TAP Dancing in Portugal
Final Day of Wine Tour
By: Charles Giuliano - Nov 25, 2017
Skipping a midnight dinner and opting for more sleep was the right move approaching the final day of the TAP Wine Tour of Portugal.
By 7:30 I headed for the breakfast buffet but was surprised to learn that it opened at 8. Returning to the room I checked e mail.
More or less I had the dining room to myself as it had been a late night with a 10 AM call to board the two buses. That left plenty of time to pack, organize, and be on time in the lobby.
I was more or less all by my lonesome. The group moseyed in by 10:30 and it was getting on 11 before the bags were loaded and the buses occupied. Yet again, we were running late which meant that there was just 15 minutes in the Porto hotel to freshen and change for the TAP Gala.
Then there was yet another pratfall. The bus wouldn’t start. The driver lifted the hood, giggled the spark plugs, and tried yet again with no result. The clicking sound indicated a problem with the alternator.
We were told to disembark and men to put a shoulder to push the bus. Again that failed to work. Fortunately, we got the bus far enough along to approach a downgrade. The driver dead-sticked it and, thanks be to God, got it running. With great relief we boarded and were on our way. At the next destination a backup bus was sent for us to continue on to Porto.
There are engaging conversations sharing insights and making new friends. Business cards are exchanged with promises to stay in touch. With Mary and Brad we became the ‘bitches’ at the back of the bus. She used the center position to stretch out long legs or to curl up for a nap.
Are we having fun yet one may well ask, rumbling along the back roads of Portugal, headed for the quinta Paco de Palmeira in the Minho region.
There was a brief stop for a photo op of the scenic Douro River which we had missed the night before.
The pink palace, founded in 1754, is an architectural treasure. Seeking a WC a few of us were greeted by a handsome young man, Carlos Dias, impeccably attired and accessorized, including exquisitely polished shoes. With patrician flair he stated that the palace is a family residence and rarely open to visitors. The vineyard was fairly recently added to a portfolio of investments. In fact the family owns and has access to many gobal residences.
Wandering about I explored the quinta/ museum and wondered what it is like to call this ancient landmark home sweet home? We learned that it initially housed princes of the church, hence its many religious paintings and sculptures. In the manner of Velasquez, there were baroque portraits, now dark with old varnish, revealing cardinals who resided there. I wondered where this elegant young gentleman just hung out and watched fussball.
Joining the group we headed for the surrounding vineyards. There we were introduced to the grapes and resultant wines by Miguel Pinho. He discussed the unique conditions of the region and varieties of grape that resulted in the selection of wines that we enjoyed during a late, tapas-like lunch.
The emphasis at Dona Elvira Restaurant was on three white wines.
The Royal Palmeira, 2015, has a clear greenish-yellow color. There are mild accents of tropical fruit particularly pineapple and lychee. The Quinta da Pedra, 2011, presented citrus, minerality of the terroir, with apple and pineapple evident in its nose. The third selection was Longos Vales 2014 a citrus colored wine with accents of apricot and citrus blossoms. It has the intense fruit of the Alvarinho variety which proved to be my favorite among the whites we tasted. This was yet another outstanding example of the genre.
In general I prefer reds drinking white wines primarily in the summer. They may be consumed young and are often more affordable than red wines which require more age. I plan to acquire a case of Alvarinho asap and it is a matter of finding it. That may take a bit of research. An agenda of this tour was to explore and reevaluate the excellence of undervalued Portuguese wines in the American market. This tour made me a convert.
Of course, it makes a difference to consume these elegant wines properly chilled and served, in situ, in ancient quintas or with gourmet gastronomy. Consumed at home, however, an excellent Alvarinho will likely evoke exotic dreams and memories.
After a view from the terrace, with its tea house overlooking the river and swimming pool, it was on to lunch then back on the bus for our final tasting in Porto.
There we disembarked for one of the famous port houses on the Gaia side of the Douro River. In ancient times, the wine was sailed down river and stored in caves and warehouses. All of the world famous brands have tasting rooms. We visited Casa Ramos Pinto which includes a museum as well as an elegant and atmospheric tasting room.
The company was founded in 1880 by Adriano Ramos Pinto. After a tour of the museum, with the commentary of Jorge Rosas, we tasted Adriano White Reserva, Ramos Pinto LBV, 2013, Ramos Pinto Vintage 2000, Ramos Pinto Tawny 10 Anos, and Ramos Pinto Tawny 20 Anos.
Much of this experience, however, was a muddled blur. When I reached into my backpack the camera was missing. Discombobulated, I informed the TAP staff of my problem. It was likely that I had left it at the restaurant.
Calls were made and Joel Fragrata soon informed me that it was found. I did my best to remain calm but pestered him for updates. He was most reassuring. Friends told me not to worry. A veteran traveler, Jennifer Ceaser, told me “Something like this always happens on trips and not to worry.”
When we arrived at the Vila Gale Porto / Riberia, while waiting to register, someone put the camera in my hands. Miracolo! I almost fainted on the spot and planted a juicy kiss on Joel’s cheek.
Then it was up to the room with just fifteen minutes to report back to the lobby. Initially, I had planned to pack black tie, but in the end there was just enough time to wash up, brush my teeth, and change into a white shirt and blazer.
Recovering from rattled nerves, with camera in hand, locked and loaded, I was ready for the spectacular TAP Gala and awards ceremony. Film at 11.