Lowell “vintner” makes history with 90-point Wine Enthusiast review

There are no commercial grape vineyards in Lowell (MA), but now the historic mill city has its own “vintner” to crow about.

Craig Gandolf is the first “vintner” from Lowell (MA) to ever achieve the distinguished honor of having his wine considered for evaluation by the editors of Wine Enthusiast magazine and receive a positive review.

That’s cause for a great celebration in my book.

Wine Enthusiast recently contacted Gandolf, who is the national sales director for Cynthia Hurley French Wines in Needham (MA), with the news that his new concept canned wine, 2019 Hands Off Pinot Noir (Germany), was awarded 90 points.

It’s one of WE’s highest ratings given to a canned wine.

The review reads: “Well-knit red with enticing notes of violet and licorice up front, followed by cherry and damson plum flavors. Herbal and spice elements emerge midpalate and lead to a mouth-watering finish.”

The review is scheduled to be published in the magazine’s May edition, which is released in mid-April.

Craig Gandolf of Lowell.

“I’m still pinching myself,” wrote Gandolf in an email to wine friends and supporters.

Several years ago, Gandolf collaborated with a bunch of industry colleagues from Europe – he spent 20 years traveling to Spain working for Jorge Ordonez Selections Wines – to develop a new brand of “low-intervention”, natural organic wines.

Called “Hands Off”, the line of red and white wines are made in Germany and Spain using selected grapes from vineyards that practice sustainable, no pesticide farming methods.

The canned wines hit the European market more than a year ago and were well received for their premium quality.

In mid-December, Craig Gandolf appeared on my Grapefully Yours Wine Podcast on InsideLowell.com where he talked about Hands Off wines. Click on the below link for my column and the video:


Hands Off wines cost $22-$24 for a 4-pack, which is a bit more than other canned brands on the market.  That’s because they are made by veteran winemakers who seek a quality result – as confirmed by WE’s review and rating for the Pinot Noir.

Hands Off wines also come in 250 ml. cans – larger than the standard 187 ml. cans – so there’s more juice for the money.

Locally, Hands Off wines are now available at Wine-Sense in Andover (978-749-9464).



“BZ” Bobby Zohn

In other notable news, “BZ” Bob Zohn, one of New England’s top wine sales representatives, has retired after 42 years in the industry. Zohn helped make Martignetti Companies the region’s No. 1 wine and spirites distributor and sixth largest in the nation.

Zohn is a consummate professional and a great guy with a wonderful personality to match. To see the man in action leading a wine tasting was to witness a master who exuded passion, warmth and sense of humor.

I met BZ about five years ago at The Wine ConneXtion. He was always the biggest draw when he presented at a Saturday tasting event.

Zohn, who lives in the Boston area with his wife, a school teacher, said he’s going to take it easy for now. But I’m expecting a second act. BZ is too good a wine man to lay low and keep his savvy wine selections and talent on the shelf.

Congratulations, BZ!