Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Visit with Paolo Cali (Cantine Paolo Cali, Vittoria, Sicily): Dinner at Quattro Quarti

After a scintillating and thought-provoking session with Frank Cornelissen at his winery (details in a future post), Brandon Tokash and I headed out on a 2.5-hour jaunt from Castiglione di Sicilia to Vittoria. Our home base for the two days we were spending in the area was Locando Cos, the Inn on the grounds of the COS estate so we headed there first to deposit our luggage and to compose ourselves for our late afternoon visit to Cantine Paolo Cali.

We were neither of us very familiar with the roads in the area so Brandon drove and I had navigation duty (an especially daunting task when you ran into coverage dark spots).

When we pulled into Cantine Paolo Cali (after listening to Brandon's lengthy story of how he had spent two hours lost and driving around this area sometime in the past) twilight was setting in. Brandon called Paolo on the telephone so that he could open the gate and it was with some relief that I saw the gate begin to slowly open. It was then that I realized how much I had been traumatized by Brandon's "lost-in-the-Sicilian-hinterlands" story.

The winery sat within a walled enclosure with buildings on both sides of a courtyard and a small, glass-fronted building in the center of the courtyard, directly opposite the main entrance. Within that small building there was a central table with accompanying chairs; and almost every inch of the table was covered with partly filled wine bottles. The building was occupied by two adult males and a boy.

Brandon introduced us. One of the men was Paolo Cali, the proprietor, and the kid was his son. The other adult male was Emiliano Falsini, the estate's consulting Enologist who was visiting from Tuscany. We had walked in on a blending session.

After shooting the breeze for a while, and informally tasting  a few wines, we headed out to dinner. The restaurant where we were dining is called Quattro Quarti and is located on the main promenade of Marina di Ragusa, a seaside town in Southern Sicily. The setting was welcoming with banks of seating stretching away from the entrance both straight ahead as well as along the restaurant's sea-facing flank.

During the time we had spent at the tasting room, I had been intrigued by the sight of Paolo's son -- his name is Emanuele -- scurrying about opening bottles, translating for his dad, and explaining some aspects of the estate's operations. While we were waiting for our drinks, I engaged him in a discussion about his role and objectives. He is 17 years old, is a wine fanatic, and fully expects to come into his father's business sometime in the near future. He has been to Vinitaly for 12 years in a row to promote the estate's wines. I have yet to make my inaugural trip to Vinitaly.

Emanuele Cali
Brandon Tokash and Cantine Paolo Cali
oenologist Emiliano Falsini
Paolo Cali of Cantine Paolo Cali and oenologist Emiliano Falsini
We ordered a bottle of Il Grillo di Santa Tresa Spumante Brut and followed up with a Billecart Salmon Brut Reserve. During the course of our discussion and drinks, the proprietor brought over his suggestion for dinner: a barely dead giant fish surrounded by a brace of only slightly smaller shellfish. The guys in the know nodded their approval and he took it away to begin the preparation. If I had only known.

The first course to hit our table was an antipasti, a cornucopia of colors, textures and flavors that teased the eyes and then the palate. I tried to go light on this but even taking a small portion of each offering meant that you ended up with a bunch of stuff on your plate. And I was cognizant that there was still other food in the offing.

Then the shellfish that I had seen bracketing the giant fish earlier showed up, this time the stars of their own show. And the five of us had to wade through this mound. I took a few pieces but once I had cleared my plate Paolo was ready with another serving.

By this time the night was becoming long in the tooth and I was hoping that they had forgotten about the fish. No such luck. It showed up drowned in a butter sauce garnished with olives and potato slices. Beautifully presented and tasty. A shame that I could not acquit myself in an honorable manner.

After closing the restaurant down we headed back to our cars. We followed Paolo until we got to our turn off and made our way back to our residence without any problems. No two hours driving around for Brandon on this trip.

The plan was to meet Paolo for a vineyard tour and full tasting on the morrow. I was excited. I liked Paolo and his kid.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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