Ristorante Banfi, the premier dining showcase of the Castello Banfi vineyard estate in Montalcino, Tuscany, has been awarded a coveted one-star rating in the 2004 Michelin Red Guide, released last week. The star, which denotes "a very good restaurant in its category," is considered significant not only because it was awarded within one year of the restaurant's opening, but also because it validates a wine list dedicated almost exclusively to the selections of one producer. Michelin's criteria generally include a wine list with selections from a range of producers.
"This star honors the outstanding cuisine and service of chef Guido Haverkock and his team," noted Castello Banfi family proprietor Cristina Mariani-May, "and is an affirmation of the range and quality of our wines."
The estate's wines include whites ranging from the crisp, clean San Angelo Pinot Grigio to the complex Serena Sauvignon Blanc. Red wines include a variety of super Tuscan cuvees, from the straightforward Centine to the complex SummuS, as well as a representation of the region's famed denominations for Sangiovese, from Castello Banfi Rosso di Montalcino and Brunello di Montalcino to the single-vineyard reserve Poggio all'Oro. Dessert wines include FloruS, a Moscadello di Montalcino, as well as Rosa Regale, a Brachetto d'Acqui from Castello Banfi's sister winery in Piedmont. Although the champagne-style Banfi Brut sparkling wine is showcased, the wine list does concede to international selection with two prestige champagnes.
The Michelin Guide writes: "Set in a medieval castle crowning one of the most beautiful vineyard estates in Italy , a restaurant rich in charm and elegance. Impressive cuisine and impeccable service. At the Tavern, the cuisine is genuinely traditional but always fascinating. Specialties include: Fillet of sea bass with caviar on a bed of greens with sour cream; quail stuffed with foie gras over spinach in a port sauce, warm apricot tart with a cream gelato."
Castello Banfi is the only winery among Italy's 210 Michelin-starred restaurants, and one of 23 new entries this year. Located in the castle keep alongside the medieval fortress that crowns this estate, Ristorante Banfi offers a formal presentation of Mediterranean-themed cuisine. Its selection of meat and fish dishes are inspired by seasonal local produce, offered in tasting menus or a la carte. Its dining room and patios for al-fresco dining, with breathtaking views of the rolling Tuscan countryside, also feature a wide selection of international cheeses and a well-stocked cigar humidor.