One of the highlights of our trip to Sicily was visiting the winery Planeta, located on the slopes of the active volcano Mount Etna. It was a beautiful day and our driver kept us entertained on the way up to the winery. He knew quite a bit about the surrounding vineyards and although he was soft-spoken I was able to glean a few things from him (I think Susie heard a bit more than I did). We were scheduled for a winery tour and lunch. When we arrived we learned that five other people would be joining us. It turned out that I was the only man in the group, the rest were women. The reason I bring that up is that I think that was a first for me!

We were actually at their tasting room that was nestled amongst some of their vineyards. The tasting room was actually in the old winemaking facility that they restored, but do not use to make wine anymore. It was quite interesting to see some of the older equipment they had to press the grapes and store the juice. I’m trying to load some pictures, but it’s taking forever. I may have to do that later.

The vineyards were beautiful, especially against the backdrop of Mount Etna and the lower valley below. You can understand why viticulturists and winemakers are interested in this area for planting grapes. The soils from the lava flows are nutrient-rich, and the temperatures are a bit cooler with the higher elevation (Etna gets snow parts of the year and they ski up there) which gives them a longer growing season than other parts of Sicily. We were up there in September and Nerello Mascalese, one of the main red grapes for Etna Rosso was still not harvested. After our tour of the vineyards, we tasted quite a few of their wines which were stunning. It was a memorable time and good food as well. I am very happy that my wife Susie has always supported my career in the wine world. Not only supportive but quite interested as well.

Now to a subject that I have been ruminating on since the summer ended and we transitioned into Fall. Our wine department was quite depleted on the sales floor many times throughout this past summer. I normally have stacks of wine upstairs that are waiting for a spot on the floor. Not during the summer of 2023! I talked with my assistant Scott about it and he agreed that this was uncharacteristic of me to have so many empty spots in our wine department. After thinking about it, I realized that the main reason was the lack of presentation by the sales force that stops by the store on a regular basis to share samples of wine with us, which helps me make decisions on what to purchase. If I can’t try it, I won’t buy it.

This brings us to the ferry system, which has been struggling to keep a regular schedule due in most cases to “lack of crew”, a term we are quite sick of hearing. This has caused many cancelations of sailings over the summer which in turn makes sales reps reluctant to come to the island to sample wines with us for possible purchase. Hats off to Lauren and Kris for always being at the store each week to write their orders and at times present wines (they both live on the mainland). However, that is a small percentage of the sales force that normally calls on us. As a result, I had very few wines to choose from for stacking purposes (hopefully you understand what I mean by stacks). As most of you know, I am quite picky about what I put out there for my customers to choose from. I want it to be good, as well as an excellent value. Things have gotten a bit better and more of my regular sales force are making their way from the mainland to the store to show me what they have to offer. I’ve found some great values recently and the floor is plump with purchasing options. Phew! With the holidays coming up, it’s important to have some nice wines to choose from.


Stan The Wine Man

About Stan The Wine Man

I am a blue collar wine guy who has been in the biz for over twenty years. I work at a store in a tourist destination stop. I work hard at finding the best wine for the money. I love the challenge of learning my customer's palate so I can find the best wine for them, whether it is Petrus or white zinfandel. Cheers!
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