Stefano Antonucci had always been intrigued by the world of wine and deeply connected to his territory. From this foundation, he began the transformation of his family’s small cooperative winery into the Santa Barbara Winery of today, a reference point for exceptional quality in Marche. “This was where I had learned to love the land, to know and respect its secrets, its rhythms, and its products. This was where I had grown up, surrounded by individuals who transmitted their authentic values to me and whose smiles moved me deeply. So, I set forth on this ambitious undertaking, under my father’s watchful, curious (and slightly worried) eye,” explains Stefano.
Since its beginning, Santa Barbara has always had two principal objectives: to reintroduce the Marche region’s indigenous grape varieties (Verdicchio del Castelli di Jesi – white – and Montepulciano and Lacrima di Morro d’Alba – reds), and to craft wines of great peronality that appeal to international tastes while respecting the tradition of the Marche region. In fact, in addition to the autochthonous grapes, international varieties including Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc are cultivated as well to enhance the lineup. In other words, one eye on the territory and the other on the market. It is with this driving force that Stefano produces moder wines with traditional varietals, elegant, intriguing, and persuasive examples of the finest winemaking.
“To this day, when people ask my secret I tell them, ‘To make wine that fist and foremost appeals to me, a wine-drinker’s wine.’ People who know me can confirm that my wines really do begin this way. Many have calle me ‘a visionary and eclectic winemaker, continually striving for stylistic perfection and seeking that emotion that only wine can give you.’ I can see myself in those words. The really do sum up my philosophy perfectly, both back then and now. I first entered the winemaking world, making the transition from banker to winemaker, with the Pignocco label. Produced with both red and white grapes, Pignocco is how I transformed the family winemaking cooperative into today’s Santa Barbara winery. To this day, it still makes up a major portion of our market. From there, I went on to undertake many new winemaking adventures and experiments of which am very proud.”
The Santa Barbara estate vineyards range from 25 to 40 years old and encompass an area of about 45 hectares (111 acres) of land, from the rolling hills of Barbara, across Serra de Conti, Montecarotto, and Arcevia up to Morro D’Alba and Cupramontana. The particularity of these areas lies in the soils, water-rich clay with some calcareousand gravelly areas, inhabiting a strip of land bordered by Adriatic Sea to the east and the Apennines to the west. Work in the vineyards (January through October) is carried out by hand under the attentive guidance of renowned technicians and expert farmers, seeking a balance between spur pruning, focused interventions and thinning only when necessary.
Stefano explains, “Each harvest is an important test of our wines and vineyards, but also an opportunity to know the grapes soil, and the land a little bit better. Year after year, we set our sights on improving the standard of our grapes, while always respecting our traditions and the history of the land we farm. To do this, sometimes the foundation must be “renovated,” applying new production concepts and dedicating an almost obsessive attention to the health of the grapes.”
The wine cellar is fitted with modern, state-of-the art equipment to preserve and enhance the very essence of freshly harvested grapes, employing temperature-controlled 50 and 100hL stainless steel vats and cement tanks. Aging is instead carried out in the Estate’s old monastery, an ideal location thanks to the room’s natural climate and constant temperature and humidity, in traditional French 225-liter oak barriques and 450-liter tonneaux. Stefano says, “For us, it is a duty to transmit the essence of our land and the quality of our wines, expressed in the bottles we produce every year, more than half of which are exported to markets all over the world.”
A strong spirit of innovation combined with boundless passion and meticulous, hand-on attention in the vineyards and cellar grant the Santa Barbara wines a refined and unique personality, impeccable and always dynamic, a reflection of Stefano Antonucci himself.
“The world is full of rituals and periods of expectation, but also of creativity, energy, curiousity, and lots of courage. And yes, our wines are often the product of innovative research and experimentation…but to be successful you have to create something above and beyond what everyone else is doing! I am still full of ideas because, for me, work is first and foremost a passion and a pleasure, which is why I consider myself a very lucky person.”