Archive | April, 2014

A beautiful visit to Azienda Agricola Arianna Occhipinti Vittoria, Sicily

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Sicily in Spring! Famous for wild flowers…

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Arianna’s wild Nero d’Avola field… Such an interesting winemaking philosophy. She is amazing!

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Close up of a vine.

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Keeping her winemaking philosophy in tune, Arianna has left every raw, natural material in her cellar. Limestone walls align the cellar and are a true sight glass into the terroir of Vittoria. Here, you can see the amazing Austrian, Franz Stockinger oak staves.

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Spring is bottling time at Azienda Agricola Arianna Occhipinti… She is a very young, dynamic and hard working woman.

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Here is the small, cozy and eclectic tasting room. The SP68 white is Amazing. A wine to try in this lifetime. Made with Moscato, it has beautiful aromas of citrus flowers and a sapid palate of sea spray… Nicola Massa the marketing and PR guru at Azienda Agricola Occhipinti is so warm and welcoming! And did you know that the name SP68 means Strada Provinciale 68? This is the state road where Arianna’s winery is located… If ever in Vittoria, Sicily on the Southern end of the Island, I highly recommend a visit to this marvelous land where the prodigious winemaker Arianna Occhipinti creates magic in the midst of such a beautiful Island. Thanks Arianna, thanks Sicilia for your warmth and hospitality and until next time…

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Arianna and I. She’s such a down to earth person…

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Nicola Massa and I sharing ideas on wine and viticulture!

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Ristorante Duomo Ibla-Ragusa, Sicily

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In the heart of the beautiful and mystical city of Ibla-Ragusa, Sicily lies the famous Ristorante Duomo. This restaurant has earned a prestigious 2 Michelin Star acclaim… Chef Ciccio Sultan uses techniques of simplicity and minimalism to create composite plates and seductive, baroque food, skillfully anchored to the gastronomic traditions of the island. The service is impeccable, and the wines and cuisine are incredibly harmonious. Ristorante Duomo is located on Via Bocchieri, 31, Località Ragusa Ibla-Ragusa, Sicily. For those of you who are wondering, Duomo means cathedral in Italian.

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For the amuse bouche, Chef Ciccio delighted my palate with a roll of swordfish tartare that just melted away in my mouth… The server will hand you a contraption which is a one piece stainless steel chopstick (which seemed more like tweezers). Although sort of awkward, I suggest you use them!

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Next, and for a delightful palate cleanser, Chef Ciccio sent out a wafer thin crostini with a truffle ice cream foam topped with truffle spherification… This small plate was playful, modern, and velvety. Truly an amazing experience of textures and flavors on the palate.

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After the palate cleanser and off the menu, I ordered a breaded and smoked ricotta salata cake with dots of Nero d’ Avola wine reduction and a charred purple onion… Superb!

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Next, I ate a succulent medium-rare steak filet with grilled artichokes stuffed with cheese and again, a Nero d’ Avola wine reduction. The steak was grilled to perfection! My wine of choice was the 2010 Tasca d’Almerita Cabernet from Palermo which I highly recommend.

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Beautiful, design stainless steel olive oil vessel!

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Although the dessert menu looked amazing, I passed on this since my server brought out a lovely assortment of elegant, petite pastries on the house…. If ever in Sicily, Ristorante Duomo is a place that I highly recommend for the incredible gastronomic experience. Chef Ciccio Sultan is a true artist in his craft and although not so cheap, you pay for what you get! For reservations call 0932651265. Good luck and buon appetito!

Wine Myths Debunked

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How many of you have heard some wine myths? I’m not talking about Dionysus the Greek God of wine. A wine myth is a general rule of thumb that wine aficionados are constantly talking about. Examples of these are red wine with red meat, white wine with fish, the heavier the bottle the better the wine, and that aged wines need decanting etc… I will clarify some of those myths and hopefully you can learn something new and interesting. Afterall, that is the goal here at Cantinetta Vintners…

1) The bigger the bubbles in a sparkling wine, the better the wine: Actually, the finer the bubbles in a sparkling wine, the finer the product. Think fine bubbles, fine wine. And champagne flutes have such a shape that glorifies these fine bubbles. Of course, your nose fits better in a white wine glass, so your smell receptors do better in this style of glass. It all depends what you like. Do not swirl sparkling wine in your glass, you’ll lose the effervescence in a dime… If you are not a fan of bubbles, try a wine that is semi-bubbly made with fewer bars of pressure… Ask your local wine merchant!

2) A heavier glass bottle means that a wine is superior: This is not true at all and is a more “old school” way of thinking. The heavier and more impressive the bottle, the bigger the winemakers ego. Some wine logistic companies charge by weight… The bottom line in business is profit, so you may actually be paying more at the wine shop because middlemen have to charge for their expenses.

3) Red with meat, white with fish: Again, this is not true. Matching wine and food is more about looking at the intensity, or the amount of flavors in a dish than it is about going for a red or white wine. A seared tuna steak goes very well with a light Pinot Noir. Light, reddish meat (seared tuna) with a light bodied red wine. If a French meat dish uses creme fraiche (a white sauce), it may very well go with a white wine. Pairing is not a science… A dish with a lot of herbs goes very well for example with a New Zealand Sauv. Blanc because of the grassy, herbal notes in the wine. And again, remember, tastes are very different depending on a person’s palate. There is no right or wrong!

4) It is best to decant an old wine: Again, no! I would rather decant a younger, tighter wine that has not fully opened up it’s bouquet. Older wines are very fragile because remember, wine has live yeast that feed on sugar and produce alcohol. Sometimes, using a decanter is like giving a wine a punch in the face because too much action can actually harm a wine and the yeast.

5) Ice cubes in your wine: What! Are you nuts? There is no law in any rule book in any country that says the “wine police” will arrest you in a dark cell for life. So don’t fret. Here’s a small tip if you like ice in your wine. Add some of that wine into your ice tray and freeze it. When these frozen wine cubes are inserted into your wine, they will melt wine into your wine, not water into your wine like normal ice cubes made with water. And great with sangria…

I hope this has been helpful and that your next wine experience is more enjoyable… Do what makes you happy! Wine is to be enjoyed with good company in a relaxed ambiance. It is not meant to be a rule book that ruins the fun. Cin Cin!