Tour Port lodges & Douro wineries
- Visit three of the “Douro Boys,” who are revolutionizing dry table wine in the Douro (Niepoort, Vallado, and Vale D. Maria)
- See two regions of the Douro Valley to see the two halves of Port-making: Upstream where the grapes are grown; and the port city of Oporto, where Port ages in old shipping lodges
- Private sit-down tastings at Graham’s, Taylor Fladgate, Kopke, Niepoort’s Quinta do Nápoles, Symington’s Quinta do Vesuvio, Quinta do Vale D. Maria, and more
- Home-cooked meals at Niepoort and Quinta do Passadouro
- River cruise and walking tour in the beautiful town of Oporto
- Scenic train ride up the Douro
DAY 1 - WELCOME TO OPORTO
Welcome to our Douro Valley wine tour! We begin with a walking tour of Oporto, a lovely port town with baroque churches and tiled facades. We’ll hear why taxes and a war with France drove the British into the welcoming arms of the Portuguese, where they seized upon Porto as a viable replacement for embargoed Bordeaux. A river cruise follows, passing under 6 bridges, including one designed by Monsieur Eiffel. Lunch is on your own, perhaps at one of the dockside restaurants.
We then cross the river to Vila Nova de Gaia, where Port is aged in riverside lodges. We start our crash course in Port at Churchill’s, one of the newer British port companies (f. 1981), where we’ll taste in style in their newly inaugurated visitor’s center. Dinner at an elegant river-view restaurant introduces Portuguese cuisine, which includes such dishes as kale soup (caldo verde), chouriço sausage, sucking pig (leitâo assado), and 365 versions of codfish (bacalhau).
D • Pestana Porto
DAY 2 – THE HISTORIC PORT LODGES
This morning we visit Graham’s (f.1820), where we’ll delve in the styles of Porto and learn the differences between ruby, tawny, late-bottled vintage (LBV), and vintage. Here we’ll see the various aging methods, including cigar-shaped barrels called “pipes” for tawny and massive oak casks for ruby. Tasting two flights of Graham’s rubies and tawnies will then help crystallize the lesson. Lunch will be in Vila Nova, either at Taylor-Fladgate’s classy restaurant or at a more informal brew-pub on the river.
Our second stop is the wine museum of Ramos Pintos (f. 1880), which showcases the early days of Port. The Ramos family pioneered the marketing of Port to new international markets like Brazil—and the use of racy images in advertising! José Ramos Pintos Rosa became known as “the Pope of the Duoro” because of his pioneering experiments in viticulture and mechanization. His research, together with current winemaker João Nicolau de Aldeida, helped determine the top five grape varieties in the Douro. Dinner on your own in Oporto.
B • Pestana Porto
DAY 3 – THE DOURO BOYS
Port is aged in Oporto, but its grapes are grown 90 miles upstream. In the morning, we drive up the Douro Valley to the Cima Corgo, where many of the finest vineyards lie.
We arrive in time for lunch at Quinta do Nápoles, the oldest estate (quinta) owned by Niepoort. Although this Dutch family has been making Port since 1842, we’re here to taste their dry table wine. Since buying this property in 1987, Dirk Niepoort has supervised its wholesale transformation, turning a dilapidated quinta into a sleek state-of-the-art winery. As one of the so-called “Douro Boys,” he has also spearheaded a dynamic revolution in premium dry wine taking place in the Douro today. During a hearty, home-cooked lunch, we’ll taste some of these top-scoring wines, many of which are sourced from old, field-blend vineyards owned by 100 different growers. (We’re sure to sample some of their delectable Ports, too!)
Then we visit the historic Quinta do Noval (f. 1715), which lays claim to the creation of the LBV style of Port and also crafts its exceptional Vintage Nacional wine from ungrafted, pre-phylloxera vines. Tonight we settle into our second hotel, which is also a winery, Casa de Casal de Loivos, perched high above Pinhão. Dinner is at the hotel.
B, L, D • Casa de Casal de Loivos
DAY 4 – QUINTAS BIG AND SMALL
The oldest British-owned Port firm is Warre’s (f. 1670), now in the Symington fold. We’ll drive upstream to its flagship estate, Quinta da Cavadinha, a prime source of grapes for Warre’s Vintage Port, known for an elegant house style. This property also has an experimental vineyard, where clones and varieties are tested. After lunch, it’s time for a change of pace, with a venture into Moscatel territory at Secret Spot Wines. In 2004, noted winemaking consultants Rui Walter da Cunha and Gonçcalo Sousa Lopes teamed up to make their own “auteur wines,” working with small plots of old wines. We’ll see what they’ve accomplished, including a 40 Year Moscatel do Douro, a version of Portugal’s other noteworthy dessert wine.
Then it’s back to Pinhão to freshen up and get ready for dinner at a winery and B&B, Quinta do Passadouro in the beautiful Vale de Mendiz. The winery manager will show us around the facility, a smaller-sized operation that makes exceptionally good Port and dry wine, and his wife will cook up a storm! We’ll dine al fresco and break out the Passodouro wines.
B, D • Casa de Casal de Loivos
DAY 5 – THE MOST BEAUTIFUL TRAIN RIDE IN THE WORLD
The Douro is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and today we’ll soak up its awesome beauty. The occasion is a scenic train ride from Pinhão to the Douro Superiore, the driest, hottest, and most remote region for Port grapes. We’ll take the train to Pocihno, the eastern terminus of the Douro railway, just shy of the Spainish border. (There’s nothing to see in Pocihno, so we’ll have 40 minutes to kill at the station before our return trip.) For lunch, we’ll eat with the locals in Pinhao.
Our final winery is Quinta do Vale Dona Maria, the smallest of the Douro Boy wineries. Formerly with Quinta do Noval, owner Cristiano van Zeller is slowly reviving his in-laws’ property, which was abandoned and in complete ruin. Now he makes drop-dead-gorgeous table wines here, as well as luscious ruby and LBV ports. Our charismatic host will regale us with Van Zeller family history, a truly fascinating narrative that includes a grandfather who introduced Tinto Roriz (tempranillo) into Portugal, spearheaded age designations for tawny, and possibly created the LBV style. We finish the day with dinner in Pinhão, either at the upscale LBV or the homey, traditional Ponte Romana.
B, D • Casa de Casal de Loivos
DAY 6 – BOA VIAGEM!
Drive to Lisbon airport (3-1/3 hours; if anyone flies from Porto, we can detour there). En route to Lisbon, if time allows we'll stop at Coimbriga, a Roman settlement with a dazzling array of floor pavements still intact. B
Porto (continental) or Lisbon (intercontinental). If flying into Lisbon and spending a few days there, you can take a train to Porto in 3 hours (see below). To get from the Lisbon airport to the city center, there is an airport shuttle bus. In Porto, your best option is a taxi. There is also a subway system; the E line has its final stop at the airport (“Aeroport”). For an overview of transit options, see GoOporto.
Portugal train schedule
Lisbon has three train stations. To go to Porto, you’ll be using either Lisbon Santa Apolonia (located in the city center) or Lisbon Gare do Oriente (2 miles from the airport). It’s 3 hours from Lisbon to Porto (station name: Porto Campanha). See the CP train schedule in English.
Lisbon is Portugal’s capital city and offers plenty to see and do. For a basic orientation, see GoLisbon.
Plan to land in Portugal at least a day before the tour begins. We recommend spending the preceding night in Oporto in order to be at our meeting spot on time. In Oporto, the most convenient hotel choice would be the one we’re using on Day 1, the Pestana Porto (we can make the reservation for you). Alternately, there’s a variety of 3- and 4-star hotels in the city center. If not staying at the Pestana, you will be responsible for arriving there on the morning of Day 1 in time for our pick-up.
We meet in the lobby of our first hotel in Oporto, the Pestana Porto (see above). The meeting time is usually 9:30 A.M. (Time will be confirmed in your information packet.)
On our final day, we’ll have you back to Oporto (airport or city center) by 1 P.M. Drive time from Pinhão is approximately 3 hours.
This is recommended to protect you from needless loss caused by last-minute cancellations, lost luggage, and more. Three sources are Travelex Insurance, (800) 228-9792; CSA Travel Protection, (800) 348-9505; and Travel Guard, (800) 826-1300.
When packing, check www.weather.com. Go to “Porto, Portugal” and “Vila Real, Portugal” to get a general idea of temperatures and forecast.
For cancellation policy & more, see our General Information page.
Early-bird discount: Book by January 31 and save $150!
Single supplement: $350
Upgrade to river-view in Oporto: $120/pp
Oporto or Lisbon
- 5 nights accommodations (double room) in two 4-star hotels, with breakfast buffet
- 4 gourmet dinners (three courses with wine), including one at a Douro winery (Passodouro)
- 1 lunch at a Douro winery (Niepoort)
- All wine tastings mentioned
- Walking tour and river cruise in Oporto
- Scenic train ride along the Douro
- Shuttle at beginning/end of tour, as described
What's not included
- Air travel
- 1 dinner on your own & most lunches
- After-dinner drinks, or special wines at tastings that are not part of what is provided to the group
- Items of a personal nature
- Anything not specified as included