Gabe and I went out for dinner a few nights ago. Shelter-in-place orders be damned; we suffered from cabin fever and desperately needed an escape. What better place to seek refuge than the beguiling island of Sicily?
Alas, we couldn’t magically transport ourselves to the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, but we did the next-best thing: grill some fresh tuna steaks, roast our first bunch of springtime asparagus, and douse it all in lemon juice and Italian herbs. Our pretend-trip to Sicily relieved not just our boredom but the monotony of two weeks of pantry meals.
Fresh ingredients all around!
Cooking from the Pantry
Most of us, I suspect, are learning to create tasty and satisfying meals using only what’s in our pantries. It’s a challenge I enjoy. We’ve tried to limit our outings to the grocery store, shopping only when we need to replenish essential items. And it’s working out okay. I’m quite proud of some of the meals I’ve created and will publish a post on that subject shortly.
But I really miss fresh seafood! And being able to choose from a colorful array of local produce. Some things you just can’t pull out of the cupboard.
On our foraging expedition last week we scored two sushi-quality tuna steaks and some gorgeously green asparagus. For a split-second, life returned to normal. My goal was to make sure that feeling lasted through dinnertime. At least.
On the Table
When I think of Sicily, my mind fills with images of orange and lemon trees; silver-green olive groves; and fishing boats headed to port. I can almost smell the rocky hillsides patched with fragrant herbs and willowy grasses. And I’m definitely craving a bite of grilled fish dressed with a splash of olive oil and lemon juice.
My tuna steaks took the first turn on the grill then, as they rested, I threw the asparagus spears on to cook. A small pot of jasmine rice enhanced with some butter and herbs rounded out the meal. Gabe opened the sliding glass doors, and we sat down to eat; Biscayne Bay right in front of us, the Atlantic off in the distance. I closed my eyes and pretended we were looking across the Straits of Messina to the tip of Calabria.
In Our Glasses
2018 Donnafugata Grillo SurSur (13% abv; $28 retail)
Donnafugata translates roughly to “woman on the run” or “woman fleeing” and comes from a novel written by Tomasi de Lampedusa. Il Gattopardo’s (The Leopard) main character, a queen fleeing for her life, finds refuge in the verdant fields of Sicily – the same fields (according to legend) now farmed by the Rallo family of Donnafugata. Each label is an original work of art but all pay homage to the fleeing heroine, her hair flying wildly in her wake.
Grillo, a cross between native grapes Catarratto and Zibibbo, produces semi-aromatic, fruity wines with bright acidity and ripe citrus and stone fruit flavors. The name SurSur comes from Arabic (which was once commonly spoken in Sicily) and refers to the local crickets considered omens of good luck. As with all the labels from Donnafugata, this one is meant to evoke a sense of running free, this time through a field full of flowers, bright colors and the scents of summer surrounding you.
The grapes came from the Contessa Entellina Estate in southwest Sicily. Fermentation took place in stainless steel tanks, where the wine aged two months before bottling. It rested an additional three months in bottle before being readied for sale.
Color: Pale lemon with glints of palest green throughout.
Nose: Medium+ aromas of lemon-orange-lime. Imagine strolling through a citrus grove just before harvest. As it warms in the glass, there is a peachy-apricot sweetness that appeals. Most intriguing, however, is a whisper of wild mint. Not what your mojito glass smells like but rather what you’d notice if you took a walk in the country and stumbled upon a single patch of mint. It’s there and then it’s gone. A few seconds later, there it is again. So fresh and unexpected.
Palate: Medium in body, alcohol, and acidity; the flavors are similar to the nose but perhaps a little riper. It’s wonderfully balanced and very enjoyable on its own. If you need a quick trip to someplace exotic, I can’t think of a better way to get there than with a glass of the SurSur.
About Donnafugata Wines
Sicily may be one of the new “It” regions for wine lovers, but Gabriella Rallo and her family have been making wine here for five generations. With vineyards all over the island, the family takes special pride in the cultivation of autochthonous (aka native) grape varieties, especially those on the brink of extinction.
One whole vineyard on Pantelleria has been devoted to researching Zibibbo, a project that has identified 33 biotypes and seeks to match them with the most suitable parcels of land. A small plot (just half a hectare) of the Contessa Entellina Estatehas been set aside for the study of 19 native grape varieties.
Obviously, protecting Sicily’s viticultural heritage is a driving force at Donnafugata. But it goes hand-in-hand with sustainable farming and production methods that address the vineyard as the sum of integrated and interdependent parts:
- No herbicides, pesticides, or chemical fertilizers
- Active monitoring of the winery’s carbon emissions (10% reduction, overall, since 2011)
- Increasing the use of renewable energy sources, especially solar power
- Use of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) including soil, water, and energy conservation
For more information on Donnafugata’s sustainability policies, please click here.
And, if you need to inject a little wildness into your #stayathome rut, order yourself a bottle or three of the SurSur Grillo. You’ll be on your way to Sicily in no time!
Attention, good folks at 305 Wines: I’ll be hitting you up for more of this one!