Wine Royalty: A Fairy Tale Come True

/ Updated on January 30, 2018

Who doesn’t like a fairy tale with a beautiful princess, ultimately swept away by her handsome prince astride a white horse, riding off into the sunset together, through the rolling hills (or, in this instance, the vineyards) of Tuscany? Add a winery, and you have the makings of the real-life story of a count and countess who, along with their winemaker, produce Italian wines befitting royalty, as well as the common folk in America.

Born into one of the oldest families in Europe, and growing up in Verona after three years as a Lieutenant in the Italian Paratroop Regiment, Count Manfredo di San Bonifacio ran away to London to finish his education and start a career in finance. After spending some sixteen years at JP Morgan and other financial powerhouses, he decided to return home to Tuscany and purchase land where he eventually planted Syrah and Sangiovese grapes.

Shortly thereafter, Manfredo expanded his business to include a wine estate and hotel. It wasn't long before Conti di San Bonifacio’s Estate was named one of the top ten wedding destinations in Martha Stewart magazine. A friend and business partner to the late restaurateur, chef and humanitarian Matt Haley, Manfredo’s work ethic was developed in the grueling world of high finance, and he carried that over to his vineyards where he works tirelessly to ensure his wines are of the best quality. At Teller, we carry all three of Manfredo’s wines – the Monteregio (a blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot), the Docet (50% Cabernet Sauvignon and 50% Cab Franc), and the Sustinet (100% Syrah). More on each later.

Back to the fairy tale. Helping to run the wine estate and resort is the beautiful, British born Countess Sarah, who also worked in the world of high finance in London before giving up that career to help her Italian prince. She is the steady hand behind both the hospitality and the agricultural functions of the estate. Instead of managing investment portfolios, she is now happily managing a staff of over 100 viticulturists, oenologists, and hospitality staff on the estate.

It matters not whether the winery is in Tuscany or McLaren Vale; a good winemaker is what makes the operation successful. Winemaker Luca d’Attoma is the artist behind all of Manfredo’s wines. Luca has been a friend and guardian to the count and countess and their wines over many years. Charismatic and unrelenting, he pushes the boundaries of quality by meticulously blending, tasting, and testing each batch of grape juice, during and after fermentation and barrel aging. It is said that Luca is more passionate about making wines than playing soccer.

It also doesn’t hurt that the Sangiovese grapes are grown in almost perfect conditions along the Maremma coast. The unique terroir is a composition of red clay with mineral and metals from the sea. Hard rocks of white limestone give the wines the ability to age over many years. This native grape of Tuscany is a favorite of the Countess Sarah. Syrah can also be a very challenging grape to harness, but the terroir and the careful discipline applied to the process ensures a consistently good wine, vintage after vintage. No wonder Matt Haley chose the Monteregio as his signature wine to be served at all of his restaurants here in Delaware.

We love all three of the Count’s wines. The Monteregio has dark red cherries, flowers, mint and licorice on the palate. It is expressive like an excited Italian during a heated argument. The Sustinet is 100% Syrah grapes, evoking intense deep red color, and is decisively spicy with aromas of white pepper, cherry, plum and an herbaceous nose. Round in the mouth, this is classic Syrah, with acidity balanced by the sweetness of the tannins.

The Docet exhibits notes of blueberries, raspberries, and graphite. Cab Franc gives it body. The finish is elegant, balanced by acidity and ripe tannins. The latter two have their places in our “Hot & Jammy” section so you can surmise their flavor profile.

Incidentally, our friend and local wine aficionado/musician Paul Cullen has visited Manfredo’s estate, and serves the Monteregio at all of his wine dinners and cooking concerts. As another aside, you can meet Manfredo during the inaugural SoDel Wine, Food, & Music Festival on October 17, 2015 at Schell Brothers' Independence development in Millsboro. To purchase tickets, go to Kevin and I will be pouring several wines, including Manfredo’s, so you can decide for yourself whether this fairy tale has a happy ending. Spoiler alert: They lived happily after.

Catherine Hester

About the Author

co-owner of Teller Wines in Lewes, DE with her husband Kevin, is a world traveler and shares their adventures at various wineries while offering thoughts on why she and Kevin order particular wines for their customers. Learn more about the Hesters by clicking here. View all articles written by Catherine Hester

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