by The Winefathers
16/JUL/2016 in Projects
What we love is when our winerelatives tell us how good is to go and meet their winemakers. Read Lauren's experience.
We are really excited to get these reviews ...
One sunny afternoon, on a hilltop somewhere between Vesuvius and very tip of Italy…
…We met our new relatives. My husband, I and our 3 children stood at the center of Melfi, a small town in Basilicata, and home to the Carbone vineyards. At that particular moment, we were looking for our B&B. Suddenly a deep voice behind us said in English, “oh, what a beautiful day…” We turned and I smiled immediately. We were face to face with our winebrother, Luca Carbone.
We had found Luca and his sister Sara through The Winefathers, an entrepreneurial online company that discovers small, passionate winemakers throughout Italy. These winemakers become part of the “portfolio” of The Winefathers, and the public is able to sponsor them via various levels of donation. In return, the sponsors become wine “relatives,” and are able to participate in various activities not otherwise available – from ordering rare bottles at a discount to meeting the winemakers in person.
We had chosen to become wine “brothers/sisters”, which in this case enabled us to not only purchase wine but also to stay overnight, tour the facilities, have a meal with our winemakers, attend a local cooking lesson, and have a fruit tree planted in our name. We were excited – in my mind I envisioned a nice lunch at a restaurant, a simple cooking lesson at our B&B, and a quick tour of the vineyards.
The idea of becoming “family” was a nice touch, I had thought, especially given the traditionally important role of family in Italy. Good marketing, I had thought.
But the truth is, Luca and his family truly became our family – in less than 24 hours. I wouldn’t have thought it possible, but their genuine nature, their natural warmth, and their ability to immediately welcome us into their home as if we’d been there many times before – these things created an atmosphere so comfortable, there literally wasn’t a moment of awkwardness. Not one moment.
The cooking lesson, it turned out, was to be given by Luca’s mother. At her house.
The meal, it turned out, was to be dinner with Luca, his wife, 3 children, and parents. At their house.
The tour, it turned out, was to be of not one but two different vineyards (at two different locations), and the workings of the winemaking machinery, and a tour of the caves (at a third location, in the center of town, buried deep beneath Luca’s apartment).
Luca’s parents live on the second floor of what used to be a convent. Upon entering their apartment, his mother took our two daughters aside and began to show them how to make from scratch “calzoncelli,” bite-sized pastries filled with homemade nutella. Luca’s youngest son and mine went into the other room and played chess. Luca’s father took my husband aside to save him from having to participate in the cooking. And Luca and I had a nice long “chiacchierata” (chat) – not like strangers meeting for the first time, but like old friends who hadn’t seen each other in ages. Laughing, debating politics, sharing parenting war stories, and critiquing American fashion, a little of my Italian and a little of his English, bit by bit. From time to time Luca’s mom would pull me over to tell me in an earnest, serious tone something important about the food preparation, so that I could remember when I tried to reproduce it back at home. “Grazie, grazie,” I would say, until Luca grabbed my hand and implored, “Lauren, please, for me, stop saying please and thank you. You are my sister. You are my family. We do not need to be so formal.”
When we returned for dinner a long table had been set in the kitchen and stretched to fit all of us, including now Luca’s lovely wife and oldest daughter who, despite being in the midst of university exams, was willing to make time for us. His father entertained the kids with jokes and magic tricks. We tried several of the exquisite family wines. My oldest daughter and Luca’s oldest son, both 12, gave each other shy glances now and again but weren’t brave enough to speak directly. We dined and talked until almost midnight, then reluctantly left to get some sleep for the next morning, when we would see the vineyards.
A hot morning awaited us. We drove to the very top of a picturesque hill to see the “new” vineyards, where some of the grapes are grown. This is also the site of the new manufacturing facility, whose cool interior served as a respite from the sun. Luca explained the entire process, grape to bottle, as I struggled to translate my husband’s technical questions into Italian and the intricate answers back into English.
We went outside to plant our fruit tree – a tiny baby cherry. The clay soil was hard and dry (but the Fiano grapes love it) – and we made it work, first trying one location, then another, until we found the perfect spot. Luca helped my youngest daughter place the tree into its hole, and the other children watered it. There it now stands, among a handful of other baby fruit trees, waiting to grow.
Afterward, we went to see the “old” vineyards, those that had been there since the 1970s when Luca’s family created them. Mature fruit trees lived there too, in harmony with the Aglianico vines. We stopped to look at and discuss each and every one.
We were running out of time – we had to catch a flight to Germany in the early afternoon – so we hurriedly made our way back to town and into the caves, carved out of volcanic rock, where some of the wines are aged. At the first underground level Luca announced (much to the delight of the children) “now, we will become bats and go down into the bat cave,” at which point he produced several heavy, woolen, black cloaks for us to wear as we descended. By the time we reached the bottom level, we were glad to have them – the heat outdoors never reaches way down there. As Luca explained that the cool, humid atmosphere was perfect for aging the wines, I felt as though I was being indoctrinated into a secret world, centuries old, that not many get to glimpse.
We then sampled all of the wines – 3 reds and one white – and the tasting cemented our opinion that had formed when we first had the wines the night before – that these were carefully, thoughtfully produced, and delicious. We are no sommeliers, but the the intricacy and depth of the seductive Stupor Mundi was apparent even to us, and the zestier 400 Some seemed to burst with the mineral-rich earth in which it is born.
Too soon, it was time for goodbye. Earlier I wrote that there was not one awkward moment, but I think I lied. When we had to leave, I was speechless. What to say to someone, to a whole group of people, who connect with you so deeply so quickly? My husband took the lead with a simple and heartfelt farewell, and we were off – just like that.
Over the next few days I thought a lot about the Carbone family. When the Winefathers sent me a quick message asking how the visit had been, I tried to explain in writing - “it was wonderful and I immediately fell in love with all of them!”
But I know, and the Carbones know, and the Winefathers know too – that really there are no words that suffice. Experiences like these are one of a kind. They reach into your heart and touch you in unexpected ways, and you carry them with you for a long, long time. I am so grateful to have been a part of this, and would encourage everyone to do it if they can.