The title is a quote from the amazing author, Robert Louis Stevenson. And it's true. Even though I'm not a big wine drinker, I've learned that some wine is poetry, while others are more like a ugly limerick! LOL
Like many other countries, Brazilian wines are a hit and miss overall. We've discovered a few great ones (Vinhos Durigan from the Saint Teresa neighborhood in Curitiba) and we've tasted some mediocre ones. But coming here to Porto Alegre, we discovered we were only a couple hours from the best wine country in South America. So of course, we had to visit.
And we had an amazing time.
The Vale dos Vinhedos (Valley of the Vineyards) is the area where most of the wines are made. It's nearby the town of Bento Goncalves and the whole area is rich in beauty and history. We visited for two days and could have easily spent several more.
There are two main areas to see. One, where the majority of the Vineyards are is the Vale dos Vinhedos and the second, an area which traces the path of the early settlers of the area--Italian--is called the Caminhos de Pedra (the Path of Stone). Both areas are absolutely beautiful. Verdant valleys with gorgeous architecture and rolling grape-covered hills. There are wineries, historical homes and cottage industries with some wonderful food and crafts. There is even a working sheep farm that I loved visiting. More about that later.
Anyway, the first day we spent driving through the Vale dos Vinhedos. There are dozens of wineries dotting the valley, some small and intimate, a couple of others quite large. There are those that sell only out of their small vineyards, but many are actually award winners and are distributed all over the world. It's difficult to visit without buying something, so we came home with a trunk full of truly delicious wines.
But for me it's the beauty of the area. The canopies of vines that line the rolling hills. The beautiful wineries, each with their unique flavor and look. The amazing restaurants with some of the best Italian food I've had since visiting Italy. The views are incredible, almost as wonderful as the wines we tasted. See what I mean.
The next day was even better as far as I was concerned. The Caminhos de Pedra has a little bit of everything. Vineyards, impressive historical homes, cottage industries with items including meats, cheeses, tomato wine, clothing, pasta, and so much more.
We drove through this area, stopping at all the different places you can visit. We watched candy being made, tasted more wine, stopped at an old homestead where salami was made, and went to a great bakery where the pies were being baked right in front of us. The scent was amazing, and we had to get some. But there were three places I loved the most.
One was called the Cantina Strapazzon. It was a small family vineyard with some truly delicious wines. But even better was the fresh baked traditional Italian bread produced in an outdoor brick oven. It was made by a lovely lady by the name of Grandma Gemma. She had the sweetest smile and set some bread aside especially for us when she saw how intrigued I was by the whole process.
Next was a farm I was so looking forward to seeing. It was called the Casa da Ovelha (House of Sheep) and is a working sheep ranch. But not for wool. For milk. Yep, that's right. Three hundred sheep a day are milked there, and another 1500 are milked elsewhere and the milk shipped to Cas da Ovelha. Cheese, yogurt, ice cream (yum) and other milk products are made here and are absolutely delicious. We were able to do many activities on the farm including feeding the lambs, watching a border collie run the sheep and help with the milking. Brenda, the border collie was amazing to watch and we got to taste fresh sheep's milk. And it was absolutely delicious! Even warm out of the teat! Overall, it was an amazing place. Check it out!
One of my favorite things to do is feed baby lambs. Did it a hundred times on our own farm, and I hadn't realized how much I missed interacting with the little ones.
Don't I look cool in my lunch lady hat? LOL Milking sheep was a new experience. I've milked goats and cows, but other than getting a new born lamb started, I've never really milked a ewe before.
Brenda was amazing. I fell in love immediately. Got my puppy fix loving on her after she did her work. Made me miss my Ares so much!
And lastly, we visited something uniquely Brazilian. An Erva-Mate mill. Erva-Mate is a tree/weed (I think more like an herb) that people drink here in Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina. It was first discovered by the indiginous indians, but you can see people drinking it all over the area. In parks and just walking down the street. VERY common.
I won't go in how to make this special brew--you can check it out HERE. But it's fun to do and delicious. While most just drink it on their own, it's original use was communal. One cup passed around a group of people.
We were shown around by the son of the family, Paulo Ferrari (yes, just like the car) and he showed us how to properly make the tea and drink it.
I hadn't had it before, but I loved the taste. Think of a really strong black tea and that's close. It's excellent for the digestion and we had to get some, it was so wonderful.
By the time we left Paulo, we were losing the light. We wandered back along the Caminhos de Pedra and then headed back to Porto Alegre, happy and satisfied by one of the most amazing adventures we've had. I heartly recommend this area to anyone who visits Porto Alegre.
Wine, good food and great people. A perfect weekend, and one I'll never forget.
Until next week...