Saturday, November 15, 2008

Raffaldini Vineyards and Winery

From the main page of the Raffaldini website:

"The Raffaldini family dates back to the year 1348 in the town of Mantua, located in the Northern Province of Lombardy, Italy. Since that time, our family has owned and continues to live on the farm where the great classical poet-philosopher Virgil spent his youth. The romantic town of Verona, home to the ill-fated lovers Romeo and Juliet, lies just to the east.

The Raffaldini family motto, “Audentes Fortuna Iuvat” means, “Fortune favors he who dares.” This Latin phrase originates from the Aeneid, Virgil’s most famous work. Born in 70 BC during the reign of Julius Caesar, Virgil is best known as the author of this epic poem that links the birth of Rome to the Trojan War.

The fusion of family, food and wine is an integral part of our daily life. For more than six hundred and fifty years, the Raffaldini family has witnessed many historic events and has often marked such occasions with special family dinners and homemade Italian wine.

The Raffaldini family made a decision to share our centuries-old winemaking experience with the New World. After a long and exhaustive search for land that would reflect this experience, Raffaldini Vineyards was established in the Swan Creek area of the Yadkin Valley. From this vineyard, we handcraft our Italian wines; wines that express not only their “sense of place”, but also utilize winemaking skills that have been refined throughout the ages.

As you enter our tasting room, let the spirit of the Raffaldini family history, importance of family and celebration of life transport you to our ancestral home. The wine, food and artwork within hold deep meaning for the Raffaldini family and we are delighted to share them with you. Close your eyes as you taste our wine and imagine what it would have been like to celebrate life so long ago…


From the Heritage Page:

"Virgil, the poet, born of Mantua

"The great poet Publius Vergilius Maro ("Virgil") was born to a middle class family in October of 70 BC in the town of Mantua during the reign of Julius Caesar. Mantua was a Roman city in the province of Cisapline Gaul (now Lombardy). The province extended to the Alps and covered the most fertile part of the Po valley. Mantua traces its founding to the Etruscan civilization that ruled most of Italy but quietly disappeared leaving little known of it. In the time of Virgil, Mantua was a quiet agrarian community dominated by farming and shepherding. The beauty of the area so transfixed Virgil that he once wrote, 'dove il Po discende per aver pace con sequcai sui': 'where the Po runs down among its followers to find peace'. Not far to the east of Mantua lies the town of Verona, home to Romeo and Juliet.

"Fertile destiny

"According to legend, while Virgil was in his mother's womb, she dreamt that she gave birth to a laurel branch. Upon touching the earth the laurel branch took root and at once grew to the size of an adult tree, covered with fruits and flowers of various kinds. The following day, whilst traveling to a neighboring part of the country with her husband, Virgil's mother turned aside and gave birth to her child in a ditch beside the road. Legend has it the infant did not cry at its birth, and had such a gentle expression as even then to give assurance of an unusually happy and fertile destiny.

"There was yet a further symbol of Virgil's exceptionally rich contribution to the future land and its people. Traditional to that region on such occasions, a poplar branch is planted where birth occurs. The branch planted where Virgil was born grew so fast that it was equal in size to others planted long before. The poplar branch became known as "Virgil's Tree", and was worshipped with great veneration by women about to give birth, who made their vows beneath it.

"Mantua's history continues

"The history of the Raffaldini Family can be traced back to 1348. The Raffaldini heritage is centered in Mantua where they were extensive landholders, together with the Gonzaga and Bonacolsi families. The Raffaldini Family has for centuries owned and continues to live on the farm where Virgil lived during his youth. The influence of this great poet and philosopher upon the Raffaldini Family has been profound over the multitude of generations.

"The founding principles of Raffaldini Vineyards and Winery are deeply rooted in much of Virgil's philosophy: the belief that by working with the land and understanding its life essence, rather than trying to change it, enables the vineyard to produce grapes of exceptional quality. This harmonious relationship is the cornerstone for the making of great wines. The Raffaldini Family has always believed that the miracle of winemaking does not happen in the winery, but rather in the vineyards. A deep respect for the land, a long sense of history and centuries of aspiring for high achievement all combine to produce a single expression of wine that captures the heritage of the Raffaldini Family - 'Audentes Fortuna Iuvat': Fortune Favors the Daring."

Raffaldini Vineyards & Winery (North Carolina)

Tasting Room Hours
Wednesday – Saturday 10am – 5pm; Sunday 1pm – 5pm and by appointment
Tours: Wed-Sun 1pm & 3pm

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Newark Swiss Park

Up until a few decades ago in California, and particularly in the Greater Bay Area, there were many Swiss clubs. As far as I know, they were largely Italian-Swiss in culture. The record seems to be very clear on this: the traditional "California Swiss" were Italian-Swiss. However, there were German speaking Swiss as well. Between, roughly, 1850 and 1930, 20,000 immigrants arrived in California from the Italian speaking (Lombard dialect) Swiss canton of Ticino. This was the biggest happening in the history of the tiny canton. Up until the decline of the Swiss clubs, 20,000 people, and perhaps double that in descendants, was a comparatively (in%) larger number of people than it would be today. They apparently thought of themselves as "Swiss," rather than Italian. In fact, culturally and ethnically, they were Lombardian. I view Ticino, like Brescia, as another province of Lombardia.

A few years ago I attended the annual local spring Swiss celebration in Newark. I was hoping, perhaps even expecting, to see at least a booth for the Ticinese culture. When I first entered the park, the friendly entry person asked me if I had a "Swiss connection" of some type. I replied that my family was from Lombardy, and how that culture was the specific one represented in Switzerland. The main building was a marvelous German-Swiss traditional style design. A tall fence surrounded a cement patio area (which included a large grill and stage area) around the building, with also a grassy area with picnic tables. A very practical setting for a gathering. There was music, food, booths, etc.

Surrounding the main area was a grassy area on one side, with a dirt parking lot among some trees, and it was fenced in. It had long been a community center, with a bar and restaurant, events, and a nice large hard wood floor room with a high ceiling, which wasn't in use that day, but I walked in to look around briefly. Traditional dancing was probably a much bigger thing way back when it was constructed. Surrounding the facility was a shopping center and Holiday Inn. The building spoiled the visual environment to be honest. I mean, a beautiful traditional building with one tall modern building next to it. In Italy they are pretty good about planning freeways and large buildings, as to not spoil the look of the countryside. It was clear that there was a mixture of the old with newcomers, from the old country. However, you don't have to be Swiss. Anyone can visit.

In general, although very German, they were not a tall people. More of an Alpine type. I did see one beautiful young woman in traditional dress. A classic tall blonde German beauty. Most Germans (Germans, Austrians, Swiss, etc.) are of Alpine stock, with Nordic traits. It depends, at Oktoberfest, there are definitely some tall people. One time I was watching one video on YouTube, and there were two German girls. They looked eighteen or so, speaking German. One with dark blonde hair, basically Nordic looking, and the other struck me as looking so much like one of my grandmothers. Very Alpine. There are German Alpines, French Alpines, Italian Alpines, and Slavic Alpines. I remember that happened one other time. My family used to have an old photograph of one of my great grandmothers when she was probably in her early twenties. I memorized her face from it being there for so long. Anyway, one time I saw a young woman who had the same face! I think everyone has had an experience like that at least once It's funny because, if you told them, they would never understand.

After we got some bratwurst, as I started to sit at one of the picnic tables, a very burly brooding red haired man with a walrus mustache growled that the seat was taken. However, the people at large were very friendly. Sometimes in popular culture, Germans are portrayed as being brooding, calculating, and humorless. I don't really see how that can wash, as there are so many loud, gregarious, beer drinking, laughing, back-slapping Germans. I never did see anything "Italian-Swiss" at all. There is a group "Pro Ticino Nord California," which is part of what amounts to a Ticinesi nel Mondo type group. I sent them a letter once time, but I received no response.

While I'm on sort've this German-Swiss Alpine subject. Recently I read something online about Bavarian immigrants in America, in certain places, where they, for a couple of generations in America, only married other "Bavarian-Americans." I mean, like, not even other German speaking or descended people. I thought that was curious. Historical regions, like Bavaria, were distinct, regardless of what administrative jurisdiction they were under. I'm referring to the way it was over centuries. For example, even when Polish speaking districts were broken up under different kings or empires, there was still "a Poland." I always thought it was tragic that Prussia was erased from the map.

The following text is from the Newark Swiss Park website: "The Newark Swiss Park was constructed on dairy and farm land in rural Alameda County in 1934, by Swiss Immigrants who wanted to preserve some of their Swiss Culture and Traditions. As time has passed, suburban Newark has grown up around the park. The restaurant and bar is open to the public, serving both American and Swiss/German fare. The Park and Banquet Hall are available for rental use. Many Swiss events are held at the facility and are open to the public: Regular Swiss / German Ländler Music and Dancing; Spring and Fall Schwingfests (Swiss Wrestling Competitions); The Big Swiss Independence Day Celebration, occurring near August 1st each year."

Aside from Newark Swiss Park, there were two other California Swiss websites that I found when I was searching for Newark Swiss Park, which I wanted to place here, even though they are not connected to anything Italian-Swiss. They are the Lugano Swiss Bistro restaurant in Carmel (not Ticinese at all, despite the name), and the Swiss Park Banquet Center in Whittier.