Swirl Wine Bar & Market

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Il Silencio Bellisimo

My mornings here in the walled village of Cortona couldn't be more different than those I enjoyed in Positano. While there are a few similarities between our two favorite Italian towns, like the beautiful views and the challenges presented to your legs, heart and lungs, the quiet serenity here on the Cortona hilltop is as precious to me as the waking to the beat of that beautiful coastal town.
Instead of sitting on the terrazza gazing at the Mediterranean, I'm at a little wooden table, looking out stained glass doors into green forests that surround the upper part of the town. Stone walls two feet thick keep the apartment cool, no air conditioning needed even in July, in this beautifully restored building from the 15th century. Kerry and I stay on the uppermost road of the town, very close to the top of this commanding "hill" at 2100 feet, with the Porta Montagna, the ancient stone portal from the mountain into the town, right outside our door.

History seeps from the buildings here as Cortona is considered one of the first European cities. Older even than Rome, its true origins are lost to history. Founded by the Etruscans sometime around 800BC, then home to the Roman Empire, evidence of the different civilizations and cultures can be seen in layers of the foundations and architectural detail. The ancient city walls still encircle the town protecting it from the siege of the modern world.

So as I write this post in the early morning, it is delightfully quiet as I'm greeted only by the sounds of the singing birds and a few roosters from the nearby farms. No cars, the tourists haven't arrived yet and even when they do they rarely venture this far up the hillside. And with the deep sound of the church bells at 7am, I can't help but think about those same morning bells ringing in Positano, someone else sitting in my chair absorbing the energy of that place looking at that view as I sit and soak up the calm peacefulness of this one. I feel very fortunate indeed to have experienced both.

I hear the creak of the shutters opening upstairs as Patrizia, the owner of this beautiful piece of history we have the privilege to call home, quietly says "buongiorno" to a neighbor slowly walking the cobbled street. Cortona is waking up and I can't wait to see what the day will bring.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Vini del Cuore, Antonio Caggiano

Our visit to Cantina Antonio Caggiano was a most amazing day, one that leaves an impression on your soul not easily forgotten. Because while the wines are some of the best of southern Italy and the area rustically beautiful, it is the man himself that makes this place so special. Architect, photographer, and wine producer Antonio Caggiano is one of the most charming, artistic, visionary people that I've ever met! He believes in living life to its fullest, adores women and has more love in his heart than 10 people. He spent the day with us and everyone was totally taken with him, even chef Richard and our friend/driver Vincenzo who helped interpret for the winery manager Angelo as they didn't speak much English.

The incredibly rustic and beautiful winery was designed and built by Antonio and his son Pino in 1990. Constructed to be harmonious with the look and feel of the landscape of the Taurasi region, they delved three floors deep underground to create the amazing and extensive cellars carved out of local stone. Every piece of furniture in the winery, including the light fixtures and railings are made from barrels, the tops and the metal rings that surround them. They also practice organic agriculture and using techniques that help to reduce their environmental impact on their prized Taurasi vineyards, all of which by law are planted with 100% Aglianico vines.

One of the other things that made our connection with him complete is that Antonio visited New Orleans in 2004 and absolutely fell in love with our city. As soon as he found out where we were from he put on a big smile and the mardi gras beads he had saved from his visit, and wore them both the entire day. He brought out his photo album with a menu from Herbsaint and lots of photos from his visit which was during mardi gras. He placed his hand on his heart and kissed his beads when he began to talk about New Orleans, It was his favorite city on his US tour.

I've been writing about his wines for a few years now as I discovered them on my first trip here in 2011, so I won't go in to the technical aspects that you can read in previous posts. But it was an amazing treat to share some of my favorite wines at lunch seated beside the man himself! We drank the 2012's of two of the whites named after photo expositions he did in the Sahara desert - Bechar Fiano di Avellino, and the arctic - Devon Greco di Tufo both of which were stunning and the 2009 of the Macchia dei Goti DOCG Taurasi which is an approachable but very young Aglianico. The real treat for me was the passito wine made with 50% greco and 50% fian, a beautiful, honey, appley, not to sweet dessert wine that I've never tried before.

We spent quite a bit of time there, as our four course "light lunch" was over 2 hours outside looking at the Aglianico vineyards. An incredibly comfortable relaxing afternoon with Antonio, Angelo, Pino and great friends that somehow ended with all of us smoking cigars...But it was just us, in the middle of nowhere in this gorgeous place with truly special people who love wine, food and life - I've always loved the Caggiano wines but now, knowing the man behind them, I'm a fan forever!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, July 15, 2013

I Colori del Blu

The combination of an adventurous group and absolutely fabulous weather is adding up to a more active Positano vacation this year. Wanting to experience those crystal clear waters in every way, shape and form possible, a few of decided to check out the kayak rental situation on the beach.

I was able to get the group moving somewhat early so we took the beautiful walk down the 160 stairs to the center of town, stopping to pet the many smart cats that hang out by the Pescaria, checking out the local catch of the morning before heading around the bend to Spiagga del Fornillo. We stop at one of the first "snack bars" on the beach, del Ferdinando - a spot we've enjoyed on every trip we've made, to inquire about the kayaks on the beach. Here these snack bars have many purposes. Not only do they serve deliciously fresh local dishes, but they also have boats, changing rooms and those lovely colorful beach chairs with umbrellas for hire. The very happy, smiley guy who runs the place tells us 5 euros per hour per boat, no prepayment, credit card or waiver are required as they take us to the beach gives us oars and send us on our way.

Getting yourself on the water as well as in the water here on the Amalfi Coast is a must. From the gigante ferries that bring people back and forth to Capri, Amalfi and Sorrento, the expensivo boats and captains for hire and the do-it- yourself kayak, peddle boat options, there are many ways, at many price levels, to do so. But the view of the shore line from the sea is absolutely breathtaking so whatever option you chose, you will not be disappointed. Pastel colored stucco buildings hanging on to steep hillsides, rocky ledges jutting out into crystal clear water, the cars traversing the Amalfi Coast highway perched on the edge of the cliff, beckoningly beautiful faraway islands, it is really a sight to behold.

Probably the most enticing part of this is experiencing the water itself. Clear enough to see the bottom from great depths, a cleansing salinity that could float an elephant and the most amazing shades of aqua and Mediterranean blue you've ever experienced, it literally draws you in and very reluctantly allows you to exit. So as we paddle along the bay, watching the colors change from one brilliant blue to another, I make a promise to myself to be in and/or on the water everyday of this trip. Combined with my other promise to eat gelato everyday, these should hopefully balance each other out and I won't BE that elephant by the time I leave!

Today's activity is hike in the Latari mountains along the Sentiero Degli Dei, Walk of the Gods, with a side trek that allows us to finish on Spiaggia Arienzo for a quick dip before we take the little wooden boat back to Positano. Ending with a creamy gelato at Buca di Bacco, it should be a picture perfect day!

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Sunday, July 14, 2013

La Mattina in Positano

Being an early riser is both a blessing and a curse that I inherited from my somewhat compulsive parents. It's an annoyance when I'm at home and feel compelled to sit in front of my computer and work but an absolute joy to me when on vacation. While most people are excited about having extra time to sleep away the stresses of home, for me it's the perfect time to bask in quietness of a place and watch as a new day stirs into motion.

Today is one such morning as I awake at 4:30 to the sounds of a few tourists continuing to enjoy a very late night. Spending the next half an hour trying to will myself back to sleep, I lie listening and literally hear the tempo of the town begin to change from nighttime revelry to morning calm. 5am approaches and the light slowly begins to brighten outside our bedroom window as the sun creeps up from behind the Latari mountains. If feel the tug of the early dawn as the rhythm changes from night to day and I can’t help but get up and witness the transformation.

Coffee now in hand, I sit on the lovely terrace taking in the scene as the town readies itself for the day. Positano hangs on to rocky cliffs surrounding a small valley with pastel colored shops, restaurants and villas nestled inside and the Bay of Salerno lapping its shore line. I close my eyes, tuning my senses to the sounds echoing off the cliffs and wafting up to my perch above.  Roosters crowing in the distance, rolling gentle waves, the setting of tables in the cafes, vespas zipping down the main street, brooms sweeping the cobbled walkways - and by the time the bells of Santa Maria Assunta ring at 7am, I open my eyes to view the brightly colored umbrellas going up on the beach as the jewel of the Amalfi Coast awaits the summer masses.

Completely unaware of the beautiful spectacle that has transpired over the last few hours, others are finally stirring in the villa.  But as for me, currently feeling blessed by my inherited internal alarm clock, I am already completely and utterly content and even can't imagine what other joys await...

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Gambit Reader's Poll, Best of New Orleans!

The Gambit Reader's Poll is a great way to show your love and support for your favorite local businesses!  We've got one incredible neighborhood here in Faubourg St. John and if you like what is happening, let people know! Are you fans of Lux Salon's services or cocktails at Pal's?  Enjoy eating at your local neighborhood restaurants like Cafe Degas, Toups Meatery, Lola's, Santa Fe, Nonna Mia or Serendipity?  Chillin' with coffee and pastries at Fair Grinds? Makin' groceries at Terranova's or Canseco's?? How about dog grooming and premium pet foods at Fetch!?  Gift shopping at SOPO or sporting goods at Massey's? And maybe you love hanging out at a certain little wine bar/shop called Swirl? Let them know! 

Yes, it does take awhile to fill out, and you have to complete at least half of it for your vote to count.  But this year one online voter will receive a $460 prize pack that includes a stay at the Hotel Modern, along with dinner at Tivoli & Lee and drinks at Bellocq. You don't have to fill out every category on the ballot, but only those ballots which are at least half-completed will count (and will be eligible for the prizes). And you don't have to complete the ballot all at once, but can come back to it at any time. Voting concludes Aug. 2.

So how 'bout grabbing a cup of coffee and settling in with your computer or ipad and fill it out.  Truthfully,  it only takes about 20 minutes! Click on the link below and happy voting!!


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