Thursday, April 19, 2007

How well do you know your family roots?

If you were asked how far back you can account for what your ancestors did as a living, how far back can you go?

There are farmers and ranchers in this county who can proudly tell you of at least a few generations, especially if they also worked the land. There are farms that have signs in their driveways that announce they have already been recognized as Century Farms.

But imagine being able to say what ancestors did 26 generations ago.

A story in this week’s Capital Press (published April 20) reports on the opening of Col Solare, an $8 million winery on Red Mountain in Washington state that has some impressive historic ties.

According to the story, written by reporter Peggy Steward, the winery is a partnership between Chateau Ste. Michelle in Washington and Marchesi Antinori, from Tuscany, Italy.

Piero Antinori first visited the Columbia Valley in 1992, leading to the partnership and first wine produced in 1995.

Steward wrote: “Col Solare’s stated goal is to meld the two wine-making cultures to produce Washington’s best Cabernet sauvignon-based wine. Period.”

They created an 18,650 sq. foot winery and 28-acre vineyard on 40 acres, and the buildings sound impressive.

“Massive stone walls, even a soaring bell tower, are a fusion of old Italian and new Northwest styles,” the story said.

While the view and the wine sound incredible, it’s the history of the family from Italy that perhaps is the biggest marvel of all.

Antinori’s family has been making wine for 26 generations, more than 600 years: how many other families can even say what their ancestors did 100 or 200 years ago?

In some cultures, the last name can give a hint of occupation was done by ancestors. For example, in the English language, last names such as Carpenter, Butcher, Archer, Miller or Smith usually could be linked to trades done by families in the past.

Sometimes, however, not everyone is delighted to find the meaning of a family name.

An uncle of mine had been determined to search our family history and traced it back several generations to Eastern Europe. He hoped to perhaps find some rich or royal ancestors, perhaps a great leader.

However, he didn’t go very far before he reached the point of discovering the meaning of our last name translated into “peasant.”

He determined it just wasn’t worth investigating any further, and our family tree still has its roots deeply hidden.

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