Thursday, February 23, 2012

Report from ... Day 5 in Portugal: Essencia Day - February 16, 2012

It's my last day in Portugal, and as much as I would like to stay for a couple of days of Essencia tasting a previous engagement is calling me back to Ontario.  Today I'll show you pictures from the floor of the Essencia tasting, the room where the international journalists will be judging to determine the best in Portuguese wines, what happens to a little town square when football (read: soccer) comes to town in the form of Manchester City, and shots taken inside the Yeatman Hotel (a beautiful project started by the Fladgate group).  But before I do that I promised to show you pictures of the world's smallest bath-mat, so let's start there:
Here's my size 13 atop the "bathmat" - I have a picture of my actual foot on the mat but not sure y'all wanted to see my hairy leg.
Taking a step back you can see yet another open concept shower stall - careful not to get too much water on the floor.
Inside the Palacio da Bolsa ... a look at the empty floor of the Essencia do Vinho where the tasting is to begin a few hours later ...
... but first will be the international judging, upstairs.
A look down from above at the Essencia floor.  In a few short hours this room will be teaming with people.
Inside the International Judges Room - the competition is called Top 10, I have yet to hear the results but they are published in Portugal's biggest wine magazine
Another look inside the judging room
My seat at the table.
We take to the streets for my last walk around Oporto, leading me to Gratuitous Animal Shot #8 ...
and Gratuitous Animal Shot #9 ... these animals were patrol the streets amongst ...
all these crazed Manchester City fans - these folks arrived before noon and set up shop on the very piece of real estate I spent my first day overlooking Vila de Nova Gaia eating a pork sandwich ... they would continue to drink until before game time at 8pm.
From the tour of the waterfront we make our way to lunch at DOP where froo-froo food awaits
Like scallops and mushrooms on a slate stone board
Saffron risotto and white fish
Pork skin and potato medallions - we missed out on dessert to take a private tour of the Yeatman hotel across the river.
Starting in the gift shop ... while we wait for our guide
From the balcony of the Yeatman overlooking Nova da Gaia port houses and in the distance Oporto, from this far away we can still hear the singing and chanting of the Manchester revelers.
The piece de resistance - entering the Wine Cellar in the basement of the Yeatman
Hallways leading to the cellar - the show part is behind those black doors
Looking behind the black doors at the Vintage Ports
These are the doors to wine cellar nirvana ...
Entering the wine cellar - wall of wooden case ends
Inside the cellar:  the Portuguese section
More of the cellar: the international section
Cork display outside the wine cellar
... including the world's largest cork.
The pool room
now imagine swimming with this view - because this is what you'd be looking out at
Time to enter the spa area ... it's luxurious in there including barrel tubs, and massage chairs that overlook Oporto
Unfortunately MCFC was staying at the hotel so we were not allow to see the rooms - but I did get this shot outside  the hotel of a 3000 year old olive tree.  3000 years old ... look at the size of that trunk.
My final dinner in Portugal at Mesa, on the 4th floor of a retirement home, swear to goodness
Inside the dining room at Mesa ... zoom in and see one of the residence in the back left corner.
The best dish of the evening - short rib on risotto - not the most Portuguese of dishes but it was delicious.
And thus ends this trip to Portugal ... the Esssencia tasting and the tasting tours of wineries ... 5 days is just too short a time to take it all in but it sure was fun and very educational.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Report from ... Day 4 in Portugal: a little more Douro - February 15, 2012

This is the last day of touring before heading back to Oporto for the Essencia do Vinho - we'll be toured around Quinta do Vallado, where we stayed last night; visit the Wine and Soul project, which is a small winery project that is being run by a husband and wife winemaking team (for other wineries) of Jorge and Sandra; and finally, a visit to Lavradores de Feitoria, a co-op in the Douro region.  We'll end the night in an ocean view sushi restaurant eating pork loin ... I found that strange too ... but it's all part of day 4 in Portugal, let's take a look:

Touring Quinta do Vallado: We start out in the orchard by the pool (to the left) - this is an orange tree with plenty of fruit
And so is this - on this tiny tree there were about half a dozen oranges
The tour takes us past the new inn on the Vallado property, we didn't stay here because the electricity had yet to be hooked up - had we been a day later, different story.  The entire hotel is made from slate, walls, stairs and floors.
Gratuitous Animal Shot #7:  A walk through the old winery kitchen found this "kitchen cat" under the table - he / she followed us through the rest of the tour.
And here is the outside of the new gravity flow winery ... because of the hilly nature of the Douro gravity flow is a natural outcome
Inside the new winery
The new lagars in the new winery ... and to prove the cat followed us ...
I present my next Gratuitous Animal Shot #8:  Cat in a lagar
The stairs to the depths of the winery: barrel room and beyond
The underground barrel room ... and then just because I wanted to ...
my barrel room artsy shot
Thus endth the tour of Quinta do Vallado.
And an hour later we started our tour of the Wine & Soul project, started by husband and wife winemaking team of Jorge and Sandra (pics to come of them both)
A look at some of their first 3 hectare vineyard which they bought in 2003
Scanning out over their neighbours vineyards - great scenery from the top of this hill
Looking down the vineyard into the valley and forest below to these "guys" burning something ...
 ... creating this billow of smoke across the valley.
The wines of the 'Soul project, "Pintas" (meaning spots) ... the best wine is the Quinta da Manoella 2009 VV (3rd from left) - a field blend from a 7 hectare plot of 30+ varieties from vines that are over 100 years old; aged 20 months in 80% new French oak.  Chocolate, red fruit and sweet plum on the nose with a lovely mouth feel, good minerality, spices, herbs and dark fruit palate ... interesting brambly finish that lingers (**** 1/2)
The winery is so small they keep the barrels in the lagars when not in use to foot trod the wines (all wines are made in this method)
The team of Wine & Soul: Jorge Serodio and Sandra Tavares-DeSilva ... Jorge on why Tawny is a more interesting wine than Vintage Port: "Vintage you taste the grapes; Tawny you taste the grapes, the wood, the oxidation - it's a mix of things and more complex."
Next stop Palacios Mateus, home to Lavradores de Feitoria ... it is the icon palace on the bottles of Matus worldwide, but it is not made by this company - the rights to the picture were sold years ago.
A map of the 18 properties under the Lavradores umbrella - a group of growers co-op started in 2001: they export 70% of their production to 23 countries.
The Best Wines ... The Meruge line of wines: The 2009 White from 100% Viosinho (grape) which is barel fermented and aged 6-7 months in Portuguese raw oak, a great Chardonnay alternaative with nice ageing potential  (****) and the 2008 Red (80% Tinta Roriz) with its delicacy of fresh fruit and berries and well integrated tannins (****+)
2008 Tres Bagos - Grande Escolha:  6 varieties go into the wine all 60+ years of age, made only in the best of years.  I's a barrel selection wine, most barrels even selected, 18.  Nice fruit and intense oak, a wine made for ageing (****)
"Twit of the Year" strikes again:  Christopher passes the Bagos on the left hand side
With our days of tasting and touring over it was back to Oporto for the main event: Essencia 2012 ... we met at Shis restaurante for the opening night dinner
The set-up was outdoors (in February) overlooking the ocean (at night) - heaters were set up to keep us all warm.
At a seaside sushi restaurant we ate: Bed of gratin Chevre with coulis of red pepper
loin of "porco preto"with hunt sausage and watercress puree ... with nary the sight of fish ... odd; the inside of the restaurant smelled great, if you can recall a fresh fish sushi bar.  It was a pity not to see any on our plates.
This dessert went a long way to make up for it though: apple strudel with vanilla ice cream
The wines of the evening were sponsored by the Dao region ... and this was the best of the night.
Well, that's it for Day 4 - tomorrow it's Essencia time, lots of wine and a group of International Professionals will get together in a room to decide the best wines of Portugal ... see you tomorrow in the room and on the floor of the tasting ... plus I'll show you a picture of the world's smallest bath-mat. All things to look forward to in the Day 5 pictures.