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Taste of Wine: Banfi Wine Nation celebrates 40th anniversary in San Diego

Cristina Mariani-May is the CEO of Banfi, Italy’s most honored winery and one of the leading vintners in all the world, offering acclaimed wine from many of the noted global properties including America.

She is the third generation of her family to be in the wine business dating back to her grandfather in the early 1900s in New York with an Italian wine and food import business. “My father John Mariani, along with his brother Harry, founded Banfi in Tuscany Italy in 1978, so they could produce their own wine, in Italy, primarily for the American public,” she explained. “They wanted to elevate the Italian quality in the pursuit  of excellence in the finer wine world.”

Banfi, the most awarded winery in Italy and renowned worldwide, celebrated its 40th anniversary in San Diego recently with a gala party hosted by Banfi CEO Cristina Mariani-May.

And indeed, the winery known as Castello Banfi did just that, primarily introducing the elegant Brunello DI Montalcino, named after the neighboring village of Montalcino. The finest clones of the native Sangiovese grape varietal are assembled and aged to perfection for five years after harvest, before being released to a passionately awaiting public.

The sparkling evening of the 40th anniversary of Banfi proved to be the season’s hottest invitation in downtown San Diego, held at the Oxford Social Club at the Pendry Hotel, befitting a top-shelf wine of Banfi’s character. Cristina Banfi, the CEO and family proprietor, flew in from her Banfi headquarters in New York, to graciously host the soiree’ that included a dynamic dance team and lovely anti pasti, fit for a royal occasion.

In addition to the biggest household wine names known from Banfi, two new discoveries caused a lot of buzz from the guest list.

They had been introduced a week earlier at the popular Parc Brasserie French style restaurant in San Diego by Banfi District Manager Diane Cappetta Nares. She presented the 2016 La Pettegeola Vermentino from Tuscany ($19) within the Maremma zone, Banfi’s newest white wine. It has crisp backbone and acidity. It was poured with an oyster duo.

The other promising newcomer was the 2013 ASKA Bolgheri Rosso, a blend with predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon and a touch of Cab Franc ($34). What makes this wine immediately prestigious is the location of the vineyard, in the Bolgheri district of Tuscany, where many of the expensive “Super Tuscans” come from. ASKA, which means container or vessel, has the same alluvial soils with limestone and clay, but at a fraction of the cost of its richly priced neighbors. This wine was served with a Parc Brasserie specialty, their grilled quail.

In wrapping up this tribute to the finer wine of Banfi, I always make sure I mention their Rosa Regale, a romantic, lively sparking ruby red wine, perfect with a Tiramisu dessert.

I’ll tell you a little secret … I opened 2 bottles of Rosa Regale for Valentine’s Day and drank them with a five-course meal. Salute!

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Wine Bytes

• Congratulations and good fortune to new wine specialist at Harvest Ranch Market in Encinitas, Marc Mercier. He called to tell me that he has 20 percent off all wines March 21 and to watch for many more special discount days. He’s at (760) 944-6898.

• The Barrel Room in Rancho Bernardo has a Schramsberg wine dinner with Kristie Zarlin, at 6 p.m. March 27. Schramsberg is a well-known bubbly brand with champagne and sparkling wine. Cost is $90 per guest. Go to for details and an RSVP.

• Meritage Wine Market in Encinitas has its Friday wine tasting at 6 p.m., and on March 23 taste wines from the Pacific Northwest of Washington and Oregon. Cost is $30 each, $20 for club members. See more at

• Il Fornaio in Coronado is planning a La Crema wine dinner at 6:30 p.m. March 29 at $75 per guest. Each wine will be paired perfectly in a five-course dinner, including Filetto con Osso with a 2015 Fog Veil  Pinot Noir. RSVP at (619) 437-4911.

Reach Frank Mangio at

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