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Please note: in partnership with Serendipity, the following Banville wines are available in California.

The Wisdom of Ragu

“You can’t make a great wine from mediocre grapes, and you can’t make a great ragu from mediocre meat and tomatoes.  Fundamentals of Italian cooking and winemaking.  It’s about La Materia Prima — the raw material.”

When Lia Tolaini Banville, proprietor of Banville Wine Merchants, lent us her recipe for Bolognese, she also incidentally gave us a healthy, heaping portion of wisdom.  Lia has worn many hats over the years: importer, vintner, matriarch, culinary expert (her recipe is equal parts instruction, equal parts philosophy) and, like a good ragu, quality has been the driving force behind her enterprise.  

Currently representing over 50 hand-picked brands, Lia began Banville Wine Merchants in 2004 with a boutique portfolio of fine Italian wines.  Since then Banville has expanded substantially while keeping quality materia prima at the root of their partnerships— wines that champion integrity, authenticity and family.  As we come together to enjoy another season of table fellowship, we tour the Italian side of Banville’s book in the company of close-knit winemaking families and pairings that’ll make you feel like kin.

Donna Laura Wines 

It can’t be understated the role that family has played in shaping the Tolaini’s range of wines.  From the eponymous, multi-generational brand started by Lia’s father (more on Pier Luigi soon) to the filial bottles of Donna Laura lovingly named after Lia’s own children, it’s truly all relative.  Lia launched Donna Laura Wines in 2004 to provide top quality Sangiovese at an affordable price. The winery is named after her Aunt Laura, whose lessons of family, Italian culture and tradition ultimately shaped Lia’s destiny in the industry.
Donna Laura Wines makes three red wines and one Rosato from first-class Sangiovese grapes grown in the Castelnuovo Berardenga region of Chianti Classico.  By promoting biodiversity through cover crops, careful soil management, and practicing sustainable viticulture they are able to highlight a sense of place in Chianti’s southernmost commune.  These are high-quality Sangiovese wines at an accessible price point that are both representative of the terroir of the region, as well as international in style.​  Take it from the vintner herself, you’ll want the family Bolognese recipe to enjoy while you cozy up with bottles to be enjoyed every day with family and friends:

Tolaini – An Intention Realized

“I’d never drink bad wine again… and one day I’d return to my own land to make good wine.”

The Tolaini legacy began in Tuscany with Lia’s father, a powerful resolution, and a daring devotion to home.  Pier Luigi Tolaini was only 19 when he left Italy as a poor farmer and immigrated to Canada— a result of the stark conditions of postwar Italy in the former half of the 20th century.  It would be over forty years before he would return to his homeland in Chianti Classico and turn his dream into a reality, and make good on making good wine.  In his 60’s, no less.

Tolaini produces terroir-specific red wines in the commune of Castelnuovo Berardenga near Donna Laura Wines.  Pier Luigi built his vision with a central respect for the environment, the grapes and the winemaking team.  This philosophy plays out in impactful ways from the careful consideration of employee quality of life to the very vines themselves.  Tolaini’s vineyard workers live in local, provided housing and Pier Luigi even designed a custom, shaded tractor to help the team more comfortably harvest.  As for the grapes, they currently employ organic and sustainable practices with the aim to be certified organic by 2023. The story these wines tell are that of strength, power, and finesse.  And they love food.

Favorite Tolaini-Banville Family Pairings

Equal parts Cab Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, the Tolaini Valdisanti, IGT, Toscana 2018 is a brawny red ready for the coming Winter months.  With notes of dark berries, cassis & oak spice the Tolaini-Banville family loves it with a spezzatino of pork, tomato sauce and black olives (a spezzatino is a classic Italian stew course typically made from rougher cuts of meat).  Here, the vibrant acidity and hint of sweetness of the tomato sauce matches beautifully with the rich fruit and elegant structure of this wine.

In a slightly lighter direction, the family pairs Tolaini Al Passo IGT, Toscana 2017  with reginette pasta, mushrooms and sausage.  Perfect for delicate sauces, reginette is a ribbon-shaped pasta with frilly edges.  While the ‘Al Passo’ leans on aromas of fresh cherries and wild berries, the nuanced aromas of mushrooms complement the complex profile of this balanced Sangiovese, Merlot, Cab blend.

Explore the Offerings of Banville: