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, May 9, 2012

April 20: The Final Frontier---Our Last Winery "Villa Francioni"

The End Is In Sight
 The resonating sound of a church bell woke me out of a deep slumber. I don't mind the sound of bells and this sound was so inviting. In many ways it reminded me of my birth country, Malta, where the bells of churches announced their spirituality and welcomed a new day. It made me feel alive and yet, sad, since today marked our and my final day in this grand community of Treze Tilias. Soon we would be off back towards Sao Joaquim and to our final winery destination. After breakfast we were heading to Villa Francioni.
We left at 8 AM. The trip was quite a drive. It gave new meaning to the phrased "the long and winding road."
Marcio was his usual, good humoured and laughing self------speeding down the road at around 150 to 170 kls/hour. We were getting high again and the driving certainly kept us alert!
Marcio well earned the name of Super Mario Andretti on this trip.
Even with Marcio adeptness in speed and maneuvering, the trip still was quite long. Finally however, Villa Francioni announced itself by appearing majestically on the horizon.
Villa Francioni       
This winery was the concept and creation of Mr. Manoel Dilor whose passion for wine drove him to search many parts of the World to find out the best in wine and art. Mr. Dilor had a love of life and he wanted to express it via wine and art.
We were met by Orgalindo Bettu who was the Winemaker and Technical Director.He gave us a tour of the very large building that served as major winery and storage facility.

The building was a unique work of architecture. The brick and wood design was prepared and carried through by a California Architect. It was designed both to be esthetic and productive. The design also reflected Nature, Man and Technology. The multi levels combined with intricate art work made use of gravity as a means of lessening the mechanical influence was used in collaboration with the artwork to further combine human and natural influences in the making of wine. Fermentation was in the most up to date equipment on floors above storage tanks and barrels which in turn were above the storage area where the wines in the  barrels slept and matured before being bottled in automatic bottling machines.
The levels were subtle in their appearance. They were not rigid in their appearance but melded with the rest of the architecture. We were then led through a hallway where displays of photos involving the founding of the winery and the founder who passed away several years ago.
Art Display
Oralindo then took us to the art gallery which displayed national and international paintings and pieces of sculpture. Again, there was a natural synch between the nature outside and the beauty inside. The feeling of one with nature was so correct.
Wine Tasting 
The group then joined Oralindo and an independent Sommelier for a wine tasting of various Francioni wines.
We were seated in a very spacious and well lit tasting room. The table was large and had a substantial number of wine glasses on it which meant a serious wine tasting. Orgalindo introduced Eduardo Araujo who had a private business called Santa Adega. He was there to assist and advise at the tasting/dinner.

We went on to taste some superb wines. A well made Sauvignon Blanc, four exceptional Chardonnays, an excellent Cabernet, Merlot, Malbec blend, a great Merlot and an astounding wine called Micheli which was a blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. 
The wines were excellent in every way and among the very best we tasted anywhere.

We were led to a sitting room, dining room and meeting parlor. The parlor/dining room/sitting area was located on the top floor overlooking the expansive vineyards and scenery. A large window bordered by two sculptured statues allowed us to have a continuous exhibit of the breath taking view while we sipped on Francioni Sauvignon Blanc and sat in the comfort of the salon chairs.
The large dining room table on the other side of the salon and directly in front of the two sculptured statutes  was fully prepared with dinner settings for thirteen persons. We were called to the table by Mrs. Daniela Borges de Freitas who was the President of the winery. She had preset the seating plan although she graciously changed it around to suit our filming needs.
Ms. Broges de Freitas was as elegant and lovely as she was the perfect host. She wore a well coordinated over which she had an equally coordinated shawl. Her long shoulder length hair was perfectly manicured and she spoke with a classic style reminiscent of royalty. In other words she was nice to look at as well as talk to.
We had a multitude of varied dishes with special Brazilian (Santa Catarina) treats such as a special dish called Farofa de Pinhao which is a a flour mixture mixed with rice and containing seeds from the Araucaria tree which resembles a pine. The seeds are about two inches (five centimetres) long and are used as snacks. We had a plethora of fish, meat, rice and vegetable dishes to accompany the delicious nuts. Another dish was called Entevero which was a mixture of what seemed to be rice and meat but I understand that Pinhao and other items could be used. The accompanying wines were excellent.
With the fish we had the Francioni Chardonnay. A Francioni Francesco Merlot/Syrah/Malbec Blend was enjoyed with the meat and rice dishes and a Sauvignon Late Harvest Wine was enjoyed with Ice Cream, Tapioca and Cooked Whole Apples with Cinnamon. Coffee followed.
Daniela was called away to a phone call as we finished our coffee. As we were about to bid our farewells, she came out and graciously sent us on our way.
Destination Florainopolis  
The trip to Florainopolis was long---very long. Even with Marcio's super speed and magic maneuvering it took us about five or six hours to get from Sao Joaquim to our destination. The trip was not without its excitement. Some of the best scenery anywhere came up as we shot our way down mountain slopes, ravines, winding roads, gorgeous forests and colourful towns. On shot that stood out in my mind was just before we arrived in Florainopolis when atop one of the massive hills we could see the road winding down the mountain side for miles below. Here we could see the mountain meeting the floor of the valley as the blue Atlantic outlined the shore. We descended some 900 metres to "ground level" and made our way to the city.
Enter Hotel Valarium
Downtown Florainopolis is basically like many cities. Pavement, buildings and people were the mode. We arrived at the hotel just before 8 PM and we had not eaten so after registration, had to scurry to the restaurant in order to get some food. We then made our way to the rooms and dropped from travel exhaustion. The next day was our final day in Brazil.
End of Day 10