While planning our trip to Portugal, I met a sommelier in London from the Douro Valley who kindly offered to arrange the most indulgent wine adventure for us. In my experience, getting travel tips from a local results in more efficient use time and a more authentic experience. Even better, as the Sr. Sommelier for 67 Pall Mall, I know his wine recommendations would be exceptional! If you’re planning a trip to the Douro Valley, use this guide to plan your own personalized wine tourism experience.
Douro Valley is one of the oldest wine regions in the world, producing Port for over 2,000 years. It is located some distance upstream from Porto, which is definitely worth a visit as well. We stayed in Porto for 3 nights, but I’d recommend 4-5 to have enough time to explore the beautiful old town of Porto, port lodges of Vila Nova de Gaia and have a beach day in Montesinos. After you’ve had your fill of the city, head to the Douro Valley for fresh air, rolling hills and award winning WINE. The Douro winemaking region was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site for it’s historical significance in wine production and breath taking beauty. While the region is associated primarily with Port wine production, the Douro produces just as much table wine (non-fortified wines) as it does fortified wine. If you are into wine, you will love it!
- Day 1
- Day 2
- Scenery you find in the Douro is unlike anywhere else in the world. The valley is packed with terraced vineyards with hundreds of ancient grape varieties.
- Learning about Port and “table-wine” from centuries old wine estates gave us an incredible appreciation for Douro wines. This is a great place to dive deeper into wine education.
- The vineyards are picked by hand by local families who have been working in the valley for 5+ generations. We loved learning about the traditional wine production methods that are still in use today in this region.
- With great wine comes amazing food and Douro is no exception. The valley is peppered with Michelin-starred celebrities!
Graham’s Port Lodge (Porto)
- We started our tour at Graham’s lodge, one of the first Port companies to invest in its own vineyards in Portugal’s Douro Valley. Graham’s Port has more breadth and depth in their cellars than any other company. We found it fascinating that they make some of their Ports by traditional treading in stone lagares!
- We had a private tour which went deep into the Symington family history, giving us context to appreciate the wine and what the family has done for the region.
- The private tasting was amazing. My personal favorite was Graham’s 1994 single harvest. We enjoyed spending time in the luxurious tasting room, which felt like an old study.
- The view from Graham’s is exceptional as it gives you a view of both banks and several bridges. They are building an outdoor patio that will be a wonderful place to have lunch and take in the scenery of both Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia.
Lunch at Casa dos Ecos and Tour/Tasting at Quinta do Bomfim
- Casa dos Ecos is located on a ridge among the vineyards with a magnificent view of the Douro River at one of the Symington family’s Quinta do Bomfim estate – famous for producing Dow’s Ports. The pop-up restaurant is a unique space for people to experience authentic Douro culture in an casual setting.
- We had lunch at Casa dos Ecos with João Vasconcelos, Head of Sales for Symington Family Estates. This was the highlight of our trip as he had amazing stories from 15 years of experience and was a wonderful host. We soaked in all the information he gave us about the Douro and the Symington’s.
- The food created by Pedro Lemos (1 starred Michelin chef) was incredible and may have been the best of the trip. We had duck rice, chicken wings, pork ribs, bean stew and smoked cod, tomato salad and finished with a delicious Dow’s 20 year and creme brulee pairing. They are building new hotel and restaurant which undoubtedly will be amazing.
- After lunch we had to say goodbye to João and went on a tour of Bomfim with a tasting afterward. Our guide Elias had a great sense of humor and we enjoyed our time with him!
Dinner at DOC
- DOC Restaurant hosts 2 starred Michelin chef Rui Paula, known for his “historical laboratory” based on several generations of culinary recipes. The food is updated traditional, sprinkled with surprises and extra “bites” from the chef brought between the courses.
- Sadly we were so full from lunch that we skipped the tasting menu but chose some wonderful dishes that went well with the wine recommendations. I would love to come back here to get the full experience.
- The view was breath taking. It was magical to watch the hills change color as the sun set.
- When you make reservation, ask for the suspended terrace over the river. The effect is like floating on the water!
Boat ride with Pipa Douro
- Although we were enjoying the tastings and tours, it was nice to have a change of pace and relax for a few hours on a vintage boat ride.
- The boat was very comfortable and spacious. The privacy of our boat made it feel serene and helped us take it all in. Seeing the hills from the water gave us another way to appreciate the beauty of the Douro.
Tour/Lunch at Quinta do Crasto
- Quinta do Crasto is included in the Top 10 of the World’s Best Vineyards, awarded 8th place in the 2020. It also won the 2021 Best of Wine Tourism award for it’s Architecture and Landscape.
- We got a private tour of the vineyard and processing facility, which was extremely informative. Our guide was lovely and inspired us to come back sometime to witness the harvest
- The on-site vegetable garden produces beautiful food that was served with octopus for lunch. The wine pairings were wonderful and we really appreciated the choice of crisp and light wines as the day was warm.
- Pool was stunning, if we hadn’t enjoyed our lunch for so long we would have loved to have a dip!
Tour/Dinner at Quinta do Vallado
- Quinta do VALLADO is one of the oldest and most famous estates in the Douro Valley. Aside from it’s wines, it’s famous for a woman named Dona Antonia – whose independent spirit saved the vineyards from a vine disease that stopped all wine production in the 19th century.
- During the tour we loved learning about the way the grapes are moved by gravity and the history of Dona Antonia.
- We could have spent hours exploring the beautiful and lush grounds of the hotel. This is where I would book accommodations next time I’m in the Douro.
- Dinner of roast lamb was the perfect finish to our time in the Douro. Pairing the 2017 Reserve to go with a salty and fatty meat was just wonderful.
Getting around – Getting to the different wineries requires a bit of driving and the roads are very windy and steep so getting a private driver is recommended – especially as you will be drinking wine! We used Paulo (firstour.pt) who was amazing, always attentive, professional and kept us on time. Being from the region, he also shared interesting information during the drives! We said goodbye to him after dinner on Day 2 and took the train back to Porto the next morning. The train ride is incredibly scenic and sealed in the incredible experience we had!
With a driver arranged, you can schedule the tours/tastings/lunches yourself by booking through the links above. Alternatively, if you’re serious about wine and prefer private tours over group tours, visit firstour.pt to arrange a personalized luxury wine experience.
This trip was arranged through a friend. The content in this post is not sponsored or produced with through any promotional agreement.
Hope you enjoyed this summary! Comment or DM if you’d like additional information.