September 22, 2008 |
A Visit to Tuscany
“To make a great wine one needs
a madman to grow the vine,
a wiseman to watch over it,
a lucid poet to make the wine,
a lover to drink it.”
For two weeks in late June and early July, I had the great pleasure of visiting Piergiorgio Castellani, the owner of Castellani Wines (www.castelwine.com) and his wonderful family at their beautiful home and wine estate in Tuscany. The estate, Poggio al Casone, is a 100 acre, 100% organic wine estate approximately 20 kms southeast of Pisa, Italy, where Piergiorgio and his winemaking team are making some of the finest Sangiovese based wines in the region. But what’s most impressive about Castellani’s operation is his total commitment to sustainable and organic farming practices. Piergiorgio’s commitment to “natural viticulture” consists of an intense focus on biodynamic farming practices targeted at reducing the impact of chemicals and mechanical interference with the soil in his vineyards and the vines themselves. These practices include minimal cultivation of the vines, a ban against artificial irrigation, insecticides or fungicides in the vineyards, and use of only natural, organic-based fertilizers. Piergiorgio has also partnered with the University of Pisa on an experimental program aimed at producing autochthon vines and a selection of ancient Italian red varietals once in extinction. It is Piergiorgio’s hope and belief that these ancient varietals will be a key blending component that will allow for a superior Super Tuscan to be made at Poggio al Casone and throughout the Tuscan region.
The two weeks I spent with Piergorgio and his family were energizing, educational and inspiring. Beyond his charming hospitality, good humor, quick intellect and 100% Italian charisma, Piergiorgio’s heartfelt passion about his family, his land, his farming practices, his research and experimental vineyards and, most of all, his wines was infectious. Two weeks of great conversation and walks through his vineyards, mouthwatering Tuscan meals, and lots of laughter with Piergiorgio and his family reminded me that the common thread shared by every truly exceptional person I’ve met, whether it be a farmer, an artist, a chef, an author, or a wine producer, is a deep passion and enduring love for what they do and how they do it. It encompasses a desire to continually improve as part of an unending quest to deliver the best of themselves in their work.
As Dali said, perhaps it is part madman, or perhaps part lucid poet, but in Castellani’s case, it is certainly his passion that is driving him to produce world-class, Italian wines. And, for a brief moment of time this summer, it was his passion that reminded me that what drives us at Armanino Family Cellars is part of the same Tuscan spirit.