Castello Banfi of Montalcino, Tuscany has been named 2001 European "Winery of The Year" by Wine Enthusiast Magazine. The annual award, presented by Wine Enthusiast Publisher Adam Strum, recognized Castello Banfi for its "innovative varietal and clonal research on vines, for its key role in the economic transformation of the small Tuscan town of Montalcino, and its seamless transition to a new generation of Mariani family management." Castello Banfi has also been recognized as the unprecedented four-time "International Winery of the Year" and eight-time "Italian Winery of the Year" at the Concorso Enologico Internazionale in Verona, Italy. Several of the estate's wines have been singled out for their style and quality by the worlds leading wine guides and groups, including the 16,000-member Association of Italian Sommeliers who voted Banfi Italy's 1999 "Winery of the Year." "The honors that we receive are a confirmation of our efforts and an inspiration to forge ahead," said Cristina Mariani, who along with her cousin, James Mariani, is proprietor of the family-owned winery as well as leading US wine importer Banfi Vintners. Castello Banfi was established in 1978 by their fathers, John and Harry Mariani - whose own father, John F. Mariani, Sr., founded Banfi Vintners in 1919. In Montalcino, Banfi worked with the world's leading enologists to assemble a contiguous estate of 7,100 acres and select ideal sites within to plant a constellation of single vineyards covering just over 2,400 acres. In conjunction with the University of Milan, they pioneered intense research on the Brunello clone of the Sangiovese grape, narrowing the field from 600 to the ideal 15 clones to produce consistently outstanding Brunello vintage after vintage, and shared the results with their neighboring producers. Signature wines of the Castello Banfi estate include the single-vineyard Poggio all'Oro Brunello di Montalcino Riserva, and two proprietary cuvées, SummuS and ExcelsuS. Noble varietals, including Tavernelle Cabernet Sauvignon and San Angelo Pinot Grigio, are produced there as well as traditional wines of the region, such as Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino. Crowning the estate is the medieval fortress now known as Castello Banfi, meticulously restored as a hospitality center boasting a formal restaurant, casual-dining "taverna," enoteca and glass museum. A leader in wine education, Banfi provides grants and endowments to several universities and makes generous annual contributions to selected charities around the world.