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.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

April 12th: Salton Winery, Casa Bucco

Oh My God It's Morning!It was the morning after the party at Aurora Winery and looking at the humungous amounts of food and wine consumed it was amazing that I woke up at all. I cannot recall such a good time and new friends made. Andre Pare Jr. and Rosana Pasini were utterly amazing. Now it was time to get back to business and the moving was slow.
Salton Winery
Vinicola Salton was founded in 1910 by Paulo, Liuz. Cezar, Angelo, Antonio and Joao Salton as they continued on the business of their father who came to Bento Goncalves in the latter half of the 19th Century.
Best known for its sparkling wines, the winery celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2010. Several years ago Salton relocated the head office from San Paulo to Bento Gonsalves.
We were met by Salton's Sommelier, Vinicius who gave us a marvelous tour of the premises. The superb caves with sparkling wines as well as barrel cellars were decorative as well as functional. The one element that was impressive was the sublime pictorial (wall paintings) display on the roof of their main foyer and lead in to the winery.
A Historical Depiction
There was a historical depiction of the migration of the Salton great grandfather who came to the area by boat.
The ship he came on was loaded with Italian immigrants who flowed out of the docking ship much like a flood of water going over a broken dam. In the confusion, he and his wife--each with a child---got separated and never found each other. He later built a life and settled in a little town that became known as Bento Goncalves. He passed down his vineyard and his commercial grocery business to his sons who later changed its direction to the making of wine.
A Big Winery!The thirty thousand square metres make Salton one of the biggest wineries anywhere with major storage facilities of both sparkling and still wines. The aerial catwalk system allows visitors to see all the process of wine making and bottling and encourages comments.
Vinicius gave also took us to the laboratory to have a tasting of special sparkling and still wines. The number of products that Salton had was amazing enough but to find such quality in all of them from Sparkling to Chardonnay to Merlot to Cabernet to Pinot Noir was something of a shock since so much labour and planning has to be part of the presentation.
For the sparkling my favourite leaned towards the 100 Anos Traditional style sparkling made to celebrate the 100 years of wine making for Salton. The Merlot of course also was top on my list.
LunchLunch was a misnomer. It should have been reported as a feast. Now Brazilians like their barbecue and we had many a fine meal in many places but this was hard to beat at any event.
First of all, I fell madly in love with the chef. Idanna Spassini was as talented as she was lovely.
The meal she prepared was of top calibre but the salad was utterly amazing. The best salad that I have ever had at any time anywhere. It had fruit, vegetable and greens. The taste was a melding of so many flavours that it could challenge the finest wine on a complexity basis. My lord it was good. Then came the other courses and the filet was something out of an artists painting.
Frankly, the whole dinner should have been framed.
Vinicius who incidentally had expressed some jealousy at our lovely time at Aurora, out did himself and the whole lunch could have ended the day and been a major success. We had a number of special wines ranging from super Sparkling and Majestic Reds with the meal and ended it with a superb 100 ANOS Brandy. Could a lunch get any better.
Soon we were off to our next visit to taste the spirit Cachaca at Casa Bucco.
Casa Bucco
Casa Bucco was located in the Rio Das Antes Valley just a few kilometres from a place called Veranopolis. Here the owner was awaiting us with his special sugar cane liquor called Cachaca.
Moacir Menegotto greeted us in his flamboyant way and led me into the kitchen whilst he prepared our dinner for that evening-----cooked rabbit!
I was the assistant chef and both of us tried to help me do a simple job of cooking. In the end, he was the one who completed the task.
The business was started in 1925 by the Bucco Family and Moacir later obtained it. The business has grown at a steady pace and now has several products for market.
Cachaca was made by distilling the 'fresh" juice of the Sugar Cane. In the past, Rum was made from the molasses extracted from the sugar cane while boiling. The juice was distilled and the liquid either bottled or aged in wood, The end result was a spirit of anywhere from 40% or more alcohol by volume. Depending on the aging of the Cachaca in barrel, different levels of the product are made from basic to premium. A cocktail drink known as Caipirinha was prepared for the guests with different flavours.
My host waved me over and pointed to the green vegetation high on an adjacent hill. "Sugar Cane" he said.
The hill was steep and I was told that the sugar cane was hand cut. Then it was brought down for processing. No wonder these people seemed to be in such good health even though they did not deny themselves good food. They earned it the hard way-----they worked it off!!!  
Rabbit DinnerRabbit is an unusual meat in that it does not contain any fat. As a matter of fact, if a person were to live by eating just rabbit meat, there would evolve a problem with his/her nerves since the synthesis of nerves depends on fat. So no fat----major problems.
However, since we knew we had enough fat in our diet, we enjoyed the sweet luscious rabbit meat cooked to perfection by our host. Accompanying vegetables and potatoes were so welcome and of course we had our Cachaca to drink.
The night went on and soon it was time to leave for the hotel.
Looking forward to our next day, we bed our hosts good-bye.
End of Day Three