After our last quinta visit we drove back down the Douro and arrived in Oporto in plenty of time to have a quick rest before our farewell dinner. We decided on De Gusto because I have found the food there to be creative, impeccably presented and always delicious. The menu is deep in regional cuisine and it specializes in seafood. There was a new chef and GM since my last visit about 15 weeks earlier. For some reason the locals haven’t taken to this place but in my half dozen visits I have always walked away very satisfied with the service and quality of food. I just don’t get it.
We were fortunate to have the winemakers from Vista Alegre Miguel Martins and Mr. Délio Mesquita the winemaker for Brunheda joining us.
It was our last night and it had been a very long day culminating with our last supper. We had a late reservation at Degusto, one of my personal favorite eateries in the area. The food is always sound and stylish and the wine list is filled with gems, most of which one can buy at the adjoining wine shop which is overflowing with great bottles.
We were all in the mood to kickback, relax and enjoy some great food and drink. We were to be met by two winemakers, Délio Mesquita of Quinta da Brunheda and Miguel Martins from Quinta da Vista Alegre.
Quinta da Brunheda has belonged to the Mesquita family for over 200 years. Approximately 80 of its hectares are under vine, on a property comprising nearly 350 hectares. On average Brunheda produces around 300 to 350 pipes of wine, (165,000 to 192,500 liters respectively) of which about 200 pipes are Port. Brunheda has produced the very first Kosher wine in the Douro. I must say, I was a bit surprised by that, even though I had heard of rumblings from another producer who has taken steps to produce a Kosher Port. But I digress.
Quinta da Brunheda has deep roots in the Douro, dating back to 1756, coincidentally the same year that the Marques de Pombal changed the face of the Douro for years to come. Délio generously brought a broad selection of his white and red Douro wine for us to try and my tasting notes follow an introduction to Vista Alegre.
Vallegre, established 34 years ago, is the parent of Quinta da Vista Alegre which is one of three key properties used for the wines of this fine producer. There are nearly 60 hectares at Valegre the main Quinta, with an additional 25 hectares split between their other two Quinta properties. It is located on the North bank of the Douro, on the outskirts of Pinhão and was a solid grower for some of the largest names in the industry, i.e. Ferreira, Ramos Pinto and Taylor, the latter of which was mostly interested in the older Allegre Tawny stocks.
Vista Alegre along with Valle Longo (the latter of which is in close proximity to Quinta do Tedo) makes up the two main releases of Vallegre, but they have others such as Ceremony and Porto Cabral in their portfolio. Their production capacity is just shy of 70,000 cases but currently they are producing a total of 2,000 cases of Port. Their first Vintage Port was in 1994, which is not a bad year to start out with. I last visited with Miguel Martins in October of 2005 during the very first of the FTLOP Port Tours.
2005 Brunheda Colheita Douro White – Grapefruit and lime zest offer light citrus filled aromas. Medium bodied and a smooth, clean expression of Douro fruit with no signs of oak. Quite enjoyable. A bit simple, but at 8 Euros that is not an issue. Well made and will drink best now through 2010. 84 points (10/7/06)
2004 Vinha da Pala Reserva Douro White – From the Pala vineyard comes this very attractive and well-balanced Douro White wine. Generous nose of ripe pineapple. Rich and well-endowed body weight with a sumptuous and appealing symmetry, making this fun to roll around in the mouth. Quite ripe and in possession of a solidly defined acidic structure that keeps this in synch and leads to a fine lengthy finish. Only 1,000 cases produced and it sells for 35 Euros in country. One of the better white wines I have had on the trip. Drink 2007-2012. 91 points (10/7/06)
2000 Brunheda Reserva Douro White – Sadly I missed which specific grapes went into the cuvee here, but I did hear that these were older white grape varieties that don’t get used all that often. Rich and full-bodied and clearly this is up there with some of the fine Niepoort whites in terms of the overall quality. I really liked this beauty which was dense and complex with a beautiful mid-palate, a mix of citrus and tropical fruits and an oily, pleasurable texture. I wish this was sold in the USA! Only 500 cases produced and it sells for 40 Euros in country. Drinks beautifully now but has the power, fruit and structure to drink very well through 2015. 94+ points (10/7/06)
2003 Brunheda Vinha Velhas Douro Red – These old vines average about 80 years old and consist of Touriga Nacional, Tinto Cao, Sauzao and Touriga Franca. This shows very young with a floral bouquet leading to a lavender nose and it shows a spicy note with a touch of plum fruit. Quite viscous and a big wine that is showing a bit too much alcohol and if it integrates in time, this will be a very fine drink. The tannins are fairly rounded and even subdued, so I’d give it another 3 years before I’d even taste it again to let the alcohol integrate. Drink 2010-2018. 92 points (10/7/06)
2000 Brunheda Vinha Velhas Douro Red – Magnum bottles are always fun to try, especially with bottles that have some age on them. This was far more open and ready for biz than the 2000 Vinhas Velhas. That said, it will drink better with another year or two under its belt. Mostly red fruits on the nose with a touch of prune too. I liked this and it showed well with our food. A bit dry in profile with rhubarb and tart raspberry showing some coarsely textured fruit and huge level of acidity. I think the 2003 is a significantly better wine. Drink 2008-2012. 89 points (10/7/06)
2003 Vallegre Douro Red – What a nice way to start off with Miguel’s wine paired with the fine Degusto dinner. There is an earthy essence to the dark berry fruits in this harmonious drink. Very enjoyable and the seamless balance between the fruit and acid were matched by ripe but round tannins that showed the ability to age, while delivering a pretty silky and dense mouth feel. Drink 2010-2018. 93 points (10/7/06)
2001 Val da Corça Douro Red – Very aromatic with blackberry, cassis and earthy notes with a touch of licorice. A dark berry flavor profile with prunes and blackberry fruit is very tasty with a medium-body style and just a slight hint of oak. Ripe and ready to drink now with a seemingly soft underbelly and a long satisfying aftertaste. I liked this wine and it is well made, but there are many other less expensive options in this quality range. 800 cases produced, it currently sells for about 125 Euros. Drink 2007-2012. 92 points (10/7/06)
2004 Vista Alegre Douro Red – Violets, red berry nose and a bit grapey. Full-bodied and potent acidity, possibly too much here. Some heat on the palate but otherwise it is easy to approach initially. The medium length finish brings on some astringent tannins and a bit of spirit too. I can’t see the forest through the trees with this wine. Will it ever mesh? Drink 2010-2016. 84 points (10/7/06)
2003 Vista Alegre Douro Red – What a difference a year makes. I like this considerably more than the younger 2004 bottling. This offers a better nose of blackberry, cassis, mocha and a really earthy pungency that I loved. This is a big wine with a lot of promise. The structural components are focused and the fruit is bright, and with stylish boysenberry and blackberry flavors that dominate the palate. Nice length on the finish which also shows spirit. Drink 2009-2018. 91 points (10/7/06)
2000 Vista Alegre Vintage Port – This is dark magenta in color, brooding and well balanced. Floral, grenadine and alcohol notes come to the fore on the nose. On the palate the cassis and vanilla are wrapped in moderately ripe tannins and are big and juicy. This Alegre shows too much spirit on the finish and in time it should integrate. A solid Port built for mid term aging. Drink 2007-2018. 90 points (10/7/06)
1997 Quinta da Vista Alegre Vintage Port – Dark ruby color that provides the essence of grenadine, violets and a smoky note. The palate is good but a tad simple on the mid-palate even though there are flavors of boysenberry, a roasted taste as well as blackberry that I enjoyed. Very tasty but the mouth feel is slightly coarse and the finish has some heat which seems disjointed at this point in time. Just a little less impressive than most from the class of 1997 VPs. Drink 2008-2020. 88 points (10/7/06)
Vista Alegre Old White Port – This White Port is a blend of juice from 1966 and 10 year old white Port. It is aged in wood for at least 20 years old, but this specific cuvee averaged 25 years old. The Old White started out very tight and it took awhile for this to open up. But once it did, it was as bright as the North Star. Amber-orange in color with a tawny rim, this looked as intriguing as it smelled. Dried peach, mahogany and toasted almonds deliver an expansive fragrance. Light bodied with polished acidity that provides the strong skeletal structure of this beauty, delicate and dry in style. A smooth and silky mouth feel with apricot flavors along with superb liquid butterscotch and caramel that lead to a famously long and extraordinary aftertaste. Drink now-2020. 94 points (10/7/06)
2004 Vista Alegre Over 40 year old Tawny Port – A fine example of a really well made 40 year old Tawny. Light bodied and elegant in style, but well poised due to the ample acidity level. There is a citrus edge, caramel and pralines that really stand out on the palate. Delicious and focused with a really wonderful texture that rivaled the multi-layered flavors. The finish was complex and there was an intriguing espresso bean and citrus peel dynamic on the aftertaste. Drink 2007-2015. 93 points (10/7/06)
The full story of the 2006 Harvest Tour is broken into five articles:
2006 Harvest Tour Part One describes visits to Lodges in Vila Nova de Gaia, including Vasconcellos, Kopke, Vinologia, Cálem, Sandeman and Ramos Pinto as well as dinner at the Oporto Restaurant
2006 Harvest Tour Part Two describes visits to the Niepoort Lodge and to Symington Family Estates in Gaia, and dinner at the restaurant Presuntisco.
2006 Harvest Tour Part Three describes the visits to Douro Quintas including Quinta do Crasto, Quinta de Vargellas, Quinta do Vesuvio, Quinta Vale Dona Maria, Quinta do Noval, Quinta do Portal and Quinta do Silval.
2006 Harvest Tour Part Four describes the closing dinner at the restaurant De Gusto in Porto, together with the winemakers and wines from Quinta da Brunheda.
2006 Harvest Tour Part Five consolidates the 193 tasting notes from the other four articles into one document for easy reference.