Amarante is a relatively small town in the Douro River area. We picked this rest stop because we wanted to visit some of the wineries along the Douro River. We drove from Porto in roughly an hour so we had plenty of time to explore the town. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a lot to do but it was charming nonetheless. Since we had little to do, we took advantage of the hotel’s rooftop pool and relaxed all afternoon. It was great.
We had an incredible dinner at the Casa da Calçada Hotel where we stayed. The hotel wasn’t the greatest but the dinner at the restaurant, Largo do Paço, was among the best we’ve had. I’ve included descriptions under each of the photos.
We spent an entire day with our tour guide, Luis (pronounced Loueesh), who took us by car through the Douro River Valley. The river is far below the mountains which are filled with vineyards. According to what we learned, the Douro River appellation was the first in the world to be officially recognized and governed as an appellation – even before Italy and France. It was somewhere in the 1700’s.
Luis was wonderful and let us determine exactly what we wanted to see. Of course, the drive along the river was incredible.
Our first stop was Quinta da Pacheca. We took the tour and learned a great deal about port making. The large barrels are meant for ruby port because it doesn’t age as long and doesn’t have as much interaction with the barrel surface and air. The smaller barrels, however, house the tawny port which can age 10, 20, 30, and 40 years with extensive interaction with the barrel. We both prefer the ruby because it has a deep red color and isn’t as sweet as the tawny. We’re now becoming port experts, right?
We had to visit the famous Pinháo train station which has incredible tile frescos along the train station’s exterior. They are beautiful and vivid.
After lunch we then visited another Quinta, Quinta da Roêda, where we met Antonio our tour guide and some of the lovely ladies who work at the Quinta. Quinta means farm or estate in Portuguese.
We took a tour of the vineyards and saw some of the remaining grapes on the vines. Last year Antonio told us that the temperature in this area reached over 120 degrees fahrenheit…and the vines survived. Without any irrigation, the vines reach deep into the soil for their nourishment and water.
When we went inside the cellars, Antonio told us that most of the grapes are crushed by workers who embrace one another’s arms and stomp the grapes. This supposedly crushes the grapes without crushing the seeds – interesting huh? Well, when he announced that we could crawl into the vats and stomp the grapes ourselves, I thought he was joking…. but he wasn’t. I did it and couldn’t believe how enjoyable it was.
I’ll end with a few more photos of the ride back to Amarante – just incredible scenery. Tomorrow we drive back to Lisbon for another three days before catching our flight on Tuesday. I’ll probably have one more blog post. Thanks again for following.