineyards repeatedly during the harvest, and the wines from the different passages were very different. "It took a lot to assemble it," she said.
Cà Lojera Lugana DOC 2010 Lot TF 03 11 Pale brassy yellow with brassy reflections. The bouquet is fairly rich, with stong greenish accents mingled with minerality and sour lemon fruit, and supported by fairly intense sea salt. On the palate it's ample and languid, with unexpectedly rich loquat fruit that's fairly sweet, and supported by deft minerality that flows into a long mineral finish with a slight bitter counterpoint that continues into the finish. I had expected the acidity to be more citric than mineral from the nose -- and observation -- but it is nicely balanced and will work well as an aperitif or with lake fish. 2 stars
Cà Lojera Lugana Superiore 2006 Lot TF LS 06 Pale brassy yellow with brilliant brassy reflections and white rim. The bouquet is deft, with considerable minerality laced with slight butterscotch and slight hints of white fruit, including white pear. Nice depth. On the palate it's rich, with loquat fruit supported by citric acidity that is laced with butterscotch bitterness and is supported by some savory accents that flow into a clean loquat-laced finish with a bitter slightly tannic underpinning that also has some sea salt to it. Pleasant, and though it's a little powerful to work as an aperitif, it will be quite nice with grilled or roasted fish, and will also work well with creamy risotti and white meats. In short, versatile. 88-90
Cà Lojera Lugana del Lupo Lugana DOC 2006 Lot TF LL 06 Brilliant brassy yellow-gold with brassy gold reflections and slight greenish highlights. The bouquet is rich, with butterscotch supported by some greenish accents and hints of tamarind, and also dusky greenish honeydew melon with hints of honeysuckle as well. Nice depth and complexity. On the palate it's ample, with rich minerality supported by languid butterscotch and mineral acidity that flow into a fairly long mineral finish with some butterscotch accents. Quite pleasant, and will drink very well as an aperitif, or with delicate fish or white meats. 2 stars
Cà Lojera Chardonnay Monte della Guardia 2009 Lot TF 09 04 This year Ambra decided, since the people at the Garda DOC appellation refused to let her bottle her rosé, made from red grapes that go into two Garda DOC wines, as Garda DOC, that she would label all of the wines that qualify as Garda DOC as Vino Da tavola, table wine. I can't but agree with her decision.
This said, the Chardonnay is brilliant brassy yellow with white rim, and has an elegant bouquet with rich floral accents supported by slight citric fruit and some minerality, with slight butterscotch sweetness as well. Nice balance. On the palate it's bright, with lively lemony honeydew melon fruit supported by minerality and some savory accents, and flows into a fairly long tart finish. Graceful, and quite pleasant; it clearly draws from a better vintage than the 2010 Lugana, and is quite pleasant to drink. It will work very well with grilled or roasted fish, and would be nice with perch and polenta, a classic dish from Lake Garda. 90-91
Cà Lojera Tur Blanc Metodo Classico 2008 Something new! Pale brassy yellow with brilliant reflections and fine perlage. The bouquet is is pleasant, with bread crumbs and citric accents supported by some gunflint and slight butterscotch with underlying bitterness. Nice depth. On the palate it's bright, with fresh gunflint shot lemony fruit supported by sparkle and citric-mineral acidity that flows into a fairly long mineral finish with a sea salt underpinning. Pleasant, and will work well as an aperitif, and also be a nice wine to drink a tutto pasto. 2 stars
Cà Lojera Rosato Monte della Guardia 2010 Lot TF RO 10 Pale salmon with brilliant salmon reflections and white rim. The bouquet is fairly intense,with ith raspberry fruit supported by some spice, also some savory accents. It's a bit disjointed, and this is because it was just bottled. On the palate it's pleasant, with fairly rich moderately sweet raspberry fruit supported by delicate acidity and some bitter accents, and it flows into a clean slightly sour raspberry finish. Pleasant in a light key, and will work nicely as an aperitif, with simple summer dishes, or with friends on a summer evening. 1 star
Cà Lojera Merlot Monte della Guardia 2008 Lot TF ME 10 Lively cherry ruby with black reflections and some almandine in the rim. The bouquet is fresh and vinous with fairly pronounced warmth and some vegetal accents, not quite bell pepper but green, and fairly intense graphite shavings too. Up front in a smiling sort of way. On the palate it's ample and quite smooth, with dusky berry fruit supported by moderate mineral acidity and tannins that are extremely smooth, as Merlot's are want to be, becoming drier in the finish, and assuming some savory brambly accents. Pleasant, and will drink very well with succulent not too fatty red or white meats; it would be nice with roast beef cooked medium rare and sliced thick, or with pork loin, for example. 2 stars
Cà Lojera Cabernet Monte della Guardia 2008 Lot TF CA 08 Dusky brick ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is quite varietal, with rich slightly brandied cherry and forest berry fruit supported by grilled pepper and sea salt with some spice and hints of graphite shavings as well. On the palate it's quite pleasant, with bright smooth back cherry fruit laced with ripe currants and hints of blackberry sweetness, and supported by fairly bright mineral acidity and smooth sweet tannins that have warm grilled pepper accents that complement the fruit and emerge nicely in the finish, which is fairly long and gradually dries. It's one of those wines you can set out and drink, and suddenly realize you're paying more attention to than you expected to, rather like a person who comes across as simple but turns out to be a very good conversationalist. It will be quite nice with grilled meats or light roasts, and if you like Cabernet -- it makes no bones about what it is -- you will enjoy it. 88-90
NO STAR goes to wines that are correctly made but nothing to get excited about.
ONE STAR goes to wines that are good. TWO STARS go to wines that are very good to excellent. THREE STARS and a POINT SCORE (90-100) go to wines that are superb to extraordinary. And I will give pairing suggestions, which I consider much more important than the scores.