A Wine Adventure

IMG_4034So, have you ever dreamed of leaving the rat race behind, buying a vineyard and creating your own wine surrounded by gorgeous nature? Maybe creating a restaurant that features homegrown vegetables and local cheeses, keeping things rigorously organic?
That is just what the Stefano Matturro and Gabriella Grassi did. Careers in Milan and Brescia in the world of finance and consulting if not exactly on the back burner are at least simmering on a lower flame for now, as they are now the proud owners of L’Avventura. As we say in Italian, a name is a guarantee! It is truly an adventure that they have embarked upon. The idea and the planning started in 2014, they’ve been making wine for three years now, and while they still have goals and ambitions, they’ve also achieved some results to be proud of.IMG_4090

My visit to their estate took place in late October, on a spectacular weekend of Italian Indian summer. Talk about a great position: situated on the slopes of the Monti Ernici near Piglio, the Casale – or Italian farmhouse – is just an hour outside Rome, and less than an hour and a half from Naples. Blessed by that special light, the same that bathes Rome and makes you wonder if paradise on earth really is an option, these photos show all the beauty and allure that convinced Stefano and Gabriella to take the plunge.

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Love the autumn colors

My visit was marked by three outstanding aspects: fabulous wine, mouth-watering food, and stunning art, history, landscape, culture. It would take more than just a weekend to explore all that this region offers, but I did my best to make a dent!

Casale Verdeluna is the well-appointed farmhouse relais; welcoming and warm, it features a restaurant that showcases regional cuisine as well as bespoke rooms for a lucky few. We are talking Ciociaria here, one of Italy’s great regions for food where bucatini all’Amatriciana come from. Film afficionados will remember Sophia Loren’s Academy Award-winning performance in De Sica’s film La Ciociara, known as Two Women in English. Loren played a woman from this region during World War II.

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La Loren in her Oscar-winning role

A cascade of antipasti were almost overwhelming.

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Accompanied by the winery’s white Saxa, a Passerina del Frusinate that does time in steel, these were only the starters. A local cheese producer had us sample his wares – scrumptious!

A primo of amatriciana with homemade pasta was the perfect accompaniment to L’Avventura’s most popular wine, Campanino. This is a robust DOCG Cesanese del Piglio that easily stands up to the structured cuisine. (Love the label and how the winery has a bold, clear graphic identity!) If people go crazy for Chianti and Tuscan fare, they’re going to go mad for Cesanese del Piglio and the Ciociaria cuisine. Lazio (the region of Rome) is known for its white wines like the other two DOCG from Frascati. But if you don’t know it yet, Cesanese will surprise you: this is a red grape variety with a lot to give.

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Our primo was followed by a very autumn roast with porcini mushrooms and chestnuts which left almost no room for dessert! Somehow I managed to enjoy a sliver of a chestnut paste chocolate torte.

Walks in the vineyards were followed by a barrel sampling in the cellar. This is one of my favorite activities: the alchemy of understanding how a wine is coming along is still something personally beyond my ken, but I do enjoy this hands-on approach to wine-making. The project is called Amor, which is Roma spelled backwards, and it promises to become the flagship wine.

Stefano Matturro in the cellar

In between delectable meals, the afternoon afforded me a chance to take in one of the most magnificent Romanesque cathedrals I have ever seen at Agnani, which is billed as ‘home to four Popes’.

Sunset on the tower cast a magic spell, which held through the visit to the dazzlingly tiled floor of the nave and the frescoed and tiled crypt. An ingenious use of plexiglass chairs combines modern Italian design with ancient Italian design, allowing the modern visitor to admire the floors in an uninterrupted view.

Dedicated to San Magno, the church is an artistic treasure. The saint is pictured here (lower left) performing the miracle of saving a boy from a well. No mistake that the boy’s mother was working in a nearby vineyard – get a load of those grape clusters!

When food is grown locally, Kilometer 0, organically, cooked in your very own homegrown olive oil, and all your suppliers think like you do, it is immensely easy to digest. So yes, we did sit down to dinner!

How could I forget to sample the cacio e pepe? As delicious as it is photogenic! The featured wine at dinner was Picchiatello, L’Avventura’s Cesanese del Piglio Superiore DOCG that packs a punch, as its name promises! Aged longer than Campanino and made using some raisined Cesanese grapes, Picchiatello is a surprise. Elegant and balanced with great tertiary aromas, it is full-bodied, round, with a great promise for aging.

And since the sun also rises, my foray came to an end. But with a promise and an invitation: to get to know Cesanese del Piglio DOCG and the Ciociaria area better!

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Mother Nature, grazie!

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