When I was contacted by the “biggest winery that I’ve never heard of” last month, it peaked my interest. I missed Anthony Scotto III, the CEO of Scotto wines, when he was in Dallas last month, so when the winery offered to have Bill Chenault, the national sales manager for Scotto pour the wines for me, I accepted.
Totally unrelated, but interesting. Bill spent some time in Atlanta, where I grew up, and sent his two daughters to Auburn University, where I received my undergraduate degree. It was an unexpected bonus.
As someone with an Italian heritage, I loved hearing about another successful Italian American dream story. Salvatore Dominic Scotto started a winery in Ischia, Italy, in 1883. In 1903, the family emigrated from Italy and settled in Brooklyn, NY.
They opened Scotto Liquors, one of the oldest liquor stores in the state of New York, which has since been sold, but is still in business. The Scotto’s made wine in their home from whatever fruit they could source in Brooklyn and similar to the Gallo family, sold it door to door out of crocks from a horse drawn wagon. In 1961, they bought a facility in Pleasanton, California, that they named Villa Armando, where they began making their own wine. They created Villa Armando Rustico, one of the oldest US wine brands. I tried it and appreciated that this was the type of mass production wine that allowed them to build a family business with overall capacity of more than 300,000 cases annually.
They sold this facility in the 1980s and expanded the Scotto portfolio into Lodi and Napa. Five generations later, they have expanded the scope of their wines to include more than 40 brands sold to customers around the world. I was honored to try an unlabeled limited-edition, higher-end Napa wine from the Van Der Hayden Vineyard in honor of the Scotto’s family’s 50th California harvest that I thought was fantastic. The 50 Harvests Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 Napa Valley is a small production wine that will change your image from a mass producer of wine to a winery that takes winemaking to another level. It’s a blend of 94 percent cabernet sauvignon and 6 percent petite verdot. The Scotto children rightfully knew that while the value labels are important, this unlabeled bottle would be the one to put them on the map in the wine world.
I tried a few other wines that were made to be fruit forward, drinkable and enjoyed every day. The first was Scotto Family Cellars Old Vine Zinfandel made with Lodi fruit. This had a nice spice, lots of red and black fruit and notes of cedar.
The next was the NAPA by N.A.P.A Michael’s Red, the first Napa release from the Scotto family. The name represents the five siblings: Natalie, Anthony, Paul, Anne (NAPA) and Michael who recently joined the winery. This is a very drinkable every day wine with dark fruit, oak and notes of chocolate and mocha. Look for it at Cost Plus World Market stores, who pretty much took most of the inventory produced.
We ended with a Moscato wine that was semi-dry, honey-touched and the perfect aperitif to a great meal and conversation at Max’s Wine Dive.