Banfi’s Cru Artisan Team Helps Feed the Nation’s Hungry in Houston

Banfi Volunteers
The Banfi team prepares over 3,000 meals at the Houston Food Bank

Those who know him would believe it more likely for Luciano Castiello to contemplate a wine pairing for Spaghetti Bolognese than a Sloppy Joe, but there he was doing just that.

“Maybe a nice dry Lambrusco like OttocentoNero, an easy drinking Chianti such as Fonte alla Selva, or even a bright, zesty white like La Pettegola Vermentino,” he suggested.

His well-trained teammates around him nodded in agreement, but the Sloppy Joes they were all making that day were not for them; in fact, the individuals who would dine on the wholesome meal prepared by this crack team of wine experts were not even of legal drinking age. They were elementary school children, their nourishment courtesy of Houston Food Bank “Feed America” with a little help that particular day from the Cru Artisan Wines team.

Castiello is the National Ambassador for Cru Artisan, an in-house agency focusing on the luxury selections of Banfi Vintners, America’s leading wine importer. He and his colleagues had gathered in Houston at the start of the new year for a business review and to call on some of the nation’s most prestigious restaurants where their wines are sold. But they took a half day out of their program to assemble meals for the Feed America. The 12-member team helped prepared over 3,000 meals in their five hours of service at Keegan Center, Houston Food Bank’s 15,000 square-foot industrial kitchen.

Thomas Leman, Cru Artisan’s Houston-based sales manager, made the match with Houston Food Bank based on suggestions from his immediate supervisors and following the lead of Banfi’s co-CEOs James Mariani and Cristina Mariani-May, who promote a culture of “giving back,” supporting industry causes and community needs.

Banfi’s history of giving back over its century of Mariani family management includes relief to earthquake victims in Italy and Chile, scholarships for students at hospitality schools across the nation, and educational trips for wine professionals through the Guild of Sommeliers. They are ardent supporters of charitable and community causes in their home bases of Old Brookville New York and Montalcino Tuscany. At the most recent national meeting of the Banfi Vintners team, the Mariani family gave each of its sales executives a copy of Adam Grant’s best-selling book Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success.

“For three generations, my family has firmly believed and practices in the approach of giving back to the community,” said Cristina Mariani-May. “It is a fundamental element of our fondest desire to build a better wine world, and to give more than we receive.

About the Houston Food Bank

The Houston Food Bank is a solution to hunger in times of need. America’s largest, the Food Bank distributes 59 million nutritious meals through its network of 600 food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and other hunger relief charities in southeast Texas, feeding 800,000 individuals each year. Fresh produce, meat and nonperishables are distributed from the warehouse at 535 Portwall, and meals for kids are prepared and distributed from Keegan Center, a 15,000 square-foot industrial kitchen. Additional community services include nutrition education, school-based programs, food stamp applications and hands-on job training. Red Barrels offer a convenient way for grocery shoppers to donate nonperishables for their neighbors in need.  The Houston Food Bank, founded in 1982, is a certified member of Feeding America, the nation’s food bank network, with a four-star rating from Charity Navigator.

1982, is a certified member of Feeding America, the nation’s food bank network, with a four-star rating from Charity Navigator.

About Banfi Vintners

Banfi Vintners was founded in New York in 1919 by John F. Mariani, Sr., and has ranked as America’s leading wine marketer for more than three decades. Family owned and operated, Banfi imports the wines of Castello Banfi, Vigne Regali, Placido, Sartori, Riunite, Bolla, Fontana Candida, Cella and Florio of Italy; Emiliana of Chile and Chateau Tanunda of Australia, as well as the wines of Chile’s Concha y Toro and its Argentine affiliate Trivento through Excelsior Wine Company, a joint venture with Concha y Toro.

For more information on Cru Artisan and Banfi Vintners, please contact Joe Janish, 516 626 9200/ For more information on the Houston Food Bank and Feeding America, please contact Adele Brady, 713 547 8674/

Rebecca fell in love with wine — Castello Banfi Brunello in particular — on a cliché semester abroad in Italy. A Texas native, she has traveled to wine regions throughout France, as well as to Portugal, South Africa, and across the U.S. In addition to earning a BA from Duke University (Go Blue Devils!) and an MBA from Columbia Business School, Rebecca holds an Advanced with Merit certification from the WSET and was a founding contributor of the popular wine industry blog Terroirist.

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