A Super Tuscan Super Hero: taste virtually with Cinzia Merli and me this Thursday in Houston.

I couldn’t be more thrilled to welcome Cinzia Merli (above, center), the owner of Le Macchiole in Bolgheri for this week’s virtual winemaker dinner at Roma restaurant in Houston where I run the wine program.

Cinzia, producer of some of Tuscany’s most highly rated and expensive wines, is a true Super Tuscan Super Hero.

In the late 1990s, her family owned a humble tavola calda, cafeteria-style restaurant in Bolgheri on the Tuscan coast. Like many Tuscan restaurateurs at the time, they made their own wine to sell to their guests. And when the Super Tuscan craze of that decade began to take shape, it was only natural that she and her husband would want to throw their hat into the ring. The couple bought land, planted vineyards, hired a top consulting enologist, and began making wine.

To their surprise, their first releases were met with critical and commercial success. The future looked bright.

But then tragedy struck: Cinzia’s still young husband passed away unexpectedly, leaving her a single mother and signatory to the loans they had procured as they expanded their production.

In an era where male chauvinism still dominated the wine world, most of her neighbors expected her to close the winery.

Instead, she rolled up her sleeves and set out to build her brand in Italy and beyond. And the rest is history. Fast forward to 2022: her current release Messorio sells for around $250 a bottle (retail).

I first met Cinzia in 2007 when her star was ascendant. I visited her winery the following year. She is simply one of the loveliest persons I’ve ever met in the wine industry and her wines are phenomenal.

I want to let her tell the whole story tomorrow night. So I’ll stop here.

But I hope you can join us as we taste her Bolgheri Rosso, a blend of international grape varieties, including her celebrated Merlot. Along the way, we are going to talk about the macchia mediterranea, the “maquis” or shrubland biome that makes the wines of Le Macchiole (named after the macchia) so special.

If ever there were a virtual winemaker dinner not to miss, this is it, folks. I hope to see you there.

And on a technical note, this is the last virtual winemaker dinner we’ll be doing for a while. Yesterday, we hosted our first in-person (private) wine dinner for the Houston chapter of the Accademia Italiana della Cucina. And next week, we’ll be relaunching our free pre-dinner wine tastings. On March 17, we’ll be hosting our first in-person winemaker dinner since late last year (details forthcoming).

Thank you for your support. And thank you for loving Italian wines as much as I do!

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