This Fortification Tour was billed, “The Best of the Best” which was an homage to our fifth year of guiding these tours encompassing both Port & Madeira regions, a year after we began the Port Harvest Tour in 2005. It was the first time we decided not to advertise a tour and for the very first time, it ‘sold out’  months in advance. Our challenge was to deliver a dazzling weeklong tour that would actually exceed the lofty expectations of our guests. You will read in this article about the places that we visited and the experiences we shared along the way.

Our group met in the hotel lobby on Sunday afternoon and we spent some time introducing ourselves to one another. I knew the vast majority of our guests from other wine events held throughout the USA. Unquestionably, this was the most experienced, well traveled and wine savvy group that Mario and I have ever had join us for any tour. It wasn’t going to be easy to impress them. Most had never been to Portugal to check out the wine regions we were going to visit and so at least the terrain was going to be new to them. We looked forward to the challenge before us!

The adventure began …

C. da Silva (Gran Cruz)

As we arrived at the off-the-beaten-path and gated Port lodge, we were warmly greeted by C. da Silva’s general manager, Jorge Dias; Elsa Couto the charming export manager; Hubert Wolff who is the director for the Portuguese market and Manuel Sousa Soares, the chief oenologist for the group, who I knew from his days with the Sogevinus group.

This was our first time visiting the C. da Silva company and the focus of our afternoon was their Dalva Lodge. Fortunately, we would have the opportunity and time to see their entire network of operations, certainly the most extensive of any that we’ve been to in Vila Nova de Gaia.

The parent of the entire French-based group is the diverse La Martiniquaise beverage consortium. With a total of 1,400 employees worldwide; they enjoy 25% market share of all spirits sold in France. They’re a major stakeholder in Justino’s, the #1 selling Madeira, (but also own the huge Glen Turner distillery). Their Port stable consists of Gran Cruz (Porto Cruz) which bought C. da Silva in 2007, which controls brands like Dalva (take: C. da Silva and remove the “C.” and “Si” and it then = Dalva) and the US only Port brand, Presidential.

Porto Cruz is the single largest producer of Port wine (although largely bulk in nature) 10 million bottles are sold annually worldwide, but mostly in France, the majority of which ends up as cooking wine. Dalva is their upscale brand although years ago bottles were shipped with the name C. da Silva on the label and the oldest one’s I’ve owned and tasted were the 1905 Special Reserve “5 Crown” & 1926 Vintage Port (photos of both can be seen in the opening image for “A Question for the Port Trade").

We toured all operations of Gran Cruz and Dalva, but it was the Dalva Colheita Ports which we were here to taste today.

C. da Silva Port company was founded in 1862 by Clemente da Silva, but finding information on him is not easy. All I know is that he was a smart man and wound up as the head of the firm, by marrying into the right family.  There are reports that this old 18th Century home once belonged to Baron J.J. Forrester, the famed cartographer and writer, who drew the immediately recognizable map of the Douro, (copies of which rest framed upon the walls of nearly every Port lodge and quinta). This house is a small part of the visual feast one is offered when visiting here.

The C. da Silva “compound” is located away from the other Port lodges in Gaia, not too far from the Melia Hotel. If you add up all of their buildings, the sheer size of the operation is something to behold.

The stainless steel tanks in the Porto Cruz building are truly mind blowing. This is the ancient remains of Porto Cabral that was sold to Porto Cruz in the 1970’s. It holds nearly 8 million liters of Port, in just 22 stainless steel tanks, containing 350,000 liters apiece. I am guessing that they were about 50’ tall.

Additionally, there are nearly 12 million bottles, 230 Balseiros made of French oak (large upright wooden casks), lots of Toneis (large horizontal casks) plus 3,000 pipes of Port held in the company’s various warehouses. It has to be seen to be believed and the only larger wine operation I’ve seen in person, is the Modesto, California facility of E. & J. Gallo.

Porto Cruz’s building contains the single largest capacity of Port held in any lodge in Vila Nova de Gaia!

Porto Cruz focuses their marketing to approach young people and less traditional Port drinkers with their new products. Cruz and Dalva are making inroads into new markets and their future and management team share an equally positive outlook for Port.

There were several bottling lines (a grandiose grouping) which work all year round except for Sundays. The over-wrapping and palletizing functions are all automated functions here. The capacity is impressive, but since it was Sunday, we didn’t see or hear the bottling line in action.

We learned that with their three Port companies combined, the Gran Cruz group leads the Port industry with a 20% market share (by volume).

We then took an elevator down to a lower level and when I say down, I am talking about 100 meters underground. On the way, we had a fun discussion and it was mentioned that the number one export in all of Portugal is ... cork products. Jorge Dias mentioned that 88% of the value of all Port and Douro wines, comes from exports. I knew the number was large but it made us realize how small the domestic market really is. One other factoid: they buy from nearly 5,000 grape growers in the Douro.

Although a certain owner of a well-known Port bar has often told the tale (in 2009) that ALL of the 1952 Dalva Golden White Colheita had been removed from cask and had been bottled already I found proof positive that the rumor of the aforementioned Port’s early demise was, well, greatly exaggerated. In the first cask (only 2 of the 3 are shown above) there was 196 of the 671 liters remaining. In cask 2 there was 337 liters of the original 550, and the third was nearly empty. This was great news. To stem the tide, new bottlings are no longer in 750s (but slick 500 ml bottles) and I’m sure by now there are not too many of the 750s still for sale. However, for those of us that cherish this particular bottling, it is very reassuring to see some of it is still left in pipes!

1967 Dalva Colheita Port – This is a limited edition Colheita that was blended by famous chef Rui Paula of DOC fame, with a total of 500 each x 750 ml bottles. Why 1967? It was his birth year, of course. When I saw the slick looking signed bottles I was certainly skeptical, but one sip and I was convinced. Mr. Paula’s blending ability is on a par with his ability to cook and run a fantastic restaurant (or two). Figs and dried apricots are prominent both aromatically and on the palate. But the highlight reel is all about the perfect symmetry between the fruit and laser like acidity; the balance is nearly perfect. Medium weight, silky smooth and voluptuous in the mouth, the fresh ripe figs captivate the stellar aftertaste, which is as long as it is delicious. 95+ points 5/16/10

1963 Dalva Golden White Colheita Port – Bottled in 2010. The heir apparent? This is the new Dalva bottling which is to replace the 1952 Golden White, when there is none left. Apparently quantities of the 1963 are solid, but it will also come in the new 500 ml package. This is the second time I’ve had this Port and although it is very good, when I last had it, side-by-side with the 1952 (as we did here) … it could not quite measure up. That said; don’t be disappointed, this is a very fine Dalva indeed. Dark amber in color and the bouquet is marvelous, offering up golden raisins, figs, toffee, peach preserves and a gentle dose of VA – the good kind. This seemed younger than the 1967 Dalva consumed right before it, although it could be the difference between the utilization of red and white grapes. The 1963 has lots going on in the mid-palate with ample acidity and complex layers in abundance. I really enjoyed the nutty influence on the persistent finish. The vintage from which it was vinified will guarantee its popularity. 93+ points 5/16/10

1952 Dalva Golden White Colheita Port – Bottled in 2009. Made from Donzelinho, Viosinho, Malvasia Fina and Gouveio grapes. This was a particularly good showing and it was really fun to try this again, up against its younger sibling the ’63. The main difference between them is how sumptuous this is in the mouth; by comparison, it is noticeably more hedonistic. I never tire of this Dalva and it remains one of the greatest White Colheitas I’ve tasted (1896 Krohn and 1917 Niepoort are the only two rivals I’ve found). As distinctive as the nose and flavor profiles are … and make no mistake … both are gorgeous; this Port’s greatest feature might just be the seductive texture which is truly sublime. It delivers a lingering finish with citrus and almonds. Love it! 95+ points 5/16/10

2008 Dalva Vintage Port – Cask sample. After three consecutive and stunning old Dalva Colheitas, this was a significant departure to wrap my brain around. I was very determined for our guests to taste 2008 cask samples on this tour and requested them in advance for every stop. The Dalva showed fragrant violets and fresh floral notes along with plums and vanilla. Medium-weight, quite approachable and well balanced, but mostly simple in the middle … for now. Finely tuned tannins were ripe, yet round. Concentrated flavors of blueberry and ripe olives, not a combo I find often. Lively, well-structured and offering a solid finish, this should drink well early and through 2026. 90-92 points 5/16/10

After tasting our way through this lineup, we had a fun challenge ahead of us. Although pre-labeled as Roy’s Special Blend, it was going to be a ton of fun for each guest to try their hand as a Master Blender of Port. Who would come up with the finest Port cuvée of all? There were six Port samples we could use to come up with something infinitely more complex than the individual components. In front of us we faced: 2000, 1995, 1991 & 1985 Dalva, plus a 10 and 20 year old Tawny. Let the games begin!

Although I had a chance to create a blend too, it was my privilege to taste through the final results and select the winning blend. Talk about “Sophie’s Choice” there were lots of fine Ports on the table and though no two were the same, I chose the cuvée which was the most complete for my palate. The winning blend was produced by Brad England who created an excellent Port. Here was his recipe: 40% 2000, 20% 1991, 10% 1995, 10% 1985, 10% 10 Year Old and 10% 20 Year Old Tawny. I found Brad’s Port to possess aromatic intrigue, a great mix of acidity, delicacy and an outstanding aftertaste. Dalva oenologist Manuel Sousa Soares then measured out all of the components, duplicating Brad’s blend and we all had fun bottling our own Dalva keepsake. Later in the trip, one night poolside in Madeira a few of us consumed my bottle, accompanied by fine Cuban cigars.

Two new developments have just taken place: one is a Facebook page that was just launched C. da Silva Porto & Douro wine experiences  The New C. da Silva Facebook Page!

The other news is that C. da Silva is opening a brand new Port bar in Vila Nova de Gaia. Although it has less than a week before it launches, they’re still trying to come up with a great name. I suggested: Dalva & Presidential Port Pub ... we’ll see if it sticks. Anyway, this fantastic new venue will open up just down the street from the Sandeman Port Lodge and will be managed by Gonçalo Devesas. The address is: Avenida Diogo Leite, 154 – Vila Nova de Gaia. Stop by and say hello to Gonçalo and staff; enjoy some of the dozens of Ports available by-the-glass. Mention FTLOP for a special treat!

A great beginning to our “Best of the Best” tour and everyone was starting to get hungry. We thanked our hosts for a memorable first visit and although Dalva may not have been a name our guests knew beforehand, I believe it is a name they will definitely seek out with confidence in the future.

Special thanks (and good luck!) to our friend Gonçalo Devesas, for his wisdom in suggesting Dalva as a great place to visit. He actually joined us for our tour and also recommended Boucinha Restaurant as our dinner venue that night. It has been tradition on the majority of our tours, that Sunday night’s dinner typically includes a roasted suckling pig. We were joined by Oscar Quevedo who presented some of his wines for us to try with dinner. Afterwards, Gonçalo and Oscar presented a fun Port tasting as our guests learned more about the “Fortification” process.

n/v Quinta das Arcas “Arca Nova” Branco Seco Vinho Verde – Utilizing Alvarinho and Trajadura grapes for this version of Vinho Verde. I was not a fan of this wine. Although there was acacia flowers, pear, honeysuckle and green grassy notes, it lacked the requisite balancing acidity to excite the palate. Without it, this was a simple white wine with a rather short finish and did not present like a typical Vinho Verde with crispness. This was the restaurant’s choice and it left me underwhelmed. If someone had told me this was a CA Sauv Blanc, I probably would have believed them. 82 points 5/16/10

2008 Oscar’s Douro red wine – Opened tableside by Oscar, this wine achieves exactly what it aims to deliver: a solid “food wine” with no pretentions of grandeur, but pleasant fruit filled flavor and a reasonably good finish. It offers both a fine QPR and an extremely reasonable price point at $7 in the USA. How many wines are even drinkable at that price point? With the right food pairing, like a juicy burger on a Tuesday night, I’d be happy to own cases of this for casual meals. Drink now or enjoy through 2013. 85 points 5/16/10

2009 Oscar’s Reserva Douro red wine – A fresh and lively cuvée with darker fruit and more powerful grip than the 2008 version. I liked this a bit more more and found it very well balanced. The fruit is ripe and concentrated with plum and dark cherry flavors, but very approachable, smooth and soft, yet there is significantly more tannins than in 2008. One can see Claudia’s stylistic improvement (Oscar’s sister) with this vintage’s fruit. It exhibits a nicer mouthfeel and more structure too which translates into more drinking pleasure. A very good effort at a bargain price. Perfect for immediate consumption but will drink well through 2016. 88 points 5/16/10

1985 Dow’s Vintage Port – Dark opaque garnet with a slightly lighter ruby edge. Mocha, cherry berry and kirsch with some slight heat, due to being opened just prior to dinner. A lovely Vintage Port and a really well-made Dow. Unctuous from the very first sip and this would have improved dramatically with more time open. Nonetheless, it was showing great focus and concentrated flavors of blackberry preserves and cassis. Rich, mouthfilling, young and tannic at this stage, but nothing eight hours of decant time wouldn’t have rounded out. This has three more decades of delivering the goods. Long and dry aftertaste that’s showing plenty of grip. One of my favorite 1985 Vintage Ports. 94+ points 5/16/10

1994 Quinta do Passadouro Vintage Port – Produced and bottled by Niepoort. Medium ruby color w/ lighter meniscus beginning to show signs of bricking. I am not sure if it was the bottle or the VP, but this seems to be aging a bit too rapidly. Prune and fig aromas were very nice but along with some almond and toffee notes, hinted at a bit of premox, whether a leaker or otherwise. Filled with flavor and spicy elements with cinnamon, herbs and a combo of dark cherry and raspberry fruit. Nice symmetry and the finish is long, with fully resolved tannins. If this bottle was “correct” I would suggest consuming this Port by 2020. 90 points 5/16/10

2007 Porto Quevedo Vintage Port – Fully opaque violet color. Spicy, peppery nose, some black licorice and a touch of alcohol protruding but this was only decanted right before our meal. Generous flavors of fig and black plum compote, ripe and primary. It is showing lots of round tannins and good acidity. I think this could have used a LOT more time in decanter and was not showing typically well. It was still very good, but I’ve had better bottles or at least bottles that seemed more fun to drink. Oscar brought this for our group to try and there was mixed opinions about its quality. It is not easy to drink such youngsters, especially with so little aeration. 91 points 5/16/10

n/v Taylor 40 Year Old Tawny Port – Bottled in 2004. I’ve always enjoyed the T4O year old and this was no exception. I’ve never been impressed with a pop ‘n pour version though. I realize it needs no decanting, but with six years in the bottle, it could have used a little aeration. A fine bouquet of almond paste, char, raisins, lemony-citrus and intense burnt sugar. Love the nose! The palate remained a bit tight for awhile but was immediately rich and viscous. As it opened, it revealed toasty, very nutty nuances, crème Anglais and more lemon characteristics. Lush but not as intense or as complex in the middle as usual. Maybe it is due to an older bottle, but either more air or freshness would have helped. If it was the first time I ever tried this Port, I’d probably have a better impression. 93 points 5/16/10

n/v São Pedro Aguias More than 40 Years Tawny Port – Bottled in 2007 by Rozès. Light maple color with a greenish tinge to the meniscus. This property lies 10 km east of Pinhão and is not a commonly found Port, to say the least and it is never seen in the USA. Crème brûlée, lime zest, walnuts offer a riveting fragrance. The palate lacks the same brilliance and is medium bodied, possesses some aguardente which protrudes just a bit and ultimately, it is a simple Port … considering its 40+ years of age. The finish was good but I expected more. 89 points 5/16/10

1975 Porto Quevedo “Garrafeira Particular” Colheita Port – I don’t remember ever having this Quevedo before and Oscar mentioned that it was from the very last cask their family owns of it (1000 liter) and the small size of the barrel was to slow down the oxidation and therefore, the aging. This was bottled directly from cask, specifically for our enjoyment, which is quite a treat! It is just starting to fade to Tawny color but there are glints of ruby in the center and a light golden edge. Aromatically, it reminded me of a Boal with a touch of VA, torched sugar, orange peel and caramel. The palate was exceptionally light in body and velvety with a fresh mid-palate due to copious citrus-infused acidity, flavors of caramelized sugar and molasses, I found this a bit too sweet, but still quite good. A very charismatic Colheita, especially for those who don’t mind sweeter styled Colheitas. 90 points 5/16/10

1963 Dalva Colheita Port – Yes again. This was the 2nd bottle we had today. I like this one a bit more. The difference for me was the viscous nature here, which seemed a little bit more rich in the mouth with some smoky, honeyed notes, tobacco and generous liquid butterscotch which was profound on the extra long finish. I can’t explain why this was a bit better, but having had this only five hours earlier in the day, it was hard to forget the other one. 94 points 5/16/10

Our first day together was lots of fun, but by the end of the night many people were ready for bed. That was a good thing as a full night’s sleep is exactly what it takes to get past the jet lag and onto Portuguese time. Monday was going to be a very full and exciting day with some legendary Vintage Ports. We headed back to the hotel to get some rest. Thanks again to Gonçalo and Oscar!

Monday 5/17/10: Breakfast was very much appreciated and although we did not have that much Port our first day, it was actually just enough. I was glad to see that pretty much everyone was on time and nobody skipped breakfast. Mario joined us and made sure we left the hotel promptly and we headed out for the first of our appointments.

Graham's Port Lodge

Upon arrival at the Graham’s Lodge in Vila Nova de Gaia, FTLOP friend and Symington Family Estate’s employee, Gustavo Devesas (Gonçalo’s younger brother) joined us in the ante room, where the public meets. There is a new tasting bar in this area, and a few other new additions have been added to spruce things up in this swank and historic Port Lodge, which is the centerpiece for tourism when visiting the Symington Port operations.

Gustavo took our group on a tour, spent a bit of time with the great map of the Symington family properties, explaining the lay of the land, the three sub-regions and how the Serra de Marão range of mountains (at 1,400 meters), protects the climatic conditions of the Douro from the influences of the Atlantic Ocean. We also had the opportunity to walk through the large area that contained all of the pipes of Port in the Graham’s Lodge, which is always interesting to see the various sized wooden casks and learn which type is used to hold the various special categories of Port … and why.

Gustavo was very thorough and answered lots of questions from our guests who were not only extremely wine savvy, but well-versed in Port’s tradition and specific vintages, not to mention their impassioned consumption of Port. I could tell that he really enjoyed the repartee and our guests appreciated his great knowledge, historical perspective and detailed info that he provided on various topics related to Port and Douro wine.  We had a great tasting lined up but before we moved into the tasting room, Gustavo shared some excellent factoids about Graham’s and the Symington Family Estates:

  • The Graham’s Lodge was built in 1890.
  • The Symington’s are the largest owners of vineyard land in the Douro.
  • There are now 45,000 hectares planted in the Douro and 33,000 growers.
  • A total of 89 IVDP approved grape varieties for Port & Douro wines.
  • There are 226 people working for the Symington’s living in the Douro, which expands to 1,000 or so during the harvest time.
  • The Symington Family buys grapes from 2,100 growers.
  • A total of 30-35% of their Port produced comes from their own grapes.
  • 1997 was the last vintage where Vintage Port was not 100% produced using their own grapes.

Back around 2008, the Symingtons built a new area for their public tour groups to visit. It was a newly renovated part of their cellar which is kept locked and provides great photo opportunities of large quantities of some of their old and young Vintage Ports. But there is a separate area which remains under lock and key; in the old part of the cellar where large stocks of bottles are stored. These rooms contain hundreds of thousands of bottles of Vintage Port and must be seen to be believed. It is one of the most impressive sites in all of Vila Nova de Gaia, a treasure trove of Port. Each specific bay holds just one vintage and there can be tens of thousands of bottles in there.

It was at this point of our visit that we met the affable and brilliant Dominic Symington, the younger brother of Paul and son of Michael Symington. I only met his father once, during my first visit to Graham’s and The Factory House, sixteen years earlier. Dominic is highly respected in the Port trade and he is also very involved with the Symington’s holdings in Madeira: The Madeira Wine Company. Here is a brief but excellent video clip of Dominic providing insight into some fine Port pairings with specific food items: Vintage Port and Food Pairings with Dominic Symington

Several months in advance of our visit, we had planned out all of our tastings for the entire tour. The tasting we were going to enjoy today whilst visiting the Symingtons, is truly one that could aptly be called a “once-in-a-lifetime” tasting for our guests. In fact, this was a really unique diagonal tasting. In the mid-1990s, I coined the phrase “diagonal tasting” for Port wine, when I used to organize them in my home in Northern Virginia for friends and colleagues and later, when I moved to Seattle.

It is a theme I find most educational. A diagonal tasting incorporates the finest elements of both a horizontal tasting (comparing the Ports … or wines from a single vintage made by several producers) and vertical tasting (comparing wines from a string of vintages made by the same producer). In this case we were going to compare and contrast, NINE Vintage Ports from the Symington Family Estate’s 3 best known Port houses: Graham’s, Dow’s and Warre’s; all of which came from the consecutive “generally declared” and legendary vintages of 1963, 1966 and 1970.

I was looking forward to this tasting as much as any of our guests. Having these VPs all together at one sitting was a very rare privilege. The fact that these bottles were tasted at the source, left little question as to the provenance. Dominic would be guiding us through the tasting and providing historical references and insights from his own experience and that of his elder family members who were in the vineyards and involved in the vinification of these particular VPs.

All Ports we tasted were decanted 3.5 hours in advance of the beginning of our tasting. By the end they had all been open for nearly six hours.

Dominic had over a century’s worth of his family’s historical notes on growing and harvest conditions that were written by his ancestors responsible for the viticulture and Port making in the Douro. This provided great detail and allowed us to better understand why certain qualities were in the Ports we were tasting. Having Dominic present to share this information was invaluable in making this such an extraordinary experience for all of us. We tasted the Ports in the following order:

Warre’s, Dow’s and Graham’s 1970, 1966 and ending with the 1963 which was the last vintage 100% foot trodden by all companies in the Port trade, a wonderful tidbit which was news to me.

1970 Warre’s Vintage Port – Medium ruby color with a pink edge and slight bricking. Expressive nose of pine, maple, cinnamon, herbs and pipe tobacco. Medium weight, warming spirit and red cherry fruit, spicy palate with an elaborate middle, good structure supported by fully resolved, chalky and round tannins. It is quite feminine for a 1970 and although it was not possible to decant this longer than it was, I have little doubt it would have showed less aggressive spirit and a longer finish with further aeration. Tinta Amarela added richness to the blend. There was a dollop of heat on the medium length finish. There’s at least another decade of life ahead of this Warre’s although it is about to enter its tertiary stage and is currently on a plateau. Drink now through 2022 to catch it before the fruit starts to fade into the tawny realm. 91 points 5/17/10

1966 Warre’s Vintage Port – Light ruby color with a watermelon-pink hued rim. Sweet nose of cherry and strawberry with verve and great depth, additionally some black pepper and cinnamon emerged. Sublime and spicy in the mouth with some heat in the middle, it offered medium weight and a sexy soft texture. Delicious but spirituous and again, I can’t help but think that 2-3 more hours would’ve provided enough time for it to flesh out and gain more integration. The ‘66 delivered more intensity, concentration and shows greater longevity than the 1970. The overall balance and pleasure is commendable, and its tannic nature will keep this humming through 2025. 92+ points 5/17/10

1963 Warre’s Vintage Port – Orange-brick color with a light strawberry-pink edge. The nose was decadent and offered lots of torrefacted notes, raisins and walnuts but the palate was also fabulous. Light -bodied and delicate in the mouth, showing tons of intricacy in the mid-range with flavors of cherry, toffee and mocha. Great depth both upon entry and right through to the finish. A hedonistic Warre’s that is still showing its stamina and will drink at this level at least through the early part of the next decade. Elegance in a glass with a finish that kept on ticking. 94 points 5/17/10

1970 Dow’s Vintage Port – I compared this to the color of the 1970 Warre’s and they were identical. The nose was fresh, smoky and savory with minerals, a slight medicinal note, but quite effusive. Full-bodied and densely concentrated, noticeably drier than any of the three preceding Warre’s VPs. Firm, seductive and smooth in the mouth. Great intensity and a long opulent finish. This is a classy and classic Dow with another two decades of solid drinking. 95+ points 5/17/10

1966 Dow’s Vintage Port – Medium dark ruby with slight bricking on the rim. Cherry, spice and sultana raisins along with a slightly spirituous tone that I bet would blow off in another hour or two. Delicious, great structure and balance overall. Silky, yet aggressive tannins in the mouth and at 44 years of age, quite impressive; showing the excellent nature of the ’66 vintage and house. Smooth, long and enduring finish. Upside potential of at least three more decades, although Dominic ventured it would be “a fine Port over the next forty some odd years.” A superb VP. 95+ points 5/17/10

1963 Dow’s Vintage Port – Quinta do Bomfim produced 105 pipes of Port this year. Very light ruby with a light pink-tawny meniscus. Tight initially with minty, cocoa, cedar and strawberry aromas. This exhibited the biggest, richest and roundest palate of Dow’s troika of VPs. The tannins are still alive and refined; texturally this is a beauty with sumptuous elegance. Massive, dense, voluptuous and with great purity. One of the best bottles of 1963 Dow I’ve tasted. Bottles of this quality will provide immense pleasure at 65 years of age if not more. An awesome not-yet-fully-mature VP nearing 50! 96+ points 5/17/10

1970 Graham’s Vintage Port – Medium ruby with bricking on the edge. Some candied scents with prune, figs, hazelnuts and dark toffee. Rich, soft and viscous with a massive palate appeal, hot in the mid-section and could use another 3 hours decant time. It’s offering complex layers, focused by the acidity and it exhibits great intensity and verve. Medium tannins still deliver grip. Fine extraction, smooth, elegant and deftly balanced with a profound aftertaste. Great now, but it has an unquestionably long life ahead of 3 decades. A fabulous 1970 Graham. 95+ points 5/17/10

1966 Graham’s Vintage Port – Dark garnet with a light pink edge. Aromas of crème de cassis, Asian spice, cedar, herbs. Surprisingly dry in style for a Graham’s VP. Lots of glycerin, deeply concentrated, dense, chewy and smooth. Intensely spicy with chocolate and tobacco. Possessing a crazy everlasting and delicious finish. At best now through 60 years of age. 95 points 5/17/10

1963 Graham’s Vintage Port – My favorite Port of the tasting. Dark ruby with a wide bricking rim, check out the photo above … it is crazy dark for a 1963 and the G66 is also incredibly extracted and in great shape. Tar, caramel, kirsch and fresh aromatics with an intensity that kept my nose in the glass. Rich and chewy, great purity of fruit and not overtly sweet, with dark cherry and chocolate flavors, resolved tannins but plenty of stuffing here including lots of acidity. Showcasing a fruit laden multifaceted, profound aftertaste with silky caramel, and a late arriving tannic streak. Bottles of this quality will drink well for 20+ years. 1963 saw a late harvest with the grapes picked up until October 20th with near perfect conditions. An exemplary bottle of Graham’s 1963 VP! 97+ points 5/17/10

We adjourned for lunch and our group was buzzing with the excitement of such a remarkable Port “event” and had built up quite an appetite. Dominic joined us and recounted some wonderful stories during the course of the meal. We were served a few of the Symington’s Douro wines to accompany the various dishes:

2009 Altano Douro White – Lemon, honeysuckle and acacia flowers produce a fresh fragrance and there’s also a slightly grassy, greenish nose. Malvasia Fina (80%) in evidence here with a crisp and refreshing presence. The wild floral element comes more from the Moscatel (20%). Simple but tasty and well balanced. So far this is now my favorite vintage of the Altano white. Should drink well over the next five years. 89 points 5/17/10

2007 Altano Douro Red – It looks so purplish that it seemed like a cask sample. Eliciting smoky prunes and notes of blueberry pie with a touch of minerality. Cassis and blackberry initially and a prune flavor on the aftertaste. Dry profile and a chalky texture with a medium long finish. Nicely developed flavors and gentle tannins. Drink now through 2016. 88 points 5/17/10

n/v Graham’s 10 Year Old Tawny Port – Ruby centric with a tawny edge. Lovely aromas of baked apple, marzipan, mocha, roasted espresso bean that were the highlight of this wine’s character. I prefer the nose to the palate which is good but lacks the verve of top 10 year olds. There’s a gentle nutty quality and ripe peach flavor that appears on the aftertaste, but this is rather straight forward and the middle is simple. The finish is mid-length and although smooth, it’s a bit hot. 89 points 5/17/10

Lunch really hit the spot and our guests seemed sated but were eager to get back to the table with the remainders of the bottles. I did not have much left in my glasses at this point, but hey, different strokes. You have to love the simplicity of these nine bottles lined up. Not a bad way to spend a Monday morning! After thanking Gustavo who joined us for the tasting, along with our generous host, Dominic Symington, for a truly memorable day at the Graham’s Lodge, we boarded our minibus.

The Fladgate Partnership

Our afternoon would be spent visiting The Fladgate Partnership (TFP) at their Taylor Lodge in Gaia. It was a beautiful afternoon and across the street we were able to see the construction site of The Yeatman Hotel. TFP’s Jorge Ramos who heads up sales and marketing for North America and the Caribbean region, came to meet us and it was great to see him again.

He took us on a tour of the Taylor Lodge, which is one of the “must see” Port properties, replete with a wonderful restaurant and a plethora of Port paraphernalia. It also provides an amazing view of the Douro river, bridges and the city of Porto as well. Now with the hotel literally across the street, I have a feeling there will be lots more traffic to their historic Port lodge as well.

Adrian Bridge, CEO of TFP stopped by to introduce himself to the group prior to our tasting. He gave us an update on the Yeatman Hotel’s progress and told us it sits on a 7 acre parcel, will have 82 large guest rooms of 400 square feet apiece with their own patio and all rooms will be facing Porto with excellent views of the Douro River. There will be 12 suites with 1,200 square feet of space. Additionally, there will be 3 suites containing a large Port vat with the master bed inside it. There will be a wine spa with vinotherapy. The Yeatman is going to be a Portuguese-wine destination hotel that represents every wine region in the country. There will be weekly wine dinners on Thursday nights, with the winemaker in attendance. The Fladgate Partnership will reach out to wineries all over Portugal to include wines from all regions and they’ll have sponsorships from various wine companies with wine themed guest rooms. The Yeatman will also feature the world’s tallest wine cork, standing at 2.27 meters high. I received word on 7/25/10 - The Yeatman had been officially open for business.

Jorge presided over the organization for the tasting and we were going to have another “diagonal” using the same three extraordinary vintages, 1963/1966/1970 for the Ports of Taylor, Fonseca and Croft. The play on the theme was to taste each trio of Vintage Ports, by vintage year in reverse order, going back from the youngest to oldest. I liked this idea, to mix things up and provide another view of how a diagonal tasting can highlight both producer and vintage in a very unique fashion. The possibilities are endless, well almost.

The Fladgate Partnership’s head of winemaking, David Guimaraens also stopped by to greet our group and confirm that we were in for a great treat with the tasting we were about to embark on. It was a very nice touch and much appreciated to have David drop in!

Last but not least, Adrian’s wife Natasha Bridge also came in to say hello and introduce herself. She is the Master Blender for TFP. Natasha’s father, who owns the majority share of the company, Alistair Robertson, retains the Chairman title and represents the 8th generation of the family that has owned the Taylor Fladgate company since it was founded in 1692 by Job Bearsley. In 1948 they acquired Fonseca as well. Croft which is also part of the TFP group was acquired in late 2001 along with Delaforce, the latter of which was recently resold.

We then began our tasting; all of the Vintage Ports were decanted 3 hours in advance.

The 1970 vintage is a modern marvel with many well-made Vintage Ports from this outstanding harvest. Very few ‘66s disappoint at this stage of their evolution. The pictures of the bottles are shown in horizontals, rather than in the order we tasted them, but they were already lined up and it wasn’t worth moving them all around, as others were involved in taking photos too.

1970 Croft Vintage Port – Light to medium garnet color with gentle bricking towards the edge. Spicy cinnamon and mahogany scents along with red fruits and lots of alcohol protruding on the nose. Smooth and easy to approach with cherry and raspberry fruit that is ripe and soft with mint and caramel that show up for the finish but disappear rather quickly. Hot aftertaste, the best characteristic here is the mouthfeel. A fairly typical showing for the 1970 which has never been one of my favorites. It is time to open bottles and start to drink them before the fruit fades and all that is left is the alcohol. 90 points 5/17/10

1970 Fonseca Vintage Port – Dark ruby with a tawny rim. Wow, what a difference coming after the Croft ’70. Lush lilac fragrance, figs, crème brûlée and cinnamon round out the aromatic arsenal. The palate is even better, unctuous and concentrated briary blackberry and fresh fig flavors are nearly primary in their youthful impression. Beautiful synchronicity between the fruit, acidity and gently grippy tannins. Texturally the Fonseca caresses the tongue with liquid silk and is all about seduction. A stunning bottle that hits on all cylinders. Bottles of F70 this good will drink well through 2040 before even reaching its plateau. 97+ points 5/17/10

1970 Taylor Vintage Port – Some guests in our group seemed to like this Port, which honestly, baffled me. It was not corked, yet it was clearly flawed … at least to me. There was a powerful dank, musty note and it did not get better, but with my sensitivity to TCA, I am certain there was something else wrong. It’s a shame that Jorge wasn’t able to get a replacement for this benchmark Vintage Port and it would have been great to see how an ex-cellars bottle performed. Not rated 5/17/10

1966 began with a very wet and rather tepid winter, which led to an extremely warm May and intensely hot, dry summer. September yielded a few days of extreme heat which dramatically helped the grapes to reach full phenolic ripeness.

I am a big fan of the 1966 vintage overall and feel that many of the Ports today are just reaching their prime drinking years, which may sound odd considering they’re 44 years old. Nevertheless, the vast majority of the bottles of 1966 VP I’ve had in the past decade have still shown great color; tannins which are still prominent and enough fruit to continue drinking well for years to come. I was excited to try these three Vintage Ports side-by-side.

1966 Croft Vintage Port – Strawberry red color with a tawny meniscus. I’ve only had this on a handful of occasions; the last time was in the UK, with very consistent impressions. High-toned and perfumed violets, mint, cherry, cedar and vanilla show the complex and spirity nature of this VP. Viscous and full, with flavors of wild berries, toffee and Sultana raisins along with a bit of heat in the middle and end. Quirky but nuanced, classy, elegant and rich. This will sound crazy to some, but a three hour decant is not enough time for the spirit to integrate properly; whereas six to eight hours would’ve enabled that to happen. The heat was a distraction, but it did not overwhelm all that is good about this fine Croft. Profound mid-range waves of flavor, with a finish that’s only medium-long. The tannins are soft and mostly resolved. A fine Port to be consumed through 2020. 93 points 5/17/10

1966 Fonseca Vintage Port – I have typically rated this Port at the apex of the vintage (2nd only to Nacional) but for some reason, this bottle did not do it for me. The nose showed well with a fresh red berry essence and a supporting cast of raisins and dark chocolate. I was torn, as the structure was powerful and youthful, but the flavors seemed more mature with caramel and prune, especially with only three hours in decanter. Seemingly evolved on the palate and loaded with brandy in the mid-section and finish, although it had superlative length. The heat was distracting and I would’ve loved to see how this bottle fleshed out several hours later. Right now, it was devoid of the seamless quality and overall balance that typifies the Fonseca 1966. A strange showing. 91 points 5/17/10

1966 Taylor Vintage Port – I’ve noticed that the 1966 Taylor has really started to come into its own over the past five years. Recent bottles have shown better than a decade ago when it still seemed in an awkward phase. I really liked this version even though it seemed a bit tertiary with notes of maple, nutmeg, molasses and toffee along with underlying cherry fruit. Smooth and satin like in the mouth with lots of glycerin, the acidity was distinct and focused, while the tannins were still quite firm and even showed some grip late in the game. The finish was admirably persistent and delivered a sexy smooth and delicious cherry-chocolate edge. A very fine bottle with potential for another 15-20 years of pleasure, as long as the fruit stands up to the tannins. 94 points 5/17/10

The 1963 vintage needs little in the way of introduction. Many have proclaimed it to be the Port “Vintage of the Century.” Personally, I don’t buy that at all and even prefer 1966, overall, but that is just my opinion. Suffice it to say that 1963 was thought of in similarly glowing terms as to how the 1994 vintage was perceived, a generation later. The top half dozen Ports from the 1963 vintage are still impeccable wines, with vigor and life ahead of them. While there are several others still drinking nicely, most have reached their prime time and should be consumed over the course of the next decade or so.

One of the coldest winters in many years took place in 1963 and was followed by plenty of rain during the spring time. The cool weather lasted for most of the growing season except for some hot spells during July and August. A late mid-October harvest took place at Roêda. It was in this year that Croft's Managing Director, Robin Reid, conceptualized the Port Wine Confraria (brotherhood).

1963 Croft Vintage Port – Medium ruby color with modest signs of bricking around the edge. A refined nose of ripe cherry, rose petals, cinnamon candy and maple bars, accented by a solid whiff of spirit. This exemplary bottle of the 1963 Croft featured a rich, unctuous palate presence that was ultra-smooth and lip smacking with black cherry and plum fruit flavors, accented by mint. There is still some heat in this VP too, but it’s milder than both of the previous Croft vintages tasted. A significant plus is the fantastic finish of this wine, which lingers indefinitely. This Port is certainly at peak and the other side of the mountain is staring it in the face. Drink now through 2018 to be safe, before the fruit fades and the spirit takes over. Easily the best bottle of 1963 Croft I’ve tasted. 93+ points 5/17/10

1963 Fonseca Vintage Port – Medium blood red color with a clear edge and slight bricking. An herbal nose with fresh mint and spearmint along with milk chocolate and cherry scents, provide a distinctive bouquet. One of my all time favorite Vintage Ports; this specific bottle is a bit advanced compared to some. Delicious, soft and elegant cherry fruit and a mix of vanilla, marzipan and butterscotch that can only be regarded as tertiary nuances. So be it, these marvelous flavors elicit an alluring sensuality softened further by a mink-smooth textural pleasure and a captivating aftertaste. If this was the 1927 Fonseca, it would be worthy of 98 points. Best bottles of the Fonseca 1963 deliver more vibrancy and focus; but who’s complaining? 95 points 5/17/10

1963 Taylor Vintage Port – Most in the room acknowledged that they sensed some TCA in this Port. While a few of us who were quite sensitive to TCA picked it up straight away, others noticed it in time but it was undeniably corked. This was our second flawed bottle of Taylor today, along with the 1970. I hate when that happens. Not rated 5/17/10

PLEASE NOTE: These are “snapshot views” and a method of cask sample note taking that I don’t normally subscribe to. I greatly prefer to evaluate samples over the course of two to four days.

2008 Taylor’s Quinta de Vargellas Vintage Port (Cask Sample) – The Vargellas showed the darkest extract of all 5 of TFP’s 2008 VP cask samples. It’s fully opaque, dark magenta in hue with a violet rim. Spicy, smoky and pure essence of grape with violets and purple fruits. On the palate this is a rich, succulent and spicy Port with black licorice, boysenberry and plum flavors. Structurally focused by very fine acidity with ripe, round and powerful tannins. Smooth, lush and long with the stuffing for three decades of fine drinking in its future. 92-95 points 5/17/08

2008 Taylor’s Quinta de Terra Feita Vintage Port (Cask Sample) – Slight “tank funk” to the nose along with violets, anise and spicy blackcurrant aromas. Fine intensity of dark plum and black fruits, a tad coarse at the moment and it needs time to further meld. A bright, medium-long finish is very tasty and easy to enjoy. This Terra Feita is a tasty mid-term ager. 90-93 points 5/17/08

2008 Croft’s Quinta da Roêda Vintage Port (Cask Sample) – Impenetrable purple ink. Fresh floral notes along with spearmint to accent the bouquet. A brilliant effort and my personal favorite of all five of the 2008’s we tasted at The Fladgate Partnership. It’s a beautiful baby, albeit from a snapshot view. Full in the mouth and very smooth texturally, with riveting acidity, serious punch to the tannins and this SQVP is extraordinarily concentrated. For those that appreciate Vintage Ports in their youth, the Roêda is a fantastic example of a classy, fruit forward Port with decades of upside potential, but it would be fun to drink at this stage too. 94-97+ points 5/17/08

2008 Fonseca’s Quinta do Panascal Vintage Port (Cask Sample) – Violet color to the core. Focused fragrance of lavender, cocoa and plums provides a heady scent. Blackcurrant and fig flavors, full in the mouth, with a freshness I found irresistible, supported by juicy acidity and subdued tannins. Soft and semi-sweet this is a delicious youngster and the most approachable of the first four 2008’s. The finish is impressive in length and purity. Drink now to 2032. 92-95 points 5/17/08

2008 Fonseca-Guimaraens Vintage Port (Cask Sample) – After nosing and sipping this Port, I was immediately taken by its splendor and ranked it my 2nd favorite behind the Roêda. Dark, brooding and mysterious, the brambly blackberry and cassis elements are dense, rich and juicy. It reminds me of early sips of the 1994 Fonseca, when I was just bowled over by the gobs of succulent fruit and although there’s no doubt the tannins are massive, all components are beautifully integrated today. The tannins become grippier on the invigorating aftertaste. I’ll need to try this again to propose a drinking window, but this may be the winner in terms of longevity. 93-96 points 5/17/08

Our sincere thanks to Jorge Ramos, David Guimaraens and Adrian & Natasha Bridge for making us feel so welcome and providing us with a great selection of old Vintage Ports and 2008 cask samples.

After departing we went back to our hotel to freshen up before dinner and get changed for a very special dinner. Not easy to surprise this group, but we decided not to reveal our dining destination until our arrival at The Factory House.

Tour and Dinner at the Factory House in Oporto

Richard Jennings is a SF, CA-based wine blog writer and occasional contributor to FOR THE LOVE OF PORT and has participated in our Madeira Road Show events. Richard was one of our guests on this year’s 2010 Fortification Tour, his first time exploring the vineyards in the Douro and his beloved Madeira. It is one thing to drink or dine at The Factory House over the years and enjoy the tradition and ambience as I do, but for Richard this was his first time and reading the enthusiasm from experiencing it with a fresh sensibility … well, you’ll get a feel for his excitement in this article-within-an-article. Thanks to Richard for allowing me to use his piece for the enjoyment of all. You can read his other works at:

After we finished our vertical (and cask sample) tasting at Taylor Lodge, Roy Hersh confirmed that the private club where we were scheduled to have dinner that night (and for entry to which we’d been told to pack a formal dress or suit and tie, as appropriate), was none other than the famous Factory House, the home of the British Port houses in Oporto. Since my bag was still lost as explained in my last post, I needed to borrow dress slacks and a tie from other members of our party (I fortunately had a black jacket and what could pass as a dress shirt amongst the few items I’d brought on the plane).

Our hosts for the evening were to be two of the 11 members of the Factory House with whom we’d already spent time earlier that day: Dominic Symington of Symington Family Estates and David Guimaraens, winemaker for Taylor Fladgate & Yeatman. Excitement was high as we gathered in front of the Factory House, which was completed in 1790, to meet our hosts.

The handsome four-story Georgian building stands in the Rua do Infante Henrique (formerly Rua Nova dos Inglezes, or new street of the English), just a block from the Douro River and near the bridge to the neighboring city of Vila Nova de Gaia, where most of the Port lodges are found. It was built by the British Association, a group of English and Scottish traders who worked out of Oporto, selling all kinds of goods, with funds from two self-imposed levies on British merchants: one on Port exports and the other on imported goods. It was originally occupied by its members from 1790 to 1807, when most of the British fled Portugal after the French, under Napoleon’s army, took control of Lisbon. The British recaptured Oporto in 1809, but the Factory House was not reinstated as the center of the British Port trade until 1811. On November 11, 1811, a dinner was held to celebrate the reopening of the Factory House. Dominic Symington, who will be serving as Treasurer of the Factory House next year told us that he’s already planning a lavish dinner for November 11, 2011, to commemorate the 200th anniversary of that reopening dinner. (We reminded him it was the famous Year of the Comet, and a great year for Sauternes and vintage Madeira, which they may add to the dinner menu.)

“Factory” derives from the British usage of the term factor to mean merchant. There were once British “factories,” associations of merchants, all over the world. The only remaining one is the Factory House in Oporto. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that rituals and traditions abound. A big one is the traditional Wednesday lunch for members. According to Godfrey Spence’s The Port Companion: A Connoisseur’s Guide, “Each week senior managers from the member companies assemble, along with invited guests, for luncheon. This is a strictly male affair; women, however important in the wine trade, lunch elsewhere.

The meal, a fairly informal buffet, is preceded by a glass of sherry or white port, accompanied by the unfortified wine of the Douro, and followed by both tawny and vintage ports. The tawny serves as a palate cleanser so that due attention can be given to the vintage, which is always served blind (masked). Great discussion follows with the weekly game of identifying the wine and its vintage year.” Roy Hersh had previously attended one of those lunches, and been asked to guess the vintage. Dominic told us that another weekly tradition is the reading from an old newspaper out of the Association’s library from a similar date, from a century or more before, which inevitably leads the assembled members and guests to reflect on how little has changed in the intervening decades.

Dinners are more formal, and our dinner followed the tradition: The dinner is served in the same dining room as the luncheon. At the end of the meal, a single glass of tawny Port is served. Before it is finished, the doors to an identical adjoining room are opened, and everyone rises and moves through the doors into the same seat at the table in the second room. There the vintage Port is served, on the candlelit table, away from any distracting food smells. And before the vintage Port is tasted, toasts are made to the Queen, the President of Portugal and, on this evening, in honor of us visiting guests, to the President of the United States.

Prior to our dinner, Dominic and David led us on a tour of the building, including the library, the original kitchen, the ballroom, and the cellar. There were some wonderful old bottles in the cellar, which receives 14 cases of wine from each new member when they join (which may be Port or, in the case of some new members, Bordeaux) as well as five cases of vintage Port each year from its members. We had cocktails in a hall filled with mementos, prior to sitting down to dinner.

During dinner, we talked some more about the fact that the major British houses have not declared any back-to-back vintages–otherwise 2001 might have been a vintage year (and David is clearly a fan of 2008, but it’s not likely to be declared since ’07 was widely declared). We discussed Colheitas (cask aged Ports from a particular year), and that those are the focus of the Portuguese-owned houses. Blended Tawnies sell a lot more than Colheitas (which only have about 5% of the market), and Colheitas currently often sell for less than it costs to make them. David and Dominic claimed that Ports from Portuguese houses tend to be rich and riper. They said the “British try to avoid making ‘stickies,’ and want the wines to have acidity.”

We also discussed the 1974 Revolution, and Dominic’s memories of that time, especially of how loyal the Symington Family’s workers were to the family enterprise. Two of our party, Jim Israel and his wife Elaine, had been in Portugal at the time, and didn’t realize the Revolution was happening until they got to the airport in Lisbon. I was living in Europe that year, and was completely oblivious of the events taking place in Portugal. Although Dominic, with his upper crust British accent and bearing, seemed as British as anyone I’ve ever met, he told us that Portugal is his home, and that he’ll be rooting for Portugal in the World Cup.

First Douro Red - I enjoyed this Douro red, the reserve version of what we’d had at lunch with Dominic at Graham’s Lodge. Our first course was Vol-au-Vent of Prawns with a curry sauce.

2007 Symington Douro Altano Reserva – Portugal, Douro Opaque purple violet color; rich berry, blackberry, black fruit nose; rich berry, blackberry, oak palate with firm, sweet tannins; medium-plus finish (70% Touriga Franca, 30% Touriga Nacional; new French and American barriques) (91 pts.)

Second Douro Red - This label is a joint venture of the Symingtons with Bruno Prats, winemaker and former owner of Cos d’Estournel. The venture began in 1998, they made the first experimental batches to identify the best grape varieties and vineyard plots in 1999, and the first Chryseia was produced in 2000. The name is the Greek translation of “Douro,” which means “of gold.” It is blended from a number of Symington family vineyards, and made by Bordeaux-trained Stephanie Point at the Symington’s Quinta do Sol winery, under the direction of Bruno Prats and Charles Symington, with vinification and elevage very much following Bordeaux methods. When the vintage is not strong enough for Chryseia, they release the wine under a second label, Post Scriptum. I found this sample well made, but tight and a bit oakier on the palate than I prefer. Our dish with this wine was rack of lamb with sauteed potatoes and vegetables.

2007 Prats and Symington Douro Chryseia – Portugal, Douro Opaque black red violet color; lavender, oak, black fruit, herbal nose; tight, ripe black plum, oak, blackberry palate with depth; medium-plus finish 90+ pts. (70% Touriga Nacional; 30% Touriga Franca and Tinta Cao) (90 pts.)

Tawny Port with dessert -  This was a really lovely Tawny, one of the best I’ve tasted. Our dessert was tulip of ice cream with fresh fruit. Dominic and David recommended chilled Tawny for the summer months.

N.V. Taylor (Fladgate) Porto 20 Year Old Tawny – Portugal, Douro, Porto Light medium browning ruby color with pale meniscus; light cherry, baked cherry, raspberry nose; tasty, baked cherry, raspberry palate; medium-plus finish 93+ pts. (93 pts.)

Vintage Ports - Once we adjourned to the vintage Port room, and we’d toasted the Queen of England, the President of Portugal and Obama, we enjoyed this delicious pair of vintage Ports, along with Serra Cheese. We had tasted the ’70 Fonseca earlier in the day, but this one was poured from magnum, and was, accordingly, more youthful tasting, without the beginnings of tertiary flavors we’d found in our bottle of the afternoon. The ’94 Graham, also from magnum, was also youthful, but thoroughly tasty. A fitting end to a memorable day and evening of the “best of the best” in Oporto.

1970 Fonseca Porto Vintage – Portugal, Douro, Porto From magnum – tobacco, smoky, pitch, tar nose; tasty, rich, muscular, but tight and youthful yet, black fruit, fig, black strap molasses palate; long finish 94+ pts. (94 pts.)

1994 Graham Porto Vintage – Portugal, Douro, Porto From magnum – a little oxidized on nose, with bitter chocolate, smoke and tobacco; rich, tart chocolate, Valrhona chocolate, tar palate; very long finish (95 pts.)