Exploring the Wines of Northern Italy's Lago di Garda

Exploring the Wines of Northern Italy's Lago di Garda

Uncorking the Beauty: 

Exploring the Wines of Northern Italy's Lago di Garda

Author : Kelly Louiseize 

Editor : Jennifer J. Lacelle 

Date : September 25, 2021

Setting the scene

The last scene of Mozart's opera Don Giovanni is a giant feast. The philandering anti-hero sits at a sumptuous table, listens to music, unaware that he is about to get his comeuppance and be dragged to hell by demons. His last exhalation before his final reckoning is: “Pour the wine! Excellent Marzemino!”

Back when Lorenzo da Ponte, Mozart's Librettist, wrote Don Giovanni, Marzemino was a sweet and frothy sparkling wine made in the North of Italy, and its claim to fame immediately became its appearance in the Opera. While its association with Don Juan is still strong, you don't have to have sinned so widely last year in order to appreciate a call for great wine at a musical feast. These days the wine of Marzemino is less sweet, less frothy but still delicious, and we are sending you some this January, and you won't even have to be dragged into hell to appreciate it. Along with a brilliant sparkling Blanc de Blancs and one of our favourite rosés anywhere, the Marzemino is produced by one of our favourite producers: Costaripa.

Nestled among the hills on the western coast of Lago di Garda in the tiny village of Moniga, Costaripa has gained fame as the jewel of Valtenesi, one of Italy's youngest DOCGs. Family owned and run since 1936, Costaripa began to receive international acclaim when Mattia Vezzola Jr. took the reins in 1994. After spending more than 30 years studying in Burgundy and making wine in nearby Franciacorta, Mattia returned to Manigo to bring his French Influenced winemaking style home to explore his native terroir and varieties. Under his supervision, winemaking at Costaripa underwent sweeping change: yields were halved, native varieties were put on a pedestal, and maceration temperatures were kept under his watchful eye. In 2008, Mattia was named Winemaker of the Year by Italy's prestigious Gambero Rosso, solidifying his local-legendary status as "l'uomo del lago" - the Man of the Lake’

Featured Wines of the Region

Featured wine #1  - Mattia Vezzola Brut 

A beautiful Blanc de Blancs made in Traditional Method, sourced from 25-50 year old vines in the coolest temperature vineyards around Lake Garda. Delicate mousse and subtle citrus notes make this perfect for ceviche, sushi or delicate fish dishes.

Vinification: 100% Chardonnay fermented slowly under temperature control, aged in old white oak casks for eight months before an additional 24-30 months in bottle.

Tasting Notes: Straw robe with green highlights, fine mousse with a nose of apples and honey, delicate citrus on the palate.

Food: Ceviche and other cured fish, sushi, soft young cheeses, simple fish dishes, caviar. This would be lovely with most of the menu at Kasa Moto.  

Cellaring: Drink before 2030.    

Featured wine #2 - 2021 Rosamara Valtenesi  

A perennial favourite of Charlies Burgers, this is, in our opinion, one of the best rosés on the planet, elegant, refined and beautiful on its own or with food.

Vinification: 50% Groppello Gentile, 30% Marzemino, 10% Sangiovese, 10% Barbera, this wine is made with the "teardrop method" using only pure free-run juice with no extraction before six months of aging in small old barrels.

Tasting Notes: Light pink robe, with white peaches, pepper and grapefruit on the nose. The palate is rich, filled with peaches and hawthorn, with a long finish marked by notes of bitter almonds.

Food: Would be lovely with the first half of the Hexagon tasting menu, great with oysters and mussels, and with raw fish of any kind.

Cellaring: Drink anytime in the next three years, but it's beautiful now so why wait.

Featured wine #3 - 2019 Mazane Garda Marzemino 

This lively red from a native Northern Italian is a fantastic food wine, with deep fruit flavours and a plush texture.

Vinification: Hand harvested single variety Marzemino, fermented with indigenous yeast and aged in stainless steel to preserve freshness.

Tasting Notes: Deep ruby robe with ripe cherries and blackberries on the nose. The palate is marked with a beautiful soft and persistent texture and notes of fresh red and black fruit.

Food: Red-sauce pasta, grilled meats, cheese and charcuterie boards, the excellent burger at Milou.

Cellaring: Drink this year or next, this wine is meant to be fresh!

Cheese Pairing Program

As Maître Fromager (Cheese Master) of the Cheese Boutique, Afrim Pristine delivers years of experience in affinage, a practice handed down through the family business. In 2013, Afrim’s distinctions and accolades reached a summit as a 32-year-old cheesemonger who was inducted as the world’s youngest “Maître Fromager” by the France-based Guilde Internationale des Fromagers (an exclusive association representing more than 5,000 cheese wonks around the world). Prior to that achievement, Afrim was also the youngest recipient among a small group of Canadians to receive a distinction of “Chevalier” from the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Taste Fromage de France. Through Cheese Boutique, Afrim’s role as “Cheese Keeper” involves a direct relationship with some of Toronto’s finest restaurants, including: Canoe, Nota Bene, Auberge de Pommier, Drake Hotel, Grey Gardens, Shangri-La, Pearl Morissette, Bar Isabel, Pizzeria Libretto, Hexagon, Four Seasons, Scaramouche, Langdon Hall, Daniel Boulud and of course Charlie’s Burgers.

We are proud to have Afrim as our personal provider of cheeses and other delicacies for the CB Wine Program. Each month Afrim will hand select different cheeses that will pair well with the wines we have chosen. We have worked with Afrim to provide our members with reduced prices offered exclusively to the CB Wine Program. 

Savor the Flavors: Best Restaurants to Pair with the Wines of Northern Italy's Lago di Garda

In addition to pairing cheeses with Afrim, Charlie selects restaurants whose cuisine and atmosphere will stand as perfect backgrounds for enjoying our featured wines. These restaurants have kindly agreed to waive corkage fees for our members for one visit over the next two months! Feel like making a reservation?

Here’s the process:

1. Go ahead and make a reservation at any of the restaurants and advise the reservationist (or leave a note on Tock or Resy) that you’re with us - a card carrying member of the CB Wine Program. Feel free to book at all three restaurants during the months of January and February.

2. Grab a bottle of this month’s featured wine, and bring it with you to Hexagon, Milou or Kasa Moto. Corkage for your first bottle at either all three restaurants is on Uncle Charlie. (If you’re anything like the CB family and want to drink more than one, normal corkage fees will apply for each subsequent bottle.) 

3. A gentle reminder that this an extension of our personal relationship with the Featured Restaurants, and a favour for Charlie's Burgers members. As such, we thank you for representing our membership with grace.


Milou is a French Style neighbourhood bistro. Since opening, Milou has become a hub for nearby residents, families, and Toronto’s art and creative scene, who gather to enjoy coffee, food, drinks, and a laid back and friendly atmosphere. Reservations through Resy, but they encourage walk-ins.

Menu pairing suggestion for our featured wine 

Marzemino - Milou Burger


Hexagon is a contemporary French restaurant in the heart of Oakville, with all of their food they aim to celebrate quality ingredients, precise cooking, and an attention to detail that extends to every part of the restaurant. They celebrate Canadian terroir alongside dishes, ingredients, and techniques from around the world, with a special emphasis on the team's diverse heritage, including the flavours of chef Rafael Covarrubias' native Mexico. They have a diverse but French-focused wine list with an emphasis on Champagne led by Sommelier and GM Martin Watson, who has also had the honor of being your Charlie's Burgers wine writer for the past eight years! I'm there Thursday to Sunday so come say hi! Reservations through Tock.

Menu pairing suggestion for our featured wine

Rosamara Valtenesi - First half of tasting menu or Scallop Crudo

Kasa Moto

Kasa Moto, the Yorkville institution, has been serving its guests contemporary Japanese fare since 2015. Recently undergoing the “Re-imagination of Kasa Moto,” guests will be delighted to experience the new décor, designed by Iron and Ivory and textile designer Candice Kaye, culinary offerings have been revamped under Executive Chef Jia Zou, an elevated cocktail program from beverage manager Ben Kingstone, and wine program curated by Izaac Kamrad (who is also a CB Wine Program member!). Reservations at kasamoto.ca.

Menu pairing suggestion for our featured wine

Mattia Vezzola - Miso Black Cod

Final Thoughts

Should you like to order more of this package, the retail price is $148.99 (inc. taxes). To give you an idea of individual bottle values in this package: Mattia Vezzola: $53.95, Rosamara: $37.95, Marzemino: $39.95.

Don't miss the chance to savor the exquisite flavors of the wines from Northern Italy's Lago di Garda. And for our readers, we have an exclusive offer! Join the CB Wine Program and receive a $100 gift card on their website (URL: https://www.cbwineprogram.com/wineprogram/). Simply use promo code iinta100 at checkout to claim your gift. Indulge in the richness of the region's best wines and experience the taste of Italy like never before. Cheers to good wine and good times!

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