I can imagine that the Garden of Eden might have looked something like this. Sunshine illuminating rich green carpets, abundant fruit trees circled by flowering bushes, tomatoes and basil planted together, dialoguing with the flowers and giving way to vines as far as the eye can see. We’re at Roccafiore, a winery in Umbria with a view towards Todi, where the vines meet the highly landscaped garden, inviting us in. For me, gardens are the theme that distinguish Roccafiore wine resort from others I’ve visited.
This was our first little getaway post-covid-lockdown, and our first trip outside of Tuscany. I’d heard about a unique offering at this wine resort in Umbria: the Wine Chalet. 60 square meters of essential living in a wooden hut on the edge of a vineyard. On the back, a wooden deck – something I have never seen in central Italy! – even larger than the footprint of the hut itself, giving on to a well-tended cluster of woods and below that, the wine cellar.
This is basically my dream home! It’s kind of like cottage living where I’m from, in Canada, except with some designer elements and more wine, less lake (I do miss our cold lakes though). There’s also something in all this wood and simplicity that recalls Northern Italy, perhaps the Alto Adige, and I wonder if this may be somehow because of this Umbrian winery’s unusual connection with the mountainous wine region.
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Roccafiore winery and resort was founded by Umbrian businessman Leonardo Baccarelli, who made his fortune in the asphalt business and is also a race-car driver. The connection between cars and roads is a logical one. The jump to organic winery perhaps harder to grasp. Baccarelli’s core business isn’t one known for sustainability, yet that’s been a priority for at least a decade, with experiments in recycling materials and the use of biomass and other renewable energy sources in the manufacturing process. I didn’t get to meet Leonardo Baccarelli – the winery is now run by his son and daughter – but he must be quite the Renaissance man.
In the 1990s, he decided to open an agriturismo near his native Todi where he might develop his dream of a “holistic resort” with hospitality, restaurant, spa and space for his collection of contemporary art. Wine was almost an afterthought – on holiday, a chance encounter with Hartmann Donà, previously enologist at Cantina Terlano in the Alto Adige, helped the founder focus on the idea of Roccafiore Winery as a place to develop wines based on authoctonous grapes – Grechetto di Todi, Sangiovese and Sagrantino.
Luca Baccarelli, Leonardo’s son, took over in the cellar at age 21, and now at age 34 is at the head of the winery, while his sister Ilaria is in charge of the resort. Luca led the conversion to organic certification and implemented eco-friendly choices like using the marcs as natural fertilizer, lighter glass bottles etc. Of the 90 hectares, only 15 are planted to vine. Grechetto, in a variety specifically known to the area of Todi, is the star of the winery’s two white wines named Fiordaliso and Fiorfiore.
The latter, aged at least 12 months in large old oak casks, balances freshness with a depth of flavour that could easily handle pairing with summer truffles. A 100% Sangiovese is clear and bright, with more to do with northern Italian wines than Tuscan classics. The Prova d’Autore was our favourite amongst the reds, a blend of Sagrantino, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and Sangiovese – aged in barrique, only 9000 bottles, a jammy red that speaks of summer’s bounty. Extra points go to the company’s packaging, made by a local and young design agency that clearly has a sense of humour and is uninhibited by the usual dogma surrounding wine and its patrons.
Contemporary sculpture and design furniture surround the wine cellar and make their way over to the core of the wine resort, where there are 13 rooms, a restaurant serving exquisite food, and a beautiful garden with a swimming pool and views towards Todi.
All around, landscaping cleverly sculpts outdoor areas that invite lounging, while flowering plants in carefully-chosen pastel pink tones create a relaxing atmosphere. All this is just a short walk up the side of a vineyard from our more rustic Wine Chalet, making for a private getaway with all the luxuries of a good hotel.
For more information see https://roccafiore.it
Disclaimer: I was hosted as a journalist by Roccafiore.