Some evenings ago, I spent a few hours in a small paradise a few meters from my grandmother’s house in Vernazza, in the vineyard with a vertical view of Cheo.
I was with the owner, Bartalo, a vernazzese who – with his wife Lise and the trusty dog Diva – in my opinion, deserves a monument, and now I’ll explain why 🙂
When in 1997, the Cinque Terre was recognized as World Heritage by UNESCO and in the following two years were established both the Marine Protected Area and then the Natural Park under the same name; Bartalo and Lise have decided to invest their resources, their time, and all their energy in the recovery of the hill overlooking the village of Vernazza that was back then covered with brambles and undergrowth.
The recovery has not been easy. They first had to negotiate to rent or purchase the fields that did not belong to the family and recompose the territory, completely fragmented from the property’s point of view.
In a second time, they needed a helicopter, experienced staff, immense determination and moral fortitude, and a physical one to climb from terrace to terrace, rediscovering stone walls and fields extended for one and a half hectares.
The vineyard then took years to bear fruits. For the record, since you plant it, it needs at least six years to be ready to get harvested for the first time.
After years of sacrifice, this couple of agronomist academics founded “Cheo” in 2003, and in 2010 they had the satisfaction to produce about 8,000 bottles, including white doc, Sciacchetrà, and a red IGT.
On October 25th, 2011, much of this work has been wiped out in a few hours by the Cinque Terre flood that swept the and the buried Vernazza. Entire fields, dry stone walls, the monorail for grapes and materials transportation, warehouse … all lost.
Despite this tragedy, however, they have not given up. They have rolled up their sleeves and started all over again. Currently, production is picking up at a good pace, although it still needs years for new plants to be harvested.
To say that I admire them is extremely simplistic …
However, I’m not the only one to admire them! On June 22nd, 2014, they won the prize “A Life for the wine” of TerroirVino 🙂
Recently Bartalo has also been appointed President of the Consortium Cinque Terre Sciacchetrà to boost the production of Sciacchetrà, the delicious and renowned sweet wine of the Cinque Terre which will be featured in a variety of events in late July during a festival specifically organized and to which I look forward to attending!
If you come around here, pass by the cellar of Cheo, to admire their work, have a chat and learn notions of biology and agronomy as it happened to me (Bartalo is a world specialist in the relationship between light and plant, which he would never, ever express in these terms), but above all to taste their wines.
If you pass by on Thursday at 6:00 p.m., the vinery is open, and the wine tasting costs 15€ per person. On other days it’s better to contact them ahead.
My favorite wine is Perciò, and only the name deserves that you dwell sipping it and listen to its story …
P.S. Bartalo isn’t the actual official name. On the birth certificate, he is Bartolomeo Lercari, but as a kid, he found it “heavy” and being the local diminutive “Tumelin” formerly attributed to a whole family, for decades now everyone knows him as Bartalo … also to emphasize his side in the sport dispute between Coppi and Bartali 😉