Salvo Foti personifies everything that's so exciting in the modern landscape of Sicily's Mount Etna. Yet, these wines of Nerello Mascalese and Carricante are deeply tied to the rich history on this active volcano. The high quality of wines coming from this estate today makes them the very first stop on any tour of Etna.

Foti has served since 1981 as an oenologist and vineyard consultant for the top wineries on Mount Etna, including Benanti. After years building his reputation throughout Sicily, Foti branched out and started his own estate, I Vigneri. The name derives from the 1435-established Maestranzi dei Vigneri, a collective of vineyard workers who influenced the foundation of these magnificent vines atop Etna. Today, Foti collaborates with local growers who share his fervor for the traditions of this otherworldly terrain.

I Vigneri works with very tightly spaced vines (1 meter x 1 meter) well over 100 years-old on the north side of Etna, where temperatures are considerably cooler as compared to the southern side of the volcano. At 2,300 feet in elevation these are among the highest altitude vineyards in all of Europe. The resulting climate here shares more in common with Alto Piemonte than it does with southern Italy. The wines from Foti are brilliantly finessed with a shimmering inflection of terroir that calls to mind top red and white Burgundies.

Viticulture on the decomposed lava is done completely by hand with only organic treatments used. The sulphur regimen in the cellar is kept to a bare minimum. The purity in the wines here were a shock upon first tasting. There's a seamless and razor-sharp focus to the wines that's utterly captivating. Much of this has to be attributed to the extremely old vines and the painstaking care to which they are tended to by I Vigneri's team.

The two reds, Vinupetra and the Etna Rosso are both comprised of the native Nerello Mascalese with small portions of Nerello Cappuccio. Stylistically they have a connection to Nebbiolo from Piedmont and Pinot Noir from Burgundy. The fruit profile is in the red cherry and plum spectrum with sweet spices. Air begins to unfurl a deep minerality with faint tobacco notes. These are charming and sensual wines that continue to reveal layer upon layer as they open in the glass. A slow evolution in the cellar is guaranteed.

The white of the estate, Aurora, is made of 90% Carricante and 10% Minella, coming from rocky lava soils with rich iron content. Aurora is a dynamic white full of white peaches, melon, and a salty finish with hints of butterscotch. At 12.5% alcohol this really impresses for its refinement, delivering a gorgeous balance between textured orchard fruit and a chalky crisp finish.

2015 I Vigneri (Salvo Foti) Etna Rosso
$32 per bottle.

2015 I Vigneri (Salvo Foti) Aurora Bianco
$33 per bottle.

2014 I Vigneri (Salvo Foti) Vinupetra
$61 per bottle.