Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Closer Look At The Vale Dos Vinhedos / The Rolling & Winding Roads Through Small Villages, Many Restaurants, Vineyards & Wineries

Leaving the mountain town of Bento Goncalves and heading down into the valley as you leave some pretty steep town streets, narrow twisting roads and many pedestrians and bikes, motorcycles, cars and trucks is something that must be experienced to be believed. It also takes more than once to start to get the hang of it all. Having many pictures as one drives along is a really great reminder of this long and winding road down into a lush and verdant valley.

This winter has been really exciting as the weather has been really pleasant for the most part. For the Brasileiros of this region it has been cold but for two people from the Washington D.C. metropolitan region it has largely been a comfortable and welcome delight. Sure, the dense and concealing fog can be of concern but each time entering the Vale Dos Vinhedos there has been little fog if any and the colder weather and the rain on one occasion provided a great contrast in the pictures taken. That's good : it shows the various sides of winter in this mountainous region and it will be a really nice eye-opener for most people as it seems pretty certain that many people reading this will know relatively little about Brasil and it's wines and where they come from? I may be wrong, but I do not think so.

Getting through Bento Goncalves takes five or ten minutes at the most, even if one gets lost. Going under the sculpture of the barrel, or at least the metal that holds it together is fun and circling around the rather large round-about past it with all the many signs can be confusing for the first time. Having and ESP naviagtor can be a help, especially for the first time as one circles and heads down a hill for a couple of hundred yards or so before taking the exit to the right and past the Citroen showroom. The road turns quickly into the same cobblestone narrow and bumpy roads like the ones found in Georgetown, Washington D.C. with the exception that these winding roads hug the valley as one descends past a pastel-colored favela on the left. The contrast of the poor and the rich is quite evident as you drive alongside this favela-slum-like encampment that is both temporary and built-up with many animals visible moving about as  always a few people of all ages and sizes. There is no ugliness to this : no sense of real depravity or misery, just lack of money to make things look and feel better. They are proud people at each glance and my thoughts are just for their future success to make their conditions more comfortable?

Driving down these old cobblestone roads is tricky and it is good to have some experience doing so. There are speed barriers everywhere in Brasil, even on this steep and winding road and it's recommended that one slow down to almost a snail's pace as to not damage their cars. Just be warned. They are not always well marked and so that if one is not really paying attention as they look at all the pastel colors of these buildings and huts to their left ( as well as the same colors seen in many of the lines of hanging clothes set out to dry ) then they may not see the sign in time to slow down and keep the bottom of their cars in place where they belong and not leave some in the middle of these rough-hewn cobblestone roads. I thought that perhaps these roads were made on purpose to keep the cars from easily sliding around the road on wet and dangerous weather conditions? I was assured that they were relics of the first roads of Brasil and simply not modernized with paved roads yet.

The drive into the valley below and the the view to the left is quite green and wild and beautiful, dotted with a number of small houses that hug the roads, always enclosed with fences ( I hear that in Brasil it can be dangerous and most dwellings are all enclosed with sturdy metal fencing in Bento Goncalves as well as outside of it ). There are many orange trees, some lemon trees, some cactus plants and an occasional old VW beatle bug from the sixties. I was told that many young people learn to drive in them and that the process to get their licences is long and protracted and that there are many hours of driving with an instructor required before they finally get their licences. Couple that with the high cost of a car and that may perhaps explain why I saw even elderly people driving these old VW beatle bugs that were so loved to so many of us in the United States back in the sixties and the seventies?

Be careful as you take your pictures or write anything as you go down this steep and winding cobblestone road. I attempted both. If I had been the one driving then I would have had both my hands molded to the steering wheel of the small tank;like feel of the Fiat conveying us to our destinations with equally small and perfunctory EPS systems that motioned but never to spoke to us. I missed the woman's soothing voice guiding us along as I have become so used to, especially when driving through northern Italy with my daughter three years ago in Tuscany and Umbria.

It's a really welcome relief when you get to the bottom of this road and can turn either to the right or to the left and be on a smooth paved road once again. You stop rattling and you find your balance once again and you relax a bit once again as you head to the right into the wine country of the Vale Dos Vinhedos. Funny, you wind your way up another curving road that takes you past streams, animals, scrub, wild and verdant vegetation, cactus and the open pastures and fields and vineyards, restaurants and cafes, homes, the occasional church and the wineries, too. The roads provide the business opportunities for the people living here and so many businesses that are both permanent as well as daily and temporary dot these green and lush and sculpted valley roads, even in the winter months. There are also many knob-like brown and white trees that are hefted in half and with knobs and bony-rounded ends that finish each row of vines and hang precariously at the edge of the roads and often above those that drive along and by below. It's fun to capture them in pictures along with the vines and rows and the green vegetation that grows abundantly between them. There are also the many orange trees with many bright orange orbs hanging an them, dead and matted brown Hydrangea bushes and many varieties of cactus plants, too in all types and shapes and sizes. it's a whole lot to take in at once. Again, taking pictures is a good idea and making the drive several times as well as to not miss anything as there is so much to see and marvel at and be both surprised and really pleased by.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Tasting The ISOLE E OLENA Italian Tuscan " Cepparello " 2007 Red W/ Arielle Monaco /July 6th, 2012 Friday Night @ 8:40PM : Cheers!

This was a great moment to taste the 2007 dry red Italian Tuscan wine of ISOLE E OLENA that is one of their crowning achievements in winemaking. It's a wonder to enjoy alongside a flavorful meal.
I was lucky enough to try it back in mid 2012 with our fine rep Arielle Monaco of the Country Vintners based now in Ashland, Virginia, the home of my alma mater Randolph-Macon College that I graduated from in 1976 with a Bachelor of Arts in Poetry and Art, Reading and Writing : that has served me really well since.
i am glad to have had a chance to revisit the Cepparello 2007 once again as the last time might have been, in fact with the owner Paolo when he visited with David Bryant so many years ago, brought to the store by Chris Pigott that was then our Country Vintner rep that, too was amazing and that I miss so much these days. Hello Chris wherever you are or may be! Come and see me at Cleveland Park Wines & Spirits and say " caio " as it has been so many years.
I will post this blog now " as is " and add to it as I have the time. For the meantime enjoy these pictures. The color of the wine is amazing!
I am going now to my office to find an old catalogue that I got years ago when we first sold these wines at the Mayflower Wines & Spirits in Washington D.C. that was located at the corner of M Streets and New Hampshire Avenues. I believe that then we were the very first to offer the ISOLE E OLENA wines through Sidney's Moore's parent that lived in Florence, Tuscany at the time : Aaron and Helen Millman. That was back in the early eighties when the business was just beginning and the canvas was still largely white and untouched. I use this image as I am an artist and a painter and I am very visual. Cheers and stay-tuned for more. It is now Wednesday night here at home in northern Virginia on January 9th, 2013. Take care, Anthony ( TONY ) Quinn