Vol 2 No 16…Tarragona, Barcelona and more…

Tarragona is anything but a sleepy Spanish town…it sprawls..so we jumped on a city tour tram which is the only way to see everything in a short period of time. But that doesn’t mean it is unimportant. Besides being a regional capital with the same name, it was a major Roman city with extensive ruins and especially an amphitheater situated with the sea in the background.

Windstar always has one special event and this was to be it. They took over the amphitheater! We had cava, red and white wine, and tapas overlooking the site. That alone was great but they did more. In Tarragona there are a number of clans (?) that compete biannually in the Castella. It is a huge event normally held in the soccer stadium. The point is to build a human tower and the clan that does the best according to the judges takes honors. With the towers reaching eight tiers it is dangerous and hard work!

We had the privilege of seeing one of the groups ‘build’ a castel. They get in a big circle and the leader makes the assignments. Then they use each others bodies as braces and up go three men to form the base of the next tier…then more join them to brace them…all barefoot and standing on other people’s (yes, there are women too!) shoulder’s. After this platform is built one gets on their shoulders and is joined by two more…and this goes on for each tier…until the last one, usually a young boy or girl to keep the weight down. I said it is dangerous and so when they sense something is going wrong they come down, regroup, and try again…it took three attempts for the group we saw to make it with an 8-year old at the top. They do not remain there for long and immediately begin to retreat. It is fascinating and colorful. After that, they invited six people from the ship to join them. It was spectacular, especially with the sea and our ship in the background.

We returned to the ship and set sail having dinner at sea. We were off to Barcelona and the end of our voyage. Having been to Barcelona twice before and wanting to visit with winery owners we engaged the services of NiSo Tours. We were met at the ship by co-owner Sophie, who then drove us to Monserrat,  situated on a hill with spectacular views and a great history  which began with building a monastery, Santa Maria de Monserrat. How they did it is beyond belief given the steep cliffs but if you are in the area and don’t go you are making a huge mistake and missing one of the most breathtaking views on the planet. We were so glad we made the side trip!

Sophie then drove us to Sitges (rhymes with beaches), and the best way I can describe it is a mini San Sebastian with two major differences: Sitges has a population of about 35,000, that is year-round but in the summer months it swells to 150,000 or more. It is a unique town with I believe eleven beaches…that run from family, to gay, to nudist. They are relatively small and all together are smaller than the two beaches at San Sebastian. Then comes the other difference: there is no there there as Gertrude Stein once quipped about Oakland, California. But it doesn’t need a ‘there’ you go to Sitges to relax. Like San Sebastian they have a film festival and a jazz festival but here is the biggest difference: you don’t have to drive through the new city to get to the old…there is no new city! They also have a gay pride week which was just before we arrived with many of the participants still there. It is a wonderful melting pot with quaint winding streets that criss-cross the town but are out of sight. To the uninitiated it appears as though it is only a few blocks deep and just runs along the ocean.

We found NiSo Tours by being introduced to Nicole Andrus a year ago when she was representing Michael Mondavi’s Folio Wines (her parents started and owned Pine Ridge Winery in Napa so she knows wine). In 2008, Nicole and Sophie decided to start an upscale touring company offering personalized tours. It is a success! Is it expensive? YES!!! …and worth it.

The next day, Sophie picked us up and we headed south…funny because when we headed up into the mountains we were just east of Tarragona! The region I wanted to see was Montsant and it was right before us…huge imposing cliffs and as you rise you find yourself in Priorat. It is one of the most difficult regions in the world to grow grapes and is only one of two DOQ’s in Spain (Denominacío d’Origen Qualificada), the other being La Rioja…now that’s quality. Montsant on the other hand while making very good wines is simply a DO. Wine has been produced here for over 700 years, being introduced to the area by the monks at Scala Dei, however as in La Rioja, eventually the phylloxera eventually wiped out the vines. So don’t look for ‘old vines’ in Priorat as most are 20-35 years of age but they seem like much older vines in less formidable locations. It is rocky, unfriendly ground for growing grapes but like in the Douro region and other areas in the world that are steep and require terracing, the grapes are stressed.

How many grapes can be produced by a single vine? As a rule of thumb for quality wines about 2.5 pounds or about a kilo. Left alone in an area with a lot of water you could get as much as 14 pounds of grapes from a wine…with quality inversely proportional. Two Buck Chuck lovers and those who hate wine snobs take note: while there is nothing wrong with it…there is nothing that stands out about the wine…and consider the cost (witness the retail price) of ‘TBC’ and what it takes to make a world-class wine. If you don’t care about that, you can stop reading here.

In both Priorat and the Douro, the best grapes are on terraces with roots reaching down as much as 20 meters…over 50 feet! Think of the vines pulling water from cracks in the slate and carrying the nutrients up to the plant…that is stressed!!! Add to this the sweltering heat in the summer months and rain that is concentrated in 2-3 months of the year…and no irrigation is allowed after the plants are two years old. In these regions they are lucky if they get one pound of grapes per vine and more likely much less. Now for the two wineries we visited:

First was Clos de l’Obac in Grattalops…note that Clos in Catalan is pronounced ‘close’, unlike Spain. We were guided by the owner Carles Pastrana, a really nice guy with a shock of hair that keeps getting in his eyes. Carles was a journalist who decided he ‘had’ to make wine…good wine. He was one of the original five wineries in the 1980’s all beginning with ‘Clos’ and they produced the wine together for the first three vintages before each had its own winery. To say Carles is passionate about wine is a gross understatement. Also, he shuns many standard winemaking principles and does it ‘his way’ which seems to work because it is incredible. When TB’s book is complete you will hear more about Clos de l’Obac…in great detail! I love this man and his wine!

After a great lunch in Falset, we drove to Porrera to see Celler Vall Llach (double ll’s are pronounced as ‘y’ and celler means winery in Catalan). It too is a very small town and as in all of Priorat, winemaking is the main industry. The wineries are clustered around the town square and river that flows through it. It was started in the 1990’s by Lluis Llach and Enric Costa. Llach died but Costa and his son Albert still run the winery. Again, quality is key. The day after we were there the bottling was to begin. Boxes had been delivered with the wine names on them as well as labels for their three wines: Idus de Vall Llach, Embruix de Vall Llach and Aigua de Llum de Vall Llach. Albert tasted the wine from the barrels of Aigua and said while they were very good they weren’t the quality for their premium wine which has been produced just three times in the past five years. Now that had to be an expensive decision but it illustrates the focus on quality in Priorat.

The next day we had at our leisure and enjoyed the beaches and strolling in Sitges, our second meal at the Santa Maria, the first time with Filaboa albariño, the second with a Condrieu Cava – Anna (named for the last member of the family that brought Champagne techniques to Spain and available in the U.S. for about $12…don’t confuse cava…good cava…with Asti Spumante or any other sparkling wine. This is made with viognier and exactly the way champagne is…reasonably priced too!

…the perfect ending to the perfect trip.

 

 

 

 

 

Vol 2 No 15…Almeira, Cartagena, Ibiza (Days 4-6)

I apologize for the long lag between #14 and today’s #15…a lot going on. Should run smoothly from now till the end of the trip! TB

As usual, we did most of our cruising at night…kind of like being rocked to sleep…except for one night when it was a little ‘rockier’. We left Malaga well before sunset and no wine tasting due to our shipboard barbecue which was truly memorable. Windstar always has one of these sometime during a cruise. A barbecue…so what? The chefs and Steve had been busy at the market picking up fresh local food items. How about a 200 pound tuna? A whole roast suckling pig? Not to mention lagostinos, lobster, shrimp, local cheeses, paella, and much more. The crew also served us cocktails especially the ones like the Negroni, and Cobbler (the original cocktail…filled with fresh fruit ‘cobbled’ with crushed ice and with Dry Sack Sherry…all this while relaxing on deck watching the coastline of southern Spain. This was followed by the talent show (Line Dancing) put on by the crew. A fun evening!

The next day we arrived early in Almeira, originally a Moorish town often referred to as ‘an extension of Morocco. The streets are narrow and as you wind up the hills to the Alcazaba, an ancient fortress with incredible views of the city and countryside. As you near the fortress, you have to walk up rather steep, winding paths (thankfully paved!). The hike is well worth it.The gardens are beautiful and water flows down ‘gutters’ between the steps adding to the peaceful surroundings.  There are some shops in town but I preferred taking in the ambiance by  walking through the streets. That afternoon, Steve (aka Wine Geek) hosted another wine tasting. To recap, after the tasting the three wines were always poured at dinner so you could have any one or all of them and as much as you liked!

If you recall, the first Albariño was a Burgan’s which makes a good benchmark for the varietal. This time we had Pazo Señorans, an intense, citrusy, ‘knock your socks off’ version, which along with Filaboa (which we visited when we were in Rias Baixas), mark my two favorites, with the latter showing more minerality but nicely balanced with the trademark citrus flavors (note that all wines served on the cruise are available in the U.S., which was a prerequisite of Steve’s…what’s the point of tasting it if you can’t buy it when you get back home?

The next was Castaño Solanera, Las Ruesas, mainly monastrel with 15% each cabernet sauvignon and Grenache. A beautiful red combining sweetness and medium tannins and a hint of blackberries…wow!

Last was Celler de Capcanes Mas Donis Barrica. This wine gushed with fresh fruit…more blackberries and is from Montsant…a region that only came into the sights of Americans over the last five years or so and is most famous for its Priorat region which is surrounded by Montsant. While Montsant is the larger and less known of the two, it is producing more and more quality wines. Capanes is a five family co-op. Try this one with lamb or spicy dishes like pork, and with cheese.

Needless to say, the dinner was incredible with these wines!

Cartagena was next on our itinerary and it did not disappoint either. Another Moorish town that is now a resort…a huge contrast with Almeira…the main streets are all polished stone (and very slippery in the rain), with many small places to settle into for a drink…but since it was raining not too many outdoors…but the rain let up and it was pleasant walking in the town, which is the major naval seaport of Spain.

Our tasting that afternoon began with Lustau Puerto Fino,  a sherry from Jerez made from 100% palomino grapes. Don’t like sherry? Try a Fino with seafood…and of course olives or creamy mild cheeses and you will change your mind…at least I did! Sherry is back on my list.

Next came Rafael Palacios As Sortas, a beautiful white wine made from Godella grapes…look for it…citrus, fruit, and spice…it has it all. Palacios is a very well known producer, is organic, and harvests by hand.

This was followed by Abadia Retuerta Seleccion Especial, 75% tempranillo, 15% cabernet sauvignon, and 10% syrah…wow…again…wow! Want something to serve with game or red meat…give this one a try!

Due to the tasting dinner we were treated to another wine Mas Doix Costers de Vinyes Veilles, one of the top Priorats and expensive. Great fruti on the nose, soft tannins and perfect for hearty stews, sausages, etc.

The chefs and Steve had been busy shopping again with Steve managing the pairings for dinner…and what a dinner it was:

Apple Rosemary Lobster or Smoked Bison Salad or Beets & Berry Salad…while it says ‘or’ you could try them all. That was served with the Godello (note on the second night out there was a fire alarm…the captain came on and said remain in your cabins…I noted that this was what the captain of the Crystal Concordia said…but it was soon announced that it was merely a technical problem. I had asked Windstar Corporate Chef Michael Sabourin, where they found Bison…in Spain??? He brought it with him from the U.S. and was smoking it when it set off the alarm…so being awakened at 3am was worth it after all).

Main course choices were Spicy Grilled Corvina and Filet Mignon with Foie Gras (guess which we chose…although we order a Corvina for the table as Chef Michel Nischan had shown us how it was prepared in a cooking demonstration…yummy!).There was also a Lemon Pasta for vegetarians. Dessert was Toffee Apple Cheesecake…another hit!

The next day we visited Ibiza, one of the Balearic Islands…we were told we would be getting under way before dark as lots of strange things happen at night there. It is a strange mix of locals and jet-setters who go to some strange (dare I say ‘swinger’?) clubs and dress up like animals in a Carnival type atmosphere. So we took the tame route and visited a local winery, Sa Cova, where the owner and his son showed us around. The wine was not of the caliber we had come to expect on the trip but still very good – good enough that I brought back a bottle. It is hard for me to imagine how they make a good living but apparently do, judging from the modern winery and nice buildings. I liked both their red and white wine and it is just about all consumed on the island.

The tasting that evening was Scala Dei, Les Brugieres, garnatxa Blanca (remember ‘tx’ is pronounced ‘ch’ in Cataluyn. Another beautiful Priorat, this time white, and again great with rich seafood…think bouillabaisse!  This was followed by Vall Llach, Embriux, and another great Prioratwhich is a spicy, rich wine with soft tannins….great with tapas, stews, etc. The final entrant was Torres Milmanda, a single vineyard chardonnay (reminded me of Marimar Torres Don Miguel Chardonnay from Sonoma!). It is easy, but wrong to dismiss Torres as a bulk producer as they make a wide range of wines, and pardon the comparison, like Gallo, have quality in every range.

Next: end of the line…Tarragona and Barcelona…arriva! arriva!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vol 2 No 14…to North Africa and back (Days 1-3)

What is a culinary and wine cruise? It can mean a number of things. On Windstar Cruises, it means a small ship, 300 passengers with 195 crew (three of whom we knew from our cruise two years ago down the Dalmatian Coast from Venice to Athens – and they remembered us too!). We were on the Wind Surf, the largest sailing vessel in the world but miniscule in relation to the two behemoths we were berthed between when we boarded in Lisbon. Pardon my saying so but going on a ship with 5,000 passengers is my idea of hell. Just getting on and off is a nightmare to me.

The cruise was co-sponsored by the James Beard Foundation and Windstar, their first cruise of this type (they have two more scheduled this year from Lisbon to Dublin and a return voyage). If they are anything like this one, they cannot be beat!

It was billed as having a world class chef and wine expert aboard. That can mean a lot of things including…wine snob. We also were to have three regional wines with each meal – I assumed a two-ounce pour of three wines and you could buy a bottle if you liked one. I assumed wrong! It was all you wanted of anyone, and it started the first night out, not just when we reached Spain two days later. It began with a wine tasting of the three wines we would have later with dinner: Burgan’s Albariño 2014 (an old standby of mine and usually around $14). It is the big cousin of Martin Códax, which is now owned by Gallo; the second was a Rioja Crianza, La Montesa, young and with a slight taste of brambles; last was Finca Villacreces Ribero del Duero. As good as the wines were, these were the lightweights of the trip. The next day was spent at sea as we cruised to Tangiers, Morocco, it’s fifth largest city. The days activities began with a talk on the James Beard Foundation by Kris Moon, director of charitable giving and strategic partnerships of which Windstar is just one. I was so impressed by the foundation that when Kris suggested I join as a professional member I did, especially since they are doing a dinner in Minneapolis in September. This was followed by a culinary class by Michel Nischan, a well-known chef, who showed us amazing ways to cook fish that even fish-haters loved. Also aboard was Michael Sabourin, Windstar’s corporate chef.

Next came the wine seminar and any fears I had of a ‘wine snob’ were immediately alleviated. Our guide was Steve Olson, an amazing man who teaches a course in wine at Cornell University, partners in two restaurants in New York, is a partner in a Mezcal company, Del Maguay, and no it doesn’t have a worm in the bottle! Neither is it harsh and I prefer it to many tequila’s. Steve is not a somme, but he is a sommelier, teaches a class that is for professional bartenders only to be certified which is becoming important in New York…no moves like in Cocktail, just how to mix a perfect drink…isn’t that what WE want? Steve’s experience, after opening two restaurants in the U.S. was in Paris, where I believe he was the first American ever to be hired by Taillevent and allowed to work the floor! Check out his website at akawinegeek.com

We docked early the next morning. with a beautiful view of Tangiers. I had always thought the Casablanca was the one to visit but it is Morocco’s largest city and much of the movie Casablanca was filmed here instead. We took a tour of the old city and the Casbah, which was a huge fortress complete with cannon. The city is multi-denominational with Muslims, Jews, and Christians who all get along. A compromise was reached where the only alcohol is in the old city which appears to work well. Both Barbara Hutton (Poor Little Rich Girl, and the Woolworth heiress who was married nine times each to royalty of different nations), and Malcolm Forbes owned a home here where he celebrated his 90th birthday with a lavish party…died the next year. Make note of that, seniors!

Our guide was Mustafa, in full Muslim dress. He explained many of the traditions and took us through the marketplace. The only flaw was when he steered us to shops where he obviously got a commission. Still it was a great tour and interesting.

In the afternoon, Steve held another wine tasting, this time with Tio Pepé Fino sherry, which I must confess I have not been fond of but found it goes very well with seafood; Trillon, white wine from verdejo grapes in Rueda, close to Ribero del Duero; and a Toro, a red wine (tinto) from along the Douro west of Ribero, called Numanthé. We got underway early so we could pass Gibraltar at sunset which we nearly accomplished. It is a heavily traveled shipping lane so we passed ahead of schedule but at least before it got dark and docked in Malaga following a great dinner and our usual three wine dinner. Spending the night at sea, we docked early the next morning…once again behind two behemoths that beat us to port. Some years ago we had driven from Seville down to Cadíz and along the coast to Malaga where we ate on the beach but never got to see the city because we wanted to see the Andalusian hill towns, all in white before we got to Rondo, home of bullfighting. We were on our way to Grenada to stay at the Alhambra which is incredible if you ever get the chance (Parador de San Francisco). This proved helpful as we didn’t have to take the bus tour there which is over two hours each way. Instead, we roamed Malaga on a tip that the best restaurant there was El Pimpi (I kid you not!). It is a sprawling restaurant with cozy rooms but we chose to eat on the terrace overlooking the Roman amphitheater…spectacular.

The wine tasting after we got underway featured a Rafael Palacios Louro Godello and is like an albariño on steroids, the vines are stressed due to steep granite hillsides , over 100 years old and an elevation of 3,000 feet (note the altitude relative to most other vineyards which are normally below 2,00o feet but this is Spain which is to Europe as Gibraltar is to Spain…a big ROCK!; a Casa Castilio El Molar made from Garnacha; and last a Hacienda Monesterio Crianza, made by mega-producer Protos in Ribero, from 100% tempranillo. Note that all of the wines we tasted are available in the U.S. something Steve made sure of and which was appreciated since what’s the point of finding a wine you like but can’t buy?

Next: Almeira, Cartagena, and the island of Ibiza

TB

©TBOW 2016; all rights reserved

Vol 2 No 13…have some Madeira, my dear

We woke up at 3am and arrived at the Lisbon airport at 5am. Why? Because EasyJet (oxymoron) is anything but easy, requiring you to check in one hour before flight time…that is when they close the window! I was surprised at the number of people headed for Madeira which is 600 miles away and about a hundred off the coast of Africa. It was foggy all the way until we approached the island (there are two others, one small and the other long and a national park). We were met by our driver, Daniel Freitas, who has a large van and runs a taxi service who came highly recommended. We were with him from 8:30am until 6:30pm and we could never have seen all that we did by renting a car or on a tour bus. As we climbed up into the mountains we were in low fog but soon we were above it and it was beautiful. It is one of the most picturesque Mediterranean-climate islands in the world. It has hundreds of miles of hiking paths, many of which require great stamina, but the views are worth it. We drove to the lookout at the top of the second-highest peak on the island…if you hike 9km you can reach the highest which is only 50 meters higher.

There are 360 degrees of fantastic views. Daniel pointed out some small houses in a valley surrounded by towering peaks that are almost vertical. That is the Valley of the Nuns, he said, but said we are going to the other end of it. We then drove down roads with switchbacks and steep cliffs and when  we arrived the lookout of the south end of that valley was unbelievable…probably 1,000 feet below us. To get to the town from the other end is a two hour walk. These are rugged people who happen to live in a paradise.

There are surprisingly good highways around the perimeter of the island and beautiful bays. He took us to a restaurant that cooked meat on hot fires and made them into something like kebobs. The tables had a square hole in the center and they brought the skewers to the table and hung them on hooks on a rod that fit into the hole. A plate was placed below them to catch the drippings. You just took your fork and pushed down on a square of incredible beef and put it on your plate. Everything there was fantastic including a view of the ocean over the town.

From there we visited Henriques y Henriques, a Madeira company established in 1850 with a solid reputation and excellent Madeira’s. Madeira is placed in hot rooms which, unlike Port, pasteurizes it, making the wine last indefinitely both in the bottle and unopened. You can find Madeira’s back to the 1800’s…and priced accordingly but despite the song that lent the title to this piece, are not for old ladies’s. The one’s to use for cooking are at least Sercial, and for drinking Bual or Fine Malmsey. You can find young ones for around $20 a bottle and worth it!

We then visited The Madeira Wine Company where Blandy’s and many other labels are made. It is a very commercial yet old feeling setting, highlighted by the Madeira’s.

Saving the best for last, Daniel drove us past the tram to the top of the mountain (just normal sky ride gondola’s), for something I had wanted to do since I was a kid and saw Around the World in 80 Days! The toboggan ride which has been billed by some magazines as ‘the best five-minute commute in the world’! …and it is. You sit in a basket with a seat that is made for two and is on wooden skids…then two men wearing white shirts and pants, and black sashes with straw hats give you a healthy push down the hill and then jump on the back of the skids and using one foot each, steer the toboggan down the hill. It isn’t scary but it is certainly fun. 25 euros for one person, 30 for two and well worth it. I used my camera phone to film it and it is fun to view.

We arrived back at the airport again having to check-in an hour before the flight. The amazing thing is the original runway had a ramp built in to extend the surface and was billed as the second most dangerous airport in the world. A plane crash by an airline pilot who didn’t use common sense caused them to extend the runway on the land side to accommodate the newer and larger jets…but there still isn’t a lot of runway left at the end.

A final comment on EasyJet, which is the low cost provider, but makes up for it in others ways: the seats are crammed in so close that they made them unable to recline. More importantly, they don’t even give you water on the plane unless you pay 3 euros for it.  Most airlines want you to drink all you want to keep hydrated. but not this one. Also, the drink prices are so high that from the time they start the drink service it only takes about five minutes to cover the entire plane! Nobody buys anything. Then they spend the rest of the trip trying to sell you over-priced duty-free items…we saw few takers on that. I didn’t have to use the restroom but quipped that there was probably a 1 euro coin slot on the door!

We arrived back at our hotel in Lisbon at 12:30am, exhausted but wouldn’t have omitted the excursion for anything in the world. FYI, Daniel charged us 160 euros which we felt was a great deal…and got a nice tip too!

TB

©TBOW 2016; all rights reserved

 

Vol 2 No 12…the Douro Valley and Lisbon

We left Rias Baíxas in the morning taking a short drive into Portugal and got off the highway at Guimarães and taking a winding road over the mountain (needlessly since the GPS was showing us the shortest route when we could have driven directly to Pinhão on a better road and backtracked a couple of miles, as the owner of the inn we stayed at told us, adding “never use a GPS here”), with switchbacks all the way but breathtaking views straight down the wall to the terraces of vines for Port.

We stayed two nights at Casa do Visconde de Chanceleiros, once the home of a Viscount and built in the early 1700’s with incredible views, and some casitas which we stayed in. Great hospitality, and incredible views and food. In Pinhão, we toured La Quinta do Bomfim, home of Dow’s, Warres, and Graham’s Port. It is still owned by the Symington family which was in textiles until a son took a liking to Port Wine. The Brits get credit for Port though, by adding brandy to it which upped the alcohol and stopped the fermentation, preserving the sweetness, which must be done 36 hours after fermentation starts. Originally, all the port was shipped on Barca’s down the Douro River which was very treacherous especially when loaded with barrels of wine. The destination was the Port lodges in Oporto. As in Bordeaux, originally the Brits shipped the barrels (or pipes) to England and bottled the wine there. Wealthy families would buy a pipe (about 60 cases) of Vintage Port of the year a child was born or, since not every year is vintage, the nearest vintage, assuring they would have the port for the rest of their life.

Eventually, the Symington family bought out all the companies now owned as well as some more. The Douro Valley is one of the worst places to grow grapes in the world (although as you will soon see, Spain is a contender in several regions), with schist layers that cause the roots to go down as much as 20 meters to take water from the rock. All the rain comes in a few months followed by blistering hot summers. Thus the grapes are stressed adding to their complexity. Originally, the grapes were collected and stomped by foot which was followed by a huge celebration. Today, the only one that still does it that way is Quinta do Vesuvio, also owned by the Symington’s. The crushing was done in stone or cement troughs  called lagares, about two feet high and about 12 feet square. It is now done by machine – the wineries have adapted their own and patented them in a manner that matches the way the feet would stomp them…they even have an arched foot at the bottom to get it as close to the real thing as possible. This is no joke as a human foot is gentle enough to squeeze out the juice without breaking the seeds which would add bitter flavors to the wine.

There are several degrees of Port from Ruby, the youngest and as the name implies reddest, Tawny, which is aged 10, 20, years or more, Late Bottled Vintage which remains in cask until bottled years later, and Vintage Port which surprisingly only spend two years in barrel with the real aging to be done in the bottle. Thus they throw of a sediment and must be drunk within a couple of days whereas other ports can stay open for several weeks without oxidizing.

My favorites are 10 year or older Tawny Ports or Late Bottled Vintage Ports (my wife bought be a bottle of Niepoiort from my birth year, 1944 for my 50th birthday.

The cellar room is incredibly large with large casks for Ruby’s and smaller ones for Tawny’s and Vintage Ports. Architects still visit the Quinta to learn how the 9 ton roof is supported with a series of trusses. At the tasting I chose a selection of Tawny’s: Dow’s 30 year-old; Graham’s 40 year-old, and a Graham’s 1972 Single Harvest. The costs of these bottlings is in order: 30 euros, 120 euros, and 250 euros. At 30 euros for the tasting it was an incredible value.

Later that afternoon we visited Sandeman’s which is much more commercialized. Until a few years ago the only tours were at the Port Lodges in Vila Nova da Gaia, across the river from Oporto. Now you are encouraged to travel to Pinhão. While I highly recommend this I also suggest taking the three-hour train ride. The station is just a couple of blocks from Quinta do Bonfim (Estate or Country Villa of the Good Ending).

A short walk from our lodging was Quinta do Infantado, a winery that has been in Joâm Roseira’s family since 1816 making this the 200th year. I talked with him for over an hour. They were a factor in getting the law changed so that the growers could produce their own Port which they accomplished in 1986. Port growers are paid more for their grapes due to the low yield than any place in the world, over 1,000 euros a ton, however there are several thousand vineyards many of them as small as a backyard and to wait an entire year for that is not enough to sustain a family. He is now one of the best Port producers from his 60 hectares (150 acres), which is sprawled over the hillside. He is very proud of his vineyard and done what he can to further the cause of Portuguese winemakers. As much as I liked his Port, the one I bought was a red table wine because it was unique. He is an amazing man.

After two wonderful days there, we drove along the Douro to the highway to Lisbon. It is a beautiful area and we hated to leave it.

Arriving in Lisbon in the late afternoon, we found our hotel which was just two blocks from the Institute of Port Wine which is a great place to enjoy Port (both red and white), in a club atmosphere. If you do this however, go across the street for an incredible view of the old town and the Tagus River. They sell Sangria there…one of the best I have ever had and musicians abound playing everything from Bossa Nova to Fado. A wonderful place to spend an afternoon. There are seven hills in Lisbon (like San Francisco and Rome), and I think I climbed all of them.

Since we had been to Lisbon before we had a nice dinner after turning in our rental car, and turned in early after having some Port. We had to be up at 3am to go to the airport for our flight to Madeira the next morning.

Trader Bill

©Copyright 2016 TBOW, all rights reserved.

Vol 2 No 11…back from Portugal, Spain, and Madeira

I fully intended to write while I was gone but due to the fast pace I was just too busy and/or tired at the end of the day to write. So I will go about finishing reporting on the trip over the next several days. Here are the topics:

Vol2 No 12…the Douro Valley and Lisbon

Vol 2 No 13…have some Madeira my dear…

Vol 2 No 14…Lisbon and embarking on the Wind Surf for Tangiers and the Med

Vol 2 No 15…Sketches of Spain…the Costa del Sol

Vol 2 No 16…Ibiza…don’t go there after dark!!!

Vol 2 No 17…Monserrat and Sitges…rhymes with beaches and there are many!

Vol 2 No 18…Montsant and Priorat…red, red wine

That should keep TB busy for the rest of the month bringing back fond memories!

Adios!

TB

©Copyright 2016 TBOW, all rights reserved.