Harvest at Podere Erica

This year’s grape harvest at my family’s vineyard in Chianti was an exceptional gathering of friends and family complete with hard work, great food, plenty of wine, and dancing!


Everyone in Chianti is buzzing about this “buon anno” or good year. Our vineyard manager Marco recounted to me that the summer was hot, really hot, and dry. The grapes were suffering without any water (no irrigation, of course) and he would walk the vineyard in the heat of the afternoon and see that the grapes were almost shriveling. Knowing how passionate Marco is about the vineyard, I can only imagine how worried he must have been. Then, the most perfectly timed rainstorm came. And the Fall was cooler and not too wet. Perfect conditions to produce a robust harvest.


The picking crew included our friends who live in Florence, Massimo’s sister, niece and cousin who traveled from Calabria, and friends who traveled from Barcelona. Even my mom got out of the kitchen long enough to pick some grapes! 

 This year, Marco suggested that we try something new. Well, actually, something very old – stomping the grapes with our feet! This was done just with a small portion of the grapes that were then put in a terracotta jar for fermentation and aging – just like the Ancient Romans! 

Massimo’s niece Alessandra got the dancing started! Everyone got into the traditional Calabrese dance called Tarantella.

A big harvest meal is the perfect way to wrap up a long day of picking. This year’s meal included all of our favorites – a generous antipasti selection of local cheeses and charcuterie, schiacciata bread, and crostini Toscani followed by Arista or roasted pork, roasted potatoes with sausage made by the local butcher, roasted carrots & fennel, and classic Tuscan white beans. I am including a few recipes below.


The autumn sunsets at Podere Erica are simply spectacular!


Recipes from our Harvest Celebration

Crostini Toscani

Tuscan Chicken Liver Pate on Toasts

Serves 6 to 8

12 ounces fresh chicken livers
2 cups water
1 carrot, roughly chopped
1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
½ yellow onion, roughly chopped
3 TB butter
4 anchovy fillets
½ yellow onion, finely chopped
2 TB capers, drained
2 TB Vin Santo or sweet dessert wine
1 TB extra virgin olive oil
2 – 3 TB reserved broth
1 baguette or rustic Italian bread

To prepare the fegatini (pate):
Prepare livers by removing any connective tissue and discolored parts.  Place prepared livers, water, and roughly chopped carrot, celery and onion in medium saucepan and bring to boil.  Simmer uncovered for 20 minutes until livers are cooked through and no longer red.  Remove livers from broth and place in blender or food processor.  Reserve broth.
While livers are simmering, heat butter in sauté pan.  When melted, add anchovies and finely chopped onion and sauté for approximately 5 minutes until onion is translucent.  Set aside until livers are ready.
Add butter mixture to blender or food processor with livers along with capers, vin santo, and olive oil.  Pulse mixture until smooth adding enough reserved broth to reach desired consistency (approximately 2-3 TB).

To prepare the crostini:
Slice the bread in half-inch-thick rounds and toast (in a toaster oven or better yet grill on a BBQ).  Spread a generous amount of the pate on each toast.  The crostini are best when served warm.      

Crostini con Fagioli

Tuscan White Beans on Toasts

Serves 6 to 8

1 ½ cups dried cannellini beans
4 fresh sage leaves plus additional for garnish
4 TB extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
1 baguette or rustic Italian bread
1 clove of garlic cut in half
Ground black pepper

To prepare the beans:
Place the beans in a bowl, cover with water and soak overnight (at least 8 hours)
After soaking, drain the beans, place in a heavy saucepan and cover with 1 inch of water. Add the sage leaves, olive oil, and lightly crushed garlic cloves.  Do not salt until after cooking.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.  Cook until beans are tender and saucy, approximately 1 hour.  Remove garlic cloves and sage leaves.  Add salt to taste.  

To prepare the crostini:
Slice the bread in half-inch-thick rounds and toast (in a toaster oven or better yet grill on a BBQ).  Immediately after toasting while the bread is still warm, rub the toasts with the cut end of the garlic clove.
Arrange toasts on a serving platter, ladle the beans onto the toasts, grind some black pepper over each toast, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, and garnish with finely chopped sage leaves.

Arista con Patate Arrosto

Roasted Pork & Potatoes

Serves 6 to 8

1 ½ lbs. Pork roast
5 fresh rosemary sprigs
2 whole garlic cloves, peeled
Kitchen string
Salt and pepper
3 TB extra virgin olive oil
2 lbs. yellow potatoes

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  

Trim fat from pork roast.  Make horizontal cut to make “pocket.”  Place inside 1 sprig of rosemary, garlic cloves, salt and pepper.  Tie up roast with string, encasing more sprigs of rosemary on the outside.  Add 3 TB olive oil in bottom of roasting pan.  Roll roast in pan to coat with oil.  Add more salt and pepper and place on center rack of oven.

Meanwhile, cut cleaned potatoes into 2-inch chunks.  After the pork has been in the oven for 15 minutes, add the potatoes to the pan.  The pork and potatoes should be ready 45 minutes later.
Heather Dempsey
Heather Dempsey