Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Report from ... Day 5: Portugal, Vinho Verde - June 13, 2012

It's our last day here, well actually we fly out tomorrow, but it is our last full day here.  We'll travel to three wineries, see some amazing gardens, taste some very good wines, taste some interesting foods and just have a good time, as some of the random pictures will show ... I think at times we're all getting a little silly ...

Interesting start to the morning ... We ended up getting slightly lost on our way to our first winery.
The scenery was beautiful
But we were still lost in the middle of nowhere - I was waiting for Clint Eastwood to come out in a poncho chewing a cigar and a tumbleweed to role by in front of him.

Finally we make it to Quinta de Carapecos
Where Sheila is shocked to learn they grow grapes
Lots of them

I'd like to also take this opportunity to point out that it is a sunny day with very few clouds in the sky and no rain ... our very and last day like this
We sit for a tasting with Jorge Sousa Pinto (oenologist)
Eira dos Mouros 2011 Rose - is an export brand made from 3 grapes: Espadeiro, (70%), Vinhao and Touriga Nacional: touch of sweetness on the mid-palate along with an interesting red fruit note and dry finish.  Summery and fresh. (*** 1/2+)
Eira dos Mouros 2011 White - another 3 grape blend: Arinto, Trajadura (40%) and Azal - pine notes with apple and banana ... there's limie pith and banana skin on the palate. (*** 1/2)
2011 Alvarinho (60%)/Trajadura - has a floral, lemon-lime pith nose with white peach, mac apple and good acidity - with each sip this wine got better and better. (*** 1/2+)
An odd wine for the region (Winter Harvest 2008) - picked in February this is made from Espadeiro (a red varety): honeyed lemon peel, apricot nectar, and a smoky dry linger on the finish.  "not an easy wine to produce because sometimes we lose everything" says Jorge. (****)

Next stop is Aveleda ... one of Portugal's top 5 producers and number #1in the Vinho Verde region with sales of 9 million bottles world wide.
Hey, a lizard ...
We are forced marched through the jungle ... um "gardens"
Come upon this old Eucalyptus tree
Hey, a peacock

and we come across this goat tree house, where 5 goats reside

Then back on the trail through the gardens ... what a beautiful property this is

Through the trees you can see vines
And in a clearing up ahead the house where we will be having lunch

But first you must see the vines ...
And here is the obligatory owner with his vines shot - Antonio Guedes, managing director
A look at the barrel cellar, where Gregorian chants are played to the wines 24-7
Now, off to the tasting room we go for a sampling of six wines ... cool little room, we each have out own sink
The new Vinho Verde packaging (right) and the old (left) - this is a real pleasant with lime pith, lemon drop and tropical notes (*** 1/2)
Pedro Costa leads us in the tasting
Dramatic wine pouring shot
Another new (right) versus old (left) packaging shot - they want to make the "Aveleda" name stand out more prominently
The 2011 Alvarinho is a beauty: grapefruit pulp and pith, hay and fresh grass on the nose ... grapefruit, grassy with nice lingering finish ... it's a softer version of Sauvignon Blanc. (****)
Finally, Casal Garcia (a brand that has been around since 1931) has a new addition to the line, rose.  An appealing fruity number with strawberry and cherry notes ... totally fruity and perfect as a summer sipper. (*** 1/2)
The Bob Marley plant ...
Lunch ... Watercress Soup
In-house made cow's milk cheese: soft (top) and hard (bottom)
Hake Cake (aka Hake Pudding) - think fish and mayo
Vanilla ice cream with apricot coulis
Antonio - again (right) with Francisco Guedes Almeida (left) - nephew
We arrive at Quinta de Gomariz where we see a familiar face ... Antonio Sousa (winemaker and consultant)
Gratuitous vineyard dog shot ...
Vineyard walk - yes another
Loureiro vines
Alvarinho vines

A young (1 year old) vineyard)
Line up of Gomariz wines and their wall of awards
Look ma ... Tanks (you're welcome)

Antonio seems fascinated by Maureen Petrosky, speaking only to her through the entire tour; captain Irv, in the background does not look impressed.
Out tasting amongst the weeds produced three very good finds.

2011 Alvarinho: floral, fresh mowed lawn and pineapple notes. (*** 1/20
2011 Grande Escolha (Alvarinho/Loureiro/Trajadura) has a quiet nose with a fruit driven palate. (*** 1/2)
2011 Espadeiro Rose Colheita Seleccionada: grassy, pink grapefruit with hints of guava - very refreshing.  Guess I was a little tipsy when I took this one.

And finally ... our last place to eat.  Mainly apps because many of us were still full from lunch - the melon and meat concoction was refreshing and delicious.
The trip is over - tomorrow morning I'll board a bus and begin the 12 hour journey back home.

So what did we learn ... 
1) Alvarinho seems to be a tamer version of Sauvignon Blanc - and can be a real winner. 
2) Loureiro has, for the most part, a bitter finish.  
3) Vinhao, the red grape of the region, is not my cup of tea - nor do I think it ever will be. 
4) Vinho Verde is not named after the wine itself, but for the lush greenery of the countryside that grows the grapes ... it's vegetation heaven. 
5) Other white varieties such as Avesso, Azal and Arinto can be very interesting on their own and in a blend. And 6) Don't leave your toiletries in a plastic bag on the bathroom floor if you ever want to see them again.