Being in the wine biz has its perks, however small. Thanks to Frank Mc Donald, my new BFF who imports Portuguese wines into Denver, we got to tour the Aveleda Winery in northern Portugal. It is about an hour train ride outside of Porto and has some of the most beautiful grounds to be seen at a winery. Founded in 1870, Aveleda has been around for a while and is still family-owned. They are famous for their Vinho Verde, which means green wine for its freshness and lively flavors. Sadly, the white and some rose Vinho Verde’s are the only ones that make it to Denver. The red wines are outstanding, as are the spirits or Aguardente as they call them. (Brandy or literally fire water to us!)
Aveleda is one of the largest wine producers in Portugal. As a leader in the Vinho Verde region, it exports more than half of its production to 70 different countries worldwide. They also make Casal Garcia Vinho Verde, which is the most sold Vinho Verde in the world. The Casal Garcia arm of the company was established in 1939 when a French oenologist happened to stop by to see the vineyards at Aveleda on his way from the Douro wine region to Porto. Aveleda’s owner Robert Guedes was very forward-thinking and planted his vines by varietal in the French style. This caused Mr. Eugenie Helisse to stop and demand to meet the owner of the vineyard. Long story short, Mr. Guedes hired Mr. Helisse as his new oenologist. (For more on this story see: http://www.casalgarcia.com.)The gardens at Aveleda.
We arrived at the train station in Penafiel and were met by the lovely and talented Marling Espejo, who chauffeured us to the winery. What a beautiful and bucolic place! We toured the grounds for about an hour and were wowed by the natural beauty of it. Verde was the operative word with hobbit houses strewn about throughout. There were chickens, dogs, peacocks (and peahens, of course), and little black goats that had their own three-story hobbit house! I felt that we might fall down a rabbit hole ala Alice in Wonderland at any moment! Or maybe see actual hobbits!
After seeing the barrel room where the spirits are aged, we went to the main house for lunch. OMG, this was a luncheon fit for a king or queen. The three of us sat down to a formally clothed table and were served by a woman who was sure that we should be eating a lot more than we did! (Which reminded me of my time in Italy.) The food was outstanding (you seeing a theme here)?! We started with a vegetable and cheese quiche followed by a fresh cod casserole dish in a mouthwatering sauce served with potatoes, carrots, and green beans. Yes, there were seconds all around.
Each course was paired with a different wine, and we finished with a glass of 12 year old barrel-aged aguardente paired with port filled chocolates (More about those later.) Gastronomic bliss, I tell you! Can you say, stuffed like a Christmas goose?! Splendiferous is a word that comes to mind. After lunch, we got to see the distilling room and tasted the first run spirit. It was dangerously delicious. One small sip per customer, please! From the spirits room, we made our way back to the parking lot, and Marling returned us to the train station. Everyone was so gracious that we can’t wait to return! And, of course, the wines and spirits are outstanding. If you are ever in Porto, a trip to the Aveleda winery is a must!