Thursday, January 28, 2021

“A Night in Sicily” Italian Village Donnafugata Covid Lock-in Virtual Wine Dinner

“A Night in Sicily” Covid Lock-in Virtual Wine Dinner Presented by Chicago's Italian Village Restaurants

Italian Village Restaurants in Chicago hosted “A Night in Sicily” presented by Jared Gelband, Italian Village Wine Director and Chef Jose, and guest host Italian Wine Specialist, Daniele Sbordi, who lead a virtual journey to the island of Sicily and a tasting of wines from producer Donnafugata Winery

 A four course dinner was specially prepared for pick-up at the restaurant complete with preparation directions and a wine course selection of three bottles of Donnafugata Sicilian wines

 For the occasion, we were joined by son Sean and daughter-in-law Michelle in person in our dining room, and daughter Erin and son-in-law Johnny and their four children, who attended virtually via zoom from their home. We were joined via zoom with another dozen folks. 

 To facilitate and optimize the experience, we set up a large screen TV and our computer in the dining room for the occasion. 

The dinner: 

Crostini con Caponata - Rustic Italian Bread / Caponata Topping

Ravioli con Ricotta - Hand made Ravioli / Ricotta and Parmesan Cheese / Pistachio pesto sauce

Braciole alla Siciliana - Filet Mignon / Proscutto / Provolone / Green Onion / Salsa di Pomodoro 

Italian Cannoli / Italian Biscotti 

Vini - The Wine

Donnafugata "Sur Sur" Sicilia DOC Grillo 2019

Donnafugata "Floramundi" Cerasuelo di Vittoria DOCG 2018

Donnafugata "Sul Volcano" Etna Rosso DOC 2017

I wrote in these pages recently about the art and magic of pairing food and wine to magnify the overall experience. Tonight, the masterful pairing of the wines to the food courses by Wine Director Jared and Chef Jose amplified both the food and the wine. As a result, as I wrote Jared in a follow up note, "everything exceeded my expectations, the food, the wine, the pairing, the overall experience".

Even though there were six of us adult family members to share the experience, we quickly regretted not including other members of our Pour Boys wine group. Our Pour Boys wine group attended the fabulous Sassicaia producer wine dinner at Italian Village last year. We'll be certain to do so when we next participate in such an event. Or, ideally, do it together in person when the Covid controls are relaxed or behind us. 

Donnafugata was established in Sicily in 1983 by Giacomo Rallo, the fourth generation of a family with over 160 years of experience in quality wine, along with his wife Gabriella, a pioneer of viticulture in Sicily. Giacomo passed away in 2016, so the company today is run by their children José and Antonio and a team of people focused on excellence. 

The name Donnafugata comes from a novel by Tomasi di Lampedusa entitled Il Gattopardo (The Leopard). The name that means “donna in fuga” (woman in flight) refers to the story of a queen who found refuge in the part of Sicily where the company’s vineyards are located today. The adventure tome also inspired the corporate logo, the image of a woman’s head with windblown hair that dominates the brand and adorns every bottle. All Donnafugata wines' labels and names are inspired by Gabriella Rallo and designed by Stefano Vitale whose original artwork is featured each on the labels of each of the two dozen wines they produce. His works were featured in an exhibition "Art and Wine - Chasing Donnafugata”, presented by FAI – Fondo Ambiente Italiano in Milan in 2018 in the prestigious Villa Necchi Campiglio.

Donnafugata produce over forty estate wines meaning they are sourced from the producer owned vineyards that span almost six hundred acres of 45 different varieties of grapes indigenous to Sicily. Total production is near 5 million bottles annually.

Donnafugata "Sur Sur" Sicilia DOC Grillo 2019

We discovered and wrote about the Italian Grillo grape varietal earlier this winter, so it was fun to try another producer and label of this wine, another nice QPR pleasant sipper, worth exploring and trying a Grillo wine.

Donnafugatta "Sur Sur" is produced from Grillo, an ancient Sicilian grape varietal. The grape name grillo means cricket, for the crickets that are common in the region and said to bring good luck. The name comes from the classical Arabic language which was once also spoken in Sicily. The label features Stefano Vitale artwork of Gabriella (founder of Donnafugata, with her husband Giacomo) as a girl in flight, running barefoot through the flowers and fresh grass.

This is 100% Grillo classified grapes from the Sicilian DOC, according to Italy’s 'denominazione di origine controllata' (DOC) classification system, akin to France's well-known Appellation d’origine controlee (AOC) and America's AVA systems. DOC, means designation of 'controlled origin', it is the second highest quality classification of the Italian system. 

There are 329 different DOCs in Italy, across a wide range of red and white wines across the country, from Prosecco sparkling wines to the Vin Santo dessert wines of Tuscany. Each DOC has its own rules about permitted grape varieties, maximum harvest yields, alcohol levels, and aging requirements including use of barrels. 

The grapes are from
the western tip of Sicily, the Contessa Entellina estate and neighboring areas and in the hilly hinterland between Marsala and Salemi in the Baiata, Alfaraggio, Pioppo district. The region has a distinctive terrior, hilly with altitudes from 200 to 600 meters, loamy sub-alkaline limestone soils, arid with little rainfall, with substantial variance in warm daytime to cool nightime temperatures with Meditteranean breezes, that is ideal for the growing and ripening of Grillo grapes. 
Donnafugatta have five hundred acres in eight different sites in the region where they grow both white and red grape varietals. 

This label has been produced since 2013 with 4000 cases annual production. It was awarded 91 points, #86 of the Top 100 Wines of 2019 by Wine Enthusiast. 

This was a wonderful pairing with the antipasta courses. We cheated and added a starter course of Linda's wonderful lobster tails on a ramukan of buttered croutons. Following was the Italian Village Crostini con Caponata - Rustic Italian Bread / Caponata Topping. Linda improvised with this course and chopped the Caponata into a wonderful tapenade. Both were wonderfully complemented by this wine.
 Winemaker notes: "Brilliant straw yellow, on the nose SurSur offers a fresh bouquet with notes of white fleshed fruit (peach and cantaloupe melon) combined with scents of wildflowers and mint. A soft palate, the fruity notes return combined with pleasant freshness."

This was straw colored, light bodied, aromatic with sprites of citrus, tropical fruit, floral, melon and hints of peach, dry with crisp clean acidity. Good QPR in this label.

RM 88 points.

Donnafugata "Floramundi" Cerasuelo di Vittoria DOCG 2018

This is a blend of grape varietals: Nero D’Avola, King of the Sicilian red grapes, and Frappato, one of the most ancient native varieties of Sicily, sourced from 88 acres of eight Donnafugatta estate vineyards from the prestigious denomination: Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG, in the territory of Acate on the western side of the southern tip of Sicily. 

The terroir is gently sloping terrain from 120 to 150 meters with sandy medium tectured limestone soils with warm temperate Mediterranean climate of warm temperate days moderated by sea breezes, and cool nights.

This label is classified DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita), the highest quality classification designation for Italian wines. , while the Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC), has less strict guidelines. The rules for DOCG are stricter than DOC, yields must be lower and the wines must be aged in barrels longer. Also, DOCG requires the wines be submitted for technical analysis and tasted for approval by a government committee before they can be sold as DOCG wines. Interesting too, DOCG wines even have a numbered, government seal across the neck of the bottle to prevent counterfeiting.

Floramundi, a refined red, the dialogue between two souls: the one of Nero D’Avola, King of the Sicilian red grapes, and the one of Frappato, one of the most ancient native varieties of Sicily.

Like all Donnafuggati labels, Floramundi features distinctive colorful artwork by Stefano Vitale artwork, sponsored by proprietor  Gabriella Rallo. This label features the stylistic figure of a woman in a rainbow of symbols, of the tradition of the historic Pupi Siciliani (Sicilian Puppets).

This is the third vintage release of this label; it was awarded 92 points by James Suckling, and 90 points by Wine Enthusiast. 

This was a wonderful complement to the Italian Village Primi Course; Ravioli con Ricotta - Hand made Ravioli / Ricotta and Parmesan Cheese / Pistachio pesto sauce. Linda was the favorite wine, food and pairing of the rest of our group. I preferred the Secondi course and pairing. 

Winemaker notes for this release: "Intense ruby color with bright purple reflections; Floramundi offers intense fruity aromas, among which the notes of black cherry and berries (blueberry) stand out; the bouquet opens with delicate balsamic nuances of laurel and characteristic spicy notes of black pepper. The tasting is supported by freshness and softness that make it juicy and very pleasant to drink. The tannin is fine and well integrated. Floramundi 2018 expresses the harmonious balance that Cerasuolo di Vittoria can reach."

Bright Ruby colored, light-medium bodied, bright vibrant cherry and cranberry fruit flavors accented by tangy acidity, dusty rose floral tones and hints of white pepper.  

RM 88 points. 

Donnafugata "Sul Vulcano" Etna Rosso DOC 2017

For the main Secondi course, Chef Jose prepared this imaginative Braciole alla Siciliana - Filet Mignon  with Proscutto, Provolone and Green Onion in a robust tangy Salsa di Pomodoro. The Chef's directions called for this to be mixed with the accompanying Italian Village signature rosemary potatos. 

Linda called an option and served the potatos on the side which was a great move - they were akin to a whole additional course in of themselve and provided another complete wonderful tasting pairing experience.  

The Donnafugata Sul Vulcano label is from the Etna Rosso Denomination. It is a Etna Rosso DOC classified wine. It is a blend of Nerello Mascalese, the main red grape variety from the prestigious Etna appellation, with a small percentage of Nerello Cappuccio grape varietal. 

The fruit for this label is sourced from Donnafugata 45 acres of estate vineyards in Eastern Sicily, on the north side of the historic volcano of Mt Etna, Europe’s highest active volcano from which it derives its name, between Randazza and Castiglione di Sicilia.

The terroir there is a higher altitude of 750 meters with deep mineral rich volcanic soil, cooler sub-climate with the Sicilian dramatic variations of warm days and cool nights. 

This was more my style of wine, darker, more dense concentrated and complex, more like a Nebbiolo or a Bordeaux varietal. Naturally, this style was ideally paired with the hearty beefsteak, cheeses and tangy pomodoro sauce. As noted above, it also paired superbly with the rosemary potatoes. 

The art series stylistic label features a goddess-volcano with intense colors, red, yellows, and iridescent blacks, another design of artist Stefano Vitale.

This is the second vintage release of this label, first released in 2016.

James Suckling and Wine both gave this 93 points. 

Winemaker notes: "Pale ruby red, Sul Vulcano offers an elegant bouquet with notes of red fruits (raspberry and cherry) and flowery scents (violet), along with delicate spicy nuances of cinnamon and nutmeg."

Garnet colored, medium bodied, robust flavors of black raspberry and black cherry with notes of tobacco, hints of graphite, floral violets, hints of cinnamon and nutmeg spices with moderate tannins on the finish. 

RM 90 points.

We supplemented Jared's Italian Village Donnafugata wine flight with a dessert wine from our cellar for the Dolce Course of Italian Cannoli and Italian Biscotti. Linda also served her Pots-au-de-Creme Chocolat dessert. 

Château Suduiraut 1er Cru Classe Sauterne 2002

We enjoy sweet unctuous desert wines with salads, cheese or deserts. This was a nice finisher, a perfect complement to the final Dolce course. 

This is a classic Sauterne, a blend of Semillon (94 %) and Sauvignon Blanc (6 %). Château Suduiraut is considered to be one of the finest Sauternes.

The history of Château Suduiraut, dates back to the 1600’s. It was classified as a Premier Cru during the official 1855 wine classification programme. The French conglomerate AXA Millésimes acquired Suduiraut in 1992. 

Golden honey, dark amber colored, full bodied yet delicate, nicely balanced fruit and floral aromas, complex roasted and candied notes of apple, vanilla and honey, medium sweetness and a long smooth silky finish.  Not as sweet and unctuous as some vintages, the fruit is more subdued lacking the apricot nectar and honey of some vintages. This showed plenty of botrytis, with predominate notes of smoke, marzipan, almond, ripe apple, and hints of vanilla on the tongue cloying finish.

RM 91 

Robert Parker's Wine Advocate rated this wine 90-93 points, Wine Spectator, 90 points.





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