My first barrel tasting was also my first wine tasting
Lucky me. Barrel tasting with Elio at his winery in Cinque Terre was an extraordinary experience and was the catapult that has led to so many wonderful experiences. My family was vacationing in the area and coincidentally Elio was there tending to his grapes. My dad managed to arrange a visit, a visit that turned out to be legendary.
The visit started with a trip in the vineyards. Have you ever been to Cinque Terre? Let me tell you, it’s steep and rough terrain, so how they do vineyard work is beyond me! There’s no way to bring a tractor down, so they have to do everything by hand. Yikes! And harvest time? Carrying all those baskets of grapes up and down that steep uneven hill? It’s only for a certain type of superhuman!
After the trip in the vineyard, he brought us to the cellar, where we proceeded to barrel taste! Keep in mind, I was only 18 at the time and this was my first wine experience whatsoever. The whole concept blew my mind and I marveled at the man standing before me. How could this (older) man have so much energy (and be in such good shape)? I had never met a person like him before and I was amazed at his passion and love for what was to me only grapes back then. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I started to love wine shortly after we met Elio.
If you ever have the chance to meet him (and his incredible daugther Silvia) take it! And I recommend traveling to Cinque Terre, if not for the wine then for the beautiful landscape!
Elio Altare is more than just a wine maker
Elio Altare is known for his amazing wines, but what you may not know is that on the side he also makes salami! If you sneak away during one of the tours at the cellar you can find his salami hanging form the ceiling, waiting to be “harvested”. He doesn’t really sell them, they are mostly for family and friends. He is a farmer, to the core, so these projects are never about the money.
Photo by Torstein Harildstad
What is next for Elio Altare?
Elio has tons of energy and he puts all this energy into many “side” projects. Everytime I see him he has something new in the wings. Last I heard he was thinking about making bubbles. I wonder what it will be next time!
Elio Altare and his garden
As a farmer, Elio Altare does not only grow wine, he also has his own garden. If you are lukcy, you will find him braiding onions or picking fruits of the trees beside the winery, and he will most likely be sporting this wonderful red outfit (pictured below). And if you know Elio, you know that he doesn’t grow fruits and vegetables to make money; he does it because that way he’s certain they are organic. Besides, I think he enjoys it! Once a farmer, always a farmer.
Where does all of Elio’s produce go?
What I’m guessing started as a small garden for the family, has grown, and the Altare family has more produce then they can eat. So, they sometimes give it away! My family and I were visiting Elio Altare one day a few years ago and we found him in the garden braiding onions. (Btw, braiding onions is just braiding the green “leaves”, a way to make them stick together). Anyway, he was nice enough to give us a few bunches to bring home.
And here I am (a few years ago) proudly holding Elio Altare’s onions in front of my family’s house in Norway! If I remember correctly, we did actually eat them. How many people can say they have had Altare onions for dinner?