Sunday, May 28, 2006
Sunday we were invited to join Elio, his brothers Pippo and his wife Rosalba, Savatore and Marinella and their friends Rino and Lucia (among others!) for a visit to one of the Cantinas that was to be open for wine tasting and eating local products. Of course we were delighted to go along as this was one experience we had not had in Sicily, visiting the cantinas - the wineries. There are many in Sicily and we had even picked up a brochure with a map outlining what type of wine they made and where they were but just never got around to doing that.
We all gathered at Pippo and Rosalba's house and went upstairs for her to show us her watercolors. We share this in common, she also loves to paint flowers and her watercolors were lovely. She had told me recently that it had been a long time since she had painted, what with family obligations and everything. But, we were also happy to hear that since she and I had spoken about painting that it had kind of inspired her to get started again and she showed me a lovely drawing she had started with three little vases of hyacinths. Very graceful line work and the beginnings of a beautiful painting.
And then we were off. The cantina was in the town of Comiso, not far from Ragusa and after a beautiful drive through the countryside we arrived to find picnic tables set up in a big courtyard with a barrel of wine set out for tasting and plates of sandwiches. They were serving ricotta calda, my new favorite thing in the world to eat, putting chunks of bread in to soak up the liquid, you spoon it up like a soup and the flavor is out of this world. Bob and I shared one of the panninis - crispy bread spread with pomodori secchi, olive oil, salt and "sapori" (seasonings) that were absolutely to die for and we shared a second!
Inside we watched them prepare a giant tray of pasta. Into an enormous wooden trough - maybe 5 ft by 2 ft - they tossed penne pasta, cooked in an enormous pot right on the spot, and ladled on a rich tomato sauce with eggplant, tossed it all around and served it to the very delighted crowd. A woman next to me explained that this was how the contadini - the day laborers - would have been served in the old days. The final course was grilled sausage and it was crispy and a bit spicy and simply wonderful. I don't think I could have eaten another thing!
We were given a tour of the facility - a very modern operation, not at all like the ancient methods we have previously seen in the museum at Buscemi or Palazzolo Acreide. This one has all the bells and whistles, using all the latest methods, down to the machine that fills the bottles, puts in the corks and applies the labels. It was very interesting. And again, we never would have known about this if it weren't for Elio. And, one of the wonderful things about this event, was that it was completely gratis, free. No one was selling anything, we didn't even see any signs of people buying bottles of wine here. It just seemed to be a day for the community to be invited to share a meal and to see the winery. Public relations I suppose and all very low-key and non-commercial. They had a few bottles of their wine on a display table but that was really the extent of the advertising. We understood that many other wineries were doing the same thing and so I suppose you could visit several and taste their goodies. For us, we couldn't eat another bite and were content to call it a day and go home.
We were home by the early afternoon, put on our swimsuits and spent the rest of the day at the beach, then upstairs doing some packing. We are down to just a few days now and we want to spend as much time in and on the sea as possible!
Rosamaria e Roberto
(photos to come)