Castello Banfi - Our Story - The family
The family
Teodolinda Banfi

Teodolinda Banfi is the maternal aunt of Giovanni F. Mariani Sr. and the inspiration for the firm’s name. 

Teodolinda, adopted by the Ratti family of Milan, grew up alongside Cardinal Archbishop Achille Ratti who, in 1922, was elected Pope Pius XI.

Governess for the Archbishop of Milan, she also followed him to the Vatican, becoming the first lay woman to live within the walls of the Sistine Palace.  Cited in the Vatican archives as diminutive in stature but with a big personality, wielding “great authority, especially in the kitchen,” and above all a great expert on wine. 

It was thanks to Teodolinda that her nephew Giovanni F. Mariani Sr. came into the world of fine wine and cuisine.  

Giovanni F. Mariani Sr.

Giovanni F. Mariani Sr. founded Banfi Vintners, America’s leading wine importer, back in 1919.

He was born in 1895 in Torrington, Connecticut, and moved to Italy at the tender age of nine when his father tragically died in a work-related accident.  It was during this period of his life that his aunt Teodolinda, head of household for Monsignor Ratti (who later became Pope Pius XI) transmitted her grand passion for and knowledge of wine.  That passion translated in 1919 to the birth of Banfi Vintners in New York City.  From that moment on, Americans had additional opportunity to begin to appreciate the most important wines of Italy and France. 

In the 1960s he left the firm to his sons, having found them to be not only good business partners, but above all worthy successors to his life’s mission.    

The excellent reputation of  Banfi throughout the world is a significant tribute to his memory.  

John Mariani Jr.

John Mariani, Jr., son of founder Giovanni F. Mariani, graduated from Cornell University in the 1950s and then pursued two years of viticultural studies in Europe.   

Upon his return to the US, he followed the path of this father and, together with his brother Harry, assumed control of the firm.  John, thanks to his long term strategic vision, became Chief Executive Officer.

John Mariani, Jr. contributed to Banfi in a decisive way, his passion and perseverance leading to the realization of his “impossible dream:” the birth of Castello Banfi, in 1978, in the heart of the world’s most celebrated wine region, Tuscany.  

Harry Mariani

Harry Mariani, graduated from Colgate University, started at Banfi Vintners in the late 1950s.

He immediately began coordinating the firm’s administrative, commercial and marketing activity, soon becoming the company’s president.  In the following thirty years, he played a decisive role in the company’s development from a small family concern to America’s leading wine importer.

In 1978, together with his brother John, he gave life to “the greatest project ever realized for quality wine production in Italy,” Castello Banfi in Montalcino. In less than a year after purchasing their property in Tuscany, the Mariani brothers acquired the historic Bruzzone cellars, today Banfi Piedmont, in Strevi.

James Mariani

James Mariani, together with his cousin Cristina Mariani-May, represents the third generation of family management at Banfi.

Graduated from Colgate University and then attaining his Master’s in Business Administration at Cornell University, he officially joined his family’s firm in 1991.  In recent years he has successfully taken on the role of his father Harry in US sales and marketing, reorganizing and optimizing both departments.   

Cristina Mariani‐May

Cristina Mariani-May, together with her cousin James Mariani, represents the third generation of family stewardship at Banfi Vintners. A graduate of Georgetown University with her masters from Columbia University’s School of Business, she entered into the company at a young age in the early 1990s.  For several years already she has taken a first-hand role in coordinating Banfi’s activity in Italy and the US, contributing to the development of the brand. 

“The Pursuit of Excellence” for Cristina Mariani represents a true personal mantra and extends to all of her activities.  And her many activities have included the initiatives introduced by her, most significant and meaningful being the creation of a system of traceability and monitoring that has resulted in Banfi’s being the first winery in the world to be awarded international recognition for exceptional environmental, ethical and social responsibility (ISO 14001 and SA8000) as well as an international leader in customer satisfaction (ISO 9001:2000).  This recognition underlines her long term strategic vision.


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