Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Rain in Portugal Falls Mainly on the Vineyard

Shoutout to my travel pal for the post title-hi Aud! Day 3 of our little getaway rolled in with the rain. All day rain, but fortunately we had mostly indoor activities planned. Not completely of course so by day's end we were all soaked and chilly, but it was still a really interesting and enjoyable day. Also this post is heavy on the words and pictures, but we squeezed a lot into a single day. 

A few in our group really know their wines. I am not one of them, and go along mostly for the history, the people, the peek into another culture, the food, and all the sites along the way. I enjoy learning new things and wine plays a huge role in the Portuguese economy. 

Since there were fourteen in our group, we'd booked a small bus for the day and ventured out into the countryside to visit three different wineries. Our first stop was my favorite-Quinta Do Sanguinhal.  What a beautiful spot! We were greeted by Ana, who is the owner's niece.  

The first thing you noticed was the soft beauty of the buildings and the enormous hydrangeas and geraniums all around. We had planned a tour of the gardens and vineyard here, but it was raining buckets so we opted to head inside instead. Judging from the flowers and plants we could see I imagine the gardens here are beautiful. 

Before we went inside Ana had us stand beneath one of their big cork trees, and she explained a bit about them. I didn't even know cork was a tree, but I guess I never really thought about it before.  There are cork forests all over this part of Portugal and we were fascinated by the trees themselves.  They make everything under the sun out of cork including purses, wallets, shoes, and corks. Obviously. 

This tree was on another property we visited, but it shows how the cork is harvested. The trees can live to be about 200 years old, and once they get to be about 25 years old the cork is stripped every nine years. No I don't remember Ana saying all that, but isn't that why we have the Internet? She told us a lot of information in our visit, and her knowledge was impressive. I was distracted by the sheer beauty and age of the place upon which we were standing.  

Our first stop was the barrel room. That may not be it's official name, but that's what I'm calling it here. We moved on to the distillery housed in a separate building...

...and then the best part-lunch. Not just any lunch either, but lunch eaten in this amazing space sitting beneath the old wine presses. 

When you sit in this space you think, hmmm...maybe I'd like to own a vineyard? 

Lunch was prepared for us by Ana's mother and it was positively amazing. There was a wonderful homemade creamy vegetable soup to begin, just right for a cool rainy Portuguese afternoon. This was followed by an enormous assortment of dishes including marinated pork, tomato salad, scrambled egg, fabulous breads and cheeses, and a flourless chocolate cake for dessert. We also tasted some of the wines made here and I think everyone would have been quite happy to stay put for the rest of the day.  

We reluctantly bid Ana farewell and braved the raindrops to get back on the bus and head to stop #2. This particular place is known for something called The Buddha Eden Garden.  

Really there are no words to adequately describe what greets you as you step outside into this expanse of Portuguese countryside on the Quinta dos Loridos estate. It was practically a monsoon the day we were there, but we didn't want to miss it, so opted to ride around the grounds via their tram. The driver sped over hill and dale, hitting the squeaky brakes on three different stops so we could hop out and take a few photos.  

Most of ours were taken from inside the tram, with water streaming down the camera lens, but still I think you get an idea of what's here. It's the kind of place you need to see to believe.  

The garden was created as a result of the destruction of the Buddhas of Banyan in Afghanistan, which you can read about here. There is a long and complicated history associated with these, but suffice it to say, the owner of this winery in Portugal wanted to create a garden of peace in response, and thus The Buddha Garden was born. It's still a work in progress, so he's not through yet. It feels completely touristy and more than a little amusement park-like, but you can't look away. It's fascinating.  

We were now thoroughly drenched, considered briefly skipping the final stop of the day, but figured we're already dripping, might as well trudge on. And we were rewarded for our efforts by the most charming young Portuguese wine maker who was the most gracious of hosts. The bus had to park at the top of the property and we all had to make our way down this little dirt road.

Totally worth it. 
Wine has been made on this property for over 500 years.  

Not by Rodrigo's family, but by someone.

He greeted us with a big smile, I'm sure he figured we'd bail, and then escorted us into a tasting room. He promptly cut up a ridiculous amount of bread and produced a fabulous cheese, and we talked and laughed with him for far longer than we intended staying. 

His vineyard is completely organic which was interesting to hear about, and also something a little different.

Before we left we took a picture. Honestly, hubs and I stood admiring the view from his patio and we  were both thinking, what an interesting, totally different kind of life this would be.

To wake up every day and check on your grapevines. To slow down while nature sings a lullaby. It's my favorite part of travel, this glimpse into all the many ways the world lives.

There's more because of course there is.
Tomorrow the sun shines and we talk medieval ramparts and the sea.


  1. I love the glimpse of these wineries in Portugal. One of my most favorite things to do is wine tasting and i cant imagine how amazing this was in a different country. My mouth is watering for good bread, good cheeses and good wine. Thank you!

  2. Your pictures are just stunning, Joyce...I almost feel like I was there every step with you! Keep 'em coming!

  3. How fun! Looks like an amazing trip! :)

  4. Excellent!! I've never thought about visiting Portugal, but you make it seem so inviting!

  5. Ha! Yeah, the rain in Portugal just have quite the same ring to it, does it. lol Looks like a wonderful tour. I'd love to visit even one winery in Portugal - or anywhere outside the U.S.

  6. I'm enjoying your fascinating adventures! It's amazing that so many of you, from so many places, were able to coordinate this trip. Great pictures, too!
    Note: Someone (mine and Ed's age) recently moved back here, after years of being away from our tiny little town, and started a vineyard! It's called Watermelon Creek Vineyard, and sure seems to be popular with the local folks :)