The Cotarella family name is one of the most esteemed names in the Italian wine world. Riccardo Cotarella is a highly acclaimed winemaker, a world-renowned consultant, and a professor. Riccardo’s brother, Renzo Cotarella is chief enologist and chief executive officer at Marchesi Antinori, one of the most historic and famous wine houses in Italy.
The two brothers Riccardo and Renzo had a dream to have a family winery. They wanted a winery for their daughters Dominga, Marta, and Enrica. Together the brothers formed Falesco Winery in 1979 in Montefiascone. The family was deeply rooted in their land which was located on the border of Lazio and Umbria. In 2015, Riccardo and Renzo’s daughters(Dominga, Marta, and Enrica) took over the management of the winery. Today the daughters run the winery with the same enthusiasm, passion, and dedication as their fathers.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with the elegant, charming and inspiring Dominga Cotarella. Dominga discussed wine, family, goals, dreams, philosophy and the benefits and challenges of growing up in a winemaking family. Dominga with her warm personality shared her family story.
Having grown up in a home with such prestigious winemaking talents like that of her father and Uncle, Dominga knew there were huge expectations from her. From a very young age, Dominga knew that she did not want to make wine, but rather she wanted to be the one sharing the stories of the wines they produced. That did not mean she was not interested in understanding how to make wine, Dominga went to University and earned her degree in Agricultural Sciences. Often questioned as to why she chose agricultural science, Dominga says she wanted to have the credibility to talk about wine and be taken seriously. After spending a couple of hours with Dominga, it was apparent that there is no better face to represent Famiglia Cotarella than Dominga. She is deeply knowledgeable and passionate about the wines they produce.
Dominga says with such highly regarded winemakers as her father and uncle, she wanted to prove that she was not just a famous winemaker’s daughter. She wanted to show her creditability and value and prove she was worthy of the role. Dominga didn’t want to seem like she was handed something just because she was Riccardo Cotarella’s daughter.
He thirst and quest for knowledge have not dissipated, today she is going to Lewis University to obtain her Master’s degree in Food and Wine Management. Dominga has immense curiosity and loves the positive energy and enthusiasm that academic learning brings out in her. She says, “enthusiasm and knowledge are like a virus.” Dominga’s enthusiasm and quest for knowledge were infectious and inspiring.
Famiglia Cotarella Projects
Dominga shared two projects that she is passionately involved with. The winery is a part of the enology program at the local university, Students come to observe and take part in the harvest; researching the soils, the grapes, and the terroir. Dominga loves the interaction and enthusiasm of the students, who are the next generation of winemakers.
Her love for wine naturally translates into her passion for food, restaurants, and cuisine. Famiglia Cotarella has created an academy(Intrecci) for students who want to learn about food, service, and the hospitality industry. The Cotarella family has a dedicated home where students come for a year and live on property to acquire advanced training for front room/hospitality. This course aims at training new enthusiastic experts in hospitality, who will be able to combine cutting edge expertise and excellent management skills with an essential amount of warmth and empathy. Dominga says that Intrecci has been so successful that there are plans to expand the program worldwide.
A Passion for Merlot
The Cotarella family is renowned for their Merlots. With great admiration, Dominga shares the story of her father’s pioneering vision to bring Merlot to Lazio. Riccardo Cotarella brought a cutting of Merlot from Saint Emilion (home of Merlot) and planted the vines in Lazio in the late 1980s. Many locals thought he was crazy, but Merlot was Riccardo’s passion and he longed to bring the grape to his home terroir. Their first vintage was 1993. Today the vines are 25+ years old and Montiano wine is one of the most sought after wines by Merlot lovers and collectors worldwide.
We first tasted the Sodale 2015. The name, Sodale, derives from the Italian sodalizio which translates as solidarity, or a strong bond. Sodale refers as much to the bond between the estate’s founders, Riccardo and Renzo, and their daughters, Dominga, Marta, and Enrica, now managing the estate as it does the bond between this daily drinker and the Cotarella Family’s flagship Merlot, Montiano.
Next, we had the Montiano 2015. Montiano is a 100% single-vineyard Merlot grown in the Montiano parcel in Montefiascone, Lazio. The volcanic, mineral-rich soil of the Montiano vineyard and a rigorous hand selection of these grapes contribute to Montiano’s solid structure and concentration. One of the most sought-after wines from central Italy, this is a perennial favorite of red wine collectors worldwide!
Preserving Italy’s Native Grape – Rossetto
Famiglia Cotarella maybe is known for their Merlots, but the family has been a big proponent of their local indigenous grape Roscetto, a white grape variety that Dominga says was close to extinction. Roscetto is a rare and ancient grape and the Cotarella are one of the only few that are making wines from this varietal.
It is important to Dominga to grow this wine, as it is their connection to their terroir and their land. Tasted blind, Roscetto could be mistaken for a Chardonnay. We had the 2015 Ferentano Roscetto. It had very interesting flavors and nice acidity. The wine had exotic aromas with tropical and gooseberry notes. It was the most delightful pairing with Cacio Pepe.
Brunello di Montalcino
In 2017 the Cotarella family had the opportunity to purchase Le Macioche, a small boutique wine estate in the heart of Montalcino. The estate is comprised of six hectares, with three that are planted to vineyards producing Brunello di Montalcino and another one hectare devoted to olive groves.
Le Macioche derives its name from the Sienese Macioca or Strawberry Tree, which is the primary type of tree found in the woods surrounding the estate. Le Macioche is known for producing a wine of power, but with significantly more elegance than its neighbors. It was this unique character that first drew the Cotarella family to follow the Brunello wines of Le Macioche.
RC2 Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG 2014
RC2 Sagrantino pays tribute to Riccardo Cotarella’s first grandson, Riccardo Chiasso, who shares the initials, RC, with his grandfather. The label displays a letter that Dominga’s father wrote to her son when he was born. This silky and substantial red wine is made from 100% Sagrantino, a highly-esteemed grape indigenous to the Montefalco area of Umbria. The wine is rich in personality and a beautiful expression of Sagrantino.