The Tasting Panel magazine

August 2017

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 77 of 136

august 2017  /  the tasting panel  /  73 ITALIAN WINES Defining Sicily Celestino Drago speaks about Planeta and Sicily at the Southern Glazer's offices in Southern California. Portrait of an Island in Wine: The Planeta Estates in Sicily Today, Planeta's various estates range across Sicily, providing a panorama of viticulture on this ancient Mediterranean island. Vittoria in the south (Sicily's only DOCG), with its red soils, is where Planeta produces Cerasuolo di Vittorio, boasting Nero d'Avola and indigenous Frappato grapes. The Noto DOC, further southeast, the origin of the Nero d'Avola grape and the flagship of Sicilian viticulture, is where the beautiful Santa Cecilia wines were born. In the Etna DOC, further northeast, Planeta planted the first Nerello and Carricante vines. The Feudo di Mezzo winery actually lies in the midst of the volcano's lava flow of 1566. Furthest north, on Sicily's last frontier, Capo Milazzo, the La Baronia winery's Mamertino has a venerable tradition—a wine that Julius Caesar admired. Planeta winery began its history as a company in 1995 in Menfi, on Sicily's southwest, with two estates. This is where the first vines were planted for the Ulmo estate's Chardonnay, near the family's farmhouse dating back to the 1500s and going back 17 generations. Also in Menfi, the Dispensa estate is the central point for most of Planeta's wines, such as La Segreta, Cometa and the Menfi DOC Chardonnay. PLANETA WINES INSPIRE TWO OF L.A.'S PIONEERING RESTAURATEURS Los Angeles restaurateurs Piero Selvaggio (Valentino) and Celestino Drago (Drago Santa Monica and Drago Centro) flank Alessio Planeta. "I grew up in Sicily," states Los Angeles restaurateur Celestino Drago, "but it always stays with me. The values I learned there get stronger and stronger." We met up with Drago and Piero Selvaggio, another legend of L.A. fine dining who happens to be Sicilian, at the offices of Southern Glazer's Wine & Spirits for a rare get-together with Planeta family winery member Alessio Planeta. "Wine culture has evolved in Sicily; it's become the jewel of the Mediterranean," continues Drago, in his expressive, passionate voice. "And thanks to modern technology and communication, the wines are available to the world. To me, Planeta is the first family of Sicilian wines, and since 1985, when I opened up my first restaurant, I always included them. In fact, the Planeta wines are so inspirational they recharge my creative battery to help come up with new dishes to pair." Drago makes it his mission to travel to Sicily several times a year so he can "nar- rate the story of the land and the wines to friends and customers." Selvaggio, who opened Italian restaurant landmark Valentino in Santa Monica in 1972, says that his memories of Sicily have changed over time. "I was raised in a boarding school and was very isolated from the world. In 1963, I came to America and, being a Sicilian, had a bad connotation, no thanks to movies and television during that era," he tells The Tasting Panel. "But Sicily has since proved itself beyond folklore and has made an impact in its rich food culture and certainly in the gravitas of the region's wines," continues Selvaggio. "When I left my province of Regusa, which I considered to be simple and laid-back, I didn't connect with its bounty; but now I recall walking past vineyards—which were everywhere—and saw young chefs sourcing farm to table, 50 years before it became fashionable. That fine cuisine movement continues to grow up—especially thanks to Planeta, with wines that are among the best in the world, but also show off Sicily's terroir through all its sub-regions." Drago, addressing a group of wine executives for American Wine & Spirits, spoke from the heart: "When I opened Drago, I decidedly became a Sicilian chef and researched so many recipes from Italy. Rediscovering Sicily has been the highlight of my life." by Meridith May / photos by Margaret Soss

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Tasting Panel magazine - August 2017