Dinner with Valle Dell'AcateSaturday, 02 May 2015 00:00
It is rare to sit down to dinner with a winemaker, even more rare the winemaker being Italian, and extraordinarily rare for your winemaking dinner guest to be a sixth generation Italian woman winemaker from Sicily, a place Eric Asimov called "one of the most exciting wine regions in the world."
But so it was on one recent night at Cucina 24 in Asheville. I had the honor and pleasure to share a bottle of Grillo and Frappato with Gaetana Jacono Gola, the owner of and winemaker for Valle Dell'Acate in Sicily. Gola divides her time between her home in Milano that she shares with her husband, an architect in the city, and "the farm in Sicily."
A former pharmacist, Gola returned to the family business with a plan to focus on indigenous varietals. "We live in a land rich in history, where wine enjoys long standing traditions. We are in a faraway place, rife with beauty and mystery, where we planted vines before phylloxera arrived, and again after it passed. How could we help but enthusiastically embrace our own varietals and our own wines."
Her decision to venture out and her successful efforts working the wine world room have put Sicilian wines front and center on the international table. Gola is proud to say that the biggest market for her wines is "The United States followed by Japan."
And, after thinking about it, the two wines we shared that evening would be perfect for Japanese cuisine. Both pair with vegetables and fish as well as lighter meats. And the Zagra, Gola points out, "even works with asparagus!"
Versatility, besides old vine varietals, is one of the great advantages of Sicilian wines. "As you move north through Italy, says Gola,"the wines tend to be heavier and less versatile than a varietal such as Frappato which pairs comfortably with meat or fish."
In addition to the harvest!, as brand Ambassador for Cerasuolo di Vittoria, serving as a member of The Wine Business Executive Program, and traveling the world representing Valle Dell'Acate, Gola spends a lot of nights away from home. When asked what would be a comfort meal at home, Gola said "a flaky white fish and a bottle of Zagra". "But," she said, "depending on the rest of the dish, Frappato works very well too."
What does Gola want us to know about her wines? "The soil in Sicily makes all the difference. Frappato vines are grown in clear red soil and Grillo in yellow soil. In fact, there are seven soils for our seven wines." Gola invites us to read more about the soil on the Valle Dell'Acate website HERE.
Italy has, since time began, always been known for great wine but Italy is now stepping up to take a leadership role internationally on issues of sustainability. And Gola is a part of the well recognized effort. "If you can," she says, "come to Expo 2015, called Feeding the Planet. Energy for Life. in Milano."
The Expo will showcase more than 140 countries who will offer solutions for issues concerning health, safety and providing sufficient food for everyone. "Over the 6 month show," Gola enthusiastically tells us, "Expo expects 20 million visitors."
The Expo is particularly important to Gola as she supports and her winery follows sustainable farming practices. And as the recently appointed Ambassador for "Women for WE-Expo" a project of Expo Milano 2015 in connection with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Gola will have a substantial role in spreading the message.
To summarize her philosophy about wine, Gola says: "Wine leads you out on an adventure to discover new places and people, new territories and history "