When I arrived at Newark International Airport after a transcontinental flight from Seattle, a handful of people I had never met reached out and introduced themselves to me. It is fun to meet people in person, which you’ve only known in the “virtual world” -- in this case, members of the FTLOP Forum.
We all hung out together until our flight to Portugal. This made the four hours between my flights a lot less painful and I couldn’t wait to arrive in the land of Port. The feeling I get when landing in Oporto is nostalgic, as it feels very much like “home-away-from-home” for me.
We took the short ride from the airport to our hotel and my travel weary mind and body got a second wind. The excitement exuding from the others was palpable and we agreed to go out on the town instead of relaxing in the hotel. There was a light rain as we departed the hotel on that Sunday afternoon, the day before our official start to the Harvest Tour. The American guests who had arrived early, (the gents from the UK would arrive a couple of days later) did not want to hang out and rest ... they clearly wanted to whet their taste buds. So we decided to hike about one mile from our hotel in Oporto to Vila Nova de Gaia.
As soon as we reached the historic bridge (Ponte Dom Luis) it really started to pour down rain. There was no turning back at this point yet we still had a long enough way to go that we realized we’d be soaked to the bone by the time we arrived. We did not have any appointment and it was a good opportunity for everyone to see what it was like for a typical tourist making an unannounced visit to a Port Lodge in Gaia. We happened upon the Vasconcellos Lodge wet & thirsty and the consensus was to go in and drink some Port. Shocking!
Vasconcellos 10 year old Lagrima Branco White Port – Intriguing nose of orange Pekoe tea, Asian spices and peach. This is an off-dry version of Lagrima which can range all the way to extreme sweetness in the white Port range. Medium-bodied with good acidity but possessing a fairly hollow mid-palate and a hot, spirity finish. 83 points (10-1-06)
Vasconcellos Special Reserve Tawny Reserve Port (NV) – A rare blend of 70% 20 year old Tawny and 30% from 1994. Caramel color with a light golden edge. A very reticent nose that shows a light scent of maple syrup. Light bodied with a dose of alcohol which is obvious on the palate, this lacks much interest and is pretty monolithic. I was disappointed given the unique cuvee components. 82 points (10-1-06)
Vasconcellos Red Medium Dry Tawny Port (NV) – Essentially this is a 15 year old Tawny, even though there is no such category in the “ Tawny Port with an indication of age” range. Light orange color with a yellow rim. A light weight that shows a bit thin on the palate and offers little in the way of intrigue or expression. 78 points (10-1-06)
Although we enjoyed a quick tour of the Lodge, after a less than inspired tasting I figured it would be well worth trying another lodge. Nobody needed coaxing so we walked to a small, well-appointed facility owned by Kopke.
With the recent sale by the Barros family to Sogevinus, the wine arm of Spanish bank Caixanova, Kopke will receive a major influx of cash to build a new Lodge in the next year or so. Kopke originally owned by a German family, is well known as “the first Port shipper.” They were established nearly 380 years ago in 1638 and originally built their reputation on wood-aged Ports, with a specialty in the Colheita realm.
However, since 1994 they’ve added a new dimension by significantly improving the quality of their Vintage Ports. In 2000, 2003 and 2004, Kopke has made three consecutive well-respected VPs and they’ve finally become a “force” in the USA market amongst Port lovers. A Seattle-based import company Wineworth, has done a fantastic job of gaining market share on the West Coast and in 2006 made major inroads on the East coast as well. Between Sogevinus and Wineworth, I have little doubt that in the upcoming decade, Americans will get to know the Kopke brand even better as they continue to develop a more balanced portfolio of both wood and bottle-aged Ports.
Kudos to the pair of employees who supplied a handful of walk-in guests with a very warm and sincere welcome. Not only were they very friendly, but the staff was extremely knowledgeable and clearly well trained. There was a diverse offering of Ports available by the glass and I ordered just two to compare their style. Others in our group tasted a couple of others as well.
Kopke 10 year old Tawny Port – Orangeish-tan color. Fine nose of toasted almonds with butterscotch and honey. Smooth, unctuous and very tasty with more density and weight than the 20 year old. A bit simpler and less developed, which is to be expected of a 10 year old. I liked this Kopke for the textural pleasure and pure nutty flavor that led to a persistent aftertaste. 91 points (10-1-06)
Kopke 20 year old Tawny Port – Orange with a light ruby center and a golden meniscus. Inexplicably, this offers a lighter body weight in comparison to the Kopke 10 year old. It’s smooth but isn’t as sumptuous or concentrated. There’s also a touch of alcohol that did not show up in the10, which is not what I normally find with the Kopke 20 year old. Yet the 20 is no slouch, as the citrus peel, caramel and praline provide a profound aromatic profile, while the butterscotch and praline nuances deliver a delicious, complex finish with staying power. 92 points (10-1-06)
We were starting to get pretty hungry and took the walk back across the Douro River to Oporto. It was now early in the evening on Sunday and we were not finding any good restaurants open, and after our futile hunt continued for awhile longer, we realized our options were extremely limited. We found a small rustic and non-descript neighborhood restaurant which would provide a very authentic dining experience for this group of hungry Americans. I was actually smiling inside as I have enjoyed many of these sort of meals in the past, but they are literally the polar opposite of the kind of dinners featured during our tours. This would be an eye opener to say the least.
The first observation I overheard was the complaint that everybody was smoking cigarettes. ‘Welcome to Europe’ I thought to myself. The waiter was clearly not used to having to wait on tourists and my less than adequate Portuguese was barely enough to bridge the gap between the menu and our stomachs. One thing I have almost never eaten in Portugal is FRANGO, better known as chicken. But FRANGO became one of our standing jokes for the duration of the trip. The good news is that we did not go starving the entire night and had a remarkable post-prandial Port tasting and visited our friends at Vinologia.
VinoLogia is not the type of Port bar that should be missed. Opening one just like it in Seattle would be a dream come true. It is a really cool place and if they did not allow cigarette smoking in the somewhat small space that makes up the tasting area, it would be even more enjoyable for serious Port quaffing. It was great for the gang to meet Gustavo Devesas and Jean-Phillipe Duhard in person and they took excellent care of us, even though they were pretty busy assisting other customers throughout the five hours that amazingly seemed to pass-by like one hour.
We started off with a couple of white Ports to whet our palate and introduce our guests to some different styles from this genre:
Morgadia da Calçado White Port – Actually a dry white Port by Niepoort. Amber color and very dry with a touch of apricot, licorice and prune juice. Yes this was certainly a unique profile that came in a light-bodied style, with a touch of heat on the medium length finish. 84 points (10-1-06)
Casal dos Jordoes White Port – The nose was the most enjoyable facet of this wine. Off-dry, interesting but light and fairly simple. 89 points (10-1-06)
Now we were heading into the more serious Ports and had a couple that I’ve never tasted before which is always a treat. The group was also thrilled to experience Ports which they’ve never seen nor even heard of.
Quinta do Casa Amarela 10 year old Tawny Port – I guess you could call this a small production Port as just 125 cases are produced each year by well known Port maker Susana Esteban known best for her work at Quinta do Crasto. This wine was very light in color with a salmon-pink hue showing a tawny edge. There was some VA that was quite obvious here but also a nice smooth praline quality that was quite tasty. The mid-palate was simple and the finish had a bit too much heat but otherwise this was a solid ten year old offering. 85 points (10-1-06)
2002 Rol Roi Reserve Meio Seco Ruby Reserve Port – Bottled in 2005, this is also a small production wine with about 3,500 bottles made by the owner’s son at Quinta do Infantado. It is reputed to be the smallest independent producer in the Douro. The vines average 50 years old and the castas (grapes) stem from “A rated” vineyards. Medium ruby in color, this is a light-bodied, easy to approach, grape-centric fruit-forward and rustic style with moderately round tannins and a solid finish. Not profound, but interesting and I liked the 2001 version better when I had it last year. 85 points (10-1-06)
1982 Porto Valriz LBV Port – Bottled in 1988, this light ruby-pink colored wine with a tawny edge showed a spicy nose with a touch of caramel and toffee and some acetone as well. It is medium-bodied and basically a simple LBV with the appearance of a 20 year old Tawny. The palate was refreshing with a gentle blueberry profile and a slightly hot and medium length finish. It would have been better served with some significant time in decanter. I believe this bottle had just been opened so it is more difficult to assess it properly. The Valriz would have scored a bit higher if not for the VA. 87 points (10-1-06)
2000 Quinta da Prelada LBV Port – This was the first Port ever produced by this SQ which has roots back to 1757. This LBV was bottled in 2004 and the dark purplish ruby color was no surprise. Lovely blackberry and raisins on the nose. Offering medium weight and a rich mouthfeel, the texture was matched by a well-balanced mélange of dark berry flavors and plenty of tannins which kick in late on the chocolaty aftertaste. I liked it significantly better than my last experience. Impressive! 91+ points (10-1-06)
2004 Casal dos Jordoes Vintage Port – Dark ruby color with plum, chocolate and prune aromatics. This is a pleasant off-dry youngster that is simple and approachable. Very straight forward grenadine syrup extract, with ripe tannins. A bit thin on the palate, hopefully it will flesh out in the future. 84-86+ points (10/1/06)
Quinta do Vallado 20 year old Tawny Port – Notes of herbs, citrus peel and walnuts made for a complex nose but it was compared blind to the Ferreira 20 year old as it was Gustavo’s attempt to see if I could pick out my favorite versus his. I did pick out the Ferreira and although I allowed all others to choose their favorites before stating which was clearly the Duque, all but one in our group chose the Ferreira as their preference. Sorry Gustavo! That said this did deliver plenty of palate pleasure both texturally smooth and seamless praline aftertaste, with length. 92 points (10-1-06)
Ferreira Duque de Braganca 20 year old Tawny Port – The King of Tawny in my opinion. Smoky, roasted chestnuts, almond liqueur and a touch of heat showing on the nose and palate. Viscous if not downright unctuous with an ever-lasting, smooth and delicious finish which makes this wine so very special. I could sip this all night long. 94+ points (10-1-06)
1952 Dalva White Colheita Port – Bottled in 2006. Every time I visit Oporto, this is a must buy for me, as one can NEVER own enough bottles of this intense and succulent nectar. Light amber in color, the aromatics are as stunning as the palate itself and deliver scents of walnuts, brandy, citrus peel and in inexplicable lactic note which I have not perceived in this Port before. The flavor profile is a complex treat of warm honey, almonds and candied pralines with a smooth and decadent mouthfeel, yet with only a medium-weight to this intriguing elixir. The pinpoint focus is supported by extraordinary acidity and an intricately layered finish which left a half dozen mouths speechless and smiling. I never tire of this Colheita and the last sip is like saying goodbye to an old friend. 95+ points (10-1-06)
Quinta da Romaneira 40 year old Tawny Port – Normally I love this wine but feel it may have suffered coming on the heels of the Dalva ’52 which is hard to beat for ANY wood aged Port. The Romaneira is always a very special treat and here it showed a dark mahogany color. The coffee bean and nutty nuances were met with a touch of VA on the nose. The significant strength of this Tawny is the monster richness which coats the palate with its extremely full-bodied, dense and velvety textured juice. Wow, you almost need to have water to be able to sip this one. On this particular tasting though the finish seemed much shorter than normal and the mid-palate lacked some depth, but again … it was either hurt by comparison to the previous wine or it is possible that it was opened for a prolonged period of time. 92 points (it is better than this!) (10-1-06)
Thank you to our hosts at VinoLogia for the special tasting they put on for our group. Anyone visiting Oporto will need to stop in here and explore the many wonderful treats waiting for you. If you visit, send our regards to Gustavo and Jean Phillippe and let them know you are from FTLOP and they’ll treat you like old friends!
It was now very late on Sunday night and we were running on fumes, yet this was not even part of the real tour which didn’t start until the next morning. A great first day and introduction to Oporto, which was just a nice way to greet our guests and show them a bit of the charm of this historic city. The real fun would begin in about 9 hours, when the infamous Mario Rui Silva Ferreira would join our group!
Dateline: Monday Morning, Oct. 2, 2006; Official Beginning of the Harvest Tour
It was very painful when the alarm clock chirped me awake in the morning. I was clearly still baffled by the time warp, but I've lived through it before. There's nothing a cold glass of fresh squeezed orange juice and some Port for breakfast (just kidding) couldn't cure. We had some time before our first appointment so with our group together and Mario leading the way, we popped into A. A. Calem & Filho for an unexpected visit.
Calem has really put a lot of money into the renovation of their Gaia Lodge and it shows. What a very nice difference. We took a short tour, led by a very sweet young woman named Gloria who was very helpful and well informed. After making our way through the lodge and viewing a brief film, she then escorted us to a tasting room where we were happy to try a couple of samples, after all it was now 9:30 a.m. and it was officially Port time!
Calem Velhotes White Port – “Velhotes” translates to “old friends” in Portuguese and I was happy to make new friends with this white Port. Simple yet tasty with some seckel pear and white peach flavors and a delicate light-bodied style that tended towards the sweeter side of the spectrum. As the first Port after my morning tooth brushing, this was perfect and “seasoned” my mouth properly. Actually, it was better than I was expecting from their entry level white Port.
Calem Velhotes Tawny Port – “Velhotes” with the picture of three men sitting with their glasses raised is actually one of the best selling “ranges” of entry level Port in Portugal. I enjoyed the white a bit more than this Tawny which was quite basic, but what does one expect at 5 Euros per bottle? Some raisin, prune and plum notes with a hot steak both on the nose and the palate that stood out. Simple and with a short finish, it’s best attribute was the elegant mouthfeel except for the spirit. I am sure that the Calem oenologist Pedro Sa is very capable of making better wines, but we were here unannounced, as pure and simple tourists without an appointment. These were the only two wines we were offered. 81 points (10-2-06)
With our palates primed and our appointment down the block coming due, it was time to head over to the venerable Sandeman Lodge. One of the really cool things about this place, even before stepping foot inside, is that there are a number of wooden plaques which show the actual levels of the major floods of the Douro River in relation to Sandeman’s entrance. The Douro is across the street and down a steep embankment about 15 feet, so to think that this seemingly tame river could breach that bank, cross the street and reach above the doorway, was simply incredible. More amazing was to see how many times in the past couple of centuries that this took place!
Our guests enjoyed walking around the huge cavernous cellar and we also had the opportunity to be guided through the Sandeman museum which I highly recommend for visitors to the area. The only thing missing was my friend Ligia Marques, who normally looks after our visits to Sandeman. But with George Sandeman joining us, we were well looked after. What I like about this Lodge besides the history, great gift shop and of course, the museum is the fact that it is constantly being upgraded and even after a number of visits, it still feels fresh and inviting. We then went upstairs into the private tasting room and Mr. Sandeman led us through a tasting of a number of wines. I knew what was ahead, so I decided to try only a handful of the Sandeman Ports, as it was going to be a long day into night and have learned to “pace myself” on the first day.
2000 Sandeman Vau Vintage Port – Dark purple color. Sweet violet aromas and scents of raspberry and grenadine. Spicy ripe blackberry fruit delivers a medium-body but shows a rich and grapey mouthcoating quality that was more enjoyable than this reads. For a wine designed to be easy-to-approach early on, the tannins are a tad aggressive, although I really enjoyed the length of the aftertaste. 90+ points (10/2/06)
2003 Sandeman Vintage Port – I have had this wine on several occasions and this was the best showing to date. A wonderful nose of spice, strawberry and that boysenberry that I enjoy in many young Sandeman VPs. This gained some weight since my last tasting about a year earlier and it is dense and chewy and has really hit its stride. It is in the dry spectrum with viscous blackberry fruit with a solid attack of acidity and plenty of tannins to take this the distance. Keep ‘em in the cellar for a couple of decades. Nice to see how well this is showing and the prolonged finish was most impressive. 92+ points (10/2/06)
Sandeman Tawny Port – I normally skip this basic Tawny and head right to the 10 and 20 year olds which I find a great value given the quality and drink the 20 year old at home. But this is a simple bottling at 8 Euros. It is a light strawberry color. Somewhat simple but really tasty, providing a sense of symmetry and its well balanced. Medium-bodied and it delivers a gentle and very smooth finish. Not bad! 86 points (10/2/06)
Sandeman 20 Year Old Tawny Port – Light orangish/brown color. Ah, the nose shows such fine perfume of toasted almonds, a smoky almost charred peaty note and butterscotch. This Tawny has always been one of my go-to 20 year old bottlings as Sandeman’s 10, 20 and their 40 year old are incredibly consistent and delicious. Rich, elegant and smooth with a caramel core and a praline highlight that adds complexity. As good as it all sounds, the strength of this smooth operator is the harmonious, minute long finish that is like slurping sweet liquid hazelnuts. 94 points (10/2/06)
With the informal tasting now complete, the fun was really going to begin. I find George Sandeman to be one of the most jovial and charismatic individuals to be around. He never pulls punches and answers directly which is refreshing, no matter what the question. He is well-informed, funny as hell and possesses a very quick mind and is not afraid to steer the conversation head-on into politics with an open minded audience. Additionally he is very well-connected within the Port trade. Our group was in for their first great experience … a private luncheon with the inimitable Mr. Sandeman!
There was a constant barrage of questions and responses and George was in top form. We all had a really great time, learned a lot and laughed constantly. During our delicious lunch, we got to try one of Sogrape’s new wines which they make in a variety of different regions around Portugal. Of course we were trying the Douro regional red:
2003 Sogrape Vinhos Callabriga Douro Douro Red – A blend of Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca. Magenta colored with fragrant cherry and strawberry. Ripe, soft and smooth textured, this Douro red went well with our lunch. Totally approachable and easy to enjoy now and does not seem to be meant for cellaring as I was unable to pick up any sign of tannins. This is really a generous and enjoyable food wine that doesn’t need a lot of thought. 88 points (10/2/06)
We had some more of the Vau Vintage from 2000 and were well sated after a seemingly long first morning. What an absolutely amazing beginning to our hedonistic harvest excursion. Sincere thanks to Mr. Sandeman for the generous amount of time he spent with us and his warm hospitality!
The troops were all warned that there would be no rest for the weary and we took the very short walk to the Gaia Lodge of Ramos Pinto.
I have a very special place in my heart for this producer, as in May of 1994 during my first visit to the Douro, I was fortunate by way of a great coincidence to meet the head of the company, José António Ramos Pinto. It was at a very small dinner at Quinta do Bomfim (Dow), with the marketing director of the Symington’s and two gentlemen who represented Portugal at the United Nations, discussing World Bank issues and the future of tourism in the Douro region. Most of the conversation was unfortunately in speedy Portuguese, but my girlfriend and I had a great time and enjoyed the amazing meal and accompanying wines and Port, while having the distinct pleasure to meet one of the elder statesmen of the Port industry. Mr. Ramos Pinto has since retired, but there are still a number of family members involved in the business.
I was very much looking forward to introducing our guests to the venerable Port Shipper Ramos Pinto. There is so much history within the walls of this esteemed Port Lodge. The family maintains one of the truly inspired collections of museum quality furnishings and artwork from past centuries when business was done in a slower fashion, by Adriano Ramos Pinto and his brother. It was wonderful to see Ana Isabel once again as well as Jorge Rosas, (the great grandson of the founder and responsible for worldwide sales) and the legendary João Nicolau de Almeida, also a family member. I had visited them back in June when discussing the particulars for this visit, although I’d been to Quinta do Bom Retiro in the Douro, in July of 2003 to visit João.
Back in the mid-1970s João Nicolau de Almeida who is every bit as savvy in the vineyards as he is vinifying and blending the table wines of the Douro and Port, made a bold move in the Douro. In 1976, at what had become to be known as Quinta da Ervamoira, (when it was purchased by the founder, Mr. Ramos Pinto in 1974, not coincidentally João’s uncle) Almeida decided to move away from the traditional “field blends” (which basically means that the various grapes in the Douro were not segregated by variety). In a very thorough research project, João decided which were the best grapes to grow on this particularly level vineyard site, with multi-faceted facings due to the nearly 400 acres of vines planted there. In addition to planting parcels by grape variety, João also decided to use Vinha Ao Alta, a method of vertical planting in wider rows, which allowed for mechanization, in a region bereft of modern means at the time. I am not sure if this was the first time that Vinha Ao Alta had been utilized, (as I know that Quinta do Crasto makes that claim) but suffice it to say, it was certainly one of the very earliest uses of this growing scheme.
We were in good hands with Ana Isabel who showed us all around the lodge and museum area, with all of the great old posters that were done nearly a century ago, making Ramos Pinto a very well known name in the Port business. Many of their artistic posters from the early days of beverage advertising became important works of art and are known around the globe.
After seeing the museum upstairs, Jorge and João took us on an extensive cellar tour, which for our group meant “photo op” as this was a bit different than anything they had ever seen. We then went back upstairs to the room where it all happens, the blending room. As in the photo above of João, there were an incredible number of bottles there. We then saw the wide array of bottles and glasses for our tasting and the room grew very quiet for a few moments. There was a similar expression on the faces in that room, to what I see on my daughter’s face on Christmas morning!
Almeida’s studies helped to define the key grapes for Port making and in 1982 he vinified them separately and did so again in 1983 (neither of which have ever been commercially released). When we met in June, we discussed the possibility of doing a comparative component tasting of the 1983 “varietal Ports” during our upcoming visit in October. I was most intrigued by this idea and knew that these opportunities do not come along very often. Jorge and João both thought it would be a great way to share a unique view of Ramos Pinto’s history and I truly thank both of them for allowing our guests to partake in such a rare experience. I know of some very savvy Port enthusiasts who did not believe that such wines even existed, so the tasting notes below are testament to the great achievement by Mr. Almeida and his vision for the future of the Douro wines and Port for which he has dedicated his life.
1983 Ramos Pinto Tinta Roriz Vintage Port – This grapes is used for the addition of tannins into the VP recipe and age ability. It maintains color but not intense or darkly extracted grape. Anyway, the Roriz has a very spicy nose of cinnamon and a touch of toffee and caramel. Full-bodied and it is showing lots of acidity. The tannins are round and soft. Good length ot the finish but there is plenty of heat and a tannic bite on the aftertaste. 87 points (10/2/06)
1983 Ramos Pinto Touriga Franca Vintage Port – RP uses this grape to add structure to the blend. The Franca normally provides the intensity of the fruit too. This particular Port is showing lighter in color than the Roriz and is a medium ruby with lots of bricking. The palate is enjoyable with great depth of cherry and chocolate flavors. The finish is a bit shorter than expected and there is a good dose of alcohol that shows up late, which is disconcerting. 86 points (10/2/06)
1983 Ramos Pinto Tinta Barroca Vintage Port – I liked this Port the best of the first three grapes, as there is far more extraction here with a very dark ruby color. The palate is soft and sensuous with red fruit, an herbal quality and some chocolate as well. It is a chewy Port with ripe tannins, but its strength lies is in the sublime, long finish which is smooth as well as tasty. 90 points (10/2/06)
1983 Ramos Pinto Touriga Nacional Vintage Port – The Nacional brings it all home with elegance, finesse and fabulous aromatics. It shows dark cranberry in color with some cinnamon spice scents and red fruits on the nose. I’d buy this on its own for the fruit is dense, sweet and balanced by powerful tannins. This will even continue to improve for another decade. The Touriga Nacional was my favorite of all single grape VPs and it’s very drinkable now. 92 points (10/2/06)
1983 Ramos Pinto Vintage Port – I would have to say that side-by-side today, I prefer the Touriga Nacional, which is quite surprising to me in this tasting. The blend here is 40% Tourica Franca and 20% of each of the other grapes. In appearance, this looks significantly older than the other components, with a strawberry color and orange rim. The dark berry fruit and mocha explode on the fine nose, but the palate is nowhere near as exciting with red berry fruit that is soft and simple with enough spirit to be distracting on the palate but especially the finish. 87 points (10/2/06)
2000 Ramos Pinto Late Bottled Vintage Port – Bottled in 2005. Very dark, nearly opaque magenta color. Ripe plum and prune notes with a floral backdrop, this immediately makes a statement. A very good LBV that is one to seek out and cellar as beyond the meaty and massively concentrated blackberry fruit, there are chewy, ripe tannins that will keep this improving for a decade. I wouldn’t open one for 3-5 years at a minimum. One of the best LBVs I’ve tried in some time, with a fabulous finish too! 92+ points (10/2/06)
2002 Quinta de Ervamoira Vintage Port – A very difficult growing season made the production of this Port a challenge. Ervamoira is the largest of Ramos Pinto’s four properties with Quinta do Bom Retiro as the other very well-known single Quinta name from this stable. Dark ruby color with a lighter pink edge. What is going on here? I get the sense of peach essence both aromatically and on the palate which I don’t think I’ve ever noted in a young VP. Very odd. Otherwise it is fairly simple with some tank flavors still prevalent. A medium-bodied effort and it is very young, tannic and hot. Not something I’d want to buy, although I can’t say it is “bad” it certainly is different. 83 points (10/2/06)
2003 Ramos Pinto Vintage Port – Inky dark color with full opacity. I’d have to say this is probably the best Ramos Pinto Vintage Port I’ve ever had. It has taken a big leap up since the tank sample I tried a year and a half ago. Floral, plum and cocoa powder provide a compelling profile. It is more densely populated than when young with lots of ripe and dense currant and plum flavors. The tannins are astringent and cheeky and deliver the balance for the big fruit here. I’d have to say this will be a winner in a couple of decades. What a nice improvement, although even from my tasting of the cask sample I liked this youngster. Great finish! 93+ points (10/2/06)
2004 Quinta de Ervamoira Vintage Port – With almost 200 hectares on the property, this is one of two key properties along with Bom Retiro, from the four Quintas owned by Ramos Pinto. Ervamoira is an integral Quinta for Ramos Pinto’s Vintage Port and in some vintages they produce both classic VP and this SQVP too. My score was right on the money with my earlier (cask sample) experience while at their Lodge in June. Showing a purplish-ruby color with full opacity. The nose is intriguing, leaving a spicy impression of mint and an earthy tobacco leaf scent along with some lingering “tanky” note. Ripe, chewy red berry fruit profile with good acidity and drying tannins. There is a really smooth and approachable palate presence with a dry mid-length finish. It is in need of lots more time for the components to come into synch which makes this ’04 tougher than most to assess at this point. I look forward to trying this again within the next year as it was bottled recently. 87-89 points (10/2/06)
2004 Ramos Pinto Vintage Port – Offering an opaque magenta color, this was my second experience with the flagship Port from this fine producer. I really enjoyed the explosive arsenal of aromas from this bottling that showed an herbal quality along with some pine, mocha and plum. Juicy and ultra-smooth, with a medium to full body, the flavors tend towards boysenberry and plum and deliver a well-balanced ’04 that is just a bit on the simple side. The alcohol on the finish still needs to integrate quite a bit more for this to reach its full potential. Speaking of which, the tannins have calmed down quite a bit since my experience four months ago. I find that interesting and view this VP with more of a mid-term aging potential. From a non-declared vintage… who needs to wait 30 years? 89-91 points (10/2/06)
Ramos Pinto 10 Year Old Tawny Port – Orangeish-cola color with a yellow edge. It has gentle toasted almond, mahogany and caramelize sugar scents that swirl in the glass. Great nose for a ten year old. Light-bodied and elegant with sweet nutty nuances and a citrus smooth finish that I liked a lot, except for a touch of heat. Great complexity for a 10-year and I will be seeking out this bottling for sure, when I get home. I am not easily won over by less than 20 year old wood aged Ports, but this drinks beautifully and much older than most ten year old Tawnies. 92+ points (10/2/06)
Ramos Pinto 20 Year Old Tawny Port – I believe I heard that much of the fruit comes from Bom Retiro, but I should have checked this. Anyway, orange-pink with a tawny rim. Burnished wood and VA come to the fore. Odd as I normally love this wine. Round, woody, smooth and a bit hot, but a solid wine with a touch of sweet praline and a medium length. I usually like this wine a bit more than on this tasting. 90 points (10/2/06)
Ramos Pinto 30 Year Old Tawny Port – This comes from the fruit of a few of Ramos Pinto’s combination of Quintas. Nutty and toffee nose with big, smooth and silky palate. Again the VA jumps out and is almost Madeira like, but the finish is long with caramel and vanilla nuances that bring it all together. Get rid of the VA heat and this would have been a great one. 92 points (10/2/06)
1937 Ramos Pinto Colheita Port – Bottled in 2000. Thank you Jorge and Joao for allowing us to access this beauty. Orange-amber color. Although it is open a week now the nose is intense with citrus, vanilla bean and pralines that dance to the fore. Wow! Smooth and an amazing amount of glycerin here with full-body weight, yet velvety on the mouth feel and beautifully balanced with zesty, crisp acidity. It provides a complex aftertaste of caramel and butterscotch that hits my pleasure zone although I detect just a slight degree of heat, otherwise fabulous, I am smiling as I know that this is the oldest Port most of the guys have ever had. 95 points (10/2/06)
1890 Ramos Pinto Colheita Port – Well there goes the “I know this is the oldest Port most of the guys have ever had” with the 1937. Almost a half century older, what an amazing way to end a wonderful visit to Ramos Pinto! This Colheita has a coffee color, with a greenish/yellow rim. There is a salty, chestnut nuance and 1912 D’Oliveira Verdelho immediately comes to mind. Ahh, the voluptuous waves of acidity are prominent and enhance the espresso bean, tobacco leaf and sweet cocoa flavors here with a tangy/tart citric edge which is quite pleasant here. A fabulous wine that has a medium length finish which may be because this has been open awhile. Thank you guys! 94 points (10/2/06)
Our guests are simply blown away by the entire experience and thanked Ana Isabel, Jorge and Joao profusely. Good to see how much they appreciated a fantastic experience like this. I am thrilled with the component tasting and so many other types of Ports to try. Adding 69 and 116 year old Colheitas to finish things off was the perfect ending to our 2nd visit here in Gaia. Time for a short break and then off to dinner at the restaurant Oporto. Jorge is going to join us, so we are in for an educational dinner too.
Actually, Oporto Restaurante, was excellent and the food authentic and the wines perfectly matched. We need to return to this restaurant as it is quaint and the service was superior too. Now onto the Douro wines which were a new experience for some of the gang. I was hoping they were going to enjoy them, because they’d be having a lot of ‘em for the next week.
2005 Ramos Pinto Duas Quintas Douro White (Vinho Branco) – Just what the doctor ordered. A light and lively white wine that is texturally smooth with lemon and pear notes and very easy to drink. A solid quaffer backed by just the right amount of fresh acidity. A tasty number to start off the evening. 86 points (10/2/06)
2004 Ramos Pinto Duas Quintas Douro Red (Vinho Tinto) – Not much of a surprise, this wine is comprised of Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz and Touriga Nacional. For a wine that ranges in the $10-13 range, this was rather pleasant with medium-body weight with spice and cherry flavors plus just a mild sensation of tannins (could I even tell after all the Ports earlier?) but really approachable and a solid food wine, albeit simple. 86 points (10/2/06)
2003 Ramos Pinto Duas Quintas Reserva Douro Red – The first vintage of the Reserva was in 1991, a fine year for Douro reds (think Barca Velha). 1/3 Tinta Barroca and 2/3 Touriga Nacional with just a trace of Touriga Franca added for good measure. Excellent nose of blackberry and an earthy tea note. This Reserva is open for business and is a far more delineated wine than the ’04 regular bottling (as it should be). It is vibrant and delicious with dark berry flavors, moderate tannins, great balance and a finely tuned mid-palate. Really enjoyable with our meal but this youngster will be great in another three or four years. Still, it is quite tasty today. 93 points (10/2/06)
2003 Ramos Pinto Duas Quintas Reserva Especial Douro Red – I believe the Reserva Especial began with the 1995 vintage and was vinified again in 1999 and 2000. It is the top rung red wine made by Ramos Pinto. We were told that this wine was produced much the same way that Port was before modern methods of fortification were employed. One of the guys joked by asking if elderberry was added. This is made even more special considering the 75 year old, low yielding vines that produced the grapes. This should have been decanted as it is still very tightly wound and would have benefited from at least an hour or two of aeration before trying this. Big dark fruit that is concentrated and viscous. Although it is very smooth in the mouth, it remained reticent and a touch tannic. I actually enjoyed the Reserva better, but would love to find a bottle of this to enjoy when it is 5 years old. For now … 91 points (10/2/06)
What a remarkable day into night and I now had a 2nd wind and was concerned that I’d be up all night, not fully acclimated to the time difference as of yet. I have a feeling I was not alone as the next morning - I could see it on the faces of a couple of the guys.
The full story of the 2006 Harvest Tour is broken into five articles:
2006 Harvest Tour Part One describes visits to Lodges in Vila Nova de Gaia, including Vasconcellos, Kopke, Vinologia, Cálem, Sandeman and Ramos Pinto as well as dinner at the Oporto Restaurant
2006 Harvest Tour Part Two describes visits to the Niepoort Lodge and to Symington Family Estates in Gaia, and dinner at the restaurant Presuntisco.
2006 Harvest Tour Part Three describes the visits to Douro Quintas including Quinta do Crasto, Quinta de Vargellas, Quinta do Vesuvio, Quinta Vale Dona Maria, Quinta do Noval, Quinta do Portal and Quinta do Silval.
2006 Harvest Tour Part Four describes the closing dinner at the restaurant De Gusto in Porto, together with the winemakers and wines from Quinta da Brunheda.
2006 Harvest Tour Part Five consolidates the 193 tasting notes from the other four articles into one document for easy reference.