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Friday, March 14, 2014

Sicilian Bliss on a Royal Wine Estate

                                 Count Marzatto's glorious villa in the middle of the vineyards

The lear jet approached the private landing strip paralleling the Sicilian vineyards.  Unfortunately, I was not on the jet but on a walk through the vineyards.   “Must be someone pretty important,” I thought.  It was.  When I returned to the estate’s villa (where I was staying with the group that I had brought to Sicily) I was informed that the owner, Count Marzotto, had arrived with the Countess and their private pilot.  I was further told the royal couple had flown down from their home outside of Venice for the weekend to welcome  the Wine Knows group…”the least they could do for a group who had flown 10,000 miles to indulge in their wines.”   I pinched myself…was  I dreaming?

That night for dinner the handsome 70-something year old Count and his regal wife greeted us in the villa’s elegant front room with sparkling wine from the Count’s estate in northern Italy, Ca Del Bosco.  (One of Italy’s premier bubblies, it has long been my faves).  Count Marzotto is a quite a serious player in Italy’s wine scene.  As CEO of mega-Euro Santa Margherita winery, he made Pinot Grigio a household word among wine-drinkers in the USA—for many years, Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio was the number one imported wine.  But, the Count isn’t just famous for his wine.  Marzotto is best known for his philanthropic work.  A kind of modern-day Medici, he is one of Italy’s largest philanthropist for the arts.   And, there’s even more to Count Marzotto than wine and art.  Ever heard of Missoni?  How about Valentino? They are both owned by the Count, in addition to several other luxury brands in Italy.

In the late 1990’s Count Marzotto decided to expand his wine operations to Sicily.  Believing Sicily was an undiscovered wine region capable of producing world-class wines, he bought 200 acres and launched the Baglio di Pianetto winery.  A 12 bedroom villa was built which was decorated by the Countess…everything from the fabulous fabrics and furniture to the door handles of bathroom faucets.   The Marzotto family has the Midas touch.  Baglio di Pianetto’s wines have garnered every top medal in national and international competitions.

My visit to the Count’s estate was six years ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday.  Regrettably, the Countess has died.  Their granddaughter, however, is now in charge of the Sicilian operations and is adroitly carrying on her grandparents quality-driven work.  Those of you coming to Sicily with Wine Knows this September, will have the opportunity to meet her as she will be there to welcome our group.  Once again, Wine Knows is very fortunate to be staying in the Count’s magnificent villa surrounded by a sea of vines.

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