Douro, Portugal - 5 nights
Not just for Port lovers, this tour also features the Douro’s dynamic new wineries that are turning heads with their incredible table wines. Visit the historic lodges in Oporto where Port is aged. Then move upstream to the grape-growing region where Port and the new unfortified wines are made. Fall in love with the Douro river valley, a World Heritage site.
WELCOME TO OPORTO
We begin with a walking tour of Oporto, a lovely port town with baroque churches and tiled facades. We’ll hear why taxes and a war with France drove the British into the welcoming arms of the Portuguese, where they seized upon Porto as a viable replacement for embargoed Bordeaux. A river cruise follows, passing under 6 bridges, including one designed by Monsieur Eiffel. We then cross the river to Vila Nova de Gaia, where Port is aged in riverside lodges, and have lunch at Taylor Fladgate. This family-owned firm (f. 1692) was one of the earliest British shippers to acquire vineyards, and it remains a blue-chip company, its Ports fetching the highest prices at auction. More history and tastings follow at Calem, where we’ll have a tour, then proceed to Kopke for a private tasting. Founded in 1638 by a Dutch family, Kopke is the oldest Port shipper of foreign origin and has stocks of tawny port that go back to 1938. Dinner at an elegant river-view restaurant introduces Portuguese cuisine, which includes such dishes as kale soup (caldo verde), chouriço sausage, sucking pig (leitâo assado), and 365 versions of codfish (bacalhau). D
THE HISTORIC PORT LODGES
There’s free time in the morning for sightseeing, DIY tastings, and lunch on your own. The afternoon holds two tastings in Vila Nova de Gaia: At Graham’s (f.1820), we’ll delve in the styles of Porto and learn the differences between ruby, tawny, late-bottled vintage (LBV), and vintage. Here we’ll see the various aging methods, including cigar-shaped barrels called "pipes" for tawny and massive oak casks for ruby. Tasting two flights of Graham’s rubies and tawnies will then help crystallize the lessons. Our second stop is the wine museum of Ramos Pintos (f. 1880), which showcases the early days of Port. The Ramos family pioneered the marketing of Port to new international markets like Brazil—and the use of racy images in advertising! José Ramos Pintos Rosa became known as "the Pope of the Duoro" because of his pioneering experiments in viticulture and mechanization. His research, together with current winemaker João Nicolau de Aldeida, helped determine the top five grape varieties in the Douro. Dinner on your own in Oporto. B
THE DOURO BOYS
Port is aged in Oporto, but its grapes are grown 90 miles upstream. In the morning, we drive up the Douro Valley to the Cima Corgo, where many of the finest vineyards lie. We arrive in time for lunch at Quinta do Nápoles, the oldest estate (quinta) owned by Niepoort. Although this Dutch family has been making Port since 1842, we’re here to taste their dry table wine. Since buying this property in 1987, Dirk Niepoort has supervised its wholesale transformation, turning a dilapidated quinta into a sleek state-of-the-art winery. As one of the so-called "Douro Boys," he has also spearheaded a dynamic revolution in premium dry wine taking place in the Douro today. During a hearty, home-cooked lunch, we’ll taste some of these top-scoring wines, many of which are sourced from old, field-blend vineyards owned by 100 different growers. (We’re sure to sample some of their delectable Ports, too!) Next up is Niepoort’s neighbor on the Tedo River, Quinta do Tedo. This estate has grown grapes since 1756, but bottled Porto under its own name only since being purchased in 1992 by Vincent and Kay Bouchard, a barrel-making family from Burgundy. Enologist Jorge Alves will personally host our visit and talk about the French connections. Tonight we settle into our second hotel, an elegant Relaise & Chateau in Pinhão, and dine at Porta Romana, a homey restaurant that’s a hangout for local winemakers. B, L, D
BIG AND SMALL QUINTAS: VESUVIO & PASSADOURO
The Douro is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and today we’ll soak up its awesome beauty. The occasion is a scenic train ride from Pinhão to the Douro Superiore, the driest, hottest, and most remote region for Port grapes. Our destination is also a wonder to behold: the historic Quinta do Vesuvio (f. 1565), the favorite winery and private getaway for the widow Dona Antónia Ferreira. Owner of 30 quintas in the mid-1800s, Ferreira was the Douro’s largest landholder, making her Portugal’s version of the Veuve Cliquot. Now owned by Symington, Vesuvio still makes its Port the old-fashioned way: foot-stomping the grapes in lagares, or large stone troughs. (The only modern equipment here is the coffee machine.) For lunch, we ferry across the river in a small motorboat to the only restaurant within miles! Then it’s back to Pinhão to freshen up and get ready for dinner at a winery and B&B, Quinta do Passadouro in the beautiful Vale de Mendiz. The winery manager will show us around the facility, a smaller-sized operation that makes exceptionally good Port and dry wine, and his wife will cook up a storm! We’ll dine al fresco and break out the Passodouro wines. B, D
THE BAIXO CORGO
Another key personality in the region is Cristiano van Zeller. Formerly with Quinta do Noval, he now runs Quinta do Vale Dona Maria, the smallest of the Douro Boy wineries. Van Zeller is slowly reviving his in-laws’ property, which was abandoned and in complete ruin. Now he makes drop-dead-gorgeous table wines here, as well as luscious ruby and LBV ports. Our charismatic host will regale us with Van Zeller family history, a truly fascinating narrative that includes a grandfather who introduced Tinto Roriz (tempranillo) into Portugal, spearheaded age designations for tawny, and possibly created the LBV style. For lunch, we head to Regua, a larger river town in the Baixo Corgo. If time allows, we’ll stop in its interesting wine museum. Our final winery visit is the nearby Quinta do Vallado. This is another member of the Douro Boys—and another spanking-new facility that demonstrates the resources flowing into the Douro Valley. Vallado’s roster of dry wines includes single-varietal bottlings of Touriga Nacional and Sousão—a rare tasting treat in this region of blends. Our farewell dinner is at DOC, the area’s top restaurant, located on the Douro river. Here we’ll toast old traditions, new friends, and the future of the Douro. B, D
In the morning, we shuttle to the Oporto city center or airport (3 hours) and assist with your travel plans. B
*Itinerary changes very slightly each year so as to improve the tour
A minimum of 2 participants is required to run this tour and the tour in limited to a maximum of 14 participants.
(The number of participants refers to how many persons are required to run the tour, not to how many persons you must have in your party. Please inquire.)
HOW TO ARRIVE
Meet and Depart: Oporto
Plan to land in Portugal at least a day before the tour begins. We recommend spending the preceding night in Oporto iin order to be at our meeting spot on time. In Oporto, the most convenient hotel choice would be the PESTANA PORTO. Alternately, there’s a variety of 3- and 4-star hotels in the city center. If not staying at the Pestana, you will be responsible for arriving there on the morning of Day 1 in time for our pick-up. *Please inquire about hotels prior to booking one....
*These details are provided as additional information. Please check below to see if transfers are included in this tour.
*(Optional upgrade to river view in Oporto: $50/person)
*Pricing may vary depending on market fluctuation
After availability is confirmed, a deposit of US$450 per person and the completed and submitted registration form will secure your reservation. Final payment is due in full 75 days before your arrival date.
*Five (5) nights accommodations (double room) in two 4-star hotels, with breakfast buffet
*Four (4) dinners (three courses with wine), including one at a Douro winery (Passadouro)
*One (1) lunch at a Douro winery (Niepoort)
*All wine tastings mentioned
*Walking tour and river cruise in Oporto
*Scenic train ride along the Douro, from Pinhão to Vesuvio
*Shuttle at to Porto airport or city center at conclusion
Transportation: We provide one van pick-up on day of arrival/departure at designated train station or airport (call for times). All ground transport during stay.
*One (1) dinner on your own and most lunches
*After-dinner drinks, or special wines at tastings that are not part of what is provided to the group
*Items of a personal nature
*Anything not specifically mentioned as included
For further inquiries or to register, click here.
Please contact us for cancellation policy information. Travel insurance is highly recommended.
Furnished upon request.
This exciting region is depicted below. You can also access Google MapsTM by clicking HERE.
*In some cases mapping may give clients a general sense of location due to changes in venue. Please inquire about specific location.