QUINTA DO PORTAL
After we finished on Friday at Quinta do Noval, we went back to rest our tired bodies for the night at Quinta do Portal. We had a fantastic breakfast there and were ready to go. There’s nothing like waking up amidst the beauty of the vineyards at harvest time to refresh one’s soul. It seems like it had been a long time since we last had a formal visit to Portal, although I have spent a lot of time at this property over the years. Their guest rooms are exactly what I am looking for when going to the Douro. Comfort, stylish and affordable, like hitting the trifecta!
Although it has only been a year since we last visited Portal there was a lot to see and amazing amounts of new construction, already finished, which was underway but far from complete the last time we were here. The new armazem (warehouse) maintains 80% relative humidity for table wines and for those so inclined, a temperature of 12-14 degrees C. There are literally 1,500 square meters in this facility and it is unbelievably spacious. It has the capacity to hold 5,000 barrels in the Douro wine storage room.
There is another room for Ports and Moscatel which can hold another 5,000 casks. Then there is a third storage room that is not even being used as of yet. Remarkable to see the sheer size of this place and I’d have to imagine it is the largest Quinta (non-coop) storage facility in the Douro, but I have only been to a few dozen properties and still have plenty more to explore.
There is a brand new auditorium, set up with the latest and greatest technology for audio/visual presentations of just about any kind. The new tasting and sales room is also enormous but it was not set up yet. I give the Branco family (as in Pedro Mansilha Branco) much credit for their attention to detail and utilizing enviro-friendly building materials. The exterior has lots of cork and natural stone. Inside this is a very easy facility to keep clean and it was immaculate when we toured the facility. It was clearly designed with tremendous planning, but I have always known that Quinta do Portal was going to be a super-star performer one day and that day is quickly approaching.
We headed back over to the tasting room and sales area, which is located next to a fabulous restaurant in the main building. We were joined by Paulo Coutinho, the talented winemaker, who guided us through a handful of wines, as it was clear that some guests were still shaking the cobwebs out after a night with 20 wines and Ports. My mantra of consuming copious quantities of water and occasionally spitting the fortifieds, must have been ignored by a few of them.
Quinta do Portal Moscatel Douro wine – Golden color. Lively and exotic, nuanced nose of tangerine, apricots and golden raisins with a hint of botrytis which is something you don’t find in the Douro every day. Off-dry, which surprised us as it gave off the essence of a wine that was going to be very sweet. Razor sharp acidity provides the tension in this value wine and finely tuned balance. Full and round on the palate with a unique flavor profile of quince, lychee and honeyed botrytis which provides a singular character that is hard to replicate in the Douro. What a great first wine in the lineup and the inexpensive price was as enticing as the nose of this wine. 91 points ~ 10/4/08
2000 Quinta do Portal Moscatel Reserva Douro wine – Seriously … a Reserva level Moscatel? I thought I had woken up in Setubal! Dark amber orange in color, believe it or not, this is a cask sample at eight years of age. I need to find some of this gorgeous Moscatel when it is released. Dessert wine residual sugar level (I forgot to ask the gm/liter) the nose is all about ripe sekel pears and citrus notes. Compared to the entry level Moscatel, when this was put in the mouth it immediately evoked oohs and aahs from the group. Sumptuous and simultaneously elegant, with tangy acidity and a voluptuous texture, medium-bodied even though it gave the impression of a heavy weight. Harmonious and decadent, this will reward patience and I would love to try this circa 2015-2020. An striking drink with a super long aftertaste and great upside potential. Speaking of Setubal, this surely rivals the awesome 2000 Jose Maria de Fonseca Moscatel and yet this is just a cask sample. 93+ points ~ 10/4/08
1999 Quinta do Portal Vintage Port – This was the VP that originally won me over the first time I ever tasted Quinta do Portal, and yet, it just keeps getting better. Confected fruit fragrance along with dark scents of earth, figs and prunes. Somewhere between medium and full bodied with good acidity and tannins that are refined by still strut their stuff. Gorgeous fruit here with vivacity in the middle and layer upon layer of flavors with a killer finish. Like I said, it just keeps getting better. Drink over the next two decades. It may not make it much past 30, but it will deliver lots of pleasure in the meantime. 93+ points ~ 10/4/08
2003 Quinta do Portal Vintage Port – As much as I enjoy the 1999 and hold it in high regard, the 2003 brought the reputation of Portal to a new level. It was a fantastic achievement for a producer that launched its very first product, less than a decade before. Perfumed nose of blueberry, spice and boysenberry with a backdrop of cocoa powder. Delicious, plump, ripe, off-dry and plum pie filling the mouth with viscous, chewy and mouthfilling flavors. You’ll need to swallow at least twice and the aftertaste will continue to linger on. Love it! Will be at best between 30 and 40 years of age. 95+ points ~ 10/4/08
2007 Quinta do Portal Vintage Port (cask sample) – Bright and vibrant nose of grape, plums and chocolate. This is way early to prognosticate the future, but this was clearly the best 2007 cask sample, we had on our entire tour … at this point in time. Smooth and approachable, medium weight, with tannins that are neither shy nor over-powering, but hunkered down beneath opulent and concentrated fruit. I can’t wait to spend some time with this baby when it is in a finished bottle. Another spectacular effort by Portal. 93-95+ points ~ 10/4/08
Lunch and Dinner
Is it possible it was already lunch time? We thanked Paulo for a fine lineup of wines and hit the road for a short drive through the Pinhao Valley and down river to D.O.C. restaurant. I did not take any serious notes so I could pay attention to our guests and the food, but did list what we drank with our luxurious meal: 2007 Crasto Branco; 2004 Niepoort Redoma and 2006 Quinta do Crasto Old Vines Reserva. This is certainly in the top tier of restaurants not only in the Douro, but in all of Northern Portugal. From the service, the attention paid to guests by the Chef and the quality and presentation of the ingredients, this is a world class eatery.
We arrived back in Porto mid-afternoon and turned the group loose on the city and told them we would meet up again for our last supper. And what a dinner it turned out to be. Mario did the ordering that night and the food was stellar. We selected some fine Douro wines to accompany the onslaught of dishes that kept on coming. This was a tour de force and worthy of our last night together. Here were the wines we enjoyed:
2006 Quinta do Crasto Vinha Velha Reserva Douro red wine – Again? Didn’t we just have this to accompany our lunch at D.O.C.? I surmised that one can never have enough of this particular wine and proved it as we had four consecutive bottles … and nary a complaint about the lack of diversity. Medium-full bodied and infused with black currant, prune, earth and a spicy bouquet. This is simply a stunning young performer with extraordinary presence and as good as this is to sip, it proves it’s even better in unison with well-planned food pairings. The significant strength of this old vine version by Crasto lies in the extraordinary balance, given its youth and it shall provide 15-20 years of drinking pleasure with ease. Those who look down their nose at the 2006 Douro vintage have clearly missed the boat; at least with this consistently fine wine offering. 93+ points ~ 10/4/08
Quinta do Vesuvio “15 year old Family Reserve” Port – This was put in barrel in 1991 and topped off with other vintages too. Interesting conceptually, but of course this is not commercially accessible. A lovely nose of citrus fruit compote, apricot preserves and almond paste. Medium weight, rich and simple with a hot streak running through the mid-section. It finishes with a warming sensation due to the spirit but was not obtrusive, there is a nuttiness on the aftertaste, but it is modest in length. 87 points ~ 10/4/08
2002 Quinta do Crasto LBV Port – Juicy red berry fruit, bright and fresh. Medium-bodied and on the elegant side. Tasty, four-square and with a rather short finish. 84 points ~ 10/4/08
For our last hurrah, we headed to the Solar do Vinho do Porto. I offered to buy a bottle as it was nearing closing time but I wanted the group to see this place as it was not far from our restaurant. Andy and Julian made the decision:
1978 Dalva Vintage Port – Strawberry pink color. This one had seen its better days, but there was certainly plenty of fruit left. Nice notes of maple, brown sugar and Medjool dates. Soft and elegant in the mouth, very smooth in a light-bodied style with flavors of under-ripe raspberries, walnuts cinnamon spice and mace along with a back drop of mild spirituous character. Fully resolved tannins and ample acidity lead a lingering finish. Drink up as it won’t be getting any better from here. Pleasant nonetheless and certainly worthy of the punt. 88 points ~ 10/4/08