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La Vendemmia (Italian for "the wine harvest")

The Villa Palazzetta wine harvest is a family affair.

Ripe grapes before the harvest at Villa Palazzetta.
When they say, "Ripe for the picking," this is what they mean.

We arrived at Villa Palazzetta at 10pm on Monday night. It was dark so we couldn't really look around the vineyard. But Tuesday morning was sunny and balmy. When I first saw the vineyard I couldn't believe the color of the grapes. I tried one. Tasted good to me, but I am definitely no expert. "Ready to become wine," I asked them? They replied that they had spent their whole lives getting ready for this moment.

Like Rome, wine is not made in a day. The harvest is just the first step in a process that takes at least two years. Matteo, our trustworthy agronomist, had spent the summer giving the vines the love and care they needed. Neighbors nearby had 60% of their grapes destroyed by an August hail storm that literally "exploded" the grapes on their vines. It happens. In 2018 we lost maybe 30% of our harvest that way. So in addition to love and care you need a little help from nature. This year we got nature's help. Spring brought a lot of moisture after almost two years of record heat and drought. A cool, moist June yielded to hot weather in July and August. These conditions produced a bumper crop. Our 440 vines yielded 865kg (1903 pounds) of grapes which will ultimately yield around 500 liters of wine or 666 750ml bottles of wine. It's our most bountiful harvest yet. But only time will tell whether the quality will be as good as the quantity. Often those two characteristics do not correlate. Many times, more difficult weather conditions which stress the grapes produces less quantity but better quality. So time will tell.

Picking the grapes
Each bunch of grapes is picked by hand one at a time.

One bunch at a time.
Before putting the grapes in the baskets each bunch is inspected for quality.

Loading grapes
Bunches of grapes are put into baskets which are only filled about halfway to make sure the weight of the grapes doesn't crush the ones on the bottom of the basket.

Grapes on the way to the cantina
Six baskets of grapes at a time get transported back to our small cantina.

Once the grapes arrive at the cantina, each basket is weighed and then put into a de-stemming machine which separates the stems from the grapes. Contrary to popular conception, the grapes are not pressed yet. They are put into the fermentation tank mostly whole and the weight of the grapes causes them to slowly collapse and release their precious liquid. Fermentation begins shortly after all the grapes are in the fermentation tank. This takes a week or two. During fermentation the sugar in the grape juice is converted to alcohol. If the sugar content of the grape juice is 13% you end up with a 13% alcohol content in your wine. Measuring sugar content is the main way you determine when to pick your grapes. Villa Palazzetta has about 440 grape vines. It took five of us most of the day to harvest all the grapes and get them into the fermentation tank.

After all the grapes have been de-stemmed and put into the tank we breathe a sigh of relief that after months of work the grapes are safely in the cellar and the magic that creates wine can begin. It's a hard day's work but, if all goes well, the results will be enjoyed for many years to come.

Like everything at the Villa, absolutely none of this would be possible without our hard-working Villa Palazzetta team, each one of whom takes immense pride in their work and in making the Villa the special place it is. We are so grateful for the work they do. And if you read the comments our guests leave in our guestbook you'll know why. It is indeed our "Italian family."

The Villa Palazzetta team
Here's our Villa Palazzetta "family" of harvesters. Left to right: Yours Truly, Lisa Jane (our manager and concierge), Matteo (Lisa's husband and our agronomist and wine maker extraordinaire), Maria (our wonderful and dedicated housekeeper) and, of course, Lee my partner in all these crazy adventures.

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