The Coast News Group
Taste of Wine

Banfi presents the Best of Italy at Solare

When I learned that the legendary Castello Banfi of Montalcino was making a presentation in San Diego and had chosen San Diego’s Solare Ristorante Italiano for a select dinner to pair its lineup of magnificent wines, I circled the date in day-glow red.

I have come to be a huge admirer of this leading Italian wine and its family of stylish varietals, led by the world acclaim given to the Mariani family for its guidance in developing Brunello into an elite place in the world of wine. Brunello, a clone of the popular Sangiovese grape from Tuscany, evolves into Brunello only in Montalcino and only after painstaking maturation of some five years before being released for public consumption.  More than 220 estates in Montalcino produce Brunello, with about 25 percent going to the U.S. market.  The current vintage is 2009, with the 2010 due to be released later this spring.  By far the largest producer is Castello Banfi, with research, energy and investment to bring Brunello to this pinnacle.

At the Banfi event in San Diego, Solare’s owner and one of the biggest boosters of Italian style wines, Randy Smerik, presented Banfi’s Ambassador of Wine, Luciano Castiello.  The full house of guest diners was riveted to a colorful, passionate profile of the six wines brought in for the occasion by Banfi Regional Manager Diane Nares.  On the 2009 Brunello, Castiello said “it’s an intense ruby red color, with aromas of violet and vanilla, with hints of licorice.  A velvety palate has cherry flavors and traces of spice.  The wine is well structured with supple tannins, superb concentration and good acidity.  This is a classic Brunello.”

Solare’s Executive Chef, Accursio Lota from Sicily, positioned the Brunello to pair with his slow roasted duck breast with winter vegetables and plum polenta.

Brunello, athough the star of the show, was not the only bottle to talk about.

Others to try included:  Banfi Piemonte Principessa Gavia, a white wine favorite; Luna Mater Frascati, a bright yellow tinted wine; Sartori di Verona Regolo with 100 percent Corvina grape from Veneto; Banfi SummuS, a “Super Tuscan” blend of Cabernet, Syrah and Sangiovese; and Banfi FloruS Late Harvest Moscadello, considered the oldest wine style in Montalcino, a dessert wine with a subtly sweet flavor and a nuance of almond and honey.

Banfi is dedicated to the finer wine world.  See more at

 Wine Bytes

A Crabfest is planned at Meritage Wine Market in Encinitas, Feb. 28 at 1 p.m.  $75 per person, includes all food and four wine tastings. RSVP at [email protected].

A pruning workshop begins Feb.28 at 9 a.m. at the Hatfield Creek Winery and Vineyard in Ramona. Cost is $10. Call for details at (760) 787-1102.

Perfect Pairings in Carlsbad has a Zaca Mesa Winery Dinner March 3 at 6:30 p.m.  Five courses for $75.  This is a leading winery in the Santa Ynez Valley.  Call for an RSVP at (760) 453-7974.

Harry’s Bar and Restaurant, across from UTC in La Jolla will present John Priest of Etude Winery to join in a wine and food prepared dinner March 4 at 6 p.m.  Cost is $85 for a five-course meal and five-wine pairings.  Call (858) 373-1252.

Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator.  He is one of the leading wine commentators on the web.  View and link up with his columns at  Reach him at [email protected] and follow him on Facebook.