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A Day at the Beach

Photo by: Greg Gorman

Posted: Oct 2, 2006 1:28pm ET

Today, as my Tuscan-Campania holiday settled into beach mode, I really relaxed and kicked back in the sand and sun.

I took a leisurely boat ride with friends and swam in the brilliant blue sea off Positano and Amalfi. It felt great to chill out and bob in the water.

Positano is a seaside city as charming and spectacular as everyone who has visited here has told me. I marveled at the ancient rock and steep cliff dwellings. It’s hard to take my eyes off the landscape.

Whenever I travel, whenever possible, I drink the local wines. Not all the time, not at every meal, but I make a point of tasting what’s special, or considered unique, about the area I’m visiting.

On the day I arrived, I had a late lunch with friends at one of the beach restaurants. We dined on fresh seafood, calamari, octopus and caprese salad and drank a bottle of Mastroberardino Greco di Tufo.

Last night, while dining at Ristorante al Palazzo in the Hotel Palazzo Murat, where I’m staying, I picked a red, a 2002 Furore Riserva Costa D’Amalfi from Marisa Cuomo.

I didn’t have a clue about the wine, the producer, the grape or even the vintage--none of which really mattered.

The wine was dark-colored, spicy, firm and peppery. When I inquired about the grape, the waiter politely explained that it was called a Piedirosso Aglianico. He went on to say that the wine was considered a Piedmont red from Campania that tasted like Merlot.

When I inquired whether the wine had Merlot--which has offered remarkably good wines on this trip, in various cuvées--he said, “No.” The wine is a blend of mostly Aglianico and he wasn’t sure what else.

Today for lunch, after a cruise along the cliffs and a swim, we opted for another Greco di Tufo, this one from Antiche Terre. It had a lemony quince flavor. We accompanied this bottle with another Aglianico, a 2004 Rubiato, that was also tasty--ideal for another two-hour lunch built around mussels, pizza, calamari and local blue fish, which tasted like sardines.

A few minutes ago, I made my first major decision of the day: where to dine tonight.

Soon I’ll be studying the wine list, hoping tonight’s choices are as satisfying as last night’s, and the night before and the night before that …

Bert Pinheiro
Baltimore Maryland —  October 2, 2006 3:18pm ET
James you bring back fond memmories of Minerva Hotel in Sorrento.Overlooking the town and Mt.Vesuvius and drinking the local Aglianico wine.Then going to Feudi di San Gregorio and drinking their wonderful red and whites.What atrip !
Donald F Taylor
Agoura Hills, CA —  October 2, 2006 6:15pm ET
My wife and I spent a week in Rome about Twenty Five (25) years ago. We ate in several very good restaurants. While we were there we had pasta with a plain ¿Butter and Pepper Sauce¿. We traveled the world for the next 15 years and then she suffered a stroke. We have tried every Italian restaurant we could find trying to get anywhere near the sauce we enjoyed in that small restaurant in Rome. Is there anyone out there that might be able to send me a recipe for the ¿Butter and Pepper Sauce¿, we are getting pretty old and we can not travel anymore and would like to try the Sauce one more time.
Bobby Chandra
London —  October 3, 2006 5:54am ET
James, I don't know if its still open this late in the season, but try and go to il pirate in praiano. Just below the hotel onda verde built right into the cliffs. Beautiful spot and wonderful food. As Bert mentioned, your trip brings back very fond memories.
Michael J Packer
Washington, DC —  October 3, 2006 8:10am ET
James,It is nice to hear that you enjoyed an Amalfi Coast wine that featured Piedirosso in the blend. Piedirosso is a great example of a grape that has maintained its place in regional blends despite the 'Merlotization' that is observed elsewhere. I beleive that Piedirosso is related to Malbec, and its often used in blends to brighten up the more austere Aglianico. Does this type of grape, be it Malbec or one of its cousins like Piedirosso, have a place in California (or Washington) wine?When grown in the US, is there potential for single varietal bottlings, like those from Chile and Argentina, or are these grapes better suited for blending?Thanks!
Michael Culley
October 3, 2006 10:28am ET
JL...you should see the Cuomo winery before you leave. They recently completed a cave in the rock cliff that had to be dug completely by hand because the roads and hillside are so narrow and steep that no machinery could be used. I don't know what that waiter was talking about with the Piemonte and merlot thing, but that particular wine is definitely a aglianico and piedirosso blend.
ny, ny —  October 9, 2006 2:00pm ET
Italian rose does not get enough credit either

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