Sicily! Wine, Culinary & Cultural Explorations (Pictures)
My quads winced stepping onto the tall historical stone platform of the desolated Doric temple, generally known as Temple E. Surrounded by towering antiquated limestone columns, it was once a part of 5 sacred Greek temples and an acropolis, now the Selinunte Greek Temple Ruins, in Trapani province, on the southwest coast of Sicily, Italy. Erected by an army of human energy in the sixth and fifth centuries BC, this incomprehensible instance of physical exertion is a captivating peek into the previous.
As we strolled past toppled chipped columns and crumbled remnants, the indigo Mediterranean Sea glistened within the backdrop. Clusters of pastel wildflowers and vibrant olive timber blew in the gentle breeze. Our guide defined that Selinus was attacked, defeated and destroyed by the Carthaginians in 409 BC. Then, in the Center Ages, an enormous earthquake pummeled its remains.
Simply two days earlier, I used to be in Tuscany, competing within the 50K Lost Worlds Tuscany Crossing ultra-working race. While, hoofing unrelenting hills between Montalcino and Castiglione d’ Orcia, I trotted previous fertile farms, budding vineyards and by tight cobblestone streets. On the time, the stone buildings and churches en route seemed ancient. But, standing among the many Selinus carcass, I used to be struck by the far-reaching Greek influence on Italy’s celebrated culinary and wine tradition.
The primary evening of my 4-days visit to Italy’s southern island, we dined at Da Vittorio, in Porto Palo di Menfi. Whereas, sipping a refreshing glass of Stemmari Pinot Grigio, the waiter served white ceramic plates swathed with what I (wrongly) assumed was prosciutto. Instead, it was paper-skinny sliced tuna cut from the saddle of the huge fish — caught that day. The delicate uncooked pink meat drizzled with olive oil and kiss of sea salt melted in my mouth.
Next, arrived uncooked sweet shrimp (head-on) with a splash of spice that was fantastic paired with Dalila, a eighty p.c Grillo and 20 % Viognier blend displaying subtle white flower aromas, a creamy stone fruit physique and lovely acidity. The dynamic sipper brightened the succulent fish — as would a squirt of lemon.
Switching to crimson wine, our scrumptious banquet from the sea continued with fragrant seafood stew overflowing with itsy-bitsy tender clams, muscles, cockles, fresh tomato, garlic and basil. It shined with Hedonis, a velvety, round dark fruit-driven 70 perccent Nero d’Avola and 30 percent Syrah mix. The fabulous fish fiesta wrapped-up with a grilled whole fish — the dimensions of a regulation baseball bat — sliced tableside. Its succulent cheek meat was tender, juicy and lingered in my mouth and thoughts.
The subsequent morning, we toured Stemmari’s earth-friendly winery and part of the sprawling 1,seven-hundred acres of single varietal vineyards in Sambuca di Sicilia, Agrigento province. Our fervent information, chief winemaker Lucio Matricardi, grew up in a winemaking household in Marche, studied at College of Bologna after which acquired a PhD in Biotechnology from UC Davis, in California.
“I want to make sincere wines which can be simple to grasp and easy to drink.” He said, plunging a siphon into the oak barrel and squirting purple younger Nero d’Avola into our glasses for a style. “However largely get out of the way and let the varietals’ expression shine.” The fruit-pushed, spicy Nero reflected each his traditional and scientific background. Whereas, the winery melds traditional architecture with modern technology, utilizing solar and photoelectric panels for heating water and sterilization.
Matricardi notes eco-friendly grape growing and winemaking in the heat Mediterranean climate requires adjusting to Mother Nature. The white grapes are harvested at evening when they’re cool to forestall rot and discoloration in varietals like Pinot Grigio, which develops a pink hue if pressed heat.
A finicky grape, Nero d’Avola is protected from the solar and picked early to stop jamminess. This varietal has develop into as important to Sicily’s as Shiraz is to Australia and Malbec is to Argentina. That means “Black of Avola,” its considered one of space’s oldest indigenous grapes, largely used for mixing till the mid-1980s. With engaging smoky, wild strawberry aromas, peppery black cherry body and distinct tannins, it is a crowd-pleaser and nice with meals.
Later, we ate lunch at Porto San Paolo, in the port town of Sciaccia (pronounced “SHAHK-kah,” which is enjoyable to say and jogs my memory of the 1970s R&B singer Chaka Khan). The house specialties have been seafood squid ink pasta grilled complete fish from the docks outside the 2-story restaurant. With stuffed bellies, we strolled by town. I found room for handmade cantaloupe and raspberry sorbetto, which tasted freshly plucked off the tree. We popped into ceramic outlets, showcasing glazed colorful plates, pitchers and plaques. The ceramic technicians were magical, turning blobs of clay into dazzling vessels with the finessed fingers and a twirling tray.
Another morning, we learned to made ricotta and pecorino from a neighborhood cheese maker in Santa Margherita Belice stone island cargo shorts countryside. As we stood shoulder-to-shoulder in a tiny, humid room reeking of pungent sourness, the stone island cargo shorts cheese maker rhythmically churned a vat of whey heating over an open fire that would turn into ricotta. A cross between the Swedish Chef from the Muppet Present and an ironworker, his robust sinewy fingers grasped the wooden stirring staff with the comfort of a guitarists and her instrument.
With deft turns of his wrist, the opaque liquid thickened and curds rose to the top, separating from the whey, which he scooped into wicker baskets to drain. Whereas, the heated pecorino was dumped into a metal bucket after which onto a metallic desk, where he kneaded the steaming mass like a baker together with his dough, until it became uniform. It was then cut and rolled into softball-dimension items. Kurplunk! And, dropped into shallow terra cotta bowls to set for 24 hours.
At 9:30 a.m.we emerged into the contemporary air. As we clinked glasses of Nero d’Avola and gobbled salty, gooey ricotta and crumbly pecorino atop crusty bread, we agreed somewhere on this planet it was happy hour.