Photography by Daniel Vaughan
Little Italy on the Lake
Riccardo Cesca, born near Venice in northeastern Italy, manages Terra Estate Winery, a 32-acre piece of heaven nestled on the north shore of Consecon Lake. Cradled by the rolling hills of Prince Edward County, in summer the vineyard is bathed in cool breezes, and in winter the moderate winds generated by the lake effect insulate it from cold nights.
Riccardo brings something special to the winery, obvious from the moment he greets you with a smile as big as the sun on the porch of the welcome centre. His magnetic personality invariably sweeps you into his world of imaginative possibilities and zest for life that can only be described as passionate.
Sampling some of the vineyard’s 11 unique vintages, tasters soon become aware of the depth of this of the worldly gentleman. He is genuinely interested in people – all people – and regales visitors with stories, intertwining his heartfelt love for both wine and the written word.
His business card says Riccardo Cesca, Writer.
“My passion is criminology,” says Riccardo. “When I was a young boy, I watched Columbo with my Dad every week. I started to imagine my future as a writer. When I was four years old, my father bought me a typewriter. Later, I studied medicine but decided it was not for me. When I told my father I wanted to become a writer, he said, ‘No! You must become a doctor like me.’ There are seven generations of doctors in my family. I broke the chain. My father put up a strong argument, but I won,” he laughed.
Some people – those who have the magical coupling of genuine calling and latent talent – may be self-taught. Riccardo applied himself from a young age to become an accomplished author in his chosen genre.
“In Italy, I researched the science of investigation and took some criminology courses in the USA and Switzerland, during my travels. I read tons of books on criminal profiling, privately studying such aspects as the psychology of the criminal mind, police techniques, and body language. I became an expert. It all came natural to me because it was a passion of mine. I love it.”
Riccardo uses the word love in most every description of his life’s endeavours. His perseverance landed him a 10-year tenure in an Italian movie company, doing uncredited script work. A few years ago, his intensity of character and curiosity culminated in the completion of his first two detective novels, The Prince in the Ice and Profiles of the Assassin. Both became best sellers in his native land.
“When I tried to sell my first novel as a movie script, the film company’s producer told me that I would not find work there unless I worked for him,” Riccardo shared defiantly. “I said good-bye and came to Toronto. I arrived like a classic fictional Italian immigrant with a suitcase and my book under my arm. I knocked on all doors, and finally found an interested American company I thought was small but in fact turned out to be very big with offices in Vancouver and Los Angeles. I hired an agent who is now in negotiations with three companies who want my book. One is Pinewood, another (DNA Entertainment) has lots of studios and produced a part in the King Kong movie.”
He is presently completing his third book of a trilogy, and what better environment than the tranquility of the County and the winery.
“While I was in Toronto, I stayed with my cousin, a businessman. He told me he had a vineyard in the County. He asked me if I would like to help him in the winery. I agreed, knowing I could write there, also. He told me we must have a crew, and I told him I have a crew, friends from my home town.”
He called his kindred spirits, Sonja Trenonti and Peter Sosoici and presented an opportunity to spend summers in Canada while helping his cousins. His crew was of the same adventuresome bent as Riccardo.
“They agreed in seconds. I brought them over, and we do everything here. We are a great team of friends. We have a master winemaker who lives in Italy and comes here seasonally to formulate the wine making processes. We don’t accept a paycheque. We follow the wine master’s instructions and enjoy nature. In between making wine which I absolutely love, I write at the table outside or under a tree at the top of the hill, all nice places to write.”
Riccardo is presently waiting for the movie of his first book to be made in Toronto, enjoying the wait in this wonderful place only hours away.
“When I first came to the County, I fell in love with it completely. It is a unique place in the world. People are very kind and generous, and all try to help us. It’s unbelievable. It gives me goosebumps just to say it.”
Terra Estate Winery’s vintages are based on authentic Italian recipes from the old country.
“My cousin decided he wanted to make wines here similar to that of his native land. We use the same techniques. The seeds come from Italy. We leave the wine for longer periods in the tank, using pressure and temperature to modify the bouquet, and we use no chemicals.”
Riccardo is an inexhaustible idea machine with big plans for the estate. “I am a volcano of ideas. I love my mind. It is too much,” he laughed again. “My engine is curiosity. Next year, I will build a tasting terrace right on the water. We will make a dock to have boat rides on the lake. Everyone who comes here to visit, we view as friends. That is more important than money. I decided with my cousins every year to try to create one new wine. Cabernet Franc and Merlot in sparkling is impossible to find. We did it. I am sure you will fall in love with our new Pinot Grigio.”
Yes, he is passionate, and just as he is a writer of characters, he seems to come off the page himself, impossibly likable. Upon first meeting him, you feel you have known him all your life. “That is the Italian way,” says Riccardo. “Our motto at Terra Estate Winery is ‘A small taste of Italy.’”
Another part of the grand evolution of the Terra Estate Winery project is their recent acquisition of Emm’s restaurant on Loyalist Highway. They have hired an equally masterful Italian chef who can create everything from breakfast to bruschetta to burgers to beef bresaola. “Their Italian food is authentic,” says Riccardo. “To give an Italian experience, the pomodori (tomatoes) and pasta and mozzarella are all Italiano. Authentic and zesty.” Just like Riccardo.
Arguably, Riccardo’s biggest plan is to settle here permanently. “After I stabilize my life here, I plan to move my wife and two children over. One thing I am sure of, I have fallen in love with Canada and the County and would like to die here. The artist can be strange. I wake up every morning with a smile because I look forward to a new adventure every day. I savour life like wine. I am never tired. I sleep four hours a day, I have plenty of time to sleep when I am gone.”