My name is Chuck Ofria. My wife, Shirley (aka Oki) and I are American Ex-Pats from Santa Barbara, California living in a rural area of Tuscany, near the ancient city of Cortona. We first came to Italy in 1988 for a month-long journey by train from northern Italy to Sicily, where all four of my grandparents were born. The seed that was planted on that first trip grew over the next several years and brought me back in the spring of 2000 to explore the possibilities of a life in Italy.
Never one to shy away from change or a big project, I was overwhelmed with the desire to live in Italy, and with the possibility of transitioning from a programmer to an inn-keeper and farmer. This obsession quickly evolved into our purchase of a property in 2001. From that date, I split my time between Santa Barbara and Cortona. In 2005 when Oki retired early we moved to Cortona full time.
The first lesson I learned from trying to get anything accomplished in Italy is that Italians don't live longer because of the Mediterranean diet as is often stated - they live longer because they simply need the time. Other than the language (I am language impaired), this fact was the greatest barrier to overcome. The rest of the cultural differences, especially the food, I fully embrace. My only regret is not doing it 20 years sooner.
Our property is on 25 terraced hectares (about 62 acres) of woodland, olive groves and vineyards. On the property, we have an Agriturismo (vacation rental) we named Il Rifugio (The Refuge). In the near future we hope to build a cantina (a winery). The name will be "Longaia", a name we discovered on the first areal black and white photo of the field where we eventually planted the vineyard.
Il Rifugio is a 17th century historic stone farmhouse that comfortably accommodates 10 guests. For more information about Il Rifugio click here.
Our olive grove consists of about 1000 trees in six fields, originally planted about 500 years ago with 4 verities typical of the region. From this olive grove we produce our Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Our trees are had pruned, hand picked and processed at a state-of-the-art olive mill near Il Rifugio.
Following several decades as a wine enthusiast, I decided in 2011 to plant a small, very high density (1/10 hector with about 1200 vines) experimental vineyard. This was the beginning of a ten year plan to become a wine producer, a dream I have had for decades.
Our first vintage was 2013 and much to my surprise it was very well received, so I decided to expand. We now have a bout 2.2 hectares (5 acres) of vineyards for a modest production of wine made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes grown at an altitude of 400 to 500 meters (1,300 ft to 1,600 ft). We hope to add about one more hector of vines and to break ground soon for our little winery, Longaia.
We also offer small-group authentic Tuscan cooking classes taught by Oki. You can click here for information about our cooking classes.
Our olive grove and vineyards are certified organic. The goal of our wine and olive oil activity is to produce the best quality possible, while respecting the land and working with people that are knowledgeable, passionate and dedicated.
Chuck & Shirley Ofria