Stefano Antonucci

SANTA BARBARA Stefano Antonucci


“My past is strongly rooted in the town of Barbara.  My father had a bakery there where mother also worked, though she was primarily an elementary school teacher.  My parents have always been my reference point.  I owe them my drive to innovate and look towards the future, while always referring to my origins and the land as the point of departure.” – Stefano Antonucci

Stefano Antonucci’s dynamic and candid personality captivate all who meet him.  This irresistible drive and energy, combined with an intrinsic bond to his territory, is what led him, in 1994, to make the drastic decision to change his life direction and return to the small village of his childhood, Barbara, in the heart of the Marche region, giving up his job as a banker.  He recounts, “Wine is an aroma, a taste and an art that has flowed through my veins since childhood.  It was a passion that grew day after day and could no longer be relegated to merely a pastime.  My job as a banker began to feel increasingly restrictive and wasn’t enough to satisfy my curiosity, my energy or fulfill my irrepressible yearning for new experiences.  And so, it was to Barbara that I returned to follow my dream.”

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.”


Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi DOC Pignocco

The “Pignocco” gets its name from a legendary and particularly imposing and bushy pine tree situated at the top of a hill surrounded by vineyards. This is an easy-drinking wine, vinified and aged only in stainless steel to enhance its approachability. Floral perfumes are accompanied by notes of almond and peach; in the mouth it is fresh and savory with a persistent and pleasant aftertaste of almond. The Pignocco is extremely versatile, an ideal accompaniment to appetizers and light dishes.

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Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi DOC Le Vaglie

“Le Vaglie” was created in 1992, with the twofold intention of diverging from the classic frameworks of traditional Verdicchio while at the same time paying tribute to the winemaking history of the Marche region. The experiment was undoubtedly successful, presenting a wine with the typical almond aromas and flavors that also surprises with complexity and captivating freshness. In 1992, in celebration of the 20th anniversary of Le Vaglie, the winery introduced five colorful labels alongside the traditional white label, a stylistic choice that continues today, delighting the wine’s numerous fans.

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Marche Bianco IGT Passerina (Biological)

Passerina is an ancient and traditional grape variety used in the white wines of central Italy, particularly the Marche region. Passero is the Italian word for “sparrow, ” the bird well-known to Italian vitners for its voracious appetite for ripe Passerina grapes. The Italian diminutive “–ina” indicates the quite small size of Passerina grapes. The variety is also relatively high in acidity, resulting in a fresh, inviting wine balancing freshness with structure. Ripe fruit and aromatic herbs are complimented by floral notes, finishing with an unexpected, though delightful, minerality. Best enjoyed young to fully appreciate the crisp, juicy characteristic of this wine.

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Lacrima di Morro D’Alba DOC Pignocco

Lacrima is a dark-skinned grape variety native to the Marche region. The word lacrima means teardrop in Italian and is probably reference to the fact that the berries have a tendency to split, dripping juice down the outside of the bunch. Santa Barbara’s Pignocco Lacrima di Morro d’Alba is characterized by very distinct fruity aromas (particularly berries) and flowery rose and violet. In the mouth, a fresh vinous flavor dominates with marked scents of red roses and soft, sweet tannins.  The Pignocco’s light simplicity makes an ideal pairing even for fish.

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Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Riserva DOCG Tardivo Ma Non Tardo

A rich and complex nose entices with fruit (exotic, tropical) and notes of spice. An important structure is balanced by a fresh minerality that invites another sip. In addition to representing one of the regions best examples of Verdicchio, Tardivo Ma Non Tardo is participant in an interesting and noble project. The distinctive label is designed by artist Catia Uliassi who, together with the Santa Barbara winery, collaborates with the Fondazione Dott. Dante Paladini. A portion of the proceeds from each bottle of this Verdicchio goes to support research and treatment of neuromuscular disease.

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Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi DOC Back to Basics (Biological)

The name of this wine, Back to Basics, perfectly sums up the philosophy of this Verdicchio, produced with 100% organically grown grapes and vinified and refined only in stainless steel, allowing for a pure expression of this typical variety. Aromas of flowers and ripe stone fruits alternate in a sort of perfumed dance, aromatic herbs joining in as well. A medium-structured wine reveals a perfect balance between sapidity and freshness and a citrus finish. Pairs perfectly with first courses (pasta, risotto…), vegetable sauces and fish.

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Marche Rosso IGT Stefano Antonucci

The Marche Rosso was created in response to the challenge of uniting international grape varieties (Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot) with the celebrated indigenous grape variety Montepulciano. The international acclaim of this wine is proof of the success of the project, a point of pride for the Santa Barbara winery. An intense ruby red with garnet nuances mesmerizes with aromas of ripe red fruit and delicate hints of dried flowers and notes of toast and spice. Round, smooth and full in the mouth, this is a wine of structure and fine tannins, balanced by an elegant acidity.

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Rosso Piceno DOC Il Maschio da Monte

A virile wine indeed, the Maschio da Monte explodes on the nose with a lavish bouquet of dark fruit, spice and vegetal notes. The tannins are soft and elegant supported by a notable, silky structure and long and persistent finish. This is a wine that promises exceptional cellaring potential, becoming increasingly harmonious in its evolution.

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Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore DOC Stefano Antonucci

Verdicchio is unquestionably one of the most important white grape varieties in Italy and this wine is an impeccable example of the potential of this typical grape of the Marche region. The Santa Barbara winery has always held the strong conviction that the amazing characteristics of Verdicchio can be exalted through fermentation and barrel aging.  Through experimentation with different sizes and types of wood, the Stefano Antonucci Verdicchio was born. The wine immediately convinces with its balance, and lively and warm enveloping mouth, all enhanced by a remarkable range of perfumes (from fruit and citrus to warm spices) and marked personality.

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Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi DOC Anfora

Verdicchio, typical of the Marche region, is widely recognized as one of the most noble, well-known and appreciated white grape varieties in Italy. The variety’s distinctive characteristics are expressed in the Anfora as a fresh, easy-drinking wine, vinified and aged solely in stainless steel to enhance its approachability. Delicate floral aromas and fruit are accompanied by intense notes of fresh fruit and white flowers. In the mouth the wine is slender and lively with a pleasant aftertaste of almond and rather good persistence. An extremely versatile wine, this Verdicchio dei Castelli dei Jesi is an ideal accompaniment to appetizers and light fish or vegetable dishes, but is also delightful all on its own. The particular amphora-shaped bottle, Anfora (produced in extremely limited quantities and only upon request), pays tribute to the original Verdicchio bottles, designed by Italian architect Maiocchi in the 1950’s to market this unique variety internationally, an homage not only to the quality of the wine, but also to the beauty and sinuosity of the Marche region.

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Marche Rosso IGT Mossone

Mossone is the result of Stefano Antonucci’s constant endeavor to produce wines of the highest quality, whether underlining the value of autochthonous Marche grapes like Verdicchio and Montepulciano or experimenting with the most famous international varieties, like this Merlot.  In fact, this wine is dedicated to Stefano, whose nickname is “Mossi.”  In the glass, the wine is a bright and intense ruby red while the bouquet emanates aromas of marasca cherries, blackberries and red fruit combined with earthy sensations and typical Mediterranean aromatic herbs (sage, rosemary, etc.), liquorice and balsamic notes.  Upon tasting, the wine is harmonious and fresh with an elegant expression of fruit, fine tannins and a long, persistent finish, almost savory.

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Marche Rosso IGT Pathos

Pathos is a perfect intermingling of the elegance and intense aromatics of Cabernet Sauvignon, velvety balance of Merlot and the rich, spicy character of Syrah.  These quintessential French grape varieties are perfectly at home in the rolling Marche territory as well, thanks to the temperate Mediterranean climate.  Intense ruby red with penetrating aromas of berries (blackberry, raspberry), red fruits (cassis, ripe cherry) and a range of spices (red pepper, cacao, menthol), this wine is exceptionally smooth in the mouth, making it all the more enjoyable.  In Greek, Pathos is “the appeal to emotion” and this wine does just that, with its sweet and inviting tannins, minerality and lingering persistence.  

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Pecorino DOCG Biological

This white grape variety, typical of central Italy, was long forgotten by many producers because of its low productivity.  However, consistent with the Santa Barbara philosophy, Stefano Antonucci (along with a few other determined vintners in the region) brought the Pecorino grape variety back to center stage.  This incredibly versatile white delights first with its bright straw yellow color, with flashes of light-green, followed by a floral and fruity nose with hints of aromatic herbs.  Generous and vibrant in the mouth (aromatic and a bit of spice) with just the right amount of alcohol and acidity, the Pecorino is an ideal choice for any occasion.  Bonus points: it’s certified organic.

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Rosso Piceno DOC Ste

The image of the Estate’s historic Rosso Piceno DOC was revamped in 2017, resulting in a new label and a new name: Stè, short for Stefano.  Vinified and aged exclusively in stainless steel, this is an easy-drinking wine, perfect for everyday occasions.  Bright ruby red with notes of red fruit and spices on the nose, rich marasca cherry comes through along with a spicy aftertaste of white pepper.  Dry and persistent, the Stè presents smooth, almost imperceptible, tannins.  An attentive and precise selection of grapes in the vineyards ensures the highest quality.

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Sauvignon Blanc Animale Celeste

It was out of love for this international grape varietal that Stefano Antonucci created Animal Celeste, or ”Heavenly Animal.”  This is an undeniably elegant and refined expression of Sauvignon Blanc, bursting with the tropical nuances typical of New World wines.  In addition to familiar varietal characteristics (like tomato leaf and bell pepper), its extraordinary bouquet is enriched by the verve and fruity elegance of pineapple, papaya and peach, together with an aromatic note of sage, thyme and geranium.  The influence of the Adriatic Sea brings an additional pleasant mineral, almost savory, note that supports the balance between the emblematic freshness of Sauvignon and a smooth, alluring drinkability.

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