What was the inspiration for starting a winery with Italian inspired dinners and organic ingredients sourced from our own sustainable farm? Inspiration unconsciously grew from our values, ancestry and our childhood experiences. A passion for cooking and a love of gardening led us to moving to the country and starting our farm. The transition in turning our hobby into a business came after increasing academic pressures at Marc's professional job. A decision had to be made if we were going to get caught up in work and an academic career or focus on simplifying life, follow our passions and focus on our family. The decision was simple - family and living life come first. We sold our home and moved to a 21 acre farm with a 100 year old farm house in need of significant repair.
We went to work after the move. The vineyard was established, orchard planted, old fences replaced and new pastures created. Our farm became more and more diversified adding cows, pigs, rabbits, chickens, ducks and sheep. There was no planning - things just started to naturally fall into place. All this occurred with no formal training in cooking, wine-making, agriculture or farming. So, how did we pull this off? We're still not sure.
Marc and Mary Ann were both fortunate in growing up in close-knit blue-collar Italian households. Dinner was always held at the table, prepared with recipes passed down from previous generations and with produce harvested from their small family gardens in the city. Both families took trips to Italy during their childhood. Marc had the wonderful opportunity of spending 2-3 months at a time during summer break in his family's home town in northern Tuscany. The town is nestled between the Ligurian Sea and the Apennine mountains with a population of less than 500. He enjoyed walking to his relatives' home up cobblestone streets into a 1000 year old castle where his great uncle and aunt would prepare meals for him from their own vegetable garden and livestock. Rabbits were butchered for Sunday afternoon lunch and sautéed with white wine and rosemary. Their family cow was milked to make a washed rind cheese that would last throughout the winter months.
Marc sat down to the most flavorful and memorable meals of his young life. He thought, this is truly where food comes from, good food.
Marc returned home to America with his aunt's recipe for a tomato based pasta sauce. Back at home, he purchased some of the required items from the grocery store - onions, tomatoes, carrots and more. He spent a few hours attempting to make the sauce, following the recipe closely. The taste was nowhere near as flavorful as it was in Italy. Could it be the ingredients? Are all carrots and tomatoes not the same? Disappointed, this revelation receded into his memory to be re-awakened many years later.
Mary Ann had similar experiences. At her home, in the suburbs of Chicago, her family would hunt, gather and clean dandelion leaves for salads. Her Nonne and mother would make homemade tortellini for holiday meals making several hundred at a time. Farming was the ancestral way of living for both families. Marc and Mary Ann have taken their sons to Italy as often as they can to show them where and how their families lived. They continue the traditions of wine making, family meals and home cooking. They hope to instill in their sons the same passion for cooking and natural farming they were raised with.
Today, heritage breed black mule foot hogs are naturally raised and pastured under a two acre canopy of woods. The hogs are butchered and used to make wonderful dishes such as pork shoulder confit, pate and Italian sausage. Old English Southdown sheep graze the pastures and fertilize the soil. Lambs are harvested in late fall to bring you more tasty meals such as Leg of Lamb with white wine and rosemary. Jersey cows graze and fertilize the back 10 acres and provide milk and meat to the farm. Heirloom fruits, vegetables and berries are grown to supply the winery with ingredients for rustic meals. We have planted our own vineyard with cold hardy grapes and hand craft our own medium bodied dry Wisconsin red wine. We are dedicated to sustainable practices and our winery is powered by the sun with its own 9.75 kw solar array.
Marc and Mary Ann harvest their childhood experiences and the importance of family, food, winemaking and cooking and bring them to you through their small family farm where produce is sustainably grown, animals are pasture raised and rustic Italian meals are prepared for you in true farm-to-table dinner fashion.