|Mi chiamo Paschina, Luca. And I am a Virginian.
About to release its first Nebbiolo vintage in 2001 - the 1998 Reserve, which went on to win the Gold Medal at the San Francisco International - the winery took the occasion to note that it was the 10th anniversary of the arrival of Luca Paschina from Piemonte, as winemaker and general manager.
A cursory tally of Luca’s accomplishments - for wine, for this place, and for this region - required, then, an almost illegible compression of fonts on our news page in its recital of Gold Medals, Governor’s Cups, Monticello Cups, and introductions of new wines of national prominence - Barboursville Brut, Phileo, Malvaxia, and Octagon. Today, the same exercise would only occlude the fundamental fact.
The years of Luca Paschina’s inexhaustibly creative and progressive guidance of this estate, and charismatic leadership of Virginia viticulture since 1991, have been positively Verdian. In fédeltà to the great discipline of an Old World passion, and to its New World home - and constantly in honors, too - he is the acknowledged genius of the Virginia risorgimento in wine.
But Verdi did his best work at 90, and Luca is only half-way there. His earliest experience with Nebbiolo was to hurl these priceless grapes as staining missiles, in a childhood duel with a friend at a vineyard where his winemaker father consulted in Piemonte. He produced his first wine at the age of 14. A 2nd-generation graduate of Italy’s viticultural Harvard, Istituto Umberto I, Luca worked in Napa Valley, the Finger Lakes, and Switzerland, before joining his father Armando and uncle Francesco fulltime in winegrowing in Piemonte.
Asked by Gianni Zonin to study his winery operations in a year’s consultancy at Barboursville in 1990, he returned to Zonin’s headquarters north of Venice with an irresistibly audacious suggestion - if you will systematically re-invest in ideal trellising systems and techniques for this terroir, you will have the finest wines that can be grown on the East Coast. Not since Virgil wrote his Georgics on viticultural practice for Augustus, had advice of this kind been so definite, or received such a responsive hearing. Luca was commissioned to prove it.
By all means, there is vigorous structure, gratifying complexity, telling varietal typicity, elegance, palate suavity, longevity and demonstrable beauty in the wines you will taste from this estate. But there is culture, framing this wine and its infallible fondness for food - the embrace of wine as the grace of nourishment of time and place, with friends, family, and gratitude.
And there is history, too. This amiable, hunter-fisherman-soccer parent enfant terrible of viticulture in Virginia saw it coming, like destiny, flung as happily to stain a T-shirt as to make its mark in viticulture.