Photo: The Fiume family (l to r): Antonio, Roberto, Olivia and Sharon
West Kelowna, BC,
Italian heritage of this winery, which opened last fall, is expressed even in
the winery’s “unofficial mascot,” in the phrase of co-proprietor Roberto Fiume
(with his wife, Sharon). It is his sports car, a 1977 Alfa Romeo Spider.
heritage also informs the style of the wines and the labels: Pinot Nero for
Pinot Noir and Pinot Grigio for Pinot Gris.
Okanagan wineries, Roberto is better known as Robert Fiume, the partner in
Kelowna-based Capri Insurance Agencies. There he has developed the insurance
coverage that many wineries have taken to protect their assets.
was born in 1969 in Yellowknife. It is perhaps an improbable locale in which to
develop a passion for wine. Roberto inherited the passion from his parents,
Luigi and Melina, who immigrated to Canada in 1956 from the Naples region of
Italy. Luigi spent the next 25 years working in the Con gold mine, a
Yellowknife landmark in production from 1938 to 2003.
Yellowknife, the Italians there would get together and get grapes shipped up,”
Roberto recalls. “We grew up making wine in Yellowknife. There was this big
chunk of bedrock under our house. In one side, my dad dug it out and made his
Luigi finished his career at the Con, he and Melina opened Luigi’s Pizzeria and
Deli, still remembered fondly by Yellowknife oldtimers. They sold the business
in 1956 to move to the Okanagan (the pizzeria is still in business under different
ownership, as Bruno’s Pizza).
and Melina moved their family because, as Roberto puts it, “30 years in the
North was enough. It was time to move to warmer climes!” They settled in the
Okanagan because it “reminded them so much of their homeland. The fact it was,
and still is, a fruit basket greatly appealed to them.”
completed his education in Kelowna with an Okanagan College diploma in business
management that set him on the path to become a partner in the insurance agency
in 2001. In parallel with that, he also became a grape grower.
family settled on property in West Kelowna’s Glencoe district in 1983, buying a
property four years later across the road that was the area’s original
vineyard. With the help of his family, Roberto pulled out the hybrid vines in
1989. He began replanting in 2000 with Pinot Noir. Currently, he grows five
acres of Pinot Noir and he has just added a quarter acre of Pinot Gris.
“I put every
post in the vineyard and I dug every hole,” Roberto says proudly.
decided to produce wine under his own label, Roberto sold his grapes to other
wineries, notably to Arrowleaf Cellars. The first vintage, just three wines
from 2014, are now available in Ciao Bella’s charming tasting room. For those
bringing a picnic, the Fiume family has provided comfortable and shaded
seating, including a table that doubles as a chess board. It is a game enjoyed
by Roberto and his 15-year-old son, Antonio.
wines – the Pinot Grigio is made with purchased grapes - are made by Jim
Faulkner, the veteran winemaker at Mt. Boucherie Estate Winery. Jim developed an interest in wine during years he
spent managing night clubs. He started his winemaking career in the cellar at
CedarCreek Estate Winery, moved to Summerhill and then Church & State
before joining Mt. Boucherie in 2009.
The style of the wines emerged from
Roberto’s desire to mirror his interpretation of Italian wine. “We tried to keep it true to the
Italian style,” he says. “Italian wines keep a bit of their fruit but they can
also be dry at the same time. That is what I asked Jim to make.”
has come out of the gate with award-winning wines. The Pinot Rosé won silver in
the BC Wine Awards.
Pinot Nero, which was released in February this year after aging 12 ½ months in
French oak, now has an impressive award: Best of Varietal Pinot Noir at the
Okanagan Spring Wine Festival.
Bella labels also do homage to Roberto’s heritage by employing original and
very charming photographs of his parents in their youth in Italy just before
notes on the wines.
Ciao Bella Pinot Grigio 2014 ($16.95). The wine is clean and
fresh with aromas and flavours of pear and apple. There is a buttery note on
the finish, without taking anything away from the fruity elegance. 88.
Ciao Bella Rosé 2014 ($17.95). The vibrant hue and the
abundance of fruity aromas and flavours come from giving the juice 48 hours
contact with the crushed Pinot Noir. There is cherry and strawberry on the nose
and on the palate. The finish is crisp and dry. 90.
Ciao Bella Pinot Nero 2014 ($19.95). The comparatively light
colour is deceiving. This wine is full on the palate, with silky tannins. It
has flavours of strawberry with a surprising hint of chocolate on the finish –
probably reflecting the four new oak barrels that the winery used along with
first-use French oak. Bottom line: this is a very pretty wine. 90.