Day five - 19th of October
Wine time! We took a bus out towards Setúbal, hopping off at Vila Nogueira de Azeitão to visit Jose Maria da Fonesca (JMF) the production center though, not the actual vineyards. We didn't realize this until we got there.
Along the way, there are various shops for tourists and natives - from ceramic goods to car dealerships and lots of other weird things. As we approached JMF, we passed another winery with big tanks, among other things. With a big sign saying open for visitors. Hmm. Another thing, you didn't see any lush forests or fields or anything. Some trees, some bushes, red soil, a lot of dryness. You could see that they had a bad drought over the summer and early autumn. I hope things get better...
When we actually arrived, JMF looked very closed. The little brochure we had claimed they were open every day from 10-17. We kind of figured that they were on their lunch break, so we decided to have our lunch, considering it was already 1 pm. We went into a local dive and ordered some fried fish. Fries and salad on the side. Washed down with beer.
We went back to JMF and they were still closed, so we walked over to the other winery (about 10 minutes) - Bacalhôa. They were just finishing lunch hour there, and we were asked to wait for 10 minutes. No problem. We sat on a bench and waited. The grounds to the entrance is quite amazing, with lots of sculptures and gardens. We would later learn that the owner is both a big art fan and a big nature fan, which explains all the art in and around the winery and the fancy gardens in addition to the vines. One of the more interesting things we saw while waiting, an olive tree. Full of olives. The olive tree dates to ca. 300 B.C. I've never seen a real olive tree so up close before, and certainly not without olives. Really neat!
The tour itself was a pleasure. Boyfriend of tuxette and I were the only ones on the tour, so we got some very personalized service. Our tour guide, Sandra, was very friendly, full of knowledge, and spoke excellent English, something that seems to be a rare find in Portugal. We first went into a room with lots of oak barrels containing Moscatel de Setúbal wine. Moscatel is a fortified wine, and at this winery a kind of booze made of the remains of the wine-making process (skins and pits) is used to fortify the moscatel. What's interesting about making moscatel is that you can leave the barrels in rooms where the temperature fluctuates, anywhere from +50 C to close to freezing. It actually makes the wine better! You cannot do this with standard wine though. Incidentally, you can see some of the art in the background...
Here's another picture to show the large number of barrels, piled high... (and boyfriend of tuxette censored, as to not ruin the picture bwahaha)
We were then shown the storage room for the red wines. It was dark and cool, as expected. And then to the bottling area, where wine was put into bottles, corked, labeled, packaged, and shipped. Of all things, we saw a gross of boxes of wine bottles ready to go to, of all places, Oslo
Next it was outside to the vineyard. We saw the large containers where the grapes do their initial fermentation, as well as a big pile of grape skins and seeds that are sent to another place to make booze. No hand picking - machines remove the actual fruit from the vines, so when we went to take a look at the vines, you could see the remaining stalks, empty.
On the grounds of this winery there is a man-made pond, which used to irrigate the vines. Now it's just a big playground for lots of different kinds of waterfowl - ducks and geese and swans from around the world. The pond is also full of Japanese goldfish, and it was cool watching them be fed. (Their Rings of Fat need feeding too, you know!)
After the tour of the grounds, it was time for the wine tasting. We tasted Serras de Azeitão Tinto, 2004 and a standard moscatel.
Our tasting notes:
For the Serras de Azeitão Tinto: Color - deep red with hints of blue. Nose - aromatic with raisins and cocoa. Palate - hint of grape pits, flavor of ripe red apples, bitter aftertaste. Ought to age some more. Rating -
For the moscatel: Color - honey. Nose - spices, especially ginger but also some cinnamon. Palate - sweet, intense, flavor of cloudberry syrup, peaches, and spices (ginger, cinnamon). Rating -
Afterwards we bought 4 bottles of wine, as well as some local goat cheese and a jar of local honey.
Then it was off to see if JMF was open - and it was. Apparently they had some problems earlier, and only just managed to open not too long before we got there. We joined a tour group that had more or less just started - two guys. From Norway. Heh. This tour was quite different. Whereas Bacalhôa uses modern methods for producing wine, JMF goes the traditional route. While the actual vines are somewhere else, the production area is here. Or something like that. They also had huge barrels of wine (not the moscatel) in much larger barrels than at Bacalhôa, and in mahogany barrels. Made pre-political-correctness-save-the-rainforest. These barrels had a small door where people could go inside the barrel to clean it once it was drained. The door looked quite small, and the woman giving the tour (never got her name) said that there's no problem getting people inside, even people with big Rings of Fat. And she gestured in a way to over-exaggerate the Ring of Fat size.
We also tasted a standard red table wine and a moscatel after the tour. And I ended up buying 2 bottles of wine, the BSE (see the trip report for Day 1) and a red wine that had been aged in clay pots. We had asked about wines that are not imported to Norway. Her response? "Yeah, well, we do, but they're, well...*blech!*" With a finger-in-the-mouth gag me gesture. OK, we got it. All their good stuff goes to us. Just like all the good salt cod goes to them...
On the bus ride back, I noticed a lot of farmers (I suppose) here and there at each side of the motorway, selling huge net bags of potatoes, as well as selling other produce.
Dinner: Restaurante Churrasqueria O Cha-Cha. Cha-cha indeed. We started with some bread and cheese, as this was yet a new kind of cheese, a cow's cheese, that we hadn't tried. Queijo fresco leite - soft and mild with a nice flavor. The waiter kept gesturing us to "push push" pepper and salt to the cheese (English well speak hah!). Eventually I understood what he was trying to say. It was much better with the pepper and salt. For dinner I was going to order the rabbit special but they were out so I ended up ordering grilled chicken. Boyfriend of tuxette had grilled bacalhau. We had the house wine, which was served in a carafel. Because the wine was "tapped" from a bag-in-box. No tasting notes - sorry.
RING OF FAT PERSPECTIVE
*sigh* What am I ever going to do with you? Don't you know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day?
Now this is more like it! We're sitting in a bus...not all this walking!
Mmmm...deep fried fish washed down with beeeeeeeeeeer!
Why are you walking again? Oh, the winery! But where's the wine? Why can't you drink from the barrels? Why are we walking around so much? Aaaaaah...red wine! And moscatel! Oh yes! Good, sweet moscatel! Buy some! OK, fine, just buy the wine! And don't forget the cheese! YES! And honey! YES YES!
More walking? To more wine? OK, I'll forgive you. For now...
Mmm...bread and cheese! I love bread and cheese! What, out of rabbit? Give me grilled chicken! And wine!