My sister had done a lot of legwork previous to our once-in-a-lifetime trip. She worked with the travel agency MyBellaVita who specializes in heritage/ancestry tours. Cherrye put together an itinerary for us based on our needs and desires. Today we were to visit Statti Winery. I had been wine “tasting” before when I was 21 in Napa Valley. And recently I met a friend in Colorado who had just purchased a winery in Palisade, Colorado. So I basically knew that there is a lot of work that goes into producing a bottle of wine. That is about all I knew.
When booking our itinerary there was a question of do we want to rent a car and explore on our own or would we like to hire a driver. I was 100% for hiring a driver. We were beyond blessed with our driver Domenico. The winery tour was specifically for me, Laura, and Domenico. Paolo was our bi-lingual tour guide. Right away I found out that this was much more than just a winery.
There are over 300 acres of olive trees and they have had olive trees for over 300 years on this family owned farm. This farm is a sustainable farm and although I was writing as fast as I could I am not sure I got it all right, but I found it fascinating. The olives are picked in October to make Virgin olive oil. A machine shakes the trees, but then then the olives are picked up manually (over 3000 trees.) I believe she said that after three months whatever has not been harvested is then used for “lamp oil.” She said Extra virgin olive oil is healthier for your body than just olive oil. Olive oil might be a mixture of extra olive oil and lamp oil. Olives have pits. The pits are not just tossed away. They are crushed and used (somehow) for heat. (I told you I had a very hard time keeping up.)
Next we saw the cellars and learned about the grapes and wine production. Their harvest is manual and they start with the white grapes in August and work through October ending with the red grapes. It is very hot in August. They have 80 employees and seasonal workers. Sicily is one direction and Rome is the other direction; 24 minutes side to side. They are the land of two seas and the soil is rich and has lots of minerals and seashells.
Just when you think you have seen the entire farm, she informs you that they have dairy cows as well. They grow corn (maize) for the purpose of feeding the cows. They breed the cows and our tour guide had just seen a calf be born recently. They breed 800 cows and 300 of them are Bruno-alpina dairy cattle and produce about 10,000 liters of milk per day. They were cleaning one of the cows feet while we were there and we saw the pregnant mommas too. This reminded me so much of when Dave’s Uncle Joe used to let our two boys Joe and Ben feed the baby calves and feed the cows at the farm in Illinois. It just brought back some very happy memories of a really great man.
We made our way back to the main building. One of the many perks of having Domenico as our driver was his attentiveness to our needs. The walk back was quite a walk so he had gone on ahead and got the car so he could pick us up and take us back to the main building. It was not time for lunch and the lunch was for the three of us only.
I had been having a difficult time adjusting to the food. I know that sounds odd as this is Italy for goodness sakes. But let me tell you, this was the absolute best food we had the entire trip. She brought out 5 or 6 courses of food and with each course a new wine was paired with it. Laura and I rarely drink wine but we thoroughly enjoyed learning about how each wine went with each course. We had small sips of each wine (we had to be polite.) 🙂 There was actually a place to pour your wine so you could fill your cup with the next wine for the next course.
I literally had to stand up near the end; I was so, so, so full and satisfied. There is one dish (the pasta dish) that none of us even tried. In my mind, I wanted to take a gigantic doggie bag back home to our hotel in Pizzo. The food was that good and like I said I had been having a difficult time finding food I liked (well I like the gelato … does that count?)
I am not sure how many of you would consider Calabria as a Italy destination, but I can tell you I am so happy we did. There is no McDonalds, there is no Starbucks; there are only a few who speak English, and there are many, many, many kind and thankful people living in this region. And the people in the region are doing great things — like this sustainable Statti farm.
I would not have thought I would enjoy a winery tour as much as I did this one. I love how some things are just so unexpected. I came in with zero expectations; thinking I’d learn about wine; yet I learned so much more and had the best food in all of Italy as a reward.
From here our day continues, but for this post, I will sign off for now. This was Wednesday, May 22, 2019.