20/10/2013

This year we started with a group of 8 as the core team was joined by Gennie and Cosi from Basel. Unfortunately they were only able to stay for half of the trip. It was convenient to have a local Italian speaker with us as conversation in English is still not a given thing in countryside Sicily.

We started at Locanda Gulfi, a small hotel adjourned to the winery which has a great restaurant which was rated by the team as the best dining experience of the trip, which was not easy, as we eat and drank as Kings and Queens wherever we went. So if you look for a place to go and enjoy your food and wine to the fullest, Sicily is a safe bet.
Wine wise, the Gulfi wines we tried during or dinners at the Locanda were a revelation. The most impressive examples were Nerosanlore 2007, Nerobaronj 2008, and a 2002 Nerosanlore Magnum – thanks to Matteo, who send it with his regards as he was busy selling Gulfi wines somewhere in the world. His brother, Davide, was a fantastic host - so consider Gulfi as your base for your tours in Southern Sicily.

Must see’s are the old towns of Siracusa, Noto, Scicli, and Modica.
Here are some dining recommendations :

Locanda Gulfi : www.gulfi.it

Siracusa : Don Camillo, Via Maestranza 96, tel : 093167133, www.ristorantedoncamillosiracusa.it

Noto : we eat at a small restaurant with tables in the street right below the famous baroque balconies, forgot the name, it has a museum attached, simple and honest Sicilian starters and their own wine.

Modica : La Locanda del Colonello, Vico Biscari 6, tel : 0932752423, only dinner ( closed Wed ) – a Michelin star restaurant, but cosy and easy going, with a great wine list and super food, practically Sicilian with a twist. Modica itself and the dinner at this place is a must !

Visit of COS winery : Known for their wines vinified in clay amphoras, Giusto Occhipinti greeted us but was very busy as they were in the middle of the harvest, but Joanna gave us a very good introduction and tour, followed by a profound tasting together with three sommeliers from Finland, who were visiting at the same time. We tasted the Pithos Bianco, fermented in the 400 liter amphores, 2009 and 2010 vintage, the latter from a magnum. Impressive wines, where you can taste the natural yeasts. Followed by the Pithos red, 2007 and 2011, and the Cerasuolo 2007 and 2010. Some lucky ones of us got a taste of a 2000 Scyra, which is the predecessor of todays’ flagship wine Contrada and no longer available.

To ease our bad conscience after days of eating and drinking, we went for an exhausting 4.5 hours walk around the canyons of the old necropolis Pantalica, about an hour drive from Gulfi –Chiaramonte.
On our drive up to Taormina, the base for our second week at the Etna, we had a superb seafood lunch in a small village north of Catania on the beach. Unfortunately, Da Enzo was closed already, it only opens in the high season. I saw it on SQ in the TV series of Commissario Montalbano, must be a great place to eat when you're there at the right time.

Closer to Catania, look for Trattoria Da Federico, at Aci Trezza, Via Provinciale 115, tel : 095276364

Visit Passopisciaro : Lisa and Letizia showed us around the impressive slopes of their single vineyards followed by the tasting of the Guardiola Chardonnay 2012, the Passopisciaro Nerello Mascalese 2011, one of the single vineyards, Chiappemacine, 2011, and the famous Franchetti, 2008. The owner, Andrea Franchetti, who also owns famous Tenuta Di Trinoro in Tuscany, will be in Singapore in December and we will try to organize something together.
Should you ever visit Passopisciaro, reserve a table at Etna Quota Mille, tel 0955187293, www.etnaquotamille.it – their menu consists of 15 different Sicilian starters, a pasta dish, a main, dessert and it costs only Euro 30. We shared 2 menus for 4 persons and had great wine for Euro 15 a bottle, best value for money lunch of the whole trip and absolutely delicious !

Another winery not to be missed : Biondi. Ciro Biondi had herited a few beautiful vineyards from his father. Biondi wines won medals about 100 years ago but then the winery disappeared from the distribution radar and were only sold to neighbours and friends who dropped by with bottles and canisters and asked them to be filled directly from the barrels. Later, the vineyards dilapidated. Ciro finally got the determination to revive the legacy. His first wines were made with the help of Savatore Foti, we tasted a magnum of 2000 Outis at his place which clearly showed the Foti handwriting. But Ciro wanted his wines in another style, fresher, with more acidity. Today, he makes three wines, a white Carricante, Chianta, the Outis, and a single vineyard red, Cisterna Fuori. Ciro and his wife, Stefanie, invited us home for a dinner at our last evening in Sicily, it was a lovely evening and a truly memorable way to end our trip.

Another restaurant not to be missed ( by recommendation of our Singaporean friend Roberto ) :
All Angolo, in Trecastagni, Via Catania 37, tel 0957806988 – the owner Giovanni Perni, speaks fluent German, does all the cooking himself, and creates magnificent slow food dishes to perfection. The cosy restaurant has a feel like a private living room and a wonderful shady terrace to enjoy an outdoor meal in the courtyard.