Tuesday, November 14, 2017

From Santa Rosa, With Love

Photo: Brianne Cohen
Last year my first blog post after returning from the Wine Bloggers Conference in Lodi was entitled “From Lodi, With Love”. This year I can’t think of a more fitting title for my first post since returning from this years Wine Blogger’s Conference (WBC) in Santa Rosa.

I have returned from WBC full. My cup runneth over after spending 5 days in my secret little wine world. I’ve got this whole set of wine friends who my friends and family have never heard of and know nothing about. It really is sort of like this secret double life. Secret tweets. Inside jokes. Late night sharing of wine labels we drank that evening. It’s actually quite hilarious. It was a phenomenal 5 days and there will be many more posts to come, as I have plenty of wine content to dissect!

As my WBC trip approached, the single most common thing I heard when I told my family/friends I was going to Santa Rosa/Sonoma was some form of “didn’t that all burn down?”. And having been home for a couple of days, I am STILL hearing that from everyone. The news painted a picture of devastation. Charred vineyards, charred buildings, burnt down wineries, and homes with only chimneys and swimming pools left. If you looked through the slideshows of fire pictures online, you’d think that Napa and Sonoma were completely torched.

The Wine Bloggers Conference presented 2 different panels regarding the Napa/Sonoma fires. The first panel, Wine Country Fires, was moderated by Jolaine Collins of Collins Communications. It was an emotional session as the panelists shared personal stories and firsthand accounts of what they saw, felt, and experienced. The panelists included George Rose, photographer; Patsy McGaughy of Napa Valley Vintners; and Pierre Bierbent of Signorello Estates. George and his wife lived in Santa Rosa for 25 years, and he found himself in wine country as the fires broke out. He shared images he took as the fires unfolded. Really tough shots to look at. The most difficult part of the session was when Pierre, Winemaker at Signorello Estates, spoke about his experience. He shared how he learned of the fires in the middle of the night and how he made attempts to fight the flames himself. He shared images from what he saw and told stories that brought tears to many of our eyes. Hearing his voice crack as he spoke was sobering for us all. This wasn’t a news segment, or a magazine article. These were real people who had real experiences. In the end, Signorello Estates was a total loss.

The second panel was entitled: How Media Can Respond to a Crisis, also moderated by Jolaine Collins of Collins Communications. Panelists included George Rose, photographer; Virginie Boone, Wine Enthusiast; and Sarah Stierch, Journalist. Sarah shared her raw feelings and emotions around the fires as an independent journalist who live tweeted non-stop from the fire zone. She saw firsthand what was happening and the mis-information that was spreading like wildfire (pun intended).

The fires are still very raw for many people in wine country. But they are strong and they are resilient people. There is a space to grieve, yet there is also a space to look to the future.

The biggest takeaway from these sessions is that Sonoma and Napa did not completely burn down, and that they are open for business. Yes, many people lost their homes, businesses were lost, wineries were lost, and lives were lost. It is possible to honor and remember, yet also spread the word to encourage people to help in the recovery. What does that look like for those of us who live nowhere near Northern California?

        1. Drink Napa and Sonoma wines

        2. Join a Napa/Sonoma wine club (a GREAT gift idea in time            for the holidays)

        3. Come visit!

Here are a couple websites that were shared with us in these sessions:

North Bay Fire Donations: this is a great website that has aggregates a lot of individual information as to how you can help. It includes: where to donate money, where to donate stuff, and where you can eat, drink, and stay to help support recovery in the region.

https://www.northbayfiredonations.com

Comfort Drinks: This is a website that Sarah Stierch started with other wine country residents and beverage industry professionals. Do you know someone who has been displaced by the recent North Bay Fires who loves fine wine, beer or nonalcoholic craft beverages? ​Whether they are moving into a new home or are waiting to do so, we're here to bring a glass of liquid comfort to their lives. Follow the directions on their website and they'll work with their beverage industry donors to provide wine, beer, spirits, and beverages.

https://www.comfortdrinks.net

That’s all for now. A simple message to my readers: if you are able, please think about making a contribution to help those affected by the wild fires in wine country this past October.

Sonoma is Strong.  Napa is Strong. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

One Year Later


A year ago today, I woke up in complete disbelief. How did we get here? How did I get here? Our country elected a man who appeared to have a severe lack of morality, intelligence, humility, decency. The list goes on and on.

This is not a political blog. This is a wine blog. I get it.  As an American, I feel that I cannot compartmentalize the horror, shock, and disappointment that I feel for our country and ALL the people living in this country. I have not felt patriotic for many years, which frightens (and angers) our flag-waving patriotic citizens. However, the older I get the more comfortable I get in stating my opinion and being unabashed about it. For me, talking about it helps me process, as ignoring it would eat me up inside. The “macro” of this country, in my opinion, is falling apart. The news every day seems to get worse and worse. This government that we all took a part in electing is committing atrocities and curtailing basic human rights faster than we can keep up with. On the other end, it is within the “micro” that I find hope daily.

With this all being said, I am constantly working to stay positive and inspired by people and things around me. There are people (friends and family members of mine!) who are doing incredible things and being strong in the face of adversity. Part of my “staying sane” strategy is to partake in things that make me happy. One of my “happy places” is wine. Wine is a living, breathing thing in a bottle. I love to follow the story of wine, the story of the grapes, the story of those who tended the crop in the vineyard, the story of the juice, the story of the architect of the wine, etc. Wine envelops me whether I’m reading about it, learning about it, or drinking it. Wine is my escape.


The Federalist: Dueling Pistols 2014
50% Syrah, 50% Zinfandel
Appellation: Sonoma/Dry Creek Valley
Alcohol: 14.5%
SRP: $29

A year ago today I was on the couch in complete disbelief at the turn our country had taken. I sat, watching the news and crying until about 1am. Fast forward to January 20, 2017 and I was in Israel on a trip with 20 other couples from the Los Angeles area. It was an incredible trip and Friday was our last night with this group we had grown so close to. We shared a Shabbat service and meal together, and I brought this wine to share with the group. The wine had a patriotic slant to it, so I figured it was a good time to enjoy it. It was an interesting evening. We were all sad to be leaving Israel and leaving the community we had built with each other for the last 10 days. It was also a surreal time to be outside of the country. In the week leading up to Trump’s inauguration, we were traveling through a foreign land and trying to connect to our Judaism. It felt odd (dare I say nice!) to be outside of the US. It distanced us a bit from what was happening back home. My husband and I were watching the inauguration on CNN as we were getting ready for the evening. I had Dueling Pistols with me and was taking sips during commercial breaks.

This is a lovely wine. The name comes from the infamous duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton on July 11, 1804. Hamilton, the original Federalist, was shot in the duel and died from his injuries. We’ve all seen Hamilton, right? This wine is a “duel” between Syrah and Zinfandel. The combination of these grapes gives you dark black fruit notes (blackberry and black cherry) and nice spice, black pepper on the palate.  This wine would stand up to any red-meat centered meal.

This post is for every activist working to ensure that basic human rights towards ALL groups are maintained. This includes women, immigrants, people of color, the LGBT community, people with disabilities, people incarcerated, etc. I see you. I support you. I fight for you.

If you stand for nothing, Burr, what'll you fall for?
-Hamilton (lyrics by Lin Manuel Miranda)









Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Wine Bloggers Conference Starts TODAY!


A little over two years ago I watched the movie SOMM and decided to start a blog documenting my WSET Diploma wine education adventures. It has been a long, hard journey and I am still in the process of securing my Diploma certification! Only one exam separates me from this (read more HERE)!

Within a week or so of starting my blog I stumbled upon something called the Wine Bloggers Conference online. This conference has been the backbone of my blogging journey. I have met many wine bloggers and learned a lot along the way. I’ve explored regions I had never visited before, such as the Finger Lakes in New York and Lodi in Northern California. It is safe to say that the Wine Bloggers Conference is one of the highlights of my year. It’s the time of year when I’m with “my people”. When you love wine as much as I do, it can be difficult (and a bit lonely) to be around people who do not appreciate the artistry of wine as I do. And I don’t mean that in any sort of snobbish or “better than” way. There is something magical to be with a group of people who have the level of appreciation that you do for something. I also feel an escape when I am at WBC each year. Escape from the real world, work, doctors appointments, Trump(?), cleaning house, obligations, etc. I get to live for a week with a bunch of cool wine geeks like me, taking notes, tweeting, and snapping pics. It is the only time in my life where it is socially acceptable (and encouraged!) to constantly be on your phone, ipad, or laptop. The challenge is to balance all of that with actually meeting and connecting with people. And what better way to do that than through your shared love of wine!

This year the wine bloggers conference will take place in the Santa Rosa/Sonoma area. This is an area I have explored many times on my own, however, I never tire of it.  The area was recently devastated by a series of wildfires, which the conference will address head-on. There is a seminar on the topic and I am sure we will meet bloggers, winemakers, and representatives who lived through the tragedy and who will bravely share their stories.

The Wine Bloggers Conference starts TODAY with an optional pre-conference excursion called the “Inner Mendo Odyssey” hosted by Fetzer-Bonterra where we will have conversations about sustainability and biodynamics as it relates to the wine industry. This two-day excursion includes a reception, dinner, blending competition, and multiple seminars.

Tomorrow evening, the conference officially begins with an Expo featuring Wines of the World and an Opening Reception.

Friday we start digging into the content. Sessions include: Professional Wine Writing Tips, What Companies Want from Wine Bloggers, Wine Discovery Session: Carinena, Keynote Speaker Doug Frost, as well as Live Wine Blogging. That evening I’m participating in a Vineyard Dinner at Thomas George Estates.

Saturday brings more content: Advanced Social Media Beyond Hashtags and Likes, Pitch Perfect: A Look at the Blogger-PR Relationship, Wine Discovery Session: An Exploration of Alsace’s Pinot Gris Styles, Wine County Fires, and How Media Can Respond to a Crisis. We’ll also have more Live Wine Blogging as well as our closing dinner (sponsored by NakedWines.com) in which the announcement of the 2018 conference location is made.

In a nutshell, that’s what I’ll be up to in the next 4 days. I will not be blogging during this time, but I will be VERY active on social media. Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Direct links are to the right.

Thank you and what’s in your glass this week?

Monday, November 6, 2017

Cabernet Sauvignon Masterclass: The Great Grape


In late Spring I was honored to be invited to a Cabernet Sauvignon Masterclass. The event was hosted by Louis M. Martini Wines and our fearless leader for the day was Christy Canterbury, MW. The backdrop was the lovely Redbird restaurant in the heart of downtown Los Angeles.

Cabernet Sauvignon is a grape we all know a lot about.  It is, perhaps, the most popular and ubiquitous grape on the planet.  Ask any wine-drinking novice about Cab, and they'll have something to say.  Whereas if you ask them about Aglianico del Vulture......crickets.  

This was a wonderful Masterclass for me to participate in, as I was preparing for my final WSET Diploma exams.  Cabernet Sauvignon is a grape I can get cocky about.  I know about the actual varietal, I know about how it expresses itself in classical growing regions, and I know what I do and don't like about it. But sometimes it behooves us all to take a step back and go back to the basics.  This is exactly what I did at this event and it proved VERY helpful to my understanding of this grape.  And very helpful as I prepared for my final exams.

Louis M. Martini: A Bit of History

Louis M. Martini founded the winery in 1933 (the day after Prohibition was repealed) in St. Helena in the Napa Valley. Martini grew Cabernet Sauvignon and also tended Zinfandel vines planted onsite as early as 1890. He was one of the founders of the Napa Valley Vintners Association in 1943, which sought to promote Napa Valley wines around the globe. Louis M. passed the winemaking torch to his son, Louis P. in 1954. Next in line was Mike Martini who took over in 1977. Louis M. Martini now has many holdings in California and makes wines from Sonoma Valley, Alexander Valley, and Napa Valley.

It was awesome to taste these wines as I rarely get to taste iconic or benchmark wines. I'm not a somm on a restaurant floor with access to these wines and I certainly don't have the budget to buy them on my own. To have the opportunity to taste these wines that I have read/studied about was a real treat. Note that the Louis M. Martini Lot 1 Cabernet Sauvignon was used as the first wine in each flight.  That way we could compare and contrast this wine to other benchmark wines from classic regions.   It allowed me to ground myself in a Napa Cab and then take off wherever we were going: staying in Napa, through the rest of the US, or across the globe.

Global Cabernet Sauvignon Flight

2013 Louis M. Martini Lot 1 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, CA $145
This is clearly a New World wine because the fruit takes a major lead. No supporting role here. Bold black fruit, which signifies to me a warmer climate. Medium + well-integrated tannins.

2013 Chateau Palmer, Margaux, Bordeaux $250
This wine has an Old World nose, that included fruit plus earth. More undestated, a bit dusty and older feeling, though it was the same vintage as the others. This felt like cooler-climate black fruit, with some red fruit as well. Medium - dusty tannins. This was my favorite wine of the flight for its austerity and restraint. Truly a distinct wine. 49% Merlot, 51% Cab

2013 Almaviva, Puente Alto, Chile 15% ABV $100 (72% Cab Sauv, 19% Carmenere, 6% Cab Franc, 2% Petit Verdot, 1% Merlot)
This wine screams Chile on the nose: capsicum, pyrazines, green bell pepper. As it turns out, I have a very strong nose for the "green" notes, so this stood out for me, though the wine was in no means unripe or subpar. A joint venture between Rothschild and Concha y Toro. I also credit this wine with helping me on my Diploma Unit 3 tasting exam 1 month later. On the exam we had a flight of 3 wines presented to us that were all the same predominant variety. With my tasting flights, I always search for the marker. Which wine in this flight is a sure thing (meaning I know what I am drinking)? If I can find and ID the marker, then I can start deducing what the others could be. The flight is in front of me and I smell all three. One has heavy pyrazines. From there it all came together. One was Napa, one was Bordeaux, and the "green" one was Chile. I incorrectly called the flight predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon, when it was in fact predominantly Merlot, but I still think I acquired enough points in the appearance, nose, and palate to "pass" this flight. Note: I did pass this flight on the exam!  And I give partial credit to having tasted this wine!

2013 Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia, Bolgheri, Tuscany $170 (85% Cab Sauv, 15% Cab Franc)
I was in my own little hog heaven with this wine. To finally taste a Sassicaia was so awesome! These guys have been credited with starting the Super Tuscan craze. The wine has a much more restrained nose than I thought it would have. There is a beautiful, sweet spice nose and young, juicy red fruit on the palate.

2013 Vina Cobos Volturno, Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza $200
Lujan de Cuyo has a slightly higher elevation than the rest of Mendoza, at about 3300 feet. Red and blue fruit plus smooth, integrated medium tannins. Has a bit of Malbec blended in.


Iconic US Flight

2013 Louis M. Martini Lot 1 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, CA $145
Hello Napa!

2012 Silver Oak, Alexander Valley, Sonoma $70
Some green notes here, including pine/dill from the American oak.

2014 Ridge Estate, Santa Cruz Mountains $55
This fruit is from an extremely coastal and cool climate. Lots of berry fruit here (both red and black). A medium to medium - finish.

2013 JUSTIN, Isosceles Reserve, Paso Robles $70
Black fruit (almost sunburned). Medium - aroma intensity. 16.5% ABV on this bad boy, but did not feel that hot.

2014 Peter Michael, Les Pavots, Knights Valley $230
This was my favorite wine of the flight. Knights Valley is between Napa and Sonoma, yet this wine shows more Napa because it's warmer/riper. Concentrated "mountain" fruit from very low-yielding vines. Juicy red/black fruit (plum and cherry) that is a bit jammy, almost preserve-like. A savory note that Christy says comes from the volcanic soil.

2012 Leonetti Reserve, Walla Walla Valley $170
The Cascade Mountains create a desert in Washington, which give burning hot days and freezing nights (translation=wide diurnal range), which makes for very dramatic wines. The nose in this wine was very unusual, so much so that I didn't have any good descriptors! Blueberries on the palate. In my opinion, this wine needs 5-6 years before it's truly ready for drinking.

Napa Flight

2013 Louis M. Martini Lot 1 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, CA $145
Hello again Napa!

2013 Dumn Vineyards, Howell Mountain, Napa Valley $150
This was my favorite wine of the flight (actually I had 2). Howell Mountain is the highest AVA in Napa at 1500 feet. Everything is grown over the inversion layer (which is where the temperature begins to increase past a certain altitude). It's a warm AVA that does not have a wide diurnal range. Savory notes almost make me think this is an Old World wine, BUT the fruit is quite prevalent, so it takes me to the New World. Tannins here are mind-blowing. My tannin note was: woah.

2013 Robert Mondavi, To Kalon, Oakville $140
This is "valley floor" fruit. Red berries and sweet spice on the nose and palate.

2013 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, Cask 23, Stag's Leap, CA $240
A masculine wine. Serious (grainy) tannins with an herbaceous/eucalyptus note on the back palate. This wine is the "densest" of the flight. A big boy.

2013 Krupp Brothers Winery, M5, Napa Valley $200
Wow. Lovely, mouth-pleasing fruit with drying tannins. A meal in and of itself!

2013 Chappellet, Pritchard Hill, Napa Valley $180
Volcanic soils lend minerality to this wine. A perfect combination of rocks and fruit. One of the best wines I tried today.

Side note: I'm convinced that once you become am MW/MS, you are required to use RIDICULOUS nose/palate descriptors. And I don't mean this as a criticism! It actually cracks me up. My favorite tasting note used at this seminar was "fallen branch".  Not the branch ON the tree, but the branch after if fell! Seriously. Is there a difference? All kidding aside, Christy was right. There definitely was a twigginess to one of the Cab Sauv/Cab Franc blends!

In addition to these incredible wines, lunch was delicious.  A well put together event (from the event planner in me!). 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Exam Results Are Here!


After 12 LONG weeks waiting for my test results, they are here!

Let's recap. In June of 2015 I embarked on a 2-year adventure known as the WSET Diploma program. This program consisted of 20 in-person classes, 6 exams, and 1 research paper on topics including the wine business, viticulture (grape growing), vinification (winemaking), spirits, fortified wines, sparkling wines, and still wines of the world. Leading up to the last exam on June 14 I passed all 5 exams I attempted and passed the research paper. Only 1 exam separated me from my WSET Diploma certification: the dreaded Unit 3 exam. This exam is (roughly) 4x the size of the other exams. It consists of 12 blind tastings and 5 essay questions. However hard you think this exam is, I'd say to multiply that by about 5. It's an unreasonable amount of information to prepare for and to retain for this one exam.

Over the last 5 years the average pass rate on the theory portion is 48% and 70% for the tasting portion.  See HERE for my impressions immediately after the exam.  I didn't state it in the blog post, but my gut was that I passed the tasting portion (that was the easy part, right?).  I wasn't so sure about the theory exam.  That one was a doozy and everyone will admit is the more difficult of the 2 exams. 

Here we are and yesterday I receive an email with the subject line: WSET Diploma-Unit 3 Exam Results.  YIKES!!  I didn't even blink, take a breath, or think, I just clicked "open". 

If you are reading this email, this means that you passed the theory paper you took for Unit 3 last June.  Unfortunately you did NOT pass the tasting portion of the exam.

Wow, really?  I was SO happy, yet so bummed.  I managed to pass the more difficult part of the exam yet fail the easier part?  How is this possible?!?!?  I didn't know whether to cry or jump for joy.  I've had a few hours to process this and I can say that I am VERY relieved.  The theory portion of the exam is a monster.  I put in over 300 hours of theory study alone and only had to use about 5% of my knowledge for the exam.  On the other hand, the tasting exam is straight-forward.  I just need to taste more...bottom line.  If I taste more, and practice ONLY in exam conditions, I am sure to pass. No doubt.

That's where I am.  I'm incredibly proud of how far I have come.  And believe it or not, I look forward to immersing myself in tasting over the next few months and tacking the last, and final tasting exam that separates me from my WSET Diploma certification.

Stay tuned as I decide when to take the re-sit of my tasting exam.  Cheers and thank you to all the support from family, friends, and you, my readers.  Every note of support and encouragement is greatly appreciated!

Event Recap: Tre Bicchieri



Back in February I had the opportunity to attend the Tre Bicchieri tasting put on by Gambero Rosso at the Barkar Hangar in Santa Monica. Gambero Rosso is a multimedia brand in the Italian food and wine world that includes: food guides, wine guides, books, a TV channel, a learning academy, and events around the world. The Tre Bicchieri tasting brings together all the highly rated wines that make it into their Vini d'Italia annual guide. The guide is now in its 30th edition. Over 45,000 wines are tasted annually by special committees involving over 70 people. Wines that make the cut in the guide are rated one glass (bicchieri), two glasses (due bicchieri), or three glasses (Tre Bicchieri).

The Grand Tasting showcased over 200 wines of all 3 levels detailed above. I didn't spend much time there, as I was lucky to receive an invite to the Vini d'Italia Special Awards Masterclass. Here we tasted through 9 wines that were the "best" in their respective categories. Tasting notes are below:

Sparkler of the Year: Ruggeri 
Valdobbiadene Extra Dry Giustino B. 2015
A good balance between fruit (citrus, stone fruit, and green fruit) and white flower. Creamy mousse, elegant, fresh, drinkable.

Winery of the Year: Bellavista 
Franciacorta Pas Opere 2009
65% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir. WOW. This wine has spent 6 years on the lees, so it is totally my jam.  Notes of: citrus, apple, and stone fruit (peach). Also, yellow flower, leesy (yet fresh!), and nutty. Medium + finish.

Grower of the Year: BioVio
Riviera Ligure di Ponente Pigato Bon in da Bon 2015
BioVio has been certified organic since the 80s; they were one of the first. Pigato is a native grape of Liguria. This wine has citrus notes (lemon and grapefruit) and a perfumed elderflower nose. One of the panelists exclaimed that this wine has GPS; it takes you immediately to Liguria. In my opinion this wine would shine with food.

Award for Sustainable Viticulture: Roccafiore

Todi Grechetto Superiore Fiorfiore 2014
2014 was one of the most challenging vintages in Italy in over 20 years, which included summertime rain. This wine has medium - aromatic intensity with yellow apple and a toastiness due to oak treatment. It is full-bodied and round with great structure, is very well integrated, and has an elegant finish.

White of the Year: Tenuta di Tavignano
Verdicchio die Castelli di Jessi Classico Superiore Misco 2015
A textured wine with good body. Notes include: lemon peel, nuts, and a smokiness. Great acid. Would be kick ass with some seafood.

Best Value for Money: Tiberio
Pecorino 2015
This was an interesting wine that I thoroughly enjoyed. On the nose alone, this appeared to be a basic, daily drinker. Notes of citrus (lemon), a slight nuttiness, wet stone, and vegetal, white pepper quality. Has a Sauvignon Blanc-like feeling to it, but the acid is not as high.

Up and Coming Winery: Istine 
Chianti Classico LeVigne Riserva 2013
It is hard to find an "up and coming" winery in Italy, because they have all been there so long! On the nose there is red fruit (cherry and strawberry), spice (black pepper and cloves), and floral (violets). The wine is earthy/meaty on the palate and has good acid, as can be expected from a Chianti.

Red of the Year: Chiaromonte
Gioia del Colle Primitivo Muro Sant'Angelo Contrada Barbatto Classico 2013
This is a lovely and interesting wine from Puglia. It has 16.5% ABV but does not feel as that hot. Red/black fruit (sour cherry, blackberry, plum) with some of the fruit feeling stewed (Amarone-like?). The wine also had a mocha/chocolate note as well as meatiness/gaminess (dried meats). Overall, this was the most interesting thing I tasted today. Meaty, perfumed, AND funky on the nose. The palate was smooth, velvety, and mouthfilling.

Sweet of the Year: Lis Neris
Tal Luc Cuvée Speciale
95% Verduzzo, 5% Riesling. For this wine, the grapes are dried passito-style. The wine is honeyed with notes of tropical fruit, chamomile, and spice, including rosemary/garrigue.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Spotlight Italy: The Wines of Lugana DOC



There are many well known Italian wines that we are all familiar with (i.e. Prosecco, Chianti, Barolo, etc), but there are a ton of lesser known Italian wine regions.  Wine is such a fragmented industry with consumers facing shelves upon shelves of choices.  Lugana is not a choice many consumers see on their local shelves, as it is a smaller DOC with most of the wine production consumed within the region.

I had the pleasure of attending two different Lugana DOC wine events in the Los Angeles area this year. In April I was invited to the Valpolicella & Lugana tasting put on by the Consorzio Tutela Vini Valpolicella and the Lugana DOC Consorzio Tutela. And just last week I attended a Lugana luncheon conducted by Laura Donadoni (Laura Wines) and put together by Cori Solomon (The Written Palette) of LA Wine Writers.

Lugana DOC is located between Lombardia and Veneto on the south shore of Lake Garda. The Lugana region has a Mediterranean climate, but Lake Garda gives maritime influences including cool breezes and relatively mild weather. Lugana DOC was the first all white wine DOC in Italy. Turbiana, which is a clone of Trebbiano specifically grown in Lugana, is the sole white grape used.  All wines are monovarietal. Sometimes the grape is referred to as Trebbiano di Lugana.



The Valpolicella & Lugana tasting took place at the beautiful and recently renovated Park Plaza Hotel. While Valpo and Lugana wines are VERY different, it makes sense to pair the tasting as we are in the same gegraphic region. Also, Lugana wines are all white, while Valpolicella wines are just about all red. Some highlights from this trade tasting include:

Villa Canestrari

This is a family winery with its 4th generation winemaker at the helm. The Museo del Vino onsite showcases old winemaking equipment and tools that have been used since the winery’s opening in 1888.  I thoroughly enjoyed their Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG 2012 “A”.

Shots from the Museo del Vino

Loving this Amarone

The award for most interesting wine I tasted at this event goes to Cantina Bulgarini Fausto with their Lugana DOC Superiore 2014 “Ca’ Vaibo”. The grapes for this wine undergo a short drying period before pressing. The final wine is a straw-yellow color (almost gold) and has notes of stone fruit (peach, apricot) along with a strong nuttiness.

Cantina Bulgarini

The most recent Lugana event I attended was the Lugana Luncheon put together by Cori Solomon with the LA Wine Writers Group. Laura Donadoni walked us through her portfolio of Lugana wines beautifully paired with the cuisine of Cafe del Rey by Executive Chef, David Vilchez. See details below on each pairing. Each course was better than the next. I could have eaten a plate full of each of them! I’m hungry again just thinking about it…….

Laura Donadoni telling us about Lugana


1st Course
Amuse Bouche: Seafood Salad on Toast
Pairing: Cascina Maddalena, Lugana Brut, Metodo Classico ($20 retail)
This was an unexpectedly delightful bubbly made in the Metodo Classico (2nd fermentation happens in the bottle). It is crisp with good fruit (citrus and yellow apple) plus white flower notes. What I love is that you also get nice creamy, yeasty, and brioche flavors from bottle fermantation, yet it is still very fresh and clean. This is a nice Champagne alternative at about half the cost of an opening pricepoint Champagne.



2nd Course
Smoked Salmon, Pita, Tzatziki, Mixed Greens, Olive Vinaigrette
Pairing: Montonale, Lugana DOC 2015
This is my White Wine Summer Pick.  Clean, refreshing, and a nice honeyed quality, yet bone dry.  It's also got a nice medium + body and creaminess that comes from battonage (lees stirring for 6 months).



3rd Course
Seared Scallop, Saffron Risotto, Capers, Olive Oil
Pairing: Ca’ Lojera, Lugana Superiore 2014
I love this wine.  It is more honeyed than the basic Lugana DOC and has great structure and acidity. Once the wine got closer to room temperature, it developed a super nutty (almond skin) quality.  The scallop risotto pairing was OUT OF THIS WORLD.



4th Course
Swordfish, Squash Blossom, Passion Fruit Vinaigrette
Pairing: Zenato Lugana Riserva 2014
Zenato is famous for their Amarone wines, but they also have holdings in Lugana.  Great viscosity on this wine, which paired famously with the swordfish. A beautiful orange blossom nose.



Dessert
Bucheron Cheese, Grilled Peach, Honey, Sourdough
Pairing: Perla del Garda, Vendemmia Tardiva
This was a lovely medium dry dessert wine, that would also serve well as an aperitif before dinner.  Personally, I could have a glass of this for dessert on its own!