Saturday, January 26, 2013

Vines with a View

These healthy vines, on the north coast of Sicily near the town of Patti, overlook the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Aeolian Islands - with a postcard view of Salina and Stromboli. We visited the Gaglio estate in June 2012. A mother and daughter, Marisa and Flora, are helping to bring this once vibrant viticultural area back to life. Their consulting enologist, Salvatore Martinico, is one of the many young Sicilian winemakers who is making genuine wines from indigenous Sicilian vine varieties. These Grillo and Nero d'Avola vines (alongside some Cabernet Sauvignon for the estate's powerful Leda blend) sweep down the hillside beyond view. There is no cantina on the property - only an old palmento from the days of Flora's grandfather. Flora cherishes her girlhood memories of harvesting grapes alongside her grandfather. How delightful it would be to see Flora and her mother, Marisa (both architects by background), bring this palmento back to life!                        

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Welcome to Salina

The time seems right to introduce ourselves (Bill and Fran) in person. Here we are on the island of Salina in the Aeolian Archipelago about 1 hour (by boat) northwest of Messina. It was the first full day of our first trip to Sicily together in June 2008. It also happened to be the first full day of summer. The volcanic island of Stromboli (the setting for Roberto Rossellini's iconic 1950 film, Stromboli, terra di dio, starring Ingrid Bergman) billowed steam on the horizon. The western shore of Calabria (the toe of Italy's boot) lay just beyond. And yet, we felt so very far away. Salina is celebrated for its luscious dessert wine, Malvasia delle Lipari. Grapevines, caper bushes, and olive trees hug the island's mountainous slopes practically to the water's edge. The handful of producers still making Malvasia delle Lipari on Salina are preserving both the wine and the place. A beautiful pairing - if ever there was one.             

Monday, January 14, 2013

Ancient Temple, Young Vines

It was the ancient Greeks who brought their viticultural know-how to Sicily beginning in the 8th century BC, when they first began to colonize the island. About 45 minutes southwest of Palermo in the town of Segesta stands a magnificent Doric temple. It was built in the 5th century BC by Greek (or possibly Elymian) settlers who were at war with the Greek colony of Selinunte to the south. The golden limestone temple - one of the best preserved anywhere in the Mediterranean - stands all alone. It appears to the first-time visitor as a classical mirage. We initially saw the Temple of Segesta together in 2008. As we climbed the stairs, we glimpsed the green rows of young vines carpeting Monte Pispisa in the distance. There was no forgetting that this is no modern-day wine road.     

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Marsala New Year

In place of the conventional bubbly, we rang in the New Year with a Florio Marsala Superiore Riserva called Donna Franca.  Celebrating with friends and a buffet of savory and sweet treats, the Marsala was a somewhat unexpected treat for all.  It paired exceptionally well with the strudel, mini mince-meat pies (home-made appropriately enough by our dear English friend, Jane), and the heated brie with cranberries.  As word spread that we had brought the Marsala, the revelers' curious palates were delighted.  The Donna Franca smelled like maple syrup and roasted nuts.  It was pleasantly sweet, velvety in texture, and complemented the not-too-sweet treats elegantly.  By night's end, the name and flavor of Marsala was on everyone's lips!    

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Destination Sicily

The World of Sicilian Wine is due out from University of California Press in late February/early March. While we wait, you may be surprised to learn that prior to the early 20th century, Sicily was a must-see destination on the Grand Tour of both European and American travelers; Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Alexis de Tocqueville, Alexander Dumas, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Edith Wharton to name just a few. These writers/explorers were drawn to Sicily for its place in classical history and mythology.  They also left enthralled by the island's natural beauty and fertility. From the late 18th century until the early 20th, at least three or four dozen books about these Sicilian adventures were published in Europe and the U.S. Northern Europeans and Americans are just now rediscovering this exotic jewel in the Mediterranean. As Goethe wrote in his travel journal, Sicily evokes Europe, Asia, and Africa. As Edith Wharton described in her memoir about sailing around the Mediterranean, the Sicilian landscape is "full of fruit trees bursting into bloom, olive-orchards carpeted with sheets of lilac anemones,... and orange-gardens hedged with prickly pear". We are excited about sharing this rich terroir with you.