Fattoria di Petroio is led by Diana Lenzi, the daughter of estate founders Pamela and Gian Luigi Lenzi. Following her mother’s “learn as you go” motto, Diana throws herself into running the business with great passion and energy; she follows and directs all phases of production commercially and promotionally, both in the vineyards and the cellars. As a member of Women in Wine and Young Agricultural Entrepreneurs (ANGA), she works diligently to bring Petroio to even higher levels of excellence while respecting its history and traditions.
After graduating with a political science degree from the University of Rome, Diana trained as a chef in several Michelin-starred restaurants, returning to Tuscany in 2008. “The winery was part of my life. I knew I’d end up here one day. Also, my dad couldn’t keep taking care of it; his real career is as a neurologist, and he’s quite famous. It was impossible to do both.”
“I cook and produce wine in exactly the same way. I start with the ingredient, which has to be the absolute best I can find. If I do a tomato sauce from my own garden, with nothing else but olive oil and basil I’ve grown, I’ll knock people out of their chairs. If I use a so-so industrial tomato, I can do the most intricate, complicated tomato-gelatin dish there is, and they’ll forget it before they’re even done eating. Wine is the same. I have beautiful, healthy grapes here —those are my ingredients. And I know my wine works when it reminds the person who takes a sip specifically of the grape from that vintage.”
As a pioneer within Italy’s male-oriented society — where women have had to fight for recognition by doing outstanding work — she shared, “Here in Tuscany, an estate would be passed onto a daughter only if there was no other choice. That’s changing. Plus, more women are pursuing professions in viticulture and enology. At Petroio, my right-and left-arm is Ilaria Marcomini, who’s worked here since 2001. She picked the books I studied and taught me chemistry. Out in the vineyards, she’d show me what a specific sort of discoloration on a grape leaf might mean.”
Diana is also among a handful of producers indirectly tasked with rebranding Chianti Classico, which somewhat butchered its reputation during the 1980s-90s. Notes Diana about that era, “You never knew what you were going to get in the glass–the wine could be modern or classic, round or tannic, diluted or powerful, you name it. The identity was gone. Now the best estates have gone back to what the land wants them to do. It’s an incredible return to our origins and a very exciting time for Chianti.”
MICKAEL AND JEAN-PAUL PICARD
Jean-Paul Picard et Fils is a family owned and operated winery, renowned for sensational Sancerres since 1750. Nearly three centuries later, descendent Mickaël assumed the helm in 2004 as lead winemaker. He pays particular attention to the development of his wines, guaranteeing the expression of terroir and his two grape varieties, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. This allows a range of wines for all tastes: fruity whites and rosés as well as structured reds.
Fusing sustainable modern farming applications with traditional craftsmanship, Mickaël insists on harvesting his grapes manually — unlike 90% of Sancerre’s producers who harvest mechanically. He blends his fine Sancerre Blanc from the select Grand Chemarin and Chêne Marchand vineyards. Superb terroir and limited production translate into lusciously generous, gratifying wines.
The peculiarity of his estate is 45 small parcels of vines each with their own characteristics, proving that not all Sancerres are created equal; as Sancerre is a large appellation, the best villages have developed their own reputation for quality, with Bué considered among its finest.
The vineyard slopes surrounding this charming hamlet boast outstanding clay-limestone soils, sunny southwestern exposures and ideal elevations. Half the area is grassed over, especially on steep slopes to limit soil erosion. Mickaël works the soil by decomposing the vines and superficial plowing, further enriching the terrain’s microbial life, using indigenous yeasts to respect these differences resulting in wines of great complexity.
THE DAL CERO FAMILY (Cà dei Frati)
Four generations of the Dal Cero family built Cà dei Frati (the “house of friars”) since acquiring the estate in 1940. The estate’s focus is the local Turbiana, which is interpreted in a variety of mixing innovative and traditional styles, all true to the region’s spirit. The wines are elegant in structure with a hint of wildness, unique for their concentration, complexity, and expressiveness.
The story begins in 1934 in Verona, when Augusto Dal Cero purchased a very unusual piece of land in Roncà dominated by two extinct 40 million-year-old volcanoes, Crocetta and Calvarina. He knew little about geology yet quite a lot about grapes: instinct guided Augusto towards digging into the woods-covered earth atop the volcanoes and planting vines in that ground, as the vineyard would benefit from the steeply-ascending property’s mineral-rich soil. Tremendously hard work never deterred his dream of enlarging his planting area, right up to the peaks of the two volcanoes, stopping only when he reached the very top, finding just clouds above.
World War II halted Cà dei Frati, forcing Augusto to become a soldier, leaving behind his vineyard and his family. He returned after almost five years mostly spent in the African deserts arid sands in physically bad shape, but alert and committed. He re-launched Cà dei Frati starting from scratch.
When Augusto died, sons Dario and Giuseppe widened the horizon of their father’s dream: the vineyards in Roncà gradually grew larger, but that is not the whole story. In the early 1980s, they turned their attention to Cortona, in Tuscany, a wine growing area with impressive traditions, inspiring the decision to producing ambitious red wines. They purchased the Tenuta di Montecchiesi vineyard, planting new varieties in addition to the Sangiovese already there. As years passed, nodding to their intuition and abilities, the vineyard grew five times the original extent. More recently, the family added a third wine estate in Valpolicella.
Cà dei Frati is now led by Alberto, Davide, Nico, and Francesca Dal Cero continuing the family’s commitment of respecting the earth’s values, sustainability, and direct ties to the land and its qualities.
VINNY ALIPERTI (Billsboro)
Many people fall in love with the idea of becoming a winemaker — and a honeymoon abroad in winemaking countries often spurs those fantasies. But most don’t come home and become successful winemakers… unless you’re Vinny Aliperti, whose winemaking style is often described as crisp and fruit-driven with a focus on creating intense but balanced wines.
Vinny started his journey as a teenager, vinifying a barrel or two of wine with his grandfather each autumn. Following a post-college stint in the Peace Corps where he met his wife Kim, an opportunity arose to pursue commercial winemaking on his native Long Island. From 1997 to 1999, Vinny apprenticed under European-trained winemaker Roman Roth at Wölffer Estate producing mostly Chardonnay and Merlot.
In 2000, Vinny and Kim moved their young family to NY’s Finger Lakes region, where acclaimed Riesling pioneer Hermann J. Wiemer hired him as assistant winemaker. In 2001, Atwater Estate Vineyards lured him to Seneca Lake’s east side in the revered “banana belt” where more than 15 different varieties are cultivated; since 2003, Vinnie leads their winemaking operations too.
Billsboro is Vinny and Kim’s personal project started in 2007. Today, Vinny processes both domaines under one roof, strategically located within a mile of both Sawmill Creek and Atwater Vineyards, where a centuries-old barn serves as the main tasting room and is nestled in an idyllic 28 acres surrounded by century-old walnut trees, terraced fields and a deep wooded ravine.
Don’t let their laid-back, humble demeanor fool you, they make serious wine. Vinny’s dynamic approach earns praise both locally and nationally, including several write-ups in The Wine Spectator and New York Cork Report.
Judith Beck’s eponymous winery espouses her philosophy, “Wine, pleasure and the joy of living go hand in hand. We prefer wines captivating all of our senses with each new bottle and each new sip.” She is intent on forging her own path, crafting her vision of what Austrian wines should be.
Judith produces wines on the eastern side of Lake Neusiedl, near Hungary’s border on an estate comprising nearly 40 acres of vineyards. She focuses on native red grapes of the region — Blaufrankisch, Zweigelt, and St. Laurent.
Judith’s expertise and passion for biodynamics, agricultural practices that regard a vineyard as a living organism, were first codified by early-20th-century philosopher Rudolf Steiner, and go well beyond simply avoiding pesticides. Beck talks about it as a way of healing the soil, and is enthusiastic about the changes she has seen since 2007, the year she committed to farming in this mindful manner. The results show up in the bottle.