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TASTE OF WINE column founder and senior editor Frank Mangio is awarded the Sentinel for excellence in wine journalism, in a ceremony presented by Cristina Mariani-May, co-CEO of Banfi Vintners. Photo courtesy Frank Mangio
CommunityTaste of Wine

Taste of Wine: Banfi, the pursuit of excellence — accomplished

A few weeks ago at Solare, a lovely Italian restaurant in the Pt. Loma district of San Diego, packed with fans of the great international wine favorite Castello Banfi and Banfi Vintners, I was presented with Banfi’s Sentinel Award for excellence in wine journalism.

The Sentinel is an icon that shows in most of the Banfi labels.  He is a medieval sentry holding the banner of truth and excellence.

In my nearly 11 years and gazillion hours of writing TASTE OF WINE, this is our peak moment in its history. I was humbled and thrilled by the surprise announcement that this was one of only 15 such Sentinels in the world.

When I got hold of my senses and settled down, I have to say, holding the Sentinel was kind of like winning and holding an Oscar, only the Sentinel was fully clothed, an icon with a suit of armor.

Castello Banfi has been an icon in the wine world ever since the brothers Harry and John Mariani founded Banfi in 1978 when they purchased some 7,000 acres at the foot of Montalcino, a mountain town in Tuscany, Italy.

It surrounded a commanding castle, the 755-year-old Poggio Alle Mura.  The Marianis acquired vineyards of Sangiovese cloned Brunello di Montalcino, and in 1984, they added the castle itself, which they re-named Castello Banfi, only the third family to own the castle in its romantic and noble history for some seven centuries.

Castelllo Banfi’s 2010 Brunello di Montalcino is universally received as the best in a decade with scores of up to 97 by wine critics. Photo courtesy Banfi Winery
Castelllo Banfi’s 2010 Brunello di Montalcino is universally received as the best in a decade with scores of up to 97 by wine critics. Photo courtesy Banfi Winery

Banfi has carefully researched its soil, climate and wine expression, to build a family of wines for every consumer budget. The estate fruit is selected from a constellation of single vineyards, picked from rolling hills and lush valleys, and carefully nurtured.  The ultimate crown jewel is the Banfi Brunello, pursued by many for its wine excellence. It is showing all of its power in the 2010 vintage, a vintage of enormous character and quality ($54.99).

The 2010 was released this year, five years after harvest.  Most of the Sangiovese-cloned grapes were aged in French oak barriques with a small amount in Slavonian oak casks.  The Brunello was also aged further in bottle for 12 months. This a richly intense ruby red wine with dark fruity tones of cherry sensations, adding to licorice and spices.

Castello Banfi has evolved from a state-of-the-art winery and vineyard, adding an antique glass museum, historic Balsameria, Tuscan Taverna and El Borgo, villas with rooms and suites in the vineyard.

It’s holiday time and you don’t want to miss Banfi’s Piemonte Rose Regale, an exquisite sparkling red ($17.99); enjoy its hints of raspberry, strawberry and rose petals with a crisp acidity.  Serve cold with seafood, spicy fare and especially dessert chocolates.  See more at


Wine Bytes

Solterra Wine and Kitchen in Leucadia has a New Year’s Eve Prix Fixe dinner and wine pairing from 5:30 to midnight for $60. Pairings with the dinner are $80, with half glasses.  Call (760) 230-2979 for details.

North County Wine Company in San Marcos is celebrating New Year’s Eve and will be open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. with a big selection of wine, beer and champagne.  All glasses of wine from the regular menu will be half price. Give the Tobin boys a ring at (760) 653-9032.

Pala Casino Spa and Resort’s Oak Room will have a special menu for New Year’s Eve for $109 per person.  Select from one of four entrees:  Filet Mignon, Lobster Tail and Filet Mignon, Bone-in Filet Mignon and Pan Seared Alaska Halibut.  The 507-room hotel is available for overnight stay.  Call (760) 510-5100 or (877) 946-7252.

Chandler’s Restaurant off the Coast Highway in Cape Rey Resort has a New Year’s Eve dinner from 4:30 to 10 p.m.  New Executive Chef Terry McIllwain has choices for every taste. Details by calling (760) 683-5500.


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

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