65°F during the day and 50°F at night. Ah, winter in Sicilia. Southern Sicily, Nero d’Avola and Cotarella, that is the Morgante winning formula.
Italian lifestyle blogger Davide recently waxed about the area, Agrigento. My first exposure to the Valley of the Temples was back in 1971 as a mere lad. Uncle Peppino and Aunt Vittina took me all over the island to see the ancient evidence. Agrigento was memorable for its almost Valley of the Kings feeling.
That was some time before the grapes for this project were planted. In those days it was a miracle that wine was made and could be enjoyable. Nero d’Avola was waiting in the wings, rehearsing its lines.
From the Valley of the Temples, the crow flies 15 miles inland and to elevations of 1500 feet, where we find a large farm, planted simply to Nero d’Avola. Morgante is a family with a single purpose, much like someone who would live in Burgundy and plant only Pinot Noir, or Piemonte, and plant only Nebbiolo. This is the laboratory for Nero d’Avola. It's winter and time for full immersion in the vineyards, training and pruning the vines for the next growing cycle.
Morgante makes two wines, the Nero d’Avola and the Riserva, Don Antonio. One grape, a very simple visit at Vinitaly. I’m always pleased to see the regular Nero d’Avola on a wine list. Maybe some wine-buyer thinks they should throw a Sicilian wine into the mix. I have seen some awful representatives in that category, the token Sicilian thrown in at the last minute in the back of the bus. Beyond Gaja and Sassicaia, most wine-buyers, looking to win an award, don't bother to dig deeper into the portfolios. But if you see the Morgante Nero d’Avola, take a chance. It is a faithful passport to the land of the temples, to the southern soil and the hillsides trodden by so many cultures.
Experiencing the Don Antonio is like visiting my great grandfather. It’s a liquid representation of my father’s culture, our collective DNA recast in 25 ounces of viti-culture. Don Antonio is a wine that commands respect. No need to scream out at you. Riccardo Cotarella doesn’t make the wine as much as he senses it. Because he consults, he isn’t so hands-on. But that’s OK with old Don Antonio, as the wine largely makes itself. This wine is the Sergio Leone of the Nero D’Avolas. Great with a Texas-raised, Chicago-aged, bone-in cowboy ribeye, grilled over mesquite hard-wood charcoal, with a little salt, pepper and a touch of the Virgin olive oil. Sicilians know how to live, in the old world or the new.
Respect for Mother Earth, a climate that would make Paradise jealous, a history that goes back thousands of years and a culture that isn’t trying to destroy itself or the rest of us, and one grape. My kind of place. What a wonderful world.
Morgante is imported into the US by Winebow
Photos courtesy of the Morgante family.