Portugal – Quinta de Gatão

October 10, 2008

This summer we spent a wonderful week on Quinta de Gatão (www.quintagatao.com), near Penafiel, about 40 km east of Porto. “Quinta” is either translated as “Farm/Vineyard/Winery” or “Manor house”.

Quinta de Gatão is owned and managed by Mr. Jorge Coelho da Silva, a very lovely man who’s day job is being a professor at a teachers college in Porto. The property has been with the family since four generations. Five peasant families used to live and work there. Today, the vineyards are only cultivated every other year to produce vinho verde., a bottle of which waited for us in the fridge. In the mornings, fresh bread is delivred and you can find it hanging on the door. What a treat! The horse stable and the riding school were the main attractions for our daughters. The old folks were equally attracted by the vineyard feature.

The Quinta de Gatão consists of a manor house with a chapel surrounded by various farm buildings. Some of these were converted into cottage type accommodation. We had rented one of them. Because of its elevation one has a magnificent view of the area which is quite densely populated. In comparison to the rural Australia we are used to around Glenburn, the housing sprawl in Penafiel is a bit too much. However, it does not seem fair to compare quasi empty rural Australia to the vicinity of a bustling port city such as Porto.

The Manor house from the backside

The entrance to our cottage

We loved our cottage. With its rustic rural charm it put a spell on all of us. The walls consisted of big granite stone blocks. It has a fire place in the kitchen, a bathroom and a bedroom with a loft (just as our home in Australia).

This is the place where we prepared delicious country meals

The vines are providing shade, originally to produce vegetables and other crops underneath.

A typical snack in the afternoon consisted of Vinho Verde (here ni rose), country cheese, some sausages, olives and bread.

An Australian vintner in a Portugeuse vineyard

The swimming pool with a great view of the surroundings

Apart from the riding stable and the riding arena, Quinta de Gatão has other facilities to offer its visitors. Among them is the beautiful swimming pool, a tennis court, and a large field to play all kinds of ball games; indoor entertainment such as kicker etc. and billyard is also available. One can have long walks in the vineyards and the surrounding forests.

The entrance to the chapel

We had a great time there and I can only highly recommend the place. Actually, we plan to return next year and spend some more time in this region. We had juts not sufficient time to explore the region. There is so much to see. The Douro is close by. Porto less an an hour away. But it is the hospitality of Mr. da Silva and his family which will draw us back. There are no words to describe the welcome we received on Quinta de Gatão.

Address:
Quinta de Gatão


Vinho Verde – Portuguese delight

September 11, 2008

Vinho Verde wines are unique among the blended white wines of Portugal (and the world) attempting to harmonize delicate aromas and flavours. The name, Vinho Verde, is somehow misleading. Vinho Verde wines are not made of “unripe” grapes as some people say, but are rather “young” wines in contrast to “aged” wines. There are red and white Vinho Verde wines available. The red ones are often a challenge to our culturally determined palates. During my recent trip to Porto, Portugal I had ample opportunity to taste and explore the wines of Northern Portugal. Among them the famous Vinho Verde wines of the Minho wine region.

It is not easy to find a “pure”, varietal wine in the Minho wine region of Portugal. Traditionally Vinho Verde is a blend consisting of several grape varieties (www.vinhoverde.pt) such as Alvarinho, Arinto, Azal, Avesso, Trajadura and Loureiro.

However, with a bit of luck I found some bottles in the café next to the cathedral in Amarante, a small town at the (Rio) Tamega river, about 50 km east of Porto. The wines came from Quinta da Lixa (www.quintadelixa.pt), a well known producer located in the village of Vila da Lixa about 20 minutes northwest of Amarante.

From left to right: 2007 Quinta da Lixa Loureiro, Alvarinho and Trajadura

The tasting notes for the three wines you can find on the websites which I mentioned above. Average production for the three varieties at Quinta da Lixa is bout 7 tons per hectare. The wines are low in alcohol (10 to 11.5%) and show an acidity of about 6.5 g/l.

The Trajadura grape has, in contrast to Alvarinho and Loureiro, a rather plush character and is less acidic than the other two varieties. It is often used to soften the blended Vinho Verde wines.

The Loureiro grape provides the fragrant character of the blended Vinho Verde wines. The single varietal wine of Quinta da Lixa which I tasted was slightly “sparkling” and very aromatic (more aromatic than the other two single varietal wines of Quinta da Lixa). All three wines showed citrus, lime and green apple aromas. They were very fresh and clean, served at the right temperature they are wonderful summer wines. Earlier vintages of Quinta da Lixa Loureiro and Trajadura received 89 and 90 points by some tasters. I loved them as single varietals as well as in the blended incarnation.


The best restaurant in Northern Portugal: Quinta da Lama

August 27, 2008

The red entrance of the country inn Quinta da Lama

Quinta da Lama is not easy to find. If our host of Quinta de Gatão, Mr. Jorge Coelho da Silva, would not have guided us. He drove with his big BMW motorcycle in front of us so that we could find it otherwise we would not have a chance to experience this unique place.

Quinta da Lama is located in Vila Meã, near Peñafiel, the centre of Vinho Verde in northern Portugal.

Outside the main entrance construction is still going on

The restaurant is domiciled in an old olive oil mill and renovations are still ongoing. The millstone is at the centre of the restaurant and very picturesque. Rural equipment including tools from an old distillery can also be found. The interior is simple country style, extremely charming and very appealing. Rural folk all over the world will recognize its authenticity immediately.

The mill stone

One of the three female proprietors is Susana, an energetic young woman who speaks perfect English. The day we visited, she took our orders and served us the food. She made us feel at home. And as at home, we ate splendidly. To say it from the outset: this was quality food; fantastic rural dishes you won’t find elsewhere.

It was our last evening in rural Portugal and we had cause to celebrate. Looking back on a wonderful week in the countryside east of Porto.

The starter platter of Quinta da Lama

As customary in Portugal, a platter of appetizers is put in front of the diners. It consisted of home produced ham, local cheese, a sausage made from chicken and beef, melon and olives, all very delicious. We devoured the home made sausage made from chicken and beef. We drank the house red with the meal, a solid “Landwein” (table wine) as the German say.

The size of the portions is for (very) hungry workers

Our girls ordered a mixed grill type of dish with potatoes. I had a pork dish with chestnuts. As customary in Portugal rice and potatoes are consumed simultaneously. We had various desserts. I show you two of them, a ‘Crême brulée’ and the “secret” of the house, Papa’s D’Anjo.

The pork in chestnut

Crême brulée

Papa’s D’Anjo

Papa’s D’Anjo is a local dessert made of eggs and sugar syrup as far as I can recollect. It is very intense and one needs a lot of stomach space left to leave the plate behind empty. But what a delight this dish is. The fruit flavours are just incredible.

The end of the meal was celebrated with a “digestivo” which was equally a local invention. It’s the “trademark” of Quinta da Lama and is called Xiripiti, consisting of brandy home-distilled, with honey and cinnamon.

There is only one thing I can say, come to rural Portugal and visit Quinta da Lama in Vila Meã near Peñafiel just about an hour east of Porto in the Minho Region.

I will let you know more about rural Portugal soon. There are so many wonderful things we saw and experiences we were able to make. The hospitality of the people is just unbelievable, especially at Quinta da Lama.

Address
Quinta da Lama
Restaurante Tipico
Real
4605-348 Vila Meã
Tel.: 255-733-548