Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Wine Tasting on Mount Etna

Let me just preface this post and the following one by saying that I don't expect every anniversary to be celebrated this extravagantly.  I'm sure there will be years where our anniversary comes and goes with not much more than a card and a kiss.  That being said, we are trying to take advantage of our two years here and a weekend in Sicily sounded like the best way to celebrate our one year anniversary!

Saturday morning, we were up around eight and enjoyed our complimentary breakfast at the hotel.  Breakfast in Italy is filled with salami, cheese and delicious bread, all of which I could get on board with pretty quickly.   I knew I wanted a hearty breakfast before our day of wine tasting and this definitely did the trick.

At nine thirty, our driver, Angelo (I loved these Italian names!) arrived and we hopped in his car and made our way up the mountain.  I can't say enough nice things about Angelo.  He spoke almost perfect English and was an amazing tour guide as we drove up the mountain.  He would tell us little facts about the different towns we passed through and was elated to hear that my maiden name was Russo and my grandmother's maiden name was Caligari.   

When we arrived at the first winery, Scilio, we were a little early.  It wasn't even 10:30, so they weren't quite ready.  I think Angelo felt bad about this, but Mike and I took the opportunity to soak up the scenery.  We haven't had a proper fall here, as it's still in the 70s during the day and there aren't many trees (aka no leaves), so this was extra exciting for us.  The wineries in Virginia and Napa are beautiful, but this winery was on a whole other level.  Mike and I just kept muttering things like "Thank you Olmsted Foundation! Thank you Navy!" and quoting our favorite youtube video "Is this real life?"  It was breathtaking.

After our little photoshoot, our hostess Barbara greeted us.  She was not much older than us and a bubbly and super friendly, Italian woman.  Also, she was shorter than me, so we were probably kindred spirits or something like that.  She took us on a tour of their winery, which is always kind of interesting.  If you know anything about wine making, most of the barrels are made from oak, but this winery uses some chestnut barrels for a little bit of a different flavor.   

While we were wine tasting, our friend Angelo seemed to be on his phone the entire time. I commented to Mike and said that people like Angelo always seem to be on their phone.  He agreed and we both wondered...who do these guys talk to all the time????

After the tour, we were taken to their small dining area to a table by the window.   Barbara put on some Eric Clapton music, which was perfect since our wedding song was by Eric Clapton.  Pure coincidence!

Barbara also made sure we had some hot bread, which I was excited about.  Little did I know that wouldn't be the only food we got!!!

She also brought a full food tray full of delicious snacks.  She told us what to pair each food with, which was helpful since Mike and I are kind of clueless when it comes to that kind of stuff.

Starting in the back left: Older pecorino cheese (SO GOOD!), olives, focaccia bread with onions and cheese (melt in your mouth good)
Middle: salami
Front: younger pecorino cheese, jam for the cheese, sundried tomatoes
We tried two whites and two reds, all of which were delicious.  We took her up on the offer to have another glass of one of the reds and one of the whites since they were so good.  It was probably a mistake since we were only on the first of three wineries, but we were so eager to enjoy all of the Italian wine, we couldn't help ourselves!  We ended up buying one white bottle and one red.  Mike isn't normally a white wine person, but their whites were so good, even he liked it.

We walked out with our wine and got back in the car with our buddy Angelo who drove us to the next winery, Gambino Winery, only fifteen minutes away.  It's at an extremely high altitude and the temperature changes drastically between night and day, which has a unique (and wonderful!) effect on the grapes they use for their wine.

We were once again greeted by a wonderful Italian lady who showed us around their winery.  This was a much bigger facility and was definitely designed for tours and visitors like us.

After the tour, we were once again taken to a table by the window.  Their dining area was much bigger and I think that you can go there to eat without taking a full tour.  

Once again, we were greeted with a cheese and appetizer tray, which we once again indulged in gratefully.    

We tried two whites and two reds and by the end, things were getting a little fuzzy :)

Luckily, they provided us with some actual lunch, which was a warm and hearty garbanzo bean soup and some good Italian meats.

love this guy 

And how could I forget the Italian sausages and grilled vegetables?  So delicious!

By the end of lunch, our table was pretty crowded with all of the wine glasses and food trays!

We were running a little behind schedule by the time we reached the third winery, but who could blame us?  Everything was so delicious and we were savoring every sweet Italian moment.  We were greeted at the third winery, Tenuta Chiuse Del Signore, by the owner who walked us around the grounds and the old house that they have on their property.  Once again....just breathtaking.

We were seated in the dining room for our tasting and enjoyed the ambiance of the old, rustic, Italian house.

We were both feeling pretty good by this point!

This winery is also well-known for their olive oil, so we used that as an excuse to enjoy more bread and olive oil.

By the end of our time at the third winery, we were pretty done.  In hindsight, we probably could have skipped the third winery (they have a tour that only includes two wineries) and been very content, but we really have no regrets.  Everything at all of the wineries was absolutely delicious and worth every bite and sip.

When we arrived back at our hotel, both Mike and I took a very long nap. After we woke up, we realized that I had left my phone at the third winery.  I'd just like to say that usually I'm super responsible with things like that.  I always check to make sure that I'm not leaving things at a restaurant table or that I haven't left anything valuable when I am leaving. After a few frantic emails and phone calls, we are (hopefully) having it mailed to us back in Turkey.  I guess my phone just wanted to do a little more wine tasting.  Who can really blame it?

Once I accepted that I wasn't getting my phone back that night, we headed out for dinner.  We found a cute little side street full of restaurants and we sat down for some pasta and good people watching.  Mike had gnocci and I had carbanara, both of which were delicious. We called it an early night and headed back to the hotel.

It was truly an amazing experience.  It was one of the most incredible things that I've done...up there with hot air ballooning in Cappadocia.   It was definitely expensive, but it was worth the price and a once in a life time experience.  Thank you to The Essence of Sicily for an incredible experience!

I'm a little behind on things I'm thankful for, but here's the last few days.  Lots of materialistic, not so deep, things, but I'm honestly so grateful for these things and they make living in a very different part of the world so much better.

Monday: I'm thankful for our bed.   Our bed this past weekend was less than wonderful and pretty similar to sleeping on a rock, so we were definitely thankful for our nice, soft yet firm mattress.

Tuesday: I'm thankful for my phone.  It doesn't even have phone capabilities right now (see here), but I use it for so many other things.  It's my go to for a quick picture, my entertainment at the gym, and I use it to text my friends and family back home who have iMessage.  Add in all of the apps that I use and it's my lifeline.  I'm not even afraid to admit it.  Luckily, I also have an iPad that allows me to send iMessages, so I'm not completely disconnected, but I miss it.  It's such a materialistic thing to be thankful for, but it's so true.

Today: Today I'm thankful for the ability to watch American television, both on AFN and on our computers.  I just finished the winter finale of Scandal and HTGAWM and...oh. my. gosh.  If you watch these shows, let's chat because man oh man am I shocked!