Castellucci restaurant group introduces its own wine label

CHG restaurants' new wines are a sweet nod to the owners' father Federico Castellucci.
Courtesy of Stephanie Castellucci
CHG restaurants' new wines are a sweet nod to the owners' father Federico Castellucci. Courtesy of Stephanie Castellucci

Family plays a major role at the Castellucci Hospitality Group, so it naturally is front and center in the introduction of the company’s new wines. Family photos passed down through five generations of restaurateurs hang on the walls of the Iberian Pig, Double Zero, Sugo, Bar Mercado and Recess. For owners Fred, John and Stephanie Castellucci, the pictures are more than decoration; they are a lodestar for the family’s work (and play) ethic — and one of them is featured on the new wine bottles.

The siblings unveiled their signature wines in early January to the family hero, their dad, Federico, known as Mr. C. When Stephanie Castellucci handed him a bottle, he held it with immense pride and the biggest smile. “We surprised him with that,” she said, “a pure joy moment.”

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Castellucci Hospitality Group unveiled two private label wines available on all its restaurants' wine lists. Courtesy of Stephanie Castellucci
Castellucci Hospitality Group unveiled two private label wines available on all its restaurants' wine lists. Courtesy of Stephanie Castellucci

Credit: Stephanie Castellucci

Credit: Stephanie Castellucci

The restaurant family goes back 100 years. “My father’s 11 brothers and sisters worked their entire lives to get their kids one step closer to a better life,” said Federico Castellucci, the son of Italian and Greek immigrants.

It’s all about how hard work really can pay off, daughter Stephanie said. “When his dad came over with his brothers and sisters, and started a new life, they were all essentially in manual labor. There is this background of extreme work ethic throughout generations of our family, who basically worked their whole life to set it up for their kids, and we are carrying it on.”

The concept of a family dinner with wine is something that has been instilled in the Castellucci family. “When we first opened restaurants,” Fred Castellucci said, “we would all work six days, and Sundays would always be the day off, to get together and have family dinner.”

Good wine was a sort of social lubricant, and a Sunday tradition. “We’re passionate wine people,” he said.

As an embodiment of the restaurant group’s historic roots, Fred and Stephanie Castellucci began their wine pursuit a year and a half ago. They did a fair amount of wine travel, and partnered with importers Olé & Obrigado.

“Co-founder Alberto Orte said to us, ‘Let’s make wine together; we can use fruit from these plots,’” Fred said. Orte became their winemaker, as they set out identifying flavor profiles, regions and great values that would be a fit for their restaurants.

“After going through different iterations and names, a couple bubbled to the top,” Fred said. They landed on Más Asi, which translates to “more like that.”

Rioja, the biggest winemaking region of Spain, and the region from which the Castellucci group sells the most wine, was an obvious first choice. Made from grapes grown in two plots of Rioja Alta, Más Asi Tempranillo is “young, but complex,” he said, and great with food. “It’s very much like a food-driven Italian wine.”

“Juicy red fruit, peppery, spicy, and a little dusty,” Stephanie Castellucci added.

Their alvarinho was made with grapes from the Portuguese side of the Minho river (which borders Portugal and Spain). Stephanie described the white wine as light and delicate, with flavors of lemon and fresh apple. It has great salinity and bright minerality.

“It’s a nice balance,” Fred Castellucci said. “Softer and creamier, because it has no added carbon dioxide.”

Sustainability also was a factor when developing the wines, with a focus on organic and biodynamic viniculture.

The Rioja and alvarinho are available in all Castellucci restaurants, for $40 and $44 a bottle, respectively, and $10 and $11 per glass. You also can purchase them for takeout via each restaurant’s website, for $20 a bottle.

In the future, look for the Castelluccis to jump into the wine business in a bigger way, perhaps with a new concept.

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