Dave Reilly, head of winery operations at Mandola Estate Winery in Driftwood, poured me a glass of the winery’s spectacular 2008 Montepulciano–and then he dropped a bomb. He told me that Damien Mandola was no longer involved in his namesake winery. Then he showed me the new label.
It sounds like a crazy move since the 2008 Mandola Montepulciano took medals in Houston and Dallas wine competitions. Reilly’s dedication to making great wines with Texas-grown Italian varietals was starting to make Mandola Estate Winery famous. But the change was unavoidable. There were TABC issues with Damien Mandola having an interest in two liquor licenses. (He owns the gorgeous Texas-Tuscan Trattoria Lisina next door.)
But the bigger problem was that the Italian restaurants around the state that should have been the prime market for a Texas-Tuscan label like Mandola Estate Winery were reluctant to buy wines that promoted the name of one of their competitors. So Damien Mandola sold out his interest to long-time partners Dr. Stan Duchman and his wife Lisa Duchman of Houston and took his name off the bottle.
Bottles bearing the new Duchman Family Winery labels will be phased in sometime soon.