Christmas letter By Susan Gelpke
Dear Reader, you will, I hope, forgive the tardiness of this year’s Christmas letter but you see, our peripatetic family has grown increasingly difficult to locate, to sit down and to interview. Wine fairs, cheese fairs, olive oil fairs, tourism fairs, world travels with the Slow Wine organization, visits to our importers all over the world. This year Joshi has spent more than 40 days travelling in Asia and the U.S. alone. But this very fact does lead in quite nicely to what I wanted to write to you about this year. Normally the wine, cheese and oil have been the main focus of our letters and I will continue to give news of them, however this year I would like to concentrate more on people:...those who collaborate with us, those who are our guests and clients and those who are simply our enthusiasts and friends. The fact is that without the first group we would have no products at all and without the others what would be the purpose of all of our labours? Who would be the consumers of our products and who would appreciate the work that goes into their creation?
But first, let me tell you about the year.
When I spoke with Joshi he told me that it been a very good year for the vineyards. Spring brought abundant rain and the summer was exceptionally hot. The heat sweetened the grapes and the cool night air kept the aromas fresh. The rain came just at the right time in August to plump up the grapes and the early harvest saw sunny days. The picking of the whites was complete quite quickly and by the end of September, early October the red grapes where in the wine cellar as well.
Arianna says that things are going very well indeed in the wine cellar. But having nearly perfect grapes is only part of the story. Then there is the challenge of opening a dialogue with the grapes, as she likes to say ‘of listening to what they have to tell her’, and so every passage on the way to a bottle of wine is thoughtfully and carefully monitored. Already the whites are proving to be of exceptional quality with a strong fruitiness, the reds are finely balanced and with a higher alcohol content then normal.
Home from his recent trip to Hong Kong, Bangkok and Tokyo Joshi tells me with satisfaction and pleasure how well the wine sales are going. It still amuses me to think that the wine made on these lovely, quiet hills ends up on a table in a restaurant in the center of busy London, Sydney or Minneapolis, for that matter.
Toni has told me that milk production and cheese making continue to thrive. In her ingenious ways she continues to conjure up new cheeses. This year we have begun a line of goat cheeses with milk from a neighboring farm and we work with it in traditional ways as well as adapting it to the style and types of cheese we already make with sheep milk. The first day these were available in the shop they were sold out immediately. The ewes and the goats have a different milk cycle which means that we can sell fresh cheese all year round. One of my last sights of Toni before Christmas was of her fluffing the red bows on the small Blu goat cheeses to give them holiday allure. She has also confected “Cheese Boxes” which contain a variety of products from the farm and from our collaborators (biscuits, chocolate, crackers, sauces and jams etc) which work perfectly with the cheeses and make very popular gifts.
As for our oil, following a year of damage from the devastating olive fly we were spared the same fate in 2015. The heat of summer did not allow the fly's eggs to develop and although not quite up to the quantity of two years ago, this year we still have an excellent oil.
We have had a wonderfully successful year with the agriturismo sector on the farm. Returning guests mingled with new ones, family celebrations took place, weddings and musical occasions abounded. In the high season we were fully booked and are proud of our reputation on Trip Advisor.
Aglaia, my youngest daughter with Wendel, married Bill Murphey and held her wedding party in the park of Paterno in late September together with fifty family members and friends who came days early to take part in all the decorating and planning. Her cousins and contemporaries Eli, Julia, Jessie, Tim, Rocco, Oliver, Rudi and Anna (see photo) were in attendance. Lyndie, founder with her late husband of a puppet theatre in London was designated artistic director in collaboration with Sophie. Aglaia's brother, Wenzi, gave her away. Lorenzo Villoresi, one of Wendel’s and our oldest friends and renowned scent maker officiated. On the day chefs from La Fattoria, one of our favourite local restaurants, came to grill their famous bistecca, which we have been savouring since the early 1980's. We had an extended lunch under the sunny early autumn sky. It was a perfect day for the family and dear friends to congregate and remind ourselves what a large and multifarious family we are amid much laughter and reminiscing.
Some weeks before, Toni’s large family from England had come for a family reunion that was great fun. As the family of nearly sixty had taken over most of the farm it was a moveable feast with family member making visits to each other house to house as if they were long standing neighbours. And there was a whole new generation of cousins to be introduced to the farm.
Our friend Lucy, who has been coming to the farm since she was a girl, had her wedding party in front of and around the wine cellar, beautifully organized with Toni’s guidance. I hope that it will be one of many such events on the farm. (for photos of these events, please see our facebook page)
The farm has been particularly lucky this year with the addition of three new women: in the agriturismo, Katiuscia has taken over from Mirella’s able hands and has made the job her own. She is as calm and welcoming as she is capable and resourceful. And her warmth is a gift in itself.
In the farm shop Jessica has brought a touch of the exotic-- vivacious, lovely and full of fun. Her quick wit and bright disposition make her a pleasure to work with. Monica, one of Toni's good friends, has joined the us in the dairy. That makes for a bevy a women helping Joshi, Toni and Ari in Corzano: Nicoletta, Claudia and Monica, the beautiful “Dairy Maidens”, Katiuscia at the agriturismo, Jessica in the shop and running tastings, Serena tending the gardens and Michela everywhere. And of course Chiara who is our Rock of Gibraltar in the office, the first person you see when you come in. She has been with us most of the last thirteen years keeping us sane and focused.
But I should mention our male collaborators too: Daniele, Alessandro, Claudio, Claudio, Djura, Niccolo', Domenico, Krishna who work in the vineyards, fields and stables and underpin the whole operation. Janos who worked with us for more than 10 years finally returned home to Hungary with his wife and daughter.
And there is much to do. When I am in Corzano or at the sheep stables I marvel at the energy one feels. Our products, our way of living, are organic both in the sense they are under that agricultural regime and also by the fact that they grow out of each other and overlap. The vineyards are fertilized by the sheep, the whey is given to the pigs, the shop organizes tours and tastings for the agriturismo guests. This makes for an atmosphere of great creativity, cross-pollination if you will. Whether blending and structuring the wines, creating new and ever more original cheeses, taking the pressing of olive oil to a new level of excellence, it is never formulaic, always inventive work with a background of deep knowledge and experience. What I see is a group of people who are utterly engaged in what they are doing and are loyal to and proud of the quality that effort reflects.
We are fortunate in having some visitors who have been coming for many, many years and who are by now part of the family. They include people who have touched and enriched our lives with their talents and gifts: film makers, cinematographers, photographers, writers, politicians, and artists of all media. One night in particular this summer remains an indelible memory - a glorious full moon night and a concert in the park of sitar, shehnai and hang.
I hope that I have done justice to everyone who lives, works or visits the farm and all of their mutual and reciprocal contributions. In the end, that was always the point. To create a space where one could live, engaged with each other and with the work on the farm, to bring it to a higher level with each generation and to pass it on - Sibilla and Aran are expecting a little girl to be born in May to add to the family head count.
The Gelpke and Goldschmidt families of Corzano e Paterno wish you all a year of peace and joy.