Normally I apply the rule never to identify guests who appear in the photo of the day and never to write about guests in my blog. Obviously, people coming to La Faula on holiday don't want to be objects of study or comment or to have their privacy stripped away.
But todays Photo of the Day is of Howard, who is 86 years old, and the photo is posted with his consent. I wanted to signal Howards stay at La Faula (for the second time) because it is something that makes La Faula special and illustrates what makes owning La Faula such a privilege.
Often, people ask me, 'do you go away in the winter?'
The answer is no. And the reason is that I have seen and heard of more of the world at La Faula than I ever could have if I had travelled. The world comes to us, and that world, in the diversity and difference and different life experiences of every guest, shows itself in its richness and complexity. If one has a curious mind and an interest in the world and how it is La Faula is a great place to see it!
So it is that duirng his stay at La Faula Howard would go to bed early and get up early. On the first morning of his stay I arrived in the breakfast room later than Howard and he commented on how surprised he was to get up, come down for a coffee and find that the farmers (Luca and I) were not already up. The time was 5.45 a.m.
Howard grew-up in Appalachia on a small farm. For most of his youth the existence of the outside world was signalled only by the sound of the steam-train passing through a nearby valley. Howard's family passed through the Great Depression with sufficient to eat and with things pretty much as they had been before the crash. Straight out of infantry training he arrived on Okinawa on the third day following the landings. From there he was posted to Japan. Howard then saw the 1950's and McCarthyism. He experienced the 1960's in San Franscisco and so on.
So Howard has seen and heard a great many of the profound events of the 20th century. And every morning, as I prepared breakfast, he would share his recollections of things that he had experienced, often prompted by me. I marvelled to be in the presence of someone who had experienced, directly, events that, already, are history. History of another century. I also felt Howard's loneliness at being so far away now from the people and times that had filled-up most of his life. But I do thank Howard for having taken the time to share some minutes with me and to have generously given me his thoughts and impressions of the times in which he lived.
And for that, I also have to thank La Faula!
These last 10 days were a challenge. We had in mind to bottle the 2010 vintage white wines (Sauvignon Blanc, Reisling Italico and Pinot Bianco) this May, but hadn't really focussed on when would be the best time to do it. We looked at the Agriturismo booking form and suddenly realised that we had to do it pretty much instantly otherwise it would be rendered impossible by the amount of work required on the tourism side. Bottling wine, however, requires prior racking, filtration and analysis not to mention setting-up, using and cleaning the equipment and, immediately prior to bottling, preparing and sterilising the plant. It takes two days after bottling to thoroughly clean and return to order the equipment, plant and tanks.
Filtration can always pose a challenge. The trick with wine filtration is to filter just enough to get the wine sterilely in the bottle but not to overwork the wine which can expose it to oxygen and result in loss of aroma. This comes mainly from experience; experience of one's own grapes and the physical properties that one's own wines exhibit. This year the filtration went fairly well without any great problems. As one filters the flow-rate, however, does diminish as the filters do their job and towards the end, normally in the evening of a long day, one begins to wonder if the last tank will fill before the flow rate becomes too little to continue!
The following day I was speaking with one of the owners of the laboratory that analyses our wine and he described wine filtering well: 'you should always', he said, start early and calmly. 'If you're lucky you may finish in the evening. You may, however, just as easily finish three days later'!
Anyway, I now know more than I did 10 days ago and next time's wine filtration will go even better!
The day following the filtration involves cleaning, setting up the winery and sterilising the bottling line. As one puts everything together and prepares the plastic and shining stainless steel one has the sense of preparing for some dangerous challenge that must turn-out well or all is lost! Bottling is truly approached with trepidation: it is the culmination of numerous hours of work starting with the pruning of the vineyard the previous year. Mistakes in most of the previous steps can, generally be forgiven and remedied, but there is no room for error during the bottling: either everything will work as it should or the process will have to be abandoned.
So it was that last Tuesday with the assistance of Luca's nephew, we bottled 2,125 bottles of wine. The day did go as it should and the wine is now in the bottle. After bottling it pays to leave the wine for at least a couple of weeks for it to settle before tasting. I do have to admit to some nervousness while we wait for this time to pass!
This is the moment when we pay for all those wonderful relaxed days in winter with long lie-ins, early dinners and gentle evenings beside the stove, faithful collies at our feet, listening to Radio 4 or reading a good book!
This spring is wonderful with cool nights and warm sunny days. The Agriturismo started well. The best part has been the warm and appreciative guests who have brought to La Faula a sense of - dare I say it - shared comradeship and openness that has made being here a real pleasure. Of course, if the guests were all grumpy, Mr. Angry's we would carry-on as always being jolly and friendly and trying to make sure that everyone feels at home. But when the guests are happy, and warm and enthusiastic it gives us such great satisfaction. La Faula is, after all, not only our business but also our home so we feel pretty pleased with how things have commenced. And for that we thank all of you who have participated in making it such a nice place to stay!
The warm weather has put us under a lot of pressure in the vineyard which is very advanced and also in the garden. I don't think that La Faula has ever looked as beautiful as it looks now. Luca's garden is a pleasure to spend time in and we have added a beautiful and practical meridian, fruit of an inventor who comes here to La Faula with his family.
In the next couple of weeks we must bottle last vintage's white wine. This puts me under a bit of pressure and I'll be glad when it is (successfully, I hope) completed!
Keeping-up with the website becomes a bit of a struggle. The extremely talented guy who did our coding has left being a small business owner for the pleasures (in Italy at least) of being an employee. He has less time to dedicate to the site so this is also holding-back a bit the constant changes that we have in progress. Especially regarding the general unfriendliness of the site to mobile devices and, in particular, iPhones and iPads that don't run Flash. I can see that the advent of the mobile device requires a rethink of how we serve them - (probably with a dedicated stripped-down site). This year so far has seen an explosion of iPhones and iPads being used at La Faula. Apple must be coming up to its peak so somewhere around the corner must be the next development that will favour some other company!