Heirloom Etna

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Michele Faro loves plants. Especially old ones.

Faro, the production manager of his family's large and successful Sicily-based plant nursery, fell in love with Mount Etna vineyards 15 years ago. In 2005, he began buying up very old, low-yielding vineyards to start his boutique wine label, Pietradolce.

Today, the most striking thing about Pietradolce is its vineyards—not the rows of young, head-trained ("alberello") vines in front of its sleek new lava-stone winery on Etna's north face, but the small old vineyards on the slopes behind it. Here, ungrafted Nerello Mascalese bush vines were arranged haphazardly on lava terraces a century ago.

"I buy monuments. These vineyards are monuments," says Faro proudly.

Each vine resembles a small tree, and the collection, a dense orchard. The vineyards are cultivated organically, inaccessible to tractors and require lots of handwork. Some old vines grow out of lava-stone walls, others extend shoots into nearby olive trees. Between the vines sprout carpets of tall wild greens known as cauliceddi, which locals pick in fall to sauté with sausage and add to pasta.

"I like the old style of cultivation," says Faro, 42, who has the bearing of a young entrepreneur on the move. "Nothing is organized...Read the full blog at winespectator.com (free)