An Afternoon at Abbazia Santa Anastasia – Castelbuono, Italy

A year or so ago I went on a wine tasting and vineyard tour of Sharpham Vineyard in Devon and our guide said: “you never find an ugly vineyard”. How true his words have been. Abbazia Santa Anastasia is no different. Once an abbey, Abbazia Santa Anastasia is nestled high up in the Madonie Mountains about 10km outside Cefalù. With views out over the mountains and the ocean it really is a special place.

Steve and I arrived just before 1pm for our lunch reservation and wine tasting where we were ushered through the beautiful courtyard to the restaurant. We opted to sit outside under the pergola as the afternoon was such a beautiful one. The gentle breeze up in the mountains was welcome after a hot morning in the town. Once seated and settled we were given the opportunity to choose which wine tasting course we would like to follow. We were offered three varying options starting at €15 for four wines, moving up to €25. After consultation with the sommelier, Steve and I decided on picking one at €20 and one at €25. That way between us we could sample 8 wines.

Once that decision was made it was on to the food choices. A menu full of local fish, meat and vegetables made it very difficult to decide what to order. Always a good sign don’t you think? After careful consideration (and so as to not duplicate our dishes) we made our decisions. I love ordering different dishes from fellow diners so you get to see and taste more of the menu. Steve decided on the swordfish bruschetta with a herbed anchovy sauce and I decided on the seafood salad. I am a massive octopus fan so this was the perfect choice for me.

Our first wines came just before our starters arrived. Our wine tasting guide was full of information and answered any questions that we had. He explained the grape varieties, the vintage and what food it paired well with. Thankfully for us, both were a great accomplishment to fish!

Our starters were ginormous. That’s one thing I have noticed in Sicily. Portion sizes are very generous. We took our time enjoying the fresh flavours whilst sipping our wines. To be honest, the combination of the fabulous biodynamic wine, the setting, the warmth of the sun and the glorious flavours had already sent me into seventh heaven.

My seafood salad was full of octopus, mussels and prawns lightened slightly with fresh tomatoes and rocket. The dressing was tart with lemon juice and was perfect for this hot afternoon. Steve’s starter of grilled swordfish with an anchovy and herb sauce was dreamy. The combination of flavours hit the spot indeed.

We followed our starters with the next wine. For me another white but for Steve a red. I had ordered grilled tuna with a tomato sauce. Steve had a local homemade pasta with a wild boar ragu. Both dishes were delicious although I would have liked my tuna a little pinker inside. Tuna and swordfish feature highly on menus in this area. When cooked properly it is moist but when a little overcooked it has the tendency to be a little dry. I found my tuna a little overcooked for my taste but the sauce helped with it not being dry.

Our third wine choice arrived just as our main courses were being cleared. This time, both reds. We decided at this point to wait a while before ordering dessert. We were in no hurry so it was a pleasure to relax in such beautiful surroundings. Desserts finally ordered and our last wines delivered we delighted in the cool sweetness of the cassata gelato and the semifreddo. My goodness, they were fabulous and completed our lunch perfectly. Our final wines both being red felt a little heavy with our desserts but I didn’t let that distract from the flavours. Each and every wine I tried I enjoyed. It felt like such a treat for us both and I for one savoured every moment.

After dessert, we took ourselves off for a walk around the hotel grounds. Because of the mountain setting, the vineyard views really are outstanding. Not only are the views beyond the hotel grounds breathtaking but the hotel itself is stunning. With flowering plants creeping up walls and manicured gardens, you definitely feel a sense of calm. On our garden exploration, we even found an Enoteca so you can purchase wines to take away! Of course, Steve and I took full advantage wanting to take a little of our experience home with us.

We took up residence in the shade at one of the poolside tables with a final glass of wine before heading back to our little apartment in Cefalù.

If you are staying in and around Cefalù and you have an interest in local produce and wines a visit to Abbazia Santa Anastasia is a must. It was a definite highlight of my Sicilian holiday. I would love to return and explore the wines further. They have a vast selection on offer and Steve and I barely scratched the surface. To truly get the full experience (and if you have the budget) why not book yourself in for a few nights? I should think it would be the most idyllic place to stay.

You can find Abbazia Santa Anastasia at:

Contrada Santa Anastasia,
90013 – Castelbuono (PA)

Tel. +39.0921.672.233
Mobile. +39 331 32 48 148
[email protected]

Disclaimer: I was not paid for this post and all views are my own as always.

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