Nothing quite prepares you for the sheer beauty of Portugal's Douro Valley. Terraced vineyards twist down from the ridges and mountains flanking the Douro River. more than 100,000 acres of vineyards fill the rugged terrain and spread to the horizon. This is as good as wine country scenery gets. In the past five years, stylish new wine hotels have opened in Porto and on Douro wine estates, known as quintas, and talented young chefs have launched restaurants that are helping to modernize northern Portugal's sometimes stodgy cuisine.
When calling the establishments featured in this story from North America, dial 011, then the telephone number. Prices have been converted to U.S. dollars using the exchange rate at press time ($1 = 0.77 euros) and rounded to the nearest dollar.
QUINTA DO VALLADO
Vilarinho dos Feires, Paso da Régua
Telephone: (351) 254-318-081
In the 1990s, the Ferreira family sold its famous Port lodge and launched a new wine company on this historic estate in the Douro. Last March, Vallado opened an architecturally stunning hotel wing to match its state-of-the-art winery and complement the 18th-century guesthouse. The sleek, two-story building is constructed primarily from locally sourced black and gray slate. In rooms and common areas, the dark stone is warmed by light wood, large-format black-and-white photos of the Douro, comfortable and colorful modern furnishings, enormous old-vine cuttings that hang like art, and lots of windows to take in the views.
The hotel is set into the estate's terraces along with the vineyards, olive and almond groves and vegetable garden. After a day of wine touring, relax on a lounge under the shade of orange trees next to the granite pool. Guests are greeted upon arrival with a tasting and tour of the winery, which lies just several hundred yards away. Fresh, family-style dinners ($39-$52) are prepared on request by a pair of local home cooks.
Rua do Choupelo (Santa Marinha), Vila Nova de Gaia
Telephone: (351) 220-133-100
The Yeatman's opening in 2010 raised Porto's wine tourism experience to a new level and changed the landscape of the heights of the Gaia hill, where the facility spreads over five terraced levels. The brainchild of Adrian Bridge, CEO of The Fladgate Partnership, which owns the Port houses Taylor's, Fonseca and Croft, this wine hotel feels like a contemporary version of a luxurious British colonial outpost, featuring antique reproductions of art and maps and a clubby atmosphere. But the real stars here are the Douro riverfront and wine, whose influences extend to almost every element of the hotel, including the light, airy rooms with wood-planked floors and the large private granite terraces that offer prime views of the river and Old Porto.
The outdoor pool is shaped like a wine carafe, the wine bar is open around the clock, and every Thursday there is a wine dinner with a different Portuguese producer. Nearly all rooms have been sponsored by a different winery to showcase its vineyards with photographs and decor. Fanciful touches include the bed built into a large cask in the red wine-colored Taylor's suite.
The Yeatman's contemporary Portuguese restaurant features 1,000 wine selections. To simplify the list, wine director Beatriz Machado assembles a seasonal journal featuring about 80 rotating bottlings, offered by the glass, with detailed explanations. If drinking wine isn't enough, the spa features wine-themed treatments such as a red wine bath and a "pulp friction massage with fresh grapes."
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