The road from Marsala to Ragusa (which passes through Agrigento, home to The Valley of the Temples) leaves a lot to be desired. A lot. There are countless bridges, most quite long, perhaps 2km or 3km, that span the countless hills and valleys that blanket the inner countryside of Sicily.
The bridges themselves, or should I say the roads that span the bridges, are not tranquil like the countryside. Instead, the roads are rough, merciless at times, with very hard ‘thumps’ every few seconds. The ‘thumps’ or ‘jolts’, really, are caused by the connection of one span of roadway to another. Even a new car (my rental had less than 500km on it), with excellent/new suspension, took a beating. As did my lower back. This went on for hours. It never became something you just live with…not peacefully anyway.
As I was already running behind schedule by several days, I had to forgo my overnight stop (solely to be a tourist and grab some photos of the Greek Temples/ruins) in Agrigento. It wasn’t a complete loss however, as the (main) road passes directly in front of the Temples and I was able to get several good glances of them, albeit from .5km or so.
Shortly after Agrigento I pulled over in some very small town to top off my gas tank, and looked at my phone/navigation that suggested I still had another 1 1/2 or 2 hours until I reached my lodging for the night in Ragusa.
As you can see, it’s a beautiful place that obviously spared no expense (the owner of the property is this region’s sole distributor for Ferrari sports cars), and a tremendous value at just €50 for the night. The only downside to the property is that it’s located a solid 10-15 minute drive from anywhere interesting and/or a place to grab dinner.
Notwithstanding that fact, I chose to make the drive at 730pm and arrived just in time to find a parking space outside the ancient and marvelous medieval city and make my 800pm reservation in Ragusa Ibla (old town). Not that I needed a reservation, this is a VERY slow time in Sicily, a place that relies inordinately on tourism for its economy; only 4 of the 15 tables got used that night.
Dinner at A Rusticana was great that night. Perhaps because it was so slow, or perhaps because they just know what they’re doing. I ordered a bottle of 2012 Valle dell Acate Cerasuolo di Vittoria to go with my antipasti and (main dish) risotto ai fungi. The wine was well balanced, complemented the flavors of the foods, was very fairly priced and was even served at the proper temperature.
The next morning’s first appointment was at Valle dell’ Acate, a sustainably farmed winery with at least seven different soil types (for seven different wines). I chose to taste three different wines, a white and two reds. !
The first was 2014 Zagra D.O.C. Sicilia Bianco, a 100% Grillo wine. Even though Grillo is more common (nearly all) on the west side of the island, VdA is making one that’s grown on yellow-colored soils close to the sea (at least 30km from where I’m at today, at the winery). The nose is truly unique for Grillo, with heavily mineral infused aromas that give way to dried herbs, citrus and white fruits. Very fresh, and crisp with well-delineated layers of fruit and great tension. An excellent food wine, this is probably best with fried fish. 13,5% abv (fully integrated). Recommended.
Next up is the 2014 Il Frappato (100% Frappato grape), grown near to the winery/estate at 100km above sea level. The wine is raised in steel tanks for 6 months and sees another 3 months (minimum) in the bottle before it’s released. A wine meant for sushi and early drinking, this offers a light/bright garnet core and a huge, watery rim (vines are 30 yrs old). Some initial funk and robust soil notes give way to gamey blackberry, red berries and more soil notes. Finishes medium in length; this is meant to be served lightly chilled, preferably with fresh seafood, cooked or not. 13,5% abv. Recommended.
The final wine of the tasting is the 2012 Il Moro (100% Nero d’Avola) grown at 120 meters, and comes from vines ~ 25 yrs of age. A very bright ruby color, this is full but equally well lifted. Very nicely structured, with tannins that still need some bottle age to soften them up. Raised in a combination of (old) wood and steel vats, this comes across as tangy, with well defined structure and effortless balance. 13,5% abv. Recommended.
Some more photos from VdA, the centuries old building contains a perfectly preserved ‘museum’, with winemaking vessels and artifacts dating back nearly 200 years.
In summary, the wines of Valle dell’Acate are traditional in style, very clean, quite pure and all resonate a sense of place and structure. I’m a fan.
My next stop was the Gulfi winery and their Locanda (lodging, very upscale) and fabulous (one of the best meals of my life) restaurant. Gulfi is not the family name, rather it’s a place, with the centuries old village of Chiaramonte Gulfi just 10 minutes away. The wines largely fall into the modern/modern-ish camp, and while good, pale in comparison to the food the restaurant is serving for lunch this day. The first wine is a blend of Chardonnay and Carricante. A nice enough wine, it just could not keep pace with the brilliance of the food. (below, in the order served, IIRC)
(above: Passion Fruit marmalade, with Almond creme, pistacchio crumbs in Olive Oil and fresh local fruits. This dish, ouvo di Columbo – named after pastry chef Antonio Columbo was even better than it presented. Just fabulous.)
Nearly all of the dishes (above) were fish-based. All of them were served with Gulfi’s 2014 Cerasuolo di Vittoria, an enlightening, delightful encounter with red wine and fresh fish.
After nearly 3 hours at Gulfi, I’m running late. I make my way for the car, and plug in my next destination: Ortigia, an island separated by a short bridge from Siricusa.
And, as luck would have it, I arrive just as the sun is setting:
Next up, a few restful days in Ortigia, followed by 4 days on Etna mountain.