The Coast News Group
Taste of Wine

Castello Banfi again named best winery in Italy

Castello Banfi, the anchor to the worldwide Banfi Vintners, has been honored again as Italy’s top winery at the annual VinItaly wine fair in Verona, Italy. An international panel, through rigorous blind wine tasting, awarded Banfi Italy’s “Gran Menzione,” the equivalent of the gold medal. It is the 12th time in 17 years that Castello Banfi has been declared Italy’s best winery.
Three generations of the Mariani Family have built Banfi Vintners into a worldwide name in imported wines, from the original Castello Banfi in Tuscany, to other properties in Europe, South America and the new Chateau Tanunda in Australia.
The original winery was established in 1978 when John and Harry Mariani purchased 7,100 acres within several vineyards at the base of Montalcino, a medieval village rising 600 meters from the valley floor. 
Brunello, a premium clone of the Sangiovse grape of Chianti fame, is their signature wine. The Castello is a Romanesqe fortress, masterfully restored as a hospitality center, formal restaurant, taverna, enoteca, glass museum and recently opened five-star Il Borgo villas, with luxury rooms and suites.
Names to know in the Banfi family of wines include: Rosa Regale, a festive sparkling wine from Piemonte, perfect as an aperitif when chilled; Don Melchor from Concho Y Toro, Chile’s ultimate Cabernet; and the Banfi Brunello Di Montalcino, the 100 percent Sangiovese with a production process of nearly four years plus additional time in bottle before release. Currently the 2004 is available. Characteristics are intense ruby red, velvety encounters, beautifully integrated tannins with traces of spice. This was the first wine to achieve the ultimate Italian standard of “DOCG” status. Priced at $60 in a majority of wine shops.
Despite hard times for wines (the largest wine distributing company in the world just reported a sales drop of nearly 4 percent last quarter), Italian wines are up so far this year, with Sangiovese up a whopping 13.8 percent. Italy beat the other leading U.S. imports by a wide margin. It bodes well for Banfi, especially when wines priced $20 and above showed solid growth in dollar sales and volume. See more at
Spirits festival comes to SD June 2 to June 5
If at first you succeed, make it even better next time. Liz Edwards of Let’s Play Downtown has San Diego waiting for her second annual San Diego Spirits Festival June 2 to June 5. The location is the Hilton San Diego Bayfront next to the Convention Center, with the Grand Tasting Friday on the 4-plus-acre Waterfront Park next door. Right now there is a call for exhibitors who are related to the beverage industry, and media alliances are being formed daily. Seminars and competitive tastings are firmed up. 
You can get the latest up-to-date information on this exciting event by visiting To speak with the director, call (858) 551-1605.
Wine Bytes
— Live Jazz and Wine is the feature attracting crowds at WineStyles Wine Lounge in Encinitas with Suzanna Kurner playing from 6 to 8:30 p.m. April 23. Wines by the glass or flight, plus pizzas, panninis or cheeses available from $15. Also live music on Saturday 7 to 9:30 p.m. Call (760) 633-0057 for details.
— VR Green Farms at Bella Collina Towne and Golf Club in San Clemente is hosting a Sapore Della Domenica (“Flavor of Sunday”) Italian celebration from 2 to 6 p.m. April 25. Italian cultural dishes, wine, artisan bread, olive oil, honey and fava bean tasting.  Live music, a car rally and artisans will also be featured. Now that’s Italian! Limited seating at $50 per person. Tickets can be ordered at or by calling (949) 697-0032.
— Firefly Grill and Wine bar in Encinitas is planning a Pahlmeyer Vineyards Wine Dinner starting at 6:30 p.m. April 27. Enjoy this Napa-Sonoma powerhouse and its ’06 Pinot Noir, Merlot,  Pahlmeyer Red Blend and other winners. Main course is Braised Beef Cheek from Executive Chef Aaron Daily. These are top tier wines in their prime.  The cost is $75 each. RSVP at (760) 635-1066.
— Opolo of Paso Robles is spotlighted at The Wine Encounter in the Hillcrest area of San Diego from 7 to 9 p.m. April 27. Cost is $15. For more information, call (619) 543-9463.
— The Four Seasons, Aviara Carlsbad, is presenting an Orin Swift Cellars Wine Dinner at 6:30 p.m. April 29. These fine wines will be presented by Orin Swift family member Melissa Leonardini, along with a perfectly paired dinner. The cost is $121.91 per person. Call (760) 603-6800 to RSVP.