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By Lili DeBarbieri

estled in central Alabama's scenic countryside, Vizzini Farms Winery speaks to the wealth of cultural diversity of our state. Most Americans associate New York City with being the main international gateway for immigrants in search of a better life. A little known historical fact that many Italian-Americans, drawn by the possibility of agricultural employment, originally immigrated to the United States via New Orleans. Santo di Vizzini, one of many such immigrants from Catania, Sicily, arrived in the Big Easy in 1875. In time, his. descendants began their own tradition of wine making near Calera. Vizzini Farms and Winery, unique in its Italian heritage, is one of several vineyards throughout Alabama. Reminiscent of a Tuscan villa, Vizzini Farms displays an elegant yet tranquil ambience. Patrons dine by an indoor fireplace or patio that overlooks surrounding vineyards. The winery has become a popular local venue for weddings, graduations or a simple casual brunch. There also is a gift shop so visitors can take home some of the elegance.

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Vizzini Farms Winery is a glimpse of Italy in central Alabama

Although Vizzini's gourmet selections are more than satisfying, the highlight of any visit to a vineyard is wine tasting. A centuries old tradition, wine is made from yeast and grape juice. Yeast feeds off the sugars found in grape juice in a process called fermentation . During fermentation, yeast spores reproduce until all fermentable sugars have been consumed. The sugars are then converted into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Although, different grapes are used to make different wines, almost all grape juice is nearly colorless. Wine gets its deep color from grape skins left to soak in the juice for varying lengths of time during fermentation. It is mainly these antioxidant-rich skins that take credit for the drink's heart healthy reputation. Tom Vizzini makes his wine both from grapes grown at the vineyard and grapes imported from other states. He also holds regular wine-making classes for those interested in learning a rewarding hobby. Great wine, like leisurely vacations, should not be hurried. This holiday season, plan an Italian getaway that doesn't require a passport: Plan a trip to Calera.Cl.Q


QiStlng, imported goods and catering.

Try It: Tuscan tomato & basil soup with Italian bread and mascarpone cheese.

When to visit Open year round. Monday thru Thursday J0 a.rn. ... 6 p.m., and Friday and

Saturday 10 a.m.- 8 p.m., live music begins at 6 p.m. Contact Tom or Deborah Vizzini at 205-685-0655, or visit www. vizzinifarmswinery.com for more information.

Nearby: Oak Mountain State Park has hiking. horse-back riding, and a wildlife center, perfect predecessors to an evening of wine tasting and fine dining. Visit www.alapark. com and www.awrc.org for trip planning. Gil


Alabama