Andrea Bocelli is the most successful classical singer of all time, yet he is most comfortable helping to make wine at the Bocelli Family Vineyards in Tuscany, Italy. Courtesy photo
Columns Taste of Wine

Taste of Wine: Bocelli Family Wines — a taste of la dolce vita

I first heard Andrea Bocelli sing in a TV commercial to publicize the opening of the Bellagio hotel on the Las Vegas strip in 1999. In the fast-paced hype of Vegas his “Time to Say Goodbye,” a duet he did with English singer Sarah Brightman, was a beautiful soothing influence underlining the Tuscan architecture and style of Bellagio.

As most music lovers know, Bocelli has been blind since 12 years old. Born on a farm in Tuscany Italy in 1958, his family, with younger brother Alberto, made a living selling machinery and made wine south of Pisa. He was diagnosed with congenital glaucoma at birth but he could still see until hit in the eyes in a football accident where he lost his sight forever. 

A Cabernet from Shafer Vineyards in Napa Valley. Courtesy photo

As a young boy, Bocelli had a passion for music, the only thing that made him happy.  He learned to play piano, flute, saxophone, guitar and other instruments. Then after listening to Italian pop stars, he pursued a vocal career. In 1993, he gave his first concert with the Italian pop star Zucchero. In 1997, he recorded “Time to Say Goodbye” with Sarah Brightman, who heard the Italian version on the radio and convinced Bocelli to sing the English version, and the rest is music history.

For nearly three centuries, the Bocelli family has made classic Italian wines in the same village farm vineyard in Tuscany. His mother Edi and brother Alberto still live and work there. They grow and make Sangiovese, Canaiola, Malvasia and Trebbiano varietals.  Lately, after much research, they are launching their Cabernet Sauvignon. Their top seller is the Sangiovese Di Toscana, widely available in the U.S. ($13). It has a young fruity cherry and earthy smoky flavor with a savory aftertaste and brown sugar notes. Bravo to the Bocelli brothers for keeping the price low and reasonable. They have now expanded to include other vineyards in the region, sourcing only the best and most suitable for Sangiovese. The grapes are only hand-harvested without irrigation, pesticides or chemical agents.

Bocelli states that “when I return home after long trips, the joy I receive from the taste of my wines is hard to match. It brings me back in time to memories of my father respectfully pouring the wine. It is now my honor to be an ambassador for these wines.”  For more, visit

Shafer led aged wines at Meritage

Meritage Wine Market in Encinitas does wine events every Friday evening, each one with a different theme that brings out the tasters in droves. They recently opened a number of perfectly aged wines from their cellar, exhibiting a superior flavor profile.  From a Cuvee Brut Champagne to a 2009 award-winning Stags Leap District Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, the debate was on for favorite of the evening. A south of France, Rhone Valley Chateauneuf-du-Pape got my attention in a hurry, until I came to that 2009 Napa Valley Shafer “One Point Five” Cabernet from the Stags Leap district.  Here is strong, polished black fruit with mocha and spice and a cedar flavor note. This eight-year-old had smooth tannins and a pleasingly long finish ($85). 

Doug Shafer, the winemaker and son of owner John Shafer, has been at it since 1983. A trick of the trade for vigorous grape production is to plant vines close together and have them compete with other crops like bell beans, clover and oats for water and nutrients, pushing them to produce small berries and rich flavors. The 1.5 Cab was introduced in 2007 and has become the standard bearer for Shafer quality.


Wine Bytes

Apollonia Bistro at UTC Shopping Center in San Diego is planning a Pine Ridge Napa Valley three-course wine dinner and dessert at 7 p.m. Jan. 26. Cost is $45 per person.  Chef Erin Sealy tastes all wines first, then shapes the cuisine around the wine flavors.  Call (619) 823-3541 for an RSVP.

A VIP Winemaker’s Tasting is on the schedule at Vineyard Grant James on Old Julian Highway in Ramona from 1 to 3 p.m. Jan. 27. Cost is $25 each. Also included is a tour of the winery to go with five wines to taste, plus bites. Get your reservation in at (760) 789-2733.

WineSellar and Brasserie in Sorrento Valley San Diego is presenting the “Game of Rhones” from 5 to 7 p.m. Jan. 31. Fee is $10 and $15. Come taste four spectacular wines.  Reserve your space at (858) 450-9557.

Sal Ercolano’s Seasalt Seafood Bistro in Del Mar is offering a Wild Horse wine dinner at 6 p.m. Feb. 8. Todd Ricard, the senior winemaker at Wild Horse, narrates the selections including a 2012 Pinot Noir matched with a New Zealand rack of lamb. Cost is $60 per guest. A call to Seasalt at (858) 755-7100 will save your place.

Frank Mangio can be reached at

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