Umbrian Mecca for Wine Connoisseurs
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Torgiano lies about fifteen kilometers south of Perugia. Originally an Etruscan enclave, later a Roman fort, the town sits on an elliptical hilltop above the confluence of the Tiber and Chiàscio, overlooking the two rivers' broad valleys below. Torgiano appears rather small and plain when today's visitor first arrives. The sweeping views of the vineyard-filled valleys are far more compelling to look at than the modest buildings of the town itself. But there are hidden surprises. Just where the town gives way to vineyards is a four-star hotel known as Le Tre Vasselle ("the three wine vessels"), which features a world-class restaurant serving Umbrian specialties and outstanding local wines. A short walk from the hotel is the Museum of Wine, and just outside of town is one of Italy's most prestigious and modern wineries. For the visitor interested in food and wine, Torgiano is a veritable treasure trove.

The hotel, restaurant, museum, winery and most of the vineyards as far as the eye can see all belong to the realm of Giorgio Lungarotti. With the assistance of his wife Maria Grazia and his stepdaughter Maria Teresa Severini, Lungarotti has achieved international renown as a producer of wines, the most notable of which are often compared to the finest wines of Bordeaux.

If you visit Torgiano, tour the Museum of Wine, then have lunch or dinner at Le Tre Vasselle. The museum's displays include items which illustrate the Middle Eastern origins of wine and its spread throughout the Mediterranean world. All manner of pitchers, jugs, baskets, tools, wine presses, maps, drawings and paintings tell the history of wine. Of particular note are the works of art and books and manuscripts which show the various roles of wine in culture over the centuries. The depth and breadth of the collection is astounding.

Dining at Le Tre Vasselle is a memorable experience. The rooms, like the rest of the hotel, have the feel of an elegant country manor. Remarkable brick floors, large fireplaces and luxurious furnishings create a slightly rustic but very refined atmosphere. The dining experience should begin with an aperitif: what else but a glass of Lungarotti sparkling Brut. Not surprisingly, only Lungarotti wines are served here. Begin the meal with an antipasto such as a salad of sweetbreads on a bed of radicchio or shrimp steamed with slivers of green beans and zucchini. Try Lungarotti's Torre di Giano, one of Italy's first modern wood-aged white wines, with the antipasti. Next, I recommend the risotto with Rubesco, radicchio and black truffles. Rubesco is the big red wine for which Lungarotti is most famous, and black truffles come from nearby Norcia, so the dish blends traditional Umbrian ingredients in a new and exciting way. Choices for main courses include local beefsteak grilled with Lungarotti balsamic vinegar and rosemary, rabbit braised with leeks, or warm carpaccio[.WAV File] of veal topped with black truffles and sauteed rapini. Naturally, the main course requires a Lungarotti Rubesco, preferably a Riserva from the Vigna Monticchio if your budget allows. Traditional Umbrian cakes and new dishes such as pears poached in Rubesco are offered at dessert time.

If your schedule permits, spend the night at Le Tre Vasselle. The rooms are large, with modern bathrooms and beautiful antique furniture. In the morning, you can visit the Cantine Lungarotti, the winery where Brut, Torre di Giano and Rubesco are made.

by Sims Brannon

Le Tre Vasselle is located at 48 Via Garibaldi, Torgiano. Closed mid-January to mid-February. Reservations are required; major credit cards accepted. The hotel is very expensive, the restaurant is expensive. More economical lodgings nearby can be found on this page.

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