Lugana Winery #3: Cà dei Frati

three Ca dei frati wine bottles

This is the third and final installment on Lugana wineries that I visited last fall as part of the 2022 Wine Media Conference to this stunningly beautiful land in Lombardy, Italy. The other two wineries already presented are Ca’Lojera, a small family run producer, and Ottella, a larger producer with extensive art-filled facilities.

Winery #3 Cà dei Frati, is one of the benchmark producers in the Lugana DOC, with 280 hectares of vines located in Lugana and another 10 hectares in Valpolicello, where Amarone is produced. The winery receives close to 40,000 visitors each year, mostly from Germany. German tourists were in abundance during our visit to Lombardy in fall 2022.

While the winery was purchased in 1939 by Felice Dal Cero, whose descendants own the winery today, the grapes on the land date back to 1046, when the property was a monastery, hence the name Cà dei Frati, which is Italian for ‘home of brothers.’ The current owners represent four generations of the family, including grandmother Santa Rosa; children, Gian Franco, Anna Maria, and Igino; and grandchildren and now great-grandchilden, all working various areas of the business.

Our tour guide was Stefano Fioranzato, who married into the De Cero clan and is Export Manager for the winery. Below, he’s pictured top center, and the surrounding images are of the main tasting room, which is converted from the original monastery building, with gorgeous architectural details. The more modern design of the winery building displays stain-glass-like windows that mirror the older windows, but the glass is actually wine bottle bottoms in a multitude of different colors. The tunnel into the cellar, pictured bottom right, has a fresco-like painting of the night sky, with gold stars … just stunning.

Ca d'Frati winery collage
Cà dei Frati’s Stefano Fioranzato and some of the winery’s beautiful architectural features.

Like Ottella, Cà dei Frati is a super-modern, well-funded winery, with the latest in gravity flow equipment, harvesters, barrels and tank rooms, and just about any other up-to-date wine production gadget you can think of. We happened to be visiting during harvest, when red grapes were being brought in, as you can see in the images below. Everything was pristine in this facility and the barrel room is enormous.

Ca dei frati winery outside and cellar collage
All top-of-the line equipment at Ca d’Frati!

As I did in my two previous posts, I’ll repeat the facts about Lugana DOC, see below. Cà dei Frati produces wines in all the DOC categories, from Lugana DOC entry level wines, to various sparkling wines, all based on the Turbiana grape. Turbiana blends are also made, such as Pratto Vino Biano, a blend of Turbiana and Chardonnay, and Tre Filer, a Turbiana, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc blend. Additionally, as noted above, red grapes are also grown, and the winery has red blends, including Ronchedone Vino Rosso, composed of Marzemino, Sangiovese and Cabernet, and Pietro Dal Cero Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG, from Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella, and Croatina. And finally, there’s the winery’s Grappa, called I Frati Grappa da vinaccia di Lugana, which is 100% Turbiana.

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

There are 5 levels of Lugana DOC wines:

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.

Final Thoughts on Italy

Attending the 2022 Wine Blogger’s Conference in Lombardy, Italy, last fall was one of the highlights of last year for me. I had never explored northern Italy in depth, and had never really heard much about Lake Garda. My husband accompanied me on this three-week adventure, as we decided to travel around Italy, a country he had never been before. So, we did a loop of Milan to Venice to the Adriatic Coast to Rome, back up north to Cinque Terre, and finally Milan again.

It was a trip full of wonders and joys. The food was outstanding, inexpensive for the most part, and freshly made everywhere we went. The people, especially at the wineries we visited as part of the WMC, were very friendly, welcoming and eager to please, so thank you to them!

Valtellina, So Close Yet So Far!

One major disappointment was our truncated trip to Valtellina, which I was especially psyched to visit. Even though we got there, we were struck with COVID once we arrived and I did not get to visit the steep, breathtaking vineyards of this Italian Alps region. I do, however, want to recognize the wonderful Isabella Pelizzatti Perego of Arpepe, who I managed to dine with, and who is the most lovely and talented winemaker.

Our group had lunch at a converted post office restaurant in downtown Sondrio, which is a charming town very close to the Swiss border. At this luncheon, a handful of Valtellina wineries and a plethora of wines were served. Afterwards, there was another reception of Valtellina wines at a beautiful underground, vaulted space (pictured top right in photo below). So I at least got a ‘taste’ of the area before leaving town. And I did manage to capture the town in a few photos.

Collage of Sondrio, Valtellina town, wine caves, winemakers
The Alpine town of Sondrio, where Valtellina wines are made. Top center is Isabella Perego of Arpepe.

You can read more about Valtellina from others on the trip with me, as follows:

A Visit to the Birthplace of Nebbiolo in Valtellina by Liz Barrett of What’s in that Bottle

Crushed Grape Chronicles has excellent videos of Valtellina, by Robin and Michael Renkin.

That’s it for my Italy trip! I do want to return to Northern Italy, especially to Valtellina, and other areas like it in the future. And Lake Garda (read my Love Letter to it) will always be a special place for me.

Until next time,