Terralsole Winery – Our home away from home (Montalcino, Italy)

Every year from 2007-2010 Juliet and I went to Montalcino in Southern Tuscany to visit our amazing friends at Terralsole Cantina. Mario Bollag and Athena Tergis are the proprietors, our dear friends, and produce some of my favorite Brunello di Montalcino wine.

Brunello di Montalcino is the great wine of Southern Tuscany; made with 100% Sangiovese Grosso grapes, these wines are meaty, bright, austere in their youth, and some of the finest red wines on the planet with a meal. A great Brunello always has hints of tart cherries, new saddle leather, and tell-tale grip around every corner of the mouth. Brunello was the wine that convinced me to get into the industry and remains one of my greatest pleasures on earth. 

Terralsole - The Cantina Below and the twin Villas above

I met Mario in 2006 while I was working as the wine director for The Tasting Room in Houston, TX. Mario brought his wonderful wines to sample in hopes he might find some homes for them in Texas. In me he found a home and a friend for life. In all my travels I have met no one with Mario’s energy, enthusiasm for life, and sheer inertia. I have few heroes on this planet, but I can say with all certainty he is one of them.

Mario Bollag in his Element - Photo by Juliet Housewright

Mario makes Brunello and Brunello Riserva as well as some wonderful other varieties of red wine that grow brilliantly in the soil along the southern slopes of Montalcino. The Swiss-born winemaker and lifelong entrepreneur has a flair for the dramatic in his otherwise markedly Swiss personality. He reminds me of the best parts of France, Germany, and Italy all rolled into one sinfully charming human being. I rarely want to emulate another human being but I have little choice but to admit that when I grow up I want to be like Mario.

Athena and Marion - Photo From Terralsole

Athena is the co-owner of Terralsole and one of the most talented musicians I have ever met in person. She is a world-renowned Irish Fiddle player who hails originally from San Francisco. Athena has performed with Michael Flatley on Broadway as well as the brilliant Michael G Rose. Juliet and I have had the pleasure to listen to Athena play on every occasion to Terralsole and each time we have been moved by her genius. Athena is a gracious host and is one heck of a cook. Athena and Mario are two of the dearest people in our Italian lives.

While working closely with Mario at the winery and raising their young daughter Vivienne, Athena also produces albums in their studio as well as tours extensively with her musical group The Green Fields of America and as a soloist with the Dublin Philharmonic Orchestra. As the saying goes: “Behind every great wine is a great woman”.

 From the Terralsole Website

The Vineyards at Terralsole

Mario and Athena do offer their guest villa at Terralsole as a vacation rental. I can think of no place on earth I have stayed more relaxing, stunningly beautiful, and charmingly decorated with art from Italy, China, India, Morocco, and especially Haiti. Here is a link to the villa rental page on their website (I know for a fact this one of the most reasonably priced properties in Montalcino and for the quality it is simply unmatched)

Terralsole Labels on the Bottling Line

How is the wine? Let me tell you that Terralsole is a traditional Brunello with an eye and a palate towards the elegant. These wines have muscle and also finesse for days. Mario is an enormous fan of Brunello di Montalcino first and foremost and this love for the wines pushed him to become a winemaker nearly 30 years ago. This is serious wine for wondrous occasions and I highly suggest you seek out these brilliant products in your state or country of residence. Better yet, book a ticket and get to Montalcino to taste with Mario and Athena then take the wines home with you signed, sealed, and delivered…just like I do :-)

Caught red-handed with a box of treasures from Terralsole

The View from our Favorite Balcony

Yes, this one is the winner

The exceptional Syrah from Terralsole

It really does not get any better than a night of cooking, great friends, and world-class vino

If you want to know more detail about Brunello I suggest this wonderful post – Montalcino, a Land Kissed by G-d by the very talented wine blogger, Jeremy Parzen; with links to his overview of the wines. I used to believe I went to Montalcino frequently till I met Jeremy, and he is simply the leading authority on the region (in my eyes)


  1. says

    I agree — cooking, sharing it with great friends along with world class wine…perfect! I'm always looking for great opportuntiies to try new wines, so your post was great inspiration. — Margie at 'IMINA Travel and Events

  2. says

    not sure which is prettier. that first shot of the slope through the arch or the woman in the green dress. hmm. i vote woman.

  3. says

    Oh takes me back to holidays in Tuscany and Rome (wine tasting course and all). Am ridiculously jealous, it looks fantastic, and as a food writer and wine fan too I am salivating like mad! What a pretty lady Athena is too and a great photo of her and her husband. Thanks for sharing.

  4. says

    Lucky you !!! pack me in your bags lol. Have a safe and blissful trip, and I trust you would be back with amazing pictures and stories. I am so JEALOUS!!! lol

  5. says

    oh ya know, porch ceiling fell down yesterday and I need to have a filling at the dentist, but the sun is shining and my words are still flowing. Might not be wine in Tuscany, but I'm happy. You?

    • says

      wow, porch ceilings do seem to fall with regularity :-( Flowing words here are impeded by the stress of preparing for a big journey. However, I am excited about all the photos I will get :-)

  6. says

    Get over here to Dublin and bring that case. I am deeply envious of your visit. The label artwork is beautiful too. Is there a story attached to that also?

  7. says

    Dear Dr. Michael, I have a confession. When my first godson was born his father asked me, since Dane was too young to know what to gift me for Christmas, what I would like. At the time I was having an affair with this big, bold, complex, yet stunning red Italian I affectionately called Bruno. I casually said, "Just make sure Bruno is under the tree every Christmas morning waiting for me!"

    17 years later and two additional godsons added, I rest assured Bruno is there every Christmas morning. The boys know all too well that God Harold (yep, that's what they call me!) loves his Brunello di Montalcino… I'm not always sure, but I do believe I enjoy Christmas with my boys a little bit more because I know Bruno will be there still yielding up those same exquisite flavors that first tugged me up past the Rosso into the arms of Bruno in the beautiful village of Montalcino… there's always the lilting prayers of a monk's chorus in the background. Ah, Christmas, my boys, and Bruno.

  8. says

    Thank you for the lovely serene pictures of Italian country side..how nice it would be to be there to enjoy the local culture and environment..surely one of the very best of Europe..

  9. says

    I love this post and the pictures. Like the picture of Mario in his element. So jealous that you hang out here … I have yet to buy my ticket to Italy. I'll have to wait until my kids are older. Should have studied abroad when I had the chance. :)

  10. says

    You know, I think I've had a bottle of that Syrah?! Wouldn't that be cool. I think Athena is living my fantasy life.. only instead of wine, it would be a cooking school with a garden somewhere hidden in Provence.. playing and traveling with an orchestra. It's incredible, really, she's actually living that life. I've got to do something about my own:D

  11. says

    Hi Michael, wow… What an article, I'm jealous of my own life! You and Juliette have a way of capturing the essence and magic of the moment in your photos, brings back many lovely memories of your visits with us over the years… Today Mario, Vivienne and I took the afternoon off to cruse around Pienza and the Crete Senesi and take in the spring flowers, absolutely magic, a place this beautiful is only really appreciated when shared with loved ones, hope to see you both back soon. Athena

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