Revisiting Sicily and Donnafugata with a Few Wines

A few weeks ago my wife and I started watching White Lotus on HBO Max (I think we are now subscribed to every streaming service, even Peacock, how did that happen?). It had won a bunch of Golden Globe Awards (I think) and I am totally a sucker when it comes to that–I figure if a bunch of people like it, it has to be good.

But what about Meomi Pinot Noir? The top-selling Pinot in this country? Do you think it is good???

Um. No comment.

The first season was fine, maybe even good, but when I found out the second season was filmed in Sicily, it became must-see TV for me. I love Sicily. LOve. I have been there a few times and each time has been off the charts.

It has already been a handful of years since I last visited Sicily and Donnafugata, but the impressions of both the winery and the island remain freshly etched in my memory. I wrote several posts about my two trips to Sicily and Donnafugata: my love for the city of Palermo, my first visit to Sicily, and then the second trip to the island a year later, which included two days with Donnafugata and hopping over to the island of Pantelleria.

I wanted to include some pictures from those two trips in this post, but honestly, it was very difficult to choose but a few; nearly everywhere you turn in Sicily is a photo opportunity. Stimied, I eventually settled on these:

I love Palermo.

The Donnafugata winery near Marsala.

Lunch on Pantelleria on the water, of course, with many wines from Donnafugata, of course.

Pantelleria’s “Elephant Head Rock”‘

Perhaps the most spectacular scene of the spectacular island of Pantelleria was this terraced mountainside. It is a farm for capers.


An ancient salt mine near Marsalla.







I was recently sent a few wines from Donnafugata, which I happily opened, causing some wonderful memories as well.

2019 Donnafugata Etna Sul Vulcano Etna Rosso, Etna DOC, Sicilia, Italy: Retail $35. “Nerello Mascalese, and a small percentage of Nerello Cappuccio.” I have had a soft spot for Donnafugata since visiting Sicily and the winery on a couple of occasions. And this wine to me is Donnafugata at its essence. The fruit comes from the slopes of Mount Etna which dominates the Eastern half of the island. Fruity, but balanced, this is just a delightful quaff. Yeah, the $35 price tag is a bit steep, but this wine is fantastic. Excellent. 91 Points.

2018 Donnafugata Contessa Entellina Mille e Una Notte, Sicilia, Italy: Retail $50. Heavy, heavy bottle. “Nero d’Avola, Petit Verdot, Syrah, and other grapes.” I have always been impressed by the way Donnafugata has championed responsible practices and have been stewards of the land, but this bottle is pretty darned heavy and, well, that is not good. But the wine? It is quite nice. Dark in the glass with oodles of dark fruit and spicy notes, followed by a surprisingly austere palate characterized by a near-exceedingly tart palate. Excellent. 90 Points.

2019 Donnafugata Passito di Pantelleria Ben Ryé, Sicilia, Italy: Retail $40 (375ml). Under cork. 100% Zibibbo. There are few wines on this planet that get me as emotional as one from Donnafugata. I have been fortunate enough to visit the winery on a couple of occasions and it is spectacular. The winery on the Western half of Sicily is beautiful, of course, but the people there are what makes the trip memorable. Warm, inviting, hospitable, and genuinely *nice*, what a treat. But it was not until I took the short plane ride to Pantelleria, the small island off the coast of Sicily, that I really started to understand the Ben Ryè. The island is breathtaking, between the vineyards, the caper farms, and the Mediterranean, what possibly could be more breathtaking? Perhaps this wine. Dark amber in color with aromas of caramelized orange peel, candied peach, and even a bit of natural cola, this wine is breathtaking even before the first sip. On the palate? Holy cow. Nutty, fruity, sweet, but not unctuous, tart, but not biting, rich but not overpowering. Whoa. I do not drink much sweet wine these days and this Ben Ryè might be the reason why–other wines just can’t match up. Extraordinary. 97 Points.


About the drunken cyclist

I have been an occasional cycling tour guide in Europe for the past 20 years, visiting most of the wine regions of France. Through this "job" I developed a love for wine and the stories that often accompany the pulling of a cork. I live in Houston with my lovely wife and two wonderful sons.
This entry was posted in Nerello Cappuccio, Nerello Mascalese, Nero d'Avola, Sicily, Wine, Zibibbo. Bookmark the permalink.

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