Our recent trip to Portugal was an intentional discovery of the Douro wine region and in it we were blown away by the quality and culture of wines as well as the nature, restaurant and hotel scene that is flourishing all around it.
Douro is a truly unforgettable place. The deep long river stretches across Northern Portugal from the Spanish border to the Atlantic Ocean and all along its steep banks one can find vineyards terraced like beautiful artwork. While historically famous for port, we discovered some amazing local red wines which are going toe to toe with complex reds from around the world.
Where to begin though? There are hundreds of little and large vineyards all along the riverfront. Some have centuries old names and some require bookings in advance for tastings. Some have restaurants, others tours required with the tastings, there was a good amount of information to sift through. In the end we had another roadblock, many places were closed for winter break.
Good planning is essential and sometimes the right opportunity coincides. Thankfully a well regarded winery that we wanted to see was open: Quinta de la Rosa. This winery had everything we were looking for, a restaurant to have lunch and some of their signature wines, a tasting room and beautiful views of its vineyards and the Douro river.
The trip was 100km from the center of Porto where we were staying but the drive was pleasant and easy with a GPS. We made a reservation ahead of time and it was good that we did. There is limited parking but we found a spot in time for our reservation. The wine shop and tasting room are essentially the upper floor by the roadway. Descend two stories down and you enter a cozy and modern restaurant that feels all at once exclusive and chic.
Cozinha da Clara is the name of this modern kitchen and its a little over a year old. It is named after Clara, the beloved grandmother whose delightful recipes are as much a part of the vineyard as the vines. Tastings can be delightful in themselves, but Portugal has a rich culinary tradition and fine dining here comes at a fraction of the cost the European average, so we could not resist an opportunity to try the wine and food in situ.
Everything we had was spectacular. While the menu is meat and fish centric, upon request the chef immediately had a range of vegetarian options on offer. The food is elaborate, savory and comforting all at once. Their reserve wines and award winners are all available on the menu (in fact there is a better range of wines available in the restaurant than in the wine shop/tasting area). One wall has floor to ceiling windows with unobstructed views of the river and the vineyard terraces on the opposite banks. We finished the meal just amazed at the quality of food and service and tried an aged Port that was delightful.
There are many great vineyards to visit and food to enjoy, but we highly recommend Quinta de la Rosa and Cozhina da Clara, here you can indulge in one of the best concentrations of everything that is Douro all at once.