Continuing the travelogue from our recent Port Harvest Tour for those who are interested in the rest of the story ...
On Thursday, we woke up early and headed to Pinhao to catch the train up river as we were going to be visiting two remarkable properties, both of which had two things in common:
- both had previously been owned by Dona Antonia Adelaide Ferreira
- both have their very own train stations on the bank of the Douro River
Our first stop was at Quinta do Vesuvio where we were warmly greeted by Dominic Symington. We unloaded our gear and made our way to into the vineyards and Dominic spent a great deal of time explaining the exposition of the various vineyards on the property, the grape and soil types, the climate conditions, the harvest cycle etc.
In addition to Dom, we also had the privilege to meet with Cynthia Jenson who is an outstanding journo who's been updating the Graham's Facebook page and also providing great details and photos about the 2010 Port harvest at Malvedos. She had made a special trip upriver to join us during our visit. As she is an occasional participant on the FTLOP Forum too, it was fun for her to put faces with the names that she's known from online.
After our walk through some of the vineyards on the property, on a most beautiful day ... warm and cloudless blue skies prevailed ... we were led to the production facilities and also the lagar room which must be seen to be believed. Dominic explained about some of the high tech infra-red technologies, provided us with a thorough understanding of the 2010 lagar regimen and how it translated into specific quantities of pipes produced and many other fascinating details.
There are about 25 full time staffers at Vesuvio and the harvest at this enormous property encompasses about an entire month ... especially when yields are as big as they were this year.
We headed back for our tasting, but first, we all took a glass of Port and headed to the Capela of Vesuvio (the Chapel). Once there, we had a brief toast to one of our guests who perished just prior to the tour, in a freak hiking accident on a snow-capped cornice in Canada's Province of Alberta. Two of his best friends were with us and each spoke about their friend, the accident and his family. It was a very touching moment and I could not have thought of a more appropriate place than Vesuvio's chapel to honor James Hoshizaki, a serious Port lover.
Dominic then led us to the tasting room where we would partake in the finest Vintage Port tasting of the entire trip. Our diagonal tasting included 1994, 2000 and 2007 vintages of Graham's, Dow, Warre and Quinta do Vesuvio Ports. Comparing and contrasting these impeccably stored bottles was one of the highlights of the tour for many of our guests; as nothing is more educational than seeing both house style and simultaneously evaluating the qualities of extraordinary vintages such as these.
We then headed to a fantastic lunch in the Quinta's beautiful dining room and along with some fine Douro wines, enjoyed several courses of authentic Duriense cuisine. I must add that the 2008 Altano Reserva (red) was glorious and really paired well with our food as did the 2009 Altano Branco. Our last wine of the visit was a very delicious and rare 1992 Quinta do Vesuvio Colheita, which was foot trodden in lagars and exhibited a spicy, nutty and ponderous young Port with an everlasting finish.
We could have easily spent the rest of the day at Vesuvio but we had another appointment down river and it was time to bid a fond farewell to Dom and Cynthia. We thanked them for a most memorable experience and they helped us get into the two boats that were waiting for us at the dock. We had kept this fact a secret as our guests were expecting to board the train, but it was a perfect day to gain a vastly different perspective of the Douro Superior's terroir from the vantage point of the river itself.
One of the two boat's captains, was Alistair Robertson, the Chairman of The Fladgate Partnership. His boat was quite a bit faster than the 2nd craft, but both got us safely down river and we disembarked at Quinta de Vargellas, the backbone of Taylor's Port wine.
We were greeted by his lovely wife Gillyane and we walked up to their home which is the esteemed Quinta at Vargellas. The immediately impressive views of the vineyards was apparent from the moment we stepped away from the docks and we walked up to the house where we were able to leave our belongings. We then headed down to see the great Vargellas lagars where there was a team treading grapes accompanied by a spirited ditty played by the animated accordion maestro.
After a look around the area, we went into an adjoining area where we were greeted by the Fladgate Partnership's head of winemaking, David Guimaraens. David spent a good deal of time providing us with many details about the property, winemaking, history, facts about the vineyards and lagars etc. It is always great to hear David's brilliant perspective and he then guided us through a tasting of the following Vintage Ports:
1976 Quinta de Vargellas
1987 Quinta de Vargellas
1995 Quinta de Vargellas
1995 Quinta de Vargellas Vinha Velha
2004 Quinta de Vargellas Vinha Velha
2008 Quinta de Vargellas - cask sample
This was a fabulous tasting and even some of our most experienced guests had never tasted the Old Vines (Vinha Velha) versions of the Vargellas vineyard Vintage Ports. So this was appreciated by all.
We then took a long walk back to the main house and then headed off to a very special spot. It was a walk that crossed over many of the old vine parcels on the property and we came upon a stonewalled gazebo-like structure that held nearly 20 of us. This was the spot that Alistair and Gillyane toasted in celebration of their 40th wedding anniversary some years back. The 360 degree panoramic vistas from this spot were incredible and we stayed to watch the sun set on the Douro while sipping Port tonics. It was a very special moment for all of us to take in; from the company we were in, to the pristine natural beauty and the absolute quiet of the Douro.
Alistair then guided us back on the trail leading to their home and showed us around and it was just about time to depart. Afternoons like this are few and far between and it was only my 2nd time visiting Vargellas (the last time was in 2006). Dinner was planned back at our hotel in Sabrosa, and we had a very long trip ahead of us and we thanked our hosts for a marvelous time and sharing their home and hospitality with all of us.
Next: Dinner at Quinta do Portal ... and more.