When Janette and Renato acquired their property, it came with a grove of some 200 olive trees. This enticed the couple to bottle their own oil from the six antique varieties of olives they hand-pick on their land. In 2009, they purchased two adjoining plots (approximately 15 acres), parts of which were already planted with Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Renato had always wanted to try his hand at winemaking, so the couple planted more vines and added wine to the growing list of products offered under the Vicario label.
Vicario Wines include Sangiovese, Sangiovese-Cabernet Sauvignon blend, and Merlot. All are robust wines that appreciate red meat or game to complement their high acidity, red berry flavors, and soft tannins. Renato adds no artificial yeasts or sulfites to his wine, and allows time for the wine to ferment naturally.
They also make brandy and grappa, the latter distilled from the must of their wine grapes. And as if that weren’t enough, their gardens, groves, vineyards, and orchards in Italy and Greer are all managed according to biodynamic principles. They source the base for their spirits only from grains and fruits that have no GMOs (genetically-modified organisms) and use no chemical flavors or additives.
This is in keeping with the couple’s commitment to high quality and adherence to the principles of Slow Food, an organization founded in Italy to promote “good, clean and fair” food and sustainable growing practices. “It’s more our way of life than anything,” explains Janette, who serves as the governor of South Carolina for Slow Food USA. “We want to make sure that what we put into our products is the best that we can, both in terms of taste and the environment.”
“It’s a labor of love,” admits Renato, the author of a book titled Italian Liqueurs (published in 2011 and now in its second edition) and member of the board of Slow Food Upstate. Besides the extra time it takes for their wine to ferment and age, it can take up to four years before a particular liqueur is ready. “You have to give nature time to run its course,” he notes.
“We’re starting to get recognition for our liqueurs now,” Renato says. “And that makes us realize that what we’re doing is important.” In fact, Vicario Dragoncello recently made the short list of finalists for the coveted Good Food Awards for 2016. “We are reviving a tradition, and we want to nurture it for future generations,” he adds, “because, otherwise, it is lost.”
Check out Vicario products at salutellc.com. Vicario wines and liqueurs are available at Bouharoun’s Fine Wines & Spirits, Northampton Wines, and Total Wine. Swamp Rabbit Café & Grocery carries Vicario wine and olive oil.