Tag Archives: Wine Tasting

Portugal for Food and Wine Lovers

Portugal is a great place for food and wine lovers.  The food is simple, fresh and well-priced.  The wine’s spectacular.

One of our best days was spent visiting the Duoro wine region.  We hired a private guide from Tours By Locals, Richardo Oliveira.  He picked us up in Porto and drove us to Pinhao, the town at the junction of the Duoro and Pinhao river.  On the 2 hour drive Ricardo entertained us with a history of wine in Portugal.  Sure, Portugal is famous for Port wines but they have many great wines that we rarely get to try in North America.

200 year old vine at Foz
200 Year Old Vine Quinta da Foz

My favourite winery was Quinta da Foz, built at the end of the 18th century. Cristiano, the Director of Wine Tourism took us into the vineyards where the steeply terraced vineyards mean that the vines have to be tended by hand.  It looks like back breaking work.  In the winery there are beautiful tiles that tell the story of their production.  I was amazed to learn that foot stomping the grapes is still the norm in the Duoro.  We finished in the tasting room.  Every wine was delicious but the Grande Reserva, a field blend from 100+ year old vines was a knockout.  I have a couple of bottles in my cellar waiting for a cold winter night to bring some Portuguese sunshine into my life.

Tiles at Quinta da Foz
Wall tiles at Quinta da Foz
Foz tasting
Tasting Room Quinta da Foz

A visit to the Duoro wouldn’t be complete without spending some time on the river where you can really appreciate how steep the terraces are.  We enjoyed it immensely and our captain, Bruno served us a tasty treat of toasts with cheese and pumpkin, walnut jam from his mother’s farm.   The Portuguese are warm and welcoming and somehow keep things very local and personal.  I could definitely spend more time in this fascinating wine district.

Boat trip on Duoro
On the Duoro
Cheese and pumpkin walnut jam
Cheese with Pumkin & Walnut Jam

There are said to be over 1,000 bacalhau recipes in Portugal.  Bacalhau, or salt cod is near and dear to my Newfoundland heart.    I tried it 7 different ways in my first few days in Porto, each one a delight taking me back to childhood Friday fish dinners.

Bacalhau
Bacalau

We never had a bad meal but the fresh grilled fish and potatoes, with olive oil, bread and wine are reliably delicious and reasonable priced.

Volta & Meia
Volta & Meia

Our best meal was at Volta & Meia in Figueira da Foz http://voltaemeia.com/Ameijoas a Bulhao Pato combines clams, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, white wine and cilantro.  Without doubt, the best clams I’ve ever eaten and we loved the restaurant.  There were 7 of us for dinner and every dish was great.  They are part of the Happy Café Network supporting Action for Happiness, a movement creating and promoting happiness and wellbeing in their communities.  Great food, a great wine selection with atmosphere and service that makes you want to linger.  I give it a big 5 Yums Up.

Estrall de Serra
Flor da Serra

My final big food experience was the discovery of Serra da Estrela Cheese.  A cloth bound, sheep milk cheese, it has a soft gooey paste when young and it won our hearts.  We just couldn’t get enough of it.  We liked how it was served with a circle carved from the top to make a lid that could be used if you didn’t finish it, an unlikely occurrence.

Beaulieu Vineyards and Solbar Restaurant are top picks for Napa.

My 1st wine tour was 25 years ago in Napa.   I have a different appreciation for wine these days and tend to put a lot more planning into my wine touring.  I recommend a visit to http://www.visitnapavalley.com to help with planning and for some really great Special Offers.

We stayed at the Silverado Resort again, but next time I’m staying downtown, where there’s lots of fun in walking distance.  The  Napa Valley Welcome Center on Main Street is a good place to start.  Be sure to see if there are any good discount coupons. Oxbow Market is great for breakfast; try Ritual Coffee for seriously good coffee.  I’d love to try it for lunch or dinner too.

Mumm Napa has a great patio tasting experience. We learned that a piccolo is a small wine flute and that a water cracker is an excellent way to cover a piccolo to keep out the elements.  Also worth a visit for the Ansel Adams art collection.

Mumm Napa

 

My favourite tasting room was Beaulieu Vineyards.  The Cabernet Collectors Tasting was $50, and well worth it.  We tasted 5 Cabernet Sauvignons, 2 different clones in 2 different vintages and then a 2015 BV Private Reserve Georges de Latour that knocked our socks off.   We splurged on a bottle since we had a half price coupon for the tasting fee thanks to http://www.visitnapavalley.com.

Beaulieu Vineyards

Solbar at the beautiful Solage Auberge Resort in Calistoga was my favourite meal of the trip. Great service, a fantastic wine list and raves around our table for the food.  The Wilted Kale salad with pickled grapes, roasted romanesco and candied pistachios was so good I’ve already pickled some grapes and am working on my replica.  Don’t miss the crab cakes, no filler here so you can really taste the sweet crab.

Solbar Repro
Romanesco pickled grapes and candied nuts by Cathy