Trust me on this: Wine

The Mario Batali partner behind some of New York's best restaurants hopes his kids share his passion for vineyards

Published June 1, 2012 11:45AM (EDT)

    (<a href=''>Draw</a> via <a href=''>Shutterstock</a>/Benjamin Wheelock)
(Draw via Shutterstock/Benjamin Wheelock)

How I make my living -- and how I live my life -- is for food and wine. You know, I make wine and I make food. That’s what I do. I have vineyards in Italy, and one of them is from the area where my family is from. And wine-making is one of those incredibly personal, passionate things that tells the story of who we are, who our family is and where we come from. So having my kids be involved in the tradition of wine-making would be incredible.

I have two boys, one 11 and one 13, and a daughter who’s 15. And they spend their summers at the winery in Italy. They work in the vineyards, they taste wine. They bottle the wine, they make it. So they live it. I don’t want to shove anything down anyone’s throats, but I hope at least one them becomes passionate about it and wants to be involved in it.

For me, the whole wine thing began when I would carry cases of wine home and stock the cellar, stock wines in the restaurant, and eventually open up bottles of wine while working in the restaurant. And so that’s how I came to it; I was very young. And my kids have the same kind of experience, having wine in our home, in the cellar and in the restaurants. They help me carry cases in and out. They go to the winery. So it’s part of their lives.

I had a real coming-of-age after working on Wall Street. I moved to Italy and developed a passion for wine and food. It had always been a part of my life, but that’s kind of really when I fell in love with it. Living alone in Italy at the age of 22 for a year and a half -- that’s when I had the catharsis and I knew that this would be the central thing in my life.

It’s a very humbling thing, because you’re really just participating in the national cycle of wine culture. In a world where we control everything, the idea that there’s something we can’t control, where we’re just participants -- that's been very powerful for me. It's kind of the core of who we are as a people. It allows us to live in multiple generations and centuries -- and it allows us to participate in something that is bigger than our 80 or 90 years on this earth. You learn a sense of our own humanity in the world and our place in it.

I hope it would affect my kids in the same way, but you never can tell. If you're lucky, your kids will carry on your legacy. They enjoy it. They love going to Italy, being there and being involved in it. But, you know, it’s a little hard to tell at this point. You let them experience it and live it -- and then they have to make their own decision.


By Joe Bastianich

Joe Bastianich and partner Mario Batali own some of America's most acclaimed restaurants, including New York's Babbo, Lupa, Otto and Del Posto; Osteria Mozza and Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles; and Las Vegas' B&B Ristorante, Enoteca San Marco and Carnevino. He is the author of the memoir "Restaurant Man" and a judge on Fox's "MasterChef."

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