Saturday, May 30, 2020

Lugana wines in Lombardy featuring Borgo La Caccia

If you’re ever had the pleasure to travel to Lake Garda in Northern Italy you are one of the lucky ones.  It is the biggest lake in Italy residing in both the Veneto and Lombardy regions.  Many great wines are located around it and within a short distance, including those of the Lugana DOC.  It’s been some time I’ve written about the wines of Lugana and you’ll be reading more in another month as I take part in a virtual wine tasting throughout June via the #WineStudio program run by Tina Morey.   

Lugana is a wine appellation situated at the southern point of Lake Garda.  It’s a rather mild climate benefiting from the sea breezes coming off Lake Garda with soils based primarily on clay.  Over the years I have sampled a number of styles of Lugana wines due to the fact that there are 5 different styles.  

  • Lugana
  • Lugana Superiore
  • Lugana Riserva
  • Lugana Late Harvest, also known as Lugana vendemmia tardiva.
  • Lugana Spumante  

Lugana is your standard wine enjoyed fresh in its youth within the first few years after harvest.  This is where 90% of the production comes from within the Lugana DOC.  Floral aromas with citrus and almond notes.  The Superiore and Riserva demonstrate more complexities and deeper structure.  The Superiore requires at least 1 year of age with the Riserva requiring at least 2 years of age with 6 months in the bottle.  Different nuances develop with age as with any wine.  The Lugana late harvest wines are harvested later into October and November allowing a higher level of residual sugar balanced with acidity.  Finally, the spumante is a limited production, but the wines are produced in either the Martinotti (Charmat) method or Classic method, refermenting in the bottle.   

Sirmione view from Scaligero Castle
My visit to Sirmione, part of the Lugana DOC in the Brescia province of Lombardy

The wines of the Lugana DOC require at least 90% of the turbiana grape with an allowance of 10% other white permitted grapes, but most producers use 100% turbiana.  The Consorzio of Lugana shares that the trend in production is more towards the use of stainless or contact with the lees and a combination in aging between both stainless steel and oak. 

The Wine

I tried a Lugana DOC from Borgo La Caccia, although I didn’t find too much material to share online about the winery.  They are located in Pozzolengo, in the Brescia province of Lombardy.  The 2017 Borgo La Caccia Lugana DOC was pale, straw colored, lighter to medium in body.  Not heavily aromatic, but leaning more towards stone fruit.  Refreshing, and although not heavy on fruit, the flavors lend more towards lemon rind with a hint of white peach.  Good acidity finishing with some salinity.  I saw an average of about $11-16 a bottle for this wine. ABV  13% (although I thought it was going to be higher based on my tasting).

2017 Borgo La Caccia Lugana DOC

Whatever your style, the wines of Lugana provide a little bit of something for everyone.  For me personally I enjoy the wines of the north as I appreciate those that are crisp, refreshing and lean toward citrus and stone fruit notes.   


*This wine was provided as a sample, but opinions are my own.  Importer: Mariposa Fine Wines

Friday, May 22, 2020

Pairings with Wines from Israel

I must say I was completely ignorant to Israel producing wines prior to today’s feature.  When presented with an opportunity to try something new and educate myself I’m always on board.  Wines have been produced in Israel for over 5,000 years and continue to do so under a new generation of winemakers looking to carry on the traditions while further advancing their presence in the market and demonstrating the quality being produced there that many of us are not aware of.  With a variety of terrains from the coastal land, to the mountains, hills and even desert there are a variety of climates, therefore a variety of styles produced this eastern Mediterranean country. 
Today I’m presenting the Galil Mountain Winery and Golan Heights Winery of Israel.  
The Wineries 
Galil Mountain Winery: Beginning in 2000, the Galil Mountain Winery is a joint venture with Golan Heights also featured today along with Kibbutz Yiron.  It’s located in the upper part of the Galilee mountain range, considered one of Israel’s best area for wine production.  The winery contains 6 different vineyard sites with varying topographies and climates.  Their vineyards range up to 2,800 fee and there are a variety of soils from basalt, terra rossa and limestone and flint. They believe in “green living” allowing minimal intervention.  Their chief winemaker, Micha Vaadia, believes in “harmony in nature” focusing on sustainability featuring solar power, composting and wastewater management.   
Galilee wine region of Israel
Copyright of Wines of Israel
Golan Heights Winery: This winery started in 1983 and includes 4 different brands: Golan Heights, Gilgal, Yarden and Mount Hermon all considered to be some of the leaders in the Israel wine industry.  Located in northeast Israel they are based on a high elevated volcanic plateau covering 1,500 acres.  Due to the elevation up to 3,900 feet their vineyards are some of the coolest sites in Israel.   Golan Heights Winery is known for their advances in the modern wine industry including their technological innovations and especially their replanting initiatives in Israel.  In 2007 they partnered with ENTAV, the leading vine nursey.  Their vineyards are spread across 400 different blocks that are all harvested and kept in stainless steel separately until selected for blending.   
Golan Heights wine region in Israel
Copyright of Wines of Israel
The Wines 
2016 Galil Mountain Winery Ela Galilee – This wine is made of 62% syrah, 33% barbera and 5% petit verdot.  Yes, I said Barbera.  Even Italian grapes in Israel?  Amazing!  Deep ruby in color with aromas of black cherry and ripe raspberries.  A smooth, fruit forward wine with jammy fruits, medium in body.  ABV 14.5% SRP $19.99 
The Pairing: Quarantine life has definitely pushed me to try out some new programs.  In the last week we decided to purchase part of a cow from a local farm in the mountains of New Hampshire.  When I saw the makeup of this wine combined with the warmer temperatures that we are experiencing in New Hampshire, it was the perfect time to grill up some tenderloins.  I used a coffee rub that I brought back from Keuka Lake and added some organic roasted sweet potatoes and butternut squash with some added nutmeg and cinnamon.  Definitely lots of flavors going on in the dish, but the juicy, ripe fruits of the wine paired just right with the tenderloin. 
2016 Galil Mountain Winery Ela Galilee pairing
2019 Golan Heights Winery Gilgal Chardonnay – Pale straw colored.  The aromatics of this wine reminded me of sauvignon blanc from New Zealand.  Grassy, floral and hints of stone fruit.  Light in body, again grassy, nice and crisp with lime notes.  Not what I was expecting from a chardonnay, but this was definitely a favorite for me and just my style!  ABV 13% SRP $15.99 
The Pairing: I kept this dish simple and straight forward and with this wine being my fan favorite it was quite the enjoyable evening.  A tomato basil marinated grilled chicken breast with an orzo salad combined with organic vegetables. 
2019 Golan Heights Winery Gilgal Chardonnay pairing
Have any of you ever experienced wines from Israel?  If you’d love to learn more join my fellow food and wine lovers as they too explore a variety of wines from Israel. We’re chatting live on Twitter at #WinePW this Saturday at 11am EST.  See you there!
  • Terri at Our Good Life shares “Grilled Mahi Mahi and Gilgal Sauvignon Blanc
  • Gwendolyn at Wine Predator shares “The Eternal Light Shines in Galilee: Yarden’s Merlot, Pinot Gris with Acorn Squash Couscous, Tangerine Feta Spring Salad"
  • Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm shares “Lamb Stuffed Eggplant and a perfect Wine from Galilee
  • Deanna at Asian Test Kitchen shares “Yarden Wines Paired with Japanese Surf ‘n Turf
  • Rupal at Syrah Queen shares “Off The Beaten Path – Two Wines From Isreal’s Galilee Appellation
  • Linda at My Full Wine Glass shares “Of Israeli wines, long-ago memories, and Harvey’s takeout
  • David at Cooking Chat shares “Pairings for Gilgal Sauvignon Blanc from Israel
  • Payal at Keep the Peas shares “Israeli Wine with the Diverse Cuisine of the Diaspora
  • Nicole at Somms Table shares “Memories of Yarden Wines with a side of Meatball Shakshuka”
  • Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares “Peppered Brisket, Honeyed Onions, and the 2106 Galil Mountain ‘Ela'
  • Pinny at Chinese Food and Wine Pairings shares “Enjoying Gilgal Cab Sauvignon – Merlot and Yarden Pinot Gris with Grilled Wagyu Steak, Alaska Sockeye Salmon and Poke Ahi Tuna Bowl
  • Susannah from Avvinare shares "Visiting Israel for Memorial Day Through Yarden Wines"
  • Jeff at Food Wine Click!shares “Two Fisted Wine Pairing with Yarden Wines

*The wines were provided as samples, but opinions are all my own.  Importer: Yarden Wine Imports.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Pairings with Nebbiolo and Arneis from Chiesa Carlo

Piedmont is home to many great wine appellations and fantastic indigenous grapes produced in a variety of styles dependent upon each individual terroir.  Today we explore the southern sub-region of Alba, specifically a couple of appellations within the Cuneo province, Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC and the Roero DOCG featuring wines from Azienda Agricola Chiesa Carlo. 

The winery 
Azienda Agricola Chiesa Carlo is located in Santo Stefano of the Roero.  The winery was founded in the 1700’s and is operated today by the 5th generation of the Chiesa family.  Their vineyards occupy about 20 acres of sandy soils.  They’re known for producing quality DOC and DOCG wines practicing sustainability and working with indigenous yeasts. 

The appellations 
Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC – To be labeled with this DOC designation the wines must contain 100% nebbiolo and age for at least 1 year.  The area spans both sides of the Tanaro River around Alba and the hills of the Roero.    The wines produced here are more approachable compared to the nebbiolo in the nearby Langhe (Barolo and Barbaresco).  Plus, they are also more affordable and allow one to experience many similar characteristics with less boldness and structure.   

Roero DOCG – Nebbiolo and Arneis are the key stars in the Roero.  This appellation was upgraded to DOCG status in 2004.  Arneis is a native white grape variety that mostly calls the Roero home dominating the plantings.  This grape almost faced extinction in the 60’s.  It’s a challenging grape to grow due to poor yields and achieving the correct ripeness balanced with acidity.  The wines labeled Roero Arneis DOCG must be made of at least 95% arneis.   

The wines 
2013 Chiesa Manascarda Nebbiolo d’Alba - 100% Nebbiolo grown on south to south east facing slopes with sandy soils.  The grapes are manually picked spending 20 days of maceration and 12 months in big oak.  A very transparent, pale garnet colored wine.  Heavy notes of black licorice on the nose and cherries.  Medium bodied, cherry notes with good acidity.  Tannins present towards the finish lending vanilla, tobacco and cedar notes. 14.5% ABV 

The pairing: I paired this Nebbiolo d’Alba with some tasty Italian sausage stuffed four cheese ravioli from Trader Joes.   A wonderful complement to one another.   
2013 Chiesa Manascarda Nebbiolo d’Alba
2015 Chiesa Quin Roero Arneis DOCG – 100% Arneis grown on sandy soils south east facing.  The grapes are softly pressed with low temperature fermentation.  It then spends 6 months in stainless steel vats.  This wine is bright straw colored with a tinge of green.  Stone fruit on the nose.  Lively, bright acidity right up front.  A dry, medium-bodied wine with good texture.  Notes of apple, pear, almond and minerality are present with the higher alcohol of 14% lending some warmth.   

The pairing: I paired this Arneis with baked stuffed haddock.  The flavors and texture of the wine went well with the ritz cracker crumb topping.
2015 Chiesa Quin Roero Arneis DOCG pairing


*The wines were provided as samples, but opinions are all my own.  Importer: Mariposa Fine Wines

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Vino Travels Turns 7!

Every year I'm always amazed that another year has flown by and it's been 7 years on this Italian wine journey I've undertaken.  I'm grateful for all those that have shown interest in Vino Travels over the years and I like to use these anniversaries as a thank you to you all.  One of the best parts is the collaboration with wine folks around the world and the virtual friendships that have been made, although most of them I've never met.  We all share a common passion and interest in wine and that is what is so special about it all!

I'm currently working on an additional Italian wine certification through the Wine Scholar Guild and am almost wrapping up the first part on Northern Italy.  It's a much longer process now with kids, but I'll get there.  I'm doing this to keep my knowledge up to date and to remind myself of some of the pieces I have forgotten.  It also drives a lot of interest within myself to seek out and try some of these wonderful grapes I learn about along the way.

2020 has proven to be a challenging year so far, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic the world is facing, but I believe obstacles like this is what makes us stronger and in the end we'll all be better for it.  Take this time to try or learn something new and maybe dig into a wine course or certification yourself.  You'll find it very gratifying.

Thank you again to all and let's look forward to another great year!  Grazie a tutti!
Italian food and wine blog
My recent trip to Sicily October 2019
P.S. I strongly encourage you to reach out to me via email if you have ideas about what you'd like to see more of or even if you just want to say hello.  Sometimes you feel like you're writing into the abyss and it's nice to know folks are listening.  If you want to partner with Vino Travels or the Italian Food, Wine, Travel group please reach out as well.


Friday, May 1, 2020

The Lacryma Christi Wines of Vesuvio

Campania, a region in Southern Italy, has deep roots in ancient winemaking and viticultural practices influenced strongly by the Greeks, Etruscans and Romans.  Campania served as a center of the Magna Grecia, “Great Greece”, which were colonies of the Greeks in southern Italy.  They were very instrumental in the development of agriculture and viticulture for the fertile lands of the area.   

Aristotle wrote of vineyards being planted in Campania since 5 B.C.  One of the more important wines to note coming out of the Campania wine region are those known as Lacryma Christi.  The name translates to “tears of Christ”, which hold many legends with one of the most common being that God shed tears when Lucifer stole a piece of heaven.   

The wines of Lacryma Christi are a sub-designation under the Vesuvio DOC created in 1983, although these wines have been grown here for centuries.  The Vesuvio DOC is made up of over 100 producers with vineyards located on the slopes of Mt. Vesuvius, an active volcano located right off the Bay of Naples.  As you’re probably aware, Mt. Vesuvius is famous for the eruption of 79 A.D. when it destroyed the towns of Pompeii and Ercolano.  According to the Vesurvio DOP Consorzio, "the area under vine is 391 hectares with over half (52%) of the vineyard area declared a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) for the production of the Vesurvio DOC and Lacryma Christi DOC wines".
Vesuvio DOC wine region in Campania
Copyright of Vesuvio DOP Consorzio
As you can image the vineyards located on the slopes of Mt. Vesuvius are quite unique as the vines are rooted in deep layers of volcanic lava.  Lacryma Christi wines follow stricter regulations that those of the greater DOC.  There are many styles of Lacryma Christi wines including a Lacryma Christi Rosso, Bianco, Rosato, passitoliquoroso and spumante.  The most common are the Lacryma Christi Rosso and Bianco.   
Viewing Mt. Vesuvius from Pompeii
My visit to Pompeii in 2007 with a view of Mt. Vesuvius 
The primary grape of the Lacryma Christi Rosso is the piedirosso grape, translating to “red foot”, due to the stem becoming red during the ripening process.  This is an important native grape of Campania and lends ripe fruit and softness to the wines.  The rosso may also be blended with aglianico and sciascinoso. 

For the Lacryma Christi Bianco wines the grape coda di volpe leads the charge.  A grape exclusively found in Campania, coda di volpe translates to “white foxtail” that describes the shape of the grape cluster that develops.  This grape can also be blended with verdecafalanghina and greco. 

In recent decades the producers have advanced winemaking practices and increased the overall quality of wines being developed in this region.  Mastroberadino is one of the most famed producers of this region for producing high quality wines along with Feudi di San Gregorio and others. 

If you catch us in time we are chatting live on Twitter at 11am EST at #ItalianFWT.  Hope to see you there!  Check out the following posts from my fellow food and wine lovers.