My wine friend Brandon is as crazy about Sicily as I am. He’s an American who came to the island in his youth to work at the Sigonella U.S. Naval Air Station and never left.
Brandon, whom I wrote about in my book Palmento (2010) along with some of his romantic and wine exploits, may have the most extensive collection of Etna wines anywhere. Now retired, Brandon knows almost everything that moves on Etna. It’s rare to find a wine on the mountain he hasn’t sampled.
Brandon and I both get something like a high off the fact that the mountain continues to attract young and wide-eyed novices undaunted by the hard work of making wine on the rugged slopes of Europe’s most active volcano.
On a recent trip to the mountain, Brandon connected me to some of Etna’s newest and smallest producers in Michele Calabretta — a Passopisciaro native son and accomplished auto-tech engineer — with his wife German wife, Claudia. Now 41, and with three small kids, they are in their fifth vintage at tiny production Boccarossa.
“We had to something,” is how Claudia summarizes their adventure that began as a game among a group of friends.
It’s the stuff of romance that enlivens one of Italy’s already liveliest wine scenes. And keeps a lot of us – including Brandon and me — coming back for more.