It was another early start for JDAW on Wednesday. He was woken by the dawn chorus from the vineyard workers as they ascended the slopes to begin their work tying back the vine shoots. He woke with a slight panic - he only had 30 minutes before his taxi arrived and he still had to pack away the 32 bottles of vintage port and wine he had with him.
Fortunately, he finished his packing just as the cheerful local taxi driver arrived at the front door. JDAW loaded his bags and boxes into the taxi, bade a fond farewell to his most excellent host and climbed into the taxi. The taxi driver (who spoke no English) gave JDAW a friendly smile and JDAW (who speaks no Portuguese) smiled back. Then they were on their way to Oporto.
It occurred to JDAW that he had not told the driver where they were going. Still, the driver was heading for Oporto so all was well.
JDAW must have dozed off. The next thing he knew was a gentle shaking of his shoulder and voice in his ear saying "Señor, aeroporto
." JDAW woke with a start. "No," he said "not aeroporto - Yeatman, Porto." The driver realised that JDAW had been in a deep sleep and was a little confused, so he smiled benignly and replied "Si. Aeroporto. No Yeatman." and pointed to the luggage trolley where he had kindly put JDAW's two bags and four boxes while he had been sleeping.
20 minutes and several dozen Euros later - and with the assistance of a American resident of Portugal - the confusion had been cleared up, the luggage put back in the car and the driver was on his way to his first ever visit to Vila Nova de Gaia...what could possibly go wrong?
Nothing, surprisingly! The drive from the airport to the Yeatman
was uneventful. The hotel check-in smooth and polished and the hotel deserving of its reputation as a fabulous place to stay. JDAW was glad that he had chosen to stay there and take advantage of its location and proximity to the lodges. His first visit was a late morning appointment at the Ferreira lodge
The Ferreira lodge is one of the most westward lodges along the Vila Nova de Gaia waterfront, away from the main grouping that is centered around Sandeman
. JDAW reports that it is very much worth the extra effort to visit Ferreira; the lodge is extremely visitor friendly, well laid out and with some very interesting photographs and other historical artifacts that make for a fascinating 2-3 hour visit. JDAW also had the advantage of a pre-arranged personal tour, which highlighted many of the historically significant items that he might have overlooked - and lots of bottles and labels which he was able to add to his ever-growing collection of photographs! I have been told that the lodge tour starts at the river level, and works its way through a series of deep and dark tunnels that follow the hill-side until, at the end of the tour, the visitor emerges blinking into the sunlight halfway back up the hill. A short walk through a walled garden then brings the visitor to the shop and tasting room...and (visits by appointment only) to Ferreira's bottle cellar!
JDAW had visited the Ferreira bottle cellar once before, and had witnessed the recorking of the handful of bottles in store from the 1815 vintage. He was keen to return with his camera to ensure that he had evidence to support his list of vintages which had been declared by Ferreira. Carefully escorted, he spent several happy hours with camera and notebook making a detailed record of all that he found.
It was mid-afternoon when he had finished his visit to Ferreira, and JDAW was feeling a little peckish. However, before he could pause for lunch, JDAW had been offered the chance to enjoy a small tasting of some of Ferreira's ports and table wines. This was JDAW's first opportunity to taste the three Ferreira tawny ports side by side - all were very good but the 20 year old was extremely enjoyable. Enjoyable enough that JDAW decided he should drink the occasional bottle of 20 year old tawny in future and not restrict himself to vintage ports. The tasting meandered into a very fine lunch in the Sandeman lodge, in an oak panelled room that looked unchanged from the turn of the 20th century, with JDAW being watched by George Sandeman and his ancestors. Lunch was washed down with a bottle of the new release of Barca Velha (the 2004) and I am told that this wine is well worthy of the reputation that Barca Velha has to live up to. Finally, lunch concluded with 6 different vintage ports, 4 of which were from the 1955 vintage. JDAW is yet to report which was considered to be the wine of the tasting.
Eventually, JDAW decided it was time to move on. A post-lunch nap was required and it would be discourteous to nap while with his Ferreira / Sandeman hosts - and a little exercise climbing up the hill back to the Yeatman would do no harm. The climb back up the hill was longer and harder after lunch than it ought to have been, but JDAW managed. Exhausted, he arrived back at the Yeatman and collapsed onto his large, comfortable bed and took a quick nap.
4 hours later he woke, feeling peckish. He had had the forsight to reserve a table at the Michelin starred restaurant in the hotel so wandered down to "Dick's Bar" to wait for his guest; while there he had a glass of the youthful and fruity "Yeatman 1992 vintage port". His guest arrived on time and the two of them went through to the restaurant.
The menu of the restaurant was excellent; the quality of the food clearly demonstrated the Michelin star was well deserved and the service was unobtrusive and flawless. JDAW's guest knew of his passion for port and had arrived armed with a bottle of the 1871 from Quinta do Loureiro - a port that JDAW had never tried before. In return, JDAW had brought his own eclectic selection of ports for his guest to try, several of which his guest had not had before despite having worked in the industry for many years. One of those bottles was a late bottled Quinta de Mileau 1958 - which was released by Fonseca at the same time as Taylor were bottling Vargellas as Quinta de Vargellas for the first time in 1958.
Dinner - as is normal in Portugal - was a leisurely and relaxed affair which went on into the small hours of the morning. Eventually, JDAW's guest made his apologies and retired. After a brief stroll around the terrace bar to take in the sight of Oporto lit at night, JDAW also returned to his room and settled down for a good night's sleep. Tomorrow would be another busy day...