Drinking Southern Sicily in Southern California

DomaineLA, a wine shop selling top quality artisan wine (mostly “natural”) offered a tasting last week of some of my favorite Sicilian wines from COS and Arianna Occhipinti.

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Giusto Occhipinti and Tita Cilia founded COS in 1980, just before starting university studies in architecture. They became pioneers, along with their mentor, Marco De Bartoli, for making high quality wine in Sicily. (Read more) For the wine to express the terroir authentically, the grapes had to be grown organically and the wine made with minimal intervention in the cellar.

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In the late 90s, Giusto’s niece, Arianna Occhipinti, became interested in wine, studied in Milan, and returned to Vittoria to make her own. Like her uncle, she chose native grape varieties, organic and biodynamic methods in the vineyard, fermentation with native yeasts in the cellar and minimal addition of sulfites at bottling. (Read more)

Jill Bernheimer, owner of DomaineLA, billed the tasting as a “lineage event” because the other wine included, Ama, is made by a couple in California, who worked at COS with Giusto and Tita.

The wines were divided in three categories by grape variety:

1) Frappato: The lighter, more delicate of the two traditional grapes of Vittoria. Both wines were a slightly transparent, cherry colored red with a fresh, clean taste that comes in part from the minerality in the limestone soil. The Occhipinti Frappato, Arianna’s signature wine, was a little more structured. Both were wonderful, light reds that are elegant, but easy to drink.
COS Frappato Terre Siciliane IGP 2014 (12,5% alcohol) $25-30
Occhipinti Frappato Terre Siciliane IGP 2013 (13%) $35-45

2) Nero D’Avola: The richer, fuller and and fruitier of the Vittoria wines. Compared to wines made with this grape variety in other parts of Sicily, the COS and Occhipinti versions are lighter, and a bright, cherry color.

Tami Nero D’Avola Terre Siciliane IGT 2014 $15-20
Arianna Occhipinti makes “Tami” wine for the US market using grapes from young grape growers in her area. A perfect summer red.

COS Nero Di Lupo Terre Siciliane IGT 2014 $25-30
A more complex wine than the Frappato, but still not heavy with only 12,5% alcohol. A favorite at the tasting.

Ama Cellars Nero D’Avola California 2014 $28
Similar to the style of the COS and Occhipinti wines but different because of the California soil. The wine was more tannic and structured.

3) Frappato and Nero D’Avola Blend: the traditional 40/60 blend that is the only DOCG classified wine in Sicily

Occhipinti SP 68 Terre Siciliane IGT 2014 (13%) $25-30
Arianna uses her younger vines to make the traditional blend as an IGT classified wine instead of DOCG. A fresh, medium weight red, full of vivacity.

COS Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico DOCG 2011 (13%) $25-30
COS’s original flagship wine. The classic, medium weight, “Cerasuolo” (of the cherry colored soil). The soil is red sand over white limestone that was once under the sea, giving the wine fresh, mineral crispness but low tannins. A drinkable wine that pairs well with almost any food.

The tasting didn’t include COS Pithos Rosso Terre Siciliane IGT, the traditional Cerasuolo blend, made with grapes that ferment and age in clay amphorae. It is a fascinating version of the classic, which has a wonderful wildness and earthiness to it.

All in all, a great way to spend a few hours on a Sunday afternoon.
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DomaineLA
6801 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA

phone 323.932.0280
email info@domainela.com
hours
Sunday 12-5
Monday 12-8
Tuesday – Saturday 11-8

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