Wine Spectator has learned that Tuscan winemaker Bibi Graetz has purchased the historic Hotel Villa Aurora in Fiesole, Italy, a hilltop town just 30 minutes drive from Florence. The property will be the Graetz family's new private home, as well as a winemaking facility and tasting room, and a renovated hotel that will open next year. The sale price was not disclosed.
Graetz and his wife, Benedicte Harper, had been looking for five years for a property where they could live with their four children, as well as move part of their wine production. "I'm used to having my barrels under my house; I wanted to keep this lifestyle," Graetz told Wine Spectator. "I'm very connected to my wines and I like to follow them all the time." He will move the production of his two flagship cuvées—Colore, a blend of Sangiovese, Colorino and Canaiolo, and Testamatta, which is 100 percent Sangiovese—to the new property as soon as next week.
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The Hotel Villa Aurora, which is located on the Piazza Mino square in Fiesole, a gorgeous hilltop town with views of Florence, was built in the 1800s. A lavish 27,000-square-foot space, it had been owned and operated by aging owners before the sale. Graetz says he saw a lot of charm and promise to it, comparing it to "being in old Naples."
Graetz is enlisting Italian architect Federico Florena to renovate the property, which is slated to reopen to hotel guests in spring 2020. There are 23 rooms in the hotel now, which Graetz describes as very small. He plans to transform them into seven or eight much larger rooms.
The hotel's Blu Bar, which was part of the sale, will also be renovated. Graetz says it will be a place where guests can have a glass of wine, and maybe homemade plates like bread and cheese, but he wants to keep it simple. The property will also include a tasting room open to the public; this will open much earlier than the hotel, currently slated for April of this year.
Graetz started making wine in his native Tuscany in 2000, focusing on old vines around Chianti Classico as well as newer plantings from his Fiesole estate, Castello di Vincigliata. Today, he owns or leases nearly 200 acres of vineyards and makes about 41,500 cases of wine every year under the Bibi Graetz label. For now, the rest of his bottlings, which include Casamatta and Soffocone di Vincigliata, will stay at the Vincigliata estate.