When Trudie Styler and her husband bought an estate in Tuscany in 1997, they were in for a surprise. The previous owner, a duke, poured them a delightful wine from the cellar while making the sale, but "something crucial had been lost in translation," said Styler. "When the next vintage was ready to taste, we were sorely disappointed."
It turned out the duke hadn't poured the estate's wine after all. "We hadn't even been drinking Italian wine, but a very nice Bordeaux!" But Styler had a surprise of her own for the audience, certainly the biggest surprise of the 2016 Wine Experience—and possibly of any Wine Experience.
While guests enjoyed the Il Palagio Sister Moon 2011 (91 points, $56), Styler told the story of how her philosophy and some hard work helped transform the disappointing wine into the savory, fruity blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot that attendees had in their glasses. "The responsibility of being stewards of the land is something we take very seriously. [My father] taught me about the importance of the soil. He taught me to take care of the earth, and in turn, it would take care of us."
Styler began working with late biodynamics guru Alan York to implement her vision of earth-friendly viticulture at Il Palagio, and her team methodically replanted the vineyards starting in 2002. The first commercial vintage was 2007, and the estate now makes four different bottlings.
"I'd like to introduce you to someone who's very special to me. He's my partner in wine," Styler concluded. Out strode her husband, rock 'n' roll legend Sting, to clamorous applause. "She's the brains of the bunch, and the looks," he demurred, before launching into an electrifying rendition of—what else?—"Message in a Bottle" that had hundreds of wine lovers holding their phones aloft to capture the moment, and singing along "sending out an S.O.S."