Our last day in the Douro began at the drive thru Covid testing station in Vila Real. It was clear that they had not dealt with a large coach before so after a bit of bureaucratic dithering, a duly PPE suited lady boarded the coach and proceeded to swab us all. With that excitement over, we got back to the main business of the day – visits and tastings.
Our first stop was to Casa do Romezal – a tiny and highly inaccessible winery on the hills outside Regua. Run by Luis Guerra and his sister, we were entertained and educated in one of the most enjoyable visits we have ever experienced on any wine tour.
Luis was a fabulous host. Guiding us through a walk in the vineyards he seamlessly took us on a 1000 year history journey of his own family and the Douro Valley as well as providing some expert commentary on the viticulture and soil.
Moving into the winery, we settled into a sensational tasting incorporating his two whites, two reds and a white and tawny Port. The quality of the wines was exceptional and there was a generous selection of meats, cheese, bread and salmon which acted as a light lunch.
Luis was utterly charming and gave us a truly memorable visit.
From Regua, we travelled to Pinhao and the Quinta do Bomfim estate – one of the Symington group properties and predominantly home to the Dow’s range of Ports. After Casa do Romezal, it was going to be a hard act to follow but Antonio delivered an excellent overview and then took us into the winery where it was great to see grapes arriving into the lagares and thus see at first hand the birth of a new vintage. It gave us an insight into the scale of production and harvest is the perfect time to witness everything in action.
We tasted through the LBV 2015, 10 YO Tawny and 1985 vintage Port – all of which were exceptional.
And yet the day was not over! On the Bomfim estate there is a restaurant managed by one of Portugal’s top chefs – Pedro Lemos. Called Casa dos Ecos, this pop up restaurant has simply stunning views over the Douro river and as we sat outside on a lovely balmy evening. The river shimmered and we gazed at the moon rising over the hills and I reckon this is one of the most picturesque dining venues ever experienced on tour.
The cuisine is designed to be traditional but with a top chef behind the scenes, it felt rustic yet polished. With the restaurant insisting that everyone chose what they wanted, a wonderful array of ham platters, tomato salads, oven baked cheese, wonderful breads, mackerel codfish stew appeared and were gleefully washed down with the whites and reds of the estate.
Main courses were all from the wood fired oven with roast kid, beef joints, roast chicken and all accompanied by delicious roast potatoes.
For those that could manage dessert, an amazing crème brulée was on offer as well as traditional almond tart and crème caramel pudding.
As night fell, and the lights flickered around the river and on the houses on the hills, you realised how utterly special the Douro Valley is.