It was time for a virtual wine tasting courtesy of Bottega Wine and Stile Brands featuring winemaker Sandro Bottega and Stile’s Carmen D’Onofio.
Cat: We’re going to be talking all things bubbly and all things summer and we’re going to let you in on a little thing we did recently, which was a virtual wine tasting. Please, everybody. Welcome today to Carmen D’Onofrio of Stile Brands. Welcome, Carmen.
Well, listen, you’re kind of famous in your own right here. Anybody who’s a football / soccer fan, like myself, we have ourselves a Whitecaps star on our hands. He also played with the 86ers, so you have this amazing sports background. You’re into Italian wines. Tell us now a little bit about yourself and how you came from being a sports star to going into the wine business?
1:12 Carmen: Well, I was playing I played soccer a young age when I started I was five years old and played on you know, the various bc select teams and, and youth national teams. And I was fortunate enough to get drafted by the 86ers at that time when I was 16. And, and I played and trained with them, and then went away to University at Stanford University and played varsity soccer for four years. And then came back and played on the Canadian Olympic team was qualifying for the Atlanta 1996 games.
I’ve played indoor soccer and outdoor soccer for for six years, until my body couldn’t hold up anymore. And I had a problem with my left knee and I couldn’t train or play, you know, at the same level, on a consistent basis. So it was just kind of time for me to look at my next life. And my dad who started our wine agency, he, unfortunately, became ill with cancer. So it was time for me to you know, reset and take care of the family and take care of business and move on to my next chapter of life.
Cat: Well, I think you’ve picked a pretty good second career. I’m partial, though, because I am a wine lover, and I think many of my audience is as well. How fun is it to do something like this? It’s a big task. But tell us about Stile Brands.
3:11 Carmen: Well, style brands is a family owned agency. We started in 1991. And and you know, our first orders arrived in 1992. And from there, we just continue to grow. We started off with with wines, obviously Italian wines and, and my dad was always always looking for products that over delivered for the price. And he was a smart man, he always said let’s find what women want. And we were the first we were the first importers of Prosecco back in 1992 when nobody knew what it was, and nobody wanted to taste it, nobody. But you know, over time, it became a brand or, you know, an iconic wine in its own right. And, yeah, we just continue to grow and we continue to evolve our portfolio. And, you know, the best the best part about this, this job, this business this, this industry is people, the relationships that you form, the people that you meet, you know, it’s special and and you know, you cherish it because because I don’t think a lot of industries are like this.
Cat: I imagine you get to hear some fantastic stories along the way. Is it true that some of the vines can be over 100 years old?
5:55 Carmen: Definitely. We work with a winery and they have vines that are over 120 years old.
Cat: Tell me how often have you been over to Italy? What’s your favorite region? And what do you drink at home – what’s your favourite wine?
7:43 Carmen: I would I would go to Italy about three times a year and go visit our suppliers. And regions that I love in Italy, depends on season. But if we took the seasons out of it, I love the region of Le Marche. It’s a region that people don’t really know much about. It’s this pristine, untouched region that’s really quiet and tranquil and people live amazingly well. And the coast is beautiful. The beaches are beautiful. You know the seafood is amazing, absolutely amazing. As for wine, if I have a choice of a bottle. I love Barolo. I just love the complexity of Barolo. I think it comes at you in waves. There’s so many different layers to the wine.
Cat: So let’s let’s start with how you pulled off the wine tasting and then let’s talk a little bit about the Bottega brand and Sandro Bottega himself.
11:46 Carmen: These are Sandro’s babies. He’s got such a creative mind and he never sleeps. So he created this bottle that is triple baked to create this gold packaging. So it’s not a sleeve. It’s not spray painted. It’s actually fire baked and the colour stays on the bottle so you can’t ever scratch it or you can ever mark it up. And he had this imagination where Prosecco needs to set itself apart. Prosecco is all about fun, elegance, you know, events or parties or social gatherings. So he goes, we need to have a bottle that commemorates this or promotes this, and gets people to talk about Prosecco in a way that it’s meant to be. It’s meant to be fun. It’s meant to be exciting. It’s meant to be social. It’s meant to be part of life. You open up a sparkling wine. You drink it all the time. You drink it with a meal. He even wrote a book on on Prosecco. And it’s got 100 recipes of Prosecco.
Cat: We had the beautiful tour by Sandro around his whole estate. Prosecco as you said, is not new – but it may be new to us. What are we doing with Prosecco these days? Is it a trend? Are we going to see more of it during the summer months? What’s your predictions?
16:19 Carmen: I think what you’re going to be seeing over the the summer months is Prosecco Rose. This is something that has been studied and has been in the works for, I want to say five plus years. And finally, the Italian government and the consortium have agreed on the regulations and how it’s supposed to be produced and packaged and all that. And you’re going to see more and more Prosecco Rose. I mean, it’s sparkling. It’s Prosecco. It’s fun. And I think it’s going to be something the consumer gravitates towards because it checks all the boxes off and it tastes great. It tastes wonderful.
Cat: What else can we expect to see this summer? What are we seeing on the horizon for the future?
23:16 Carmen: Well, one thing that I like that we’ve we started working with and we just launched it in April of this year is the Amalfi Spritz. So we we brought into the market pre-packaged spritz – that’s Prosecco with Aperol, splash of soda in a great four pack in a glass bottle, and it’s readily available in BC liquor stores.