Not Just Another Italian Grape-(#ItalianFWT)

A year ago, I took part in La Famiglia di Amarone tasting at the Collisioni Festival in Barolo. The great family wineries (and there are many) that make the style of Amarone – wine made from a blend of dried grapes; typically Corvina, Corvinone & Rondinella, (and a multiple of others) to make this high alcohol-high tannin-big mouth-highly ageable wine. And these wines come from Valpolicella, a highly reputable region located in the Veneto in NE Italy. But what many DON’T know is that some of these families also have land located closer to Lake Garda, the home of Trebbiano di Lugana, aka Turbiana, aka Trebbiano di Soave – which is also known as Verdicchio, one of Italy’s greatest white grapes.

Ah…gotta love Italian grapes! Synonyms galore…or should I say biotypes. Since there are eight different Trebbianos out there (that are all unrelated by the way), let’s not confuse this one with what I sometimes like to call the ‘armpit grape” of Italy – Trebbiano Toscano. But I digress…due to the quality challenges of  (some) of the trebbianos out there, some producers have chosen to label their wines as Turbiana. So, if you see this on the label, essentially it is Trebbiano di Lugana, the wine that we are discussing today!

Lake Garda sits with Lombardy to the west and Veneto to the east. Lugana sits on the south shores of the Lake while Valpolicella sits to the east of the lake. Chalky clay soils suits the Turbiana grape, the chalk providing the essential acidity to the wine and the clay bringing the roundness and longevity to the wine.

One of the families of well known Amarone is the Zenato family. Many awards and accolades given for their Reserva Sergio Zenato wine, but in 1993, patriarch Sergio realized the potential of the Lugana area and the Trebbiano di Lugana grape. He also created a reserva of this wine, aged in oak. The San Benedetto is the first tier, and the wine that I have tasted for this post. Unlike the reserva which is fermented partially in large oak barrels with further ageing in small oak barrels for additional complexity, the San Benedetto is done completely in stainless steel. This allows a freshness to the wine with great aromatics. This wine had that high searing acidity with flavours of melon, citrus and hints of pineapple and grassiness. To be honest it took some time to open up and I have some leftover to try today to see if it has improved overnight. Clearly, it needs food, and my magical pairing? Salt and vinegar chips! When drinking wine at 9:30 pm, a full meal is NOT what I need, but any salty snack would work wonders with this wine! Salute!

My colleagues here at #ItalianFWT have some other examples of Trebbiano di Lugana along with some delicious pairings – check them out!

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Living Life to its Fullest

I love it when people celebrate birthdays. No, not your kid’s first birthday, or their 13th or 18th, but a 65th or 70th, 80th and 90th birthday!  Now those are really worth celebrating!

Imagine my delight and surprise to be invited to a 70th birthday for one of our loyal customers, with whom I also consider to be a friend. A small, catered affair with only 13 people around the table, so I certainly felt blessed to be in such great company!Rocco 3

One of the best parts of the evening, was being able to “raid” the host’s cellar! The host is also of a similar age bracket, and like my friend, collects wines. He has the temperature/humidity controlled cellar, complete with racks up top and drawers for the wooden boxes below. What a treat to have been able to choose the wines for the dinner! It was like being a kid in a candy shop! Wine candy!

Choosing was interesting as I knew I wanted to choose with my friend’s favourites in mind (merlot and sangiovese), but also keeping in mind that there were others at the table; men and women, not to mention what we were eating. We started out with Krug champagne and beluga caviar, so you can glean what kind of evening this would be! Nothing but the best for this 70 year old!

I ended up choosing what I thought was a little bit of everything for everyone! Napa chardonnay and cabernet, Burgundy pinot, Bordeaux, Barolo were among some of the choices. The hands down favourite was the Hermitage blanc (50/50 blend of marsanne/rousanne). We loved it so much we needed to open a second bottle. The Pauillac Lynch-Bages 2010 saw the bottle drained as well, and the big surprise of the night was the Vilafonté from South Africa.

J.L Chave is one of the premier winemakers of the Northern Rhone valley, where he makes age worthy, noteworthy wines from both estate grapes, and a 2nd label with purchased grapes of the utmost quality. His wines are truly phenomenal, and there isn’t one that I’ve tried that I haven’t like. And paired with escargots and crostini in a butter truffle oil, was absolutely divine – there’s no other way to describe it! Sometimes the price doesn’t equal quality, but in this case, it most certainly did!  I was gifted one of these bottles when I left with really no idea that the retail price tag is a cool $340! Cha-ching!

Rocco 6

Rocco 7

Vilafonté is a South African property around the Stellenbosch area, so named for the soils of the area. It’s some seriously old dirt here, dating back a million years or so (that’s what they say). This was the Series C, 2013 vintage, that has been described by the winery as “rich and dense”. I would agree! After being opened for over an hour, it still needed a decant, which we did, and it became smooth, rich and luscious, full of those black fruit flavours and aromas associated with both cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc. No wonder I loved this wine…cab franc is certainly one of my favourites, and this wine brought me back to South Africa!

That is just a small sampling of the evening, truly memorable for me, and I sure hope for my friend too! Good food, good friends, good wine…can’t ask for much more! My friend lives life to its fullest! His ‘end of life plan” is to get on a plane, with a one way first class flight to “somewhere”, where he’ll drink amazing wine, then he’d come back cargo, and he’s ok with that! Salute!

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Lacrima – The Aromatic Jewel in Le Marche’s Crown (#ItalianFWT)

Le Marche, one of the lesser known and less traveled regions of Italy is in my books, an unsung hero of the country. Located on the east side of the country, halfway down the Adriatic coast, it has everything going for it. Rolling hills, mountains, seasides, beaches, unparalleled local cuisine and of course native grape varieties that are gaining more ground on the international stage. Verdicchio, perhaps the most famous grape to come out of Le Marche is one of Italy’s oldest white grapes, and one of the only Italian white grapes capable of ageing. It shows its versatility by being made in a variety of styles: sweet (passito), still and sparkling.

href=””> Le Marche: From sea to sky, there is diversity here and much to offer! Photo: Marcia J. Hamm[/

Coming out from behind Verdicchio’s shadow though, is a lovely little red grape called Lacrima, one of only a handful of aromatic red grapes in Italy. I’ll never forget my first experience drinking lacrima…around a table of fellow classmates/winetasters, exploring a wine made with this grape, many of us tasting it for the first time. Everything else previously tasted soon took a back seat to this surprise wine. You could’ve heard a pin drop during the initial assessment of this wine. No words were spoken as all noses were fully engaged deep into the glass, pulling out every single aroma nuance possible. I couldn’t stop smelling it, and hoped that the taste would be as equally mesmerizing. Needless to say, I wasn’t disappointed.

f=””> Lacrima grapes: photo courtesy of Lorenzo Marotti Campi – Marotti Campi wines of Le Marche, Italy[/capt

An ancient variety, lacrima was granted DOC status in 1995, but was in danger of becoming extinct with only seven hectares remaining at the time. Lacrima means ‘tear’, because of its very thin skins, they break easily causing violet juice to run down the grape as if it were crying. Because of this, it makes growing the grape challenging and careful handling  is required in both the vineyard and winery. It’s worth it though, because one smell and taste of the lavender, green cardomom, roses, blackberry, pink pepper, asian spices and juniper berries will have you hooked for life! Like it’s white counterpart Verdicchio, it too can be made in a variety of styles: sparkling rose, still, lightly sweet (lower alcohol), and an unctuously sweet dessert style. There is nothing quite like a chilled sparkling lacrima to enjoy on the patio on a hot day, or to surprise your guests with a different sort of celebratory bubble. Now, with the cooler days (& nights) of Autumn descending quickly upon us, time to turn the ovens back on and cook up a delectable roast lamb, duck, or rabbit, making lacrima extremely versatile for both the heavy and lighter roasted meats. And for dessert? The sweet styles work marvelously with chocolate, especially raspberry or blackberry chocolate! One of my favourite producers, Marotti Campi, is one of the many family owned wineries of the area, and Lorenzo is passionate about making quality wine, and I proudly sell (& drink) several styles of their lacrima available in our market.

Having tasted all styles of lacrima, I can attest to the quality and amazing uniqueness of this grape. If you have not yet had a chance to experience lacrima in any of its forms, I encourage you to go out and find some! It is an experience you are sure to not forget!

This post is part of the #ItalianFWT, Italian Food Wine Travel group. Here’s some other posts you can read about for some amazing ideas on wines for fall! Check them out, then head over to the Twitter page to ask us any questions!

Jeff at Food Wine Click, gets real with his directive to Finish Up the Rosato, It’s Barolo Time- Italian FWT

Jennifer at Vino Travels introduces us to Badia a Coltibuono: Beginnings by Monks in Gaiole in Chianti

Gwen at Wine Predator has an inspiring suggestion for Italian Red Wines for Fall? Go Pink and Pair with Pasta! #ItalianFWT

Jane at Always Ravenous is bringing in the new season by Leaning into Fall with Beef Short Ribs and Nebbiolo

Lauren, The Swirling Dervish, is our helpful guide to Transition into Fall with the Wines from Südtirol / Alto Adige

Wendy from A Day In The Life On The Farm crafts a tempting pairing of Pappardelle al Ragu Di Cinghiale and a Monsanto Chianti Classico

Camilla from Culinary Adventures With Camilla shares her secrets with A Few of My Favorite Fall Things: Truffles, Cheese, & Barolo

Katarina of Grapevine Adventures encourages readers to Welcome Fall with a Taurasi DOCG from Irpinia

Jill of L’Occasion, we give you Wine To Match The Trees: 15 Italian Reds for Fall

As this post is being published, I have returned to Le Marche, where I can be found soaking up the sun by the seaside or hiking up the mountainside, inevitably drinking lacrima! Salute!

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The Other Side

I’ve been involved in wine for approximately the last 10 years, all of it ending in a culmination of a great job, titles and some serious certifications. The carrot was always dangling in front of me, and after completion of the Italian Wine Expert designation I worked very hard and tirelessly for, I gave that carrot a satisfying crunch! All those times of making my way across that bridge of learning, only to stop in the middle, while the rest of my family stared hopefully from the other side, urging me forward, waiting for me to finish the walk and finally join them.

For the past 5 years, I’ve spent so much time studying, I’ve forgotten how to do anything else – anything what I consider to be meaningful anyway. I’ve been reading a lot of books strictly for pleasure, watching new movies or tv series on Netflix, listening to audio books, cleaning my house, and yes, drinking wine.

Through all of this, I find myself wanting more. My husband knows my pattern, and he has supported me and waited patiently for me to succeed in my latest endeavour. It’s his turn now. My turn to step up and see him do some traveling of his own, find a new career path, and new projects. Additionally, I have adult children. Young ladies who no longer need me to brush their hair or pick out their clothes. They still need us for food and shelter (and maybe some advice here or there :)) but for all intents and purposes, they are independant. And isn’t that what we raise them to do?

We recently got back from a family vacation, where we did various “touristy” things, and really, did a whole lot of relaxing. Playing games, eating, laughing and generally just enjoying each other’s company; company that included my parents, my siblings and their families. There was very little talk of wine, no winery visits, with only the purchase of a bottle or two at the grocery store or Costco. I found I actually enjoyed that, so much so to wonder what I might do next – study more, do something entirely different, stop traveling…or rather, travel for reasons other than wine? You just never know!

Since I first composed this post, a series of emails, events and people have been a great influence for me deciding what is next for me. Nothing is set in stone, and certainly I can make plans, but there needs to be a level of fluidity to them. All this to say I think I have a path marked of where I want to go: my next major trip is to Australia, assisting in another southern hemisphere harvest, but this time with a close friend who is a winemaker in McLaren Vale. Seriously, I can’t wait! I think it will be another incredible learning experience! And when that trip is complete, I’ll dive into the books again with some self study, continuing my journey into the world of Italian grapes!

I’m joining a choir, which will perform both classical and contemporary music, and I’m learning Italian from a beautiful Italian couple who want nothing more than to see me succeed and do well. What more could I ask for? And finally, I plan to do more of this: writing and blogging. It’s easy to blame not writing on not having any subject matter, but that can turn into weeks or months of…nothing. This blog is case in point! If you’ve taken time to read though, thank you. It warms my heart to know that there are folks out there who read my blog!

My best to you all. Here’s to the next leg of the journey, and getting to the other side of the bridge! Salute!

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Pelaverga Anyone?

February 2016 was the first time I’d tasted this grape, having no idea what it was, or even how to pronounce it! I was in Vancouver at the Wine Festival, where Italy was a special guest and I was able to taste some wine from grapes I had previously never heard of. Fast forward two and a half years, with much study, learning and wine tastings, and I absolutely know what Pelaverga is! Let me introduce you!

From Verduno in Piemonte, it’s not something we usually think when Piemonte is mentioned. As far as red grapes go, nebbiolo is king in Piemonte. Verduno is one of the 11 crus of Barolo, so clearly, it’s very important there. But ask a local what they might like to drink and their answer may surprise you: it’s pelaverga. In New York, it’s a trendy and popular grape and the wines are showing up on more than a few restaurant lists. Here in little ol’ Alberta, I was more than surprised to find it on one of the many import portfolios I deal with.

Alberta is small beans. I mean REALLY small beans. If you consider New York, a city that has a population of 8.6 million (as of 2017) in 789 square kms and the most populous city in the United States, compared to Alberta, an entire province that has only 4 million people, in a surface area that is 662,000 square km (umm, that’s a lot of space!) that’s like a bajillion (emphasis mine) times bigger than NYC! The fact that we’re introducing pelaverga here is quite astonishing to say the least.

I know that like our provinces here, each state has their own ‘rules’ and law regarding what can be brought in. Many countries (including Italy) have a hard time dealing with Canada because of this. It means that everything is controlled by the government and they dictate what can be brought in and sold in stores. Of all the provinces in Canada, Alberta has no ‘monopoly’. In other words, it’s a free market. Importers/distributors can bring in whatever they want, from wherever they want!  Here, it’s a matter of, ‘ hey, I like your product, I’d like to bring it in’. Sign a purchase order, it comes to a central location, and thank you very much…we have a new SKU in Alberta. (Obviously, there’s slightly more red tape than that, I’m just giving you Coles’ notes version!) That in itself, allows this small beans province to bring in some pretty cool stuff. Thus Pelaverga…

Two years after I first tasted it, I found one, deciding to add it to the order for the store. The boss and I, on Wednesdays when we receive our order, open something new. We cracked it open, and much to my delight and surprise, it was a lovely little wine! (My chardonnay-zinfandel-new world wine loving boss, liked it too.)

Pale in colour due to its thin skins, the aromas jumped out of the glass with notes of rose, pepper, lavender, and even green cardamom. It also has naturally high acid with restrained tannins, it’s apparently the perfect match for any dish with mushrooms!  With some chilling, it became even more lively on the nose. In my mind, definitely a patio wine, and with our beautiful summer temps we’re having lately, it would be perfect! At only $22 on the shelf, why not buy two?

I love finding pretty little jewels, especially when it comes to native grapes of Italy! If you have a chance to try Pelaverga, don’t hesitate! Salute!

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