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Amazing Seniors: Giuseppe Conte

Wine isn't just a drink to the men of the Villa Da Vinci retirement community in Woodbridge, Ontario. For them, the art of wine is a necessary part of living.

So every week, from eight to 15 men get together to make, sample and discuss wine.

"It's something in common to share among ourselves. It's part of our culture," 84-year-old Giuseppe Conte says through an interpreter.

"It is an opportunity not just to have a drink, but to have fun and be with friends," says Conte, who was born in Torella di Sanio, Italy.

It's obvious that while the men enjoy themselves immensely, wine-making is a serious hobby.

"It provides a sense of accomplishment, of achieving a personal goal," says Giuseppe Marini, 81, a native of Sossano, in northern Italy, who lives with his wife at Villa Da Vinci. "For example, last year I made a good wine, now I want to make it better. And to do so, I experiment with different grapes."

The cantina is a special activity offered at Villa Da Vinci, which, like all of Amica Mature Lifestyles' retirement communities, creates programs to respond to the needs of its residents. Amica has 17 retirement communities and skilled nursing residences in five provinces across Canada, including five in the Greater Toronto Area.

Villa Da Vinci's cantina got off to a tasty start last fall during its wine and cheese festival, which it hopes to repeat this year.

"Grapes and barrels were brought in and residents and volunteers joined together for a terrific grape stomping," says Sara Tripodi, general manager of Villa Da Vinci. "Remember that episode of I Love Lucy? It was just like that and a lot of fun. People wore costumes, and there was lots of wine and food."

Villa Da Vinci opened in July 2001 and is home to about 90 people. Much of this year's first batch of wine had already been started before residents moved in. But a lot of bottling is now being done, and it has created a little competition.

"We talk about what grapes are right for what wine, the correct strength of the wine, as well as whether whites are preferred to reds," says Conte, a widower.

According to wine folklore, "bottling should only be done on a full moon and a sunny day," says Tripodi.

So wine is bottled just once a month, usually 20 bottles at a time. The wine isn't for sale; it's simply enjoyed by residents and their friends and families. Both red and white wine are bottled, complete with special labels.

"We're hoping to expand things a bit further and introduce different grapes," says Robert Imola, Villa Da Vinci's wellness and vitality co-ordinator. "We're hoping soon to begin making grappa, the popular Italian digestive."

The cantina's costs are included in the residence's activity program. The only additional cost is the grapes.







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