Coming from New York City, the small town of Monterado in the Ancona province of Italy is not the first place you would expect us to plant our roots; yet it was familiar, with Chris doing his culinary training just a few miles away. Located in the Marche region of Italy, just 15 minutes from the beach resort town of Senigallia, the often overlooked yet beautiful area has a landscape with a bit of everything ranging from snow capped mountains, lush green flowing hills and descending right into the crystal clear Adriatic Sea. To those that don’t know, you might even think you were in Tuscany, only without the ever-present effects of frenetic tourism.
The culture in this area, as it is in most of Italy, is based on truly respecting the land by using it to its maximum capabilities. The daily fresh catch arrives early morning from the fishing boats, with a bounty of shellfish, swordfish and even local tuna. Only the freshest seasonal produce finds its way to local farmers markets scattered through the small hillside towns. Local salumi, like those from Fabriano, pair perfectly with the king of cheeses in Le Marche, Pecorino, with many artisanal varieties studding the shops. To say the options are plentiful would be an understatement.
The ability to take part in a process so basic yet necessary is a far cry from our old city life, where everything was just a card swipe away, but the rewards make you feel like you’re a part of something that is pure.
Nestled at the base of a small valley is our family run business and home, where we find joy using local, traditional methods of producing organic olive oil, quality wine and seasonal preserves.
The 15-acre land is broken into three parts, the first being a 2 acre olive tree farm. Over 300 young trees (about 25 years old) produce a variety of different olives including the Leccino, Frantoio and Pendolino. The remaining olive trees, about 30 ancient trees ranging in ages from 250 to 400 years old, produce the small yet flavorful Mignola olive. The oldest olive tree on our land is over 450 years old! We got a kick out of nicknaming the tree ‘Ol’ Faithful.’
The vineyard itself spans 8 acres of land and is home to four red grape varieties: Sangiovese and Montepulciano, two of Italy’s most noted, and two French powerhouses, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. 500 newly planted Chardonnay vines are a welcome addition to our Pinot Bianco, which is used to make our sparkling Methodo Classico.
Our seasonal preserves are made from over 40 different organic fruit trees, which include apricot, fig, plum and Asian pear amongst many others. We also are dedicated to incorporating different herbs such as rosemary and lavender that grow wild around the property. Adjacent to the fruit orchard are about 30 walnut trees, which truly look like an enchanted Disney forest. Stay tuned for how we will incorporate walnuts into our offerings.
Christopher Marino was born and raised in New York City to an American Italian family. He graduated from Penn State University in the year 2000 and began a promising career at a private hedge fund in New York City. Nearly a decade later, the housing market bubble burst and Chris found himself at a crossroads. He viewed this as a unique opportunity to reflect on how he would want to spend his future. It became clear he wanted to transition into a career that was more hands on and above all, one that he was genuinely passionate about. This led him to pursue a career in the culinary arts.
Being from Italian descent, he chose to study Italian Culinary Arts at the International Culinary Center in SoHo, New York and in Parma, Italy at ALMA Scuola di Cucina. Following graduation Christopher trained at a now three Michelin starred restaurant, Uliassi, in the coastal town of Senigallia in Southern Italy. Little did he know…
Chris then returned to the US and gained experience in both catering and in high-end hotel settings. He then returned to his alma mater, the ICC as a Lead Chef/Instructor, where he taught the classical French and Italian curriculum, and met Marjorie on her first day as a culinary student pursuing a Diploma in Classical Culinary Arts.
After some time spent as an instructor, he had the urge to dive back into the restaurant industry. Christopher worked as Executive Chef under the tutelage of Chef Michael Psilakis. His career then led him to re-enter the hospitality industry at one of the most prestigious hotels in New York City and the world, the Waldorf Astoria. As Chef de Cuisine of Restaurants, Christopher was responsible for revamping the famous Peacock Alley Sunday brunch and re-introducing high tea to the Waldorf, with one of New Yorks most regarded weekend tea services in La Chine restaurant. In the winter of 2017, when the Waldorf Astoria was bought by the Chinese Insurance Company Angbang, it was announced that the iconic landmark would be closed indefinitely for renovations. Once again, Chris found himself at a fork in the road.
He is truly at his happiest when he is fully immersed – from growing, cooking, eating, drinking, and breathing everything in the world of food and wine. This led to the decision with Marjorie, his now wife and then soon to be mother of their first child, to jump on the opportunity to run and operate their own olive oil and wine business in Le Marche region of Italy – just up the road from the same coastal town Chris had worked in as a recent culinary school graduate.
Marjorie was born in Paris, France to a French Italian father and American mother from Ohio – she was destined for an interesting upbringing. Due to her father’s path up the corporate ladder, she had a unique childhood with stops in Paris, New York, Brussels, Madrid and Geneva all by her eighteenth birthday. Marjorie started her first semester of college at American University in Washington D.C, but before long she decided that having the Eternal City as her campus while studying classical studies was extremely appealing. She attended John Cabot University in Rome, graduating in 2010 with a Bachelor of Arts in Humanistic Studies.
Shortly after school, she began working for IATA (International Air Transport Association) as a financial research analyst with postings in Geneva, Miami and Rome once again. This allowed her to now bridge the gap from the arts world into the business world. Marjorie is what anyone would call a worldly woman with a very high cultural intelligence – speaking four languages, growing up in major cultural centers, traveling near and far across the globe, always absorbing something along the way. Marjorie is defined by her love of life, by the joy she finds in sharing quality time with her family and friends anywhere around the globe.
Like her soon to be husband, Marjorie had a deep affection to what’s good in life: food and wine. Knowing that aviation wasn’t the way to her future, she decided to move across the Atlantic once again, starting anew with aspirations of working in the food & beverage industry. Marjorie arrived in New York City in 2013 to attend ICC (International Culinary Center), where she embarked on something brand new yet very familiar to her heart. Unknowingly, this would be one of the biggest decisions of her life with the events that were about to unfold.
Her French family background guided her to study Classic Culinary Arts, based primarily on French cuisine, and it was there where she met a certain instructor that would win her over. Upon completion of the program, Marjorie cut her teeth at Lupa Osteria Romana in NYC, rekindling her love of Italian cuisine from her Sicilian grandmother and time spent studying and working in Rome.
Following her time in the kitchen she then spent some time working in a consulting capacity for the food & beverage industry and eventually decided to shift into the events management side. She began work at the events department of a boutique hotel in Williamsburg, Brooklyn known as Wythe Hotel. While seemingly settling in at Wythe Hotel, two major events coincided, her first pregnancy, and the new knowledge that her husband’s place of work was closing and another move might be on the way. What to do now?
The right thing popped up at the right time, and Marjorie and Chris decided now was the time to venture out on their own, put together all aspects of their careers and step out of city life for a more pure form of living; growing the food and wine they love so much.
TENUTA MARINO HISTORY
Tenuta Marino now resides in what was once an old family farm producing cereals and grains dating back to the 1800’s. The land has been farmed since Roman times and is still considered as part of the historical Lands of Frattula – the monk-ran agricultural lands of the papal state. Le Marche borders five different territories including Emilia Romagna to the North, Abruzzo to the South, and Umbria, Toscana and Lazio to the West. The peaceful region is visited for its spectacular hilly landscapes, sandy beaches, fortified medieval towns and hilltop monasteries and castles. The Tenuta Marino estate is located in the town of Monterado, within the province of Ancona, the region’s capital city nestled in the low-lying hills behind the Adriatic Sea.
The eight-hectare parcel of land was first purchased in 1997 by the Swiss born Otto Schlegel, who named the estate “Azienda La Maddalena” after his wife. The land was cleared and prepped for a new vineyard and two years later, in 1999, two hectares of Sangiovese and Montepulciano were planted. The following year, an additional two hectares of land were planted with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Bianco. In total, there were 17,000 vines planted at a density of a little over 4,000 vines per hectare. Among the wines the area produces are the DOC varieties Rosso Piceno and Rosso Conero, two Sangiovese/Montepulciano red wines, as well as the white varieties, Verdicchio di Castello di Jesi and Bianchello del Metauro. Due to geographical confines (the estate is located only within the Rosso Piceno DOC) the previous owners set out to create Bordeaux style IGT blends.
The vineyard faces north-west and has an altitude ranging from 80-120 meters above sea level. The soil is predominantly calcareous clay, rich with Adriatic silt and sand due to the proximity to the coast. As the Azienda La Maddalena project took hold, the vines were trained using a single cordon system, pruned for low yields of high quality. A brand new, modern wine making facility was built from the ground up to accommodate all aspects of production in house, fitted with top-of the line steel tanks, pneumatic press, bottling line and a barricaia capable of ageing 200 hectoliters of wine. While the passion project of the previous owners was an interesting way to segue into semi-retirement, the reality of maintaining the vineyard was too much to handle and the vineyard was placed for sale in late 2016. When Marjorie and Christopher Marino, two hospitality industry experts, learned of the opportunity to put new roots in their historical homeland of Italy, paired with their desire to produce the highest quality wines in the region, they acquired the estate in 2017 and renamed it Tenuta Marino di Monterado.
Along with the vineyard, there is also the family villa, a fruit and walnut grove, and a two-hectare olive grove, producing a Mignola mono-cultivar and blended extra virgin olive oils of the highest quality. Once settled, the Marino family went right to work, quickly moving to organic farming practices within the vineyard for a greener footprint on the land in which they also inhabit with their two young children. A new half-hectare small vineyard of Chardonnay was planted, using a Piemontese lateral terracing style with western exposure. These grapes will combine with the Pinot Bianco to increase the quality and add depth to the sparkling wine. The pruning methods of the previous owners were altered greatly, going from a haphazard growth system to a finely trained 4x2 spur system with great benefit, returning vigor to the vines as well as increasing yields and quality at the same time. Green pruning was done twice through the season, all by hand.
During harvest season, the grapes are collected by hand in small crates, and delivered immediately to the winery for processing. At 20 years of age, the vines are reaching a sweet spot as far as quality is concerned, and the improved pruning has made an immediate impact to ensure healthy and vivacious plants. In the winter season, cover crops are seeded to slow down erosion of the clay soil, increase the soil fertility and help maintain water retention throughout the rest of the year. The small team of five takes every effort to ensure the vines are impeccably cared for and this shows in the 2018 vintage, the first produced by Tenuta Marino.
Changes were also made within the winery itself. Three new 80hl stainless steel tanks were purchased as well as three new large wooden barrels. Through extensive research, master craftsman Marc Grenier was selected to create these 15 & 30hl botti, using the finest French oak available. The new oak will be used to age portions the current vintage while the older barrels will hold the second turn of our reserve selections and parts of the current Sangiovese, which excels in older large wooden barrels. A newly integrated bottling room was created, which lead to doubling the size of the wine storage facility. 20 new pupitres were purchased, allowing for the hand riddling of an increased amount of sparkling wine. Making green choices is of importance to the owners, so not only did they increase their carbon footprint in the vineyard, but also did their part within the winery. Using plant based sustainable corks and recycled packaging materials was the first step, as well as using recycled paper for all the office materials and branded materials and stationery. Most significant though, was the move away from any chemical practices used in the wine making itself.
The future looks bright for the Tenuta Marino family and producing the best wines in Le Marche will shortly be in reach.