It always blows my mind how this thin, rugged stretch of land that is Liguria is home to so many hidden treasures. Even the most renowned towns of the Cinqueterre are not easily accessible; each village requiring a search and dedication, especially those villages spread inland, up the steep hillsides. In an era where global tourism reaches every corner of the planet, you still can find, simply by good fortune, some tiny settlement that bears a name known only to the locals.  Just past the Magra River - which divides Toscana from Liguria - are two small, old fishing villages which might just make you postpone your planned visit to Riomaggiore: Tellaro and Fiascherino. On the opposite side of Liguria, on the Riviera di Ponente, look for Noli, Apricale or Seborga, the smallest Italian commune with only 315 habitants.

La Spezia, Genova, Savona, Imperia - the four provinces of this region - are open to the sea but jealously guard the secrets of a past where the Repubblica di Genova was a powerful maritime force with connections to markets around the world.

The dialect spoken here comes from a mix of languages from far away places and distant times. Some words sound Portuguese, some others Sardinian or Arabic; if you are not from Liguria you won’t understand a single word. Walking from the narrow alleys of Genoa, near the port, it’s like being in some pirate movie. The faces, the odors, the colors, the air can guide your imagination to a different state of mind. And then the food and the wine will as well, because it’s better to travel well fed… 

Elio Longobardi, Italian Wine Specialist

PlumpJack Wine & Spirits – Noe Valley

Bisson, Vermentino “Vignaerta”, Portofino DOC 2019



About the Winery: Pierluigi Lugano started his wine career as a merchant, when in 1978 he opened a wine store, Enoteca Bisson, in Chiavari, near Genoa. Soon he got involved with local wine production, understanding the peculiarity of the region. He began as a trader in small lots of bulk wine, later became a wine merchant, and finally became a grower in his own right. Today Pierluigi splits his time between his busy wine shop, the wine cellar, and his vineyards.

 It takes a heroic effort to cultivate vines on the steep slopes of the Ligurian coastline high above the Mediterranean Sea. Mechanization of vineyard tasks is out of the question and everything must be done by hand. Only truly passionate winegrowers are willing to carry on the traditions that have come down through the generations since the ancient Greeks first planted vines on the steep, stony slopes here. Lugano works closely with several small, local growers. 

Bisson farming is a combination of lutte raisonnée, literally “reasoned fight” (in French), or “supervised control” (in English), where chemical treatments are used only when absolutely necessary, and organic practices.

About the Winemaking: This 100% Vermentino comes from vineyards on the slopes in the village of Campegli. The soil is composed of sandstone-clay and gravel. After the manual harvesting of the grapes, the fermentation starts with selected yeasts for 2-3 days on the skins before being softly pressed. The wine will spend another 6 to 8 months on the lees and about the same amount of time in stainless-steel tanks before being bottled.

 Tasting Notes: The color of the wine has the transparence of seawater over a sandy seabed. The nose captures iodine whiffs, then wild fennel, licorice shrub, and fresh linen. You’ll find honeydew melon and a light delicate mineral note on the palate.


Pierluigi Lugano

Price per bottle / Price per case

$28                $ 302.40


Suggested Food Pairing

Pizza Bianca and stracchino cheese,

fresh anchovies marinated with lemon and white wine vinegar, trofie al pesto,

Leitûghe pinn-e (see recipe)


Punta Crena, Cruvin, Colline Savonesi IGT 2018



About the Winery: Varigotti is one of those villages that I mentioned in the introduction. Punta Crena is an extension of rocks that starts in the hills above and ends in the sea, creating a promontory with olive trees that hide a small but beautiful beach reachable only by water. Punta Crena is also the name of the local winery owned by the Ruffino family.

The Ruffino family has been tending these vineyards for over 500 years, hardly changing a thing as they pass their knowledge and wisdom from one generation to the next. Today four siblings run the estate: Tommaso, the eldest, is the winemaker; Paolo is the salesman; Anna handles logistics; and Nicola helps out in the vineyards and winery.

The Ruffinos are proud to work almost exclusively with local varietals, but they don’t have much company. Mataòssu, which once reigned supreme in this zone, was gradually ripped out because it has such a difficult vegetative balance; Crovino, a dark-skinned red grape, gives such low yields that no one else will grow it. As a result, several of Punta Crena’s wines are one of a kind: the Mataòssu and Cruvin are entirely unique.

About the Winemaking: Ask Paolo if the family follows organic methods in the vineyards and he’ll laugh. We’re not “organic,” he says as if you had asked about some crazy new technology. We just do everything the same way our ancestors have for hundreds of years. They even build their stone terraces by hand, using the method established here three thousand years ago.

Punta Crena ‘Cruvin’ comes from grapes planted in sandy gravel soil on terraced vineyards; the oldest one is from 1950 and the youngest were planted in 1999.

 The vinification is done in stainless-steel tanks. Maceration last 15 days and then 4 months on the lees. No fining nor filtration. 

The name Cruvin means “to fall” in local dialect because the Crovino grape easily falls off the vine when it is ripe. The fox on the label is sitting under the vine waiting for the grapes to ripen….

Tasting Notes: Bright garnet with some purple reflections. It starts with a rich, ferrous minerality then develops once the wine warms up with hints of carnation, tomato leaf, and lightly toasted coffee beans. The fruit has a playful juiciness that cleans the palate and complements any food preparation.


Tommaso Ruffino

Price per bottle / Price per case

$34           $ 367.20


Suggested Food Pairing

Cioppino (seafood stew),

ravioli with walnut sauce,

fettuccine with wild boar ragù, grilled meat.


Leitûghe pinn-e
(Stuffed lettuce rolls)

 This one is a light summer recipe that can be made all year around. It can be done with or without meat, and you can add other ingredients, as you like.

INGREDIENTS (serving 4)

  • 2 heads of green leaf lettuce
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 2 fresh eggs
  • 2 cups parmigiano cheese grated
  • 2 cups of bread, crust removed
  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ cup mix of fresh rosemary, sage, marjoram chopped
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup fresh tomato sauce
  1. Pre-heat the oven at 350F
  2. Clean the lettuce removing the outer leaves and saving the bigger and better-looking ones, at least 12 leaves
  3. Blanch the lettuce leaves in boiling salted water for about 2 minutes
  4. Transfer the leaves in a bowl with ice water to cool down then laid them flat on a dish towel, been careful not to break them
  5. Soak the bread with milk, then squeeze the milk out
  6. Prepare the stuffing by mixing in a bowl the ground meat, eggs, fresh herbs, parmigiano cheese, bread, salt & pepper
  7. Scoop 1 tbsp. of mix stuffing in the middle of each leaf, then roll them being careful to tuck in the edges of the rolls
  8. Sauteé the onion until caramelized
  9. Place the lettuce rolls in an oiled baking pan, scoop over the onion and tomato sauce and cook in the oven for about 30 minutes
  10. Serve with more parmigiano cheese and toasted bread

Buon appetito!



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