I didn't know it at the time, but I was just minutes away from one of the most breathtaking extreme vineyards I had ever seen. But at that moment I was confused and a little frustrated. My GPS only led me up to a certain point, a gas station attendant a little further. So I sat there for awhile, at what I believed was a dead end...a short stroll from the beach. One last attempt to call the winery. Mario Corrado, owner of Azienda Agricola San Giovanni picks up. Who knows if he heard the relief in my voice as I asked to speak to his wife Ida Budetta. She assured me that I wasn't lost...I just needed to continue a little further. Past the chain that said proprietà privata, up a steep rocky dirt road, along a narrow path that hugs the cliff, then turn left. Continue down the road, open the wooden gate (the one placed there to keep out the wild boars) and you've arrived, she said, more or less.
More or less. A few bumpy minutes later I was met by aglianico grapes and olive groves. I arrived to Ida and Mario's property, their challenge, their dream.
You have to drive through hell to get to heaven, Ida told me later with a smile. A piece of land far from the rest of the world. A nature-lover's paradise. It seemed like I was in a film as I walked through the vineyards with Ida. Some of whch that Mario's father had planted nearly 35 years ago. It seems like ages ago when Sig. Corrado, a lawyer form Salerno saw this piece of property inside the Parco Nazionale Del Cilento e Vallo di Diano and decided to purchase a piece of it. At the time practically abandoned. He thought it would be a great place to have a summer home. But there wasn't much there besides an old decaying farmhouse, neglected trees and vineyards,and before I forget... no electricity. But for years, he would spend time in this piece of property, dreams illuminated only by candlelight and determination when the sun went down.
Walking through this paradise that overlooks the sea I couldn't imagine how it must have looked like in the beginning. Or how it must have been to leave a fairly big city-Salerno, high profile jobs-Mario, an architect, Ida a lawyer, and raise three children here.
Painstakingly vineyards were replanted/recuperated.
Passionately renovations began on the historic farmhouse, spearheaded by Mario
And restlessly Mario and Ida have been building their dream here since 1993.
A dream, as the back label of their bottle so beautifully expresses:
vivere in simbiosi con la natura incontaminata di Punta Tresino, allevare con amore i prodotti antichi del Cilento, proteggere con passione questa terra.
live in symbiosis with nature at Punta Tresino, lovingly cultivate the ancient products of Cilento, passionately protect this land...
This land...this territory with fiano, trebbiano, greco and piedirosso vineyards that reach out to the sea. Vineyards that are rewarded with cool breezes but sometimes struggle under the hot sun. A territory that houses aglianico vineyards surrounded by olive trees...grapes which the wild boars in the area cannot get enough of.
Ida took me to another vineyard that we could only each by jeep...and a silent prayer. It was a white knuckle ride to reach the family's youngest aglianico and piedirosso vineyard, Castellabate, tucked in nicely among wild berry bushes.
I enjoyed my time in the vineyards, under the hot August sun, but I also came to taste wine, Mario and Ida produce 5 - 2 whites and 3 reds. I tasted in the air conditioned comfort of their recently renovated cantina.
Paestum 2012- Paetum IGT Fiano 85 %, Trebbiano 10 %, Greco 5 %
Light straw yellow glass with pleasant deep, but not sweet, floral aromas. An enjoyable acidity and freshness which represents the terrain quite nicely. A characteristic that Ida and I had discussed before. A wine that leaves your mouth salivating, so to speak. Nice.
Tresinus 2012- Paestum IGT Fiano 100%
This white wine is produced with fiano grapes from the winery's 35 year old vineyards. A deeper straw color shone from the glass. I must admit that I took my time with this glass. I was curious to note how this would evolve in the glass over time-as it breathed and warmed up in the glass. Fresh, sapid , refreshing. Ida tells me that there aren't many bottles left.
Castellabate 2011- Paestum IGT Aglianico 80% Piedirosso 20%
Here's the first red. At first impact, an intense aroma of black pepper. I decide to let this one sit for awhile to evolve in its glass. A few minutes later, a bouquet of mature cherries, light at first, then deeper. Nice flavor while lightly tannic. I learned later that only 20 % of this wine spends 3 months in French barriques.
Ficonera 2011- Paestum IGT Piedirosso 100%
This piedirosso is exclusively from their vineyard closest to the sea. As I examined this glass, I thought back to the vineyard I had walked earlier. I smiled as I remembered the faint salty breeze on my cheek. Intense dark purple color, aromas of underbrush. I set this aside, then went back to taste flavorful young fruit. Smooth, dry. Nice finish. Only 867 bottles produced.
Maroccia 2009 -Paestum IGT Aglianico 100%
A wine that spends 2 years in French barrique. Deep ruby color. A fruit aroma that I appreciated as it evolved and matured in the glass over the 20 minutes or so that I let sit there.
I let it sit and took another stroll through the vineyards. I stopped at a particularly grande cluster of aglianico glistening in the sun, snapped a few photos, then went back inside.
And this time I tasted. Lightly astringent, sapid. One that you can hang on to.
Hang on to. Like my memories of that afternoon with Mario and Ida. I respect their life choice. Their passion. Their dedication.
It was time to go. Maybe next time I'll book their apartment that they have on the property, surrounded by vineyards. That way I can enjoy what is sure to be a magnificent sunset and those cool salty breezes. Have breakfast with fresh bread and that famous Cilento fig jam. Lunch with tomatoes from Ida's garden with buffalo mozzarella from nearby Paestum.
I said goodbye to Ida, Mario, and their paradiso.
Then I headed back down the road. Past the vineyards and olive trees. Past the wooden gate that did its best to keep out the wild boars that drive Mario crazy. And down that narrow, dirty, dusty rocky road that earlier led me to one of the most breathtaking extreme vineyards I had ever seen.
Azienda Agricola San Giovanni
84048 Castellabate (Sa)