Saturday, July 11, 2015

VINTAGE PORTO, and the Douro River




















RICH:

Our hearts have been captured again.  The incredible beauty of PORTO and the amazing terraced vineyards of the Douro River Valley are entrancing.  Whether staying at a family winery (Quinta do Passadouro) and being treated to wonderful Portuguese food paired with delicious PORTO wine and Port, or staying next to the river in Porto and taking long stimulating walks by the Atlantic, or eating in traditional fish grilling sidewalk restaurants, Porto captivates you.  Portugal has kept its heritage and culture, through earthquakes and horrible dictators.   Now when you visit it, the charm and beauty resonates.


WANDA:

Below is a view of the famous Douro Valley, with the world's most dramatic and inspiring vineyard landscapes...it's no wonder the area is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site!
Amazing that wine has been produced in this region for some 2,000 years - besides the vineyards, olive and almond trees decorate the landscape too...




The Douro Valley extends from the city of Porto to about 70 KM east (inland) all along the Douro River...



... We took a cruise down the Douro River to get a closer look at the landscape of the steep terraced vineyards that blanket the countryside...This is the world's most difficult wine growing region as the vineyards inclines vary from 35% to 70% from the river bed and the almost non-existent soil has been created from the schist or slate/shale rocks that are smashed using dynamite and other tools... 


Grapes are grown 3 ways in the Douro Valley - the oldest vineyards are the "Ancient Stone-walled Terraces" built by hand and very narrow, with one or two rows of vines harvested by hand -  around 1970 they started "Vertical Plantings" where the land is not as steep, common in other wine regions - and in the 1980's the modern terraces built are called "Patamare" or on Platforms, no walls and designed so a tractor can drive through.  
The vineyards are up and down the Douro River and seem to go on forever - the landscape is striking and beautiful...



Quinta do Passadouro
We stayed near the town of Pinhao at the above 4 bedroom farmhouse.  


Ronald, the estate manager is explaining the history of the Douro Valley Vineyards and discussing the "Douro Region" areas - The Baixo Corgo (rainiest and closest to the mountains -produces lightest wines meant to drink early), the Cimo Corgo (drier climate produces high quality tawny and vintage port, location  of many of the finest vineyards), and  the Douro Superior (least developed in the easternmost area and most arid) newest plantings and still expanding

  This property is in the heart of the Douro's Cima Corgo....the grapes are all picked by hand during harvest and the traditional foot-treading in granite lagares is still done.  Richard has signed up to work the next harvest.


Wines are aged in French barrels...




enjoying a Quinta do Passadoura wine in the backyard...


...and later in the evening being hosted by Ronald and Jet, along with new friends.  Dinner always started with a Port aperitif and ended with dessert and Port.  Of course we had many of Ronald's other favorite wines during dinner.  
Dinners always started at 8 and ended well after midnight - then all we had to do was stumble to our rooms...

...the dinners were delicious rustic Portuguese Casseroles (notice I have no pictures of our dinners because we managed to do more drinking than should be allowed).  
We wish we had stayed longer!



We left the Douro Valley and headed to Porto, the 2nd largest city in Portugal and the city where Port takes its name from.  The Portuguese name for Porto is "O Porto"  which simply means "The Port"...  

Porto is hilly with many buildings along the Douro River built right into the cliffs.  This old historic city has been continuously inhabited since the 4th century, during the Roman times...



The Atlantic Ocean at the mouth of the Douro River


Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia are across the Douro River from each other...There is a friendly  rivalry as to who has the better view.   


Porto's riverfront called "The Ribeira" is scenic - lot's of restaurants and people watching....



....wonderful outdoor Fado in the streets...


...and locals working on a model wine boat or rabelo....


The historic city center of Porto is a UNESCO World Heritage Site...

Shopping in Porto


The Cathedral of Porto 
This Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque Cathedral was constructed in the 12th to the 13th century...





...We walked across the bridge from Porto to Vila Nova de Gaia.  Gaia is known for its cellars or caves where Port wine is stored and aged before being shipped.   We visited a few cellars, tasted, and learned about how Port is made and of course enjoyed...




The view of Porto from Gaia.... 
The Barlos Rabelos are flat sailing vessels used since the 9th century for transporting the barrels from the farms to the cellars in Gaia.  Today they use trains/trucks to transport barrels and the Rabelos for Regatta races.


Enjoying a little Port from Porto Cruz ....



There are numerous Cellars or Caves in Gaia - it's easy to walk up and down the town and visit any of them, it makes for a relaxing day...



Enjoying Port from Calem...



....and enjoying more Port (along with the spectacular view of Porto) with Vintage Port from Taylor's Winery with Wendy and David (that we met at Quinto do Passadouro)...Taylor's is one of the oldest Port Houses...


Back across the bridge in Porto...



... we always ask about the local foods that everyone snacks on -  The Francesinha Sandwich seems to be the most popular - different meats ie steak, ham, pork slices on what looks like white Wonder Bread with melted cheese and a rich sauce made with beer and tomatoes and I am sure a few other ingredients.  Most are eaten with a fried egg and fries (Richard) - I decided on the "diet" plate.  Not my type of gastronomic delight -once was enough for me.  I can understand why it's the only place in the world you can find it!  : )...


We asked where is the best place to eat fresh fish in the city and we were led to the neighborhood of Matosinhos.  Barbecues lined the streets - I don't think it mattered where you ate, you were assured of delicious fresh caught fish, because the fish market is directly across the street...
 Loved it!!




Rich found a table by the window at Antonio's...


....Chef using only the finest sea salt to season the fresh Salmon and Sardines...
Street food at it's best! 



I had the traditional Portuguese Kale soup with chourico and Rich a sea food soup to start, followed by grilled sardines and salmon...


Thumbs up to all things Porto!!!....

...and to the towns of Braga, Guimares,  Barcelos, (and your roosters) and Viana do Castelo,  you are beautiful, and very wet..


....Our time in Porto and Portugal is over...as Henry the Navigator would probably say, it's time to explore new lands we haven't been to before - 
Off to the coast of Northern Spain!......

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