Portugal's Douro valley is one of the oldest demarcated wine regions in the world. It's also one of the most beautiful. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Douro is lined with terraced vineyards bordered by schist walls on vertiginous slopes. This tour explores a mix of large Porto houses and small, boutique estates.
It begins with the historic Port lodges in Vila Nova de Gaia built by the British in the 17th century. The tour then moves upstream to the Cima Corgo deep in the Douro Valley, where Port's grapes are grown--and a new generation of winemakers is revolutionizing Portugal's dry table wines. With the newly released 2007 declared a vintage year of stellar quality, this is a great time to go!
- Wine estates: Grahams, Taylor Fladgate, Ramos Pintos, Niepoort's Quinta da Napoles, Symington's Quinta do Vesuvio, Quinta do Tedo, Body and Soul (Pintas), and more
- River cruise and walking tour in Oporto
- Train ride up the Douro River
- Dine at 3 wineries: Taylor Fladgate, Niepoort, and Quinta do Passadouro.
Day 1: Welcome to Oporto.
We begin with a walking tour of Oporto, a lovely port town with baroque churches and Portuguese tiled facades. We'll hear why taxes and a war with France drove the British into the welcoming arms of Portugal, where they seized upon Port as a viable replacement for embargoed Bordeaux. A river cruise follows, passing under 6 bridges. We then cross the river to Vila Nova de Gaia, where Port is aged in riverside lodges. Here we'll lunch at Taylor Fladgate. This family-owned Port firm (f. 1692) was one of the earliest British shippers to acquire vineyards. More history follows at Calem, where we'll have a tour, then we proceed to Kopke for a private tasting. Dinner at an elegant riverview restaurant introduces Portuguese cuisine, which includes such dishes as kale soup (caldo verde), 365 versions of codfish (bacalhau), sucking pig (leitao assado), and chourico sausage. Includes: (D).
Day 2: The Historic Port Lodges.
There's free time in the morning for sightseeing and lunch on your own. The afternoon holds two tastings: At Graham's (f.1820), part of the Symington family, we'll delve in the styles of Port and see how ruby, tawny, vintage, and late-bottled vintage are made. Our second stop is Ramos Pintos (f. 1880). Jose Ramos Pintos Rosa became known as "the Pope of the Duoro" because of his dedication to improvements in viticulture and mechanization. Rosa's research, together with current winemaker Joao Nicolau de Aldeida, helped determine the top five grape varieties in the Douro. We'll see some of this history in Ramos Pintos' wine museum, along with our tasting. Dinner on your own in Oporto. Includes: (B).
Day 3: The Douro Boys.
In the morning, we drive up the Douro valley to where the vineyards lie. We arrive in time for a tasty homemade lunch at Quinta de Napoles, the oldest quinta owned by Niepoort (f. 1842). Dirk Niepoort, one of the so-called Douro Boys, recently transformed this small, dilapidated winery into a state-of-the-art wonder--a sign of the investment and transformation underway in the Douro. We'll taste their wonderful Portos and dry wines, many sourced from old vines owned by 100 different growers. Next is their neighbor Quinta do Tedo. This estate has grown grapes since 1756, but bottled Porto under its own name only since being purchased in 1992 by Vincent and Kay Bouchard from Burgundy. Enologist Jorge Alves will personally host our visit and talk about the French connections. Tonight we settle into our second hotel, a 4-star Relaise and Chateau in the Pinhao and dine at LBV 79, a new river view restaurant. Includes: (B, L, D).
Day 4: Vesuvio and Vale Dona Maria.
All aboard! This morning, a scenic river-side train takes us further upstream to one of the most magnificent, remote estates in the Douro valley, Quinta do Vesuvio (f. 1565). Now owned by Symington, the quinta's history is tied to the influential widow Dona Antonia Ferreira. Here we'll see some of the lagares, or large stone troughs where workers foot-stomp the grapes. We'll ferry across the river to lunch, then return to Pinhao for an afternoon tasting at Quinta do Vale Dona Maria, run by another of the Douro Boys, Cristiano van Zeller. Dinner is at Quinta do Passadouro, a homey winery and B&B in the beautiful Vale de Mendiz. Includes: (B, D).
Day 5: The Soul of Port.
Our day starts with a trip to Regua, a slighter larger river town with an interesting wine museum. After time to roam, we visit the nearby winery Quinta do Vallado. Here, two-thirds of its vineyards are old vine, helping it earn top scores. Its lineup of dry wines includes rare single-varietal bottlings of Touriga Nacional and Sousao. After lunch in Regua, we head back to Pinhao for a tasting at Wine and Soul, an aptly named winery founded by a couple, both enologists. Pintas is their much-sought-after wine (named after their dog, a pointer), which comes from 70-year-old vines. Our farewell dinner is at DOC, the area's top restaurant. We'll toast old traditions, new friends, and the future of the Douro. Includes: (B, D).
Day 6: Boa Viagem!
A shuttle to the Oporto train station or airport and assistance with your travel plans. Includes: (B).
Note: Dates: September 16-21
Cost: $3,095 (6 days/5 nights); single room supplement $350.
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Europe Portugal Local Culture Food & Wine Cultural Journey
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