Showing posts with label Calabria. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Calabria. Show all posts

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Calabria: Time Will Tell

It had been 25 years since I’d last been in Calabria. I was expecting at least 25 years’ worth of change. What I found was far from that.

In many ways Calabria is a time capsule. Nothing exemplifies it better than the vineyard Nicodemo Librandi and Attilio Scienza arranged. Circular in design, Librandi and Scienza scoured Calabria for the forgotten native grapes and laid out 160 plus varieties as a living museum to a place many consider the ground zero of Italian viticulture.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

An Ancient Olive Grove in Old Calabria

At first glance, it appeared to be just a grove of ancient olive trees. We arrived on a day when there had been a lot of rain. The soil was soaked, the sky was muted, the trees glistened from the saturation. We drove around and I took several pictures. My friend and host, Paolo, told me about one of his Scandinavian importers, who whenever he visited the winery, asked to be brought to this place and left alone for several hours. This grove was planted at the beginning of the Renaissance, when much of Italy was flourishing in the arts, architecture and music, resulting in scores of works of art. Here in Calabria, the Renaissance left less of an imprint. But nature would see to it that Calabria wouldn’t be ignored.

These trees, a family of hundreds, planted on this escarpment overlooking the Ionian, never to leave, never to see the wonders of Florence, Venice or the Vatican. Left out in the sun, the wind, the heat, the cold, the snow, the silence.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Stellar Italian Food Experience in Calabria

Every once in a while, on the wine trail in Italy, I find a place that redefines what Italian food is for me. While there are the tried and true dishes that we fall in love with, and there are those who push the limits of what it known and expected, there is also this: out of this world food that comforts and nourishes and is so delicious. I had one of these experiences in the hilltop town of Ciro in Calabria this week.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Death of Donnici

Who knew? It was just a little impoverished corner of Southern Italy. It wasn't Tuscany or Piedmont. Suckling or Cernilli wouldn’t have noticed. Rivella never cared in the first place. But when I looked at the documents last night it was a pivotal moment in Italian wine history. Italy and the patrimony of her grapes were being assimilated with international varieties. It was as if the current US Congress had arranged it, cloak and dagger, under the cover of a moonless might. It was an insidious but overt maneuver. And nobody even noticed. A brilliant score for the soulless bureaucrats in Rome and Brussels. And it was the death of Donnici.

Who cares? It was an insignificant DOC, established in 1975, in the heady days when all sorts of wines were being awarded the DOC status. The party lasted until the end of November 2011, 36 years of excesses, and falling off the wagon. What a ride it was. But ultimately someone in Rome decided to throw Donnici from the train.

Donnici, always the lesser sibling to Cirò, which is also under attack by the Rivellistas and the Cernillistis, bent on taking Italy into a world in which they will assimilate and disappear. It’s bat-shit crazy, watching men my age tinker with 2000+ years of Italian wine history as if it they were choosing music for their iPod’s. Someone will pay, somewhere down the road. After Rivella and Cernilli and I am dead, most likely.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Modern day Cirò: Sleeping with the enemy?

Mama don't let your (Gaglioppo) babies grow up to be Cabernets

Photo by Vincenzo Forciniti
In my early morning ramblings along the lonely corridors of the internets, I have been buzzing around the debate about what a wine should be when it comes from a certain place. Along with that the notion that a wine from a certain area, like the Old World, should emulate wines in the New World. And the equally seductive position that wines in the New World aspire to being more like wines in the Old World. All of this can get very confusing, even after years of reading, sipping and thinking. Carving it down to the essence has become my preference, mainly because it simplifies things and makes time for other activities, like enjoying wine.

I sense there is a battle going on in Calabria over the nature of wine. Some of the young producers have traveled a little, maybe just to Tuscany. But my sense is they want something more for their region, their wines. The thrill of America still beckons in the background. This may be something as simple as blending 5% Cabernet into their Gaglioppo, but that little 5% can cause many late night arguments.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

From the Archives- Calabria: The Epiphany

This was originally posted in June of 2009

There has been discussion in Italy about the future of wine in Calabria. In brief, there are two camps: one to maintain a more traditional use of the native grapes for the wines of Ciro and one which seeks to elaborate the appellation with the use of more international grapes.

Calabria is where my mom’s mom came from. She left a poor region, which had just been devastated by a terrible earthquake, early in the 20th century. Calabria has been abused by organized crime and tribal urges. It is a beautiful place. The wines are hard to sell, but when someone tastes a Gaglioppo or a Montonico they become enthralled with the fruit and the texture and the echo of the earth from where they spring.

Can Cabernet help bring wealth and fame to Calabria? Who knows? When a wine like a Ciro or any number of wines from Calabria tries to make it in America, it is a combination of energies. When the Statti’s or the Librandi’s come to America, the wines are well received and people love them. And surely these two wines often represent different styles and philosophies of winegrowing in the region. The connection isn’t always because of a review or a score. Sometimes it is the personal touch that these people bring to the selling game. So it’s not as easy as Cabernet or no Cabernet, native yeasts or designer yeasts, French barrique or chestnut botti. It’s just all simple and black and white.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

From the Archives- Calabria: The Legacy of Local

This post originally appeared here June 15, 2006 and I rewrote it to reappear on saignee when Cory did his 32 Days of Natural Wine last year

"What was it like?” I remember my aunt Amelia asking me later in Texas, about walking into the village where her mother was born. Old Calabria, a little village clinging to a hillside like a vine that had wrapped itself around a sycamore tree and hung on through time and the elements.

I can only imagine what they were thinking 100 years ago, when where they were, in Calabria, looked as inviting as that West Texas dust storm raging on the plains. Devastating earthquake, utter breakdown in civilization, a civilization that had been established in the 6th Century B.C. Desperation, hope, a clean slate, away. Just far, far away.

In 1977, the train took us from Brindisi to Cosenza, and we followed Merlin back in time, the pine tree forest through the mountains over the hill. Back to grandmother’s house. It was the harvest season, September, in a year that would be remembered, by some, as a better than average harvest.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Calabria: Full Circle

I was really wondering what I had just done. On the road with a young family which seemed like an eternity, only to land in some desolate town in the hills of Calabria. What on earth was I thinking, that I could just walk into a village in southern Italy and hook up with my long lost Calabrese relatives? We barely spoke any Italian; our lives were as different from these people as they could be. We had two young children, one in diapers, and we arrived in the midst of harvest, typical Americani.

I looked over to my wife, shrugged my shoulders and said “Let’s walk back to San Fili, take the train and go back to Cosenza. There’s nobody here who will claim us as kin.” She could see the despondency in my eyes, hear it in my voice. I walked hunched over, at a loss to know where to go next. And then.

A fellow on a donkey ambles over in our direction. Kind of gruff and looking like Ray Bolger’s scarecrow character in the Wizard of Oz. But we weren’t on the yellow brick road, were we?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Calabria: High Noon in the Hills

“Sometimes you need to go forward to go back in time.” That was the word being transmitted to me in a dream on the 21st floor in downtown LA, mere miles from where I was born. I awoke to the sound of traffic below – it was 4:00 AM. It was going to be another long night before I started seeing the light, But I was a million miles away, in Cosenza, on the road to Bucita, in Calabria.

It’s often hard to try and understand why certain pieces of the puzzle are scattered on the table as they are. This week, I found myself walking around the Hollywood Forever cemetery, looking at gravestones. One of the first things we did when we walked into the little Calabrese town was to go into the cemetery and look at the names. The immersion into life (and death) of Calabria forged a life of wine and service in wine. Today as I walked around Hollywood Forever, visiting the graves of Mel Blanc, Rudolph Valentino, and innumerable unknowns, I thought of the symmetry. Not one mile away, I worked for a time after I got back from Calabria, fired up with food and wine and family. Later in the day, I’d attend a wine dinner in an Italian place specializing in Southern Italian wines, with the promise of a rare wine from Calabria. Looking back now, I wonder how these seemingly unrelated events weave into a life.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Calabria: The Goddess and the Scoundrel

Settling into Cosenza with my little American family that I dragged from Greece to Italy, our little hotel seemed empty, save for a handful of women who seemed to be staying there intermittently. I thought it odd, and asked my wife what she thought was going on. One of her eyebrows lifted and with a twinkle in her eye she said, “I think I know why they are here.” The year is 1977.

Italy has a particular connection with women. In one way, women are revered, so much in the South that the ancient cult of the Goddess, Diana, et. al., has controlled the cultural creep through the millenniae. It only takes a little stroll through a church or coming upon one of the many country shrines to Mary (Athena, Diana,etc) to know the prime energy force of humanity is driven through the female energy.

On the other hand, women are treated like lesser citizens at best, whores at worse. It is only recently that the widespread practice of honor killings has stopped, or ceased being reported.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Calabria: Wild at Heart

Unbridled in ways I had never imagined. Verdant and abundant, dripping with the stuff of life. If the gods ever stepped down from Olympus and they didn’t go directly to Athens, they headed to Calabria. Anyone who has ever stumbled into this region know Calabria is full of the raw material that makes life and the life of plants, grapes, eggplants, tomatoes, garlic, squash, you name it, this is the place to be.

And so it was the first time I arrived to this place, to Cosenza, from which I would fan out and explore the wild heart of Italy.

Where Sicily is philosophical, Calabria is emotional. When Sicily inspires with words, Calabria draws me out with music and dance. Sicily is where I look for strategy, for planning, for the chess game. Calabria for the dance in the darkness across the fiery coals.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Calabria: The Epiphany

There has been discussion in Italy about the future of wine in Calabria. In brief, there are two camps: one to maintain a more traditional use of the native grapes for the wines of Ciro and one which seeks to elaborate the appellation with the use of more international grapes.

Calabria is where my mom’s mom came from. She left a poor region, which had just been devastated by a terrible earthquake, early in the 20th century. Calabria has been abused by organized crime and tribal urges. It is a beautiful place. The wines are hard to sell, but when someone tastes a Gaglioppo or a Montonico they become enthralled with the fruit and the texture and the echo of the earth from where they spring.

Can Cabernet help bring wealth and fame to Calabria? Who knows? When a wine like a Ciro or any number of wines from Calabria tries to make it in America, it is a combination of energies. When the Statti’s or the Librandi’s come to America, the wines are well received and people love them. And surely these two wines often represent different styles and philosophies of winegrowing in the region. The connection isn’t always because of a review or a score. Sometimes it is the personal touch that these people bring to the selling game. So it’s not as easy as Cabernet or no Cabernet, native yeasts or designer yeasts, French barrique or chestnut botti. It’s just all simple and black and white.

When I first went to Calabria in 1977 and visited my family in Bucita, it was harvest time. I’ve written elsewhere about that experience on the blog. I didn’t elaborate on the experience but now I would like to do so.

Many have had a wine that was an epiphany. If you haven’t yet had it, be patient, you will. In the past, when someone would ask me what my epiphany wine was, I’d search back and come up with all kinds of examples. The 1964 Monfortino. The 1935 Taylors Port. The 1974 Heitz Martha’s. The 1961 Lafite. The 1953 Petrus. The 1928 and 1929 Haut Brion. The 1928 D’Yquem. The 1968 Sassicaia. And so on.

But the wine that really was the one that turned the light on for me had been put up in a used beer bottle with a crown cap. It was in the wine cellar of my family, the one at the top of this post. My cousins brought me down in the evening after the meal, when the children had been put to bed and the women upstairs were busy (always) making something. We’d go into the cellar and empty bottles so they’d have them for the new vintage. They were not wealthy, but there was a lack of raw materials, so nothing was ever wasted. They weren’t poor. They had a washer and a dryer. Back home in those days, we didn’t. And they had a better car than I had. And a TV. We didn’t have TV because we didn’t want one. But the cars were old 1962’s, a Corvair and Falcon wagon. So to me my cousins were doing well. They just didn’t have enough bottles.

We sat down and after drinking a couple of demijohns of stout red wine, about 5 of us, one of the cousins went to a cabinet and brought out this little bottle of golden, murky wine. It was a Greco or a Moscato, I don’t remember the grape. But it was a late harvest dessert wine. My family loves sweet things. Those wonderful figs that are baked in their leaves, the cookies, chocolate and fruits, dripping with honey-sweetness. And by the way they unlatched the little cabinet and brought out the wine, I could sense this was important.

I loved how they accepted me. All too often everyone is too darn busy or angry to give a damn about anyone except for themselves. But in 1977 things were different. Things were slower. Not as many people lived in their own little reality bubble. No phones, no email, no blog rage, no tweet-spies. Just the sun in the morning, a day of work, two meals, a nap in the afternoon and in the evening after the last meal and the occasional passeggiata, a venture into the wine cellar. And here we were.

The wine: I still remember the smell. It was like the flower of a jasmine. Sweet, honey, a little edge of bitter, and the floral blousy exposure. The last thing I smelled something that wonderful was the perfume on the neck on my girlfriend when we were fourteen.

The taste: was a wisp of fruit, not enough acid to matter, but nothing awkward or out of balance. This was a wine pure and natural as it had been made for hundreds, if not thousands of years. It connected me to all of the people that had come before and made me feel like finally I had been born to something that I was meant to do, something I loved. It was my entrance interview that the god of wine had arranged with my cousins. It was test and celebration, certification and baptism all rolled up in one. It was the choice that was being given to me for a vocation of a lifetime.

And now, entering into the fourth decade of this work. All around us there is tension and stress and warehouses and wineries filling up with wine. Where will it go? Who will drink it? How will we ever get it all out of the cabinet in the cellar and turn on the light for all those many souls for whom the epiphany awaits?

As it has been since the days of the Chaldeans making wine for the Egyptians, so it is 4,500 years later. One precious bottle at a time.






Sunday, January 04, 2009

Exodus and Anamnesis

While visiting my friend Mario I noticed a National Geographic from 1916, the same as his birth year. Italy in 1916, the year my Aunt Mary and Aunt Josephine were born. They are all still alive and well. Here was a magazine with many great images of the Italy that both of their parents had left. Fascinating stuff, looking back at Italy some 93 years, to see how it has changed. The photographs on this post are from that issue.

Oddly, I think many of us want to find those back roads (and wines) of Italy in 1916. A return to a day when things seemed so much simpler and easier. But then one needs to factor in that time. 1916, World War I, with 37 million casualties (16 million deaths, 21 million wounded), an incoming influenza pandemic that killed 40-100 million people world wide, many younger than 45 years old. So, it wasn’t all rustic charm and simpler times, for those who lived through it.

Not to dwell in the past, especially one which, one might argue, has little significance for the new generation, folks from 14-30. There were barely paved roads, or toilets. Nano I-pods? Bluetooth? How about a toothbrush? No, it was like it happened a million years ago, to the inheritors of the future.

The oldest Italian wine in my possession is a 1936 Est!Est!!Est!!! Amabile. It will never be opened. It sits there, twenty years after the National Geographic issue, in the time of Mussolini, at the edge of another World War.

Wines in those times. Now we see them nostalgically, their wild yeasts and oxidation-rich profiles, and we’re not talking micro-oxidation either. A shame, because we talk about the heritage of great wine from Italy, but is there really much to ponder on before 1945, when the world experienced a change on such a level that in the Olden Times it would have been called Biblical? We sexy it up and call it “quantum change” as if the atomic age affected winemaking. Which it did, if not directly.

The linear acceleration of agricultural progress hasn’t been without its casualties though. The story teller, the master and the apprentice, the craft of the wine business, all this has morphed into some 15 minute superconducting version, where, in their place, now, young sommeliers walk on water in restaurants across the planet. I was there too, man. We have all been there before.

Maybe I should get out my Andre Simon, C.E.Hawker and T.A.Layton and read them now. These were writers telling the story of wine from a time long forgotten by followers of Galloni, Meadows and Vaynerchuck. It worked for Merlin, to travel through time from the future to the past; maybe with wine it would be equally magical. From what I read it sure seems folks want to find something that has gone missing.

When it comes to Italy, one can actually do this quite easily. Calabria or Liguria would be a great place to start looking for those core experiences in the Italian landscape.

Or, if you want something simpler, something a little less “nano”, you could read the old books, find the random National Geographic from a million years ago, or you could sit back, pour a glass of ancient Marsala and crank up the Rossini and let your imagination take you away.

I’ve found the Italian of our imagination and our dreams can be a better substitute Italy than the reality on the ground now or 93 years ago.

But if you want to go for the experience of Italy, and you have had your share of visiting museums and restaurants and churches and Autogrills, next time, choose the slow train from Rome to Catanzaro and take a trip back to an Italy that linear time has not accelerated with the rapidity of modernity. You can find vestiges of Pythagoras, Federico II, and Mascagni. You might even find a piece of your Italian soul which you have been looking for.






Sunday, July 29, 2007

Shangri-la-bria

The road though the Cilento National Park hooked me. I want to linger. Forests, greenery, cool, peaceful. It is the kind of experience one can only hope to have in Italy, or anywhere. But the coast is calling, as is Calabria. We will have to touch the sand when we get there. The trail goes straight through the Sila.

Calabria is a strange place. I do not advise American tourists to go there on their first trip. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with Calabria. But you cannot pack your wash-and-wear assumptions about the way the world is from an American-based set of ideas.

Calabria is its own reality, and if you don’t mind what happens, then you can become immersed in a world of color and spice, folklore and music. The rest of Italy sometimes makes fun of Calabria, for her poverty and her backward ways. The Calabrese say, that impression, while not correct, serves well, to keep away some of the riff-raff.

The beaches, the water, the sun, the breeze. Elemental ways. If you don’t mind. Paradise for those who can turn the tempting serpent of their inner chatter box off long enough to take in the Now.

After a long and winding drive through the Sila, Cosimo, our host, was waiting for us at his trattoria. A short man with one eyebrow and piercing, beautiful eyes. Like a sunflower stalk, Cosimo stands on this earth anchored, confident. A very happy soul.

Immediately he starts rapid-fire talking to me in Italian, and for some reason, I understand almost every thing he says. Maybe it’s the accent, like my Nonna Lucrezia’s. He excuses himself to talk to his fishermen out in the sea.

Italy has a strange cellular reception configuration. I should ask David about this, he knows more about that than I do. I imagine, for the trade involved, the brokers and restaurant owners on the shore need to be linked up with the fishermen, in order to gauge their commerce in fresh seafood.

A plate of gamberi came out from the kitchen and Cosimo opened a bottle of a white Mantonico.
Crisp, cool, fresh, I knew I had to pace myself. This was just one of probably many courses. Antonio from the winery would be here in 20 minutes, he wanted us to taste his new wines in the ambience of Calabria. It had been a few months since we tasted the wines at Vinitaly, so I was anxious to taste them again and in such a wonderful place.

After a meal that regenerated our road-weary souls, we sat along the shore to the song of the waves lapping by our feet. Peace. We had gone from forest to coast in a few hours. The only hot thing we suffered through was the grappa al peperoncino. This is Shangri-la, sans serpente.

What do I love about Calabria? Well my trips there from the past have great memories.

The figs, the eggplant, the peppers. The farm made cheeses, the exotic honey, the green hills, the innocent rustic character of the region. Even though the trattoria is along a strip of coast, the heart of the place is in the hills, among the wild things. That’s what makes Calabria so alluring.






Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Nature Trails of Italy

The past few days have been a blur. Somehow, something hit me, and I became a host for a germ party. So blogging and wine have not been high on my list.

In fact, putting out three unique posts a week in the last year has taken a bit of a toll. And while I don’t intend to stop, somewhere down the road this will probably go to a twice weekly kind of activity. It’s just too much to do. We'll see.


I've been thinking about nature trails of Italy, trails like we have so many of in America. Where I come from in the West, we were always on some trail or another, looking at coyotes, hawks, ponderosa pines, majestic mountains. My childhood, was spent sitting before a very large and wonderful mountain, Mt. San Jacinto, and just staring into the many faces and aspects of it. Different times of the day or the year, there would be familiar scenes that would show up.

I don’t ever have enough time to take those trails in Italy, but once in a while I have been lucky to get on a little path, something that usually didn’t have anything to do with wine or grapes, but everything to do with being a lover of nature.

It was the 4th of July and a Sunday, and a group of friends decided to go up into the hills in the Marche and have a mass and a picnic. There was a little chapel where we first stopped. Some of the youth set up their instruments and music and played through the mass. On the way down to lunch, I was talking to the priest. We talked about wine and he was so proud that the wine he used in the mass was a D.O.C. from the Marche. Ah yes, Italy, where even the little details matter.

By a summer house people started setting up the charcoal cookers and setting the long tables, for now we were a larger group of 30. About this time someone suggested a hike, which struck me as funny, because I had never really been around Italians who liked to hike. In my early days, like I said, we were always doing that sort of activity, but in Italy, it was unheard of. So I jumped at the thought of getting on a trail and seeing how the Italians would deal with it.


The hike was beautiful; we truly got out and away, to the point where we got lost. One of us had a cell phone and they called the home base and someone honked horns and walked us in back to the waiting lunch. Really a funny experience and one that I will remember along with my river rafting and mountain climbing experiences.

Even though it was the 4th of July and we weren’t in America where the holiday was celebrated, we had food that reminded me of home. Watermelon, roasted sausages (resembling hot dogs, but much better tasting) and corn on the cob, something I rarely find in Italy. And lots of red wine from the Marche, Rosso Piceno, Sangiovese married to Montepulciano, a wonderful combination. And while I love Sangiovese on its own and Montepulciano in purezza, the combination of these two grapes is special. Fruity, savory, spicy, acidic, a great balancing act.

The next time you think about visiting Italy, think about this. Yes, take time to visit Florence or Venice or Rome. By all means, do that. But take a day or two and go to the Cinqueterre or La Sila in Calabria. Or get out into the Tuscan countryside and take a day hike. Don’t worry if there isn’t a two star Michelin nearby, you won’t starve. And yes maybe the little albergo that you find at the end of the day might not have air conditioning, but open the window at night and breathe in the fresh, pure air and sleep like you never have. Take a moment to spend some time in the vanishing nature of Italy.


Photos from Webshots friend Ruggero, from the series,
Greek Calabria, a wonderful series of photographs. Please go see and enjoy.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Calabria: The Legacy of Local

”What was it like?” I remember my aunt asking me later, about walking into the village where her mother was born. Old Calabria, a little village clinging to a hillside like a vine that wrapped itself around a sycamore tree and hung on through time and the elements.

Right now I am sitting in a room at midnight and it’s 85 degrees F. It’s the middle of June and we have at least 3 months of this inferno to go. We’re in a drought, the wind is blowing from the west, range fires crop up and clear cotton fields, threaten livestock. We’re living in a harsh environment and that’s before you take into account the social aspect that we’ve found ourselves in. What was it like?

I can only imagine what they were thinking 100 years ago, when where they were, in Calabria, looked as inviting as that West Texas dust storm raging on the plains. Devastating earthquake, utter breakdown in civilization, a civilization that had been established in the 6th Century B.C. Desperation, hope,a clean slate, away, just far,far away.

The train took us from Brindisi to Cosenza and we followed Merlin back in time, the pine tree forest through the mountains over the hill. Back to grandmothers house. It was the harvest season, September, in a year that would be remembered, by some, as a better than average harvest. 1977.


Cosenza was as it might have been 30 years before. Ten years later a taste of the outside would plant itself in that sleepy little southern town. For now, all we had was a name, Bucita. Somewhere in the hills we would find our cousins and uncles and aunts. And the legacy of their love of the land, and the grape.

Walking into the village, an overwhelming balm infused the air. Ripe figs, roasting inside their leaves in stone ovens. Honey, bay leaf, chestnut-like complex aromas. Unforgettable.

An older man on a donkey approaches us. Yes
he thinks he knows who we are looking for. This man, Giuseppe takes me to his house where his wife Teodalinda is standing on a stone floor. My grandfather put that floor in. In his wine cellar Giuseppe would later initiate me into a world where wine held secrets and mysteries inside bottles and barrels. He was a winemaker and the harvest was in full swing.

On the same train, another cousin, Luigi, traveled home. We followed Giuseppe and our interpreter, Antonio (Tony), to a small ancient home. On the table, with a demijohn of red wine and
some fresh cookies, and the figs, were pictures of my parents on their wedding day. Connection.

We were just in time, the family needed hands in the fields, a storm front was threatening the harvest. Grape harvest reports supplanted the soccer games on the local TV,
people were more interested in the price of Greco or Gaglioppo than Rossi or Zaccarelli. Time was contracting.
The elements here dominate the environment, the sun, the rain, lightning, thunder. Earth, alive and moving. Here comes the sun. Luigi, finding some of his vines have been washed away, clears out a creek bed for water flow. After
two nights of Olympian pyrotechnics, the people of the land were given back the hill. Like goats we swarmed the vineyards, competing with the bees for the nectar. His wine vats await the harvest.

Another cousin, Giovanni, has been in his olive groves, they seem to have survived. Tonight his wife Elvira, will be making home made pasta, casalinga, and eggplant, melanzane I segreti della nonna.

Sitting in Giovanni’s home with Luigi and Tony, Elvira and Francesco the weaver, drinking Giovanni’s excellent wine. Below us in the basement is Giuseppe’s wine room, the hum of thousands of
crushed grapes fermenting. Teodalinda’s wine flushed face as she posed for a photograph with her husband and a glass of their wine, the ever ringing bells reminding one of the presence of time even in a place like Bucita. They are all gone now.

What remains is the offspring of those days, a
life devoted to the legacy of the winemakers met in those early autumn days in southern Italy, in Old Calabria. Since then I have studied wine in books and passed exams certifying me in some realm of wine specialization. But never were those books, even those vaulted chateaus in France, ever as influential and meaningful as spending long evenings in a room lit by a bare bulb with the elders, drinking their wine and talking into the early hours of the morning.

What was it like? In Bucita we found our people close to their land, eating the food they grew, drinking the wine they made, fresh air, clean, pure,
sweet water. Their legacy of local. Individuals, charitable people, people whose lives hadn’t been too easy, but souls still able to give and keep on giving. My mother’s people, for so long a mystery to us, to find them was an amazing gift. To be with them and in their daily life was an experience I will never forget.

My destiny was being weaved in that place.


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