quinta-feira, 10 de março de 2011

For the Love of Port(o) - dinning with Roy & The Explorer's

(this one was written in my best [US] English)

Roy Hersh is one of the world's leading authorities on Porto [and Douro DOC and Madeira], i always spell it with the final "o", the same way i do not translate Bourgogne as Burgundy.

Roy Hersh at Douro In restaurant, Régua

Roy created and runs fortheloveofport.com, a must for each and every Porto lover. Did i mention it's called "for the love of Porto"? :D
Besides the more usual aspects of a web site focused on wine, tastings, news, a forum, ..., Roy, with Mário Ferreira's help on the portuguese side, organizes trips to Portugal in the form of different tours: Porto Explorer’s Tour, Fortification Tour, Porto Harvest Tour. 

When Mário called me up to organize a dinner in Régua for the "Portugal & Porto Explorer's Tour 2011" i was excited.
I would have preferred to receive Roy and the Explorer's at Infantado, but, of course, they can't go to every quinta.

I worked out a nice menu with chef Carlos Pires (restaurant Douro In, Régua) to pair with wines from Bago de Touriga (white & red Douro DOC) and Quinta do Infantado (red Douro & white and red Porto).
Unfortunately, they were coming from Quinta de Vale Meão. Vito and Xito Olazábal are too, too, too great a host! So, a lot of the exploring capabilities of the group had already been drained.
Anyway, some resisted 'till the end (of the world as we know it & i feel fine :) 

Roy & The Explorer's, plus Fátima Ribas, winemaker @ Quinta do Infantado, sipping Vértice Millésime 2005

I'm a fool for Vértice and an admirer of Celso Pereira's work on behalf of Douro's white grapes.
No surprise, the wine to greet Roy & The Explorers (Ruth & Sandy Becker, Zev Robinson, Luiz A. G. Alberto and Mário Ferreira) was Vértice Millésime 2005 brut, Douro sparkling DOC. Just love it, fine, great acidity, complexity.

Instead of butter, pâtés or oil & balsamic , we tasted Infantado's first 2 bottled extra virgin olive oils: '09/10 and the recent '10/11 in companion of home made breads. 
Being suspect, i dare say we're having a good start with these 2 first efforts. A nice balance of fresh & spicy flavors. 
The main olives are Verdeal, Madural and Cobrançosa from 100+ years old  trees grown organically.

Watercress velouté, Alba’s truffle infused olive oil croutons

The first pairing was the Watercress velouté, Alba’s truffle infused olive oil croutons with Quinta do Infantado White Porto.
Infantado's White Porto is around 30 g/l of sugar, which is dry in the Porto scale. I'm used to serve this with soups in the summer (think cold watermelon soup, as an example), but it was a first with this velouté, an heavier and less fruity soup. Not perfect but very enjoyable. 

“Alheira” (regional sausage) trilogy

2008 is the first release of Quinta do Infantado green label Douro DOC, the still wine from one of our organic vineyards, Pousado. This north-east facing vineyard has deeper soil and a creek runs along it, all these making for a very fresh, high acids wine.
I though this could do a good match with the “Alheira” (regional sausage) trilogy, playing between the wine's acidity and the alheira's fat.

Next, two sea dishes paired with Bago de Touriga's wines. At Bago de Touriga, a small independent company that buys grapes from selected small growers with whom it works very close in the vineyards, Luís Soares Duarte (Infantado's consultant winemaker) and myself aim to make balanced, food-friendly wines that express the unique terroirs of the Douro Valley. 

Salted cod fish, almond & cured ham crust, sautéed Brussels sprout, garlic infused chestnut purée

Gouvyas Reserva 2007, white Douro DOC, allow me to say, is a pretentious wine :). We would love this to be drinking well in 5 to 10 years. Right know, there's a little too much of oak notes but still a great match for the salted cod fish, almond & cured ham crust, sautéed Brussels sprout, garlic infused chestnut purée. You know, there's a 1001 ways to cook salted cold fish in Portugal, well, now there's 1002 with this new recipe from chef Carlos Pires. The almond takes the place of the cornbread and the chestnut purée gives it a nice winter tone.

Grilled Octopus, “punched” potatoes, turnip greens sautéed

IMHO, one of the greatest features of the Douro Valley is it's old vines. When it comes to vineyards, "old" has different meanings depending on the region you are. In the Douro it is (unofficially) minimum 50 years but more likely over 60/70 as is the case in Gouvyas Vinhas Velhas 2006, made from two vineyards in Vale de Mendiz and Soutelo do Douro. The match for this balanced and still young wine was one of Douro In's classics, where the good olive oil is the umbrella that puts octopus, potato and turnip greens in harmony. Really good.

Quinta do Infantado 2008 reds, great freshness and balance

Quinta do Infantado 2008 & Quinta do Infantado Reserva 2008 are two great Douro reds. In 2008, our grapes had a high natural acidity, in every vineyard, and the wines reflect it, they're fresh, gastronomic, elegant. Being still babies (bottled less than a year ago) i thought of a strong flavored meat like kid to balanced them. So, both wines were served with Kid, dry figs & Porto stew in savoy cabbage, turnip greens purée, mashed potatoes. Having stopped to eat meat only over 10 years ago, i guess i'm still capable of remembering its flavors :) to imagine pairing that are logic. Uff, it worked ok, i was told.

Terrincho, Seia curado, home made tomato and plum fruit jams, Quinta do Infantado Vintage Porto 2007

Cheese and Porto is a no brains match, everybody knows it. As we do not have blue cheeses in Portugal, i decided to go with a cured Terrincho (a lesser known cheese from Trás-os-Montes), Seia (one of the best villages within the Serra DOP) and some tomato and plum fruit jams made at Douro In. Quinta do Infantado Vintage Porto 2007 is (yes, i know i've said this before, what can i do, it's true :) a wine i love. I'm always puzzled by its nose, so, so close to a sunny red wine. It is one of the driest of Infantado, already known for it's less sweet character. Give me another glass, please :)

Quinta do Infantado Colheita 2001

Quinta do Infantado oldest vintage dated Porto is a Colheita from 1977. Well, believe it or not, it took us 24 years to make another Colheita. Our first bottling of this 2001 Colheita tawny Porto was on 2010 and we plan to do another two bottling in the future. It will be fun to compare the evolution in bottle vs pipas. 
As mentioned before, the long lunch @Vale Meão, had its effects, so there were no longer Explorers at the table when the dessert, Apple pie & vanilla ice cream, came to the table to join the 2001 Colheita. I loved this pairing, the wine spicy and nutty notes in harmony with the vanilla and the caramelized apple.  

Wine and food were just the frame for an excellent dinner. A lot of discussion and ideas flowing form one end of the table to the other. To me and Fátima Ribas a night to remember for a long, long time.
Obrigado, Roy & the Explorers.

(restaurante Douro In, Régua, +351 254 098 075, www.douroin.com)

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