After several flights, I arrived in Porto four days prior to the beginning of our very first Port Explorer's Tour. This trip would be unique in that we had a documentary filmmaker along to chronicle parts of our week long adventure and especially some educational interviews that would be conducted with a number of key individuals from the Port trade.
As it had been four months since my last visit to Northern Portugal, I wanted to have a chance to catch up with some friends and do some interviews with Zev Robinson prior to the beginning of the tour.
A few hours after I arrived in Porto, our first venture was to meet with Pedro Silva Reis, President of Real Companhia Velha (Royal Oporto). Zev set up his camera and checked for the sound quality in this enormous office space. Zev filmed the dialogue and an hour passed very quickly, having elicited several very interesting topics and of course learning loads about the history of the company back to the time of the Marques de Pombal. It was a pleasure to meet Pedro and get an in-depth look at where RCV is heading in the future.
That first night in country was spent with Gonçalo Devesas and family and it was one of the highlights of my trip. Although we've been friends for several years, I'd never met his lovely wife and daughter before. His brother Gustavo joined us for the evening too. Although I was somewhat lagging having taken four flights from Seattle; I was able to muster enough energy that our get together lasted for nine hours. Mrs. Devesas prepared a perfect Polvo for dinner (otherwise known as Octupus) and other wonderful Portuguese dishes, which won me over. We shared several bottles of table wine and Ports that evening and it was a great pleasure to finally meet Gonçalo's family and see his impressive digs. I had brought along a 1977 Fonseca VP which was Gonçalo's birth year, because I knew neither brother had ever tried it before. I must admit that I fell head over heels for his 3 year old daughter, even though we were unable to speak to one another. She is a very special young girl; feisty, adorable and head strong … in very similar ways to my daughter at the same age. By the end of a long visit, I was ready to get back to my hotel and sleep off the affects of the long journey and first day in town.
I woke up the next day in time for a quick breakfast just prior to a visit with Tomas & Rita Allen, of Villar d'Allen fame. They brought along their infant daughter and surprisingly, Oscar Quevedo. Zev showed up with camera in tow and one of our guests, Luiz Alberto. Quevedo had bottled a 20 year old Tawny, the beginning of a new wine project for Villar d'Allen. We sat and chatted and tasted the 20 year old Tawny over the course of an hour or so, while Zev did his thing. Tomas explained his upcoming 10 year old Tawny project and plans for the future. It was nice to see him and his family again and I wish them a lot of luck with their upcoming adventures.
That night, Zev and I visited Casa Oscar and I finally met the charming Nadia, Oscar's fiancée after having missed meeting her last year in Barcelona. They make a wonderful couple and we had a lot of fun that evening with some fine food and great wine. Oscar explained some of the recent projects he's been involved with and educational efforts in other countries. Another late night ensued, but not the marathon of the previous evening.
The next day I slept in and skipped breakfast. Got some work done and enjoyed some quiet time reading. I met with Cynthia Jenson who handles the Port blog for Graham's and we walked around Porto for awhile and stopped at a nice restaurant for lunch. It was here that I found the 2002 Tecedeiras Reserva on the wine list and we both really enjoyed it. Cynthia has a ton of interesting life experience and it was fun sharing stories throughout the afternoon.
That evening, Mario Ferreira made his appearance and we went out for dinner. Our goal was to come up with a great itinerary for May's Fortification Tour and review our plan for the week ahead of us. It was good catching up with my buddy and making sure we had every conceivable detail covered for the Port Explorer's Tour. The next morning we'd be officially kicking off the tour and we were sure that all was going to work out well, with the "weather factor" the only unknown.
More to come … in part deux.