Q. Why Italy?
A. Karen’s father is Italian (from Abruzzo) and Jim’s grandfather was Italian (from Udine) and we have spent an inordinate amount of time in Italy over the years. When we made the decision to buy a vineyard in the northern hemisphere, the natural choice for us was Italy – indeed our three children insisted upon it!
Q. What drew you to Tuscany/Chianti
A. We looked all over Italy for five, six, seven years, from Sicily to Piedmont. We settled on Tuscany because we found Montecalvi. It really was love at first sight.
Q. Describe the moment you first visited Montecalvi: what were the factors that most struck you?
A. We first visited Montecalvi in April 2017. We met the delightful Jacqueline Bolli who showed us around the property. It is a very beautiful estate! We sat down under the big oak tree and she showed us her wines. We were very impressed with them, and we pretty much decided to buy Montecalvi on sampling the old vine VV 2014. We accept that it would have been easier and cheaper to just buy the bottle but …
Q. When you first had the keys in your hands, what was the first thing you wanted to do?
A. We spent the first weeks at Montecalvi just walking the vineyards, the olive grove and the bosco. We just wanted to drink it all in (forgive the pun). We hatched a lot of plans during that week, some of which have been achieved, some are ahead of us.
Q. You’ve worked tirelessly since arriving at Montecalvi – what’s the most satisfying change you’ve implemented?
A. We have implemented a number of changes, to be sure, but we are proud to have been able to keep the fantastic staff. Laura Vegni runs our cantina doing the bottling and labelling (and cooking for everyone during the vendemmia), and Yahya El Harchaoui works tirelessly taking care of the vineyards (and olive trees). We have also been lucky enough to persuade Jackie Bolli to stay on to head up the sales effort and to conduct the winery tours and tastings.
As for changes, the most important one we made was to bring in Tim Manning as winemaker. Tim has worked in Tuscany for 20 plus years (Riecine, Il Borghetto) and has brought all that experience and flair to the cantina. Other things we have done include:
- We are renewing the Le Terrazze vineyard. This is one of (if not the) oldest vineyards in Tuscany, planted in 1932 on dry stone walls. It is a field blend, mostly Sangiovese but also Colorino, Canaiolo, Ciliegiolo, Malvasia, and Trebbiano (an ampelographer’s dream). We are taking cuttings from these vines and replanting them over time. It will take about five years, but our first new vines will be planted this year and we are very excited about that.
- We have returned the focus onto Italian indigenous varieties, so we have replanted two existing vineyards to Sangiovese and put in a new vineyard with Ciliegiolo.
- We have introduced a Vermentino into the range, which we have done in a more complex way (skin contact, malolactic fermentation, aged on lees) and which has proved to be a great success.
- And we have become certified organic, which is very important to us. The list goes on …
Q. Karen, where’s your favourite spot to sit at Montecalvi?
A. We have put an oak bench up in the olive grove, which looks out over the vineyards and over Greve. It is a beautiful and quiet place to sit and think (or drink). That was my favourite spot at Montecalvi. Until, that is, we were up there last summer when we heard snorting and shuffling behind us. We turned rather hesitantly to see a family of (enormous) cinghiali coming to join the picnic! We left them to it.
Q. Could you describe how it makes you feel drinking a glass of your Chianti Classico?
A. We are very proud of what we have at Montecalvi and there is nothing better than to be sitting at table under the pergola with family and friends drinking our wine. In the end, that is what it is all about, is it not? (Our table, by the way, was an incredibly generous ‘welcome to Greve’ gift from our wonderful neighbours, Marinella Coppi and Jose Barranchini.)
Q. When you’re not at Montecalvi, what do you miss the most?
A. The light, the gorgeous Tuscan light.