Dreaming of Italian Islands While We Wait for Spring #ItalianFWT

Not quite winter, not quite spring. The Aeolian islands sound pretty good right now!

Dreaming of Island Life
As a good Minnesotan, I love the winter. Bring on the cold and please bring lots of snow. However, when April arrives, I’m ready for winter to be over. A warm ocean breeze sounds pretty good right now! Join our Italian Food, Wine & Travel group this month as we explore the wines from Italian islands. Right now, the thought of a glass of wine while sitting at the beach, looking over turquoise water with my toes in the sand sounds pretty good. Take a look further down in this post for a bunch of posts from my fellow day-dreamers of Italian islands!

Lipari is the largest of the Aeolian island archipelago, formed by volcanic action thousands of years ago.

Eolian islands – Lipari
My daydream takes us to the island of Lipari, the largest of the Aeolian islands located between the mega-island of Sicily and the toe of the mainland Italian boot. The Aeolian islands are all of volcanic origin, although none are active today. While the islands are typically day trips or cruise ship stops, it seems they are perfect for a longer stay.

Tenuta de Castellaro’s wines are clearly Italian, and they are also immediately recognizable as something unique.

Tenuta de Castellaro
Tenuta de Castellaro (use Chrome or Google translate as the website is in Italian) does not have a long history, only having started in 2005. However, they have taken pains to establish themselves into the volcanic land of Lipari. They are cultivating native grapes, taking advantage of the volcanic terrain, and taking a low intervention approach in both the vineyard and cellar. It shows! We were recently introduced to these wines by our server (and the wine buyer) Megan at Young Joni in Minneapolis. While Megan explained, I realized this might be a wine worth showcasing at #ItalianFWT. The next day, I did a little research and found that not just the Ossidiana Nero, but the Pomice white wine available locally as well. Perfect!

If you’re a fan of Etna wines, you may recognize the I Vigneri embossed bottle.

I Vigneri Connection
I was intrigued by the I Vigneri embossed symbol on the bottle. I know that symbol is associated with Salvo Foti, a highly respected farmer and winemaker over on Mt. Etna. From the Minneapolis importer’s website:

“You’ll also notice, on the bottle, the I Vigneri logo, indicating a commitment to “use non-invasive methods and systems, to respect local traditions and our own ancient grape varieties as far as possible, and to avoid the damage that over-reaching ambition and egoism can cause.” Salvo Foti has been instrumental in interpreting the culture and expressing it through the wines that are produced.”

Tenuta di Castellaro Bianco Pomice IGT Siciliane 2016 12.5%abv ($37 at France 44 or online here)
From the winery:

“It has the sun and a strong brackish minerality between its deep roots. The heady aromas of the Malvasia delle Lipari blend masterfully with the fresh mineral caress of the Carricante to create a taste where the concept of balance becomes the archetype of a complex Sicilian elegance ready to conquer the world.

The grapes are selected and harvested by hand, the yeasts used are the indigenous ones and the clarification takes place naturally, decanting the wine several times before bottling.”

Eye: Clear, deep lemon yellow
Nose: Clean, medium+ intensity. Ripe lemon, lemon pie filling or lemon furniture polish. Saline impression with wet gravel.
Mouth: Dry, medium+ flavor intensity. High acidity, full body, medium alcohol. Lemon pie filling, saline air, wet gravel, touch of bitter almond in the finish. Rich body with nice roughness to the texture. Medium+ finish with lingering lemons and wet gravel.

Tenuta di Castellaro Nero Ossidiana IGT Siciliane 2013 13.5% abv ($40 at France 44 or online here)
From the winery:

“It comes from the pressing of whole and de-stemmed grapes and from a long maceration with the skins and whole bunches; it is vinified without temperature control, not clarified except by decantation and various decantations. With a deep ruby ​​red color, it is a complex and structured wine, which presents itself to the palate with juicy shades of red fruit, to which are added intriguing aromas of spices and musk. His iodate notes firmly claim the peculiar marine influence on a land already rich in microelements. Nero Ossidiana expresses all the typicality of a land that is both volcanic and marine, representing the union between the island and the sea.”

Eye: Clear, medium intensity ruby with a garnet edge. Very fine sediment and legs.
Nose: Clean, medium+ intensity. Ripe red and blue fruit: strawberries and blueberries. Earthy tones, walking in a pine forest with needles and duff underfoot.
Mouth: Dry, medium+ flavor intensity. Medium+ acidity, medium- tannins. Pine needles, rosemary, balsamic vinegar, earthy notes, then red fruit – strawberries and blue fruit – blueberries. Animal hints of bacon, salumi. Nice medium+ length finish with just a hint of bitter in the finish.

(click on any photo for a full-size slide show. Hit “escape” to return)

Italian Island Getaways with our Italian Food Wine & Travel Bloggers
Take a look below to see which Italian island my fellow bloggers are wishing they could be stranded on! If you see this early enough, please join our twitter chat on Saturday morning April 6 at 10am CDT at #ItalianFWT

Pesce Spada alla Messinese

That’s Swordfish Messina-Style adapted from Giorgio Locatelli’s “Made in Sicily” cookbook, also posted online here. Because online recipes sometimes, disappear, I am including my ingredients and notes, based on Giorgio’s recipe. For me, the star of this recipe is the sauce. Capers, olives, scallions, garlic, tomatoes all add up to a super flavorful combination. I’ll be making the sauce as a pasta sauce in the future!

Serve the dish over pearl style cous-cous or orecchiette pasta would be nice, too.


  • 1 lb. swordfish, cut into 4 steaks
  • 10 whole black olives, pitted and sliced into quarters
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 scallions chopped up into the green area of the scallion
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled, smashed and chopped
  • 2 rounded Tbsp salted capers, rinsed
  • 1 healthy pinch of dried red pepper flakes
  • 4 oil packed anchovy filets
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 oz. white wine
  • 14.5 oz. can of chopped tomatoes, undrained
  • 3 oz. tomato paste (1/2 a small can)
  • Handful of Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped finely with 1 clove garlic to create an integrated mixture
  • Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


  • In a large saucepan or saucier, heat 1 Tbsp EVOO over medium heat. Sear and brown the swordfish steaks on all sides, about 10 minutes total. Set the swordfish aside on a plate.
  • Add the olives, onion, scallions, garlic, capers, red pepper flakes and anchovy filets to the skillet and cook over medium heat until the onion is soft and translucent, about 10 minutes.
  • Add the white wine and scrape around the pan with a wooden spoon to deglaze and scrape up the food bits from the pan.
  • Add the tomatoes and the tomato paste, stirring to mix everything well
  • Lower the heat to a gentle simmer, cover, and cook for 30 minutes.
  • Prepare the cous-cous or pasta.
  • Raise the heat to a high simmer and place the swordfish steaks on top of the sauce. Cover and cook for 10 minutes.
  • Serve the sauce on the cous-cous, placing the swordfish on top, finally topping with the parsley-garlic mixture.

24 Responses to “Dreaming of Italian Islands While We Wait for Spring #ItalianFWT”
  1. I’ve never tasted wine from Lipari but am going to ask about it at my local Italian shop. Your swordfish dish looks to-die-for as well. Cheers to island wines and the bounty of seafood to serve with them!

  2. culinarycam says:

    I rented a cottage on a family’s farm in Lìpari for a week and was able to see them putting up a tomato harvest for the year. Truly amazing. As always, you have me hunting for wine, Jeff.

  3. joyofwine says:

    Jeff I’m glad you did the Castellaro! The Ossidiana was exactly what I was going to do but with my trip to Italy I fell short. However, I’m at vinitaly and have an appointment with them as I carry this wine and the NM in my store so I will let them know about your post! It’s a pretty awesome wine and I get all warm and fuzzy when I think about all their wines!

  4. spisark says:

    I have always been intrigued by Lipari and it’s sweet wines. You have shown me there is more there. Thanks for sharing. I must add, however, that the the “lemon furniture polish” could be an issue for some readers. LOL.

  5. Pinny Tam says:

    Amazing pairings especially having the Tenuta di Castellaro Bianco Pomice IGT Siciliane red wine paired with the swordfish on cous-cous!

  6. Thanks for the introduction to I Vigneri, which is new to me. Based on your description, it sounds like I’d really enjoy both of your wines. That swordfish dish looks killer! Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  7. The wines you picked are just amazing, especially Blanco Pomice, its blend of Lipari Malvasia and Carricante makes it powerful yet surprisingly soft. Real Sicilian feature. Great post!


  8. Lynn says:

    Both your wines are scores Jeff! I read extensively about the grape varieties on various Italian islands. Malvasia delle Lipari was one of them but I’ve yet to taste it. The I Vigneri is new for me, thanks for the intro, and a new recipe to add to the ‘to make’ list.

  9. Not only do I have two more Italian Island wines I want to try after reading your article, but also a restaurant to visit next time I am in Minneapolis!

  10. Nicole Ruiz Hudson says:

    Both wines sound lovely. The swordfish dish sounds wonderful. How did it pair?

  11. Jill Barth says:

    Are you dreaming in high gear now that it snowed again?!?

    I can imagine The Sicilian sun on my face and I must say, I’m highly tempted.

    Great post!

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