An Amazing Wine Experience in Portugal

We've visited a guesstimated 75 wineries while traveling through New Zealand, Australia and France. Not all of the wines have been great, but other than one experience in Burgundy when we were offered one taste of either white or red by a disinterested Frenchwoman, most all of our experiences at wineries have been positive and we've been treated wonderfully.

That being said, I'm not sure anything can top our experience this week in Portugal. We've drank a lot of Portuguese wines (fantastic price to quality ratio, especially domestically), but visited only one winery and can't imagine we would top it with a week's worth of tasting. We got turned on to the good folks at Carmim by wine maven Jo Diaz, who has her purple fingers involved in a number of causes, including championing Petite Sirah (p.s. I love you), supporting Oregon Pinot Gris and also assisting Wines of Portugal in its quest to bring Portuguese wines to the U.S.

Throwing Jo's name around was like flashing Willy Wonka's Golden Ticket, only the doors that opened for us were filled with wine, not chocolate. And I'm talking lots of wine. Sales Manager Luis Ribeiro agreed not only to take us to his winery, but spent half of a day showing us the sites of the medieval town of Évora.

 The Templo de Diana, a roman temple, in the city of Evora.

The Templo de Diana, a roman temple, in the city of Evora.

He picked us up the next day, took us to the winery in the Alentejo Region of Portugal and left us in the capable hands of winemaker Rui Veladas. After a brief tour of the winery's operations, we were led to the tasting room where Rui had 21 bottles sitting out waiting to taste. Yes, 21.

 The wine tasting table. Barrel samples off to the left.

The wine tasting table. Barrel samples off to the left.

There were a number of things other than the large number of wines that made the tasting special. First, many of the grapes are ones we've never heard of or are only slightly familiar with. Here are some of the names of the white grapes: Gouveio, Antão Vaz, Arinto and Verdelho; and red: Aragonês,  Touriga Nacional (look for this grape in the States) and Alicante Bouchet (a French grape that's typically used in a blend). Second, even though harvest in Portugal was just a few weeks back, Veladas was comfortable enough to bring some samples of his 2013 wines, giving us a taste of what's to come when the wines have a little more time to find themselves.

 Just a few barrel samples tasted.

Just a few barrel samples tasted.

If that wasn't enough, when some asshole (no name will be mentioned) asked if it was possible to try his sparkling wine and Cabernet Sauvignon, he graciously opened those bottles as well. The asshole would like to think that Rui was happy to have someone so excited about his wines that he opened them without hesitation, but it could just be wishful thinking to make it appear that he wasn't such an asshole. Anyway, Rui treats his wine the same way he treats his guests, with much care even though Carmim is one of the largest producers of wine in Portugal at roughly 20 million bottles/year. The wines appear under a number of different brand names, including Monsaraz, Terras and D'El Rei. While they do export some wine to the U.S., most of that is sent to the East Coast. Believe it or not, they're largest export market is Poland. Thanks to Luis, Rui and Jo for making our trip to the Évora area a special one.

 With Rui, Luis and Andy, my best friend from elementary school who joined us on this leg of the trip.

With Rui, Luis and Andy, my best friend from elementary school who joined us on this leg of the trip.

We got to hang out with our great Chicago friends Andy and Tracey this week in Portugal. It is interesting meeting up with friends and family and actually talking about our trip. Much of what we do ends up in the blog, but not all of the unique experiences we have had. My friend has traveled all over the world on business and for pleasure, but one thing that struck me is that I have visited so many incredible places that he has never been to. It's not a knock on him or even trying to rub it in, but even some of the more well-visited places we've gone to, like Japan, New Zealand and Australia he'd never visited and I'm guessing most people reading this have never been to either. Some of these destinations aren't places you go to for a one-week vacation and even two weeks isn't really enough time to see a place like Australia, especially when you consider two of your 14 days are traveling.

 With Andy and Tracey on the terrace of Evora's Cathedral.

With Andy and Tracey on the terrace of Evora's Cathedral.

So once again I'm struck by how fortunate we've been and how amazing this trip has been. Had we not done it, I would probably have never gone to many of these places or would have to wait until I was retired to go.

It's close to 11 p.m. and we're waiting for a plane to take us to Hungary so I'm a little out of it, but I think what I'm trying to say is if you have any interest in taking a trip like this, and have the means to put off your real life for a year, start thinking of a way to make it happen. You won't regret it.