Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Port Tasting with Shahrzad

Shahrzad is a one-in-a-million type of friend.  One of those friends who cracks you up with her completely inappropriate jokes, who will always rally when there is fun to be had, and who will stand up for you no matter what.  She always has some crazy story to share, and her energy is contagious.  So here is Shahrzad (or Sharzy to me), talking about Port tasting in Portugal.

Less than a week after taking the California Bar Exam (or what I affectionately refer to as The Beast), I embarked on a wonderful journey that included 3 countries, 11 cities, 9 flights, 4 ferries, and a train. Ask me how my friends and I pulled it off without missing a single plane, train, or ferry and I wouldn’t know what to tell you. When I returned to the states, I was inevitably asked about my favorite city/experience. Although I had a plethora of interesting experiences to share with my family and friends (meeting random Spanish celebrities in Ibiza, kayaking in the Adriatic Sea off of Korcula, taking a water taxi to "Carpe Diem Island" for a 3am afterparty on ritzy Hvar, and developing a deliciously painful paella-baby in Madrid), there is one experience that easily takes the cake-- Port tasting in Portugal. The fantastic Port coupled with a UNESCO World Heritage Site and sunsets that burn themselves into your memory made for an experience that will be difficult to match.

I still remember drinking my first Port at a Hollywood Bowl concert in 2006. A few years and bottles later, Port has become my dessert wine of choice. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Port, it is a dessert wine that is fortified with brandy and only produced along the Douro Valley in Northern Portugal. Port can be either aged in wooden barrels for a short period of time (ruby Ports) or longer periods of time (tawny Ports). Most of my good friends know that a glass of well-aged tawny Port is a way to my heart. So, it is no mystery why I chose to make Portugal the first country I visited when I went back to Europe for the first time in 5(!) years. My partner in crime, the wonderfully energetic Michelle, and I left for Porto from Lisbon on a 3-hour train.

Since I was preoccupied with The Beast, I let Michelle chose our hotel. I will have to admit, I was slightly creeped out when we first arrived because the reception area looked like your grandmother's living room circa 1952. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I entered our room with its beautiful doors, view, and vaulted ceiling.

{View from our room in Porto}

One of my favorite things about this hotel was its blow dryer.  It took me a few minutes to figure out what it was and a bit longer to figure out how exactly it works.  

{Awkwardly large blow dryer that resembled a vacuum in our room in Porto}

As soon as we settled in and freshened up, Michelle and I headed to Vila Nova de Gaia, a city across the Douro River from Porto.  Gaia, as it is called by locals, is known for its wine caves where Port wine is stored and aged.  Our first stop was Taylor's Port, one of the oldest and most famous Port producers. 

Back at home, I've seen 10 and 20 year tawny Ports at some nice restaurants, but I have never seen a 40 year tawny Port. For a mere equivalent of $20, I was able to try this $200 bottle of Port. It probably was not wise to have such an amazing wine so early on in my trip because nothing else could quite match up.

The tasting was followed by tours of several wine caves in the area. After exploring a few tasting rooms, we stuffed our bellies with some local seafood and called it a day. Needless to say, I went to bed with a smile on my face.

Day 2 started at the oldest Port house in Gaia, Kopke, where we tried several ruby, tawny, and white Ports along side a sampling of local chocolates. After Kopke, we were off to the home of yet another great Port producer, Graham's; As you can tell from the photo below, I could not hide my excitement.

 {No words necessary}

During the tour of their caves, they showed us the owner's private collection with bottles that date back to almost 100 years!  

After a long day of climbing hills, touring caves, and drinking too much wine, Michelle and I enjoyed the picturesque sunset on the Douro.

 {View from Gaia}
 {Sunset on the Douro}

I am already trying to find a way back to Porto.

1 comment:

Ashley said...

I hope you left room in your suitcase for some port bottles!! Your trip looks like it was SO fantastic - thank you for sharing!