One Night, Seven Wines, and the Voice of an Angel


This is a post written by Andras, one of our guest writers. He wrote it last year (actually, 2021) when Covid was still an issue. Enjoy!


“But remember, boy, that a kind act can sometimes be as powerful as a sword. As a mortal, I was never a great fighter or athlete or poet. I only made wine. The people in my village laughed at me. They said I would never amount to anything. Look at me now. Sometimes small things can become very large indeed.”
― Rick Riordan, The Battle of the Labyrinth

I have been locked away like Edmund Dantés in the Count of Monte Cristo. I have gotten my jabs. I have a collection of masks. The FedEx and UPS drivers no longer request my signature when they deliver my wine allocations. Did you know that Netflix has hidden codes?

The Rosato has a label that reminds me of a painting by Georgia O’Keeffe. The wine itself was remarkable.

I want to go to Napa, and I am planning my trip for October. Harvest season has begun, and, typically, it culminates by October. I love Napa in October. The weather is great, and many of the vineyards are still harvesting. Thinking about Napa reminded me of a wine tasting experience that began the last time I was there in 2019.

I had been invited to the release party for Patland Estate Vineyards’ 2017 vintage way back in 2019. (See my article, “A Weekend in Napa – A Phoenix Rises!”) I met Patland’s remarkable winemaker Jay Buoncristiani, on that trip. Jay is a winemaker from a long line of Italian winemakers. He is a native of Napa Valley and was formerly the winemaker at Hess Collection prior to joining Patland. Jay and his brothers, Aaron, Matt, and Nate started Buoncristiani Family Winery. As if Jay’s résumé was not already impressive, he and Michael Patland also have their own label called Hidden Gallery.

Buoncristiano OPC Proprietary Red Blend

Jay and his alluring girlfriend, Anya Stepnova, whom I had also met at the Patland release party were coming to Las Vegas. My friends, Eric and Lory, and I decided we would introduce Jay’s wines to our wine group in Las Vegas, so we put together an impromptu party at my house. Jay and Anya brought a selection of Buoncristiani wines and succulent charcuterie and cheese from Browns Valley Meat in Napa.

Jay and Anya

Buoncristiani Family Winery, or BFW, features a Rosato, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, an O.P.C. Proprietary red, Syrah, Malbec, and their piéce de résistance, a Cabernet Sauvignon, all of which are highly rated at 92 points and above. (Robert Parker, Jr., gave Jay’s Cabernet Sauvignon – The Core, 2018, 97 points.) Jay brought some of each. Parker said, “One of my favorite under-the-radar wineries is Buoncristiani.” BFW also makes a Zinfandel, Docetto, and a Meritage, but they did not bring those. Jay and Anya did bring Estate Grown Extra Virgin Olive Oil, the last of which I am nursing like it was a patient in a Covid ward.

My wine group and friends consist of sommeliers, WSET certificate holders, and wine aficionados, as well as a Master Sommelier candidate (who just happens to be married to my sister). They say that if you have 10 wine aficionados together you will have 20 opinions. My group would give you 30, and those would be very discerning opinions.

Buoncristiani Lineup
Short Lineup of Buoncristiani Wine

We began with sparkling wine, and Jay taught me the fine art of sabrage, or opening a bottle of sparkling wine with a sabre. I always wanted to try to sabrage a bottle. He was a great teacher because I opened it on my first try. Jay is a wild man who is very animate and frequently punctuates his words with the use of his hands. He is also very devoted to his craft. Jay thoughtfully explained his approach to winemaking, whilst we sampled his collection.


The Rosato has a label that reminds me of a painting by Georgia O’Keeffe. The wine itself was remarkable. This is how the tasting began. Jay held us in the palms of his hands, explaining each wine, and showing us what made it what it was. He explained his Zen-like thought process in making each wine. I have had conversations with winemakers before, but somehow this was different. Jay was at my home, with my friends, sharing the nuances of his distinctive wines. Each wine was somehow imbued with Jay’s character. He truly loves what he does and it shows.

We ate, we laughed, and we had great wine. What could be better than that? And then it happened. Anya, who had beguiled us all evening long entertained us with the voice of an angel. What an incredible evening! Everyone left having discovered new friends in Napa and great wines to add to their cellars.

I cannot wait for October!


Andras B.
Andras B.
Andras is a retired attorney, a passionate wine aficionado, and sommelier. He is an experienced and seasoned world traveler with a gourmet palate.


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