With the temperatures dipping a bit more each night, I can no longer deny that winter is approaching. I actually put the heat on for a couple of hours on Sunday because I’ve had a nasty cold and fever for almost a week. Work at Poliziano is winding down as well, as the tourists too are becoming scarce. Really sad about that, but it was a great summer and with the grape harvest finishing up last week the fall has been beautiful too. I didn’t do any manual labor for the grape harvest this year, but was happy enough in the cantina giving wine tastings and tours and making a general nuisance of myself with the men working in the fermentation cellar as I brought groups through.
The good news about the coming winter is it means another season of “new oil.” The olive oil when it’s harvested is amazing, bright green and spicy and I was determined that this year I would continue my education of the Tuscan land and attempt the olive harvest. I mentioned my desire to new friends Gill and Adrian Maggs who live nearby and they granted my wish without hesitation. Gill and Adrian moved here about seven years ago from London with their three daughters and have lovingly restored an old farmhouse, half of which they rent out to guests. This is their website if anyone wants to stay in a gorgeous place outside of Montepulciano: http://villalacasina.com/index-2.htm. I’ve actually met almost all of their guests this summer since they send everyone to Poliziano for wine tastings. We of course discovered this fact halfway through my first day of picking. Some of my favorite clients this summer were guests of theirs too.
Adrian is not an expert olive harvester, and as an expat was ribbed soundly by the Italians for starting the harvest about a week before everyone else. We were undeterred and what we lacked in actual knowledge we made up for in enthusiasm. Gill and Adrian’s property didn’t have enough olive trees to produce the amount of olives needed to have your oil pressed separately (you need 300 kilos to take it to the local press) and so they asked their neighbor (the farmer who sold them their property) if they could do his trees and give him half the oil. He was all too happy to do this and when we started picking I realized why. Most of his trees were on a steep, neck-breaking slope and hadn’t been pruned or properly cared for in years.
I helped with three days of picking and I must say the olive harvest is much more pleasant than the grape harvest. Maybe it’s because I’m tall and la vendemmia required walking down rows in a hunch for a week, and with the olives it was just about stretching and pulling the olives off the branches. The weather was also delightful, which is good since you can’t harvest when the olives are wet. I brought Cinder with me on the third day and she was like a puppy running around crazily, chasing the farmer’s sheep and dining on sheep poop. She wasn’t much help with the olives but did enjoy sleeping on the net. We filled 13 cassettes by the time we finished and although I couldn’t help yesterday because I was working at Poliziano, I checked in with Adrian and he finished last evening. I’m going to go with them tomorrow to the press and can’t wait to see the beautiful oil that is the fruit of our labor!