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.

Friday, April 27, 2012

April 16: Goodbye Bento Goncalves/Hello Santa Catarina

Off To Florainopolis
Like other mornings this one came too quickly----three and a half hours sleep for the last several days will do it too you but I was up at around 6 AM, closed my already packed luggage and went off for my last breakfast at the Hotel Michelon. I had grown fond of this hotel. Nice very courteous staff, spacious clean and convenient rooms, excellent dining facilities and an absolutely grand hotel fruit garden at the base of the road leading to the hotel will do it for me every time. The other night Roy and I had gone down to the garden to try out the ripe fruit on the trees. A cornucopia of various trees such as Kiwi, Fig, Orange and other trees that I did not recognize were available and since I was a fg love----especially ripe figs-----I gorged on the critters! Roy begged me to leave some on the trees for other guests. Me? What guests? I gorged! Now keep in mind that fresh figs are full of fibre and can act as a natural laxative. Thus I did pay a small price for my greed!!
Breakfast was excellent as usual with a wide array of cold meats, cheeses, sausage, scrambled eggs, various breads and some pastry. Coffee was great as usual-----of course it was Brazilian coffee!
Paula arrived at around 7AM.  We had paid our adieu's to Jefferson the night before. Our drive Toni was ready to roll. Luggage packed and good-bye's said we were off to Saigado Filho Airport in Porto Alegre.
We ran into some traffic in Porto Alegre (after all it was a Monday!) but we made it on time to check in and get our boarding passes. Roy this time packed his tripod in his baggage since he was stopped and had to recheck his tripod when we had first arrived in Brazil last week. Apparently Brazil does not allow objects such as the tripod onto flights while Air Canada did. This was not unusual since in the last series we did have similar problems with carry-on camera luggage. It sometimes depends on the airport.
Paula (she came with us to Santa Catarina), Roy, Sandie and I were soon off to Florainopolis Hercilio Luz International Airport.
Florainopolis and Lunch
We arrived at Hercilio Luz Airport around 11:30 AM and were picked up by Marcio. We also were met by another journalist called Monika who later accompanied us to the city. I did not know it then but Marcio was going to become one of my most favourite individuals. Marcio packed us into a small van which was apparent that it would not comfortably fit us and our luggage. Off we went to the dealer and after a few minutes and several coffees, we were off again in a good sized vehicle.
We drove through the gorgeous city of Florainopolis and went to one of its amazing beaches. The day was warm and the water looked inviting but all our materials were packed so we had to settle for a lunch at an outdoor restaurant.  The restaurant called Fazenda Marinha/ Fregusia Bar and Restaurant was located on the St. Antonio de Lisboa Beach. We had a great lunch of my favourite----seafood:  Frutti di Mare Soup, Oysters, Oysters Rockefeller, Fried Shrimp, Shrimp Casserole, Prawns and Swordfish. We ate well. 
Off To Sao Joaquim
Right after a picture taking session we then said our good byes to Monika and soon we were ascending the heights of the hills towards Sao Joaquim. The ride was long and winding. We passed new lovely new homes on picturesque hills and the scene would change to homes of a lesser state but interesting none the less. If it weren't homes and fields we passed forests and rivers and some waterfalls. Those who were under the impression that Brazil was nothing but heat and rain forest had no idea. Here we were at almost the southern tip of one of the World's largest countries and the temperature was cool and the forest was Pine and the land was of farm. We were also told that in these areas, temperatures could get as low as -8 degrees Centigrade. That snow was not uncommon and that people did wear sweaters around this time of year which was the beginning of fall. In the distance some deciduous trees were starting to change colour.
After three and a half hours of driving----I learned to call it "Marcio Time" (MT for short) since he would go in an hour twice as far as a regular driver normally would-----we arrived in Sao Joaquim.
Sao Joaquim  
This city/town was not what you would call a tourist target. It was small with a main industry of wood and apples. It was hoped that he vineyards and wineries would contribute to the economy and I am sure that this will happen. The town had two fine hotels and two restaurants one of which we were to patronize extensively.We registered at the Sao Joaquim Park Hotel. The hotel was a small one and the rooms were basic but quite functional.
A ride around the area revealed that most of the wineries were in the hills and down very bumpy, rocky roads. But this was a new area, a new region and the wineries were developing. It was not an area for one's Ferrari.
Pequeno Bosque    
At 8 PM it was time to go to the restaurant both for dinner and to meet two of the wineries that we were to visit during the next few days. The Pequeno Bosque was actually a very fine restaurant that served excellent food and whose service was of a top quality. It would have done well in any large city at any part of the globe and the fact that it was located in a small area which was relatively unknown was a credit to the city/town and the restaurant itself.
Here we met the owner of  Suzin an up and coming winery and the representative of Quinta Santa Maria which was a neighbouring winery to Suzin. Suzin's owner Everson Suzin was a very intense and passionate winemaker/owner who prided himself not only on his winery and wines but also his personal health. It was obvious that he was in top physical shape and quite strong. He showed a keen intellect and interest in all that would affect his winery. Sabrina, the 18 year old representative of Quinta Santa Maria was an informative young lady regarding the style and development of its wines. Quinta Santa Maria's owner, Nazario dos Santos and his Eonologist Jean Pierre Rosier could not make it at that time but promised to visit next time. Everson's lovely wife later joined us and proved charming.
Most of us ordered the Trout Almondine though Roy preferred the chicken. The wines were quite appropriate. We started with a lovely Muscatel from Santa Maria and this was followed by a  Sauvignon Blanc from SuzinThe Utopia from  Santa Maria was an excellent blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Touriga Nacional and another Utopia made from  Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Touriga Nacional and Tinto Roriz. The dinner ended with a great port style wine called Portento which was a perfect way to end this repas.
The experience went very well and soon we were all very ready to go to our rooms and try to catch up with our sleep. A truly great evening.
End Of Day Seven