EDITOR’S NOTE—to the CoastSilvestro Silvestori, whose family hails from Puglia, remembers the first time he tasted Cirò, the red wine from Calabria's coastal hills.
"My college roommates were all from Calabria," he recalls. "They would bring home cases of reused water bottles full of the stuff each time they returned home for the weekend (this was in Umbria). It was the worst wine I had ever had, and I drank it only because they insisted that I had never really had 'good' wine."
Silvestori now runs Awaiting Table, a cooking school in Lecce, which he closes for six weeks every year to bicycle southern Italy's wine country. Each year, he's been adding a day or two to his time in Cirò, where the wine and food culture remains bound to its traditions, and still finds homemade Cirò in reused water bottles. But he's also seen a renaissance in this region, driven by locals intent on producing ageworthy, world-class reds fromtheir vineyards above the Ionian Sea.
He also serves on the judging panel at Radici ("roots"), a southern Italian wine festival devoted to indigenous grapes, where, he says, the tasters have been paying more and more attention to Calabria. At last year's event, he was particularly impressed by wines from De Franco and Giuseppe Ippolito, both of whom he covers in his feature story for this issue.
"'Te lo avevo deeeeeeetto' ('I told you so') was what one of my college roommates had to say when I called him up twenty years later to tell them I'd be in town for the article," Silvestori told me.
The wine traditions on Sonoma's far coast go back about 20 years, though the farming
and food culture is older. And, if you follow the trail mapped out by Luke Sykora—
whether driving or cycling from Freestone to Dry Creek—you'll eventually break out of
the coastal fog into a land of centenarian zinfandel vines and olive trees, planted, perhaps,
by southern Italian...