Lap of Luxury: Banfi Italian wines

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Welcome to the Lap of Luxury. This week we visit A Voce restaurant in the Time Warner Center, where we're talking to Banfi wines about affordable luxury.

David Arnold, senior vice president of publishing at the Robb Report, introduced us to the brand, and says Banfi is a wonderful family-owned and operated business with some of the best wines available.

It all started back in 1919, on Spring Street in Greenwich Village. Cristina Mariani-May's grandfather opened Banfi as a small wine importing house. That family business survived Prohibition, and established its New York headquarters in Old Brookville on Long Island.

But in the 1970s, Cristina Mariani-May's family returned to Italy to realize their dream of becoming wine producers in Tuscany. Mariani-May says her father created a wine estate from scratch in 1978 in the town of Montalcino, a wonderful medieval village in the hilltops of southern Tuscany. The land, untouched before, became not just a vineyard, but also a research center.

It's the first vineyard in the world to be awarded the ISO Certification for exceptional environmental, ethical, and social responsibility.

The Mariani family started with sangiovese grapes for the Brunello di Montalcino, but then moved on to pinot grigio, syrah, merlot, and cabernet.

Mariani-May says they wanted to show super Tuscans so they started blending their wines, showing the world that you can have absolutely luxury with the top of the top like super Tuscans and Brunellos, but also making wines that are affordable luxury.

A perfect example of that affordable luxury is the 2010 Brunello di Montalcino, made with 100 percent sangiovese grapes. Mariani-May says 2010 was a perfect vintage with ideal growing conditions.  It started out cool, there was a little bit of rain, then a long hot Tuscan summer, and a cooler fall. Mariani-May says the 2010 from Montalcino is often called the vintage of the century.

Served at A Voce, the Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino is poured in nearly 90 countries around the world. It's sold in the U.S. for around $65. Mariani-May calls it a luxury that you can afford.

For an even more luxurious Tuscan experience, guests can stay at the Castello Banfi in Montalcino. The hotel there, Castello Banfi-Il Borgo, is nestled right next to a 12th Century castle that sits atop a hill overlooking the 7,000 acres of vineyards and woods. Open March through November, Il Borgo has just 14 rooms. For $1,200 a night in season, stay in the Poggio all'Oro Suite, the only suite in the world with its own private wine cellar.
You can also book the three-night Hedonist's Retreat Under the Tuscan Sun package for $35,000, which includes a hot air balloon ride, private cooking lessons, and a Ferrari rental. Mariani-May describes it as the ultimate Tuscan experience and thinks it should be on everyone's bucket list.

She says Il Borgo brings you back to another era, and has a real sense of history. Drink their wines and also get a sense of enjoyment.

Thanks so much for joining us to talk affordable luxury with Banfi wines.

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