I was sitting in Teresa's office at Lungarotti headquarters as she told this story. I knew a fair amount about her late father--that he had created a wine called Rubesco, whose 1971 and 1975 riservas had been compared to great Bordeaux, that local shopkeepers still cried when his name was mentioned. But this was the first time I'd heard he was as generous as Elvis--who was famous for giving away his Cadillacs to anyone who admired them. I briefly considered mentioning how much I liked the light fixtures in my room at Le Tre Vaselle but resisted the urge.
Not many winemakers build their own hotels--Piedmont's Angelo Gaja has been trying to (unsuccessfully, so far) for years. But then not many winemakers have the determination and will of Giorgio Lungarotti. Credited as the man who put Umbria on the world's winemaking map and hailed as a genius by the Italian wine press, Lungarotti had a vision of his native region as both a world-class winemaking zone and a top tourist destination. It was that vision that brought me to Torgiano--too late to meet the legendary Giorgio, who died a few years ago, but in time to see the spot he'd created and spend some time with his daughters, Teresa and Chiara, who are now running the show. And of course I was also hoping to taste a few of those famous '70s wines.
Teresa, a 47-year-old mother of three, is Lungarotti's head winemaker, although she has the demeanor--not to mention the clothes and the hairstyle--of a CEO. Her 31-year-old half sister Chiara is in charge of the vineyards and Le Tre Vaselle. Chiara, who calls herself "a typical Italian: 30 and still living with my mother," looks like a college student--and, as I later discovered, drives like one too. Both women have worked for the Lungarotti winery since graduating from college in nearby Perugia.