I met Alyson around 12 years ago when we were both having lunch at Dario Cecchini, the famous butcher in Panzano in Chianti. Those of you who've watched Dario's episode on Chef's Table (Netflix) know that he's a hardworking genius who's transformed a butcher shop in a celebration of life itself. Dario isn't just an animalist-butcher (yeah, I know that sounds controversial, so if you want to dig deeper see this post), he's also a people-person. In his restaurants, you sit (at least pre-COVID) next to people you don't know. It's about conviviality and embracing the Chianti-spirit. After eating at Dario Cecchini, you always exit having made new encounters (and with full bellies).
That day, Dario made sure to introduce us. Alyson is a bright Californian who came to Tuscany on a job venture with Kendall-Jackson, working at their Chianti Classico estate called Villa Arceno. What happened next is perhaps trivial. Girl meets guy, and 20 years later they live in Florence with two kids. Alyson is one of those head-strong people I love to hang out with. She's always positive and yet like all of us ex-pats has gone through a lot of the same hurdles that make some of us leave Italy, discovering that the la dolce vita is perhaps a little overrated.
When we first met, Alyson was the winemaker of a tiny estate in Panzano called La Festeggiata. I started taking wine tours there, and it was a lot of fun listening to Alyson's stories of how it is to be a winemaker in Italy. Besides, she's a bit of a winemaking geek (like, she's an expert on fruit-flies!) and really personable and lively, all of which is a treat when you visit a winery.
Up for a challenge, Alyson moved on to develop a winery basically from scratch at the next Chianti Classico village, Radda in Chianti. Podere Capaccia had changed ownership and the new owner wanted to develop a state-of-the-art winery complete with the replanting of vineyards and a modern winery for all the steps of handling estate grown and bottled wines.
The work has been ongoing and not without the typical Italian bureaucratic obstacles, but this year Alyson can truly enjoy the fruits of her efforts, literally.
In the video (scroll to bottom or go to our YouTube channel here), you'll hear about the differences between California and Tuscany, and you'll see the harvesting done by hand and the flow of grapes helped by the force of gravity. Now that the winery is fully functional, Alyson is continuing her Italian winemaking quest by experimenting with whole-berry fermentation on the Sangiovese for Chianti Classico. I can't wait to have a taste of that - in a couple of years!
From Podere Capaccia overlooking Radda in Chianti, right after a rainstorm (that hit some vineyards around Radda with hail)
Alyson making sure the destemmed grapes are getting into the fermentation vat evenly.
Part of the vineyard ready to be picked the next day. Hand harvesting takes its time...
A tasting is always due with Alyson at Podere Capaccia :)