Sunday, July 28, 2013

Porto, Portugal

 I welcome the cooler temperatures of Porto. When I left Zurich yesterday afternoon it was 37*C!
Today I navigated my way by bus to the heart of Vila Nova de Gaia and went for an hour + walking tour of the city centre and then making my way to Graham's Port Lodge. This special visit was coordinated by the manager for Graham's at Mark Anthony Brands (my former employer).
I have never visited Portugal before and it was a thrill to see the Douro River for the first time. I have been studying it in my Sommelier courses appreciating the dramatic, elevated terrain of the vineyards.
Porto is home to many Port wine houses, or Lodges, where they age the wine and is located at the mouth of the Douro River. All the vineyards are located well inland and too far away for me to visit on this trip. The very best are protected by mountains and therefore are dry, have granite sub soils with layers of schist. In general, port is a blended wine of different red grapes, unless it is a white port made from blended white grapes. Today I discovered a new cocktail, white port and tonic....with a slice of lemon and basil leaf. Yum! After the grapes have been hand harvested they are either crushed by foot (only 20%) in traditional lagares or in automatic lagares which acts like a foot treading. They do this to give maximum colour extraction from the skins. The juice is fermented to a low alcohol then fortified with a grape brandy spirit of 77% abv. Now it is in the winemasters hands as to how he will age it.
There are many different types of port; youthful ruby port, aged tawny ports, Late Bottled Vintage, Vintage, Single Quinta Vintage, I was honored to try a Vintage port from 1952. This bottle was sent to the Queen recently in honour of her Coronation year, 1952.

Traditional shipping vessel -barcos rabelos

Had to post this, just because:) Nice Portuguese bird eh

Shipping houses on the south side of river

Graham´s Port Lodge Entrance
Only 3 barrels or 'pipes' left of this vintage

The four main grapes of port

map of the douro river through Portugal and Spain

Large vats for Tawny Ports

The before.....

And after.....thanks to my guide Filipe

Sample of schist rocks

The north side of the Douro

The South side of the Douoro, Vila Nova de Gaia

Wish there was enough room in my luggage....

Friday, July 26, 2013

Zurich, Switzerland

A few days ago I flew into Zurich, Switzerland to start my two months of wine travel. Zurich is home to close friends of mine who are on a work exchange from Toronto. They have generously invited me to stay at their place and make it my 'hub'.... I leave for a few weeks then come back to the comforts of a house (laundry, wifi, printer etc.) Zurich is a terrific location and you can get anywhere in Europe by train, and fast!
I met my girlfriend, Katarina in University and we became fast friends,  including her husband Chris. Years later, I was flattered to be asked to be their children's Godmother, or Kuma, which comes from Katarina's  Croatian background.
From a wine perspective, Switzerland is a wine growing region but not well known. They don't make a lot of it and you rarely see it outside the country. The grapes are hearty cool climate varietals, vinifera and some interesting crosses. For example, Chasselas, Pinot Noir and Merlot. Merlot is found in Ticino which is in the south bordering Italy. Chasselas can be tricky to pick out on a wine label because there are about 4 different names for it. The most common is Fendant, grown in the Western part of the country. Another joy of being in Europe is seeing unique and rare wines from all over Europe in wine shops, restaurants and grocery stores (how convenient!).
Enjoy the photo show below, full of Swiss wines and scenes of Zurich. I will be writing after I explore the Port Lodges of Oporto, Portugal this Sunday!!

Only one piece of luggage!:) Of course its too heavy to carry....

My Level 2 ISG instructor told our class about this Restaurant, its a must see and ask to visit the wine cellar in the basement.

Sample of some white wines available at the Wine Loft

1st Swiss wine of the trip - Humagne Blanche

I've never seen this before - Muskateller from Austria

A Chasselas from Epesses, located near Lake Geneva: oily and weighty texture

Never had a Gamaret or Garanoir. Gamaret is cross of Gamay and Reichensteiner and Garanoir is a sibling of Gamaret.

Informative wine labels from the Co-op Grocery Store. Note the Swiss flag and next to it is the flag of the Canton from where the grapes are from: Wallis/Valais in the south west part of the country.

Cornalin, also known as Rouge du Pays. Typically requires some aging

This is a rose made from Blauburgunder, also known as Pinot Noir

Fendant: Chasselas from the Valais Region

I introduce you to the offspring of Pinot Noir and Gamay = Dole

Dezaley: Chasselas from the Vaud Canton in the North West
The grape Cannonau from the Italian island Sardegna. Another rare find!

Merlot from Ticino
Another Chasselas, from Fechy in Vaud
This is one of the coolest things I saw today. Its a dessert wine made from a grape called Zibbibo from the island Pantelleria in the Sicilian Strait, Italy. Pantelleria is also the home of capers.
This extremely rare wine is the Second coolest thing I saw today. Valtellina (Nebbiolo grapes) is a tiny wine region growing in the Northern part of Italy, Lombardy region. It is surrounded by the Alps and I will be there the first week of September:)
Lake Zurich with Marcus and Lilly
Ella at Lake Zurich Beach

Kuma in Lake Zurich, over 30*C
Zurich Haufbanhof

Alpine Scenery
Alpine Hike at Uetliberg
After a hot day at Lake Zurich, this hits the spot and will disappear quickly!!! The grape is called Txakoli (pronounced Cho-coli). This wine has a light effervescence, dry and low in alcohol. It comes from the  Basque area of Spain.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Eight days away!

In eight days I will be heading to Europe for two months. I will be visiting friends, my godchildren and some the more unique wine regions of the world. A sample of places I will visit wineries in:
Portugal: Madeira and Oporto
Italy: Trentino Alto Adige and Valtellina
Germany: Mosel and Rheingau
Since I will be away for two months there is a lot of planning to do, finding places to stay, arranging for cell phone plans, storage of my car etc.....This past week Chris and I were up at his family's cottage in Port Stanley. The timing was perfect! Thank goodness for their wifi, so I could do all kinds of research. What I was most excited about during this stay was having a place to unpack for a whole 5 nights and access to laundry!!! A big THANK-YOU to Chris' parents for lending us the place:)
On the way up to Port Stanley I got word that my car arrived in Kitchener from Calgary by transporter truch, but with damage:( Long story short is the transportation company is looking after the repairs but I will be without my car for another week and a half. At least it will be repaired before my trip. 

Floyd Family Port Stanley Cottage
Some of the damage to my car.