Late last fall, my wife and I were privileged to spend some time in the lovely, historic and delicious Italian region of Piedmont. Over the coming weeks and months I plan to share some of the amazing stories we encountered there.
I start with one that has a Kansas City husband-and-wife team, Renata and Giovanni Bonacina.
We didn’t get the chance to meet Giovanni, but we spent two days and two nights with Renata at her lovely old farmhouse, consuming her wines and her home-cooked meals after watching the sun disappear behind the Alps.
The setting was magical, the meals amazing, the wines fantastic, and the charm and hospitality of Renata was off the charts! Making it even better was the fact that one of Renata’s wines, the Cà ed Balos Moscato d’Asti D.O.C.G., is imported and distributed by Vianello Imports, owned and operated by Kansas City couple Marc and Michelle Vianello.
Marc, Michelle and Renata share many things: a love for and appreciation of good wine and food, Italy’s amazing history and diversity, and, perhaps most importantly, a second career that gives them so much joy.
For their part, Renata and Giovanni purchased Cà ed Balos, a low yield moscato produced in Piedmont’s Langhe region. Not long ago, Cà ed Balos merged with the Decapo brand from the region’s Monferatto area.
Decapo, which produces a stunning Barbera from the new Nizza D.O.C.G., among many other wines, gives Renata and Giovanni two brands producing more than a dozen wines. Giovanni still works full time at a business in Milan, while Renata has transitioned out of the corporate world and into the world of wine.
Sampling her wines, I can say that the transition tastes seamless. I can only hope Marc and Michelle bring more of her wines to the Kansas City market.
We visited with the Vianellos over a bottle of Renata’s moscato not long ago and heard the story of how two accountants found themselves importing and distributing wines from Italy, Argentina, California and Oregon.
“It all started on a trip to Venice when we decided to travel to the narrow island of Pellestrina, where half the people living there share our last name,” Marc Vianello said to my wife and me. “Over many trips, Michelle and I became very close to the people living on the island.”
On one of those visits, as Marc was bestowed the honor of being named a “Cavaliere di San Marco,” the Vianellos were introduced to winemaker Luigino Molon.
The couple had tasted and fallen in love with his wines, which were renowned and widely available on Pellestrina but nowhere in the United States. The Vianellos changed that when those wines became the first brought to the U.S. by Vianello Imports.
The Vianellos’ relationship with Renata Bonacina and Cà ed Balos is not nearly as romantic. They met at a trade show where Renata was pouring her wines and looking for importers who would bring them to the U.S.
The Vianellos liked what they tasted and thought the moscato would be a good fit for the Kansas City market. I concur. In fact, the Cà ed Balos Moscato d’Asti D.O.C.G. is one of the best moscatos I’ve tasted.
In the end, Marc, Michelle and Renata are connected by the love of wine and the second career that it has given them.
“There are challenges to what we do, but there is also so much pleasure,” Michelle Vianello said. “Plus we love doing this in Kansas City. Our customers are the owners of and buyers for retail liquor stores and restaurants. They support local, and they try to help the ‘little guy.’ Without their support, we wouldn’t be in business.”
And we wouldn’t be able to buy a bottle of Renata Bonacina’s moscato, and that’s something I would sorely miss!
Dave Eckert is a freelance journalist who writes about food and wine. He was the producer and host of “Culinary Travels With Dave Eckert,” which aired on PBS and AWE for 12 seasons.