After our great day in wine country in Sicily, I was feeling especially confident about making my other Italian dream winery visit come true. The day we arrived in Bologna we had two tasks: securing opera tickets and a visit to Ca de Noci. I sent them an e-mail to which they responded quickly, saying that they would love to have us; and we scored tickets to La Traviata at the Teatro Comunale di Bologna for our last night in town.
By the time we had figured out the best day to visit the vineyard through talking back and forth, it was late Saturday afternoon. We headed out into the rain to a car rental agency which was, as we had sadly expected; closed. Everything is closed on Sundays and in order to make it to the vineyard at the time we had agreed on we would have to find and secure a rental car by 9am on Monday. Since we don't have a credit card many places won't rent to us so it is never an easy task to rent a car. We decided after deliberation to take public transit which meant a train to Reggio-Emilia followed by 2 city buses and a 30 minute walk through the countryside. We would leave the apartment at 7am and catch the two tight bus transfers, as the buses only ran once per hour.
When the alarm went off on Monday morning rain was beating the rooftop and I was stuffed up with a sore throat. We contemplated canceling for long enough that we missed the train, but decided to take the next one and hope for the best. We were determined to make the visit. During the 30 minute wait for the next train and sleepily realizing we'd kind of blown our plan and train tickets were more than quoted online, we decided to try our luck with a rental agency down the street from the train depot. We got the car in no time and decided to hit the road without stopping by the apartment to check on driving directions. We had written down precise directions to the vineyard, but they were all by way of bus. We planned to stop and use the internet along the way. We never found an internet kiosk and instead found ourselves winding through the country roads outside Reggio-Emilia after a pay phone conversation between Nialls and Alberto (one of 2 brothers who own the vineyard) resulted in the vaguely correct spellings of 3 towns that the vineyard was located between. We knew the street name from the walking directions and that was it. We were almost an hour late when I tearfully declared that I had given up on finding it and was too embarrassed to show my face. With a rush of last minute hope I insisted we pull over at a tobacco stop. The two men running the shop were so helpful that they actually pushed their own customers out of the way to help me. We pulled up the website and it turned out we were about 3 blocks away. We arrived at the winery to a warm welcome; they were kind and understanding and we didn't bother them with any of the finer details of our disastrous morning (we saved that for the blog).
Alberto and Giovanni are brothers and partners and have taken the property over from their father. Alberto went to school for architecture and Giovanni for enology. their father never produced wine, but planted the vineyard in the 1970's. It is a somewhat hilly property and had never been a vineyard before. Most all of the vineyards of the area are on flat land. The brothers are a unique team; there is love, tension, and sparkle (no pun intended!) to their family operation. The property is beautiful, the older vines forming a thick and gnarled canopy. The cellar is petite, as most of the aging here is done in bottle. There seemed to be no end to the surprises and various projects at play on the property.
Spergola, drying for passito
You can't tell, but this is the smallest cellar ever.
After a tour, we were invited into the house and greeted with the warmth of a wood burning stove, soft Serge Gainsbourg on the stereo and a delicious home cooked lunch. We started with 2007 and 2009 Querciole, a slightly sparkling wine made with malvasia and spergola. Then the 2008 Sottobosco, a lambrusco. Then onto the 2006 Notte di Luna, a still wine made from spergola, moscato, and malvasia. The 2008 Gheppio was a blend of malbo gentile and cabernet sauvignon, the least interesting and most powerful wine they make. They then served us the reserve sparkling, Riserva dei Fratelli with dessert which they sweetly said was "incorrect" but we all agreed; a happy mistake. For dessert we had creamy gelato drowned in nocino, a walnut liquor that their father produces with the walnut trees lining the property. They then treated us to the Aresco, a rather savory dessert wine of moscato, spergola and malvasia.
I will spare the details on lunch except to say that it was stunning, and that we tasted a cured meat made from the little brown pigs down the street and some 25 year balsamic that Giovanni makes. Both of these products absolutely blew my mind.
Il Grifo Salumi
After lunch we went upstairs to see where he makes balsamic. His balsamic is DOC and is nothing like any I've ever tasted. A pint of it sells for over a hundred euro, but he yields less than a liter a year. That was something very special about all the products they make; there seemed to be no pressure or rush on production and they were entirely comfortable with the pace that nature moves. He also makes saba, cooked down spergola grapes; that sells for a handsome 10 euro, so we brought some home.
Giovanni and his balsamico
Then we jumped in the car and they took us up to their more recently acquired site where we scuffled around and admired the view of the valley.
As the sun began to set we took off for Modena feeling very happy to have found Alberto and Giovanni, their home and their hospitality.
As we drove we spoke about their candid nature and love for what they do which is summed up by the moment we were eating the local salumi their friends at Il Grifo produce that melted in the mouth, tasting of savory warmth and earth with their own Querciole sparkling, it tasted so perfectly right that Giovanni laughed; saying in his charming accented english, "...and for now the world is finished!". We all laughed, because it was.
the walnut harvest