As it turns out, however, the glam trappings are all just a front. “I have British farming in my DNA,” she says, laughing, when I ask her about her agricultural roots. Her uncle managed a small farm in Worcestershire, and Styler grew up spending weekends there. “So I got to milk the cows, collect the eggs, ride the local nags,” she recalls. “I had this sort of idyllic life.” Even during the week, living at her parents’ home in Bromsgrove, England, she proved herself “quite green-fingered” as she put it. “We grew all the vegetables for our house. I had my own carrot patch, my own cabbage patch. I loved planting things, raising them from little seeds.”
Even with this background, to say nothing of the organic farm she and Sting had started at Lake House, Styler didn’t immediately plan to move Il Palagio in that direction. But then the couple started to spend more and more time on the property, with Sting writing music there during the off-season, and, says Styler, “I really began to look at the land.”
LOOKING AT THE LAND LED TO thinking about olive oil and wine, both of which the estate had historically produced, and that eventually led to a massive land-restoration project. Styler ripped out spent old vines and planted new ones: the classic regional varietals of sangiovese, canaiolo, and colorino, as well as merlot and cabernet sauvignon. And she set about doubling the property’s already substantial count of olive trees from 3,000 to more than 6,000, transplanting mature specimens that would immediately bear fruit. (Styler didn’t do all this by herself, of course: Brother-and-sister estate managers, Paolo and Bina Rossi — both of whom were born and raised on Il Palagio — winemaker Paolo Caciorgna, and biodynamic consultant Alan York all played, and continue to play, major roles.)
Today, these trees, combined with the 900 acres of vineyards, produce some 12,000 bottles of olive oil and 4,000 cases of three different red wines annually, plus another 1,200 bottles of white wine and 4,400 bottles of rosé, the first vintages of which Styler released earlier in 2013, keeping them largely for the Italian market, for now, and for the family’s own private consumption. (A slight allergy keeps her from drinking red.) Next year, reports Styler, the estate’s wine output will double.
From the super-Tuscan Sister Moon, which is aged in French oak barrels, and the easy-drinking table wine When We Dance to the light and lovely rosé called Beppe (whose namesake has worked in Il Palagio’s vineyards for nearly 60 years), all the estate wines are produced with biodynamic methods, meaning they use holistic agricultural techniques that combine largely organic fundamentals with a set of principles and practices based on the earth’s natural rhythms. Il Palagio’s peppery, green-tasting olive oil, meanwhile, as well as its five varieties of honey — “sort of my baby,” Styler says of that project — are all certified organic. She and Sting, in fact, converted all production at Il Palagio to organic as soon as they arrived, something they’d first done on their land in the English countryside.