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.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

April 14, 2012:On Maria Fumaca, Churrascaria Ipiranga, Pizzato Winery and Hotel & Spa Do Vinho
Morning came as quickly as the last day and I was just as tired. No doubt the team was in the same boat or should I say we were all going to be on the same track-----a rail road track, that is! It was Saturday and what better way to celebrate but to celebrate with the population.
We were off to the Bento Goncalves rail station where we prepared to board the Maria Fumaca---a cultural exhibition of song, story, dance  and merriment which traveled down the track to Garibaldi and ending at Carlos Barbos. The engine was an exhibit from years gone by and as a matter of fact, so was the train station.
There were several engines all dating back from the mid 19th Century to the early 20th Century.
It seems that travel and shipping by train was an almost extinct method of transportation in Brazil. I was surprised to here this while having a drink at a local refreshment spot and consequently also while visiting a rail road tunnel yesterday.

However, transport's loss was the cultural gain. The station area was alive with music with singers and musicians enjoying the moment and the wine was flowing freely (Miolo).  People from all walks of life paid not too inexpensive a price to spend the next hour and a half being entertained while the train moved through some magnificent scenery as well as lots of bush.
We were assigned seats by number and given a glass of wine. A special storage space just above the seat allowed one to place the glass within until he/she could refill it at the next stop.
Cultural Acts took turns coming in and entertaining a very receptive bunch of local people. It reminded me of a time long gone in Canada. Accordion Players singing folk songs, dance groups interacting with the audience, acting and comedy acts and colourful costumed individuals all added to the fun and gaiety of the morning.
One o the acts which actually was my favourite was an actual Gaucho group that came in and sang western style songs. The voices were superior and the costumes original. They had met us earlier in the morning and took photos with us. The leader who was a rather sturdy looking fellow introduced us to the crowd and took more pictures with us.
Gauchos are South American cowboys that live and work in the Pampas of both Brazil and Argentina. They wear loose fitting layered clothing and boots. Most have long hair tied in a pony tail (Stephan Segal style) and of course a hat. They are tough and they can ride-----using their legs to guide horses as they move doing their work with the cattle etc.   
The morning moved relaxingly slow and the scenery was quite enchanting though we did not get much of  chance to concentrate on it owing to the entertainment around us.
The ride ended at Carlos Barbosa and our driver, Jefferson, was waiting for us sporting a new haircut and ready to drive us to our next destination.
Churrascaria Ipiranga        
We drove to Bento Goncalves to the above restaurant/steak house which ironically was not far from the place where had such a great time and laughter several days ago----the Aurora Winery. This was a barbecue restaurant and that meant a continuous flow of pasta, salad, chicken, beef, pork and steak for us to eat. This time I was very frugal with my selections. Knowing that we were going to the Pizzato Winery, we ordered a bottle of the Pizzato Concentus which is a blend of  Merlot, Tannat and Cabernet Sauvignon. In 2011 the wine won "Best With Food" award at a competition in Britain.
The restaurant was spacious and quiet considering its size and the openness of the seating plan. However, it was elegant and displayed a number of wineries whose wine it patronizes.
We filmed several sequences of the program as the cooks barbecued the meat and carve the pieces.
Soon it was time to leave and we were off to the Pizzato Winery.
Pizzato Winery
Like many who arrived from Italy, the Pizzato story began in Italy and continued with the immigration to Brazil. Here the family founded a winery and produced bulk grapes for profit but it was their dream to produce fine wines. This happened in 1998 and continues to this day.  

Flavio Pizzato is a passionate man who has been given a very articulate way of speaking. He delivered an astounding speach that entices the listeners to want to know more. He was one of those who inspired me to visit this area of Brazil. Along with his brother Ivo, Flavio is a graduate of Enology at the Agricultural College in Brazil. Ivo also had training and practice in Bordaux.    
Flavio was pleased that we had already tried his wines at the restaurant but he brought out more.
We tasted some of the wide range of Pizzato wines. Including a brilliant Merlot Reserve as well as some fine sparkling wines.
The wines of Pizzato are well respected and can be found in a number of countries including Canada.
We then left Pizzato for a true treat. We went to visit Hotel & Spa do Vinho that was in Bento Goncalves and right across from Miolo Winery.
Pizzato wines tasted were: Pizzato Brut White, Pizzato Brut Rose, Pizzato Chardonnay, Pizzato Concentus (Merlot, Tannat, Cabernet) Pizzato DNA 99 (Merlot), Eglodola Riserva (Varietal), Pizzato Alicante Bouschet Riserva, Pizzato Tannat Riserva, Pizzato Cabernet Sauvignon Riserva,
Pizzato Merlot Riserva   
Hotel & Spa Do Vinho
This hotel was a magnificent site as we drove up to the resort situated high on a hill in Bento Goncalves.Next to it and also one of its partners was the Miolo winery. The five star hotel was imposing to look at with its many floors and lovely decor. It was even lovelier as we entered the main area. To the left of us was a huge waiting area with a huge fireplace that had ceiling high book cases next to it. The ceilings were high (20 feet) and the books in the cases real so ladders were situated next to the bookcases so patrons could retrieve the books.
We were given a tour of the premises by the manager of the hotel. First we saw the perfectly kept and attractive wine cellar which held many fine vintages of wines from all over the world. One of them was a bottle of Inniskillin Icewine. We were also given a tour of the Spa and other hotel rooms. It was something out of James Bond. So clean and so perfectly kept.
We were told that the owner, Deborah Villas-Boas Dadalt wanted to see us but would be late. She would be coming later on and suggested that we had a Spa Treatment. Roy and Sandie jumped at it but I was not partial to these treatments and left them to those who enjoyed them. The driver, Jefferson and I decided to leave for the time being and left----he had things to do and I went back to the hotel for a shower.
In about an hour or so we returned and met up with the "refreshed" twosome and we decided to have dinner at the hotel.
Dinner turned out to be the the menu from the Titanic. With it we ordered a Tannat wine which went beautifully with the meal. The meal was fantastic and we were ready to leave but the owners called on us to visit with them for awhile. Deborah and her husband were waiting at a table not far from us. Deborah was stunningly beautiful and her husband, Aldemir, looked aristocratic. I could see by the way they looked at each other that they were so very much in love. Deborah shared with us the information that her hotel was just made a Marriott. She and her husband owned 24 hotels and were building 20 more but this was their baby. Deborah wanted us to stay and visit the cellar with them and possibly do an interview. We had been up since 6 AM and were tired. They asked us if we had any schedule for tomorrow but at that time we did. A quick phone call to our representative Paula and plans were changed on the spot.
Deborah was very happy to receive the bottle of Inniskillin Sparkling Icewine we brought with us and said it would have a respected place in her cellar. We planned on meeting her again at the hotel the following day at 10:30 AM whereby we could get an interview with Deborah as well as another tour.
So, off we went back to our hotel until the next day.
End of Day Five