NOVEMBER 4, 2013
Janette Wesley and her husband Renato Vicario recognize opportunity when it knocks. In 2009, two plots of land—approximately 15 acres—bordering the 11th-century Villa St-Andrea that the two Greenville residents own in Cortona, Italy, came up for sale. They snapped up the two parcels, with the thought that they would plant a vineyard.
A crazy notion? “Sure,” says Wesley, “but we like wine a lot! And since part of the land was already planted with Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, we knew we’d either have to make wine or take the vines out.”
As it happens, her husband is no novice when it comes to winemaking. As a boy in Baveno, in the vicinity of Lake Maggiore in northern Italy, Vicario helped his uncles and grandfather in their vineyards. In 2000, the couple planted a test vineyard just for themselves. (In Italy, you can plant 1,000 square meters of vineyards for family use without having to apply for any permits.)
In 2010, they set about preparing the soil, planting 16,000 vines (mostly Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc), and training them on 1,600 poles and 45 miles of wire—enough to reach from Cortona to Florence. They insist on using a painstaking biodynamic process, which, though time-consuming, eschews the use of chemical fungicides and pesticides. Vicario likens his arduous winemaking process to taming a wild horse—without breaking its spirit.
The first three Vicario wines, ready now, are all based on Sangiovese (whose Latin name, Sanguis Jovis, means “blood of Jupiter”), the signature red-wine grape of Tuscany. Ready now are a 100-percent Sangiovese In Villa finished in oak, an unoaked Sangiovese, and an unoaked Sangiovese/Cabernet Sauvignon blend.
As if winemaking weren’t challenging enough, Wesley and Vicario recently purchased a warehouse in Greer, where they will be distilling small batches of artisanal liqueurs using organic fruits and herbs such as tarragon, Eastern May Hawthorne, bitter oranges, and blackberries from their Moon Hare Garden on-site.
Besides the taste, which translates to a sip of the Tuscan countryside, the best things about Vicario wines are the pride and passion that the couple—both adamant advocates of Slow Food—pours into each bottle. “We make this wine to serve at our own table,” says Vicario, who adds no sulfites or yeasts (other than those that occur naturally) to his wines. “Renato’s name is on our wine,” adds Wesley, who designed the labels,—“and we want it to represent who we are.”