A Tuscan Winemaker's Unbreakable Ties to the Delaware Coast
How a chance encounter in Italy led Manfredo di San Bonifacio to our beloved beaches.
Manfredo di San Bonifacio, provided by Manfredo di San Bonifacio
Coastal Sussex County is a long way from Italy, but that hasn't stopped Count Manfredo di San Bonifacio from forming a close bond with the Delaware beaches.
It all started when coastal restaurateur Matt Haley, founder of Rehoboth Beach-based SoDel Concepts, was traveling in Italy. He knocked on the door of Manfredo's Tuscan wine resort to ask for directions. The two became fast friends, and Haley soon spearheaded the effort to bring Manfredo's Conti di San Bonifacio wines to the United States.
Even after Haley's sudden, tragic death in 2014, Manfredo has continued his regular visits to the coast. This year he's a participant in the Southern Delaware Wine, Food & Music Festival (SoDel Fest).
Photo by Doug Ruley
His first stop is SoDel Fest's "A Taste of Tuscany," a six-course wine dinner at The Clubhouse at Baywood on Friday, Sept. 28. With Manfredo's input, SoDel chef Doug Ruley has crafted a menu with such dishes as smoked day-boat scallops with salmon roe, garden water, grapefruit and sea salt; sea bass with cannellini beans, amaranth, tomato confit and fried bread; and wild boar agnolotti with melted onion, truffle, celery and pecorino cheese.
And on Saturday, Sept. 29, Manfredo will pour wines at the festival's main event, which will be held at Independence Clubhouse, a Millsboro community not far from Lewes.
We asked Manfredo to share more about his special ties to the beaches. (The answers below have been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.)
Why do you enjoy SoDel Fest?
It is a great opportunity to meet many friends old and new. Also, I feel that I am part of the Delaware coastal community, which I visit a couple of times a year, and it allows me to catch up with many people at one event.
How does the menu for "A Taste of Tuscany" reflect both Italian and coastal Delaware cultures?
Chef Doug Ruley is a friend and an amazing professional; we have known each other for a while now, and we share the same drive for excellence in what we do. He knows our wines, so the Italian and Tuscan produce that he's chosen to pair with them are just perfect. We exchanged just a few words, and a heavenly pairing was born. You will be surprised!
Speaking of surprises, can guests at the Sept. 28 dinner expect any more?
We will be pouring the new vintages of our Super Tuscans. But to find out exactly which ones, you need to come.
What will you do at the Sept. 29 festival at Independence?
Paul Karp, [the Delaware manager for Vintage Imports], and I are sharing a table to show wines.
Why do you think the link between you and Delaware has stayed so strong even after Matt's passing?
I feel I am part of the Delaware community. Each time that I come back, I realize how many amazing people Matt introduced me to in a relatively short time. Since his passing, I have developed great friendships with many of his friends and other people in Delaware. It's funny—it's a bit like the story of our wine. When Matt started to import them into the U.S., he wanted sole distribution for his restaurants for the first year. After that year, he encouraged me to branch out and work with other partners and restaurants.
What do you like best about the Delaware coast?
I love it! I tell my three boys what a great place it is. They all want to join me on a trip, but they usually are at school. I can't wait for when they are older, so I can show them the beach, the restaurants and shops. Mostly, I want them to meet the many friends I have here.
IF YOU GO:
A Taste of Tuscany
Friday, Sept. 29, at 6 p.m. • The Clubhouse at Baywood in Millsboro
Six-course dinner featuring Conti di San Bonifacio wines. Tickets are $95 per person.
Wine & Music Tasting
Saturday, Sept. 29, 11 a.m.–noon • Independence Clubhouse in Millsboro
A prelude to the main festival, this special event will feature Ray Kurz of Cuvée Ray Wine Bar & Restaurant in Rehoboth Beach. Participants will sip five wines that have been selected to pair with five songs. Guests will vote for the ones that are in the most "perfect harmony." Tickets are $35 per person; you must also purchase a festival ticket to attend.
4th Annual Southern Delaware Wine Food & Music Festival
Saturday, Sept. 29, noon–4 p.m. • Independence Clubhouse in Millsboro
This year, the event offers cuisine from more than 20 restaurants, over 50 wines, locally brewed craft beers, live music, spirits, a silent auction and a wine wall. Celebrity guest Michael Sprouse will host a live cook-off between two teams of talented chefs. Tickets are $85 per person in advance and $90 at the door.