Forks and Corks again brought a global slate of premier winemakers to Sarasota shores for a week of tastings, celebrations and competition, one new name—La Favorita—made quite the splash. Launched this part November and helmed by part-time Sarasota resident Gianluigi “Gigi” Vittadini, wife (and fashion mogul) Adrienne and CEO Fruzsina Kacksó Dán, the winery earned a trio of gold, silver and bronze designations on its first outing with a selection of white wines from the famed Tokaji region of Hungary. Prior to World War I, the most prestigious white wine in Europe came from the Tokaji region. King Louis XIV once proclaimed it “the wine of kings and the king of wines,” and the Kiraly vineyard where La Favorita produces its grapes counts the king of Hungary among its previous owners.

The terroir is one of functioning paradox, where normally inhospitable volcanic ground bears remarkable fruit thanks to the great morning fogs known as Tokaji mists. Formed at the convergence of the nearby Tisza and Bodrog rivers, the rolling fog ensures proper humidity and moisture, allowing the vines a foothold in otherwise hostile ground. “That’s why the minerality is very rich,” says Dán. “You can’t find anything like it in the world.” Of all the volcanic lands in the world, only a small percentage can produce grapes and the largest collection is in Tokaji.  Under the communist regime in Hungary, wine production in Tokaji suffered, with most exports going to a Russia more interested in high alcohol content than the elegance of the bouquet. But today Tokaji is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the industry recovering. As added protection, only Hungarians are allowed to own territory in the region, making the Italian Gigi the odd one out amongst Adrienne and Dán. “But I’ve become Hungarian lately,” he jokes. “It’s a great responsibility,” acknowledges Dán, whose husband serves as one of Hungary’s top ambassadors, “and we are all great patriots.” To this end and as CEO, Dán works to ensure that the wine produced at the Kiraly vineyard stays true to the Tokaji terroir. They grow three of the six grape varietals originating in Tokaji—muscat blanc, hárslevelű and furmint—with zero chemical additives to interfere with what the ground itself provides. “There is an order in nature which keeps everything healthy if we do not intervene,” explains Dán. “It’s a great unity.”

Standing up to a blind tasting with 16 professional judges trying 95 wines from around the world, La Favorita’s full-bodied Allegro earned a gold, the delicate Vivace a silver and the smooth Arioso a bronze. “As with everything in life, you have to do the right thing at the right time,” says Gigi. Red wines are in the future, he says, but for now “we focus on these three wines.” All three are available locally at Michael’s Wine Cellar, Libby’s Café, Epicure and The Coolinary.