Tag Archives: Sicilia DOC

Alesssio Planeta brings treasured Sicilian wines to Chicago


Alessio Planeta grows the grapes and makes the wines at Planeta Winery, and he came visiting Chicago recently to introduce them to industry professionals. Held at Naha Restaurant, 500 N. Clark, the event featured many of Alessio’s favorites paired beautifully with a three-course meal prepared by the superb culinary team at Naha.

The first course, an item from the regular menu, was organic carnaroli risotto with confit duck, Delicata squash, wood-grilled onions, and a delightful embellishment of crispy curly kale – we’d love to know how they get that crunch while keeping the gorgeous deep color of that green!
Second came a roast quail with a “hash” of Brussels sprouts, spaghetti squash and slab bacon, served with soft-cooked polenta and frosted Marquis grapes and sage. Dessert was a lovely composed dish of Italian blue cheese, shaved pear and pea shoot salad, macerated black figs and seeded ficelle (all their breads were excellent). Creative and delicious combinations.
Each course was paired with a different vintage of Planeta Santa Cecilia Nero d’Avola – 2011, 2007 and 2005 – all four-star quality. You could feel his love of his work when Alessio said, “Wine is the most honest labor of any product in the world.”
He also said that if your favorite wine vendor doesn’t carry any of these wines, you can get Binny’s or Eataly to bring them in for you. Below are some of the elegant and delicioius wines produced by Alessio Planeta and his team.
Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG 2014, a lovely dry red blend of 60% Nero d’Avola and 40% Frappato grapes that are macerated 14 days on the skin. The resulting blend is fresh and smooth and goes well with fish. SRP ~$24
Dorilli Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico DOCG 2014, A limited production of a refined and elegant expression of the union of the noble Nero d’Avola with Frappato di Vittoria grapes. Lightly distinguished by maturation in wood. SRP ~$33
Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG 2007, produced with a combination of indigenous varieties Nero d’Avola and Frappato. A unique wine with flavours and aromas of cherry, strawberry and pomegranate due to the particular soil and climate in which the grapes are cultivated. SRP ~$24
Nocera Sicilia DOC 2015, 5-star, 100% Nocera, grapes that grow only in the northern part of Sicily. These vineyards are surrounded by the sea – in fact, sometimes appear to be floating above it. Here they grow in alluvial soils where warriors once fought their battles. No SRP – why?
Nero d’Avola Nocera Sicilia DOC 2014. easy to drink Aromas of floral, plum and chocolate that are typical of the Nero d’Avola grape. At first smell, the aroma seemed a bit off, but the wine was very drinkable. SRP ~$26
Noto Nero d’Avola DOC 2012.  At first smell, the aroma seemed a bit off, but soft tannins, high acidity make it good to drink now and good to age for several years to come.
Santa Cecilia Noto DOC 2011. 5 stars. 100% Nero d’Avola. This year 2011 was a good vintage all around in Sicily, Tlhis is Alessio’s favorite vintage.Blackcurrent flavor typical of this area. SRP ~$45 Alessio said he prefers higher acid to softer tannins.
Santa Cecilia Noto DOC 2010. 100% Nero d’Avola. Less warm, more rain in this area today, where it used to be very dry in the late 90s. A quintessential expression of Sicily’s noble Nero d’Avola grape.

7 wines under $20 for the 2016 holidays

Recent tastings from wide-flung areas of the world have yielded a fresh list of possibilities for your holiday edification and enjoyment. Consider one of these under-$20 selections for your holiday celebrations.
California’s Little Black Dress label
We love it when wineries come up with fun names for their brands. Take, for example, the label  “Little Black Dress” (LBD). Stirs up visions of sexy intrigue or at least something elegant, doesn’t it? Recently sampled a couple of their reds and enjoyed them.
1. Diva Red. Winemaker notes: Decadent notes of dark plum, cocoa and caramel leading to a finish accented by hints of cinnamon and chocolate-dipped strawberries. We found it a pleasant medium-bodied red blend that sits comfortably on the palate, works pleasantly on the nose and goes nicely with food of many kinds. Well worth a try at SRP ~$8.
2. Little Black Dress Cabernet Sauvignon. Consider this value-priced rich red for your everyday wine. Winemaker notes:   Rich aromas of dark berries and toasted oak, a hint of vanilla spice and a lasting finish. Again, well worth trying at an SRP of ~$10.
Nero d’Avola elegance from Sicilia DOC
Speaking of “little black,” consider the Nero d’Avola grape –  indigenous to Sicily. For centuries Sicily has been a benchmark for the global wine market and this grape variety is an icon of Sicilian enology. Today a new generation of winemakers have lifted the “little black grape” to new heights of elegance and drinkability.
Saia - Nero d'Avola
Saia – Nero d’Avola

3. Nero d’Avola Feudo Maccari Saia 2011 Sicilia DOC. This Saia has lush, deep aromas and flavors of dark and sour red cherries, spearmint, spice and oak. Palate flavors are velvety, plush, and concentrated, balanced by fine acidity and ripe, sweet tannins, before a long finish. A superb match for full-flavored meats and game, especially stews and roasts. Saia, like all these wines, balances freshness with the ability to evolve over time. SRP ~$20

Naked Moon wine shines
Naked Moon wine shines

Lovely Pinot Grigio from Northern Italy
4. Luna Nuda (Naked Moon) Pinot Grigio Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT 2015. Born in the perfect-for-Pinot-Grigio clay soils atop the saw-tooth ridges, snow-capped peaks, and alpine meadows studded with glittering waterfalls in Alto Adige, this wine of straw-yellow with green lusters brings rich aromas of fruits like pears and apples. Well-balanced and structured, the taste is dry and smooth with a pleasing minerality. Perfect for pairing with lighter foods and fresh-water fish. At 12.5% alc., this is a sturdy white wine that makes a nice aperitif, too. SRP ~$15

JaM Cellars “breakfast” trio of wines
Butter, Toast and Jam sounds like a breakfast menu, but it’s actually the names of three different wines – one red and two whites – that come from JaM Cellars. These are a cut above your everyday house wines and guaranteed to make you and your guests feel special. Perfect to go with your Thanksgiving or other holiday meals. JaM Cellars wines are available nationwide and through the website at http://www.jamcellars.com.
5. 2015 Butter Chardonnay offers ripe, stone fruit and baked-lemon aromas and is cold fermented to rich creaminess, aged in a blend of oak giving this wine a lovely, long, vanilla finish. 14.89% Alc. by vol. SRP ~$15
6. 2014 JaM Cabernet Sauvignon has soft, dark berries and plums on the nose and palate, and is aged in new oak to smooth and round the wine, adding a touch of vanilla. 15.1% Alc. by vol. SRP ~$20
JaM Cellars - toasting with Toast
JaM Cellars – toasting with Toast

BONUS: Non-vintage (NV) Toast Sparkling, made with traditional méthode Champenoise techniques, offers juicy aromas of honeydew, white peach and orange blossom followed by tastes of tropical pineapple and honeydew combined with a light toastiness. It’s light at 12.5% Alc. and, okay, at $24.99 a little over the headline-promise of $20/bottle. But we didn’t count it in the original 7, so think of it as a bonus recommendation.

South African sparkling wine
Did you know that South Africa is among the many nations that are becoming producers of respectable wines these days? Had a chance recently to review a couple of sparklings from that region. One in particular seemed a worthy addition to a list of decent possibles for holiday meals – or any time you’re in the mood for some bubbles.
7. Boschendal Pinot Noir Chardonnay Brut NV. This sparkling wine, made with Methode Cap Classique (South Africa’s version of the traditional Champagne method) is a clear golden color with a fine effervescence. Aromas of fresh lemon fruits along with a creamy flavor make it a pleasant, value-priced bubbly that’s more complex than many similarly priced Proseccos and will make an equally nice accompaniment to lighter foods and even desserts. SRP ~$11

Have fun with these!


Pair Sicilia DOC wines with food

Wine is meant to go with food and can greatly enhance the overall experience of enjoying a meal. The old rules about red with red meat and white with fish are no longer considered the main criteria for good pairings. These days, you get to think creatively and follow your own wishes. Truthfully, as many Sicilian winemakers and producers will tell you, rules are passé; those who love red wines tend to drink them no matter what’s being served, and vice versa for white wine lovers.
Below are a couple of ideas for pairing some nice Italian  wines with a twist or two on some popular menu items like fried chicken. We’re recommending a couple of Sicilia DOC wines (the label that guarantees consistent quality in wines from Sicily) we tried recently; molto bene with food!
Let Nero d'avola spark your fried chicken/kimchee sandwich
Let Nero d’avola spark your fried chicken/kimchee sandwich

Fried Chicken Sandwich with Kimchee Slaw

This dish pairs one of America’s favorite foods, fried chicken, with the zing and romance of Asian spices in a vegetable mix that includes the fermented, super-healthy goodness of Kimchee along with fresh, crisp vegetables. Serves 4. The spicy fried goodness goes beautifully with a glass of fresh and fruit-forward red like Stemmari 2013 Nero d’Avola Sicilia DOC. Enjoy its intense bouquet with notes of currant, wild strawberry and pomegranate. Try Nero d’Avola wines with Thai sauces and Middle Eastern spices, too.
Kimchee Slaw
  • 1-1/2 c shredded Napa or Savoy cabbage
  • 3/4 c hot or mild Kimchee, chopped a bit if large
  • 1/2 c shredded carrot
  • 1/4 c thinly sliced red onion
  •  Tbsp Gochujang (Korean chili paste) or substitute sriracha or Sambal Oelek
  • 1/4 c mayonnaise
  • 1/4 c chopped cilantro leaves
  • 2 c flour
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 c buttermilk
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in half crosswise (if thick, pound the meat to flatten)
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • 4 sandwich rolls
1. For the slaw, combine all the ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
2. For cooking the chicken, choose a pot that will hold two of the chicken pieces comfortably. Fill with oil to the depth of one inch and heat over medium high to 350.
3. Stir the flour, salt and pepper together in a shallow bowl.
4. Pour the buttermilk into a small bowl.
5. When the oil is hot, dredge a piece of chicken in the flour, then dunk in the buttermilk, and dredge again in the flour, shaking off excess. Drop it gently into the oil. Repeat with a second piece of chicken. Fry about 3 minutes per side, or until golden brown and crispy. Lift out with a strainer spatula and let chicken pieces rest on a wire rack. Fry the remaining chicken pieces in the same way
6. Place a chicken piece on half a bun and top with a generous amount of the Kimchee Slaw and the other half of the bun.
A Sicilia DOC Grillo wine sets your veggie pasta afire with flavor
A Sicilia DOC Grillo wine sets your veggie pasta afire with flavor

Spiral Zucchini Noodles with Pesto

We Americans love our pasta like the Italians, but somehow we just seem to eat too many carbs. Enter: vegetable “noodles.” Zucchini pasta with pesto and pine nuts pairs perfectly with a fresh Grillo from the western and coastal regions of Sicily. A good example is Stemmari Grillo Sicilia DOC with its aromas of vibrant tropical fruits mango and papaya, complex mineral notes and bright acidity that accent the herbal pesto and balance the nuttiness and richness of the pine nuts and Parmesan cheese. Recipe serves 4.
  • 2 cups loosely packed basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 medium zucchini
  • Salt and Black Pepper
1. In a food processor, combine the basil, pine nuts, and garlic and pulse until coarsely chopped.
2. Add 1/2 cup of the oil and pulse again until the oil is fully incorporated. Add remaining oil and cheese and pulse until smooth. Add salt and black pepper to taste.
5. Bring a pot of water to a boil.
6. Using a spiralizer or mandoline, make long, thin ‘noodles’ out of the zucchini.
7. When the water is boiling, add some salt and the zucchini and blanch for less than a minute.
8. Drain the zucchini, mix with the pesto and serve.