Mt. Etna is one of the most active volcanos in the world. She is a beauty, a beauty with destructive but also life giving force. She enriches Sicily’s lands with minerals rich soil that makes for amazingly fertile vineyards.
Part of your Sicily experience should be visiting a winery on Mt. Etna. Luckily for you, we have been pre-tasting some wines and will be sharing our favorite wineries with you. Here is our first find, La Gelsomina.
So relaxing, so peaceful! La Gelsomina is a lush and beautiful winery is located about a half hour drive from Taormina, or an hour from Catania. It is a wonderfully organized 15 hectare property full of organic produce such as olives, cherries, apricots and of course - grapes. Due to the size of the winery, it is absolutely quiet and serene here, you will feel at one with nature as you walk over the volcanic soil and through the vast rows of vibrant, green orchards. The appeal of this winery is it’s expansive space and its terraced vineyard which creates an open amphitheater type feel.
La Gelsomina recently opened its doors to the public. It is owned by Tenute Orestiadi, which produces some of Trapani’s finest wines and they finally decided to open their Mt.Etna location - La Gelsomina - for wine tastings as well. Because La Gelsomina is new and becoming established in this location, it is likely you will have the sommelier all to yourself, and feel as though the winery is your own.
You are welcome to stop by the winery without a reservation and enjoy a refreshing, cold glass of white wine or a delicious, full bodied red and take in the scenery whenever you choose. We recommend however that you call or email ahead and make a reservation for a wine tasting. For only €25, you get to taste 4 different wines and munch on some local cheese and snacks.
We tried a three wines from La Gelsomina - a sparkling white and two fruity stills, Etna Bianco and Etna Rosso -, and we tasted a red Perricone from Tenute Orestiadi.
What makes wines grown on the slopes of Mt. Etna very special is the volcanic soil. “The soil of Etna is a product of is both lava and clay, fruit of numerous eruptions that have occurred over the centuries, which allowed the dust to settle on the fields and the magma to crystallize. This has made it a place with absolutely unique mineral characteristics, in which indigenous varieties of the volcano are cultivated at 550 meters above sea level, such as Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio, Carricante and Moscato dell’Etna.” (source La Gelsomina)
After walking through the orchards and learning about the history of the land, you will get to choose which four wines you would like to try. If you enjoy your sommelier's company he will stay and chat with you, if not he will give you space to enjoy your time at the winery. Our sommelier was great and we ended up staying way past closing time chatting away with him.
You will find the wines are all reasonably priced, we recommend taking home a bottle or five :) I particularly enjoyed the red Perricone from their Trapani winery location, which you can recognize by the starfish symbol on the label. Go ahead and give them a call today to have a winery experience like you’ve never had before!
To make a reservation online, go to: https://www.tenuteorestiadi.it/enoturismo/ and select one of the Etna options, or call Ciro Benanti at +39 3666844071 (he speaks great English ;).
La Gelsomina: Via Presa, 48, 95017 Piedimonte Etneo CT
Follow the signs for, Presa, via San Giovanni Bosco, when you arrive in the central square, follow the arrows to La Gelsomina, it is about two hundred meters from the church. We strongly recommend following these driving directions you receive in your confirmation email, because we followed Google Maps to the winery address and it took us on an inaccessible private road.
When to visit:
One of the things we love about La Gelsomina is the flexibility of opening hours. Most wineries are open for lunchtime or dinner only. However for La Gelsomina you can choose your own time. We made a reservation for 6PM which allowed us to enjoy the beauty of the winery during golden hour.
As far as season goes - you can visit all year around, but in our opinion Etna vineyards are the most beautiful from May until November. Interestingly, Mt. Etna harvests begin earlier at the end of August and run until October as grapes mature based on how sunny or shady the particular vine terrace is.
Words by: Megan Sheets
Photography by: Niki Csanyi