We all arrived on the same flight from the USA, having met in Newark for the direct flight into Oporto. With a fantastic trip ahead of us, everyone seemed very excited once we headed to our hotel in Vila Nova de Gaia and had a chance to shower and unpack. It was our first time ever booking with this new hotel property, as we normally stay on the other side of the Douro River in Oporto.

After a few hours of relaxation, our group decided that we’d enjoy the sunny afternoon and took the hike from the hotel down towards the Gaia Cais, (river front) which was invigorating and woke up any of us that might have been showing signs of being jet lagged. I could see the widening of eyes as we passed a couple of Lodges on the very narrow streets of Gaia, centuries old and with their logo’s proudly displayed. The steep and meandering cobblestone streets made for some fun conversation as most of the group had never been to Portugal before. Our first “unofficial” stop was at the Lodge of …


We walked in to the Lodge and it was enlightening for our group to see what it would be like to visit the Lodges in Vila Nova de Gaia without having an appointment or further connections. Sandeman is well equipped to handle walk-in tourists, so this was more pleasant than some other Lodges which are not as “user friendly.”

Our guide Caroline was an amiable and well informed young woman who met with us after we made our own way through the Sandeman museum. For the record, Sandeman is now owned by Sogrape, however George Sandeman is still quite involved in the operation of his family’s company.

What I enjoy about this property is that the displays are always being changed with new things to see and therefore, those that have visited in the past, get to experience new items in the museum. Caroline took us on a tour of the cellars in the Lodge where we saw the private stash of the library Port and then were shown a brief film about the history of Sandeman with a nostalgic look at Gaia and the Douro. We then received the typical pair of Ports poured for visiting tourists, a far cry from what we normally are served when visiting as VIPs.

Sandeman Apitiv White Port – This sweet and stylish white Port was served slightly chilled. A fine acid attack provided the backbone with honey, peach and honeysuckle showing lush flavors that were accompanied by an annoying hot streak which remained. Although the nose was quite forward and showing ripe summer fruits the alcohol protruded here too. Simple, pleasant but ultimately, too much disjointed alcohol. 83 points (5/13/07)

Sandeman Imperial Reserve Port – Medium ruby with a pink rim. This has been aged for 7 years and costs about 13 Euros. It is hot with way too much alcohol present, medicinal and the oak stands out too prominently. Light bodied and a bit coarse on the palate. The alcohol detracts and the fruit beneath, is subdued and almost hidden. 78 points (5/13/07)

The gift shop at the Sandeman Lodge is quite impressive with all matter of Port paraphernalia from apparel to glasses and decanters, not to mention the requisite bottles that are available for sale*. Here were three that I noted, out of many being offered:

1906 Vintage Port (Euros = 3000, GBP = 2040, US$ = 4060
1994 Vintage Port (Euros = 105, GBP = 72, US$ = 142
2000 Vintage Port (Euros = 55, GBP = 37, US$ = 74
* Please note: the price of the Euro vs. other currencies above, was based on the exchange rate back in May

Invigorated by a few sips of Port at the source, we sauntered along the waterfront and crossed the Douro and enjoyed the amazing view from the ponte, (bridge) the perspective improving as we reached the Ribeira district right along the cais in Oporto. From here the sight is not only impressive, but for those visiting for the first time, it makes for a mental picture that will remain indelibly etched in one’s memory. After many wonderful visits to the area, I never tire of this view, with the massive logo’d signs atop the Port lodges that dominate the landscape. It also provides perspective of the geographic relationship between Vila Nova de Gaia and Oporto. It was getting late in the afternoon and we’d had enough walking. It was clear that our group was getting thirsty and it was a no-brainer where to head next. This is a tradition on all FTLOP tours!


After all, what is a visit to Oporto without a stop at the Port bar-shop, VINOLOGIA? Our friends Gustavo and Jean-Philippe were on hand to greet us and make our group feel right at home. This is one of the most unique wine bars I have ever been to. But what makes it really special is that it only serves Port and what an array can be found there. Not only is the Port paraphernalia and unique bottles implanted into the drop ceiling impressive, but looking at several dozen bottles of Port on the back bar (a few of which are from producers unknown in our part of the world) is simply astonishing. After introducing our gang and allowing time for their “photo shoot” it was time to get serious and enjoy a pleasure packed evening with our hosts. Gustavo provided an intriguing tasting of some captivating Ports (and Port styles) that most of the guests had never heard of and may never see in the U.S.

J.H. Andresen 10 year old White Port – Yes, you read correctly, WHITE Port. Through some ground breaking new regulation at the IVDP, there is now an Aged White Tawny Port category and this is the first bottling to take advantage of the new rules. Ergo the 10 year old designation. From a 500 ml bottle, this Andresen shows a deep golden/amber hue. It is lovely to look at and possesses gentle floral notes of honeysuckle and a baked apple note. The light and lithe presence was fun to try but shows a touch too much heat and a rather short finish, which dampened my initial enthusiasm. I’d be interested to see what would happen to this wine with some time in a decanter. I believe it would really help. 86 points (5/13/07)

2004 Quinta da Prelada Vintage Port – Most Americans have never seen or heard of Quinta da Prelada, a rather small property where the 39th Feitoria resides (Pomboline stone placed circa 1760). Opaque purple in color and it shows loads of glycerin. Light to medium-bodied with notes of grenadine and red fruits that offer distinctive aromatics with a gentle backdrop of vanilla. The palate is all about blackberry and boysenberry which are uncomplicated and joined by mostly resolved tannins and a straightforward finish which lacks real excitement. Just 29 Euros, this VP shows upside potential and should age well over the next fifteen years. 85+ points (5/13/07)

2002 Quinta da Revolta Vintage Port – I am always pleased to try any 2002 Vintage Port as it is my daughter’s birth year, but I have only tasted a handful to this point. Dark magenta in color with a nose of mocha, dark berry fruit and a subtle hint of milk chocolate. Its medium body weight and gentle approachability make this very user friendly and easy to sip. Very juicy today with good staying power and a long aftertaste of ripe raspberry. Only 7,573 bottles were produced of this wine and it is the very first Vintage Port produced by Revolta. They also do a basic Tawny and a very good Douro red as well. Drink now or hold through 2020. 88 points (5/13/07)

2002 Roseira & Ricou “Rol Roi” Vintage Port – Back-to-back 2002 VPs is a rare treat for me and this bottling was done in 2005 after the juice was kept in pipas (casks) for 3 years. Medium ruby in color with a wonderfully fresh berry aroma and a tinge of a medicinal scent that slowly crept in. The grapes that went into the Rol Roi are from a parcel of vines that make up just 0.6 hectares with an average age of 60 years old. Tart cranberry flavors prevail but are quite pure and primary with big, ripe tannins and a short bitter finish that is further marred by some alcoholic afterburner. Drink now through 2018. Rol Roi has also produced 1997, 2000 and 2004 Vintage Ports. The 2002 bottling consists of a paltry 3,220 bottles. 84 points (5/13/07)

2000 Quinta da Prelada LBV Port – Unfiltered and fully extracted. Tight nose initially that slowly yielded some violet, floral and plum fruit notes. Medium to full-bodied, rich and round on the mouth, this needs time to smooth out as it is quite a beast at this moment.. The highlight for me was the long, spicy and off-dry aftertaste. Prelada’s 2000 was an impressively structured LBV, extremely concentrated with ripe tannins and should be at its best from 2009-2015. 91 points (5/13/07)

Quinta do Javali 10 Year Old Tawny Port – Light ruby with a pink edge, I was intrigued by the color of this Javali. Quite a nice number, with elegance I rarely find in 10 year old Tawnies. Exotic and sublime toffee, dates and golden raisins provide solid mid-palate depth and the smooth texture is sublime, as is the tasty and persistent finish. I wish this Tawny made its way into the USA. A little more acidity and this would be stunning. 90 points (5/13/07)

Quinta do Vallado 20 Year Old Tawny Port – Medium deep orange color. Ooooh that smell, wow! A mélange of citrus notes and almond nuttiness kept my nose in the glass for a few minutes before even taking the very first sip. Liquid hazelnuts and grapefruit flavored acidity were sexy and provided significant spine. Vallado’s texture was silky and memorable with a real luxurious presence. Had it not been for some protruding alcohol on the rather clipped finish, this would have been a “case buy” recommendation. 92 points (5/13/07)

1952 Dalva White Colheita Port – Bottled in 2006, by the folks at C. da Silva, this is one of the two greatest White Colheitas I’ve ever experienced (Niepoort’s 1917 being the other). That is somewhat tongue in cheek as I have only had three or four in my life, but change that to “white Port” and the statement would then be far more appropriate. There is something about the extraordinary interplay between the aromatics and the palate that go beyond “symmetry” and into the hedonistic realm. Figs, orange marmalade, walnuts and the texture of a great Yquem, make this so insanely rich, yet the acidity strikes at the core of the salivary glands’ nerve in a gentle yet un-subtle way. I’ve reported on the “A+ ‘52” a number of times and this particular bottling was singing and the table was buzzing about this Port through dinner and most of the week. This was the longest finish of the many times I’ve tasted this Dalva and the aftertaste stayed with me until we arrived in Madeira a few days later. A must buy any time you get the chance! 96+ points (5/13/07)

2000 Jose Maria de Fonseca “Domingos Soares Franco Colecção Privada” Moscatel de Setubal – You are absolutely right, this is not from the Douro, nor is it a Port. Please forgive me as at least it is from Portugal, in fact, not too far from Lisbon. I am a serious fan of this producer’s Moscatel bottlings and some of their joint ventures in the Douro too. But the delicious Moscatel grape that they have mastered is the best portrayal of the greatness of this grape in my opinion (and that includes Madeira too!). Note: this has nothing to do with the Port producer Fonseca. Now back to this version, which is named the “private collection” of the winemaker, so it is really like a very special reserve bottling. In fact, Soares Franco actually added Armagnac to this wine! Orange blossom and sophisticated perfume abound, along with light and pure flavors of citrus fruits and an insane level of residual sugar. Although light in weight and elegant with good acidity, the sweetness makes this too rich to enjoy more than a couple of ounces. If you like Kracher above #10, or thrive on Australia’s Rutherford based tawny-Muscat efforts … this just might be your next great discovery. The finish is “sick” but you better line up a dentist appointment for the following day. 93+ points (5/13/07)

Wow, what a memorable night at Vinologia, but then again … they always are. Our sincere thanks to Gustavo for picking such a wonderfully eclectic lineup to put forth for our gang. If you are going to visit Oporto, stop in to Vinologia and please let them know that you’ve read it about them here at For The Love Of Port. They take great care of our friends!

It was a long day into night and some of our guests were too tired to even go for dinner. Admittedly, it was pretty late and breakfast seemed closer in proximity than dinner at that point, but hey, the tour did not officially start until the next morning. So those troopers who wanted to experience some off the beaten track “events” hung around. We headed down to the Ribeira which had some of the very few places still open that late on a Sunday night and found THE place to grab a bite to eat.

I can’t share the name of it, (“what goes on in Oporto -- stays in Oporto”) as it is in a back alley and is a nightclub replete with black lights and a bartender/waiter that spoke perfect English (Hint: it is actually located in the photo above). After all, what else do you need? The sights and sounds: the Door’s were blaring on the various speakers and 20-30-something locals hung out in small groups, while Super Bock and Sagres on tap flowed to balance off the Port consumed and the beer hit the spot … the perfect accompaniment to an excellent hamburger & fries. Just what the doctor ordered. We hung out there for quite awhile to welcome in our first late night during this trip.

There is NO arm twisting and those considering the 2008 Harvest Tour, need not be concerned. There were participants that did not join us at all, some that left mid-Vinologia and others right after. In fact, Mario Ferreira, my biz partner, fellow guide and good friend … decided against joining me for this “little adventure.” However, after what seemed like a day and a half on airplanes and in airports … needed to be cleansed from our souls, so that the next morning … the real beginning of the Fortification Tour de force would have more meaning. During the cab ride back to the hotel, I insisted that aspirins and water would be our best friends. For me, it was the “anti-jet-lag” and I slept like a baby all the way until the wake up call came.

The rest of the group was a bit more chipper in the morning and for those of us that chose to stay the course, we were very pleased that breakfast was delicious. Shortly afterwards we headed off for the “official” Day 1, to explore the beauty of Port wine … the nectar of the gods.

We arrived at Vila Nova de Gaia’s Fonseca Lodge, owned by The Fladgate Partnership (TFP) and we were met by our associate and friend, Jorge Ramos, who is responsible for overseeing the US marketplace for TFP’s four Port houses (Taylor, Fonseca, Croft and Delaforce). With his guidance, we made our way through the Fonseca facility and got to see everything from the offices to the laboratories, the label stock room, bottling line and quality control rooms, rooms with a bazillion palletized cases of all types of Port, tanks and production facilities and even the cork storage area.


This was no 25 cent tour, no way! Jorge really provided a very thorough expedition throughout the deepest recesses of Fonseca’s Lodge. And then, to the surprise of our guests, the illustrious and charismatic Managing Director of The Fladgate Partnership, Adrian Bridge joined us and spent a good amount of time sharing his Port wisdom. In fact we spent over a half an hour just exploring the topic of corks which was extremely educational. We learned about Amorim and their significance in the cork trade and noticed the Coelho corks, while many questions were asked and answered. How many other wine companies believe it is important enough to have a full-time analyst on staff to examine their corks?

Of course the topic of TCA taint was raised, which sparked a full on discussion of the topic. It may be reassuring to know that Adrian ensures that TFP goes to great lengths to significantly reduce any likelihood of their products leaving the Lodge with a defective or tainted cork. For example, throughout the tour I noticed that there was not a single wooden pallet in the facility, everything was on plasticized pallets which helps in the cause. The corks were stored in a segregated temperature and humidity controlled storage room. I have visited cork companies in other countries that don’t even take that type of care. We learned that even the size of the cork matters. Mr. Bridge stated, “The shorter the cork, the greater the chance of TCA infection.”

Additionally, we were given hands-on examples of how and why there is 95% waste in the process of cork production. Mr. Bridge provided us with lots of great information and explained the difference between a cork that costs next to nothing and a top-of-the-line Vintage Port cork, which costs $1.50 each … wholesale. We looked at photos of cork production and the types of oak trees that produce it in Portugal. We learned where the best forests were located; and where 80% of the world’s cork supply originates. We then had the opportunity to check out a very small cross section of a cork tree and were shown how the material was punched out to actually make the corks used in Port. It was amazing to see this and much easier to understand the qualitative differences in cork, after seeing the demonstration and listening to Adrian’s explanation.

The importance of the shape of the bottle neck and quality of the seal makes a huge difference with “leakers.” Speaking of leakers, Adrian mentioned that residual sugar can make the Port so thick that it almost can reseal a leaking bottle. He also made it clear, that TFP does not re-cork bottles, but will re-seal them with wax instead. So for those of you that have any leaking bottles in your cellar, go out and buy some sealing wax and have at it.

Another fascinating topic was Aguardente, (or grape neutral spirit) that is used during the fortification process, (no relations to the tour of the same name) to prematurely stop the fermentation, leaving some residual sugar and higher alcohol in its wake. Mr. Bridge was explaining to us that Aguardente actually will age (During the 2007 Harvest Tour, I experienced 80 year old Aguardente). The Fladgate Partnership does full tasting panels to decide which Aguardente to buy for that year’s Port production. It is a big decision in terms of taste and quality and has a significant impact on the flavor of Port and its ability to age.

Adrian realized he had an audience of very serious Port “geeks” in front of him (geeks … my word, used in the most admiring way). He continued our education by discussing Sulfur Dioxide or SO2. If you like Port trivia, try this out on a friend. There are 40 parts of SO2 per billion in the average Port. I was fascinated to learn that the “heat” in Port is not only from the use/misuse of Aguardente (or its quality level) but in some cases can be attributed to the overuse of SO2, which is a preservative used in just about all wine, some of which is naturally occurring.

We were led to the tasting room where there was an incredible lineup of various Port types. Natasha Bridge, Adrian’s charming wife stopped in to say hello to our group. She is the daughter of Alistair and Gillyane Robertson (Alistair is the majority owner and Chairman of TFP) and amongst her many duties in the company, she’s responsible for blending the Tawny Ports, which I think is one of the most difficult tasks and requires an enormously trained and talented nose and palate. Jorge Ramos then led us through a brief explanation of the plethora of Ports that stood before us. I had requested that our tasting be heavily weighted towards the Ports made by Croft, as I had less experience with them than Taylor and Fonseca and felt the same was true for most of the group.

Croft Distinction Special Reserve Ruby Reserve Port – Dark plum color with a floral nose and delivering a blueberry and boysenberry profile. Full-bodied with plums and blackberry flavors that were enjoyable and led to a medium length finish that left a chocolate impression, along with a slightly hot, spirituous character on the aftertaste. Drink now. 87 points (5/14/07)

1970 Croft Vintage Port – Light to medium ruby center with gentle bricking towards the edge. I had not had this VP in ages, so I was most appreciative to get an updated judgment of this particular Port, especially right from the source. Displaying a lovely evolved nose of cinnamon spice, leather, cedar, toffee and raspberry this was fun to nose. Full, rich and viscous with sweet pralines and gently red fruited flavors and some spirit to boot, this was showing quite well for a 37 year old VP. The tannins were mostly soft but let you know they were still viable. This Croft will drink well for a good fifteen and possibly even twenty years, as long as the fruit does not take a back seat to the alcohol. It earns style points with a gentle, long and elegant finish laden with a caramel nuance. Drink now through 2025. 92 points (5/14/07)

1991 Croft Vintage Port – One of my all time favorite Ports is the Croft from the legendary 1945 vintage. The 1991 had always been my second favorite of the Vintages made by this house until the 2003 arrived on the scene a couple of years ago. In fact, the ’91 Croft may just be the overall standout of the 1991 vintage, even in blind tastings it seems to win me over. Cranberry color with a slightly lighter rim. Bright cherry and tar, with a pleasing sweet, sun-dried tomato note which was enhanced by some mocha that lifted the fragrance of the VP. Vivid, big and juicy with vibrant acidity and gorgeous balance. The cassis and cherry dominated the palate initially and then the drying tannins rushed in and together they made for an extra long finish with notable layers of chocolate. This will age well for another 25 years. Try one soon, if you haven’t yet had the pleasure. Drink 2012 through 2032. 93+ points (5/14/07)

1994 Croft Vintage Port – Very dark magenta color with a lovely nose of strawberry, spice and herbs. Concentrated and full bodied, with raspberry fruit, some raisins and cocoa deliver all the goods up front. On the back end, I noted some searing heat and am pretty sure it did not have enough time in decanter and it marred the otherwise solid finish. Yields at Quinta da Roeda were about 45% below what was realized throughout the Douro in 1994. If the spirit in this ’94 integrates with time, it will become a Port of beauty. I need to experiment with a bottle and see what the outcome would be with extended decanting. Drink now through 2034. 90+ points (5/14/07)

1997 Croft’s Quinta da Roeda Vintage Port – Come to think of it, I am pretty sure I have never tasted this particular Croft before. Dark crimson color and just shy of fully opacity. A fresh and pure violet fragrance with a back drop of black pepper. Gorgeous raspberry juice, smooth and rich on the palate, actually chewy and dense. As good as the nose and flavors are here, the strength of this wine is the overall balance. In addition to the massive fruit and zesty acidity level, the tannins are bold and ripe. The finish is insanely long but there’s some distracting heat that accompanies the black pepper, or this would have had an extra two points added on. Drink now at your own risk but keep your mitts off this for a decade, preferably three. A nice surprise and a standout in the Croft lineup. Drink 2012 through 2037. 93+ points (5/14/07)

2000 Croft Vintage Port – A deeply extracted and opaque garnet core with a violet edge. This was actually the first Croft VP today, which showed no sign of alcohol protruding on the nose, palate or finish. The nose was wild with lavender, plums and lots of spicy notes too. Yowza! Given its youth, the soft and ultra-smooth nature of this VP is exhilarating and shows great promise for the future. The bright fruit seems so refined and in synch at the moment. The well-endowed tannins are almost punishing and very drying, but all the more reason to have this in the cellar. Excellent length to the finish and this was my top scoring Croft to this point in the vertical. Drink now through 2040. 94+ points (5/14/07)

2003 Croft Vintage Port – Simply put, if you don’t have the 2003 Croft in your cellar, you’ve clearly missed the boat. The good news is that it is not too late to secure a case or two. The excuse about turning 80 years old when this VP is ready to drink … does not apply. One of the most exalted youngsters from the ‘03 vintage, every time I drink it, I am blown away. Inky color with an intense if not extraordinarily powerful aroma of primary purple fruits. Massive on the palate with delicious dark berry essence and loads of glycerin, this Croft pulls off the triple jump and wows the judges with the acidity and tannins which keep this focused and able to age for eons. But don’t be afraid to open one tomorrow night if you enjoy the beauty of a great young Vintage Port. Shimber me timbers! Drink one bottle now and enjoy the rest at their best circa 2050+. 96+ points (5/14/07)

2004 Croft Quinta da Roeda Vintage Port - Medium ruby color. A fine nose of purple fruits and fresh flowers. Smooth and very approachable with plum and blackberry fruit. Very easy to drink at this stage and showing its youth and vibrancy. A good blend of acidity and moderate tannins provided all the balance this needed. The finish was persistent with a hint of chocolate on the aftertaste. Drink now through 2025. 89 points 5/14/07

2005 Croft Quinta da Roeda Vintage Port - CASK SAMPLE. Rose petal and grenadine aromas are sweet and profuse. Medium-bodied in a feminine style, good acidity and tannins that arrive late. Generous and sweet, cherry and blackberry flavors. With more decanting this would have shown better. I need more time with it. Drink now through 2035. 93-95 points 5/14/07

1924 Quinta da Cordeira Colheita Port - The owner held two pipes of this Colheita in the Douro with 80+ years of Douro bake. Caramel color with a yellow edge. Sercial like nose but then came some caramel and butterscotch. Silky and rich, maderized and extremely intense mid-palate complexity. Extra sweet with golden raisins, toffee and butterscotch. The only downside here was that there was very light acidity, which ultimately could not hold up to the ultra-sweetness of this juice. Nonetheless, it had a crazy long 2 minute finish. It is being considered as a blending wine for 40 year old Tawny. What a fantastic treat to try and I’d drink this any day! 96 points 5/14/07

2005 Fonseca’s Quinta do Panascal Vintage Port - CASK SAMPLE. Dark and opaque, floral and plum nose, with medium body but rich and smooth and I have a feeling that had this been decanted longer before we sampled it, there would have been a different outcome. Rich and smooth like the infant it is. Everlasting finish with slight heat on the aftertaste. Well put together with mild tannins. Drink now through 2026. 92-94 points 5/14/07

2005 Guimaraens Vintage Port - CASK SAMPLE. Dark and opaque purplish/ruby. Smoother, more balanced than the Panascal. Excellent with brighter dark berry flavors and even a good amount of complexity at this very early stage. Big, ripe and chewy. Succulent great long finish and lively tannins to carry it for a few decades. 93-95 points 5/14/07

2005 Taylor’s Quinta de Terra Feita Vintage Port CASK SAMPLE. Tanky but otherwise reticent aromatics. Smooth and with a fuller weight than any of the others from TFP currently. More density and concentration and this could be a big baby. The tannins are punishing and the balance is a bit out of whack at this moment in time. Revisit this fall with lots of time in the decanter, maybe 24 hours. 91-93 points 5/14/07

2005 Taylor’s Quinta de Vargellas Vintage Port CASK SAMPLE. Grapey, tanky and violet nose, hot and spirity and not integrated as of yet. Needs time in order to evaluate. Very sweet with a drier finish and ripe tannins prevail on the finish. It is somewhat hard to see through the baby fat but the nose will come around, the spirit will integrate it is just a matter of where the fruit and tannins are going to wind up. We’ll see in the fall. 92-94 points 5/14/07

After our educational and diverse tasting we then headed off for some white Port tonics and hors d’oeuvres on the patio just outside the Baron Fladgate restaurant with Jorge Ramos. We were then met by Mr. and Mrs. Alistair Robertson who joined us for lunch at the Baron Fladgate Restaurant. The views of Oporto across the river were spectacular and on this beautiful sunny afternoon, everything seemed perfect. Lunch was spectacular too and we even had the luxury of having our bottle of Vintage Port opened tableside with a Port tongs. Most of our guests had never seen this before and it was quite an exhibition and was handled with aplomb.

As the Fladgate Partnership has committed to Port and only Port wine, they do makes table wines that they then serve in the restaurant and when they do catered events. We started off with:

2003 Don Prior Douro White - 3,000 cases made by David Guimaraens but not a single bottle has been exported (and possibly not even commercially released). Green apples and pears come to the fore and a tangy acidity accompanies the flavors along with a slight green spritz similar to Vinho Verde. Made of Viosinho, Gouveia, and Mavasia Fina this was a nice accompaniment to our first two courses. 84 points 5/14/07 2005

Romariz Tinto Red Douro Wine (VQPRD) - Young floral notes highlighting bright plums, dark berry fruit that translate to the palate as well. Easy to approach, smooth and possessing very light tannins. I’d suggest to drink now through 2012. 85 points 5/14/07

Taylor’s 20 Year Old Tawny Port - Our dessert course started off with this fine Tawny. Orange-Tawny color. Soft and smooth, rich and nutty with a light caramel flavor but more so pralines and a citrus peel element. Very enjoyable finish! 92 points 5/14/07

1985 Taylor’s Vintage Port - It was a real treat to see this bottle opened with a Port tongs. Smoky, plum, leather and dark cherry lead to a medium body weight and smooth on the palate. There are fully integrated tannins and medium length are the upshot here. Dry in style with purple fruits that come to the fore and present an enjoyable aftertaste. Good, but not a memorable Taylor VP. Drink now to 2020. 88 points 5/14/07

After lunch we had time to tour the Croft Lodge which is an amazing place and an absolutely beautiful old building that the pictures below don’t begin to capture. It must be seen and the Lodge’s wine cellar is one that our guests will never forget. There are some ancient bottles in there and some extraordinarily rare bottlings in large formats from Tregnums through six liter bottles that are quite impressive, as were the vintage Ports from the 19th century.


We arrived at our next appointment and enjoyed a nice tour of the premises at Calem although we had scheduled a tasting of Kopke wines for later. The Kopke Lodge is going to be fully renovated over the next year or two, so we met at Calem which is another Port shipper in the fine lineup of Sogevinus’ PORTfolio which also includes: Kopke, Barros, Gilberts and Burmester.

Kopke holds a very special place in the history of the Port trade. It was founded in 1638, three decades before any other Port firms were established. During our visit to Calem we saw the large, brand spanking new hi-tech auditorium/movie theater, well-appointed conference rooms and dining areas that were available for corporate meetings. This is the first time that I have seen something like this at a Gaia Lodge. Attracting business functions within the confines of a Port Lodge is certainly thinking out-of-the-box and I would not be surprised to see others doing the same in the future. Considering the few options available for such business events right in the heart of the Port wine zone, this was pretty progressive.

I visited Calem’s newly renovated facility less than a year ago, but it was not a pre-arranged tour & tasting. Here we were able to see the entire Lodge and all of the bells and whistles, of which there were many. Additionally, there was one new “attraction” which had been launched just days before our arrival and it was certainly an eye opening experience. Towards the end of our tour we were led to an enormous Balseiro (a huge vertical wood cask containing tens of thousands of liters of Port) and it had recently been converted into a theater with about a dozen seats. We sat inside the cask and watched a video presentation that gave the company history and showed some beautiful scenes of the Douro. I must admit the coolest part was being inside the Balseiro, another “first” and the gang really enjoyed this.

Our group was in for a real treat, they just didn’t know it yet. They had never been exposed to a full range of Colheita Port. Before we were to tackle the delicious Colheitas we presented with a Douro wine made by Kopke as well as a cask sample of the 2005 Kopke Vintage Port. Kopke is one of my ultimate favorites when it comes to Colheita producers and fortunately I reside in close proximity to the USA’s West Coast importer, so I have enjoyed many of them over the years.

We were very fortunate to have Sandra (who is responsible for the entire USA) her close friend and counterpart Celia Lima (who deftly handles all of Europe) and Pedro Sa (who is the Director of Enology) with us to help guide us through the tasting and to answer lots of questions.

2003 Kopke Vinho Tinto Reserva Douro Red - Who woulda thunk it? I had no idea that Kopke ever produced table wines from the Douro. 50% Touriga Nacional and a mix of Touriga Franca/Tinta Roriz, this was better than I expected. Dark berry fruit and really easy to drink. Smooth, and approachable, this spent a full year in oak. The tannins make a big ripe splash on the finish which was of medium length. I bet this would be great with the right food. 88 points 5/14/07

2005 Kopke Vintage Port - CASK SAMPLE. Whatever I used to think of the Vintage Ports produced by Kopke, since Sogevinus took over, it is an entirely new ballgame. Both their 2003 and 2004 VPs were quite good and the 2005 is no exception. Dark opaque purple consisting of 50% Touriga Nacional and 50% old vine field blends (with an average age of 40 years) from the Douro Superior. Fine acidity, very long finish, good balance with rounded tannins that arrive in time for the aftertaste. The 2005 is an even better Kopke than the two previous vintages and shows great promise. A truly harmonious VP and the best young Kopke VP I’ve ever tasted. Drink 2008-2030. 93-95 points 5/14/07

Kopke Very Old Dry White Port – From a Solera begun in 1934. Amber hue with herbs, nuts, golden raisins and a touch of VA on the nose. Delicious and unique white Port with copious amounts of gentle flavors of lemon, honey and almond. Light tannins and a mouthfeel caressed by liquid silk and well-integrated acidity. From their ratings, I could tell the others liked this even more than me, but it is a Port that I won’t soon forget, with a memorable finish. Drink now. 94 points 5/14/07

1984 Kopke Colheita Port – I must admit that I am fond of older Colheitas and rarely am I excited by the younger ones which have yet to truly develop their particular personalities. This is a fine example with a Kopke that obviously will reward patience or even be better when bottled later, after more wood aging. Orange-golden color with a yellow edge and pretty to look at in glass. Faint whiffs of grapefruit peel, hazelnuts and caramelized sugar there is enough complexity showing that I can tell this will be better down the road a bit. A dry and nutty profile with a soft and smooth texture but not fully developed. An orange citrusy element showed on the fine finish. 91 points 5/14/07

1997 Kopke Colheita Port – Possibly the youngest Colheita I have yet to try. I see no reason to release these very young gems when they are still so close to their removal from cask. As good as this may be some day, the evolved character is just not there yet and therefore, it does not deliver on its potential. Light ruby with a pink edge with leather and white pepper on the nose and some spice too. Medium body weight and balanced but lacking any real mid-palate or intricacy at this point. It needs lots more time, although has the stuffing to be exciting one day. 91 points 5/14/07

1978 Kopke Colheita Port – This is just about the point at which I find the beginning of real interest in a Colheita’s evolution. Light tawny color. Tasty citrus and lip smacking candied nut flavors are supported by a solid backbone of acidity. Medium-bodied and smooth on the palate with a profoundly long finish which was marred by some disjointed alcohol. This will integrate in time and become a more enjoyable drink. 91 points 5/14/07

1967 Kopke Colheita Port – Maple syrup color with a tawny rim. A refined nose of mahogany, walnuts, spirit and honey (almost botrytis like). I enjoyed swirling and sniffing over and over as the aromatics are compelling, even with the heat. This Kopke admirably demonstrates a chewy smooth and opulent presence with a prolonged aftertaste that carried some heat that was distracting. Otherwise, it was a sophisticated Colheita that could’ve been a contender. 93 points 5/14/07

1957 Kopke Colheita Port – Tawny color with yellow rim. Intensely aromatic scents of nut skin, antique furniture store, orange peel and toffee. Whoa, this is in a different realm. The texture here is soft and velvet like and a standout of all in the lineup to this point. I have had this more than almost any other Kopke and it never disappoints. Delicious concentrated flavors of butterscotch, toffee and a subtle vein of dried apricots with interwoven acidity that promises to unfold for years to come. A yummy liquid candy for adults! 96 points 5/14/07

1937 Kopke Colheita Port – Medium maple color with a yellow rim. Light VA welcomes the nose to the glass, accompanied by walnuts, mahogany and honey. Imbued with an intensity of acid and enjoyable in the mouth, but not as smooth and silky as the 1957, but still nicely textured. Showcasing nutty praline flavors and tangerine notes with a decadent, lingering aftertaste. 94 points 5/14/07

Roy’s Blend – I was invited to prepare a special cuvée from the Colheitas at hand and to let the group be the judge of the quality. Having a good amount of blending experience from my days in South Africa, I chose to blend 10% 1984, 20% 1967, 20% 1957 and 50% from the legendary 1937 Colheita vintage. It passed muster as the group scored this 93 points, but nary a drop of this elixir was left in anyone’s glass.

We spent a long time evaluating the various Ports and asking lots of questions of our Portuguese hosts. This was quite an eye opening experience as it is not every day that we get to try such an extensive lineup of fine Colheitas.

We had one last stop to make before dinner and it was clear across the river. We thanked our hosts for their generosity and bid our friends at Sogevinus farewell and headed to our last appointment of the day.


It was great to see Maria Theresa again and introduce our group to one of the more progressive wines shops in the Oporto area. Maria Theresa had brought in a Port & Douro personality for our group to meet.

Jose Serpa Pimentel, is the son of the current owner of Quinta da Pacheca and he and his (winemaker) sister Maria, are 4th generation Pimentel. The founder José Freire de Serpa Leitão Pimentel took over the ownership of Quinta da Pacheca in 1903. They make white and red Douro wines as well as LBVs, Colheitas and Vintage Ports on their property which possesses 36 hectares planted. Quinta da Pacheca’s very first Vintage Port was made in 2000, after selling their grapes to others for many years.

I have subsequently spent a few days visiting with Jose in the Douro at Pacheca and will do a much more in-depth report on the Quinta, the Pimentel family and their wines in a future newsletter. Our group then had the opportunity to try one of the Pacheca wines and a few from other Portuguese properties.

2003 Quinta da Pacheca Reserva DOC, Douro Red – This cuvée is produced from Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz and Touriga Nacional grapes with an average vine age of 32 years the oldest of which exceed 50 years old. Dark ruby color with ripe cherry and smoky plum flavors. It is full in body and the oak seems well married to the fruit and in synch overall with prominent tannins and a medium length to the finish. 35,000 bottles produced and it sells for around 25 Euros per. Drink now to 2018. 89 points 5/14/07

2001 Valle Pradinhos Tras-os-montes (“across the mountain”) Region Douro Red – Rui Cunha is the winemaker at this Douro property that was founded almost 90 years ago. It is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz. A smoky nose with floral, blackberry and cherry fruit and a touch of oak. The tart black currant and under-ripe plum flavors are not to my liking. Very tight and tannic at this stage and it could have used a few hours in a decanter which might have made for a better presentation. Drink now to 2013. It is my humble opinion that Douro wines should not be blended with Cabernet or other non-indigenous grapes 83 points 5/14/07

2004 Valle Pradinhos Tras-os-montes (“across the mountain”) Douro Red – I liked it a lot more than the 2001. This was much more approachable and balanced today but could really use another 5 years to hit its stride. Garnet color with a generous nose of violets, boysenberry and blueberries. Some good minerality here with blackberry and plum fruit flavors and enough tannins to make an impression on the finish which was medium in length. I bet it would have been even better with the right meat dish or decanted for two hours or so. It is easy to see the improvement from the 2001 that came before it. 3,000 cases produced. Drink now to 2018. 87+ points 5/14/07

2003 Quinta do Couquinho Douro Red – If oenologist João Brito e Cunha had a goal to produce Australian wine in the Douro Superior, he succeeded. Whether you believe that is a good thing or not is up to you. I felt it was an over-extracted, overtly concentrated fruit bomb that tasted somewhat like an unfortified Port. Maybe it did not have enough time in a decanter, which I am not sure of. Usually I can find at least one nice thing to say about any wine and here I am having a really tough time. The fact that it is made from Touriga Nacional, Franca and Tinta Roriz and that it is not over-oaked is good. I would bet there are many people that would love this style of red wine and think I am crazy. Maybe I just need to have more time with it in front of me, but on this visit, we did not connect. Drink through 2014. 81 points 5/14/07

2004 Gambozinos Reserva Douro Red – A French winemaker Jean Hugues Gros created this wine from the old vines at the Quinta, which is situated in the Rio Torto Valley and owned by a gentleman named Paterno Dias. The Gambozinos had a very fresh nose of raspberry and strawberries with fresh cut flowers and an herbal essence as well. It is a solidly made and well balanced value red wine that runs about 10-11 Euros and I believe about 10,000 bottles were vinified. It is definitely a food wine, certainly rustic in style and although the tannins are ripe at the moment, a few years from now this will be in a better place and should be more approachable. It is a somewhat simple yet tasty wine today and its finish was a bit clipped. Drink from 2008 through 2012. 84+ points 5/14/07

2000 Quinta de Portela da Vilariça Douro red – I believe the financial manager of AVEPOD has a stake in this project in Vilariça alongside the Sabor river. The vineyard with nearly eight hectares was planted back in 1985. Medium ruby-purple in color, the expressive nose is the highlight here with vibrant red berry fruit, espresso and some spicy floral notes. The flavor profile also tends towards red with some concentrated dark cherry and pomegranate flavors that are tart and finish dry. It is a balanced yet medium-bodied style that is approachable today but will continue to improve over the next several years due to its lively round tannins. Drink now through 2014. 89+ points 5/14/07

I’d like to thank Maria Theresa for her warmth and friendship. She has introduced me to many interesting producers and Douro wines that I would have very little chance of getting to know otherwise. In this case, Mr. Pimentel and a handful of other wines made for a very enjoyable afternoon and we invited Maria Theresa to come and join us for dinner as we were all ready to eat!


Always one of my favorite restaurants in the area, due to proximity to the waterfront in Oporto beside the bridge, as well as the treatment we receive from the owner Joaquim Granja. The food has always been stellar and we oftentimes order the same items, a delicious Caldo Verde soup (a rustic cream of potato and kale soup with chorizo sausage) that is as good is it gets and a fantastic presentation of Bacalhau with sautéed onions atop bread crumbs that are then browned for a few moments in the broiler to give a wonderful crust and added flavor to the fish.

However on this evening, the food did not live up to our expectations and I was quite disappointed after all the excellent meals we’ve had there and how much I like to talk up this restaurant. I don’t know if it was a change of Chefs or what, but it was like eating in a very different restaurant, except for the natural charm of the setting. Our subsequent visit during the Harvest Tour also yielded a very similar experience and I no longer feel good about taking our groups there, which is a real shame as Mr. Granja is one of the kindest restaurant owners and charismatic hosts in the city.

We had a bunch of wines with the various courses and I did not take solid notes on the 2003 Fuseiro Touriga Nacional from the Douro region. I was caught up in conversation but paid much more attention to:

2004 Arrobeiros Reserva DOC, Douro Red – I’ve said it before, if making wine in the Douro during the 2004 harvest, a winemaker was given all the gifts of Mother Nature. So in theory, some of the very best wines ever to come out of the region were made. For those that failed to deliver, they should go sell shoes! But back to the Arrobeiros. Notes of black cherry, prune and spice with a touch of cedar presented a nice mélange of aromatics and flavors to this smooth and easy-to-approach Douro red. Nicely balanced and a great complement to our dinner, I would buy this again anytime. Drink now to 2018. 90 points 5/14/07

Ashamedly, I did not take notes on the other wines until it came time for dessert which was stellar. We were having so much fun as a group and with Maria Theresa’s presence that I just did not want my note taking to intrude. We ended with one of our favorite Ports that we’ve introduced to every group we bring to Portugal:

1952 Dalva White Colheita Port – We are very spoiled, having had this beauty less than 24 hours ago. I have now enjoyed it well over a dozen times and never get tired of it. Actually yesterday’s showing was better and this was also bottled in 2006, but was not quite as crisp and vibrant as the glass we each enjoyed at Vinologia. Still a heck of a thrill ride in the mouth and every bit as exciting aromatically. On this night it showed well but there have been more pristine bottles than this one. I wonder how long it had been open. 94 points 5/14/07

The story of the 2007 Fortification Tour is told in 3 parts:

Part One - Porto & Gaia, featuring Sandeman, Taylor Fladgate, Vinologia Port wine bar, Sogevinus, Avepod Wine Shop and Presuntisco restaurant.

Part Two - In the Douro at Quinta do Infantado, Wine & Soul, Niepoort and Warre's Quinta da Cavadinha

Part Three - In Madeira, at HM Borges, Vinhos Barbeito and Fajã dos Padres