11 days – 10 nights
Vineyards extending for hectares and hectares on the slopes of Mt Etna, the valleys of Noto and Ragusa area, the gentle hills of Trapani and Palermo, the plain of Marsala. Wineries of ancient tradition where the smell of the must conveys at the same time the value of tradition and modern ways of production. Local people proud of their jobs, devoted to their land and with memories and stories to tell.
Visits to wine estates, wineries and cellar will please your Sicily wine experience. With a glass of their wine in your hands, you will meet local vignerons and winemakers and talk over their views for vine growing and wine production. As a wine lover you will share technical information and tasting techniques but most of all you will experience friendly moments drinking Sicilian wines with your travel companions and hosts, tasting local food deliciously matched to the wines.
Day 1: Etna wine resort, wine dinner at Firriato
Day 2: Benanti, Barone di Villagrande, Cottanera
Day 3: Syracuse, Noto, Ragusa Ibla
Day 4: Along Nero d’Avola and Cerasuolo di Vittoria route
Day 5: Feudo Butera, Agrigento and the Valley of the Temple, Planeta
Day 6: Along Terre Sicane wine route: Cantine Barbera, Settesoli
Day 7: Along Marsala wine route – Erice
Day 8: Barone di Serramarrocco – Segesta – Ceuso – Cusumano – Baglio di Pianetto
Day 9: Tasca d’Almerita – Baglio di Pianetto
Day 10: Palermo
ITINERARY & PROGRAM
Day 1 – Welcome to Sicily! Catania Airport – Etna wine resort
Arrive at Catania Airport, meet & greet with your assistant and private transfer to our wine resort on Mt Etna nestled on a series of terraces covering 11 hectares in one of the most intriguing areas of the volcano, contrada Verzella, where some of the most intriguing wines are produced. A typical manor house restored with colours and layout in perfect harmony with the surrounding nature offering with 11 rooms combining comfort with tradition, all enjoying a view over the vineyards. These vineyards are ancient, some more than a hundred years old, containing extraordinary plants, which are the expression of an aged-old vineyard producing the best fruit suited to the context of this singular land of excess.
Tonight welcome dinner is at Firriato’s: the tasting start with a fascinating metodo classic sparkling wine from Nerello Mascalese grapes picked before their natural ripening to continue with wines from the traditional ampelografic heritage of the area. (D)
Day 2: Along Mt Etna wine road: Benanti, Barone di Villagrande, Cottanera
Breakfast at the hotel. Departure for Mt Etna where fire eruptions and blue sky intertwine to give you a unique spectacle. Here where nature mixes colors and fertile lands are imbued with the fragrance of local vines, we start our first day exploring Etna wine. Today we will concentrate on Mt Etna DOC wines, visiting two of the pioneers for quality wine production at the foothill of the biggest active volcano in Europe.
Born at the end of 1800’s out of devotion and dedication of family generations, our first stop is Benanti winery. Here, where ancient fragrances and flavors are meticulously treasured, we focus on the Etna Renaissance and discover Carricante and Nerello Mascalese blends. Being cultivated for four centuries, notice the vigor of these two wines while walking along the vineyard and visiting an old palmento for a tasting paired with some seasonal local food.
Oaks and chestnuts trees woods embrace our next stop: Barone di Villagrande, whose wine belongs to the most-refined aristocracy production. Immersed into a wide amphitheater of terraces and historical vineyards, we initiate a discussion of Etna Contrade and the diversity of wine styles. Enjoy a Sicilian style lunch with wine pairing.
Very close to our resort is Cottanera. On the 65 hectares of vineyards both autochthonous and international varieties are grown. The land is unique and gives rise to an extremely variable ampleographic picture. The Company’s autochthonous red wines are Nerello Mascalese and Cappuccio, traditionally produced around Mt. Etna, alongside with the international Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Mondeuse. The white wines include, the autochthonous Inzolia and Carricante, and the international Viogner. The panoramic view of the vineyards is followed by the visit of the cellar and the barrels, dinner paired with 5 local wines. (B, L, D)
Day 3 – Syracuse – Feudo Maccari – Noto – Ragusa Ibla
Breakfast at the hotel. Departure to Syracuse, defined by Cicero “the biggest and the most beautiful among all Greek cities”. A UNESCO World Heritage site for its archeological, artistic and monumental patrimony, a perfect summary of the Sicilian history. Explore the baroque heart of Ortigia, the Euryalus fortification, the Apollo Temple, the columns of the Athena Temple set inside the Baroque cathedral like precious stones; get absorbed into the enchanting atmosphere of the ancient Neapolis, the archaeological park where the Greek Theatre is placed: here, still today you can experience the magical tradition of classic tragedy performances. Visiting Syracuse is a continuous alternation of unrepeatable sensations and emotions, which you can feel while having lunch in one of the local restaurants.
Guarding Capo Passero and Isola delle correnti, Feudo Maccari is our next stop. It expands on 1000 tumuli, Sicilian ancient unit of measurement, which corresponds to about 1744 m2.
With one of the most antique and natural way of cultivating vines, the varied typology of its territoir and the differences in high and exposition facilitate the production of complex wines.
Enjoy a guided visit though one of the biggest vineyards of southern Italy and its winery, tasting estate wines from Grillo, Moscato, Nero d’Avola and international varieties.
Proceed to a late afternoon visit to Noto, one of the “baroque jewels” of the island. Thanks to the magnificent architectural details of its churches and nobiliary buildings, the town belongs to the world culture heritage list of UNESCO and for its richness is also known as “stone garden”.
We end up the day at a boutique hotel in Ragusa Ibla rich of churches and historical buildings, hidden among narrowest and charming walking alleys. In the heart of this Baroque city, one of UNESCO sites, our hotel is located in an old small fully restored building dating back to the 19th century. Dinner is at its Michelin starred restaurant with a wine cellar of more 1000 wines, spirits and cigar list. Take a walk after dinner and enjoy the peculiar atmosphere of this lovely town. (B, L, D)
Day 4 – Along Nero d’Avola and Cerasuolo di Vittoria route: Gulfi, COS, azienda Agricola Arianna Occhipinti
Breakfast at the hotel. Today we dedicate our day to explore the best wineries in Vittoria, an ancient land where the taste of Africa immediately jumps on you, not only for the reminiscence of the various architecture, but especially for the vegetation: olive, carob and almond trees, vineyards and the dreamy weather.
Gulfi is the first stop. Unusually, here the vines are not irrigated. This strategy makes them always searching for water, pushing their roots in depth and extracting minerals and nutritive substances that you will find in the final wine. Only biological products with genuine flavors, real expression of looked-after and refined environment. Go for a guided tour of the vineyard/winery and wine pairing lunch at the estate restaurant.
Next is COS winery. This company follows the strict policy of biodynamic viticulture, using terracotta container, for it does not cede any aromatic characteristic and maintain the wine intact with its peculiarity. Enjoy a guided tour of the winery and tasting of the estate wines.
Proceed to Azienda Agricola Arianna Occhipinti, an estate born from the owner’s sensibility for the land and its equilibrium. Here, preserving the biodiversity, the Frappato is sours, bloody red and elegant. The Nero d’Avola withering is realized exactly like in the past to conserve the grape during the winter. From this method Passo Nero is born, a straw wine not too sweet, which still preserves its original acidity.
We finally move northward to reach our wine resort where the harmonic contrast between the ancient and modern style makes unique the atmosphere with a terrace where you can enjoy a unique view of the reserve del Pisciotto, the richest of cork oaks of the island and 300 other species, and the surrounding vineyards. (B, L, D)
Day 5 – Feudo Butera – Agrigento – Planeta
Breakfast at the hotel. Departure to Feudo Butera winery for a guided vineyard/winery tour and wine pairing lunch at the estate restaurant. The name Butera seems to derive from Bute King, one of the first kings of Siculi population, including 320 hectares in an exclusive territoir optimized by the sea breeze.
Continue your tour to Agrigento and visit of the Valley of the Temples. A charming destination where Arts, Culture and Nature coexist in a magical atmosphere stuck in a mythological time. Belonging to Unesco patrimony, is undoubtedly the most suggestive testimony of Greek civility in Sicily. Temples here rise surrounded by countryside, almond trees and flowers, pictured in an immortal scenario in this dreamlike corner of Mediterranean.
Experience the excellence of Planeta hospitality, being one of the most outstanding wineries in Sicily. It was built on a long agricultural tradition owning six different wine estates all around Sicily, each wine with its specific traits in term of viticulture research and wine making. One of them is Ulmo di Planeta, a winery set in an historical background between the Arancio Lake and the old ‘500s Baglio. Its policy is dedicated to the knowledge and valorization of the enological Sicilian patrimony.
In this atmosphere of tradition, we will enjoy a dinner paired with a selection of their wines. (B, L, D)
Day 6 – Along Terre Sicane wine route: Cantina Barbera, Settesoli
Breakfast at the hotel. Start the day at Cantine Barbera a boutique winery with a specific philosophy guiding the owner Marinela, a true vigneron: organic farmig, natural winemaking, environmental management. Here, vines living so close to the ocean that they can turn sea brine into vibrant tasty salinity. Vineyards that enjoy mild winters and warm dry summers, and amazing temperature ranges between night and day. Ripe berries, tasty and sweet, that smell of sunshine and of a gentle Mediterranean wind. There is the Inzolia, which Marilena’s grandfather planted in early 20’s and has so well adapted to the sea brine that you won’t believe she could live anywhere else. There are the vineyards that her father brought to Belicello experimenting with international grapes: Chardonnay, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon, which you may now look askance, but were the new frontier 30 years ago. And then, there’s what Marilena chose to grow: Perricone, Nerello, Alicante, Nero d’Avola, Grillo.
Next stop is Settesoli winery for a focus on the cooperative elements of Sicilian winegrowing, international varieties, research and experimentation. Founded in 1958 in Menfi, today it counts with a surface 6.000 hectares of vines and 2000 of members: a real district of wine. Mandrarossa wines are the top range of Settesoli winery. They arise from a watchful selection of vines and varietals. Full of quality and tradition these labels are addressed to the most refined and delicate palates.
Tonight dinner is at leisure. You may opt for a fish dinner at a cosy sea-side restaurant or relax at the resort with a fine dinner. (B, L)
Day 7 – Along Marsala wine route: Marco de Bartoli, Li Causi, Pellegrino – Erice
Breakfast at the hotel. Marsala is today destination of our tour. It is the most important Sicilian town for wine production, famous all over the world for its homonymous dessert wine. It boasts the fascinating Saline (Salt-pants), built during the Arab domination and representing a unique splendor place.
First stop at Marco de Bartoli winery for a guided vineyard/winery tour and tasting of still wines. From Grillo, Inzolia, Catarratto, Nero d’Avola blends to his selection of extraordinary local wines, they are all obtained with antique methods creating a well-balanced mixture of different years.
Continue with the visit of the barrel cooperage Li Causi for an understanding of what goes into the making of wine barrels from a cooper. For two centuries, Li Causi family distinguishes itself for the artistic virtuosity of passionate artisans’ hands producing high-quality manufactured barrels.
Proceed to Pellegrino winery for a guided winery tour and tasting of traditional Marsala and Pantelleria wines. It is one of the most florid and important enological industries in Marsala. With its vineyards extending for about 150 hectares. The owner decided to conjugate the modern style and innovative technologies with the cultural aspect of wine, a concept that has been translated into precise architectonical choices, like the structure and the amphitheater.
Driving along the suggestive salt-pans route between Marsala and Trapani, enjoy a late afternoon visit of Erice, a medieval ancient village erected on the top of Saint Julien’s Mount. Admire the breathtaking sunset right from the castle, opening the view to the horizon. Walking along the little cobblestones alleys discover signs, symbols and legends born here even before Punic and Romans built a sanctuary dedicated to the Beauty and Love goddess. Pasticceria Grammatico is an unmissable stop, born from the caparbiety and sacrifice of the owner, a wise and life-experienced woman. Living in a convent during the war, she has learnt the old Erice and Trapani pastry tradition, producing little and genuine piece of art. Dinner is at leisure in this enchanting medieval village. (B, L)
Day 8 – Barone di Serramarrocco – Segesta – Ceuso – Cusumano – Baglio di Pianetto
Breakfast at the hotel. In the same lands once destined to wine production for Royal Court in Sicily, rises Barone di Serramarrocco, surrounded by Sicilian hills with woody areas. Particular for its thermic excursion and its position overviewing the Aegadian Islands, tour the winery and taste Grillo, Nero d’Avola, Pignatello and Bordeaux varieties.
Take some time to visit Segesta, a historical city uninhabited by now and founded by Elymians. Peculiar beauties are the Doric Temple, among the most intact monuments from Antiquity, which rises on a hill framed by Monte Bernardo and Monte Barbaro, and the Theatre, partly dug into the rock of the hill.
The 50 hectares right next the archeological site in Segesta call to mind the splendor of the Magna Grecia: Ceuso winery. Visit of the structure and tasting of wines from Zibibbo, Grillo, Nero d’Avola and Bordeaux varieties. Using old vitrified cement tanks to wine refining is an important aspect of company philosophy, which allows the production of non-filtered and complete wines.
Proceed to Cusumano winery, walk throughout the winery to visit and taste indigenous Sicilian varieties and international blends. In each of the thirteen Cusumano labels, there is a piece of Sicilian territory and history. 400 hectares located in many different kind of areas in Sicily; from the northern microclimate to hot Sicilian sun, giving the wines a special body, strength and complexity.
Drive to our wine relais, laying between the hills and the lake of Piana degli Albanesiand enjoy the French-Sicilian hospitality of this beautiful places surrounded by the vineyards. (B, L, D)
Day 9 – Tasca d’Almerita – Baglio di Pianetto
Breakfast at the hotel. Today, about two hour drive for an incredible wine experience at Tasca d’Amerita for a vineyard/winery tour and tasting experience. Core of the ‘800s social and artistic Sicilian life, it has introduced new cultivations and agricultural machineries. With almost 600 hectares of cultivated vineyards, the aim was to make the estate a modern and specialized model, fighting against the difficulties of operating in the underdeveloped Sicily of the past centuries. Do not miss the technical wine tasting and the tour of the vegetables garden, looking for perfumes and authentic flavors of land, which will compose your lunch.
Drive to Baglio di Pianetto winery which stems from the desire of its founder to create a wine that celebrates the uniqueness of the Sicilian terroir through the savoir faire of the great French chateaux.
A challenge born out of the love for the land and its fruits which since 1997 has pushed Count Paolo Marzotto and his family to innovative and daring choices, in full respect of territorial identity.
Today, the second and third generation alongside the founder in this endeavor with the same devotion and the same enthusiasm. Located in the DOC area of Monreale, in province of Palermo, its vines are regularly ventilated thanks to their position at about 650 meters a.s.l. The aim of this company is to produce fresh wines, strongly defined by Sicilian characteristics, though always ensuring the sustainability of the producing process. We will visit the cellar and enjoy a wine paired dinner. (B, L, D)
Day 10 – Palermo
Breakfast at the hotel.
Enjoy the morning at the relais and get ready to your excursion to the capital of Sicily. You cannot leave Sicily without a visit to Palermo, smell its lifestyle and admire its most important treasures: the Norman Palace and its Palatine Chapel with the splendid mosaics of Byzantine tradition and the Christ Pantocrator, the Arab-Norman Cathedral, the Oratorio of Santa Cita with the rich stuccoes by the Sicilian sculptor Gagini, a unique masterpiece of the Baroque-style and the Teatro Massimo, one of the most beautiful Opera Houses in Europe. This night get prepared for your farewell dinner in Palermo with a haute Sicilian style cuisine and wine pairing. (B, D)
Day 11 – Arrivederci!
Transfer to Palermo Airport and departure.
Meal legend: B (breakfast) L (lunch) D (dinner)
General info: “The Grand Tour of Sicily Wines” is an escorted trip designed to create a good comfort and let participants enjoy the experience at best. Accommodation provided is first-class, strategically located. The food is always typically local, with a blend of regional delicacies and top wines. Transportation is top quality.
Your wine guide is qualified, pleasant and with a long experience in the wine sector.
Ben studied Viticulture, Enology, and Wine Theory with the University of California at Davis and hold a Diploma from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust. After working in the California wine business he moved in Sicily, settling on Mt Etna area.
Please, note that for organizational/logistical reasons we reserve the right to change daily schedule and wineries thus maintaining the high level profile of the tour.
Departures & Prices:
2016 tours are upon request for groups of travel companions.
Please, ask for scheduled departure dates and prices for 2017
Flights: we generally recommend that our travellers to arrive one day before the trip starts in order to get their bearings and ease in to the new surroundings.
Travel Services: we would be happy to assist travellers in case of any further services: i.e. pre-post nights in Sicily, Amalfi Coast or Malta. Do not hesitate to ask for info.
Reservation & Payment: a deposit of 30% per person is required at the time of reservation. Final payment of the tour is due 60 days prior to departure.
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