COS: Luscious Winery Stay

Founded by three university students in the early nineties, COS makes wines with native grapes using biodynamic agricultural methods in southeastern Sicily.

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On arrival, I’m greeted by the first of many “dry” (no cement) stone walls, ubiquitous in Sicily, and two signs: left to the Locanda (the guest house in the renovated villa and palmento [original winery]) or right to the Cantina (current Winery/Cellar).

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I turn left toward the Locanda, the old driveway flanked by vineyards and palm trees.

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This portone (large doorway) in the foreground is the entrance to the villa and the door at the end of the path leads into the restored palmento, which now serves as a place where guests eat breakfast and can make reservations in advance for lunch or dinner.

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Side entrance to the villa.

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An old amphora in the garden.

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On my first evening at COS, I don’t have a reservation for dinner. It doesn’t matter. Giusto Occhipinti, one of the founders and owners of the vineyard invites me to join him and some other guests to “throw something together” in the kitchen. We go out into the organic garden to pick tomatoes and basil.

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Everyone is assigned a task in the kitchen. While I’m cutting tomatoes, another guest is slicing the prosciutto.

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Giusto begins making the spaghetti sauce.

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While cooking, we all taste an experimental sparkling wine that COS is making with Frappato grapes….light and crisp…a lovely pairing for the hot September evening.

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Giusto regales us with stories of the first years of COS when he and his other two original partners, Giambattista (Titta) Cilia and Cirino (Rino) Strano together put in the equivalent of 250 euros and started experimenting with making wine. (Giusto and Titta were studying architecture and Rino, medicine). In 1991, after graduation, Giusto and Titta decided to devote themselves to the wine project full-time while Rino bowed out.

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Giusto pairs COS Nero Di Lupo 2012 with dinner. It’s 100% Nero D’Avola, a rich, full-bodied wine, full of the aromas and flavors of this place.

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Breakfast the next morning on the terrace of the palmento overlooking the vineyards. The ceramic serving dishes are from nearby Caltagirone.
If you go to Caltagirone, find the ceramic staircase made from thousands of ceramic tiles, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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In the afternoon, I tour the winery.The amphoras where some COS wines ferment according to the ancient practices of Georgia (the one in Russia).

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Lunch at the palmento. Fresh mussels (the sea is only twenty minutes away), eggplant salad, fresh tomatoes and basil, paired with COS Frappato IGT 2012, a light, feminine, almost transparent wine: light and easy for lunch.

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And then, COS Pithos Rosso IGT 2011, my favorite COS wine. Pithos Rosso has the traditional mix of 60% Nero D’Avola and 40% Frappato, but it is fermented in amphora. It is a beautiful mix of contradictions…light in terms of alcohol and almost transparent in color, but deeply complex with the wildness of this place floating through it.

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At the end of lunch, we taste COS Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG 2007, made from COS’s oldest vines, the flagship that first made COS famous. Fabulous.

If you go, reserve a tour and a tasting in advance, and, if possible, stay overnight at COS. Giusto told me that he only cooks one to two nights a year so it’s not likely, he’ll be making you dinner, but the cook, who cooks at the Locanda, is fabulous. There’s a swimming pool on the property for guests and the sea is just a thirty-minute drive away.

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