I first fell in love with wine while working in my dad’s wine store in Connecticut.
At first, I wanted to be a sommelier. I wanted to have the highest level certification and know everything there was to know about wine. But at some point I realized I was working 14 hours a day at a desk, studying this product that I’d sold in every facet but I had no idea how to make it.
So I moved to Italy to learn how to make wine.
I sold some natural wine at our family's shop, but I didn’t know a lot about it. I just knew I wanted to get my hands dirty and learn from a family winery with a small production. After a few months in Rome, a friend introduced me to a small family-run natural winery in Gradoli, northern Lazio. I worked two harvests in 2013 and 2014 for them and then took the leap to start on my own.
In the beginning, I just wanted to make something that I knew I would like to drink. And I didn’t want to drink a wine that has anything added to it. Between that and my experience at the small family winery where they do everything natural, natural wine just felt like such an obvious choice for me. So I rented some vineyards and set up a cellar in an underground garage just to see if I could do it.
In 2015, I produced my first vintage, all by myself. No help but also no pressure, no stress of producing to sell, just me having fun making wine. That’s when I knew this was exactly what I wanted to do. I just needed a name...
I had met a local shepherd while working for the winery in Gradoli. He would ride around on his tractor, cracking jokes and singing in a beautiful baritone. One year, while we were pruning, his sheep were lambing right there in the vineyard with us...
Long story short, in 2016 we got married and drank all that wine I made the first year.
We spent many afternoons with other shepherds in the area. They would tell me how things used to be in the Gradoli countryside:
There were mainly two types of people who made their lives here- il pecoraro and il villano. Il pecoraro was the shepherd (pecora is sheep in Italian) and il villano was the farmer who worked the wealthy landowners' villas. And they didn’t exactly get along.
The farmers thought the shepherds were pretentious and entitled and the shepherds thought the farmers, who had no chance to get into town and go to school, were ignorant and provincial so the name turned into kind of an insult, definitely derogatory.
But the truth was, il villano was just a man who took care of the land.
I loved the idea of having this misunderstood term for my winery because I’m kind of the black sheep here. I didn’t study winemaking but here I am, an American woman deep in the Italian countryside making natural wine.
And so La Villana was born.