On the drive to the Douro Valley we introduce ourselves. Our guide, Jose, is Portuguese and has lived in Porto for 19 years. Our fellow tourists are a woman from Seattle who is celebrating her 50th birthday tomorrow, a 30ish couple from Washington D.C., an Italian woman who works at a winery and is also celebrating her birthday tomorrow, and a woman from Austria. Since William's birthday is tomorrow that makes three out of the eight people in the van with birthdays of March 26th. How unusual.
Jose provides background information on Portugal, Porto and the Douro Valley as he drives us through the Vinho Verde region. We climb in altitude and pass by Marão Mountain, then it is downhill into the Douro Valley. The terraces of vines on the hillsides are almost surreal.
Our first winery is in the town of Pinhão. Jose drives to Quinta da Foz where we are greeted Christian. The quinta was started in 1872 and belonged to the Cálem group for about 150 years. It was bought out a few years ago by a private group. Christian passionately describes the quinta and the wine and port making processes. They now focus on high-end wines, but also produce port and entry-level wines. The high-end and port grapes are still crushed by foot. There are beautiful azulejo tiles in the winery from 1921.
Our second winery and lunch is a 30 minute drive from Quinta da Foz. It is amazing how quickly we go up and down in altitude as Jose rounds the curves of the road. We arrive at Quinta do Bucheiro. The vineyard and winery have been owned by the same family for three centuries. The mother of the family has prepared a private lunch for us in the old house while her son in his late 20's acts as the sommelier and server.
We start with a sparkling wine, cheese and sausages. The creamy vegetable soup is accompanied by Cierós, a dry white wine made from Malvasia Fina, Gouveio, and Viosinho grape varietals. The main course arrives, a traditional Portuguese dish of pork and diced potatoes baked and/or finished with a delicious olive oil. The son serves generous pourings of their red wine made from Touriga Nacional grapes. The dessert is a pudding served with a glass of their classic Moscatel. A very unique and fun experience with great food and wine as well as fun conversation with the people in our group.
Jose drives us back to Pinhão where we board a rabilo boat, the type of vessel originally used to transport port from the Douro Valley to the port houses and caves in Vila Nova de Gaia. Ours has been outfitted to provide tours on the Douro. We enjoy the scenery and the story-telling of our crew as well as some snacks and a glass of tawny port during our hour sailing.
There were some less expensive Douro tour options but William and I are very happy with this specialized tour we found through AirBnB Experiences.