Clevelanders in Tuscany

Frank and Judy Grace have deep Ohio roots. He was born in Steubenville and she’s from University Heights. The two married in Cleveland and started a family. His job eventually took them to London, England, where Frank’s business smarts made him a wealthy man.

Their roots these days are a little different. The couple own a vineyard called Il Molino di Grace in Panzano, Tuscany. They’ve been making wine for just 10 years, but in 2006 Il Molino was named one of the world’s 100 best wineries by Wine & Spirits magazine, and their 2000 Chianti Riserva Margone was recognized as the top Chianti of the year.

Even the Italians are raving. Gambero Rosso, a monthly publication for food and wine enthusiasts, awarded them Tre Bicchieri (three glasses and high praise) for their Gratius and Chianti Classico Riserva.

That’s pretty heady stuff for a relatively new winery and a pair of American transplants. But the Graces’ pride in what they’re doing is about more than winning top honors. They also brought a special place back to life.

Frank and Judy bought their 10th-century villa, and the all-but-forgotten vineyard that came with it, in 1995. They chose the spot, named for the historic windmill (molino in Italian) on the estate, because the slightly higher altitude makes for well-balanced wines. An added benefit was that the property already had a vineyard’s imprint to follow. With help from one of Italy’s most respected winemakers, Franco Bernabei, and a combination of traditional methods and modern equipment, they quickly started making award-winning wines.

Jerry Pockar, editor of John Carroll’s alumni magazine, visited the vineyard last May with his wife, and calls the area gorgeous. “It was the most incredible residence either of us has ever seen,” he says of the Graces’ villa.

You can find their wines at Molinari’s in Mentor or online at The Wine Messenger,
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