Zev Robinson was gracious in putting together a short video for FTLOP’s anniversary issue, which includes facets of our 2011 Port Explorer’s Tour and a brief interview about my connection to Port and the Douro.
Since finishing the filming and editing of the documentary, Zev began screening the film and also selling it to individuals on DVD through his Life on the Douro website. In April, he will be rejoining us for another Port Explorer’s Tour, but will be focusing his lens on different aspects of Life on the Douro. This will enable Zev to expand his current film into a five or six part mini-series to air on television.
It was fun to have Zev on last year’s tour and to introduce him to several of the key individuals in the Port trade. We worked as a great team, as Zev worked his magic behind the camera and I interviewed some of the people who appear in the documentary. The stories told are fantastic.
In the YouTube clip linked below, Zev asked me to recount my path and passion with Port wine and how that led to FTLOP and the tours with Mario Ferreira. Additionally, the connection between my enthronement in the Confraria do Vinho do Porto and transition to dedicating my career to the promotion and education of Port, and eventually Douro and Madeira too.
I converted a serious hobby into my life’s work focused on helping people to better understand Port through a newsletter, website with vibrant interactive community, guiding tasting seminars for consumers and retailers in North America, and developing an ongoing program to invigorate Portuguese enotourism. This year I will surpass my 20th visit to Portugal and when I am not there, as my family can tell you, I miss it and talk about it incessantly. When in Porto/Gaia and the Douro, it feels so natural and I still dream of living there someday and writing a book or two.
Bringing guests to visit the large, medium and small producers of Port, DOC Douro and Madeira has been one of the great ongoing adventures in my life. Knowing how this creates some ripple effect on Port sales and excitement for others to visit Portugal’s winelands, is truly rewarding. It is fascinating to see the vast difference in the tourism infrastructure compared to my first visit to the Douro in 1994, when there was not a single hotel in the entire region (that I am aware of). Finding a place to stay was virtually impossible unless you had good connections within the Port trade. Although it might sound crazy, finding a restaurant attractive to visitors was almost non-existent back then. Douro’s tourism infrastructure has improved dramatically in recent years.
As Zev mentioned when screening his film in California, “everyone should visit the Douro at least once in their lifetime.” The natural beauty is nearly indescribable and the centuries old terraced vineyards that stretch as far as the imagination, with steep slopes rising up on either side of the river. I always tell potential guests, “You will never forget your first time seeing the Douro.” The pure bliss and awe of that first experience, has mesmerized me for eighteen years. Nowadays, I get to see that wonderment on the faces of our first-time guests and that’s a major reason why I love going there with our groups. In some ways, the Douro is evolving quickly as a region, yet memories of my first visit, along with my love of Port, the river valley and its people, will prevail.