Oh, and we have a vineyard…Lunigiana, Italy

our wine

I’ve been known to bury the lede as they say…when we bought La Fortezza, I was so enamored with the house/fortress that I forgot about the property itself. So, here it is: we have a vineyard. It’s 5 acres on the upper edge of the property. Obviously Frank and I know nothing about making wine. Hell, Frank does not ever drink the stuff (he’s a beer guy).

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The vineyard was in bad shape about 5 years ago. The brothers that owned the property were approached by a local winemaker, Manolo (I know perfect name, right?). He was in the process of setting up his wine business. He’s a former teacher, and he and his family wanted to launch their own label. It’s not uncommon here to work many smaller vineyards to produce a label, and that is exactly how he works. You need a ton of acres to produce wine, so working 10 smaller vineyards in the region makes perfect sense. It’s a win win for us, too because we have no interest in working the land, not to mention we don’t have a stitch of knowledge. It is the perfect accidental hobby. No sweat…just vino delivered once a month. He pays rent in wine, and we will take it. For now, it’s the perfect arrangement. We feel very lucky. Manolo was an unknown perk.

Manolo has vineyards all around the area. He and his family cultivate, rent vineyards, and make both red and white wines, although this year he will put up a batch of Rose just for the Joseph label. It’s a win win because he came with the house as part of the deal. Now I am busting at the seams with wine. Some of you have asked if you can purchase our wine. Since this is something new for us, right now it’s our own private stock. However who knows?! Down the road, we may become a wine brand, but for now our workshop attendees and guests will enjoy the fruits of the land at every meal. So if you want to partake, you may just need to join us here for a workshop or retreat in the fall or later next year.

Levi and Frank and Syd in the vineyard

In the meantime our son Levi, a recent business school graduate, has a keen interest in developing our wine label, so who knows? It may become the new family business. It’s all about generations in Italy after all…

I would like to thank my dear friend Penny for the cool label design. We love it. xx

We have a vineyard! I am still pinching myself… cin cin xx

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Our first Style + Photo Workshop at La Fortezza!

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Well it happened. They came and went so quickly. Our first ever Style + Photo Workshop at La Fortezza at our new location in Northern Tuscany. We really had a wonderful time. The studio space has amazing energy, and our attendees got to experience it for the very first time.

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We started our workshop with a wonderful dinner on the terrace overlooking the mountains and the quaint village down below. Our view is simply breathtaking. All of our attendees were truly delightful, and our planned events went off without a hitch.

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We had a great time playing with props in the studio and learning about our cameras from super experienced and gifted photo instructor, Christina Wedge; she is truly an inspired teacher.

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Our excursion to the local bread maker and to visit with mother daughter cheese makers was a hit.  We headed back to the kitchen with our chef, Leo, to learn how to make homemade raviolis, and of course, we took this opportunity to hone our editorial styling and photography skills. Chef Leo was a great subject; our in process photos were amazing.

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Photo by one of students: Marisa Curatolo,

Photo by one of students: Marisa Curatolo

On Saturday we took an all day tour of Parma which was beautiful and of course delicious. We had lunch at a local trattoria and then were expertly guided by AJstyle team travel concierge Forrest Spears through the city. We ended up in the beautiful Teatro Farnese,

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Our farewell supper was lovely. I will always remember the first workshop, and of course all of the people that made it so special. Love to our attendees; you were such a pleasure to spend time with.

We are just about to announce our first Fall Style + Photo Workshop. Sign-up for the mailing list to get your spot first. If you’re interested in joining the Olive-centric Style+ Photo Workshop, with Emily Followill and Chef Alisa Barry Nov. 8th, email me (annette@annettejosephstyle.com) for a spot. We already have 3 people signed up, so spaces are limited. Website page launches mid July.

xx

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The Cheese ladies of Metro, Lunigiana, Italy

C H E E S E !!! … full disclosure I could live on it. In our region, we have many local cheese makers. Goat cheese and cows milk as well. Sydney and I (if you read the last post you know Sydney is our son’s girlfriend; she’s studying nutrition here in Italy for the summer as she gets her degree to become a registered dietitian) traveled high above the mountains of Metro to meet and try local cheese made by a mother daughter team of cheese ladies. The Mama is about 90 and still works actively in the processing kitchen. In her white wellies, she scoops the whey and makes the pecorino, the ricotta, and the mozzarella. We had the pleasure of touring their tiny but immaculate facility in the back of their small but well-stocked cheese and salumi store.

The aging room was my favorite part. Neatly stacked cheese just waiting to be picked from the shelves to be enjoyed.

We went home with a new pecorino, aged for 4 months, and a more pungent pecorino aged for 2 years. Mama tossed in a mozzarella ball as a gift to be discovered when we unpacked everything for lunch at noon. What a enormous treat, and you know I will be back to buy more….once we’ve polished off the wedges that we took home.

Thanks to my friend Davide for taking a minute to show us this delicious place.

xx Annette

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The Chestnut Flour of Lunigiana, Italy

As you all know by now, I am in Italy for the summer renovating our home here, a 12th century defensive tower (a fortress) that has a vineyard. As I work on the daily tasks of making this a spectacular setting for our family and for our workshops and retreats, I love to discover local artisans and craftsmen and of course small organic food producers. With the help of my lovely friends here, a secret world has opened up to me. I am meeting so many amazing people, and I am so thrilled to be living in such an authentic and undiscovered place as the Lunigiana.

Saturday, along with my son’s girlfriend Sydney, we visited a local bread maker. Fabio Bertolucci is revitalizing Lunigiana’s ancient bread making; he uses chestnut flour. The Lunigiana is filled with chestnut trees, and in ancient times bread makers discovered that the roasted and dried chestnuts could be turned into a useful and nutritional flour for bread making. Sydney is a Nutrition major at University of Texas, studying to be a registered dietitian, so this outing was of particular interest to her. She’s about to take part in a nutrition studies program in Sicily for six weeks (yes, I am jealous). Watching Fabio was exciting and interesting for us both.

High above the mountains in a tiny village, Fabio has his lovely little bakery. He makes about 100 loafs every other day and distributes them himself to local groceries and bakeries. He’s on a mission to bring back this local delicacy. The bread is called, Marocca, and it is made by mixing finely sieved chestnut flour, wheat flour and boiled and mashed potatoes with extra-virgin olive oil, yeast, a piece of sourdough starter and water. The dough is formed into a round loaf, about 20 centimeters in diameter, which is left to rise for over an hour before being baked in a wood-burning oven.

Fabio Bertolucci is revitalizing Lunigiana's ancient bread making; he uses chestnut flour. In ancient times bread makers used chestnuts for flour.

Fabio is a thoughtful and quiet man; he pulls every loaf of bread from the oven himself. He prefers to work alone. It’s a solitary existence, and life of purpose and exquisite simplicity. As he handed me a hot loaf wrapped in a brown paper bag, gratefully I took it in anticipation of sinking my teeth into a warm slice slathered with local butter and chestnut honey from the bees down the road.

Fabio Bertolucci is revitalizing Lunigiana's ancient bread making; he uses chestnut flour. In ancient times bread makers used chestnuts for flour.

This is as local as it gets, and the very reason I have chosen to live here in the Italian countryside half the year. What could be better than breaking scrumptious sweet bread with friends and family?

Thank you, Fabio for welcoming us. For those of your joining our workshops and retreats, you can be sure a warm loaf is in your future.

xx Annette

Il Forno in Canoara di Fabio Bertolucci
Casola in Lunigiana (Ms)
Via Villa di Regnano, 99 a
tel. +39 +39 0585 983017-347 2354711
lamaroccadicasola@email.it|

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Strawberry Crostata, Moving-In Day, and More: It’s the Top 4

On the blog this month, there have been a few recipes, many peeks into the renovation, and a some notes about life in Italy. Enjoy the top 4 from May

May, you’ve been good to me. Despite a few bumps (did I mention we had field mice?), I’ve had a great month in Italy getting settled and preparing for workshop students.

On the blog this month, there have been a few pretty fabulous recipes, many peeks into the renovation, and a few notes about life in Italy. If you missed any of these fun posts, I’ve rounded up my favorites for you below. Enjoy the top 4 from May:

Top 4 from May

Strawberry Crostata with Balsamic Roasted Strawberries and Mascarpone Ice cream 

Moving-In Day

A Word about Flour

Cauliflower Tacos

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