Friday, August 28, 2020

Italy's Greatest Grapes Shine in Washington with Wilridge Winery

On my continued search in discovering Italian grapes grown around the world I was introduced to Wilridge Winery.  Wilridge Winery is based in the AVA of Naches Heights near Yakima in the eastern part of Washington state, about 2 hours outside of Seattle.  They are the first and only winery in the Naches Heights AVA (American Viticultural Area).  I have yet to visit Washington other than flying through on my way to Alaska.  Many of the wines from this state that I’ve tried in the past have left a favorable impression and Wilridge was no exception. 

The winery began in 1988 by current owner and winemaker, Paul Beveridge.  The name, Wilridge, developed from both his wife’s maiden name “Wilhemi” and his own name “Beveridge”.  Interesting name for someone in this industry.  Paul’s preference for growing European grapes stem from his upbringing in his family’s church influenced by one of the parishioners whom was studying European grapes growing in Washington at the time.  His deeper love for winemaking developed through his college years attending Whitman College close by to the Walla Walla wine region.  He established relationships with local wineries and later began making his own wine while practicing law.  He was selling his wine at a restaurant he owned until it closed.   

The reason Paul chose Italian grapes is mostly because of his love for Italian wines and Italian food.  “We also like the fact that Italian wines are typically made without the use of new oak, so they have a purity of grape fruit flavors not found in most French and Spanish wines that rely heavily on new oak barrels”, says Paul.  The terroir at Wilridge Winery is very similar to northern Italy.  They are located at the same latitude as Piemonte, Friuli and the Veneto regions of Italy.  The local vines are protected by the Cascade Mountains just as the vines of Northern Italy are protected by the Alps.  A similar climate and a longer growing season. 

Wilridge consists of about 80 acres with 14 acres dedicated to vines home to 22 grape varieties.  Four acres are dedicated to pears and apples used to make brandy at their distillery.  They also make grappa from their Italian grapes as well.  About one-third of their grapes are Italian with another third dedicated to French grapes and one third Portuguese, Spanish, Austrian and German grapes. In 2007 they became organic and biodynamic certified and were the first ones of Washington state per their website.   

Paul shared a unique piece of information about the area in which they grow grapes.  They are located on a one million year old Andesite lava flow, the largest in the world.  The rest of the Eastern Washington wine country is on basalt bedrock and was subject to catastrophic floods.  They were above the floods and therefore have some of the best soil for viticulture in the state.  

The Wines 

I enjoyed a number of Wilridge's wines based on Italian grapes, but here were some of my favorites.  

2018 Wilridge Winery Pinot Grigio Acadia Vineyard– Pale straw colored.  Crisp and bright with good acidity and  lemon citrus with a touch of tropical fruit ending with a lingering finish.  An enjoyable, clean crisp white.  ABV 13.2% SRP $22 

2018 Wilridge Winery Pinot Grigio
2016 Wilridge Winery Estate Sangiovese – One of the better Sangiovese I have tried outside of Italy.  Medium bodied and rather light in color.  Tart cherry with a hint of tobacco and spice.  Good acid and tannin.  ABV 13.6% SRP $40. 

2016 Wilridge Winery Estate Sangiovese
2016 Wilridge Winery Nebbiolo – Ruby red with brick hues on the rim.  A nose rich in cherries with spice and licorice notes.  Black fruits on the palette with solid acidity and silky tannins on the finish.  ABV 13.4% SRP $35 

2016 Wilridge Winery Estate Nebbiolo

2016 Wilridge Winery Estate Sagrantino – Ruby red in color.  Rather lighter on the palette than I expected for a Sagrantino, but not lacking in flavor by any means.  Notes of green peppers, white pepper and cherries.  Tannins lingering on the finish with vanilla notes.  ABV 13.6% SRP $40 

2016 Wilridge Winery Estate Sagrantino

The future plans for Wilridge Winery include opening a new tasting room in the Woodinville wine tourism area this year.  There will be an additional 40 more acres to plant on Naches Heights.  The next Italian grape variety they plan to plant is Pignolo from the Friuli wine region in Italy.  They are also going to be the first Washington State winery included in the Italian Slow Wine Guide this year.  


*These wines were provided as samples, but opinions are all my own. 

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Digging into the Wines of Lugana

The month of June I attended weekly virtual tastings with the #WineStudio program run by Tina Morey along with the Brand Ambassador, Susannah Gold, of the wine region of Lugana in northern Italy.  I’ve featured the wines of Lugana a number of times on Vino Travels and today we’ll do a deeper dive into what these wines are all about. 

The wine region of Lugana sits on both the Lombardy and Veneto regions of Italy right around the southern portion of Lake Garda.  It includes 5 communes within the 2 provinces of Brescia (Lombardy) and Verona (Veneto): Peschiera del Garda (the only one in the Veneto), Sirmione, Pozzolengo, Desenzano and Lonato.  The area is not too large at only about 7 miles wide and 13 miles long, but their annual production is about 22 million bottles.  Lake Garda itself is the largest lake in Italy and the deepest in the world.  Within Europe it ranks as the 2nd largest lake.  It has a huge influence over the grapes produced in the area providing a long ripening season by moderating the climate. 

Vines have been grown in the area since the Bronze Age.  Proof was found in vitis silvestris seeds that were discovered at Peschiera del Garda.  It was the first DOC wine of Lombardy in 1967 and one of the first DOC’s introduced throughout all of Italy.  The name Lugana stems from the Middle Ages and the word lucus, translating to woods.  The Selva Lucana was a dense forest that once covered this area.  

This area was covered by glaciers hundreds of thousands of years ago.  When the glaciers disappeared it left behind an enormous amount of rocks in the soil as you can imagine.  The morainic soils in which these turbiana grapes grow are primarily mineral rich clay that are hard and difficult to work.  In particular years the producers are allowed to irrigate.   

clay soil of Lugana
Clay soil in Lugana (copyright of Consorzio Tutela Lugana)

The wines of Lugana are made primarily from the Turbiana grape, also known as Trebbiano di Lugana which has been stated to be related to Verdicchio and Trebbiano di Soave.  These grapes are medium-sized and compacted together that grow in long, pyramidal shape bunches.  These grape show characteristics of good acidity and salinity with notes of citrus, almond, white peaches and flowers.  With age, other characteristics develop including ginger, spice and dried fruit. 

Turbiana grapes of Lugana
Turbiana grapes (Copyright of Consorzio Tutela Lugana)

What’s truly interesting is that out of this 1 grape comes 5 different styles of Lugana wines produced: vintage Lugana, Lugana Superiore, Lugana Riserva, Lugana Late Harvest and Lugana Spumante.   The “vintage Lugana”  is your standard wine and actually accounts for 90% of the production.  The Lugana Superiore, introduced in 1998, carries a year of aging with a deeper color and more complexities.  For those that are aged in wood, producers have moved away from newer oak to larger barriques.  Susannah mentioned a current trend for these to be “increasingly vinified in stainless steel with sur lie maturation and a mixed maturation of stainless steel and wood”.  With the Lugana Riserva you may see more pronounced minerality. 

The sparkling Lugana, Lugana Spumante, can be made in either the Charmat/Martinotti method or traditional method and had been introduced legally in 1975.  With the traditional method, the bubbles are refined versus those made with the Charmat method that are more crisp.  The Late Harvest Lugana is the least produced and the grapes stay on the vines longer periods through October and November for extra ripening. 

According to the Director of the Consorzio Tutela Lugana DOC, Andrea Bottarel, “vineyards closer to [Lake Garda] will tend to produce slightly sharper wines with a more distinctive salinity, and the ones closer to the lower and sandier hillside, will tend to produce slightly bolder whites, sometimes with bolder fruit. 

The Lugana Wines

Here are the wines I recently sampled and although very different I appreciated each style and flavor profiles that they shared. 

2017 Marangona Tre Campane Lugana DOC – Grown in Pozzolengo, Sirmione and Peschiera del Garda.  Pale straw colored and floral with white peach on the nose.  Crisp and clean with more of a citrus profile compared to the next wine.  Well balanced.  ABV 13.5% SRP $21 

2017 Marangona Tre Campane Lugana DOC

2018 Ca’Maiol  Lugana Trebbiano di Lugana DOP - This wine is named after the Cascina Maiolo farm established in 1710.  A brilliant straw color.  Very floral on the nose showing peach, almond and apple.  Interestingly lending toward a sweeter profile with ripe fruits.  Medium in body and smooth with nice acidity on the finish.  13% ABV SRP $16 

2018 Ca’Maiol  Lugana Trebbiano di Lugana DOP

Azienda Agricola Pilandro NV Brut Patricia Lugana Vino Spumante DOC – Grown near Desenzano right off the southern tip of Lake Garda in clay rich soil.  Produced in the Charmat method.  This wine was pale in color with a tinge of green.  On the nose green apple and citrus present itself.  Dry, Light and crisp with nice minerality and finesse on the bubbles.  For someone whom isn’t a lover of sparkling wines this one caught my attention.  ABV 12.5% SRP 

Azienda Agricola Pilandro NV Brut Patricia Lugana Vino Spumante DOC
You should be able to find these bottles online or in some of your local wine shops. About 70% of the production is exported.  These wines are ageable as well.  Your standard Lugana is recommended to drink within a few years, but the rest can be aged for 10 years or so.


*These wines were provided as samples, but opinions are all my own.