Less than a week ago, (as of this writing) I returned from Portugal after spending two weeks in various parts of the country. This year’s Fortification Tour was an excellent learning experience for all of us; and some participants from prior tours, had their expectations set on high. To keep things fresh, we stayed in new hotels in both Porto and Funchal and visited nearly all new restaurants in both cities as well, which in and of itself made a huge difference to the feel of the trip. Moreover, we also visited several wine properties that we had not been to in quite a long time.
Arriving ahead of time afforded me the opportunity to try some new restaurants and meet a new Port producer. Additionally, I was able to photograph some of the construction under way at the Graham’s Lodge remodel site which I’ll include in the next newsletter; followed by sipping several Ports enjoyed at the Graham’s tasting bar. In an unusual twist of fate, I cooked an Italian dinner for some friends, after ingredient shopping in Porto’s Bolhão market and a huge supermarket about 8 km away. But let’s fast forward to the beginning of the tour.
In the early afternoon of Sunday June 3rd, we all met in the hotel lobby then went to a more private sitting area on one of the lower levels to introduce one another and have a quick briefing. A nice mix of couples and individuals, and a few people who’ve joined us before, we kept the meeting short and headed out for our only appointment of the day.
It had been several years since we’d visited Wiese & Krohn and it was a great pleasure to see the proprietor, José F. Falcão Carneiro again and also to meet his sister Iolanda. This family-owned Port company was established in 1865, but their Gaia lodge was completed in 1880. José and Iolanda belong to the third generation of the Falcão Carneiro family that has owned and run Krohn since their grandfather Edmundo entered the company in 1910, and took over sole ownership by 1937. José began working in the family Port business in 1979, at the age of 32 having previously studied Economics, completing his military service and then teaching economics at Oporto University.
Wiese & Krohn was originally founded by two Norwegians, Theodor Wiese and Dankert Krohn. Their small startup company, initially shipped their Ports to Germany and Scandinavian countries that appreciated their wood-aged beauties. Wiese realized the firm was too small for two partners and sold out to Mr. Krohn but continued as an employee and did a great job opening up the Norwegian market and to this day it is a key market for the company. Recently, the Krohn brand has expanded into Brazil and the USA which have been excellent markets for their Ports.
The Wiese & Krohn lodge in Gaia is large and well organized. Krohn maintains stocks of five million liters of Port on hand in six distinct warehouses in Gaia and another up in the Douro. If that sounds like a lot of money, consider the annual cost of their losses due to evaporation, which at 2-3% per year, is astronomical.
We had an extensive tour of the entire property, which was even bigger than I remembered from our last visit here. Our guests asked many questions as this was our first visit and most of them had far more experience with bottle-aged Ports and much less with Colheitas which is the specialty of this house.
A question was raised, (which we heard about several times later on during our tour) about the price increases of aguardente which has shot up significantly over the past few years due to the needs of Russia and China. Russia’s potato crop failed and neutral grape spirit was needed for Vodka production. In the past, the majority of aguardente has come from France and Spain and according to José, in the past two years, prices have more than doubled.
Wiese & Krohn began making red Douro wines in 1996, under the Valtorto brand, which reflects the grapes roots from the Rio Torto (Twisted River) Valley. In fact, Quinta do Retiro Novo in the Rio Torto in the village of Sarzedinho, has vines that exceed 100 years of age and only produce red wines. There are also some newer parcels planted with segregated grape types and the Quinta’s vineyards are all A-rated. Grapes are also purchased from other neighboring growers to go into Krohn’s Ports and table wines. Old granite lagares are still used for the treading and fermentation of the wines, as well as large cylindrical computerized stainless steel tanks with robotics.
- 2002 Krohn Colheita Port – Bottled 2011 87 points 6/3/12
- 1997 Krohn Colheita Port – Bottled 2012 90 points 6/3/12
- 1983 Krohn Colheita Port – Bottled 2012 92 points 6/3/12
- 1978 Krohn Colheita Port – Bottled 2012 88 points 6/3/12
- 1968 Krohn Colheita Port – Bottled 2012 93 points 6/3/12
- 1961 Krohn Colheita Port – Bottled 2012 96 points 6/3/12
- 1968 Krohn Colheita Port – Bottled 2012 93 points 6/3/12
- 1961 Krohn Colheita Port – Bottled 2012 96 points 6/3/12
We left the tasting room and were escorted to the enclosed barrel room we jokingly nicknamed, The Garden of Eden, after learning that José actually calls it, “The Garden”. This was the 2nd time I’ve been privileged to enjoy this experience and it was every bit as special the second time around. To be honest, the following trio of Ports are the 3 greatest wines I’ve ever tasted in a row, period.
- 1896 Krohn White Colheita Port – Cask Sample 99 points 6/3/12
- 1896 Krohn Colheita Port – Cask Sample 98 points 6/3/12
- 1863 Krohn Colheita Port – Cask Sample 100 points 6/3/12
Our hosts were so generous with their time, especially on a Sunday afternoon into evening. This was a fantastic way to start off the Fortification of our guests, as they would not get to try wines from the 19th century again until we reached Madeira. We thanked José and Iolanda for making us feel right at home and teaching us so much about Port, Wiese & Krohn and the beauty of the Colheita category. One of the women in the group mentioned that she had come on the trip primarily to get to learn and taste more Colheitas after enjoying a seminar on them last fall. I am sure that this specific visit will be one that Anita will never forget!
Note: As this newsletter has become rather long, I will include the names of Ports and most wines we tasted during our visits, along with my ratings, but will hold off on providing the formal tasting notes. They will be able to be accessed by FTLOP subscribers in the next newsletter.
Dinner was held at O Paparico in Porto, as the owner, Sergio Cambas agreed to open his restaurant for us, which was the first time they ever opened on a Sunday night. When word spread that the restaurant was going to be open, Sergio decided to see if there would be anyone else who would like to dine there. When we walked in, the place was unexpectedly full. In talking to Mr. Cambas privately later in the evening, I suggested he reconsider opening for dinner every Sunday evening, as it is “family night” and typically far more successful than Monday nights.
We had a fantastic evening at this restaurant and our group loved dinner. I’m going to sum up our experience at O Paparico, by copying a post that I made on our Forum and Facebook page.
During the three weeks I’ve spent in Portugal over the last two months, there is one restaurant that I’ve now visited five times. The wine list is one of the very best in all of Northern Portugal. The quality of the food and ingredients, not to mention the presentations of every dish … is impeccable. That would normally be enough to get me to return for another go round. But every bit as good as the food and wine ... is the seamless, nearly invisible service which happens in such a way that the restaurant reaches a level that very few ever can. If you are visiting Porto, you must check out the restaurant which has it all, including amazing ambience where it not only looks beautiful, but you can hear yourself talk. I love this place: O Paparico
Here is the menu replete with our wine selections to pair with the different dishes:
Menu for FTLOP
- Sparkling Wine, Vertice Millesime, 2005, Douro
- ”Azeitão” Creamy Cheese
- Veal Terrine with Port Sauce
- Codfish Ceviche with Corn Bread, Onion and Parsley
- Octopus Ceviche with Mint
- Black Pork Prosciutto from Barrancos DOP
- Black Pork Smoked Sausage from Barrancos DOP
- Hand Dived Scallops with Coral Butter and Chorizo Vinaigrette
Main from the sea
- Red Wine, Meandro do Vale Meão 2009, Douro
- Red wine, Quinta do Crasto, Old Vines Reserva 2009, Douro
- Grilled Octopus with Cherry Tomato and Onions in Port Wine
Main from the farm
- Grilled Veal with Wild Mushrooms and Port Sauce
- Sweet Moment
- Port Wine, Krohn Colheita 1998
- Crème Brûlée - Or
- Hazelnut Tart with Lemon Ice Cream - Or
- Tangerine Sorbet with Vodka Premium “Ultimat” - Or
- Wild berries Cheesecake
- Coffee or Tea and Petit-Fours
Thanks to Sergio & staff for a memorable dinner in your fine dining establishment!
On Monday morning we headed directly up to the Douro, as this was the first time we’ve only had one appointment to visit a Port lodge in Vila Nova de Gaia. But having to split time with Madeira, we had to make every moment count, especially on the Port half of the tour. For the first time in several years we took the train from São Bento station up to Régua. It was nice to see that the train station in Porto was finally without scaffolding and that the majority of the repainting of the tiles (azulejos) was completed.
The train itself seemed quicker than ever before and I must admit, I took great pleasure in this leisurely ride up alongside the Douro River. When the steep vertical vineyards of the Baixo Corgo were finally in view, our first time guests were in awe of the amazing vistas before them. Even those who’ve been to the region on several occasions loved the view from the river’s edge. One of life’s little pleasures and one of the most beautiful train rides in all of Europe!
We arrived in Régua and walked around the city for about a half hour, which heightened our hunger as most of us preferred sleeping in and skipping breakfast, knowing that our first stop was going to be lunch at …
It was a warm and sunny afternoon up on the patio of DOC Restaurant in Folgosa overlooking the Rio Douro. Shortly after our arrival we were joined by our guest winemaker, Sandra Tavares da Silva of Wine & Soul; Quinta do Vale D. Maria; and her family’s winery Quinta de Chocapalha, in Estremadura, Portugal. Have wines, will travel and Sandra didn’t come empty handed.
Over the course of the next three and a half hours, chef/owner Rui Paula’s wife Cristina made sure we were well looked after as the kitchen’s execution of every dish and the wines paired to our menu, along with fantastic service … made for a relaxing and hedonistic lunch.
Sandra took her time to explain about her winemaking duties along with her husband, Jorge Serodio Borges, who partners in producing Pintas, and he’s also responsible for producing the Ports and wines at Quinta do Passadouro.
A fabulous amuse bouche of Mackerel marinated in citrus sauce, Parmesan and polenta was paired with 2010 Quinta do Passadouro Branco, a brilliant combination.
Our soup course won me over as I am a big fan of Bacalhau in all of its various preparations. The codfish cream with shrimp involved in kadaiff flour (rice flour), laced with black olive oil and a trilogy of peppers. Sandra brought along another beautiful white wine, this time from Wine & Soul’s portfolio, a snappy, rich and exotic white wine: 2011 “Guru” Douro White. The two white wines remained on the table while we enjoyed our next dish which was a perfectly presented Sea bass with crawfish and broccoli cream, fennel and gnocchi with a “biological Madagascar prawn.” It sounds good and looks even better, but this particular part of our meal, really was an amazing fit with both wines that Sandra brought.
Our final course prior to dessert was incredible and we had two fantastic reds to pair with it. Sandra had both a 2009 Pintas Character Douro red wine and 2009 Pintas Tinto decanted for us and they were showing really well. Both were absolutely à point now, but showed great promise for the future too. Our meat dish was “Maronesa” Tenderloin of beef, topped with seared foie gras and rösti potato. To die for and if I had to pick one of the two wines for earlier approachability it would have to be the Pintas Character which was singing with the foie and steak.
Last but not least, our decadent dessert dish of apples sautéed with vanilla and lemon, accompanied by honeyed toffee, chèvre and pine nuts nearly ended our gastronomic extravaganza. But it was time for some of Sandra’s excellent Ports, which some drank along side their dessert, while others chose to consume afterwards.
First came a really interesting 10 Year Old Tawny by Wine & Soul, a blend of Pintas and Manoela. (More on these Ports and all wines mentioned above in the next newsletter.) Next up to the plate was a fun pairing of: 2009 Quinta do Passadouro Vintage Port; followed by our final Port to compare with the Passadouro, 2009 Pintas Vintage Port.
It was great to see Sandra again and have the chance to have a relaxed lunch in which she got to speak with all of the guests at the table. The wines that she and Jorge are making together and separately are fun to try at the same seating and made for an excellent comparison and contrast as well, especially with the remarkable culinary talent before us. Thanks to Sandra and DOC for spoiling us with a most memorable experience!
After lunch, our boat was waiting for us at DOC’s dock, and whisked us away for a nice cruise heading up river to Ferrão, where our ride was waiting to take us to our next appointment. Our plan was to spend the rest of the afternoon and evening at this property, until it was time to head back to our hotel. About 45 minutes later, there it was … right in front of us, pretty as a picture; standing tall above the Douro River.
Just to the right of the olive grove in this photo, you see the majestic Maria Teresa vineyard. It is a beautiful site and made up of 90 year old vines containing field blends with approximately 30 grape varieties. And moments later we arrived at:
Quinta do Crasto
From delicious LBVs and approachable Vintage Ports, to a fantastic array of red Douro wines and a smashingly crisp white, this property is producing some of the finest wines in all of Portugal today! Upon arrival, Miguel Roquette approached from a distance with a friendly wave and his huge dog in stride alongside him. He introduced himself to the group and instantly made us feel like we were visiting a relative, not someone that most of us had just met.
As we would spend the next eight hours or so here at Quinta do Crasto, we would have plenty of time to appreciate a great combination of taking a vigorous hike around the vineyards and parts of the property that are rarely seen by the majority of their visitors, enjoying a sublime dual tasting of LBV and Vintage Ports, touring the adega and production facilities, and chilling out poolside with delectable snacks. It is always a pleasure to revisit this fantastic Port & Douro wine producer and members of the Roquette family and their team of oenologists.
After our long hike and some time to chillax, came a very focused Port tasting combining two mini verticals of LBV followed by some of the best recent Vintage Ports by Quinta do Crasto. It was great to have a chance to compare the quality of the LBVs and Vintage Ports to learn more about the nuanced differences in style and character between these two categories of Port:
- 2006 Quinta do Crasto LBV
- 2005 Quinta do Crasto LBV
- 2004 Quinta do Crasto LBV
- 2009 Quinta do Crasto Vintage Port
- 2007 Quinta do Crasto Vintage Port
- 2004 Quinta do Crasto Vintage Port
- 2003 Quinta do Crasto Vintage Port
We shared lots of fun discussions with Miguel. We learned that as of 2009, Quinta do Crasto no longer buys ANY fruit from other growers for Port or their excellent red wines, the only exception bbeing for their white wines. With the addition of Quinta da Cabreira, in the Douro Superior, with 100 hectares of new vines planted in recent years, it seems that Quinta do Crasto is now an even more formidable player, in full control of it's future destiny. It was a warm evening and we dined al fresco with some of the great wines that Crasto is known for:
- 2010 Douro red
- 2010 “Superior” Douro red
- 2009 Old Vines Reserva
- 2006 Touriga Nacional
- 2003 Maria Teresa
And with Serra de Estrela cheese and other sweet and delectable homemade desserts, came two “double blind” Ports for us to try to guess, and we found them to be similar in age although most including me thought the LBV was an older Vintage Port:
- 1995 Vintage Port
- 1996 LBV
It had been a long day of travel up from Porto, a wonderful lunch at DOC, boat ride on the Douro and then a full afternoon and evening at Quinta do Crasto as Miguel’s guest. It was a perfect first day up in the Douro and a great introduction to the splendor of the region. It was time to head back to our hotel and we thanked Miguel and look forward to returning to Quinta do Crasto in the near future!