By CINDY LADAGE
PARIS, Tenn. — The Ciarrocchi family has Italian roots with what one might loosely call a “French” connection. Roger Ciarrocchi is a first-generation Italian, who, with his wife, Lisa, and daughter, Diana, run a winery in a town called Paris – located in Tennessee.
Located 85 miles north of Nashville, Paris lays claim as home to the world’s biggest fish fry and, these days, the lovely Paris Winery. With Venetian-style architecture, the winery opened in 2008 and today boasts 26 different wines and an Italian bistro.
How did the Ciarrocchis, who grew up in California, end up with a winery in Tennessee? Lisa Ciarrocchi explained, “Roger and I met in California where I was born and raised, and he lived not too far away. Roger was born in California, but grew up in the Bronx.”
Roger’s parents emigrated from Italy to the United States and both became citizens. “Roger (spelled Ruggero, in Italian) learned to speak English at about age five,” she said. “About five years ago now, Roger and I moved here to Paris.”
The couple came to Paris in a roundabout way. They had been living in Florida, and Ciarrocchi said they kept having to evacuate and head north because of hurricanes. “Roger has family in Missouri, so we would go and stay with them, traveling through and/or above Tennessee on our way in and our way out. We always commented on how beautiful it was down there.”
The area reminded them of the hills of Tuscany they had visited in Italy. On one trip they stopped at the Henry County airport and she said, “Don Davenport, the airport manager, convinced us to come and take a look around. Next time we did, and met with a realtor and bought our first property out at the lake.
“Roger really wanted a piece of property that was long enough to put in his own runway for his airplane, so we continued to look around until we found this farm.”
Things have changed much since that initial purchase. The first thing the relocated family did was to set up a true “Old MacDonald’s” farm. “We built a barn first and began to fill it up with rabbits, geese, pigs and even cattle,” Ciarrocchi said.
Next, the family built a combination airplane hangar and home. The hangar was for Roger’s plane, but they decided the structure would also serve as their house. “So, we call it the hangar house. It really has an airplane in the middle of it, which kind of serves as a room divider. It is kind of cool, really; with over 3,000 square feet, there is plenty of room.
“The living room is at the front of the airplane and the office sits at the wing. The kitchen is in the back with a formal dining table and granite countertops, the tile floors lead over to the bedroom. There is a washing area, breakfast table, sewing area, and the only actual room in the house is the bathroom complete with a Jacuzzi tub.”
In May 2005, Roger visited Italy and when he came home shared with his family that he wanted to plant a vineyard on their 120 acres, saying, “I’d like to make a little of our own wine and bring a little of Italy to Tennessee.”
The next step was to order 5,500 grape vines. “It took us about six weeks just to plant them all,” Lisa Ciarrocchi said. “His parents, who are in their seventies, were actually out here on their hands and knees helping us get them into the ground.”
Today they have more than 10,000 vines with over 27 varieties of grapes and blackberries in five vineyards.
“We decided that we had more than enough to share and began to think of ways to do so,” Ciarrocchi said. “We first considered selling the grapes and looked into that.
“I had taken a master gardener class and met Ken Goddard at the extension office, who, along with Tom Sinnema, introduced us to a lot of folks who have been very instrumental along the way. We eventually decided we wanted to make the wine and sell it – the whole thing just kind of evolved into Paris Winery, that opened in April 2008.”
The winery is built into the side of the hill so they could put in an underground cellar/barrel room that would help keep the wine at the right temperature. The granite wine tasting bar and wine and gift shop are upstairs. The placement of the winery was selected for the view.
“Standing at the bar, there is a fantastic view, calming in every sense, all done in a Venetian architecture. Roger did all the walls in Venetian plaster, tile floors and cedar ceiling,” Ciarrocchi explained.
They have also opened an Italian bistro that offers an array of great selections. Authentic Italian cuisine specialties include the meatballs, chicken parmesan and lasagna, and their sauces are made fresh on the spot.
“If you dare, try Italian Beef with a vegetable Giardinaira on top, or the Monte Cristo, an adult sandwich with ham, turkey and cheese fixed on Texas Toast, dipped in an egg-type batter and deep-fried. Sprinkled with powdered sugar and served with strawberry jam. It sounds weird, but it’s out of this world,” Ciarrocchi said.
The winery offers tasting, dining and entertainment options. “If you have never tried any wine you like, they’ll usually start you out with the sweet wines like Paris Peach. Tower Red, a wine made from Concord grapes, is the No. 1 seller of the sweet wines, but you’ve got try the Blackberry, and the Muscadine wine is like eating a Muscadine right off the vine.”
The Paris Winery is located at 2982 Harvey Bowdon Road; call 731-644-9500 or log onto www.pariswinery.com for more information.