Far above the expectations, Chrismont will surprise you in several ways
Life sometimes is more creative than your dreams. For sure Arnie Pizzini couldn't even imagine what his father's property would have become in time, but he had an intuition.
The Chrismont's estate is a breath taking and enchantingescape from the bustle and hustle of the city for lovers of contemporary winesand inspiring Italian cuisine. It lays in the King Valley of Victoria'smajestic High Country, but back in the 50s it was an agricultural land farmingtobacco.
The decision to go from tobacco to wine was a leap in thedark and came after the drop of the tobacco industry caused by new restrictiveregulations enforced by the government in the 1960s. At that time, the wineproduction at Chrismont was limited to family and local Italian communityconsumption, they didn't know much about grapes, vineyards and wine production.But maybe it's exactly when you don't know enough about something that yourcuriosity and pioneering spirit come along and help you make the difference.
At that time Arnie was just a boy with a vision, a lot ofenergies and will to work. His father was a challenger. They went into this newventure with not detailed plans, but just a reasonable one according to whichArnie should have studied and learnt everything about wine making. But, hereagain, life can make you change your path"¦
Shortly Arnie found himself so deeply involved and fullyhands on, that the time to get a formal education faded away in sweat and hardwork. He never started his Horticultural Science degree, so he learnt from hisback pocket which varietal could have been produced in different locationsdepending on soil, sun exposure and climate; he learnt from experience thatmother nature can be the greatest ally or the most threatful enemy. But nothingwashed out his dream and that unprecise vision started to shape itself quicklyand strongly.
As the vineyards expanded, Arnie experimented planting ofwines never grown locally; the first wine was made in 1996 in collaboration with Warren Proft, a contract winemakerat the time who is now permanently at the helm of Chrismont's winemaking.
The collaboration with Warren became solid and consistent.The business grew, and the wine production flourished till when in 2015Chrismont opened its Cellar Door, Restaurant and Larder.
I guess it comes naturally from your learning curve, butwith his evolution as a wine maker, Arnie started developing other interestsand passions, becoming more sophisticated and demanding about many otherdifferent aspects of his work and life.
For sure, in Arnie's case, the encounter with his wife Jowas another good incentive. Cuisine, design, art slowly took an important sliceof his life and business. The Italian heritage was the common denominator.Sharing all that with Jo was the accelerator.
In a few years, going through natural disaster caused by anadverse mother nature that decided to proof their temperament with hails andbushfires, Arnie and Jo have been able to create a business that is at the sametime one of the most renown winery producing Italian varietals in Australia andan exclusive escape for Melbournians or an unusual destination for foreigntravellers.
The architecture of the restaurant and cellar doors it'smodern and austere. The design, masterfully realised by Mark Gleeson, came afterthe selection of materials made personally by Arnie and Jo. The intention wasto fit into the natural environment a building with clean lines and made byfine natural materials like stone and timber. Large windows to enjoy thesurroundings was a must.
The outcome is an impeccable and unexpected building thatraises on the top of the hill.
The interior design is warm and elegant, embellished andmade more precious by a collection of paintings commissioned to Brian Rebergerby Arnie and Jo. Currently twelve paintings of the Australian emerging artistare hanging from Chrismont's internal walls adding a touch of uncommonuniqueness and fineness to an ambience than makes you feel home.
But what really leaves you breathless is the wine selection.Some of the wines included in the extensive range of Chrismont's Cellar Doorare inspired to the Trentino region where Arnie's family comes from. Trentinolays in the north east of Italy, embraced by the Alps that divide Italy from Austria.The climate is rigid, the views stunning, the mountains tall. Some of the winevarietals produced here are not as strong as the nature of the soil; they aremuch more gentle and sophisticated.
The four brands celebrate different wine cultures: Chrismontthe classic European, La Zona the Mediterranean, Riserva combines European andnoble Italian varietals, Casa the local lifestyle.
To enhance the excellence of these wines, a superb menu thatchanges to blend the seasons has been created with dishes mainly designed to beshared and inspired by distant and apparently not matching regional cuisines:the Sicilian and the Trentino's one. Once again, the outcome is delightful andenjoyable. So pleasant to be a good reason to go all that long way from Melbourneeven if you don't drink wine!
What's next? Not given plans. We only know that Arnie and Jowon't stay still. They have the resilience and the passion for wine, food andpeople required to thrive in this industry. The business will develop and growmore and more with new Italian varietals to showcase, revamped and extendedaccommodations, updated menus and a promise to work closely with the communityto offer more entertainments and facilities.
As Italians what can we add to conclude? We definitely lovethe idea that whenever the new generations of Italians born in Australia bridgethe gap between what they are and what they do with new Italian offer andproducts, they strengthen the connections with the deepest Italian traditions,allowing them to live longer and longer. And we are grateful.