Very last day in the Douro Valley – for now

A luxury – a 12.20pm start that allowed us to catch up on strolling round the town, yomping along the boardwalk, or checking out our favourite pasteleria.  With such a late start one might think that this would be a short day, but this is a Tim tour, and a full agenda awaited us.

First visit was to Casa do Romezal, north of the river to the east of Régua.  A walk up the hill (taxis were provided for some who didn’t fancy it) was rewarded with a stunning view out across the Douro landscape, which we looked at with some extra interest, Tim having delivered his treatise on terracing on our coach journey.  Tim had promised that Luís Quintas Gueras, who owns the estate with his sister Margarida, would be able to provide far more detailed (and erudite) information and he was right.

Luís was charming, full of enthusiasm and energy and passion.  He described how he left his studies in pharmacy and his sister left hers in biomedical engineering to take over the family farm on the death of their father in 2008.  They took the responsibility of being the 27th generation of a family who have farmed this land since the first millenium very seriously, and embarked on a huge renovation of the buildings, to create a bed and breakfast operation in addition to a winery.  Luís used his scientific training and knowledge to raise the quality of the 38ha of vines and viticultural and winery practices, and rather than sending all of their production to the local co-op they now make their own wines, which they sell locally and export by mail order.

Luís explained that the vineyard above the house, where we were standing, was planted with Malvasía, a white grape.  Ideally this should be planted at higher altitude where it is cooler, and over time he will get round to this.  For now, he clearly has his hands full with his range of lovely wines.

On the terrace of the house we enjoyed a ‘light lunch’ (Tim Syrad style), of breads, olive oil, cheese, meats and of course pies (pies and pastries have been a big part of our diet), accompanied by a number of his wines.

His ‘harvest white’, a field blend of grapes grown on a range of altitudes from 200-450m had a lovely floral nose and textured mouthfeel, while his Reserva white was from lower slopes and was made with some time in oak and was richer, more clomplex with a beautiful finish.  The Grande Reserva red from 2018, which was not yet released, was of course youthful, with loads of dark fruit and spice and powerful tannins.
We finished with two ports, a white and a tawny.  Luís described how he wanted to make port accessible to everyone so he made these with old wines but no indication of age, so at €12/bottle they were a steal.  Served fridge cold the white had lovely nutty flavours while the tawny had more red fruits and caramel.

It was getting decidedly hot, the weather reverting to normal, and we managed to find enough shade to enjoy finishing off the wines and food and enjoying the view.  This was a great visit to round off our understanding of Douro wines, and to super-charge our enthusiasm for the wines, the region and its people, and it was with real regret we left.

On Luís’s recommendation, Tim had organised a quick visit to another winery, Quinta Seara d’Ordens, higher up the valley.  A 60ha estate that was founded in the 18th Century, the Moreira family have invested in it, making their own wines since 1992.  The barrel cellar, built into the hillside to maintain a constant temperature of 20 degrees throughout the year was where we received our explanation about the estate from Lisinho and Marcus, followed by a tasting of their olive oil and wines in their tasting rooms.

The olive oil was delicious and we were happy to be ‘sold’ on its qualities for both health and gastronomy.  Their TalentVs Grande Escholha white and red wines were both super, the white with lovely acidity and great fruit character with some sweet vanilla notes from a year in big american oak casks, the red was paler than many other Douro reds, but just as powerful and worthy of ageing.  We finished with their 2013 vintage port and 20 year old tawny port.  The vintage was really smooth and balanced with both freshness and powerful fruit, while the tawny had glorious almond, dried fruit and caramel flavours and coating texture enlivened by lovely acidity.  
The estate was, needless to say, very handsome, with yet more stunning views – which I tried to drink in as I wouldn’t be seeing them for much longer!

There were lovely views as we followed the river to Pinhão, where our final event in the valley was taking place.  We had dinner at the 1896 restaurant of Quinta do Bomfim.  1896 was the year the Symington family bought the quinta, but the restaurant combined clean modernity with traditional touches.  The view across the Douro evolved as the sun set, and our meal (pâté en croute, cod with white beans, duck with lentils and a rhubarb tart) was served with great style by the friendly and skilled staff. 

Our wines were the Altano rosé and reserva white, the Pombal de Vesuvio red, and the Graham’s 20 year old port, served in Rheoboam (4.5 litres/6 bottles).  We enjoyed watching the chefs preparing the food, and a few nice words were said, marking the end of our time in the valley.  A very suitable final night.