Our group (all 7 of us) met at the Porto Alegre airport for the 2 hour transfer to the wine region around Bento Gonçalves. A few of us arrived the day before in case there were any flight complications; and sure enough one couple’s flight had been cancelled so now they arrived instead on the first day of the tour instead of spending the night in Porto Alegre. (Making arrangements to arrive a day early is always the best idea when you have a long transfer (Bento is 2 hours away) or if you’re going on a cruise.
We had lunch first at a small family-run restaurant, Pignatello, 2 minutes away from the
Salton Winery. Mama was in the kitchen and son Marcel was our server. The meal was reminiscent of my grandmothers’ cooking- real, homestyle, peasant (in a good sense) cuisine. The soup reminded me of passatelli made from stale bread, herbs and salami.
Then on to our first winery visit- and what an impressive visit. If we closed our eyes we would have imagined we were in California, Italy or France. The facilities-and the wines- would have reminded you of any of those wine regions. Bottom line: if Salton is any indication, we in the US need to know more about wines from Brazil.
The Salton family 4th generation is in charge but the original Antonio arrived penniless and like many other Italian immigrants probably walked most of the way to what is now Bento Gonçalves. Today the Salton winery produces over 17 million bottles a year.
We tasted 5 wines , all gems (I bought 3 to bring home for a tasting): Virtude Chardonnay tasted like a very good Burgundy aged 6 months in oak; Intenso, a blend of Marselan (clone grenache and cabernet); Talento, an outstanding red blend of Cab (60%), merlot (30%) and Tannat; Reserva Ouro, a charmat sparkler made from Chardonnay, pinot noir and riesling italico a quality wine aged 12 months on its lees; and the highlight:Salton Geracoes Jose Salton, superb sparkling wine made in the methode champenoise from 50/50 chardonnay/pinot noir. This wine would stand up to French champagnes.
How good is this winery? It is the official winery of the Brazilian government and was served to Pope Francis on his visit.