I messaged Brandon Tokash (my new best friend whom I had met during the 4th Winelover Anniversary Celebration in Athens; and a resident of Mt. Etna) and told him that I and a few friends would be coming for the weekend in question. He said "you can't come to Mt Etna and not visit the broader Sicily." And recommended that I stay an additional two days to visit non-Etna Sicily. I agreed. I would come in two days before my crew and Brandon and I would do Sicily and then return to visit the Mt Etna wineries with them on the weekend.
Then Brandon said if you are going to be here earlier in the week, then you might as well come early enough to participate in Contrada dell'Etna -- an event showcasing all of the producers on Mt Etna -- on Monday of the week. Oh, and by the way, if you are going to Contrada dell'Etna, you might as well attend the blind tasting at Cave Ox on Sunday night. And that is how I came to be at Cave Ox on Sunday night participating in a blind tasting.
The tasting was comprised two flights -- one of five bottles, the other of seven -- and was led by Valeria Capriotti of Bevitorio Independanti and Gaetano Saccoccio of naturadellecosa.com. They had chosen to run the event as a blind tasting to dispense with the baggage that is attendant with the label being known to the taster. When the identity of the wine is unknown, the taster can focus on characteristics of the wine based on the nose and mouth rather than on the eyes.
Cave Ox is set off to the left within a walled enclosure. The empty space to the front is set up with outdoor seating and the area beyond that is a rustic, park-like setting which is itself peppered with small sitting areas. A number of folks were sitting and standing around talking in that forward sitting area as we walked in and Brandon proceeded to greet and talk with every one of them. It took us literally 30 minutes to work our way from the entrance of the property to the area where we would eventually be sitting. And Brandon shook every hand, hugged every chest, and kissed every baby in the room before we got there. This guy should be running for Mayor. Or something.
|Brandon and Lidia at Cave Ox|
I had had some apprehension as to how things would go down as the tasting was going to be conducted in Italian -- my knowledge of which is limited to the names of a few wine producers in Barolo and Montalcino -- and I did not want to be overly burdensome to Brandon by having him feel that he had to close-mark me to limit my discomfort. All my misgivings melted away, however, when I saw Gae. I recognized him from the streets of Williamsburg in Brooklyn. He was a hipster (based on his appearance); and those are my people. Everything was going to be ok.
|Valeria Castrato during his opening remarks|
This process, including dialog and commentary from the floor, was repeated for each wine in the first flight.
Cave Ox is particularly well known for its pizza and, after being served an attractive and tasty antipasti, we were treated to a succession of evermore enticing, straight-to-the-hip pizzas. And, constantly helpful as he was, Brandon informed me of the names and ingredients of each pizza and the attendees and their winery association (By the way, many of the attendees were winery owners, winemakers, or involved in wine in some way or the other).
At the completion of the first flight, the wines were revealed one at a time. Each reveal was followed by a fairly animated dialogue between the attendees and the floor. I am sure that it was all very informative.
|The Full Monty (Used with permission of Bevitori Independenti)|
|My tasting notes|
I was also very impressed with the dialogue towards the end of the tasting. Given that the audience was comprised of the leading wine makers and chefs in the region, a major philosophical debate broke out at the end. I could not understand the words but I got the emotion and the deep-seated convictions. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall.
©Wine -- Mise en abyme