June 2, 2017
Today we had arranged to join a private tour to the wine country in the Douro Valley with Carol Van Meter and her husband along with 2 other couples.
We had a beautiful day and a lovely sail in – we had been here on our last trip and remembered it well.
We were picked up at the port gate by Orquidea, our driver and guide for the day. We had a very comfortable van for the trip. It was kind of foggy and she said it would remain that way until we crossed some of the mountain. And sure enough it cleared up.
Our first stop – for coffee and pastries – was in Amaranthe, a lovely little town by the Douro River.
It was another hour’s drive to the Quinta Do Portal, our destination for wine tasting and lunch. On the way, we marveled at the beautiful terraced vineyards and olive groves. We wondered how the workers managed to do the picking so high up on the hills.
We went through a 4 mile long tunnel on the way, it was carved out of the pure granite mountain and took many years to complete as they ran out of money along the way.
Once we started going up the mountains, we were glad that Orquidea was driving as the switchbacks were many and tight. She said that the perfect drive is 10 seconds straight and 1 second curve!
Here we are in the tasting room at the winery. The outside walls are made of cork. Portugal is known for their cork, and we passed several trees with the cork bark removed at the lower part and still on the upper trunk and branches.
We tasted 3 types of port here and they made sure that it wasn’t the wines we would be having with our lunch. We learned that ports do not have a year associated with them because they are a blend of harvest in several years. The exception to this (and the last picture) is when there is a vintage port which means that conditions were just perfect that year. We tasted a 2014. Different vineyards can have a vintage harvest but the last time at least 50% of the area (the minimum for a vintage) had one was in 2011 – that year it was 80%. Before that it was 1963, so you can see that it is quite rare.
Port ages well and it is not unusual to find vintage ports for 2500 Euros and above in the shops. The price of vintage bottles goes up about 10 Euros/year. Tawny port is the one that ages in the barrel for many years – and Ruby port ages about 6 years. We tasted both and then the vintage.
We visited the cellars with the oak barrels and lovely smell of grapes.
And here is where they do the stomping!
We then went to the restaurant for a wonderful lunch. They also have a small hotel here. Our lunch started with a small glass of white port, then we had some small appetizers before the main meal of vegetable soup, sea bass with creamy rice of citrus and saffron with vanilla pana cotta with cooked pear in moscatel. Each course was paired with a wine, of course. It was delicious!
Beautiful day with a great guide and fun people. Some of us slept on the way home and nice to have our experienced non drinking driver and guide!