John Mariani, proprietor of leading U.S. wine importer Banfi Vintners and the premier Tuscan vineyard estate Castello Banfi, will be recognized with the "Lifetime Achievement Award" at the 12th Annual Florida Winefest & Auction, April 3-7, 2002 at The Ritz Carlton in Sarasota. Mr. Mariani, whose father founded Banfi in 1919, joined the company in the early 1950s and together with his brother Harry, built it into the nation's top wine importer. Under Mr. Mariani's direction, Banfi Vintners has developed three of the top ten imported wine brands in the United States; Concha y Toro of Chile at #1, Riunite of Italy at #2 and Walnut Crest of Chile at #8. His vision for Castello Banfi, a 7,100-acre vineyard estate located in Montalcino, Tuscany, has evolved into an internationally recognized producer of fine wines, winning the prestigious Premio Gran VinItaly an unprecedented four times as "International Winery of the Year." At the annual "Concorso Enologico Internazionale," Castello Banfi has been declared "Italy's Best Wine Estate" for the past eight consecutive years and was most recently named "European Winery of the Year 2001" by Wine Enthusiast Magazine. Castello Banfi produces three proprietary cuvées, ExcelsuS, SummuS and Cum Laude and several noble varietals, including Tavernelle Cabernet Sauvignon, Fontanelle Chardonnay and San Angelo Pinot Grigio. In addition, the estate is well known for its traditional wines of the region, including Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino, and its pioneering work in clonal selection of the Sangiovese grape for Brunello. "The Lifetime Achievement Award was created by the Florida Winefest Board to salute an individual for his or her unique accomplishments in the wine world," said Board President Sandy Loevner. "John Mariani's accomplishments in the industry are unmatched and he is an exemplary recipient for this distinguished honor," she added. She also cited Banfi's dedication to philanthropic works as well as education, sponsoring chairs and grants at leading universities in the U.S. The Florida Winefest & Auction is a week-long food and wine celebration and wine auction created to raise funds for charitable organizations. To date, Florida Winefest has donated over $3 million to local charities.