The hills above Lake Garda are nearly as pretty as the comely white wine that flows from its sunny southern slopes: an aromatic, charming flavorful wine that goes by the name of Lugana. Ca dei Frati is the quintessential property in this stunningly beautiful region of the Italian Alps that poets and popes have likened to Eden, and then there is Ca dei Frati’s remarkable Lugana wines – Brolettino and I Frati – the most seductive and delightful of Lombardy’s white wines.
For four generations the Dal Cero family has grown premium grapes and fashioned wines of legendary status from their modest 44-acre estate in northern Italy that lies nestled in the stunningly beautiful hills above Lake Garda’s Sirmione Peninsula. From these sunny shores, Igino, Franco, and Ana Maria Dal Cero run their impeccable azienda agricola. They combine the joys of tradition with the benefits of modern viticulture. Recently, the family has modernized the old cellar and introduced new equipment. They have also developed a new trellis system for their grapes, which has further improved the estate’s impeccably tended vineyards. Moreover, the present Dal Cero trio has consented to selling a small portion of their outstanding Lugana outside of Italy, which happily allows us to offer club members one of the wine world’s most unique and venerable white wines.
Ca dei Frati, like most Lugana producers, makes small amounts of a charming red wine and a tiny bit of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, too, along with its more famous Lugana offerings. Nevertheless, it is the estate’s legendary Brolettino and I Frati, made from low yields of the Lugana grape (the local name for the region’s particular clone of Trebbiano) that have bestowed nearly cult status upon this otherwise modest family run winery. So enamored are the local cognoscenti and now the growing number of international clientele that rarely is there even a bottle of I Frati or the estate’s most elite offering Brolettino available at the cellar door: the estate’s Lugana wines are sold out immediately upon release. In order not to totally disappoint visiting hopefuls, the Dal Cero family has frescoed the cellar walls, with the idea that if visitors cannot revel in the beauty of the family’s wine, at least they can enjoy the artwork – a small consolation until the next vintage of Lugana is ready to exit the cellar door.
Although I Frati and Brolettino are both outstanding examples of Lugana wine, they are quite different in nature. I Frati is light and lively: it is made to shine in the first three years of its life. It receives no aging in oak barriques. On the other hand, the very rare Brolettino is fashioned for the long haul. And unlike the I Frati, the cru Brolettino is aged in small 225 liter oak barrels, which gives the wine a creamy, almost Burgundian character. Brolettino is fully mature upon release, but will retain its rich intense flavor for many years. Not surprisingly, it is produced in miniscule quantities.