Monday, June 11, 2012

Report from ... Day 3: Portugal, Vinho Verde - June 11, 2012

As lackluster as Day 2 was, Day 3 was the exact opposite - the majority of the wines were extraordinary, the producers engaging, the food inventive and rustic (but very good) and the camaraderie of the group cam to a head over dinner in a manor house kitchen - and dinner ended with a bit of a surprise ... Let's take a look:

Of course we started on the bus, but you've seen that one before ... so here's our first stop: Solar do Alvarinho, where we'll get our first experience with the Alvarinho grape.
The tasting room is all set up for us.
This is what a bunch of tired wine writers look like in the morning.
We tasted these five wines - all from the 2011 vintage and award winners the lot.
Favourites included this Touquinheiras 2011 Nostalgia, made from "very old vines", wild yeast fermented, and rested on lees till bottling.  Nose of grapefruit pith and a little SO2, which blew off.  Creamy mouth-feel and depth of character  the palate - this one needs a little time to even out, then it's gonna be really tasty (****)
And this Regueiro 2011 Secreto Alvarinho: tropical nose with honey, pineapple, peach and good minerality ... palate is juicy yet stony with creamed pineapple and just the right amount of mineraity (*** 1/2+) ... "reserve" on these wines is a sign of quality as deemed by the producer - though and independent tasting panel has to decide whether they keep that moniker.
Once again we find Irv on the floor.

Odd bathroom find ... this tiny piece of soap must be from the Ming Dynasty (why else would you keep it?)
Our arrival at Solheiro (in Malgaco) is greeted with some picturesque views - like this one.
And this one.
The table is set for lunch.
The wines are ready to pour.

But first ... it's up the stairs for a presentation and tasting.
One last look back (from on high) at our lunch table set with in-house made ham and sausage.

Local Malgaco natural mineral water with natural carbonation - we ran out of time to go and see the spring from whence this water came ... dang
Luis Cerdeira runs us through fats about the Moncao & Malgaco region, like the regulation about what can be called Vinho Verde and not ... For example: Alvarinho Vinho Verde can only come from this region.

The Solheiro estate has 7 hectares of vines and they buy fruit from 30 growers who share their philosophy about quality wine making
Quite the vertical of old Alvarinho Vinho Verde: 1997, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 - the question on everyone's mind: can this stuff age?

The stand out trio of the tasting (no loner available).  It's interesting to note that each came from a different kind of vintage: 2005 (hot), 2007 (classic), 2008 (cold) - yet each showed an amazing amount of finest.
Lunch is served ... mushroom and spinach stuffed roll

Three-year cured and made in-house pork meat
Here Luis shows us how to eat the in-house made sausage

And here he describes the contents of the spinach mushroom roll.

This might not look very appetizing but the Monk Fish and Rice dis was delicious

Oak aged Alvarinho -25% in 1-2 year-old barrels (the rest in older) one year total in barrel and on lees. The '08 was well-round - the '10 still showed too much of the barrel influence ... but it will improve.

Welcome ... to Jurassic Park (the view from the Solheiro balcony)
Rod Philips (of the Ottawa Citizen) takes a breather
In the distance are the mountains of Spain
Gratuitous dog shot, as we are greeted by this guy as we arrive at Reguengo de Melgaco - our next stop and home to the gold medal winning best of Vinho Verde Alvarinho
Here bottles are opened from 2006, 2009, 2010 and 2011
Wines are made in a very oxidative style, the older vintages really showed that characteristic - the 2011 was the best of this lot, but to keep it tasting fresh drink within 2 years.
Dog at Reguengo continues to keep a watchful eye on us.

Joel Riddell from San Francisco (ex-pat Canadian) shows off the oranges he picked in the Reguengo orchard
You've heard about it, nowhere it is ... ladies and gentlemen this is the low hanging fruit.
Arrival at Solar do Louredo
The path leading into one of the Louredo properties
A 400 year old Bical (red variety) grape vine
Perspective shot so you get an idea of the size of this plant

The one behind it is about a 1/4 its diameter
Winemaker and consultant Antonio Sousa
Courtyard of the winery and estate

Knights of the Square Table unite to try the wines (4 in total - 3 whites, 1 red)
And the winner is: 2011 Solar do Louredo, a blend of Loureiro/Trajadura,/ Alvarinho - floral, perfume, grassy, mineral and peach skin on the nose; mineral goes across the tongue along with grapefruit skin and pith and peach pit ... fruity and fun (*** 1/2+)

The owner of Louredo has his own bird zoo on the property of his house ... here you'll find some very exotic birds (see below for examples)

The house whee we are having dinner ... with the owner of Solar do Louredo
Mammoth, yet rustic / modern kitchen
Dinner includes octopus

Veal, cod and potatoes
And ended with the first bottle of non-Portuguese wine I've ever had in Portugal: Vranken Diamand Champagne (real French Champagne)
 Thus endeth Day 3 on a high note ... tomorrow we will be visiting CVRVV Comissao de Viticultura da Regiao dos Vinhos Verdes and then we'll have a little tie before we are formally summoned to dinner with a minister / aide ... many of us did not bring a jacket because we were advised not to ... hope this impromptu dinner is not too formal an affair - good night and we'll see you all back here tomorrow.

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