Portugal: Wine, Castles, Cobbles, Coastline, Cuisine for #WinePW

photo by Gwendolyn Alley

Depending on who you ask, Portugal is blessed with somewhere between 250 to 500 native grapes — a number right up there with Italy, Georgia (the country not the state!), and Spain. With such a wealth of indigenous varietals, no wonder they haven’t bothered to make more wine more familiar to Americans like Cabernet Sauvignon. (Although they do make Cabernet and Syrah too!) Continue reading

Port Pairs: Vertical Heaven

For Port Day which was January 27, a few friends and I gathered to check out my birthday stash of ports: I bought myself 20, 30 and 40 year tawny ports from Graham’s as well as a NV Krohn tawny (all at 60% off because the liquor store was going out of business!) Plus my friend Ima Zinner (aka Kathy) gifted me with a Smith Woodhouse 1985 vintage port and I had a sample of Croft’s Pink Port.

What a wealth of riches!

Even though Ima Zinner, Annie Any-Day, Bacchus Schmaccus and Marshall Moneybags were helping me celebrate my big birthday AND Port Day, we decided NOT to open everything and focus on three of the four tawny ports and the sample of Croft Pink Port.

Port, as you probably know, refers to a wine based fortified beverage from Portugal. Back in the day, the British added brandy to wine so it would last longer. (There’s a lot more to this story!)

According to Graham Port’s blog, the Instituto do Vinho do Douro e Porto (IVDP), the regulating body for the Douro region, provides these guidelines for identifying a true Port wine:

  • Only fortified wine produced in the Douro Demarcated Region which conforms to the technical characteristics defined by the IVDP is Port
  • The maker must be registered and authorised by the IVDP to produce Port
  • The label must be approved by the IVDP
  • The bottle must bear the IVDP issued and numbered seal of guarantee

Basically, port is a Portuguese wine that’s on the sweet side. Because of this, it is traditionally served alone or with desserts or cheeses at cellar temperature or on ice.

We tried it both ways–one night after dinner and on another night WITH a steak dinner served with a baked potato and a portabella, white stilton with apricot, and arugula salad where I sauteed the portabellas  in butter and 20 year port. Wow–it worked! I also paired the meal with a Parducci Petite Sirah which gave the meal a completely different experience.

Would I pair port again with a steak dinner? I think I just might do anything with that 20 year tawny!

Croft Pink Port $20. This rose port by Croft was supposed to arrive for a Twitter tasting back in August but it didn’t so it’s been hanging around waiting for me to open it! This non-vintage port is designed to be served cold, poured over ice, or used as a cocktail mixer. At 19.5% alcohol, you could drink more cocktails made from this than a vodka or gin. Bottled in clear glass, it shows off it’s deep pink color. When nice and cold, you don’t get much in the nose, but in your mouth, it’s a party of  sweet strawberry and raspberry flavors. Paired with a Belgian chocolate, it really brings out the hazelnut. With a manchego, gorgonzola, or white stilton, it brings out a spiciness in the pink port. It’s not a particularly complex beverage so the saltiness of the cheeses benefits this wine. They suggest serving it with soda and a lemon twist and that sounds good for a warm day (like today!) Or try Croft Pink Port with St Germain, Brut, and berries–sounds dangerously yummy! I’d put that drink in a martini glass…About $20 a bottle.

Krohn Tawny Port $15. For a tawny, it’s dark and muddy in the glass. In the nose, we found alcohol, cigar box, and stewed fruit. On the palate, it’s raisony and pruney with a quick finish. Tasty with the cheeses especially the dried apricot white stilton, but not so good with gorgonzola–too sharp and salty for this mild port. Nice with a sweet, buttery almond cookie but not so good with a almond biscotti. This is a great cooking port; I used almost the whole bottle sauteing portabellas! It’s a decent, enjoyable port.

Graham’s 20 Year Tawny Port $70 This wine is as impressive as its price. In the glass, the 20  is a liquid amber, rich and warm. On the nose, caramel and honey. Reminded us some of Gran Marnier–honeysuckle, honey, pollen, and orange blossom. So lovely with the creamy blue cheese and delightful with the white stilton. We preferred it with milk chocolate and Belgian over dark chocolate since it brought out the caramel notes. It also went well with dried fruits like cranberries and raspberries but NOT with Trader Joe’s “Powerberries!” Nice finish.

Graham’s 40 Year Tawny Port $170.  I did mention it was a special occasion and I was able to buy this wine at 60% off, right? Yes, this wine is almost as old as I am! With a port like this, you only need a little bit–it’s so ethereal it whips your head into the stars! The finish goes on for days–you’re not going to want to brush your teeth that night! In fact,

we thought the Graham’s 40 year port was like being kissed by Elvis!

In the glass, it’s very similar to the 20–a beautiful clear amber. The Graham’s website says it has a green tinge; some of us could see this and others couldn’t. Nose of honey, rich, buttery, butterscotch,  complex, orange blossom. Amazing with pate, and the more intense, salty, aged cheeses like manchego and gouda. Better with dark chocolate than milk or Belgian but that could be taste. Nice with dark chocolate dipped biscotti. We bet it would be insanely good with a chocolate dipped strawberry. We tested it with a fresh strawberry and chocolate truffle and we were happy. Very happy.

And that finish! Wow!

This is a wine to savor, sip, linger over, save.

Since we’re clocking in at close to 1000 words, it’s time to stop! This group of Port lovers will return one day soon to compare the 20, 30 and the 40 AND we have a vintage port tasting on the agenda too!

Wine Predator: A Blog Worth Celebrating, says Jo Diaz with photos from Portugal!

When Jo Diaz of Juicy Tales aka Wine Blog Org told me I was runner-up for her contest to win a trip to Portugal with her as the guest of Enoforum Wines, I felt great. Then when winner Sonadora aka Wanna Be Wino had to cancel at the last minute, within days, before I could even catch my breath from jumping around with excitement, I was on a plane to Portugal.

Although we had each attended the North American Wine Bloggers Conferences in Santa Rosa, Jo and I didn’t know each other. But once in Portugal, we came to know each other well. As we explored the castles and countryside, the wineries and the vineyards, she kept catching me and taking photographs of me in the craziest spots taking photographs or the view. She warned me that she was going to do a slide show blog post “Where’s Gwendolyn?” taken after the “Where’s Waldo?” books.

I didn’t know that she was going to feature my blog in her “Wine Blogs Worth Celebrating” and use that opportunity to present a video of her photos of me in Portugal!

Here’s what Jo said:

Gwendolyn Alley, of Wine Predator and Art Predator, was my traveling companion to the European Wine Bloggers Conference and to visit Enoforum Wines in Portugal last fall. We shared nine days of our lives together… strangers in a strange land (only as it relates to the United States). She’s continued to reflect on our experiences. And, I don’t know anyone else who throws his or her entire body into taking photographs the way Gwendolyn does. She’s always writing about her passions of art and wine, and has a unique skill that I always enjoy.

Wow, huh! And I’m in great company: Jo’s list included

Joe (and Amy!) Power from Houston who I met on the WBC or Bust bus last month; they’re great generous people who write Another Wine Blog

Tom Wark of Fermentation who does wine PR

Sonadora (who was supposed to go to Portugal in my stead and instead went in January 2010) of WannabeWino

Wine Journalist Steve Heimoff (who I “debate” in this video from the previous post!)

my pal Ken Payton who writes one of my favorite wine blogs,  Reign of Terroir

Alawine… which produces lists  Top 100 Wine Blogs (one of these days!)

Paul Gregutt, Northwest wine writer

Robert Whitley ~ Wine writer, publisher, and wine competition organizer  Wine Review Online

Laura Ness of My Vine Space, a wine writer from the Santa Cruz Mountains

Stark Silver Creek which covers all things West Coast, including food and wine

See Jo’s original post for all of her comments about why she chose these blogs!!