Christmas Letter 2016 from Corzano e Paterno
This remarkable image was taken a few years ago one early September morning by our friend, Seamus. It surprises the bronze Etruscan Diver as he stretches down and grasps the newborn sun rising over Corzano. One could draw many a metaphor from this image but I will leave them all to your own imagination. The Diver perches atop the fountain in Paterno’s garden and was created and given to us as a memorial to Wendel Gelpke by Bruce Hasson. They had met in the early 1970’s when he helped Bruce as an art student here - one can say that it represents Wendel but also calls to mind their enduring friendship. The Diver is an artwork that Wendel had loved since seeing it in Paestum: the deceased warrior, while diving into another element, breaks through and scatters his own reflection. It seems fitting that it be in his remembrance; fragments of his presence are visible and sensed everywhere on the farm.Today the park is filled with the raucous and rowdy sounds of Wendel’s grandchildren. They take the land, the family and their identification with place for granted. They are still small and the stories, myths even, of the pioneer days will have to wait to be told.
Looking into the park from my office window it is hard to imagine on this bright, warm, sunny day, that we are in fact getting close to deep winter. Of course our fears about changing weather patterns that affect agriculture are real (precocious budding or parasitical proliferation) but it is hard not to love the elegant and muted colors of the dormant landscape, the thrilling and dramatic sunsets and the crisp and brightly starred night skies of December and January.
This year it was Arianna I turned to for news of the farm. She told me that the winter had been mild with early budding—the earliest we have experienced in our memory, probably near to two weeks early. The summer was not excessively hot and we were spared the droughts that had affected other areas of Tuscany. This meant that we could harvest later than we had first anticipated: we could pick the whites in late August and the reds the last week of September and beginning October.
However, in late August we experienced some very hot days leading us to fear for the aromatic quality of the wine but, surprisingly, the wines promise to be full bodied, rich and with a nice acidity—wines that are not heavy but have the potential for long aging with a high level of drinkability. The white wine has a lush bouquet and nice acidic backbone thanks in part to the milder weather. The red grapes were all harvested the last ten days of September.
At the time I spoke with Arianna she told me that the grapes for our Passito were still hanging but would be pressed in the next days, the juice left to settle then put into barrels for its long rest. We produce approximately two thousand half bottles of Passito per year. Ari adds that the Trebbiano grapes are especially beautiful and golden this year.
We are beginning to see the fruit of our most recently replanted vineyard—our oldest one, replacing the last of the original vines Wendel planted in 1972.
Our latest addition to the cellar is a new two thousand five hundred liter Botte Grande which brings our capacity for Big Wood to one hundred and eighty hectoliters. At present we continue to use barrels but are moving toward five hundred liter ‘Tonneaux’, as their larger volume of wood softening its impact on the wine. She also tells me that she had a wonderful group of young people helping her in the cellar during the harvest: Remy, Julia, Katia, Pedro each adding their own enthusiasm to the work. For the harvest the weather proved beautiful, the mood buoyant and the work hard but satisfying - a fine vendemmia.
The wines that are ready from 2013 and 2014 have been bottled recently. The 2013 Corzano, velvety in structure and with a taste of blackberry, was bottled in November. The 2014 Terre di Corzano and Tre Borri were also bottled in recent months. With the 2014we marveled that such a difficult year could produce wines with such elegance and aromatic fruitiness.
As of this writing Aljoscha was participating in wine events in Asia and enjoying the contrast, I can imagine, with farm life.
William, one of Joshi and Toni’s twins, is in South Africa doing work experience on a wine farm before he eventually returns and join us.
Last year we were fortunate in not having the olives damaged by the dreaded fly but this year there was evidence of their return. With this knowledge we anticipated the harvest and managed to save a portion of our normal production maintaining its high quality.
This year we have an exceptional group working with the sheep at the stables. Our first milk arrived at the beginning of December and the dairy is now busy until next autumn.
The dairy is what continues to distinguish us from other Tuscan wine producing farms. Our cheeses are now internationally recognized and appreciated. Milk produced from sheep who graze in the same terrain as the vineyards benefit from some form of synergy with them, I am sure.
Toni tells me that it was a difficult year in terms of staff as there were many changes. The last of the workers who had been with us in the early days when the small dairy was still in Paterno left us, and we will all miss Nicoletta and her contribution to the dairy. We were lucky enough to find Dino from Sicily who stepped into the breach and became a much relied upon member of the group. There will continue to be changes until the spring when, with the arrival of some new, passionate young people, the staff should be complete. Toni is very proud and happy to say that her son Oscar, one of the twins, is now at cheese school and when finished with his studies and apprenticeships plans to come home to work in our dairy. Toni tells me she is ‘happy to have planted the seed’ and that one of her children will follow in her footsteps and reap the counsel of her long experience.
THE SHOP, THE TOURS, THE TASTINGS
Under Jessica, Jana, Arianna and Toni’s supervision the shop has taken on a very important and successful role in promoting our farm products. Jessica, with Jana’s help, sees thousands of people pass through the shop each year and brings the same charmed presence to all those she welcomes. Toni and Ari take care that things run smoothly and help with when things are particularly busy or when Jessica or Yana are not available. Toni, as she does each year, has put together her traditional Boxes with a selection of farm products on sale as Christmas gifts.
Under Katiuscia’s care, the agriturismo is doing better than ever. We had a very busy season and she has been unwaveringly calm and kind in a role that is not always comfortable or easy. But she tells me that she enjoys all of the guests, the fun, lighthearted ones as well as those who need more time and care; ‘It is part of my job’ she often tells me with a grin. I would also like to thank Anna Rita and Daniela for their hard work and loyalty in helping Kati with the upkeep of the houses.
Katiuscia insists that I take my hat off to my brother David in Boston who has encouraged, harassed, pleaded and pushed his friends, his colleagues, his neighbors, in fact everyone he meets, to come and enjoy the farm. We thank him for his efforts.
There is much to say this year about the family. We are so many different age groups now with confusing interconnections that one forgets if one is brother, cousin, stepmother, great aunt. We just say ‘family’. Wendel passed the farm on to Till, Sibilla, Ari, Aglaia, Aljoscha and me and now there are eleven children born to the owners who could, if they wished, participate in the working life here or even create fresh initiatives.
At present three of Wendel’s seven children live on the farm and one of his sister
Katerina’s. Wendel’s son Till has two girls, Tosca and Nada; Arianna and Stefan have Constantin and Alexander; Sibilla and Aran have Maximilian and Lillian; Katerina’s son Joshi and Toni have Elena, Timoteo, the twins Oscar and William and Rocco.
Katerina’s son Pascal lives on a neighboring farm with Kirsty and their children Anna, Oliver, who is about to become a father himself, and Rudi.
Sibilla and Aran moved back to the farm this summer following five years in Singapore and have plans for a variety of gastronomically related initiatives in
2017 that will include activities like truffle hunting, specialized wine guides and catering, to begin with. We are all interested to see how that will develop and in the meantime will enjoy testing and tasting their experiments.
To paraphrase Newton “…we stand on each other’s shoulder’. More than four decades ago Wendel put his mark on this ground. His sister Katerina came to bring more life and to live as wholesomely as she could from the land. Their descendants are still here. Having acquired Corzano, Wendel expanded his vision of the farm when the Paterno property became available. The family spread itself over the hills and occupied itself with bringing two derelict properties back to life. New generations have followed; some family members have left to different lives, some left and returned, some come and visit when they can but the ideal that Wendel left to us has embraced us all. I hope that we can continue to inspire each other with our individual contributions to the farm, collaborating and encouraging one another. And to remain grateful and respectful to those who helped us, help us still, on our way: family, friends and colleagues and those who visit the farm.
Wishing for you all peaceful and happy holidays