Thursday, August 25, 2011

Day 562: Port, Porto, Oporto

Day Two in Portugal's second largest city started with you guessed it, a run! Post run, what was on the agenda? How about some port houses and port tastings? Just as we found in Champagne, once you did one or two tours of the caves, you didn't really need to do more, you just kind of wanted to taste what was available.

So we all walked across the Duoro to Porto's neighboring city and central port house locale, Vila Nova de Gaia. Our first tour was at the house of Sandeman, the port that started my ongoing and constant love of white port. After our tour and tastings there we continued on to C. Da Silva port house. Da Silva does not export to even all of the countries in the European Union and certainly not the United States. Their ports were wonderful and they even had homemade macaroons with different port style infused interiors -- not too sweet but definitely fantastically decadent and an excellent alternative for the utilization of port wine. We continued down the row of port houses to find many closed for lunch so we sat and while my friends had lunch I decided to try another port --- Cruz pink, nope this wasn't white or ruby or tawny port it was pink. Served in a martini glass with ice, mint, and an orange sliver, this sure tasted more like fortified grenadine than what it was supposed to be... But hey, when in Rome, right?

Moving along after lunch we visited Quinta de Noval, another small regional port house, not available for export but with quite the selection of white ports -- dry, semi-dry, and sweet, among other styles. It's very rare to see a port house craft three varying levels of sweetness in their white ports, however I wasn't totally impressed. While in Quinta de Noval it had started to rain so what better to do then get a nice affordable bottle of red wine from the Duoro winemaking region and go back to play some cards and read? Of course we needed cheese to go with! How about the small roundelle of Quieijo de Azeitao? A washed rind cheese washed with local olive brine hence "Azeitao." Somewhat similar in texture to a tomme du Berger in that it had that stinky briny rind with a semi soft malleable elastic-y interior. Scents of rustic barnyard, bright citrusy hay notes, hints of milky lactic-ness, this was a raw, intense, flavorful, and fantastic cheese -- rough around the edges just in the way the country it was produced in is. A delight!

An afternoon of relaxing, wine drinking, talking, cheese enjoying has been quite the luxurious treat for those of us who aren't particularly good at unwinding. Tomorrow hopefully a boat tour down the Duoro and exploring more of what this town has to offer.

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