THEEven Summer Wolff had no idea that information 13 years ago was going to change her life forever. The American wine importer – and already a longtime Italophile – was organizing food tours of Tuscany with his business partner when they heard of an “awesome young winemaker” who was breathing new life into native varieties and wine. natural production of Monferrato, east of Turin.
Wasting no time beating him up there, they came through the forest in the throes of the mid-autumn mist until dusk. âThere was this romantic, supernatural side that was so different from the Italy I knew,â Wolff recalls. âI was immediately delighted.
After walking into the backyard (“I was just in love with it all”), then into the house (“The first words that came out of my mouth were, ‘Oh my God, I would love to have a kitchen like this- ci ‘â), she walked towards the cellars, where she applauded her husband, Fabrizio Iuli.
âI don’t believe in love at first sight, but as soon as we started sticking our noses in the wine glasses and tasting in the barrels and tanks – as we wine lovers do – there was this energy. and this strange attraction. ” she says. âSo, I like to say that I fell in love with wine and then with Fabrice, but if you go back a little further, I fell in love with the house, then with wine, then with Fabrice!
It was 2008 and the following spring the couple were living together in the small village that had housed Iuli’s family for five generations, but whose population had slowly shrunk to 70 over the decades. This is a common occurrence in many rural towns in Italy: in the case of Monferrato, the opening of the Fiat factory in Turin in the late 1960s and several debilitating seasons of hail pushed farmers and their families to new pastures.
Since Wolff and her husband have lived there together, they have done a labor of love to regenerate this corner of the world through their already established but growing business, Cascina Iuli. One of Italy’s most exciting organic wineries, it specializes in local barbera, nebbiolo and grignolino grapes, as well as two recent additions to the Italian varietal register: the once-abandoned slarina and white grape baratuciat. With two young children – Ettore, five, and Gioacchino, seven – now running around, it goes without saying that this is a 24-hour operation.
We talk on Zoom one evening at the end of September when the annual harvest is in full swing and to help them, the couple is working with the association. Global opportunities on organic farms (Wwoof) to accommodate people, affectionately known as Wwoofers, to work the land. âIt’s a great way to get people to get into organic farming and learn more about old systems,â says Wolff, who when we chat has a full house. The pay is full board, so while Iuli is out in the fields with the seasonal crew, Wolff welcomes no less than seven different nationalities around his table for both breakfast, lunch, and dinner (all continuing to run her own international import business and the village forest school which she founded last year with a friend whose classroom is a yurt on the ground).
This spontaneous and rich melting pot is reflected in the interior of the five bedroom, five bathroom family home. âHaving space to respect Piedmont and Italy is really important for me, but the same goes for the rest of the world through rooms that each have their own history,â she explains.
Travel to Sweden, Finland, and Morocco strongly influenced the layout and color scheme, with textiles the couple picked up on their wine trips complementing the original tie-dye terra cotta pieces with ceilings of original left alone above. The papier-mÃ¢chÃ© figurines in the fireplace were rescued from the streets by a friend in Milan. âHe said they were perfect for usâ¦ Slowly but surely we’re starting to look like them,â Wolff laughs.
Built in the 1600s, the cascina has hosted many different families and its walls show its age with up to four centuries of different renderings. âThere’s a big part of me that really wants to pull it off right now,â Wolff says. “People pay so much to get this look, but it’s actually what happens naturally over the years.”
Elsewhere, sink backsplashes are a collage of original 200-year-old hand-painted tiles from Japan, England, India and Piedmont, found by the ‘guru and miracle worker’ of local interiors Paolo Virano. âWhen people sell their houses, they sell their floor tiles to him, and the old ones that have been saved are even cheaper than those from companies that make replicas. It was exactly what I wanted, âshe says.
History is something that fascinates Wolff: âI’m always someone who cares more about the past than the future. I like to know what people did before me, rather than what is to come. The main space of the house proves its point. The kitchen, which is under the hayloft where Fabrizio’s grandfather stayed up late drinking wine and playing cards in secret with his friends (and where they still keep their wine), spans a huge room. open plan where a dining table was built by Fabrizio and his father from old wine barrels stands proudly – “Everything changes, but this is the only room I am not allowed to touch”, Wolff said.
Above, a mobile light installation by artist Giovanni Tamburelli, featuring suspended metal fish. âOnce upon a time in central Italy, they would hang a fish on the table and scrape it so that a little salt and flavor went into their polenta,â she says.
Wolff, 44, has a clear appreciation for the richness of a resourceful life. Asparagus is only eaten in April when it grows, cherries are only available in June and ‘there is no central heating, so in winter it is really cold in our house and in summer it is really hot ! she says. Most importantly: âNo one punches a clock. “As modern life in rural Italy always goes, the family way of life is dictated by the seasons rather than Monday through Friday from 9 to 17.” Sometimes you work every hour and all weekend on land, but then you take time elsewhere, âWolff explains. âIt’s a different, slower way of life. “
It’s an existence Wolff humbly acknowledges as being, for many, the idea of ââthe “dream,” but anyone who has ever pursued such a thing knows it’s only hard earned. âI’ve never lived in the UK, but in New York at least there’s a feeling of guilt if you take a lunch break – if you even take a lunch break. Life is about work, not life.
At Monferrato, there is no way to escape the life that surrounds it. We happen to be chatting during one of his favorite times of the year. âThe cellar is below us, so when you come out of the room you can smell the grapes fermenting downstairs and it’s beautiful,â she says. “It’s the two week window where the whole house smells of wine.”
It’s a glorious, full circle of what got her here in the first place. “When I wake up in the morning, I watch the sun bounce off the vines in front of me – if you showed me a picture, I could tell you what time of year it is in the light.”