02 November 2016

Sicily: Wine Sippin' Around Etna

One of the main purposes of our trip was to discover the world of Sicilian wine -- specifically around the Etna area. The morning after we arrived, we were excited to get going on our adventures...but Mother Nature had other plans.

The rain we had encountered upon our arrival had not left us yet -- we had a slight reprieve on our first evening, but it came back with a roar our first morning. Luckily the scenery was worth staring at for a while.

After the torrential downpour in Taormina that confined us to our hotel, it was time to head out to the Sicilian countryside to sip some vino and watch the volcano. After a harrowing journey back down Taormina's windy roads, we were soon en route!

Unlike most places in the wine country here in northern California, most of the wineries in Sicily require reservations. Unfortunately, thanks to the storms, we were running terribly behind. We decided to swing by one place, any way, in hopes that they still might entertain our visit.

Outside of our room -- vines creeping over the wall
Tenuta delle Terre Nere produces one of the wines J really likes, and just happened to be pretty much across the street from our agriturismo (which actually sat amidst their vineyards, which was gorgeous!). We hunted around the grounds a bit, then finally a very surprised winemaker popped out -- he wasn't still expecting us. But, we got lucky, and had one of the best wine tours we could imagine. He gave us a tour of their vineyards, which included going off roading into the hills to see some of the unique, volcano-side terrain. Once we got back, we got to taste their wines, and walked off with several bottles as well as some olive oil.

On our second day, we awoke with a mission...get to Mount Etna, and drink more wine! While it was a beautiful day at the base of the mountain, as we got higher up, it got decidedly chillier. We climbed up as far as we could by car, to an area that in the winter serves as a ski resort. That particular day it was too foggy to go any further, so we climbed around a bit on the volcanic rock, then figured we'd had enough of that type of nature.

Food and wine pairing -- YUM!
Soon enough we were experiencing another type of nature, the red, white, and juicy kind. We arrived Gambino Winery, where we'd had reservations the day before but had missed due to the rain. They were pretty forgiving about it -- they told us that there had been flooding in the area and they couldn't blame us for not wanting to drive up there.

This was quite a different experience than the day before -- this tasting room is much more of a destination and polished. The view was amazing -- Gambino is set on the side of the hill, so you can gaze at the valley below while sipping on their wines. It had a good deal of charm, largely thanks to everyone who worked there. We did the food and wine pairing, thankfully because we were pretty hungry! This is a big place, and we were invited to take a tour of their grounds and production facility. The winery was rather crowded, as was the tour; people from all over the world, it seemed!

Mountain View from Patria
Once we were done there, we were left with the tough decision of where to go next?! With no reservations anywhere, we decided to take our chances and stop by places that we might encounter on our way back to the agriturismo. We soon found ourselves at Patria, where they were surprised when we knocked on the door of the office and asked if we could taste. They were very accommodating, even though they weren't expecting us. As we wandered over to the tasting room, we were greeted by the winery dog, an older lady who made sure to guard the door as we drank. At Patria they had bubbles, which of course I loved! They offered us probably six more varieties, as our pourer talked about her love of California. We were lucky to be the only ones there tasting; we got lots of personal attention and learned quite a bit about their wines.

Sandro & J
We weren't quite ready to head back to our agriturismo, but we were ready to eat something. As we Cave Ox, which would end up being one of my favorite experiences! The kitchen sadly wasn't open yet, but our new friend Sandro kept us plied with wine as we waited. He brought J into the wine cave, and talked us through his inventory. We got to taste more local wine, and we sat there for a few hours enjoying the company, and eventually the pizza. As we carefully made our way back to our place, we were grateful that Cave Ox was just two turns down the road.
were driving back, we arrived to

Our trunk was full of a few newly-acquired bottles -- I'd say it was a very successful day!

Tenuta delle Terre Nere
Contrada Calderara
95036 Randazzo CT

Gambino Winery
Contrada Petto Dragone
95015 Linguaglossa CT

s.s.120, Km 194.500 |Solicchiata
95012 -Castiglione di Sicilia (CT)

Cave Ox
Via Nazionale Solicchiata, 159
95012 Solicchiata (CT)

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