Welcome to the winery and vineyards of Alice Buonaccorsi, located in the countryside of Randazzo and at the splendid foothills of Mt. Etna. This is a small, family run operation that produces about 30,000 bottles of wine a year under the label ValCerasa and has been in operation since 2001.
As soon as we set foot on the Buonaccorsi property, we were swept up in the excitement of the grape harvest, or vendemmia. Thanks to a sister-in-law who knows just about everyone, our family of three was able to tag along on the exciting experience of participating in the process from beginning to end. We discovered that the grapes are mostly picked over a period of four days, that no pesticides are used here, and that those grapes (mostly nerello mascalese) are juicy and deliciously sweet when eaten off the vine (yes, we tasted a few!).
We were each given a pair of scissors so that we could cut the bunches of grapes off of the vines from their stem, and a basket for collecting them in. The sun warmed our bodies and the occasional cloud coverings equally cooled them as we worked away for over an hour in those lovely fields. Back in the canteen, the children were fitted with rubber boots and got to let loose the old-fashioned way: grape stomping. The kids really had fun and before we knew it had squished and smashed every one of the grapes we had picked in the fields with 4 pairs of feet ranging from 3 years old to 10 years old.
In between the 'work' we got to play with puppies, climb on ancient olive trees, meet Michelangelo the donkey, track down a pair of sheep, sample wild fennel, collect chestnuts off the ground, run and skip down dirt paths, fulfill our appetites with pasta al forno, and quench our thirst with a homegrown bottle of red wine.
The life of the Buonaccorsi family is tantalizingly passionate and pure. Spending a day as their friends during this time of year was special on so many different levels, but mostly for allowing us to dream about such a life, what it would be like to live among the fields in and old farmhouse at the foothills of Etna...a pretty marvelous place to be if you ask me!