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East County Wednesday, Sep. 16, 2015 6 years ago

Fiorelli family friend buys East County winery

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Dave Chaloupka plans to revitalize Rosa Fiorelli's Winery & Vineyard, with new name, wine and services.
by: Amanda Sebastiano Staff Writer

Growing up in Long Island, N.Y., in a family of winemakers, Dave Chaloupka spent many summers alongside his father and grandfather in wine cellars.

But Chaloupka, the youngest of 16 cousins, was the only child who would rather learn about the family business than play sports or attend summer camp.

"I grew up in the cellars," Chaloupka said, laughing. "I was practically making wine while I was in diapers."

As an adult, Chaloupka operated wineries and art galleries throughout New York for more than 10 years. In 2010, he retired from the art gallery business, but he still operates two wineries in Manatee County. 

Last month he added an East County location to his batch of wineries  — the Rosa Fiorelli Winery and Vineyard, located off Country Road 675.

Chaloupka has known Antonio and Rosa Fiorelli, the couple from whom he purchased the winery, since the late 1980s. They had a lot in common. Not only did they they both own wineries in the area, but both also had moved to the area from Long Island.

So, when Rosa Fiorelli was looking for a buyer for her winery, she called Chaloupka.

Fiorelli's husband died from cancer nearly two years ago, and Fiorelli was ready to sell the operation, but only to someone she trusted.

"She said I was the perfect match to take over," Chaloupka said. "I knew I had to come in and help her; I had to do this for her."

The sale was finalized in July, but Chaloupka isn't planning any major changes to the layout of the property, to keep his friend's legacy in place, he said.

"Antonio had a golden thumb," Chaloupka said. "He could grow anything, and everything grown here, he started from scratch. You can't find some of these plants in a botanical garden."

He has an appreciation for the ties the Fiorellis have established in East County, and he hopes to build on their

reputation while also creating a path of his own.

Chaloupka plans to offer new flavors of wine, and already has 12 different recipes in the works. New flavors include peach, papaya, black raspberry, pumpkin and mango. He's hauling in the fruits from New York and southern areas of Florida. It's a change from what the vineyard has done in the past.

"Rosa and Antonio Fiorelli believed in producing only what they grew on their property," Chaloupka said.

He's also rebranding the company to capitalize on its rarity as a vineyard and winery. "This is the only winery and vineyard, all in one space, that I know of on the west coast," Chaloupka said.

Chaloupka plans to attract more customers by also utilizing the pavilion hidden behind the vines that stretch across the 20-acre property.

He plans to offer more events, from candlelit dinners for two to birthday parties and fundraisers for the local chapter of the American Cancer Society.

"The Fiorelli's had a traditional mentality," Chaloupka said. "They didn't focus on events, they just loved to make wine. I'm more of a wild card."

Chaloupka hopes to eventually pass the business on to his daughter, Valentina, and son, Vinchenzo, who aid him with event coordinating and other tasks at the winery.

"I'd love for them to be the fourth generation to work in the wine business," Chaloupka said. "This is a family-grown winery, and I'm continuing that."

Contact Amanda Sebastiano at [email protected].

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