It was a rainy foggy morning in Emilia Romagna when I set off with my girlfriend Kelsey and 3 very good friends of mine from my MBA program. I love finding hidden gems in Italy, and Emilia Romagna is full of them, with tons of tiny little castle towns to chose from.
After a quick pit stop at the largest European antique market in the castle town of Fontanellato, we were set to visit one of the “most beautiful small towns in Italy,” Castell’Arquato. From there, we planned to eventually visit a winery in Piacenza.
Upon arrival to Castell’Arquato (just another castle town!) we were not only greeted with a sunny day, but also a local wine festival! I had been fortunate enough to “stumble” into many of these, just by pure luck, and each was equally gratifying.
We met Federica and Mariolina, the owners of La Tollara, at the Monterossa Wine Festival, and immediately I knew I had discovered something truly special. La Tollara was a new winery on old family land, run by young energetic women who had a contagious passion for winemaking. They are very small producers in a region called the Colli Piacentini, a very intriguing section of Emilia Romagna that deserves more attention.
The wine that struck me as being so unique was an amarone style wine called Il Giorgione, with packaging as in your face as the wine itself. Il Giorgione is made from Bonarda, locally called Croatina, and undergoes a few months of “appassimento” before spending at least two years in oak.
The wine seemed so natural to me, like a wild, mysterious take on a grape that people outside of Piacenza rarely give much thought to. It was wine as it was meant to be, wine that gave you a clear indication of where it came from and what it represented. This sentiment is always echoed on my frequent visits to this incredible town and winery. Over meals shared with Federica and Cristina, discussion always leads to the idea of going against the grain. They have committed to quality and authenticity without compromise, which does not go unnoticed.
La Tollara was started by three sisters in the early 2000s on old family land just outside of Castell’Arquato. The family had a small existing, but the sisters have recently planted new vineyards with the help of their trusted enologist.
Encouraged by their entrepreneurial parents, the Bolzoni sisters (this is their family name) learned from square one the art of winemaking. Federica went back to school and studied enology, and all three spent time with local farmers from the area, soaking up all that they could.
Currently the property has six hectares of planted vines, with a focus on varietals native to the hills of Piacenza like Malvasia, Ortrugo, Barbera and Bonarda. This was an easy decision made by the sisters. The bravest, however, was the decision to make an Amarone style wine from Bonarda. 2005 was the first crack at that, which I tasted a sneak preview of at the festival in Castell’Arquato!
La Tollara was started to promote what is native to the Colli Piacentini. The winery is not certified organic, but the sisters work to create this type of environment in their vineyard. They use absolutely no pesticides, instead choosing to grow different plants and legumes between alternating rows of vines on alternating years. They also have a “worm farm,” a part of the vineyard where they actually RAISE WORMS! Crazy, but these worms will help naturally fertilize and give oxygen to the soil. They are convinced that they have created a unique ecosystem at their tiny farm, and they do all they can to respect the environment and be true to the history of their practically unknown region.
Varietal : Ortrugo 100%
Varietal : Malvasia di Candia Aromatica 100%
Varietal : Barbera 60%, Bonarda 40%
Varietal : Croatina (Bonarda) 100%
Visit La Tollara’s Website