Lugana Winery #1: Ca’Lojera

As part of the Wine Media Conference 2022, held in Lake Garda, Italy, in early October, I was on a pre-conference excursion that included on-site visits with three outstanding Lugana DOC wine producers.  Two of these wineries were state-of-the art, with such amenities as gravity flow production facilities, an amphora room, deep cellars full of hundreds of barrels, well-appointed tastings rooms, and exquisite and pricey artwork throughout the facility. And one was a mom-and-pop type winery, with some of the modern touches, but on a smaller, less grand scale. This latter was just as impressive and interesting to visit, however.

In this and my next two posts I will focus on each of these wineries individually. First, here’s a recap of what Lugana DOC is all about:

Important Facts About Lugana DOC

  • The Lugana appellation is located on the southern end of Lake Garda, with some land going right up to the lake, some of it more inland. 
  • There are about 200 producers in Lugana DOC, from large to tiny.
  • The grape is Turbiana, and most producers use 100% of it in their Lugana Whites. 
  • The soils in Lugana region are morainic, composed of clay topsoil over rock, red soil and iron.
  • Proximity to the Lake Garda influences how much clay is in the soil, and it can be anywhere from 20% to 40%.

The Five Types of Lugana Wine

In my last post, the 5 levels of Lugana DOC wines were discussed. Briefly, they are:

Lugana DOC these are the the ‘everyday’ drinkers, fresh, fruity, and lively.

Lugana DOC Superiore  these must age for a least one year.

Lugana DOC Riserva   must age for 2 years, with 6 months of that in the bottle.

Lugana DOC Vendemmia Tardiva  these are Lugana’s late-harvest wines.

Lugana DOC Spumante these are sparkling wines.

Ca’Lojera: Multi-Generational Family Winery

Ca’Lojera, or ‘House of the Wolves’ in the local dialect, was founded in 1992 in the town of Sirmione, just a few steps from Lake Garda, by Ambra and Franco Tiraboschi. The couple bought the property in 1980 and grew fruits and vegetables before venturing into wine. The property itself dates back to the 13th century, as the summer home of the bishop of Verona. The wolves reference comes from a local legend that the animals protected the houses of smugglers who traded weapons and black-market salt along the coast of Lake Garda.
Marta, the founder’s granddaughter and our tour guide at Ca’Lojera, offered two explanations for the wolf lore, with one being that the wolves refers to the animal, as per the above, and the second being that the smugglers themselves were the wolves. Either way, it’s a good story, and adds historical dimension to the winery and its labels.
Collage of Ca'Lojera winery
From top left: Ca’Lojera’s Lungana lineup; Marta, grandaughter of founders; tasting in the former on-site restaurant; Second row, from left: Ca’Lojera shipments; the modern winery building; Ca’Lojera’s 1999 late-harvest wine;
Third row: the 13th century building, where plans include a new tasting room; caricatures of Ambra and Franco Tiraboschi on a special magnum bottle.

The land on which Ca’Lojera sits was once the La Garda seabed, so the soils are full of sea minerals, which impart a characteristic flavor profile to the wine, with notes of salinity and chalkiness. The winery produces all its own grapes, with 18 hectares of Turbiana in Sirmione, plus an additional 2 hectares of hilly, moranic vineyards, dedicated to Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet. Note that these grapes are not approved under Lugana DOC; Ca’Lojera sells them under the ‘della Guardia’ label.

The modern winery building was built just 10 years ago, but the original cellar is 30 years old. With production ramping up for the current 200K bottles they produce per year, it’s becoming a tight squeeze, and Marta informed us that more modern and spacious production facilities are in the works. With the winery in full harvest mode during our visit, it was not the top priority at this time!
Until recently, the winery had a home-style restaurant on the property, which is where our tasting took place. The room was full of family memorabilia, and was a cozy place to do some wine tasting. Marta says her plan, when she has the time, is to build a tasting room in the currently unoccupied original building (see photos above).
Ca’Lojero’s lineup included a fresh and fruity entry-level Lugana DOC, with an herbal nose (some of the tasters smelled marijuana!); a Superiore, which is harvested a bit later; a Riserva, which is a late-harvest wine that spends 1.5 years in tank and 6 months in the bottle, which makes it more complex; and a 1999 ‘Anato Historico’ which was aged in small wooden barrels for two years. This last wine had a deep gold color, with notes of honey. Ca’Lojera uses oak only on its sweet wines.
This is a fun winery to visit, and should you be in the Lugana area, visit the quaint and lovely tasting room.
Until next time,