Monday, May 30, 2016

Winery weekend - part two

As part of our weekend at Quinta de Maroccos we went on a winery tour and Port tasting….yum!!!

We were met by Caesar, the 72 year-old owner of the farm.  He told us that he was the 4th generation owner of the property with his Great Grandfather having purchased the farm in the 1920’s.    He was a sweet gentleman in his “pork pie” hat and his love of the grapes and the wine making process came thru as he talked…..

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He started out by telling us about the Port trade in general.  Originally, Port could only be produced by a handful of wineries and those larger houses purchased grapes from the 20,000 growers that produce in the Douro Valley.  In the 1990’s, the rules changed, allowing smaller farms to produce their own product as well and he chose to make this change for the farm.

He told us that this year has been a strange one weather wise and that the Douro River is very high and has actually overflowed it’s banks.  When he mentioned it, we could see where there were trees in the water that should have been on the bank…..IMG_5814

He also said that the water was flowing so quickly right now that none of the Cruise boats could make it up the river, fighting the strong current.  We got to thinking about Wayne and Kathie and their planned trip up the Douro….they only got a short way out of Porto before the cruise had to be canceled and returned to shore. 

He told us that the vineyard remains much the same as it did in the 1920’s with the exception of roads that have been put in to allow the grape harvest to be driven down rather than being carried down in baskets.  He showed us where the grapes were loaded into a chute and taken to the processing room that starts with the pressing vats……

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Amazingly, the grapes here are still pressed by people stomping on them.  He said that this non-mechanical process is much gentler on the grapes and makes the flavor better.  I really wish that we could be here during harvest season (September or October) so that we could have helped!!!

The grape juice is then transferred to another room that is filled with vats and casks….

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We asked how much of the juice was turned into wine versus Port and he told us that the Port trade is highly regulated and that they are told each year exactly how much they can produce.  This property produces over 100,000 liters of wine each year, normally split about 50/50 between table wine and Port.

This farm also produces olive oil from their trees.   When the olives are picked, they are transferred to a co-op where they are pressed and bottled.

Caesar told us that when he tastes a Port each year, he makes a decision as to whether it is good enough to submit to the Port board to see if it can be classified as a Vintage port.  Once again the regulatory body has a lot of pull!!

We saw the area where it is manually bottled….12 bottles at a time, and then on to the area where it is boxed up and ready for shipment.   We loved the logo on the boxes….

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….it reminded us of our Elementary School Spanish lessons with Senor Sapo!!!

After the tour of the buildings, we were led into the tasting room and had the opportunity to try 3 White Ports, 4 Tawny Ports and 2 Vintage Ports.  Caesar would carefully pour a small amount in each glass…..

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….and then invite us to taste it and talk about whether we liked it or not.

He would, of course, drink along with us and I loved the way that he closed his eyes and truly enjoyed each glass…..

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At the end of the night, there were a bunch of empty glasses…..

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….and a bunch of people CAREFULLY making their way up the stairs to the rooms!!!

On Sunday morning, we were ready to do some exploring so we headed to the town of Lamego which is about a 25 minute drive from the farm.  We had been told that there was a wonderful church that we should see, along with a series of staircases leading up to the church.  We planned to park at the bottom and walk up, but Gwyneth had other ideas and deposited us at the church itself.   Since there was a Mass going on at the time, we decided to walk down to the city and then work our way back up again.

The views as you walk down the steps are gorgeous……

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….and each landing is decorated with a beautiful blue and white tile tableau….. IMG_5858

When we got to the bottom it was incredible to look up and see where we had come from…..

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….but the scene was even more stunning when you got a bit further away from the church and could see the murals as well…..

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We walked around the center of town, stopping at another church and observing a portion of their Mass.   It was different from most that I have seen here as the music was very modern.  The church was sweet and seemed to have some life to it.

We slowly made our way back up the steps, arriving at the Santuário de Nossa Senhora dos Remédios….that is a mouthful!!   The outside of the church is beautiful…..

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…as was the inside, although no photographs were allowed.

We were starting to get hungry at this point so we drove back toward the Quinta, stopping in the city of Régua for lunch.  Our waitress spoke no English but pointed to a few English subtitles on the menu.  We used “Google Translate” to figure out the rest and enjoyed a plate of pork chops…..

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….and Roasted Goat……

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Both were yummy!!!

We were also served a bowl of rice……

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….adding to the Carbohydrate load of the meal.   I must say that the Portuguese DO love their Carbs.   Each meal has bread, potatoes, rice and often a Beer!!

When we got ready for dessert, the waitress motioned for us to follow her so that she could SHOW us what was available rather than trying to describe them to us!!

In the afternoon, we did a bit of exploring around the property, finding the common room that was used by the other guests.  It was a comfortable room, once again decorated with items that had belonged to the family……

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This photo of Caesar and his wife was sweet….

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….and this lamp was a bit funky…..

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On Monday, we regretfully left the Quinta, heading toward home.  But first, we wanted to visit the town of Amarante and see a couple of sights there.  Well, it was a nice plan, but trying to find out WHERE the sights were did not prove to be easy!!! 

Gwyneth had some issues as we traveled, especially when she did not recognize the new road that we were traveling on……

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She did lead us faithfully to the church, but we felt like we were driving on the walkway rather than the road…..

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When we got to the end of this thoroughfare, Michael was veering to the left to drive in front of the church but a gentleman shook his head “no” and pointed to the right.  If you blow up the photo, you can see a TINY doorway that you are supposed to DRIVE thru to get to the parking lot!!! 

Michael accomplished the turn itself but then we could not find any parking places so we said “well, we have at least SEEN the church” so we didn’t stop further.

We stopped for an Espresso and to let Michael’s nerves settle after the harrowing parking lot entrance and then we hit “Go Home” on the GPS and headed happily back to Vila do Conde. 

We met up briefly with Roy and Diane before they headed toward the airport and then went for a quick walk along the shore.

Alas, our long weekend was over and Tuesday marked the start of another work week, but we had wonderful memories of our time at Quinta da Marrocos!!!

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