Posted by Grape Adventures | Posted on 07-09-2012| Posted in
To close out our trip to the Douro, we visited two other beautiful wineries. The first was Quinta do Vallado. The winery is just down the street from the hotel where we were staying, which is also part of the Vallado estate. As a side note, I highly recommend the hotel; the rooms were modern, luxurious, and very comfortable. Each has its own balcony, free wifi, and includes a nice Portuguese breakfast of breads, fruits (usually fresh cherries, melon, and pineapple), and coffee.
Quinta do Vallado winery is one of the oldest in the Douro Valley, founded in 1716 and having once belonged to the legendary Dona Antónia Adelaide Ferreirra. I’d stumbled across her name in my Frommer’s:
From a modest beginning, with only a handful of vineyards, her company rose in power and influence, gobbling up wine estate after wine estate. At its apex, its holdings stretched all the way to the border of Spain, making its owner the richest woman in the nation. The fabled entrepreneur (known as Ferreirinha, or “Little Ferreira”) nearly drowned in the Douro in 1861, but her voluminous petticoats kept her buoyant. Her companion, an Englishman named Baron de Forrester, who did not wear petticoats, wasn’t as lucky.
Anyway, generations later, Francisco Ferreira, her descendant & current co-owner of the Quinta, guided us through a tasting and the facilities, then treated us to an unrushed and lively lunch on the property.
The winery and its surprising modernity would have been just at home in Napa Valley as in the Douro. It’s more tourist-ready than the others and while still small, has a slightly more commercial feel. Vallado’s wines were pure and precise and Francisco and the team monitored their every direction. In the relatively spacious tasting lab, we sampled the following:
- Vallado Douro White 2011: A blend of Arinto, Rabigato, Verdelho, and Viozinho grapes. Aged in stainless steel and intended to be an everyday, light wine. Very citrusy nose. Unassuming, but pleasant. Short finish.
- Vallado Douro Moscatel 2011: Single variety Moscatel picked early. This wine is sneaky – it has a really fragrant nose with barrels of sweet fresh apple and flowers. Then it unexpectedly hits you with an unexpected dryness on the palate. Fun aperitif wine for geeky wine friends since it’s a) dry and b) from Portugal.
- Quinta do Vallado White Reserva 2011: Produced from grapes of older vineyards and in new French oak. I don’t mean this in a bad way (a bit suspect when wine descriptions start this way), but this wine reminded me of spring cleaning, windows open, dusting rich wooden furniture with lemon-scented Pledge. Oddly, this memory is a positive association for me.
- Vallado Douro Red 2010: Made from “young” vineyards of only ~20 years old. It’s another everyday wine and is fresh and ready-to-drink young. The flavor profile is Luden’s cherry drops, berries, and dominant red/blue fruit. Same on the palate, but with some tannin and bite. It got prettier after being open for 30 minutes.
- Quinta do Vallado Douro 2009 Sousao: This one was up there along with the Pintas 2009 as a top pick of the trip. I really liked the old-world style and secondary notes of this wine. Pencil and lead shavings, tires, bright fruit and just the right acidity. Deep deep in color, integrated tannins, and great aging potential. I drank this at lunch too and just had to finish my glass, despite feeling like I should spit since my travel friend, Laura, still had to drive to one more winery (who wants to be DD with a drunk wine blogger?). It’s good . And I bet ridiculously hard to find in the U.S. PS. Francisco, can I have more?
- Quinta do Vallado Touriga Nacional 2010: Dark blue fruit, raspberries and blueberries, and oak. Classic Douro.
- Quinta do Vallado Reserva Red Blend 2009: Another fave. Tobacco on the nose. Lots of concentration and structure, but still a little wound up and could see this lying down another 10 -15 years.
- Quinta do Vallado Adelaide 2009: Smells like a decadent and expensive wine I’d buy in Napa, but with a Portuguese slant. Small parcel, boutique wine.
After a relaxed and delicious lunch at Vallado, we valiantly attempted to make our way to Crasto. Many wrong turns later, we arrived at Quinta do Crasto, which boasts one of the most fabulous pools and views in the Douro Valley. Notes on the Crasto wines are below:
- Crasto White 2011: Really fresh, zingy minerality and citrus. My favorite white of the trip for summer sipping.
- Crasto Douro 2010: Blend of Touriga Franca for backbone, Touriga Nacional for crispness and berries; Tinta Roriz for freshness and smooth tannins, and T.B. for a little weight on the mid-palate. Bursting with dark berries — when I smelled it, it was the moment I realized I could now recognize what the Douro smells like. A lot of fruit but finishes very dry with weight. A wine that would be great served slightly chilled.
- Quinta do Crasto Reserva 2009: Balsamic reduction, twiggy, fresh bright berries but backdrop of schist, rusticity, and dark violet. Beautiful fruit and woodsy, but sunny. If you want to know what the Douro tastes like, again, try this.
I hope I’ve encouraged you that Portuguese wines, especially the Reservas, are well worth picking up and trying. I’d also recommend visiting Portugal’s wine country; although I’m reminded of a quote that one of the winemakers shared with me, which applies to not only wine making in the country, but also to visiting (and driving) there:
“To make wine here in the Douro, you must be two things. Patient and crazy.”