I’ve been excited about a lot of trips, but Sicily had a special meaning to me as my grandfather’s family came from that region of Italy. I had known, from years of trying to make perfect pasta for him, a bit about the food from Sicily, but I knew very little about the wine. I was looking forward to the adventure and was able to take my friend Tracy along for a fun Italian girlfriend getaway.
The trip was being sponsored by three of the top wine companies in Sicily – Valle dell’Acate, Tasca d’Almerita and Donnafugata. To make things even more interesting, each one was located in a different part of the area so we got to cover quite a bit of land (and wine) in a week.
Touring Italy’s Best Wineries
Our first leg of the journey was in Ragusa Ibla, where Valle dell’Acate owner Francesco Ferreri was the perfect guide. He picked us up on the first evening for a tour of this beautiful old city, home to 50 different churches. It’s also a place for great food and wine.
We walked around for awhile, sampling some Rosé and Moscato gelato, before feasting on an incredible paired meal at Locanda Don Serafino Restaurant (we also were staying at Locanda Don Serafina Hotel, an attraction unto itself). I had my first introduction to the variety of Sicilian wine and took a special liking to the Valle dell’Acate Bidis. It’s a blend of chardonnay and insolia, a native grape, and manages to maintain a creamy buttery taste.
The next day Francesco picked us up to take us to his winery to tour the beautiful grounds and sample more Valle dell’Acate wines. I was able to taste (and love) another grape known in this area, grillo. I especially loved it in the 2011 Zagra, which blended it with insolia and gave it apricot and fresh peach notes.
We bid Francesco farewell and headed off with our driver through Sicily and up a mountain to Regaleali. The Tasca d’Almerita winery was located here and it was quite a scenic estate.
Cooking School at the Tasca d’Amertia Winery in Italy
While visiting Tasca d’Almerita we also were able to spend some time learning and tasting at the Anna Tasca Lanza Cooking School, started by one of the owners of the winery and now run by her daughter. We sat through a cooking lesson and explored the garden, which had so many fruits and vegetables I couldn’t possibly name them all.
A mix up in the rooms had Tracy staying at the cooking school and me at the winery, but it gave us a chance to see both quaint and friendly accommodations. The next morning we went to check out the wide selection of wine at Tasca d’Almerita, where there are 50 grape varieties spread out over 1,200 acres.
Tracy and I had and enjoyed the Sparkling Rosé with dinner the night before and were more than happy to do some more sampling. There was no doubt what I liked best as it was made with three of my favorite grapes. Sallier de la Tour Le Bianche is Tasca d’Almerita’s mixture of viognier, semillion and sauvignon blanc.
Donnafugata Wineries in Sicily: Hot Springs and Wonderful Wine
Donnafugata, which is also family-owned, has vineyards all over Sicily and we were lucky enough to be able to check out three of those. The first required a flight over to Pantelleria, a tiny island that’s owned by Italy, but is actually closer to Africa. I had heard nothing but wonderful things about it and couldn’t wait to arrive. It did not disappoint.
The three days we spent on a house in the middle of the Donnafugata vineyards were just incredible. We explored the island, tasted their wonderful moscatos (all they make on the island), watched the workers hand separate dried grapes, took a dip in the natural hot springs and mud baths at Venus Lake and relished an evening antipasto and spumante at the Cala Gadir pier, one of the many beautiful spots on the Mediterranean Sea.
It was on day three that Antonio Ralla, one of the winery’s owners, took us around to learn more about the wine, before we flew back to the mainland to Marsala. We stayed at the elegant Hotel Carmine.
I may not be impressed with marsala wine, but the city is a different story. It has an old world European charm coupled with modern stores and restaurants. Tracy and I relished our dinner with Antonio’s sister, Jose Rallo, at Bucanieri, where the owner himself tailored and cooked a casual Italian meal for us and served it with all those wonderful wines.
After touring Donnafugata’s Marsala winery, we took off for our final stop. Contessa Entillina looks like a new winery facility only there’s a door that leads to one of the homes of the Ralla family. It’s just one example of how hands on they really are.
The Sicily trip was one that ended to soon, but it was a great discovery of the land, the food and the wine of my ancestors. Doing with one of my closest girlfriends made it even more special.
After many years as one of the top tennis writers in the country, Marcia Frost now devoting most of her time to travel writing, with a focus on food, wine and spirits. She has her own blog at WineAndSpiritsTravel.com and does weekly columns for Inspirato on Sonoma and Paris (two locations she visits often). Marcia also freelances for many other outlets, including Yahoo!; AOL; Michigan Avenue; Rum Bum; Los Angeles Confidential; Travel, Food & Drink; and Air Tran’s Go! Magazine. She has been contributing to Girls’ Getaway since 2010. For more information on Marcia, visit her website MarciaFrost.com.