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.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

April 13th: Miolo Winery, Caminhos de Pedra, Don Giovanni Winery

Miolo Winery
We started the morning by traveling to the largest winery in the area and one of the largest in Brazil. With a production of four million litres of wine (red, white and sparkling) and about 120 hectares of vineyards as well as over 300 hectares "shared" with other producers, this winery is huge and produces a large list of grape varieties for the making of fine wines.
The winery started back when the Italian immigration first started in the late 19th Century. Giuseppe Miolo had come from Veneto to start a new life at a location in Bento Goncalves known as Lot 43. Actual wine production started in the early 1990's.
The present winery is a both picturesque as it is functional. The main building was a multilevel construction with gardens that were pleasing to the eye. A large pagoda surrounded by vine varieties radiating from the centre indicated the various types of grapes grown there both experimentally as well as those cultivated for wine. They included grapes from various countries such as Bordeaux (Cabernet Sauvignon , Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc), Portugal (Touriga Nacional, Alvarinho), French Rhone (Viognier, Gamay, Syrah), French Burgundy (Pinot Noir, Chardonnay) South Africa (Pinotage), Spain (Tempranillo), Italy (Ancellotta, Trebianno, Italic Riesling, Moscato) and Germany (Gewurztraminer).
The Pagoda can be appreciated at ground level and can also be seen from the top of the Miolo building where incidentally, one can view the famous Hotel & Spa Do Vinho, with whose owners the winery is partnered with.
We were greeted by Fabiano Maciel who was the Export and Import Manager for Miolo.
Fabiano gave us the royal tour of the premises as we visited everything from fermentation and storage tanks to the huge barrel cellars.
One interesting thing he did mention was that the famous oenologist and wine maker Michelle Roland was hired to improve the making of its fine wines. Mr. Roland gave the staff important suggestions to improved wine making with such things as: viticultural methods of cultivation and pruning, the importance of manual selection, gravity usage, barrel selection and grape selection.
This resulted in some magnificent wines being produced which included the Merlot Terroir and Lot 43 Premium Wines.
Fabiano took us to the very modern laboratory where he conducted a wine tasting of Miolo Sparkling wines as well as some magnificent white (Cuvee Giuseppe Chardonnay) and red wines from other Brazilian wine areas such as a Viognier and Quinta do Seival from Campanhia, a Terra Nova Shiraz from Vale Do Sao Francisco and a RAR Pinot Noir from Santa Catarina.
My favourites were the amazing Merlot Terroir and the Lot 43 named after the plot of land that Giuseppe Miolo had cultivated and worked..
Caminhos De Pedra
After Milio we were off to Caminhos De Pedra, an area that lies in the middle of Bento Goncalves. A number of places were waiting for us to visit. We stopped first at the "House of Sheep".
House of Sheep
At the House of Sheep we were led to a herding demonstration performed by a Boarder Collie and its owner. Within the confines of a large enclosure, a herd of sheep consisting of seven animals were led around by the dog. The Collie would gesticulate with its head and body to keep the sheep together as well as make them move from side to side in the enclosure. After the demonstration, the dog came over and befriended me---allowing me to pet it as it stood by my side.
We then headed toward the actual building which formerly housed a hotel and a restaurant. Built in 1917 it now offers visitors a descriptive movie as well as a myriad of cheeses for tasting and purchase. Old pictures showed the building in various stages of existence including a picture of a snow covered "Sheep House" from yesteryear.
Casa Vanni
Lunch was held at Casa Vanni, a restaurant that had many interesting items. A wagon at the back came complete with "Oxen Mount" attachments which threw a historical perspective on how wine barrels were transported.
The building itself was built in 1935 by Pietro Strapazzon but fell into disrepair until being restored in 1996. In the mid 2000's it was turned into a restaurant specializing in pastas and soups. An interesting item was that table that we sat was actually an well covered with a circular glass top which sufficed as our eating spot. "Ingenious", I thought!  We had "sopa de capeletti"------a light lunch after all the heavy barbecue's we were having. We ate and then were off again to one of Brazil's oldest traditional wineries.
Cantina Strapozzan
This Cantina was erected in 1878 and was the home of the family and now serves as a winery and storage area. Stone paths wind their way from the parking spot and direct visitors through pagoda style "flat roofed" vineyards to the Cantina where the wines and spirits were sold. This historical winery is one of the few traditional wineries left reflecting the Italian influence of the 19th Century.
We tasted wines made from American Labrusca vines such as Niagara and Isabella. Wines were also made from some vinifera species such as Cabernet and Muscat. They also produced a lovely potent Grappa style spirit.
We went back to the family store and gift shop. Family photos dating back to the beginning adorned the walls. I remarked to myself how serious these people looked and how hard it must have been to resettle in such a harsh environment. "So brave" I said to myself.
Outside the door the construction was on going. A new building was being erected. A man a couple of metres away was chiseling at a stone---shaping it to size as the other worked on the rest of the building. Yet at another part of the property a man carried two huge jugs of wine into another building while another raked and cleaned the ground. A delicious smell of meat pie cooking filled the air. Activity was everywhere and it was apparent that the Strapazzon family was flourishing. Ironically, the same family had an interest in the restaurant Vanni in which we had just eaten lunch.
It was starting to get late and we left the winery to go to our last visit of the day which was the Don Giovanni Winery.
Don Giovanni Winery
Just 12 kilometres from Bento Goncalves was the Don Giovanni Winery. Vividly painted barrels with cheerful characters welcomed us and proved charming. Next door was a 1930's building restored into hotel. The winery which started four generations ago grew many types of grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Tannat, Ancoleta, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
\Shown around we were impressed at the huge fermentation barrels transformed into tasting areas and storage spots. These were the size of a small room.
We were led to a tasting lab where we tasted several of Don Giovanni's sparkling and still wines. We tasted the following: Don Giovanni Chardonnay, Don Giovanni Brut Rose (50% Merlot, 40% Pinot Noir, 10% Chardonnay), Don Giovanni Brut ( Chardonnay 75%, Pinot Noir 25%),  Don Giovanni Ouro or Gold (Chardonnay 75%, Pinot Noir 25%).
All proved deliciously excellent but the "piece de resistance" was a traditional method sparkler served "au naturelle' meaning it had no added dose of determining liquid to make it sweeter or drier. The wine was consumed outside next to the winery and was delicious and refreshing.
The weather was getting a bit nippy with a some drizzle but that did not dampen our enjoyment. By the time we left, we were getting a bit hungry and off we went to a Pizza Parlour.
Much like th barbecues, the pizzas kept on coming and coming. We were introduced to another Canadian businessman based in Vancouver and the dialogue flowed.
Soon, it was time to go home to our hotel!  We slept well that night!
End of Fourth Day