The people who are closest to me would have no problem telling you the two activities that make me happiest are drinking a good glass of wine and having a rousing discussion with a group of family and friends.

So given the opportunity to do both at Catania’s Winery, I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

John and Margherita Catania own the winery, which has been in Englewood for more than 10 years, but John has been making wine for over five decades. As a matter of fact, he created his iconic label when he first left the 101st Airborne Division, the “Screaming Eagles,” after serving eight years during the Vietnam War.

The day I stepped into his winery, his military service was just one of the topics we covered during my hour plus visit. Other highlights were the true cost of what it takes to make a bottle of wine (the packaging price alone is insane), the home winemaking process (not as expensive as you might think), and which are the best Italian restaurants on the Suncoast (John is Sicilian, so you know you can trust his opinion on this).

I was fortunate to be the only person in the winery during my visit, and I’m sure the reason was because it was one of those post-Dorian days when the “feels like” temperature was 350 degrees. No one voluntarily left their houses during that time, so I had John all to myself for a while.

The star of the show still was, of course, the Catania wines. I was able to sample five flavors that day: A Sauvignon Blanc/Chardonnay blend; a Sauvignon Blanc; a Cabernet Sauvignon/ Sangiovese blend; a Cabernet Sauvignon/Amorosa blend and a Cabernet that was similar in taste to the Nero brand.

All were delicious, and John gave me enough of each to be able to evaluate their merits. Then he let me try some of his olive oils and a balsamic vinaigrette unlike any I have ever had. He and Margherita make these in their onsite kitchen at the winery, as well as sausages, breads and cheeses. If you have an event at the winery, they can provide those food items, as well as the wine.

John gets the grapes for his wine from the Pacific Northwest, and makes all the wines in his Englewood establishment. He adds no sugars or artificial flavors, so each of the wines tastes clean and fresh, like the fruits they’re made from.

After picking out my favorite wine, the Cabernet/Sangiovese, I bought a bottle to take home. Just for future reference, I noted that Catania’s Winery also sells their wine by the case, and since I don’t live in Englewood, that will probably be how I make my next Catania’s purchase. At least, that will give me a good excuse to sit down for another conversation with John.

Debbie Flessner writes the Live Like a Tourist column for the Sun newspapers. You may contact her at dj@flessner.net.

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