The Amalfi Coast is not the place to visit if you get vertigo or have a fear of heights. Nearly everything, from the houses to the hotels to the roads to the ubiquitous lemon trees, tempts gravity from chiseled hillsides overlooking the cerulean Mediterranean Sea. This goes for the vines, too. The grapes grown here are the same as the rest of Campania--Aglianico, Tintore, Piedirosso, Falanghina, Biancolella and Pepella--but the steep slopes and persistent influence of the sea crashing hundreds of feet below give them a character all their own.
Tenuta San Francesco is located in the tiny town of Tramonti, in the hills above Maori and Ravello, where there are fewer than 5,000 year-round residents. The city, like most on the Amalfi Coast, dates back to the 800s, when Amalfi was a powerhouse Republic, though today it is perhaps best known for the tangy, herbaceous sheep's milk Ricotta di Tramonti (and the countless pizzaioli who grew up here). But this winery, which was established in 2004 on the old Di Palma family estate, has the potential to put Tramonti on the map for wine, too.
The 2007 Tenuta San Francesco Tramonti Rosso ($22.99) is a perfect introduction to coastal Campanian wine, and so it was a natural choice for this week's Wine of the Week. The Rosso is 40% Aglianico, 40% Tintore and 20% Piedirosso from 100-year-old vines. It is wonderfully spicy and meaty, a bit like a cool-climate Syrah, with wonderful tension from fresh acidity and a slight saline snap. With some air it starts to reveal plummy fruit dusted with bittersweet cocoa powder, and earthy-sweet undercurrent of forest floor and hints of tobacco. Try pairing this delightful Rosso with pizza topped with fresh ricotta, or pasta tossed with colatura, the anchovy elixer from nearby Cetara.