Wineries of the Month

Valle dell’ Acate

Valle dell’ Acate
Both from ancient wine-making families in eastern Sicily, Jacono Ricca and Ferreri del’Anguilla created Valle dell’Acate winery in 1981on the Bidini estate in the province of Ragusa. Today Valle dell’Acate is run by Gaetana Jacono and covers over 100 hectares of wine grapes, including the native Nero d’Avola, Frappato, and Insolia, along with the international varieties Chardonnay and Syrah. This large property lies between the towns of Acate and Vittoria on steep hills above the Dirillo River. Wine guide, Gambero Rosso, calls the wines from both indigenous and international varieties “impeccable.” The jewel of the estate is Nero d’Avola, Sicily’s noble red grape, which is blended with aromatic Frappato in the Cerasuolo di Vittoria wine and with Syrah in the Tane’.

Azienda Agricola Graci
Tasting the wines from this tiny winery that produces only 1,000 cases is a privilege shared by very few, probably more foreigners than native Sicilians. Alberto Aiello Graci founded the winery in 2004, and his vineyards are located on Mount Etna, the largest active volcano in Europe, which is 3.329 meters above sea level (10.922 feet). Its fiery halo is visible from great distances. The Graci estate is located on the northern slope of the mountain at Passopisciaro, where viticulture goes back thousands of years. The vineyards are farmed with no extraneous materials whatsoever, not even what might be approved by organic farming regulations. These extraordinary wines are all pure extractions of this mountain and its volcanic power that has awed ancient peoples and modern witnesses alike.

Beyond the passion for making his distilled spirits, Giovanni La Fauci has the same intense passion for wine. His wine cellar, which is located in Randazzo on Mount Etna, uses only the finest quality local varieties: Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio. The vines are cultivated naturally and sustainably without any use of chemicals. The grape must is only fermented with native yeasts. The wine is then aged in botti from 220 to 500 liters for a minimum of two years and no stainless steel is ever used.


Winery of the Month

Phipps Family Cellars

Phipps Family Cellars
With a desire to create reserve wines for special occasions, Phipps Family Cellars was founded by Andy and Jennifer Phipps in 2004. The winery has grown from producing 350 cases of Zinfandel to 3,500 cases of Sauvignon Blanc, Melange Blanc, Pino Noir, Merlot, Cabernet, Sauvignon and Zinfandel. Focus is placed on the source fruit from a variety of appellations that express unique qualities of the wines produced from them. In 2007, a unique red blend was added to the Phipps Family Cellars label called “Status Quo” and their third label, “California Wine Company”, was added in 2015. California Wine Company is geared toward the next generation wine consumers. Phipps Family Cellars have vineyards located in Napa and Sonoma, California.

Hindsight Wines
With over 75 years of cumulative experience, Hindsight Wines is the creation of 4 people who have a passion for wine, Napa Valley wine in particular, coming together with the ambitious goal of making world-class vino. Owners Keith Hargrove, Seth Gersch, Alisa Gean, and winemaker Jac Cole explain what their mission is, “As a boutique wine producer, we stay true to our vision of making sustainably produced, world-class, yet reasonably priced, Napa Valley wine. We get tremendous pleasure from our customers who tell us how much they enjoy our wine. We are committed to delivering the absolute best value in Napa Valley wine and we truly hope you enjoy them.” I had the pleasure of tasting Hindsight wine a couple of years ago for the first time. I am fortunate that I have the opportunity to share it with you now.

ITALIAN Wines of the Month


Valle dell’Acate Tenuta Ibidini Insolia 2014
is an intensely fruity wine made 100% of Insolia grapes from western Sicilia. The Insolia grape is complimented by fresh almonds and citrus fruits. Grapefruit, melon, and honeysuckle invade the palate while faint aromas of citrus and floral meet the nose. This is a well-balanced Insolia sure to please on a warm summer’s day.

Valle dell’Acate Tenuta Ibidini Nero D’Avola 2014 is a Ruby light colored earthy wine with a hint of leather, blackberry, spices, and licorice. This is a well-balanced wine with round tannins. Pair this wine with aged cheeses, salamis and dishes with tomatoes or tomato sauce.


Graci Etna Bianco 2014 is 70% Carricante and 30% Cataratto. The fruit is fermented in cement on the lees to retain the most flavor. Only natural yeast is used in the fermentation. It’s grown at just under 2,000 ft on the northeast slope of Mt. Etna in rich volcanic soil. Aromas of citrus, lime, pear and a whiff of apple fill the nose. It is well balanced with flavors of apricot and a hint of bread from the lees.

Valle dell’Acate Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico 2012 combines 70% Nero d’Avola and 30% Frappato grape varietals. The color is intense cherry red with fragrances of forest floor, wood and berry. The palate finds a very smooth taste of black cherry, earth and truffle. It will pair well with roast meats, stewed meats and aged cheeses.

Valle dell’Acate Il Frappato is bright translucent ruby with hints of purple. A nice nose of dark fruit meets you at the glass followed by tastes of cherry, blackberry and a hint of leather. Aged cheeses, salamis and fish dishes with tomato sauce will pair well.


Graci Etna Rosso “Arcuria” 2012 is fermented in wood “tini” (conical shape) vessels and then aged in Austrian oak for 14 months. It is then aged another 12 months in the bottle prior to release. It is an elegant wine with a palate of chocolate, spices and raspberry earthiness. This wine needs to decant for at least an hour.

Giovi Etna Rosso “Pirao” 2010 is harvested from 80 year old vines which are cultivated naturally and sustainably without the use of any chemicals on Mount Etna. The fruit is 100% Nerello Mascalese and is aged in tonneau for 12 months. This ruby to garnet wine delivers tastes of licorice, berry, black cherry and dates. Starting off a bit tight, this wine was a real crowd pleaser once it opened up. It must be decanted at least an hour.

ITALIAN Region of the Month


Some say that today, Sicilians have less Italian blood in their veins than Phoenician, Greek, Arabic, Norman, Spanish, or French. Because Sicilia is on a crossroads between Europe and Africa, it has been overrun by many different cultures, which have left their traces on this beautiful island, the largest in the Mediterranean. The Greek cities of Sicily flourished during the 6th and 5th Centuries BC, and their ruins are some of the most impressive outside of Greece, especially the Valley of the Temples near Agrigento. Today, Sicily is the leading wine region in Southern Italy, its wines garnering many awards. Mt.Etna, Europe’s largest active volcano, is one of the most exciting vineyard locations in Italy, and is attracting much attention and investment. The white Bianco d’Alcamo and the red Cerasuolo di Vittoria show notable class. Increasingly prominent are the fruity aromatic whites, Inzolia, Catarratto, and Grecanico. Native reds have also achieved prominence, such as Nero d’Avola, Nerello Mascalese, and Perricone. The newly introduced French varieties, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah are also producing exciting results.

CALIFORNIAN Wines of the Month


California Wine Company 2013 Chardonnay has a soft entry which leads to a medium bodied mid-palate with generous volume and medium acidity. Flavors of honey, soft oak, pear and apple tart play nicely together ending with a clean medium finish.

California Wine Company 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon has a rich palate of dark fruit flavors with wild cherry and cocoa. It is blended with a touch of Merlot and Syrah which rounds out the complex layers. This wine can be enjoyed now.


Hindsight 2013 Chardonnay, Oak Knoll District, Napa Valley comes from a magnificent vintage in Napa Valley. This chardonnay features layers of juicy peaches, mango, citrus, and subtle oak aromas that lead to a lush, creamy mid-palate with a smooth lengthy finish.

Phipps Family Cellars 2011 Zinfandel Treborce Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley harvested during a mild growing season with early rains, required the picking of this zinfandel at lower than usual brix. This created a soft, smooth and elegant zinfandel. It has a core of blackberry, white pepper and dark chocolate. Hints of raspberry, boysenberry, cinnamon and allspice also mingle with the core flavors.

Phipps Family Cellars 2012 Zinfandel Sonoma
County Ranches, Dry Creek Valley – An excellent growing season with perfect temperatures led to a production of perfectly matured grapes with balanced flavors. The base of this wine is also blackberry, white pepper and dark chocolate. Cherries and raspberries also compliment this balanced wine.


Phipps Family Cellars 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon is a classic Napa Valley Cabernet. Concentrated and powerful describe this wine with a mix of espresso beans, vanilla and explosive plum ending with firm yet integrated tannins. Herb infused flavors of blackberry, cocoa, spices and smoky sandalwood offers much complexity. Already balanced and integrated, it will age well.

Hindsight 2012 Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon is the first release of the estate wine from the 3 acre Cabernet vineyard in Calistoga. The grapes are cold soaked for 6 days prior to fermentation to maximize extraction of color, weight, aromatic and flavor components. The wine is aged in new and neutral oak French oak barrels for 18 months. Black cherry, raspberry and coffee hits the nose and follow mocha and oak to the palate. This is a big, full bodied Cabernet with firm tannins and a long, lingering finish. Only 394 cases were produced. You will need to decant. It’s enjoyable now, but will only get better with age.

CALIFORNIAN Region of the Month


Napa Valley is the heart of California’s wine industry, its vine-covered valley floor and rolling hills are the destination for millions of visitors each year. The Valley is home to 43,000 acres of vines, over 400 wineries, and many renowned restaurants. George Calvert Yount, arriving in 1831, planted the first grapes. Notable early but still existing stone wineries, developed between 1859 and 1882, including Charles Krug, Christian Brothers, Beringer, Chateau Montelena, and Beaulieu. Formerly a sanatorium, Inglenook winery began production in 1880. San Franciscans provided a huge market for Napa wines, which were easily transported across the San Francisco Bay. But Prohibition closed most of them, except the few that provided sacramental wine for churches. The Valley didn’t begin recovery until Robert Mondavi built his large winery in 1966. Today, the Napa Valley has 16 American Viticulture Areas. The umbrella appellation, Napa Valley, specializes in Bordeaux grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Sauvignon Blanc. Cooler Los Carneros, stretching into Sonoma County, is ideal for the grapes of Burgundy, including Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.


In the Cool of the Evening

First Course
Prawn bruschetta with lemon & fennel

Main Course
Poached salmon dressed with olive oil and a sprinkle of chopped
parsley, served with steamed asparagus and heritage radishes,
and garnished with lemon wedges

Watercress and parmigian salad with lemon-olive oil vinaigrette

Artisan strawberry ice cream, topped with fresh strawberries, slivers
of mint, a drizzle of Triple Sec, and a dollop of freshly whipped cream

Prawn Bruschetta with Lemon & Fennel

With 100-degree temperatures and forest fires in the background, even the outdoor barbecue is losing its allure in California. This month’s menu requires just a stovetop and could even be prepared in the morning and served chilled in the evening. We’ve adapted the following recipe from one in the July issue of Good Food magazine. Delicious and beautiful,

1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced through the root, green fronds chopped
1 tablespoon chopped dill
Zest of one lemon, chopped
Juice from half a lemon
2 tablespoons olive
1 garlic clove
8 cooked prawns
Sprigs of flat-leaf parsley
Salt to taste

Drop fennel slices into a pan of boiling water for 2-3 minutes until just tender. Drain well and toss with fennel fronds, dill, lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt. Brush the slices of bread with olive oil. Place on a hot griddle or under a grill and toast on both sides. Rub one side of each slice with the garlic, and then divide the fennel salad between them. Top with prawns, and then the parsley sprigs. Garnish with lemon wedges.