Wine, food, relaxation and history combine under an iconic ochre banner.
Spend any time in the Douro Valley and you’ll undoubtedly see quinta (wine estates) studded in the undulating, vine covered hills. Constructed of stone or whitewashed, their appearance generally blends in with the landscape. Not so at Quinta do Vallado, near the town of town of Peso da Régua, with its ochre manor house built in 1716. “It is a hot colour and people who come here notice and associate the colour of the house with the label on the bottle,” says co-owner and head of agriculture Francisco Ferreira, descendant of one of the most important figures in Portuguese wine, Antónia Adelaide Ferreira.
Known affectionately as Ferreirinha, she revolutionized the area with her philanthropic efforts and made seminal contributions to the wine business. “She was a visionary – she had the foresight to keep stocks before phylloxera hit. She fought against English wine company domination. This region was very poor so she built hospitals, roads, and provided employment. People still speak of her as if she lived 10 years ago instead of 207 years ago,” adds Ferreira.
With vineyards framing nearly every corner of the property, wine is not just in the past but also a continuing part of the estate. Beginning in the 1990s Ferreira and his family began to rebuild the winery, increase quality and improve consistency. By 2010 they bought more land and doubled the capacity of fermentation. The result is evident at the spacious tasting room where the incredibly affable Fabio guides us through a tasting including white and red wines and port.
Wine though, is just one portion of the entire experience. Quinta do Vallado was the first in the area to offer small wine tourism – the winery and tastings combining with a farm-style quinta comprised of five traditional and 8 modern rooms. Straw hats hang from the doorway above a crate of fruit and vegetables plucked from the estate’s kitchen garden. Near the rectangular lawn, topiary oranges, planted at intervals, grow beside sprawling lavender while birds splash in concrete fountains. The property, especially the schist-clad modern hotel feels like a home and not the grandiose reimagining of an abode of a scion.
The relaxed elegance is also reflected in the food, all of which is homemade. For dinner one evening a soft poached egg sits atop a vibrant tomato soup, followed by a hearty rice stew (arroz de polvo) rich with garlic and wine served with crisp octopus and roasted potatoes. Dessert is a simple plate of orange slices caramelized in port, and dusted with dark chocolate shavings, utterly divine. An impromptu lunch overlooking the Corgo river, a tributary of the Douro, is the stuff of dreams: Minerva sardines, bacalo (salt cod) fritters and shrimp stuffed fried pastries (rissóis de camarão). It is a moment when landscape, food, wine and company make for an unforgettable synergy.
“Tourism helps people who come here have a stronger idea of the wine than those who don’t visit – they taste the wine with local food, tour the property and then spread their experience by word of mouth,” explains Ferreira. Indeed, Quinta do Vallado is the sort of place to read a book in the communal study, to fish at the specially designed platform, to bicycle through the grounds, take a spa break, swim in the pool or simply stay in the cozy room, coffee in hand, and contemplate the vineyards from the private patio. “It is very easy to fall in love with this place,” confesses Ferreira, “My wife is a city girl used to city life but she absolutely loves it here.”
Vilarinho dos Freires, 5050-364;
This original hotel article first appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of City Style and Living Magazine