Toasting to life in Cesena, Italy
One of the highlights of our Settimana del Buon Vivere (Week of Good Living) blog tour was an afternoon and early evening spent at Altavita vineyards in Cesena, Italy. The winery’s name comes from “Alla Vita!” meaning a toast “to life!”, modified slightly to “Alta Vita” meaning “high life”. Both of these are indicative of the spirit of the company philosophy which includes their core values: promoting and using sustainable practices; focus on health and wellness; and the power of positive thinking.
High life of Cesena, Italy
I really felt the spirit of the high life during our time with Alessandro Giunchi, his brother, parents, and other workers as we experienced the winery and vineyards in Cesena. There is a sense of the good life at Altavita — the wine, the ambiance, the beautiful landscape and friendly people.
I had recently learned of the friendliness of the people of the Romagna region of Italy during my trip with Mr. TWS in June, so I wasn’t surprised to find more friendly people in the region this time. But I was extremely pleased because it was a big part of what I was anticipating in this return trip.
Just a few miles up a winding road from the town center of Cesena, Altavita is situated on the hillside with views of rolling hills covered with vineyards, olive trees, and orchards.
About 20 miles away, the Adriatic Sea adds to the area’s climate, giving it an ideal environment for growing Sangiovese and Albana grapes prominent in Romagna.
Altavita consists of about 20 hectares (about 50 acres) of old and new vineyards planted on lime soil that creates the distinctive characteristic flavors of the wine. Altavita’s organic production produces low yields because of the required methods such as manual harvesting and selective pruning.
The winery has been in business since 2006 and has quickly became known for its vintages winning numerous awards in the past few years. Among other awards, the Tempora vintage has twice won the prestigious Vin Italia award for Sangiovese!
I thoroughly enjoyed being able to get some hands-on experience and really appreciate how much hard work goes into harvesting grapes by hand — a job that takes knowledge, skill, hard work, and time. A big benefit of hand-picking the grapes is that the picker can identify grapes that aren’t ripe or have any defect, such as rot. Alessandro gave us instruction on what to look for and we were on our way.
My hands were sticky with the red juice of the grapes whose deep blue color signaled they were ready to be picked. Very few bunches were not suitable for wine-making. When I first started picking in my row of vines, I didn’t realize that I was occasionally missing bunches along the way. Alessandro jokingly said, “Are you saving those for the birds?” Following his advice to reach deeper inside, I found more luscious grapes perfect for picking as I continued down the row.
As we filled our red baskets, the grapes were dumped into a bin on the tractor. Going about our “work”, I had the sense of contentment that comes from good physical activity in a lovely setting and it also brought back memories of vineyards that surrounded my parents’ home in the wine-growing region of Sonoma County, California. The Sonoma and Napa regions of my home state not only have similar landscape and climate, they have a rich Italian heritage and many wineries have been influenced by the techniques of Italian wine-makers.
It was a pleasure just to look around and soak up the lush scenery. Alessandro’s parents live on a property below the tasting room and Alessandro and his family live in a home above it. I thought about what a “high life” it would be in this beautiful location with gratifying work in a successful business with such close proximity to your family.
After a short while, the grapes were ready for de-stemming. We watched the rest of the process starting with the dumping of grapes into the equipment that separates the stems and leaves from the grapes. Alessandro took us on a brief tour of the production area where large stainless steel tanks are used for fermentation. Although the process is similar to that I’ve seen on tours of wineries in California, it was special to feel like part of the team in a small, family-run operation, knowing that grapes I personally picked were going to be used for production.
The sun was setting and the air was getting cool as we moved into the tasting room for wine and a light meal prepared by Alessandro’s mother. She was a joy to watch as she hurried around the table serving us with dishes she had brought from her nearby house.
For the tasting, Alessandro poured three signature wines of Altavita. We sampled Evoca, meaning “recall,” 100% Sangiovese; Tempora, meaning “in the time,” a blend of Sangiovese, Merlot, and Cabernet; and Bramante meaning “desired,” 100% Sangiovese. I enjoyed all three, but I think that the Tempora with its full, rich flavors was my favorite. But to be certain, I think I’ll need to do some more tasting research next time I’m in the area.
Earlier in the day at lunch at Rocca Malatestiana in Cesena, Alessandro had served us Diapente Bianco Rubiconde, a fruity and aromatic white wine produced from the Albana (Latin for “white”) grapes, specifically grown in this area of Romagna.
It was good conversation and laughs all around with the bloggers and our hosts. Although most of us had just met, we enjoyed the camaraderie as old friends in the comfortable tasting room. To end the evening on a warm note, Alessandro served Solesia, a sweet and elegant dessert wine made from the Albana grape that Altavita refers to as a “meditation wine”. It was the perfect close to a splendid day in Cesena before heading back to our lodgings in Bertinoro.
Disclosure: This post was a part of Buonvivere Blog Tour, organized by Settimana del Buonvivere in collaboration with 21grammy.