Day One at Cascina Zerbetta


My travels went so smoothly!  Milan Central Station was just as we left it two years ago, including the heat!  Pants were a mistake :).  I arrived here at Cascina Zerbetta only to discover that they were ‘overbooked’ meaning the family confused the number of people they had confirmed for these next two weeks.  We rearranged the living situation however and it all seems to have worked out.  This just goes to show the amount of work that goes into running a vineyard/orchard and organizing your help.  Not to mention two children.  A calendar is KEY!

Fortunately, the family has wifi internet so I will be blogging as much as possible while I can, so sorry for the long posts, but there may only be a few….

My first day!  Breakfast is from 7-8 and consists of small cookies, strong coffee (phew, I thought I made strong coffee!), toast, and jam.  Work starts around 8am.  I was expecting to be picking grapes, but the grape harvest was completed the day of my arrival.  However, I saw the wine-making room (there must be a better name for this) and the wine cellar.  It’s funny, wine in fermentation has a similar smell to the mash used to make scotch.  That wasn’t something I expected!  The fermentation is relatively the same process, but still, I thought different components would mean a different smell.  Anyone who’s been to a distillery knows what I’m talking about.

This vineyard uses machines to mash the grapes and then they go into one of those large tanks you see in the pictures, skin included.  After fermentation, the skins are removed and what you have is your wine.  They have other tanks for the wine process, but apparently it takes only a few days from grape to bottle.  Amazing!  They have a machine that makes corks, a machine that bottles the stuff, and a machine to label the bottles.  Then they are stored in the cellar.  I guess if I think about it this is how I assumed a vineyard worked, but it’s entirely different to see it first hand.

Ready to be sent out.  According to Paolo, they sell Cascina Zerbetta wines in New York and New Jersey.  I hope I can find some when I get back, but I’ll drink my fill here while it’s free!

Now to the work end.  My tasks today involved pruning hazelnut trees and picking up whatever hazelnuts were not gathered by a vaccuum-like machine a couple weeks ago.  Once we had a large amount of hazelnuts, we laid them out to dry in the sun, on a sheet.

These are the hazelnuts gathered by the vaccuum-like machine.  There are six bags of these babies, and just guess where they are going?  The nutella factory.  More specifically, the nutella factory in Alba.  So all of you nutella lovers, you can thank me at any point ;).

The above is a hazelnut tree, in all its unpruned glory.  We pruned from about 8:30 to 11:00 and then had a break for four hours, which included lunch.  Lunch was a bit heavier, with pasta, pesto, tomato salad, red cabbage salad, and vino!  I was stoked since working all morning on a couple of cookies and slice of baguette was really not enough to keep me going.  Especially after eating a massive bowl of yogurt/oatmeal for the last two years of my life every morning.  The other two girls I’m working with (who are fabulous!) and I were laughing all afternoon about how we about passed out this morning on such a light breakfast!  Tomorrow might have to be a lot of raw hazelnuts.  Maybe I’ll pocket a few for a snack mid-morning.

Around 3 it was back to work pruning.  The afternoon went faster and good thing, because it was HOT HOT HOT!

We quit at 5 and came back to wash the dirt off.  A shower has never felt so good!  As I combed my hair all sorts of twigs and leaves fell out.  And that’s AFTER I showered.

Dinner will be around 8 – I’m hoping for some more tomato salad (or to-mahto as everyone else calls it).

Buono sera!



2 thoughts on “Day One at Cascina Zerbetta

  1. Simply love it. You’re writing is so good that reading this made me feel like I was there (well, the pictures help too). And the work seems to be as hard as how I told you my weekend was like, only much more enjoyable. Go JT!

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