Adega de Borba,Alentejo,Wine,Wine HIstory,Wine Hospitality,Winemaker,Winemaking,Winery,Wines of Portugal

Adega Coop de Borba in the Alentejo Region of Portugal

Another day in the life with Enoforum Wines as my host, while enjoying The Wines of Portugal.

Winemaker Óscar Gato of Adega Coop de Borba is based in the town of Borba, a municipality of the Évora District, in Portugal. As I’ve written earlier this week, to understand the people and their culture helps to understand the wines. This small village has many points of historical interest, including the ruins of a medieval castle, and many churches, built from the 15th to the 18th centuries:

  • Church of Nossa Senhora das Neves (15th century)
  • Church of the Convent of Servas de Deus (17th and 18th centuries)
  • a large stone Cross and Church of S. Bartolomeu (17th century)
  • Church of Santo António (17th century), their Town Hall was built in the 17th century
  • Church of Misericórdia (16th-18th century)
  • Via-Crucis (18th century), Fountain of Bicas (18th century)
  • Convent of Nossa Senhora da Consolação do Bosque (16 to 18th century)
  • Quinta (Estate) do General (16th-18th century)

Just as yesterday’s blog story about Carmim’s winery was in the small, rural village of Reguengos de Monsaraz, Borba is also to be appreciated as such, also in Portugal’s Alentejo Region. You can see on the map above, that for this day trip from Évora, we headed northeast to arrive in what I think of as the City of Marble.

When a quarry sits just outside of a community, once it’s been discovered that this asset is in the area, it makes perfect sense that that resource is then used to help construct the town. This image of a wall was taken in one of Borba’s plazas; it is completely constructed of marble, with the walkway also being constructed of marble pieces. It’s used profusely throughout the town, as if it were a simple product of nature, rather than a precious commodity. The lower portion of a house’s border, by perhaps a couple of feet, is made of marble. These are everyday houses. The marble is not reserved for churches, public buildings, or impressive retail outlets. It’s just part of the neighborhood… gorgeous marble.

Upon arrival we were met by Winemaker Óscar Gato, and I was again struck by the enormity of this adega’s size. [Adega refers to a Portuguese wine cellar, and is used in Portugal the way we use “winery” in the US.] This cooperative has been operating since 1955. Notice the word “coop” is being used in their name of Adega Coop de Borba. All of the wine companies that I visited were cooperatives. Many of the Portuguese brands of the Alentejo are the products of a cooperative. As a collective society, this is how they think… for the good of the region versus for the good of individual brands. The coop dictates the quality, and growers deliver the products. These regional grapes go into wine production and bottles as a specific regional brand… In this case, it’s Borba. I’m going to blog at a later date about this concept, because it’s fascinating how this system works, and works to the benefit of many, including the end users… consumers.

The soil from this region is different than that of Reguengos de Monsaraz. There, the land had a sandy quality to it. In Borba, considering all of the marble that’s there, that’s an initial tip-off that their soil holds a good amount of clay and schist. In the last 20 years there has been a 50 percent increase in vineyards in the Alentejo. Also, many older vines have been pulled out and been replanted with better clonal selections that are virus free.

Bottling has also been streamlined at this winery. More than 15,000 bottles/hour are filled with wine, with three separate lines (3,000, 6,000, and 6,000 are filled), has Adega Coop de Borba becoming a very efficient facility for this region. I’ve never seen the front end of a bottling line, where a palate of bottles are picked up and brought to the conveyor belt’s start. Thought you might also enjoy seeing how this happens.

Pictured above with Oscar Gato is José Fonseca, winemaker for Enoforum Wines ~ Évora. In this next image, the winemakers are reading labels on older bottles. This is another great photo to share, because this is how Adega Coop de Borba keeps track of wines that have been produced at this winery. An example of each and every bottle ever crafted is in this library. While this may be done by some in the US, I’ve yet to see anything this detail oriented. It’s very impressive.

Before we began to taste wines formally, we all tasted a barrel sample. In this photo, there are new faces. From left to right: Luís Ribeiro (product manager for Enoforum), José Fonseca, Gwendolyn Alley (who won the trip being offered by Enoforum Wines), Delfim Costa (Enoforum), and Óscar Gato.

The wines we tasted with Óscar Gato.

Adega de Borba 2008, D.O.C. Alentejo ~ Grape varieties: Roupeiro, Tamarez, Antão Vaz. The soil where this wine was grown is Argilo-calcários e xistosos. A real treat, this wine was only 13 percent alcohol. It has a slight, green-tinged color, and intense aroma of tropical and citrus fruits with a bit of mineral flavors from the soil. A perfect acid balance (Total Acidity: 5,90 g/l + PH: 3.20) made this wine very crisp and clean. I also tasted white grapefruit, especially on the finish. This wine was refreshingly smooth, and a delight to taste. There were 150,000 cases of this wine produced. (Bottom left label)

Adega Coop de Borba 2006, D.O.C. Alentejo ~ Tinta Caiada & Pinot Noir: Grape Varieties: 50 percent Tinta Caiada, 50 percent Pinot Noir. The soil where this wine is grown was chalky clay and schist. This wine had a very fruity nose and palate. I picked up lots of caramel and toasted butterscotch on the nose, hazel nuts and pine nuts on the palate, and the Pinot really rounded it out with a completely smooth finish. The alcohol content for this wine is 14 percent by volume. Total Acidity is 5.33 g/l, and pH is 3.43. It had a great balance, and the fruit really shone through. There are only 1,167 cases available of this wine. (Top left label) $20.00 retail US

2005 AdegaBorba.pt Alentejo ~ The label of this one, bottom right, tells you that this one is all about fun. Region: Borba – Alentejo – Portugal, Denomination, A.O.C. Alentejo Wine. Grape varieties for this wine are Trincadeira, Alicante Bouschet, and Cabernet Sauvignon. The soils consist of chalky clay and schist. Alcohol is 14 percent, TA is 5.40 g/l, and pH is 3.55. Only 2,500 cases of this wine was produced for the 2,500 vintage. The wine itself had a really deep garnet color. Like ruby red slippers. The intense aromas of beautifully mature red fruit and a sweet black pepper dominated, along with a hint of mint from the Alicante. This wine was beautifully elegant, with a finish that tasted of forest fruit, something new to my palate, but now very much appreciated, and hints of coffee and chocolate that produced an elegantly long finish. $12.00 retail for US.

Adega de Borba Reserva Montes Claros ~ To craft this special reserve wine Reserva, which is one of the oldest trademarks from the region of Alentejo, Adage de Borba carefully pre-selected all the grapes from their oldest vine, in order to rigorously follow the evolution of their maturity. The best of the best were harvested, and all done manually. In the winery, they were crushed, fermented and left in prolonged contact with the skins for 10-12 days, in order to extract all the fruit complexity and aromas. The malolactic fermentation occurred partially in stainless steel vats and the remainder in wooden barrels. Then a final selected blend matured for 12 months in new French and American oak, to gain more structure and complexity, with 6 months more months in bottles in their cellar. This was a complex treatment for a complex wine. Grape varieties include the following: Trincadeira, Aragonez, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Tinta Caiada. Only 8,333 cases of this wine exists. Again, alcohol is 14 percent, TA is 5.90 grams per liter, and the pH: 3.50. This was a hugely structured wine, with a nose of cinnamon toast , toasted almonds, and a sweet lemon on the nose that spoke of its bring acidity. This is a beautiful wine that deserves more cellar aging, but certainly is enjoyable today for those of us who love tannins. $20.00 retail for US.

I’m leaving you with one last image below of this lovely area. As we headed out of town, we approached the marble quarry. This spoke volumes to their history and why their village used marble, which for them is so easily accessible. Also know that the Italians have seen the benefits of this marble, which you may have purchased as an Italian product. I once read – quite a while ago – that many of the olive oils that say “Packed in Italy” haven’t been grown there, but are imported from Portugal. I just purchased my first “Packed in Italy” olive oil, because in my supermarket I couldn’t find “Product of Portugal.” I’ve been spoiled for these Portuguese products, because they are so superior. This image was taken as we whizzed by the pilings… It’s was just unbelievable for me to fathom that much marble.

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Alentejo,Carmim Winery,Portugal,Wine,Wine Making,Winemaker,Winemaking,Winery,Wines of Portugal

Carmim Winery in the Alentejo Region of Portugal

This is a beginning of a series of wineries in the Alentejo region in Portugal. I was based in the amazingly charming and very historic town of Évora. Enoforum Wines was my host, while I was introduced to the Wines of Portugal. At some point, I’d love to return to explore the spectacular beauty of the Douro… as a follow-up… as well as returning to where my heart was stolen, in Alentejo.

Winemaker Rui Veladas of Carmim Winery is based in the town of Reguengos de Monsaraz, a municipality of the Évora District, in Portugal. It has 11,000+ inhabitants, and is about 90 miles as the crow flies south to the Atlantic Ocean. It’s also just a few miles west from the border of Spain. I haven’t been to Spain, but Rui pointed out the mountains of Spain, just prior to lunch, when we were atop the Castle of Monsaraz.

To know how rural and small Reguengos de Monsaraz is, is to appreciate this village’s place in the Alentejo. You can see on the map above, that there’s not much but countryside to be enjoyed… Which, for the residents there, is a lot. Notice its proximity to the border of Spain (dark gray line).

Upon arrival at Carmim’s winery, I was immediately taken to vineyards, where their wines grapes are grown. It was one of the most delightful vineyards I’ve ever visited, and I’ve been in copious amounts vineyards. Today, it takes a lot to wow me, as far as vineyards go, because I’ve seen so many in so many places… I was totally wowed.

I’ve given you the background of how small this village is because it’s relative to the size of Carmim’s winery. Also, notice the cobblestone driveway above. Portugal is the land of stones being used for walk and driveways. It reminded me of living on Lisbon Street in my youth, a town that used to have all cobblestone streets. (Coincidence? I’m thinking not, and now I have to dig up the history of Lewiston, Maine, because my curiosity has been really piqued.) Consider how small the town is, and how large this winery is in comparison, and you now understand that it’s a major factor in this village’s commerce.

We drove only a few miles to the Carmim vineyards, and I quickly spied that we weren’t in a usual vineyard for me. Each row that we passed had a couple of sheep in it that were off in the distance. We were allowed to get out and take pictures of this… Gringa that I am, I was completely amazed that sheep could live in cooperation with a vineyard. It makes total sense, but I had yet to see this in action. When we entered through the original gate onto the property, we forgot to shut it, so for a while the sheep went a wandering, the way sheep do.

The vineyard manager was able to redirect the sheep back to us, and that’s when I learned that it wasn’t a few sheep. It was an entire flock. And they like olives. Notice the one sheep that got himself a mouthful in the image to the left. In the next photo, you can also see the backdrop of vines, the sheep walking through them, and the olive trees in the foreground.

It might seem like I’m drifting from Carmim’s winery story, but this is all part of it. The respect of the relationship and unity among man, animals, and plants. This is such a healthy ecosystem, and just one of many for me that proved Portugal is far ahead of the United States and the ways we think in terms of ecology. I’ll be sharing a lot more thoughts as I go along. Let’s just say, I’m not surprised that Gabriella and Ryan Opaz of Catavino left the United States and moved to the Iberian Peninsula.

Tasting through Carmim’s wines with Rui Veladas was an amazing experience. This proved to me once-and-for-all, and beyond a shadow of a doubt, that terroir plays a major role in the flavors of wine. This region is extremely dry with a good amount of heat in the final days of summer and ripening. To receive only minimal amounts of irrigation, based on the heat and water index, should tell you that these wines were constrained and offered a reserved flavor profile. Bingo! That’s what they delivered, and they were fabulous.

This region of the Alentejo produces the everyday value, enjoyable wines of Alentejo. According to Delfim, it’s important to note that Julius Caesar was in this area as a commoner during the BC years. Caesar was born on July 13, 100 BC, and died March 15, 44 BC). He became rich in the Alentejo, and went back to Rome through the Iberian Peninsula as a rich man. Julius Caesar got control of Portugal’s riches (gold and other minerals being a big part of this), and went back to Rome, where he bought votes to take over the power of Rome. Today, the riches still exist, and this time, it’s the wines that will dominate the world market. Olive oil is also part of what is being offered to the world as a world class product, which I’ll get to later.

Reguengos de Monsaraz: Reguengos = an old Portuguese name for land of the kings + Monsaraz = area ~ Land of the kings area… riches beyond belief.

Pictured with Rui Veladas is José Fonseca, winemaker for Enoforum Wines ~ Évora.


Carmim Aragonês 2008 (Alentejo) ~ The grapes for this wine are manually harvested by their members. (Coops rule in the Alentejo, and this is another entire story to be told, at a later date.) Fermentation period was about 10 days. This wine aged for six months in French oak barrels. The flavors reminded me of boysenberries macerated as fresh fruit over vanilla yogurt. I tasted African violets plants during watering (I propagated them for about 12 years), strawberry rhubarb pie that delivered a sweet aroma on the nose, but no sweet was delivered to the palate. This wine costs $8 Euros, $11.89 US. It’s worth every penny. As with all of these Alentejo wines that I’m going to be writing about, the lack of irrigation has produced restrained wines, that will pair well with dishes having a rich complexity: Pot roast, cheese dishes, -the obvious one- lamb dishes with rich vegetables drenched in sauces. The Carmim Aragonês 2008 (Alentejo) is a superb wine that delighted on my palate as a wonderful introduction to the wines of the Alentejo.

Carmim Trincaderia 2008 (Alentejo) ~ This wine reminded me of a vegetable medley, but not in a vegetal way… just in a very appetizing and wholesome fresh fruit way. Being a variety that was completely new to me, it wasn’t easy to reach inside and find the usual descriptors or fresh fruits and berries. I love vegetables that are fresh and wholesome, and this was my initial reaction… nothing stewed or boiled, just garden aromas, where herbs grow close by… like lemon sage and thyme. It was a beautiful black wine that delivered pepper spice, vanilla from the oak, and a good tannic structure. There was as much intrigue on the palate as what was delivered on the nose, and I loved it. Gorgeous finish. This wine also costs $8 Euros, $11.89 US. (I was continually having to convert.)

Carmim Alicante Bouschet 2007 (Alentejo) ~ Grown in this Mediterranean climate with very hot, dry summers and cool winters with concentrated periods of rain, this wine, if blindfolded, I’ll always be able to pick among all others. There’s a eucalyptus mint quality that goes with this wine, and this one delivered classic varietal aromas right on time. I also, not surprisingly, got black and green olives with an extremely bright sensation on the palate… lively and fresh. This one I’d balance with chocolate sauces and maybe an Oaxacan Pork Mole. Again, cost is $8 Euros, $11.89 US.

There is so much story to tell about our visit to Carmim with Rui Veladas. We lunched at the castle depicted on their labels, we tasted in their tasting room with Enoforum Wine’s winemaker José Fonseca on hand (he’s pictured about with Rui to Rui’s right) We toured their winery that has so many antiquities that that’s a separate blog posting… amphoras left by the Romans, for instance. This is enough for today, but I will be revisiting our day at Carmim, because it was so special and extensive.

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The Wines of Portugal ~ First you must understand the people

In order to understand the wines of Portugal, first you must understand its people. My friend Delfim Costa sent this book to me from Portugal. I was so touched with his unexpected generosity, that it became a New Year’s resolution to learn more about Portugal. The book The First Global Village, How Portugal Changed the World, was written by the late Martin Page.

I read it, and then I traveled to Portugal to put it all into context. What a hospitality eye opener. The people of Portugal are charming, sincere, and willing to share this country’s ancient beginnings, as well as its historic culture. Portugal stole my heart. Is it kismet that I was raised on Lisbon Street? Now, I think not… Portugal was a destiny, having already been in my life’s soul and address for 20 years.

I spent 10 days in Portugal, as the guest of Enoforum Wines, and my concept for the world of wine became greatly expanded. It didn’t begin with the wine, though, it really did begin with the people. In this coming week, I’m going to be exploring what I’ve learned. It began the moment I was picked up at the airport my host Delfim Costa.

Delfim and I met at the US Wine Bloggers Conference. Someone else from his company had queried me a year before that, and at the time I was too busy to even consider another client. When Delfim handed me his business card, however, I recognized it from my past. As soon as I got home, I went into my computer’s history, and was able to track everything back to my earlier introduction to Enoforum Wines. “What a coincidence,” I thought. It wasn’t Delfim that queried me, but another person in the company.

At the WBC B-B-Q, I had given Delfim a ride back to the hotel, so he wouldn’t have to wait for the bus, and that began our adventure together. Little did either of us think at that time that the next ride would be Delfim picking me up at the Lisbon Airport and driving me downtown, but that’s exactly how it played itself out over a year later.

The stories contained within are much deeper than a simplified tourist’s guide to Portugal. It’s a complex Portuguese history of being on the receiving end of invasion and visitation – as soon as man could get himself around in a boat, by the Phoenician (they introduced grape vines and olives in Alentejo), the Celtics, the Germanics, the Romans, the Moors, and the Jews. These ethnic cultures, during their invasion and habitations, gave Portugal the gifts of their foods, their ways of living in not only mannerisms, but also their religious beliefs, their arts and their sciences.

This created a complex people who then went out into the world, themselves, to also establish world dominance, spreading their own culture to places around the globe. One only has to look at Brazil to see their affect. I, for instance, grew up on Lisbon Street in Lewiston, Maine. The city to my east was Lisbon, and the next city was Lisbon Falls. It had Portuguese residents, as you can only imagine, and is about 25 miles from the Atlantic.

The Portuguese today are simply delightful, immensely compassionate, extremely courteous, and have a multifaceted diversity that has to be experienced firsthand to even begin to comprehend all that Portugal continues to offer the world. It’s a lot, I dare say, and it’s splendid.

It was an overwhelming trip, as it’s taken me a week to finally begin to put the pieces of my mosaic together for concentrated writings. I loved my journey, which began each day at 9:00 a.m. (give or take) to 11:00 p.m. (again, give or take), and that went on for 10 days. Besides Delfim, my other Enoforum hosts were Isabel Ramos , Luís Ribeiro, and José Fonseca. This team of four people were ever gracious and so attentive. They have given me so much to write about.

It was a whirlwind tour that I know I wouldn’t have wanted any other way.

What I’ll be writing about first are the wine companies in the Alentejo Region of Portugal that we visited. Check out the map below to see our daily route from Évora. The village of Évora was our based, and we traveled from there each day to the towns circled. (Thanks to Google for the Google map.)

Borrowing from the Douro Boys, these are my Alentejo Boys (Alentejo winemakers) in the order of our visits:

  1. Rui Veladas ~ Carmim ~ Reguengos de Monsaraz (Left)
  2. Óscar Gato ~ Adega Coop de Borba ~ Borba (Middle left person)
  3. José Fonseca ~ (Middle right person ~ Enoforum Wines ~ Évora)
  4. Pedro Hipólito ~ Adega Coop de Redondo ~ Redondo (Right)

Writing about not only the wines, but also how we spent the day in their Alentejo regions is going to be my first order of business…

Interestingly, I was just queried by a Bordeaux company for a visit. I said it would be a while, because I have just returned from Portugal. The person who was asking me to come to France mentioned, “You must have been tasting Ports.”

Today, this is the favorite wine that comes from Portugal and has the most history, since it was what Portugal delivered to England as a beverage for their enjoyment. In order to get wine from Portugal to England (on what could be a slow ship, taken off course for weeks by storms), the wine had to be fortified.

With this much history, it makes sense that so many people love ports, and the mere mention of being in Portugal today, brings back one’s favorite wines. (For my new friend in Bordeaux, and in a later blog, I’ll have to share the 1983 Porto that I enjoyed with one of the Douro Boys, at the Digital Wine Conference. I was part of their Sherry and Porto tasting.)

I wasn’t in the Douro region, though. I was in the south of Portugal, visiting the Alentejo, an emerging region with wonderful red and white wines. These will be the stories that I’ll be sharing, and these are the wines now coming into the international market. And, what the world will come to understand is that the Alentejo region has been growing grapes and making wine for their own consumption, never thinking “marketing” for years and years. It’s only recently that the Alentejo has opened up for worldwide distribution, and when you taste these wines and hear of their pricing, you’re going to be seeking out Alentejo wines… I honestly believe.

We traveled from the city of Lisbon, to wineries in the Alentejo. We visited vineyards, olive groves, a cork plant and drove through cork forests. We saw indigenous animals that live in communion with the landscape and flora. It was an amazing symbiosis of the way a natural life still exists in an ancient land of this magnitude. It was more than I could have ever imagined, and more than I can ever explain, but I’ll try to give it some justice, as my heart was opened further in Portugal.

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The First Global Village ~ How Portugal Changed the World

The First Global Village ~ How Portugal Changed the World is a book written by Martin Page.

Map of Portuguese districts with names
Image via Wikipedia

When a book arrives on one’s doorstep as a gift, it has not only come from the sender, but it’s also arrived from the universe as a token of change and an opportunity for expansive knowledge. This is what The First Global Village by Martin Page became for me.

Before it arrived, my understanding of Portugal was extremely minimal; having never been there, nor ever having studied Portugal’s past or present, in my life time. I grew up in Lewiston, Maine. Southeast of that city is Lisbon and then Lisbon Falls – a place where the Androscoggin River rages during the spring, and a rock formation caused a natural waterfall. Once I realized that Lisbon was the capital of Portugal, it had a very quiet, subliminal influence on my life, but nothing that drove to me to get to the depths of the small western European country.

My wine knowledge of Portugal was jut plain absent, and so began my journey into not only Portugal’s history, but also into an intensive time with the Wines of Portugal, as well.

Once in the wine business, I found myself researching Port for the obvious reasons. Beyond that reason, I had a completely empty slate. So, it is with great gratitude that I mention Delfim Costa of Enoforum Wines for sending Martin Page’s book to me. It allowed me to expand my world view quite a bit more. Delfim is Portuguese, and we met at the Wine Bloggers Conference in 2008.

The title really tells it like it is, because of Portugal’s multicultural contributions to the world, much of it includes a food and wine lifestyle. According to Martin Page, the following are examples of Portuguese influences around the globe:

  • Portuguese Jesuits lived in Japan for generations before our ancestors knew of this, introducing words into the Japanese language; e.g., “orrigato,” which means “thank you.” They brought the recipe for tempura. They introduced the technique for gun manufacturing. The Portuguese also taught the Japanese how to construct buildings that would withstand artillery attack and earthquakes.
  • The chili plant was brought to India, allowing “curry” to be invented.
  • Portuguese is the third most spoken language in Europe (English, Spanish, then Portuguese), even before French and German. It’s the language of cattle ranchers in northern California and fishing communities on the New England coast line…. Both of which I have personal experiences.
  • The Portuguese own and operate over 400 restaurants in Paris as Italian trattorias.
  • Sintra, Portugal, has been an attraction for writers’ inspiration for generations; e.g., Henry Fielding, Robert Southey, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Lord Byron, Ian Fleming, Graham Greene, Christoper Isherwood, W. H. Auden.
  • When the Arabs arrived, they brought with them bananas, coconuts, sugar cane, oil palms, maize and rice, lettuce, onions, carrots, cucumbers, apples, pears, wine grapes, and figs… All part of a Mediterranean diet.

Their foods and irrigation system for watering is still studied today by northern European medical researchers for clues to what makes their heart-healthy such a study lot.

Irrigation, which was driven by water wheels, was brought to Portugal from Alexandria. This act created a technological revolution, the likes of which had never been seen in Europe prior to the Arabs arriving. This allowed for the crops mentioned above to be farmed and successfully introduced.

In a historical time-line, Portugal has had pivotal dates and people, which have affected their country; and, in a trickle-down effect, world civilization. This book’s chapters outline the dates and people who migrated to Portugal, giving it such a varied culture. Each transformation, as adapted, has added rich fibers to the tapestry threads of these fascinating people of today.

On New Year’s Day, my resolution was to learn the Portuguese culture, which was inspired by this book. The titles of the chapters indicate each invasion and the ethnic traditions left behind as a result. To read these titles puts into perspective how the last (nearly) 3,000 years, Portugal became a nation set apart from all others, and yet has so many links to the past that many people can identify with the Portuguese of today.

  1. From Jonah to Julius Caesar (700 BC )
  2. Rome on the Atlantic (55 BC)
  3. Rise & Fall of Christianity (212 AD)
  4. Arabs Bring Civilization to Europe (712)
  5. The Christian Reconquest (1126)
  6. The Cistercian Peace
  7. Prince Henry the Misadventure
  8. King João and the Great Adventure
  9. Pêro da Covilhã: Master Spy
  10. Vasco da Gama and the Lord of the Oceans
  11. India and Beyond
  12. The Golden Age of Lisbon; Disaster Abroad
  13. The Coming of the Inquisition; The Departure of the Jews
  14. Freedom Regained
  15. Pombal and the King: A duet in Megalomania
  16. Playground of the great Powers
  17. The fall of the House of Braganca
  18. The Slide to Dictatorship
  19. World War II: Betrayal and hte Fight for Freedom
  20. Freedom at Dawn

“Why were there so many invaders?” you might ask. The answer is quite simple. The first invaders discovered that this is a country rich in minerals, most especially gold and silver. The lure of gold has always sent men into a frenzy of need to own.

It all begins in the Bible with a story we’ve all heard. When Jonah was sent to Nineveh to tell the sinners that God was angry, he didn’t want to go, and bought a ticket – supposedly – beyond God’s reach. Soon after the ship sailed, a violent storm erupted, and the captain and crew threw Jonah overboard. He was swallowed by a whale, and then spit out onto land. It was Portugal where he landed. Jonah traveled on to Tarshish, which today survives as a name of a small town in Spain, which is only 3 miles and 1281.6 yards from the border of Portugal.

By 230 BC, Hamilcar (father) was exiled to Tarshish. He took his son Hannibal (who was eight years old at the time, and wanted to go with his father). This was a costly mistake, as Hannibal would avenge his father by crossing the Apennines Mountains, win a major battle, and march toward Rome…

And so, their history begins, changing the pastoral landscape of a quiet people, who have managed to remain peaceful through all time, regardless of whom was the next to invade their homeland. The Portuguese were open to the civilization refinements that were delivered to them during each invasion. Along the way, they created the Institution of Good Men (in the 700s), which still exists today. A social consciousness was created whereby widows and orphans are cared for, social welfare for all was created and has been maintained, all duties of the town are seen as everyone’s responsibility – including fire fighting – and are as independent and self sufficient as some parts of the United State might be. It is a daily way of life, however, in Portugal throughout the country, not just pockets of social consciousness that we might find in successful regions of rural America today. Imagine – for instance – if this were our complete and utter culture during Hurricane Katrina. One neighboring town would not have closed out its neighbor in need. Our country would not have wondered what to do for a week, all the wheels would have begun turning without regard for anything else.

There is a lot to be learned from The First Global Village. Martin Page moved to Portugal for a reason, and I can only image as his eyesight failed during his last years, this culture would have made his disability more manageable, with a tolerant people, great food, and excellent wine.

My life is enriched by this Portuguese culture, which I plan to continue studying through Delfim’s eyes. The universe has delivered an amazingly adventurous opportunity to my life.

This week I’m continuing with a series focused on the Wines Of Portugal. Perhaps you’ll also learn something about these glorious wines.

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Grandparent Day

Three cheers for the grandparents who have loved unconditionally, and in the process have saved more than one child along the way. My maternal grandparents were my anchors, and have shaped how I also love my grandchildren: biological, step, and natural. Today, I raise my glass of wine to the grandparents whom we all love dearly.


This Sunday is Grandparent Day. The major lesson I learned from my grandparents was to be a loving one, too. This weekend, I’m officially celebrating my grandparents. My glasses of wine, whatever they may be, will be toasted to my forefathers and foremothers.

I still cry when I think of my maternal grandfather, most especially, because it was so unexpected and well before his time… Peter J. Bernier has been gone since Dec. 3, 1963. I’m closer to him now than when I lost him. It’s been 52 years, and I know it won’t be another 52 before I see him again. That’s a great comfort.

I do, however, miss him every single day; he had that much impact on my life. This weekend, I’ll raise my glass to my “other” Mr. Wonderful and all other fore-parents.


There’s something said for mothering (and grand mothering), because a conscious decision was made, versus biology. My grandmother was like this. I wasn’t her biological granddaughter. I was biologically her grand niece. But, my biological grandmother died – due to child birth. So, my aunt (after losing her sister unexpectedly) stepped in to raise my mother. My grandaunt, turned grandmother, had one miscarriage after another and a still born child ended her career in mothering, or so she thought (seven total misfires). By the time I came to her, her scars had softened, and her heart was ready. What a women, to save my life and my sanity from a childhood I barely managed to survive….

By the way, the man above was my grandmother’s husband and my grandfather. This man had no biological connection to me what-so-ever. He is living proof that grand parenting isn’t about biology. Anyone can have that connection. Grand parenting is about taking a child into your heart and making sure to never, e-v-e-r break it…

About grand parenting… We’ve r-e-a-l-l-y figured it out. We’ve been down most of the roads of life. We know where most of the potholes are, so we deliberately avoid them. What might appear as “spoiling” our grandchildren is actually careful and joyful navigating. “Spoiling” them is leaving them to their own devices, which today has become an unintentional pun.



Top 10 intriguing things about Turkey and its wines

Turkey and its wines

  1. Right now, Turkey is focused on bridging the gaps between one of the oldest grape growing and wine making regions in the world, by educating the new world about what Turkey has to offer.
  2. It has an 11,000 year history of winemaking.
  3. There are more than 800 indigenous grape varieties in Turkey.
  4. Turkey represents both the oldest world in terms of wine making and the newest in terms of quality wine making.
  5. Turkey’s unique geography is bridging Asia and Europe, which is the physical location for not only being the cradle for civilizations, but also “this geography represents a unique fauna.”
  6. It has a biological diversity that is represented by 75 percent of the total number of plant species, which are entirely found in all of of Europe.
  7. It’s the sixth largest grape growing area in the world (but only using three percent of it with winemaking).
  8. It’s the original home of Vitis vinifera.
  9. It’s the oldest civilization with the most diverse cuisine.
  10. It has unique, indigenous grape varieties.


Wine,Wine Appreciation,Wine Country,Wine Country Inn,Wine Culture,Wine Education,Wine Hospitality,Wine tasting,Wine Travel,Winery

10 Ways to Avoid Wine Country Crowds

Not everyone loves crowds. Those who do are ultra social beings and it’s great for them. (Keep it up!) It works, because the vast majority of people love being social and in crowds.

But, there are others who prefer more intimate settings, so a list of  ways to avoid wine country crowds needs its place, too.

Most of us who are in the wine business and are a bit more seasoned than just starting out, tend to know this list. But, most people don’t, because it takes a while to come to this point, too.

1 — Think Tuesday through Thursday.

  • Weekends are definitely out.
  • So are holidays.
  • Mondays – could – be part of a holiday; otherwise it would be okay, too.
  • Fridays – could – also either be part of a holiday, or someone’s long weekend.

2 — Check first to see if a wine event is going on; if so, pick another date.

  • More education and intimate conversations will be all  yours.

3 — Find wineries that are “by appointment only.”

  • You’ll have very special attention.
  • But… be prepared to buy more than a bottle of wine.
  • You may even have nibbles to go with your food, so consider the labor and food costs.
  • I’d be prepared to buy a case of wine, at least.

4 — Travel to places less traveled, including other countries on planet earth.

  • There are 130 official American Viticultural Areas in California – alone, with examples like the following:
    • The Foothills
      • If you love cowboys, go east into the foothills.
      • If you’re enamored with the Gold Rush, the foothills also applies.
    • The Coast
      • Santa Cruz Monterey, Carmel, and Santa Barbara are gorgeous.
  • I chose to include a picture showing vineyards in Portugal (Carmim Winery in Monsarez for the landscape, and Adega de Borba for the wine cellar, and Adega de Redondo for the wine cellar).
    • Have you ever considered the Wines of Portugal?
    • You wouldn’t be disappointed.
    • You wouldn’t find crowds, except maybe in the Douro.

5 — Avoid the summer and harvest seasons.

  • From June through October, these are the busiest times of the year.

6 — Avoid the most popular winery, as hard as that may be to do.

  • You’re going to be one in a crowd of plenty.
  • These places do, though, offer small classes.
  • But, avoid group tours, because you’re back where you started.

7 — Make your journey about education, so seek out those who have an educational aspect to them. (Napa Valley is well established. Many of these programs have developed over time. You won’t avoid the traffic, but here’s how to get around the crowds).

8 — Give yourself a garden or outdoor art tour, instead of a wine tour.

  • The crowds will be in the tasting rooms, not in the gardens or exploring sculpture.
  • Clos Pegas, for instance, has great sculpture.

9 — Picnics

  • Buy a bottle of the winery’s wine – first.
  • Head to the winery’s deck or picnic grounds.
  • Enjoy the view and quiet company of friends.

10 — Rent a place on the grounds.

  • Before 10:00 a.m., you’ll be all by yourself on the property, except for staff.
  • By 5:00 p.m., you’ll again be pretty much alone.


Wine,Wine Country

You brought kids to wine country, now what do you do with them?

Vacationing in wine country for adults is very special. It’s magical, awe inspiring, the landscapes wow everyone, and it’s so casual. This time, though, you brought the kids and you’re now at a loss… What to do with them?

Well, when in Rome, so what the Romans do, and begin by asking the locals. And, if you’re just going to drag them along with no consideration for what they’d like to do, you’re going to end up with some really misbehaving children… And, I can’t blame the kids. How many gardens are they supposed to look at, while you’re swirling, sniffing, and sipping? Don’t think so, here’s a quick reading of how I had to handle four really misbehaving children… in one fell swoop. Just know, this isn’t the usual. The only reason I could manage this one is that I was the director of Androscoggin Day Camp, while in Maine.

Click for: Rumble, Tumble, Fumble, and Bumble

Meanwhile, back at the ranch… what to do.

You brought kids to wine country,

now what do you do with them?

Here’s my Top 10 list of what to do with children in wine country.

1 — WHERE TO STAY: at Safari West [above photo] if you’re going to be anywhere NEAR Napa or Sonoma.

  • Go on a safari and see animals that have been rescued and are now living on 400 acres of land.
  • Stay and glamp camp: no kidding, off the ground, on platforms, in luxurious tents.
    • After a tasting, you can dine at their outside restaurant, surrounded by rescued wild animals and birds.
    • Wake up to a cacophony of sounds… The bird sounds alone will astound you all.
    • Glamping, by the way… Glamping, all the way.

2 — Check out the region to see if there’s a children’s museum in the area.

3 — Movie theaters are a hit.

4 — Lakeside and local park visits

  • Get off the wine trail for a day.
  • Let them burn off some of that energy… and just FOLLOW them.
  • Don’t try to lead or you’ve negated the experience.

5 — Museums that are for the whole family.

6 — Go to San Francisco for a day, if you’re within 60 miles.

  • Alcatraz – BUT BEWARE – get tickets two to three months in advance… NO KIDDING.
    • If you don’t heed this warning, or you don’t have time to plan ahead, you CAN take a boat tour around the harbor, and it’s almost as much fun.
  • Exploratorium
  • de Young Museum (Fine Arts Museum) has outdoor sculpture to entertain the non-art-loving kids.
  • California Academy of Sciences (Aquarium and Butterfly pavilion in one location, besides everything else)

7 — Train Town in Sonoma (or something similar that’s local to where you are)

8 — Historic parks

9 — Driving balls at a local golf course.

  • That will release pent up energies for all.

10 — Pacific Ocean

  • Do NOT plan to go into the water.
    • You’ve been warned. Locals know better than to go in the water.
    • Sleeper waves take lives on what seems to be a regular basis.
      • Never EVER take your small children to the water’s edge, as inviting as it seems to be.
      • Beaches have warning signs for a reason.
      • Fly a kite and/or collect shells.




Top 10 intriguing things about Chile and its wines

Chile and its wines

  1. Chile has 460 Years of Wine Heritage
  2. When the Spanish arrived in the sixteenth century, there was no phylloxera
  3. Chilean vine rootstock (at the time) grew own-rooted, which turned out to be a valuable genetic material.
  4. This allowed Carmenere to thrive hidden among Merlot vines for over a century, even after its near extinction in France from phylloxera.
  5. Chile has llamas and ducks that roam vineyard rows, cleaning out intrusive weeds, while providing nitrogen to the soil.
  6. Chile is surrounded by four geographic barriers.
    1. North – Atacama Desert
    2. South – Patagonian ice fields
    3. East – Andes Mountains to the east
    4. West – Pacific Ocean
  7. It’s not the distance from the equator that is the dominant role in Chile, it’s its closeness to the Pacific Ocean or the Andes Mountains.
  8. Chile has much greater diversity in soils and climates from east to west, than it does from north to south.
  9. Geology:
    1. Soils are healthy and well-drained, with textures of loam, clay, sand, and silt
    2. Soils have a variety of origins. Examples are alluvial, colluvial, and fluvial
  10. Sustainability is far more than a catch phrase. It is also much broader than taking an ecologically sound approach to grape growing. It involves close attention to detail in each of the three components required for a healthy company: the environment, the people, and the economic bottom line. More about Chile on Wines of Chile.



Cabernet Day, I just had to finally jump in

This day, that day, Cabernet day, I’ve thought about doing a Petite Sirah day… How many days can you have in wine, when there are 365 days in a year. Portugal has over 500 different grape varieties that are indigenous, and Italy can boast even more? But… I’m in marketing, right? So I do see the the opportunity; but, I’ve just never jumped in, really. so much to do, so little time, so many interests that it’s almost mind boggling.

Credit has to be given to Rick Bakas. As a new wine marketer, he got together with fellow bloggers and they all tasted Cabernets (Sauvignon and Franc). This began the day, six years ago… He decided it should always be the Thursday before Labor Day, he hash-tagged it #CabernetDay; and since then, many people have gone along with the program. He sees Cabernet Day as the unofficial kick off to the holiday wine season.

So, this year, I turned a Cabernet corner, and decided to work with brands that I know, brands that have helped me to promote Petite Sirah. I know their wines, I know their consistency, I also know their integrity; not just the small artisan brands, but also the big corporations. The carry the burden of marketing Petite Sirah, our beloved PS I Love You variety… So, how about those Cabs?

The 6th Annual #CabernetDay Celebration

Here we go, in no particular order.

Stanton Vineyards Oakville currently has a non-vintage Cabernet Sauvignon available. The Stanton family has grown grapes in Napa Valley since 1947. They began making our own wine in 1999.

This current vintage of their Cabernet Sauvignon is 100 percent estate fruit. The vines have been in production since 1999, as the Stanton’s first vintage. This is very much an artisan, small production winery, with only 500 cases or fewer being produced each year. David Phinney is the winemaker. An interesting note is that their current release, from 2012, received 91 points from the Wine Spectator magazine.

Rock Wall Wine Company has a luscious Cab that they’ve created. First, a bit about Rock Wall Wine Company:

As an urban winery they’re ideally situated in Alameda, California. The winery has spectacular views of the San Francisco skyline, and more important is its locale. This allows the winemaking team to be regionally centralized – ensuring that whether Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, Zinfandel from Sonoma County, Petite Sirah from Contra Costa County, or Chardonnay from the Santa Lucia Highlands, the winemaking team is able to handle the fruit soon after it is picked.

Owner Kent Rosenblum was the very first person to Join PS I Love You, when Louis Foppiano allowed me to create the group. I was Louis’s publicist at the time, and the idea to start a group came to me as an insight, during Louis’s first Petite Sirah Symposium. Kent wasted no time, because he’s truly a marketing genius. He sees a vision and runs with it.

Las Positas Vineyards 2012 Estate & Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Livermore Valley AVA, Maier Winery is doing business as Las Positas Vineyards, just in case you see both names…  They bottled and produced two Cabernet Sauvignons for 2012: their Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, and their Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. The main distinction is that they have five different Cabernet Sauvignon clones that are 100 percent Estate grown, from their Kaltoff and Wetmore vineyards.  Both Cabs are aged for 22 months in French Oak and both have Petit Verdot & Malbec blended in, as complementary varieties.  Their Reserve is a combination of the best two clones (clone 6 and 191), and it’s from the best two barrels of those clones. It would be a fun experiment to have one of each Cabs, and taste them side-by-side, n’est ce pas?

BARRA of Mendocino Cabernet: Their 2013 BARRA of Mendocino Cabernet just won a gold medal at the Mendocino County Wine Competition The 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon is estate grown, organically farmed. Charlie Barra’s Cabernet Sauvignon vines are grown on the bench lands, above the headwaters of the Russian River in Redwood Valley, California. The vineyards were first planted in the early 1950s. It is still family owned and farmed today, with all of the BARRA of Mendocino Cabernet being estate grown and organically farmed. Only 500 cases were produced, making this a rare opportunity to taste Mendocino County’s Cab in very limited quantities. BARRA of Mendocino takes great pleasure in producing organically grown wines, something that ‘s very important to preserving the integrity of our environment.

Parducci Wine Cellars

Parducci has a very long history in Mendocino County. They were the third winery to produce a Petite Sirah, in fact. Concannon was first,  just two weeks later Chateau Souverain released theirs, and Parducci was next to follow. Their wines are very fruit driven and giving wine fans a great value for their wines.

  • 2013 Parducci True Grit RESERVE Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendocino County
  • Focused, Bold and Authentic wines from the longest running winery in Mendocino County

Clayhouse Estate Cabernet Sauvignon “Own Rooted” Paso Robles, Red Cedar Vineyard

Red Cedar Vineyard is the estate vineyard for Clayhouse Wines. It’s quite large, 1,500 acres, long and narrow (almost five miles end to end). It’s certified sustainable and is the source and inspiration for all Clayhouse wines. There’s an old adobe house on the property, built in the mid-1800s … that’s where the name “Clayhouse” comes from.

Within Red Cedar Vineyard there are isolated “own-rooted” blocks … meaning that the vines are planted on their own vinifera roots, rather than on phylloxera-resistant rootsock. Because these blocks are isolated within a large vineyard, they’ve survived, so far, without succumbing to the root-louse scourge of most California vineyard.

This own-rooted block is less well-known than our Petite Sirah, and even more isolated within Red Cedar. But from that block we bottle Clayhouse Estate “Own Rooted” Cabernet Sauvignon.

Miro Cellars

Hi Jo. Yes I make Cab for Miro from the newest appellation in SoCo- pine Mtn- Cloverdale Peak. Top of the Mtn at 2400 feet elevation. One of the first to put that on the label.

Miro’s wines are highly regarded by wine critics… Pick up a bottle and you’ll immediately know why.

2005 Ballentine Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Maple Lane $125 Retail $100 Wine Club Price

Only 18 Bottles Available!

Issue #219, June 2015, Review by Robert M. Parker, Jr., Rating 91, Drink 2015-2030.

This 2005 is a blend of 92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petit Verdot, aged 23 months in French oak (50% new). The family produced only 540 cases from their gravelly, loamy soil-dominated vineyard. This is a strong effort from Ballentine, with a dense, ruby/purple/garnet color and attractive notes of cedar wood and black currants. It is a fleshy, meaty mouthful of Cabernet with oak, tannin, and serious power and intensity. This is a stunningly impressive, big, muscular style of Cabernet Sauvignon to drink over the next 10-15 years.

You may also enjoy our current release Cabernet Sauvignon:

2012 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon $85 Retail $68 Wine Club Price

Only 30 Cases Left!

The 2012 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon was selected from our best performing section of vineyard in one of the best years in recent memory. We took careful measures to ensure only the properly mature fruit made it into this wine. This allowed us to achieve maximizied color extraction and tannin structure. The 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon was gently handled in the winery and hand punched down three times a day. Pressed off early to maintain fresh fruit vibrancy, this wine was aged in 100% new French oak.   This is a classic Napa wine and our Cabernet is full bodied and intensely smooth.  It packs in the favor and you’ll note black cherry, dark chocolate, coffee and spice amongst others.  This is a wine to drink now or to age over the next ten years.  Burgers, steak or stroganoff, Cabernet Sauvignon is your friend.

Vina Robles Vineyards & Winery, Paso Robles

Vina Robles’ motto is “European Inspiration – California Character”. The Swiss family-owned and operated winery crafts wines that represent a bridge between the Old and New worlds, capturing the finesse associated with European wines while celebrating the bold flavors of their estate vineyards in Paso Robles.

This includes employing traditional techniques that start in the vineyard and carry through into the winemaking as well as the experience when you visit their Hospitality Center or Amphitheatre. Paso Robles produces very bold, expressive fruit characters that are unique and somewhat different than Europe.  By balancing the wine and employing some tried and true traditional winemaking techniques, winemaker Kevin Willenborg is able to achieve a wine that reflects the terroir of Paso yet the balance, age-worthy structure and finesse associated with some of the best wines of Europe.