Ask Chuck

Name:
Location: Whitby, Ontario, Canada

Born in Malta but in Canada since age 5. Has written three books and presently does several columns about wine and food for various magazines.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Wines Tasted In The Azores


The Big Three
The Azores do make their own wine and frankly they do a pretty good job of it. Most sources indicate that the three main islands responsible for wine production are: Pico, Graciosa, Terceira and Sao Miguel also producing some first class wines.
Pico is a World Heritage Site and is known for the unique way vines are grown due to the wind and salt from the ocean.
Out of a point of interest the volcanic soils are very shallow consisting of basalt and forms of volcanic rock (trachyites, andesites) and clay. One look at the dark rock formations and it is easy to guess the origins since the whole group of islands are on three tectonic plates (African, American and European Plates) so you can imagine that there is constant volcanic activity occurring below and sometimes above ground.
There is continuing seismic activity as is evident with the multitude of hot springs, bubbling mud, flowing hot water and clouds of hot air in various areas of the islands. The soils produced are very fertile and enable many types of plants to grow.
Here are a few wines tasted and indulged during my 2017 stay in Sao Miguel. Not all of these wines originated here and I will group the Azores wines together under their own heading.
Azores   
Vinho de Cheiro  "Il Has De Bruma" from Vila Franco do Campo, Sao Miguel Azores
Grape Type: Isabella
The Isabella is a North American "Labrusca" grape that is native to the United States. Sources say that it is suspected to be a cross between vitis vinifera and vitis labrusca since it is mildly susceptible to diseases such as mildew which plague the vinifera vines. It is resistant to "phylloxera" however and gained prominence and favour to many countries outside of the North American continent. It has recently lost much of its renown since the wines it makes do not compare with the "noble" varieties.
Properties
The wine is light red in colour with a fragrant raspberry/floral bouquet. Soft and light on the palate with a pleasant refreshing acidity. The wine is low in alcohol (9.5%)  and made to drink young.
It is used by chefs to cook with ---especially octopus!  Price in the Azores Euro 1.95  
Quinta Da Jardinete "Chardonnay"  from Fenais da Luz, Sao Miguel, Azores


Chardonnay is one of the most popular if not the most popular grapes in the World. It can be vinified into many styles and goes through various popularity styles. Fore example in the early 1990's and for a decade thereafter it was the oak chard made popular by California and Australia that was the rage. The oak was evident and the success or failure was based on the taste of vanilla oak in the wine. However things change and now it is the "natural" or unoaked style that is winning applause.
Quinta Da Jardinete exhibits the oak less style with no oak and just the pure varietal taste of citrus, pear, apple, floral and even a bit of peach that is the wine.
The wine is crisp and fresh and matches a wide assortment of dishes and is what I call "intermediary" meaning that it can be used with a salad and yet still be good with a fish or fowl dish right after.
Jardinete has all these qualities which makes it a wine that holds it own and even surpasses many other better known wines from around the globe!


Quinta Da Jardinete Fernão Pires/Sauvignon Blanc (above producer) Also known as “Maria Gomez” Fernao Pires adds fragrance to a wine. Pale yellow with a slight green hue, this brilliantly clear, crisp Sauvignon Blanc - Fernão Pires white blend displays delicate aromas of passion fruit and fresh citrus.

Quinta Da Jardinete Merlot/Aragones (Above producer)

A 60% Merlot/40% Aragones (Tempranillo) blend has ripe fruit and fine tannins balanced with subtle oak finish.

Adega Grande Reserva “CastelãoTejo, Portugal

This is a 100% Castelão also known as Periquita. It is a clear red wine with aromas of ripe fruit. In the mouth it is very soft and persistent with a long finish. Euro 1.99

Adega Grande Branco Reserva: Adega De Murca “Fernao Pires”   Tejo, Portugal

White, medium body, soft and flavourful on the palate with a fragrant with floral rose notes along with citrus lime! Euro 1.50
Coracao do Minho, "Frutado" Rosado Caves Campelo Barcelos.pt Euro .83 
A very inexpensive yet drinkable wine with red fruit flavours of strawberry and cherry. Excellent for a warm evening on a balcony or patio!
 Ontario Canada Wines
Owing to baggage restrictions I brought only two wines to share. 
Sandbanks Cabernet Franc Prince Edward County 
Red Wine.  Nose: Plum, Cherry, Cedar and earth notes. Medium to Full in body with cherry and vanilla oak notes. Spice on the finish. (Similar bottle given to winemaker Mario of Quinta da Jardinete).
Inniskillin Pinot Gris/Riesling Niagara on the lake
White Wine Nose: citrus, peach, pear notes  with a light body citrus, passion fruit on mouth and crisp finish.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Discovering The Azores: Day 13: Last Day In Azores, Visit To The Garden, Lunch Good-Bye and THANKS!

Last Morning!
I awoke early that morning and organized my final packing. I knew that if I waited my final few hours would be filled with anxiety. I have a great need to be in control and to achieve it I need extra time to prepare. Thus it was five AM when I got up and by six am I was pretty much ready.
Breakfast was at 7:30 and it was the same excellent menu, I relaxed and let the food digest for about an hour and then took the packed bags downstairs to the front desk and asked for storage space. A room was provided and the rest of the morning was free until three o'clock when the vehicle came to pick us up.
Back to Jardim Antonio Borges
Needing a few more photos of the garden that was visited yesterday meant a return to the Jardim Antonio Borges. This time a closer look at the garden was in order and that is exactly what we did, I can't believe that so many huge trees could grow in one place the plane touched down in . I swear that some of the Eucalyptus trees were at least 100 feet high and they were made small by some of the other representatives.
Bella Italia Once Again 
 Pizza was the most likely candidate for convenience though I did try some of the Minestrone along with it.
Our tummies full and not wanting to do anymore walking we decided to go and wait for the pickup.
Good-Bye Azores!  
The time between our arrival at Joao Paulo 2 Airport was a blur and soon the Airbus 330 Flight 321 to Pearson was on its way! During the flight I watched a couple of movies before touchdown in Toronto.
We arrived at approximately eight o'clock.that evening and were home by ten PM.
Unpacked and went to bed!
End of Day 13! Trip End! 

Discovering The Azores Day 12: New Day at Talisman, Feeling Good!, Walk with Minuvida, Dinner at Talisman and Final Night In Azores!

New Day Dawns!
I awoke to sunshine ---well at least the Sun was shedding its first rays upon the Talisman room! i awoke feeling so very refreshed and full of energy. Remember! I had just gone through several days in pain from a toothache and had the energy of a crushed dew worm all dried up in the  middle of the road. Today was different. I could hardly wait to get going. I felt so great! I figured that the heavy medication I was taking had "kicked in" and the infection was on its way out.
Breakfast was amazing since I had a great appetite and the food was so varied and so great. A number of eyes looked in surprised when they saw my plate full of bacon, eggs, scrambled eggs, cold cuts, grilled vegetables, cheese, sausages, buns and juice. I ate every single morsel!
Rimi and Joao were supposed to join us later on in the morning as they had some business to do Ponta Delgada. They showed up around ten thirty and we went for a walk to a quiet park.
Jardim Antonio Borges
Rimi and Joao  led us to a moderately large garden about a mile northwest of the Talisman. We entered into a veritable paradise and were greeted by a bust of the creator named Antonio Borges-----a pineapple grower who fancied himself a botanist.of sorts. The garden started out as a private one around the 1860's  and quickly grew to what is now a very complete and romantic public garden,
Borges imported plants from all over the world including a huge Indian Rubber Tree (Ficus Elastica)  that dwarfed the other plants and made me look microscopic when I stood beside it. Its large curving root structure was visible above ground giving it the architectural appearance of a Gothic buttress.
The park also included several good sized ponds complete with ducks and fish. Within the garden one can also refresh via a nice cafe where we had a nice coffee and drinks..
Walk About and Forte de Sao Bras de Ponta Delgada  
 All good things must come to an end and Rimi and Joao had to bid us their "adieu" as they had other business.  It was almost lunch time so we walked  around the centre of the city not far from the waterfront. We visited the 16th Century Forte de sao Bras de Ponta Delgada which was erected as a defense against pirate raids. It is now a naval base.
We spent a few minutes visiting some shops and purchasing some presents. Then it was back to the Italiano Restaurant for ----you guessed it! More pizza!
Baixa de Ponta Delgada (City Centre) and Portas da Cidade (City Gates)
The centre esplanade is full of activity. Situated across from the wharf it has an attraction all its own with a patterned brick esplanade and walkways designed both for relaxation, beauty and convenience. The superb Arches focusing on the very active business community that is next to the wharf and the main street.
The Archs were the old 18th Century gates and adjoining Town Hall.  They stand impressively on intricately patterned brick and cobble stone and look upon the business area of the city.
 Where Has The Time Gone?  
 Time goes by fast when one is having fun and we must have been having way too much fun since before we knew it it was dinner time. After much conjecture it was decided to have dinner at the hotel. We went to the room and prepared.
Swordfish steak and Chicken Parmigiana were our choices plus some very fine beer (what no wine?!) Especial. The fish was done to perfection and the chicken was well enjoyed. We then retired to our room in preparation for a long day home.ward bound!
End of Day Twelve







   

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Discovering The Azores Day 11: Last Morning at Terra Nostra, Driving To Livramento,,Whoa! Hold That Horse! Arrival At Talisman Hotel and Pizza On Display!

Final Morning At Terra Costa
I awoke early and finished my random packing for Ponta Delgada. We went for a final walk around the garden and of course a final dip in the sulfur pool then breakfast.  As usual breakfast was quite satisfying. Our bags were already to go so right after we were done breakfast we checked out and soon we were on our way to Livramento!
Livramento
Located in the southwestern part of Sao Miguel, Livramento is known for its historical tradition. Apparently a family of English people were seeking refuge from the British government and set up house in Livramento. The area prospered during the 19th Century due to a mandatory stoppage by vessels going on long distance voyages in order to collect oranges!  Why? Think of Scurvy and vitamin c!  Many manor Houses were built around this time.
Quinta da Terca 
One of these manor houses that goes back to the 17th Century is Quinta da Terca. The estate was once one of these orange suppliers but as the years passed, the orange trade diminished in direct relation to the higher quality oranges being brought from other areas. Soon the orchards were gone.
The estate now serves as a hospitality depot for recreation and lodging. There are guest rooms with all the amenities for stays on the property as well as dinner facilities, golf courses, recreational diving and snorkeling and various tours. of course then there was Horseback Riding..
For God's Sake Whoa! .
Bruno was our guide and he selected the horses. Now I did tell him that I was not an expert. I also told him that I was uncomfortable in my last horse venture. He picked a clam horse for this two hour tour.
Here's how the tour went.
"The voyage started getting rough. The mighty hips were hurt. With a horse so wide and hips so old the venture would be lost! Now the guide was a mighty horseman and those around me were brave and true but I feared that in the two hour tour my body would be lost----body would be lost!"  
After an hour and a saddle that got loose on me ---causing me to hit the ground running! I was asked if I wanted to cut the time down to one hour. I was dying here but I would be damned to give them the pleasure of seeing me quit.
"Of course not!"I remarked---hating myself for not throwing in the towel.
We went on through lovely orchards,beautiful meadows and superb hills. We also went on paved roads whereby cars would go by us. One jerk passed us on a motorcycle and purposely revved his cycle as he passed. My horse jumped and my hips hurt even more. By the time we got to the barn, my body was praying---pleading for relief. On stopping I fell off my horse and tried to walk. It took at least twenty minutes to do so. "You did well," Bruno said! I smiled the smile of "Never More!". 
Ponta Delgada
Directions are a great thing but only if you are aware of the names you are being directed to and only if the street names are clear to be read from the roadway! I managed to get from Livramento to Ponta Delgada but once in Ponta Delgada everything became obscure. Road signs did not seem very helpful and I was more concerned not to become entangled in a car accident due to my concentration in looking at signs.
I eventually stopped and asked a man to direct me to the Talisman Hotel. He pondered a bit and then to my surprise he gave me a sign to follow him in his car. Within ten minutes through winding streets we came to the Talisman.
 His name was Edwardo and i am eternally grateful! We parked and made our way to the hotel and registered.
Returning the Car
Ironically, the vehicle was parked not far from the car rental property and we then made our way to the place. The patron was alone and busy so I brought the car in and advised him of some minor problems with the vehicles operation. He checked the car and thanked us.
Dinner---Guess What? It's Pizza!!.
I was hungry so looking for an obvious restaurant  would have to be quick. we went up and down several streets after asking the hotel day manager about nice places to eat. My patience was quite low however and when I came up to a restaurant called Italiano. The owner told us that he had emigrated from Pakistan and set up a business in  the city.
We ordered a superb beer and followed that up with a nice pizza. Now full, we payed our bill of only 10 Euros and off we went to the hotel.
Talisman Hotel 
The hotel is located in the older corridor of the Ponta Delgada area not far from the wharf and main business street. The location made it ideal to visit a number of stores and parks in the area. The hotel itself was a reconditioned 17th Century home that was expanded to include a very modern property. The main foyer and staircase were original but there was much in the form of additions.
Our  room was excellent. Spacious and had a balcony. The balcony oversaw a lovely small garden and park..
The whole scene was lovely and enchanting.
After our walk and dinner we decided it was time to end our day and get some rest. It was a very long day!
End of Day Eleven.





Discovering The Azores: Day 10 April 2nd Rain Day and visit to Terra Nostra Garden, Vocano Lake!

 Breakfast Time!
It's not fun getting up to rain but if it must rain then Furnas and the Terra Nostra Hotel is the place to be.
Furnas because of its volcanic activity is warmer though seemingly wetter than other parts of this rather wet island.  From the room terrace I could see part of the pool and an outline of the Terra Nostra Garden. People were still walking around and also dipping into the sulfur pool.
It was suggested that we go into the pool first before breakfast but time was not with us and since the stomach needed more nourishment than the muscles needed exercise----we went down to the restaurant. There was the usual buffet of breakfast items as well as house fruit specialties and all tasted magnificent.
After breakfast it was to the Garden.
This was the first time that I felt confident that my tooth was not going to act up. It did not!
Terra Nostra Garden
 Even in the rain, the expansive Terra Nostra Garden is impressive. Giant trees seemingly touch the sky --stretching their branches upward and outward as if to impress upon us humans of our frailness.
While this garden was man made the inhabitants have now asserted themselves.
The large looming trees sheltered us humans as we walked underneath---dry enough with the occasional dribble (usually catching me in the base of the back of my neck) that came from a wayward leaf or branch.
The birds did not seem to mind it as ducks and geese and rare black swans swam up and down the many little water ways and streams. Where the birds did not swim were dozens of huge Koi and goldfish patterning their water location with their tails and fins.
The paths were endless and in all directions. However the place was immaculate in its tidiness. Here there was respect for a job well done by past human intervention and the natural state of well cared for plants.
Finally, we decided to return to the room and wait for a clearing in the weather.
Lagoa das Furnas 
   The Sun finally thrust its rays later on in the afternoon and I suggested heading to Lagoa das Furnas just several kilometres away. The lake is a volcanic crater lake surrounded by tree vegetation. It has many of what are called fumaroles which are openings in the earth's crust from which steam and gasses escape. These are located ,along with various mudhloes, in the north part of the lake. 
The lake itself is very scenic with attractive man made trails and decorations including some amazing wooden sculptures. Along the lake path one can find attractive gardens, horse back riding facilities and picnic grounds. Not far from the lake are a series of health inducing sulfur baths.
Chapel of Nossa Senhora das Vitórias
Or "Our Lady of the  Victories"  was erected in the mid 19th Century in the southwestern corner of the lake. it was built following the terminal illness of the wife of  a well to do farmer Jose do Canto. The chapel which contains the bodies of both Canto and his wife, is looked upon as an amazing piece of architecture and is easily seen by those who walk the path of the lake!
The lake area is host to many types of animals, birds and fish as well as the large varieties of plants.
It started to drip a bit again and we realized it was time to leave. We made our way back to the care and then were off to the hotel.
Dinner at Tony's Snack Bar!
 Anyone who stays in Furnas must try the pizza at Tony's Snack Bar. The ingredients used are excellent and the cheese amazing. We drove to the place and had one more time, a marvelous pizza. The beer called "Especiale" as a great accompaniment.
W then retired to our home in the hotel and prepared for our eventual departure the next day.
That night i sat out on the balcony of the room and looked at the tree shapes silhouetted against the dark sky. The sounds from dozens of birds and frogs etc. reminded me of the 1930's movie called Dracula.
As the Vampire spoke to his "guest", he noticed the sounds of the wild animals around his castle. He said "Listen to my children! Listen to the creatures of the night!"
I bid the sounds goodnight goodnight and retired !
End of Day Ten. 
         

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Discovering Azores Day 9: Trip to Povoacao, Dinner at Tony;s, Another Swim in the pool!

Trip To Povoacao
It was a back and froth type of thing! Do I go visit a doctor and get antibiotics or no? Is my tooth that bad and actually the aspirin are working-----most of the time but when it hurt it did come in waves and suppose there is something serious happening. I called my dentist in Canada and he gave me three questions and if I answered yes to just one of them then it was suggested to get to a doctor for antibiotics at once. I answered yes to all three.
We were off to the City of Povoacao not as tourists but as patients in need of a doctor. The trip was actually quite nice since there were some nice sites.
The directions we were given were quite accurate and soon we were in the heart of the city.
Povoacao
This city is located in the southeastern corner of the island of Sao Miguel in the Azores. Located some 22 kilometres from where we were staying in Furnas the drive would have been more enjoyable had I not had a painful tooth.  The winding road ascended up the volcanic hill until we reached the peak  and then started a sharp decline into the city.
Like Furnas, Povoacao is located within semi active volcano craters whose width stretches for kilometres. It was the first area to be colonized in 1427 and expanded in 1432. It became a Naval Shipyard in the 1700's and was made a municipality circa 1840!
The city was devastated in an earthquake in 1935.  .  
Centro de Saude de Povoacao 
What amazed me in seeking the urgent care facility was that while we were but a few metres from the medical centre many of those that we asked did not know anything about it or where it was. "Maybe", I said to myself, "they do not use the medical health care system as much as we do. Or maybe we use ours way too much!"
Regardless, I knew that I needed something and this was the place. We parked and went in. A lovely young lady greeted us and spoke excellent English as did many of the populous. I explained my situation and paid 55 Euros (about $75 CAD) and were told that the doctor would see us shortly.
Dr. Antonio was as I imagined he would be. Seemingly in his late 50's, sporting short thinning hair and a small mustache, he sat behind a desk looking authoritative. He had a kind face that exuded the patience of one who had seen it all. I explained my predicament.
He gently examined my teeth and was quick to react as soon as he saw the infected area. He prescribed an antibiotic Amoxicillin at a high dosage of 1000 mg three times a day plus game me Ibuprofen at a 600 mg/capsule at the same rate for pain. The pain I could handle but as soon as I knew that the infection was about to be checked I was already feeling better.
The drive back to Furnas was far more pleasant though we did encounter fog patches at the highest points of land.
The nickname of Sao Miguel is "The Green Island" because anywhere one goes is covered with greenery. When one looks at the copious amounts of rain and mist that abound during many months of the year this name is understandable. The average monthly rainfall is lowest in July at roughly 33 mm and highest in January at roughly 135 mm.
Temps fluctuate from a daytime high of 16 degrees Centigrade in February to a daytime high of 25 degrees Centigrade in August. Low temperatures at night range from 10 degrees Centigrade in February to 18 degrees Centigrade in August. Temperature patterns can vary in various districts ranging from various highs and lows but usually above freezing.
We got to Furnas just in time to head to a well known Furnas restaurant called Tony's. The fish (Abrotea) and vegetables I had was good and filled the hunger gap while the chicken and veggies pleased my partner. With our stomachs full it was back to the hotel Terra Nostra and another swim in the huge sulphur pool. It was a relaxing ending to an eventful and very busy day!
End of Day Nine            
     

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Discovering The Azores: Day 8 Goodbye to Minuvida and to Furnas, Terra Nostra Hotel and Pizza, Plus Swimming in the Sulpher Pool!

Off To Furnas
In spite of the tooth ache I managed to spend a good night and was up later than normal. Breakfast was quick and tooth fully careful but the aspirin I was taking plus my pain threshold plus what I believe was some form of Divine intervention had seen me through. I had the odd pain bout but it went away quickly.Though I needed to see a physician.
The drive to Furnas was rather uneventful though  the winding road was a challenge to one who had a sore tooth and was not used to the drive but we got there. The city or town lies withing a huge active volcanic crater which is seven kilometres in width.The main town body houses many gurgling and steaming mud and water areas. Clouds of steam rising from these hot bodies are very visible and it is not uncommon to see streams of very hot water flowing not far from streams of cooler water.
The many hot pools serve as natural and healing bathing spots for tourists and locals alike. According to  many sources, the area is considered one of the most dangerous volcanic active spots in the Archipelago.
Vegetation is lush and full of tropical and semi tropical vegetation. Flowers abound everywhere and the people who live in the village seem unflustered by potential danger. While seismic activity is apparent, the last known eruption was in 1630. Is one due? Who knows.
The area is frequented by low clouds and fog but it also has some superb days of warmth and sunshine. I personally found the area within the town warmer than surrounding area!
Terra Nostra Hotel Garden
The Terra Nostra Hotel was originally the home of Boston merchant and honorary Consul for the United States, Thomas Hickling who in 1775 built a summer home there and surrounded it with North American trees. An Oak tree that he planted still exists on the property.
In 1848 the property was purchased by the Visconde de Praia whose wife developed a large garden. This garden was expanded upon  by their son in 1896. In  and has continued to do so by the Bensaude Family owners of the Terra Nostra Hotel among others.
The Terra Nostra Company purchased the whole property in the 1930's with the Terra Nostra Hotel being opened in 1935.  It quickly became a haven for health and wellness seekers as well as the curiously informed.
The garden was continually expanded and added to. In 2010 a new section featuring endemic Azorean plants and Bromeliads. 
The garden contains trees, bushes, plants and flowers from many countries which are arranged in spectacular form. There are hundreds of species all growing in the open air of the huge 12 to 15 Hectare garden. More on that later.        
Terra Nostra Hotel
The hotel was well laid out and quite attractive giving the newcomer a sense of modern style and old world elegance. We were situated just above part of the Garden facing the huge sulfur swimming/wading pool. Trees towered over the garden and plants of every imaginable type covered the grounds. Azaleas were in full bloom giving the courtyard a pink hue. Lilies of orange, yellow and white displayed their wares as if wanting you to take them.
This hotel had much to offer and we had not yet scratched the surface.
Pizza Time  
Tony's is a well known restaurant in Furnas but we fell totally in love with his other snack bar across the Church which sits in the main square of Furnas. Tony's Pizza makes phenomenal pizza in various sizes and as in most places in Furnas one can choose to eat inside or out. We opted out.
When you want a coffee here in the Azores you do not just ask for coffee or else you get Espresso.so you ask for Americano which is the same Espresso but with added hot water BUT in some places the Americano was like a soup. Where o' where is Tim's!
I ordered a good Americano and the cheese cosmopolitan pizza we had was amazing. The cheese is what made it. So very tangy and yet sweet accompanied by green pepper, onions, ham, bacon and mushrooms. Deeelish!
We found our way back to the hotel and relaxed for awhile. Later then that evening we enjoyed a night swim in the Sulfur Pool which never was even slightly cool and then relaxed with a bottle of wine. My tooth behaved itself though occasionally remind me of its presence. I made up my mind to see a doctor the next day. The adventure continues!
End of Day 8