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Monday, November 10, 2014

Best of Sicily


For those of you who couldn’t make the October trip to Sicilia, here are my thoughts on the “best of the best,” listed in alpha order:

Baglio di Pianetto
Wine-Knows ends our Sicilian tours at the special villa that is owned by Count Marzotto, one of Italy’s largest patron of the arts, as well as one of the country’s most powerful wine-moguls.  The Count’s chief winemaker (who presides over all of Marzotto’s wine empire), flew down from northern Italy to welcome our group.  The most compelling wine was the 2007 Salici, a Merlot that had been aged in a combination of new French oak and stainless.   While the vintage is difficult to find, it’s worth seeking out.    $30
                                                            Baglio di Pianetto's Villa

Donnafugata
One of my perennial favorites in which to bring our Wine-Knows groups, Donnafugata’s private country is spectacular.  Our private dinner here began with an aperitivo in the gorgeous garden just as the sun was setting.  This wine which was served to “wet our appetite,” is one of my most beloved in Sicily and is made from a relative of the Muscat grape.  Sicilians call the varietal Zibbibo, and Donnafugata has named their version Lighea.  This Zibbibo is bone dry, offering a rich bouquet of peaches and floral nuances such as roses and orange blossoms.  Love, love, love it.    $20


                                      The setting for Donnafugata's stunning Lighea

Feudi Del Pisciotto
This winery was dazzling.  Once a former village, the entire small hill-top hamlet has been purchased by the winery.  Former homes have been converted into hotel rooms, other homes are slated for a restaurant and holiday apartments.  The church is now a stunning setting for wine-related events such as the private tasting held for Wine-Knows.  Each wine is named after the Italian fashion designer who created its work-of-art label (e.g. Versace, Brioni, Valentino).  Carolina Marengo’s seductive label had me at hello, but it was what inside that stole my heart.  This killer wine, made from the 2012 vintage of Grillo, was a luscious taste of the nearby sea, mixed with complex layers of apricots and pineapple.  I brought this bottle home to my husband.  Need I say more?   $35
                                                A church turned into a winery reception area.

Gulfi
Asking to choose a favorite at this very special property (a Napa-esque estate built with a mega Euro fortune) is like asking a parent to name their favorite child.  What I will say, however, is that the *best buy* at Gulfi is probably their well-crafted Cerasuolo di Vittoria 2012, Sicily’s only DOCG.  Made from a combination of Nero d’Avola and Frappato ( a lighter, strawberry nuanced wine), Gulfi’s rendition is sublime for its price tag.  Should you ever visit Sicily, consider staying on this property and definitely dine in their restaurant---one of the best meals of  Wine-Knows’ recent tour.   $25

                                 A winery, a destination restaurant & a B&B

Passopisciaro 
Mount Etna has the highest vineyards in Europe.  This Etna winery produces single vineyard wine which they call “contrada.”   A contrada is actually a specific lava path where super-heated magma once flowed down the sides of the still active volcano.  These contradas are comprised of decomposed, mineral rich volcanic soil.   Their Contrada R 2012 was a knock-out.  Made from Nerello Mascalese (which are only grown on Etna), these grapes came from 100 year old vines.  The result was a complex eruption in my mouth of layers of red-fruit mixed with beautiful mineral nuances.   $50


                               Etna exerts a tremendous effect over the entire island's terroir

Riofavara
Located in Sicily far southeastern corner, the limestone soils of this winery offer one of the island’s premier spots for growing the Nero d’Avola varietal.  Only grown in Sicily, this grape is becoming more and more popular for oenophiles.  An aged “Nero,” can offer complex aromas of leather, cocoa, licorice and cinnamon, with mineral overlays of mint.  Riofavara’s Schiavé 2010 was all of this and more.  Kermit Lynch in Berkeley, Ca. is the importer.   $30
                               The owner & winemaker of Riofavara conducted a private tasting

Settesoli (MandraRossa Brand)

This was my first time to visit Sicily’s largest producer, but it won’t be my last.  Our private tasting here was led by one of the winemakers who presented an impressive lineup of the winery’s top tier, Mandrarossa.   I couldn’t decide between the heavenly white Santa Nella 2012 (crafted most from the local Fiano grape with a sprinkling of Chenin Blanc) and the Bonera 2013, a fabulous blend of half Cabernet Franc and half Nero d’Avola.  Again, all 8 wines we tasted during the formal 2 hour seminar were well made.   
                                        The taste of the sea was evident in MandraRossa wines

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