Portland’s TOAST 2014: Come sip artisan distilled spirits

The largest artisan spirits revival of America- TOAST 2014

The largest artisan spirits revival of America- TOAST 2014

The growth of local distilleries in the state has skyrocketed in the last few years. With a food-centric focus on locally made, artisanal products, this rapid progression in the world of spirits is no surprise. Fortunately the Oregon Distillers Guild coordinates an annual TOAST event for all the spirit aficionados in the Portland area.

With over 30 producers pouring handcrafted whiskey, rum, gin, vodka, tequila, brandy and liqueurs, everyone will have their sip of choice. Craft spirits from Oregon and beyond will be available to try and purchase at theTOAST event. Make an evening of it by hitting the Food Cart Court with several different options to suit all palates.

Ted Pappas, President of the Oregon Distillers Guild, says “This year we will have multiple events throughout the greater Portland area highlighting local distillers along with some of our outstanding restaurants leading up to the event. It’s the first step to transforming our event from a few days to a week of activities.”

So whether you like it in a cocktail or drinking it straight, distillers from across the state and beyond will be sharing their handcrafted wares. Celebrate the start of Spring with some food cart fare and a sampling of locally made spirits at TOAST 2014 on Friday and Saturday nights.

Who: Oregon Distillers Guild

What: TOAST 2014

Where: Two World Trade Center, 121 SW Salmon Street, Portland, OR

When: Friday, April 11th from 5-10pm & Saturday, April 12 from 4-8pm

How: Pre-purchased tickets are $20 for either day and can be bought at the door for $25. Get your tickets today at www.oregondistillerytrail.com/TOAST2014. Tickets include single day admission, interaction with over 30 spirit producers, taste spirits from around the world, and a tasting glass, while they last.

Click here for a map to TOAST 2014

Parking: $5/day at the World Trade Center underground parking

Guest post by Michele Francisco:  Michele Francisco has over 18 years of marketing experience, with almost four years in Oregon’s wine industry. She hails from California, where she earned a B.A in English from UCLA and spent much of her free time tasting wine around the state. Michele completed her first year of law school at Santa Barbara College of Law but after tasting a Pinot noir from Oregon, she finally “got” Sideways and decided to move north in search of exceptional wine.

Originally posted on the Portland Examiner.com 

The Rise of the Craft Beer Revolution

Double Mountain Brews from Bend, Oregon

Double Mountain Brews from Hood River, Oregon

Tell me if this doesn’t completely entice you to want to drink a beautifully crafted Oregon beer:

“Welcome to a place where the water runs pure and clean, from snow-capped mountaintops through lush green valleys. A place where hops grow in such abundance, their harvest is celebrated each autumn by beer makers and beer lovers alike. A place with a metropolitan area that has more craft brewers per capita than any other place on earth. Is it a dream? No. It’s Oregon, home to Oregon Craft Beer. And we’ve been waiting for you.”

This was brought to you by the Oregon Craft Beer Guild.

Oregon is home to over 136 brewing company operating in 61 cities across the state. Did you know that in Portland alone, there are 54 breweries—and over 70, if you include the entire metro-area?  Portland has beat out Cologne, Germany, for the highest number of breweries per capita and has become the Microbrew Capital of the world.  For my German husband, this revelation is a serious blow to his ego.  Good thing for us, we live in Oregon!

Well, if you haven’t heard of Oregon beer, it is time to pay attention. Oregon is home to craft-brewing pioneers such as Deschutes Brewery, RogueHopworks Urban Brewery, Santiam Brewing, Widmer Brothers BrewingMcMenamins, and Full Sail Brewing Co.—all of which make incredible beers that are well worth the trip to visit.  Oregon craft brewers make a wide range of beer styles, so there is always going to be something for you.

Given all of this, it is not surprising that Portland has been chosen as the first place for the launch of the film CRAFT this Thursday, April 3, 2014, at the Hollywood Theatre in Portland.  It will be the first of a multi-city tour; click here for more information on upcoming stops in Denver, Fort Collins, Austin, Oakland, and San Diego.

If you are new to the craft beer scene, this film follows a Cicerone (a beer expert— Cicerone is to beer as Sommelier is to wine) by the name of Craig Noble on his coast-to-coast once-in-a-lifetime journey, from his start as an apprentice at a farm brewery, to his beer schooling in Vermont and then to the development of his own farmhouse ale recipe.  This documentary film also takes a look at how breweries are taking on the mandates of quality, creativity, and integrity expected in this industry and the passion required by the people behind these hand-crafted beers.  Enjoy the trailer!

I am just now discovering all there is to offer in this great foodie-and-beverage capital of the Pacific Northwest.  Local is what is supported here, and Oregonians are very loyal to all things local. Furthermore, if your local brewery is putting on something that supports local causes (as Santiam Brewery supports the local Humane Society), Oregonians will be there.

From start to finish, the beer making process

From start to finish, the beer making process

Visiting Oregon soon?

If you are coming to visit Oregon, make sure to save the dates of upcoming events in the area:


April  3            Widmer Brothers Pub Grand Re-Opening in Portland

April 3             CRAFT Film Launch at the Hollywood Theatre in Portland

April 18-19      20th Annual Spring Beer & Wine Fest at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland

April 25-27      10th Annual Brew Fest at Oregon Gardens in Silverton


May 2-3          Cinco de Micro Brew Fest at the Salem Convention Center in Salem

May 16-17       Brewer’s Memorial Ale Fest – 8th Annual in Newport (Rogue)

May 23- 31      Central Oregon Beer Week  in Bend

May 30-31       Cheers to Belgian Beers in Portland


June 21           Eastern Oregon Beer Festival in La Grande

June 2-29       10th Annual North American Organic Brewers Festival at Overland Park in Portland

July- Oregon Craft Beer Month

July 23-27       27th Annual Oregon Brewers Festival at the Tom McCall Waterfront Park in Portland

If you are looking for great events in your own neck of the woods, visit the Beer Advocate for more information.

A few of my favorite local Brewers

Come support some of the local Oregon Breweries. If you aren’t in the area, take note of these great places, and add them to your Must Visit list!

There are a few of my favorite places:

Hood River

Check out this great page for more info on all there is to offer in Bend: BeerMeBend

Pacific City

Brewery Tours in Portland

There are tours for everyone here in Oregon. Choose your own adventure below:

Enjoy and drink safely! Cheers!

About the author: April Yap-Hennig

April Yap-Hennig is a wine lover and marketer with 12 years of experience in International Marketing and Communication in Europe and the United States, and with life experience also in the Caribbean and South America. She holds a Masters in Viticulture and Enology from the University of La Rioja, Spain, an MBA from Purdue University, and B.A. from University of Utah. She is also a Certified Wine Sommelier from the International Wine Guild in Colorado.  April was born in Utah, raised in the Dominican Republic and Ecuador, and has lived and worked in The Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, and Spain. Her love of wine started when she studied in La Rioja, Spain, during her undergraduate studies. This is where she fell in love with the country, the region, the people, the culture, and, finally, the wine–thus changing her life and eventually her career.

She is now the co-founder and owner of Epicurean Media, a beverage-and-food artisan public relations and marketing consultancy; she also founded and writes the Sacred Drop Channel at www.sacreddrop.com. She is forging a new future in Oregon with her husband and their hilarious French bulldog, Guapo.

Check out her websites:www.about.me/aprilyaphennig,  www.sacreddrop.com, and www.epicureanmedia.com.

Unique Portland: The creation of the Urban Winery and Restaurant: Cyril’s at Clay Pigeon

As part of my Unique Portland series on things that make Portland strange, different, and wonderful, I had the chance to sit down with Sasha and Michael of Cyril’s at Clay Pigeon Winery for an interview about how to bring two passions together into one location. Learn here all about Sasha and Michael and their adventures in creating a successful Portland Urban Winery and Restaurant: Cyril’s at Clay Pigeon.

Sasha, a self-proclaimed cheese BFF (best friend forever), and Michael, a wine connoisseur and now winemaker, have created a great place. Clay Pigeon, an urban winery run by Michael in Southeast Portland, specializes in Pinot Noir and Syrah wine from this great state of Oregon. Cyril’s, run by Sasha, is the restaurant, wine bar and tasting room.

Michael started Clay Pigeon originally in their basement in Portland; when they found the right space, they moved the winery to where it is today on Oak Street, on the other side of the wall from Cyril’s.

Michael and Sasha have even created a great video themselves about their passion:

The Fixe Lunch Special

The Fixe lunch of your dreams! Eggplant Involtini with a glass of Bourougne Chardonnay.


Make sure to check out Cyril’s Fixe lunch menu, which is priced at $14-$18 for a three course European-style lunch. You choose whether you’d prefer a glass of wine with your meal or whether perhaps you’d rather have a sweet finish with a delectable dessert. Check back every week as the menu changes.

This is comfort food to the extreme. You can’t help but leave here with a full belly and a content heart.  Cyril’s is open Monday through Friday for lunch, and it is open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday.Clay Pigeon Winery Syrah 2012

Because we live in this phenomenal foodie town, there is a time, once a month. when over 30 top-notch restaurants offer varying three-course meals throughout Portland for a mere $29 per person. Cyril’s is also a part of this great culinary event.

While you are at Cyril’s, I would highly recommend tasting their Sunshine Salad and cheese boards and enjoy a glass of Michael’s very own Clay Pigeon 2012 Syrah.  At this link you will also get a chance to view the bottling of this beautiful Rogue Valley Syrah.


Cyril's Dining Room

Where you can kick back and relax: Cyril’s Dining Room


Where to find Cyril’s at Clay Pigeon Winery:

815 SE Oak St (@Sandy), Portland, Oregon

Phone: 503.206.8117
Hours of Operation:
M: 11.30-4P
T-TH: 11.30-9P
F: 11.30-10P
S: 4P-10P

For more information: visit Sasha and Michael at www.claypigeonwinery.com/ and www.cyrilspdx.com.

Follow Sasha and her passion for food on Twitter @CyrilsPDX

Follow Michael and his adventures in wine on Twitter @ClayPigeonWine



About the author: April Yap-Hennig

April Yap-Hennig is a wine lover and marketer with 12 years of experience in International Marketing and Communication in Europe and the United States, and life experience also in the Caribbean and South America. She holds a Masters in Viticulture and Enology from the University of La Rioja, Spain, an MBA from Purdue University, and B.A. from University of Utah. She is also a Certified Wine Sommelier from the International Wine Guild in Colorado. April was born in Utah, raised in the Dominican Republic and Ecuador and has lived and worked in The Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and Spain. Her love of wine started when she studied in La Rioja, Spain during her undergraduate studies. This is where she fell in love with the country, the region, the people, the culture, and finally the wine. Thus changing her life and eventually her career.  She is now the co-founder and owner of Epicurean Media, a beverage and food artisan public relations and marketing consultancy as well as writes for the Sacred Drop Channel at www.sacreddrop.com. She is forging a new future in Oregon with her husband and their hilarious French bulldog, Guapo.

Check out her websites www.about.me/aprilyaphennig and www.epicureanmedia.com.

FoodWorx, the Future of Food: Part II

FoodWorx PDX is an annual conference focused on how the world of food is evolving and the challenges involved in this evolution.  As laws change, as people change, as cities change, the world around them changes. This is part two of the conference regarding food insecurity, Chefstable, and My Street Grocery.

Dana Gunders of the Natural Resources Defense Council threw some hard-hitting facts at us.  I was stunned to learn that in the United States one in six people are food insecure.  What does “food insecure” mean? It means that on a daily basis, approximately 16 percent of Americans do not have access to food and are therefore hungry or in fear of starvation. On top of that, did you know that 40 percent of the food in this great nation is not eaten?  I was astounded by this fact.  That means that on your plate, you will eat 60 percent of your food, and the rest will be wasted while there are one in six people starving.  Dana pointed out, “If food waste were a country, then it would rank 3rd in Green House Gas emissions.  This food is actually the number one contributor to landfills, and because of it creates an incredible amount of methane.“

Did you know this simply means the food is at it's peak and not an expiration date?

Did you know this simply means the food is at its peak and not an expiration date?

Another interesting fact is that the size of a standard cookie has quadrupled in size since the 1970’s.  Again, compared to the 1970s, Americans waste 50% more food than they did back then.  So what can we personally do to remedy these issues of food waste?  Dana’s recommendations were the following: 1) create a shopping list and plan your meals;  2) avoid the massive bulk purchases;  3) use your freezer to store additional meals;  4) learn your labels and really know for a fact when your food is bad (the “Best by…” label simply means that the food is at its peak, not that it should be thrown out);  5) stop demanding perfect food—an incredible amount of food is thrown away for simple imperfections in color.

Following Dana’s talk came Kurt Huffman from Chefstable, discussing what sells and what doesn’t. Chefstable was created to allow chefs to focus on what they are good at—their passion, which is food—and not on running the business. He emphasized three principal components of making a restaurant “hot:”  1) Environment, creating a space that is comfortable;  2) Service, which is what is most written about;  enthusiasm is key, because, in Kurt’s words, “ it is better to be an enthusiastic idiot” than just an idiot;  3) Product–Yes, product is sadly the least important but still necessary.  Kurt then went on to talk about what investors look for:  1) Team—what they are really investing in; 2) Neighborhood—does it make sense;  3) The story—what is it. and is it likely to draw others;  4) The risk—because 90 percent of investments fail, are they willing to lose their money?

The conference concluded with some stunning storytelling videos by Rob of GLP Productions and an inspirational mobile grocery concept by Amelia Page of My Street Grocery aimed at providing fresh food access to all.

Rob Holmes, founder and chief storyteller of GLP Productions, talked about the four key elements of storytelling. Every story must have a purpose, a location, a journey, and a character. He used several videos to demonstrate each of these aspects. The one that I enjoyed the most was the emphasis on the key character of a story.  He or she doesn’t have to be a CEO; the key character just has to be a person who is authentic and easily relatable, and who has a great story to tell.


Amelia Page, a young twenty-something, came on stage and talked about the fact that over 23 million Americans don’t have access to fresh food, creating food deserts.  Her solution?  It was to create a mobile grocery truck called My Street Grocery, which visits these food deserts and provides neighborhoods with a chance to buy local, seasonal fresh food at reasonable prices. She uses this as a way to educate people on food as well as to help them with planning their meals through meal kits that cost approximately $2 to $3 per serving. This enables people to eat healthy without having to rely on unhealthy food alternatives such as fast food restaurants. She started in Portland and hoping to expand this to other food deserts in the United States.

Overall, this conference was a very interesting and eye-opening event in which I was motivated to “heed my call,” eat at home more with local food, and waste less, and, when I feel adventurous, visit and support the local food vendors in Cartopia.

Thank you for joining me. For more information on the event visit: http://www.foodworxconference.com/

April Yap-Hennig is a wine lover and marketer at heart. She is co-founder and owner of Epicurean Media, a beverage and food artisan public relations and marketing consultancy as well as writes for the Sacred Drop Channel at www.sacreddrop.com. For more information on April, please visit her website www.about.me/aprilyaphennig and www.epicureanmedia.com.

Foodworx PDX, the Future of Food: Part I

Imagine being a person with a dream, a dream to one day do something you love, and imagine that your dream is to be the owner of a food cart or maybe of a restaurant?  If what I am describing sounds like you or someone you know, then you should have been at this conference.


FoodWorx PDX is an annual conference focused on how the world of food is evolving and the challenges involved in this evolution.  As laws change, as people change, as cities change, the world around them changes. I met people of various backgrounds—from tour operators like ForkTown Food Tours, to food truck managers like Koi Fusion, to hops soda makers like Portland Soda Works—all of them with the dream of capturing the attention of the people of Portland.

Forget basketball, forget soccer.  Think food. “Eating is our biggest sport in Portland,” stated Erik Wolf of the World Food Travel Association, “Food tourism starts at home.”

What better home than Portland to start exploring your backyard?

I moved to Oregon from Spain and was so surprised by the number of food carts and the abundance of selection Portlandia people had. While at this conference, as a relative newbie, a friend of mine, Bee Talmadge, owner of The Spicy Bee and manager of Koi Fusion, stated, “You haven’t been to Cartopia?”  No, I have not yet been to Cartopia. I’m guessing I need to go. Just in case you are a relative newcomer to Portland, it is on SE 12th and Hawthorne Blvd and is the land of the best food carts in Portland.


The Power of “And”

Given that there is a demand for great food at reasonable prices, there are “cartrepreneurs” and other food-related entrepreneurs springing up everywhere in Portland. David Hewitt of the Meriwether Group just wrote a book, Heed Your Call, to support all those who are seeing guidance. His book talks about how “human values can be expressed through business.”  With his wife, David initially launched Oregon Chai in 2004 and had tremendous success of bringing together two people, one with a dream (right brain—hers) and one with a business mind (left brain–his). He emphasized the importance of the “Power of ‘And’.”  This Power of And theory stresses that you need to be all three: an Operator, an Exec, and a Founder. By being creative and being logically minded, you can create a successful business.

Gregg Abbott, owner of Whiffie’s Fried Pies and head of the Oregon Street Food Association, talked about the new consumer demand by an educated constituency that demanded “novel food experiences.”  He said that the Portland food carts scene has created a drive back into city centers. More and more cities with downtowns want the formula to duplicate this incredible economic driver.  This is easier said than done.  The Portland food cart phenomena is due through the convergence of ideas, opportunity and demand—all factors that need be readily available to recreate Portland’s enormous success.

Perhaps Portland’s success has also been this overall drive back to all things sustainable.  By “sustainable,” I mean local, wholesome, homemade, and economical.  Food that is created, as Lisa Schroeder of Mother’s Bistro states, “from squeak to wag.” Food made the way it was before the 1900’s when people used to eat slow-cooked meals at home that were made with love. We are now facing a wake-up call where the cost of exotic foods has gone up with the cost of gas, where fine dining is just too expensive, where climate change is affecting our food supplies and where industrial agriculture is affecting our health. There is a return to the old ways in Oregon, where there is a demand for food markets and microproducers. People are raising their own backyard chickens and pickling their own vegetables. This is the start of the “Locavore” movement and perhaps a return to our great grandmother’s cooking.

Stay tuned for Part Two on food insecurity, My Street Grocery, GLP Films, and Chefstable next week.

For more information on the event visit: http://www.foodworxconference.com/

April Yap-Hennig is a wine lover and marketer at heart. She is co-founder and owner of Epicurean Media, a beverage and food artisan public relations and marketing consultancy as well as writes for the Sacred Drop Channel at www.sacreddrop.com. For more information on April, please visit her website www.about.me/aprilyaphennig and www.epicureanmedia.com.

This was also posted on www.winerabble.com .

Unique Portugal: An interview with the venerable Tony Smith

I had the chance to sit down with the venerable Tony Smith of Lima Smith Lda., which owns Quinta de Covela and Quinta da Boa Vista of northern Portugal.  This was a unique opportunity to sit down with this former editor, previously based in the UK, of Conde Nast  and discuss how he went from being a editor to the owner of these prestigious properties in the Douro River Valley.  Tony went from living in São Paolo, Brazil (population: 58 million), to São Tomeo (population: 681). In the interview, he talks about his experience with this change as well.

The Covela Boys: Gonçalo Sousa Lopes, viticulturist, Rui Cunha, winemaker, and Tony Smith, partner, at the end of the 2012 harvest

The Covela Boys: Gonçalo Sousa Lopes, viticulturist; Rui Cunha, winemaker; and Tony Smith, partner; at the end of the 2012 harvest

Lima Smith Lda. is the brain child of Tony Smith and Marcelo Lima. They both initially purchased Quinta de Covela through an auction in 2011. They later went on to purchase Quinta da Boavista, a former Offley estate from Sogrape Vinhos, in 2013, and also took over the Quinta das Tecedeiras brand.

I had the opportunity to visit Quinta de Covela and stay on the estate. It had the most gorgeous views of the valley and was situated in the middle of the Vinho Verde region of the Douro River Valley. The estate has 70 hectares, with approximately 20 hectares-49 acres of vines under production, with another 50 hectares available to plant. Right now their current production is about 100,000 bottles—8,333 cases of 12 bottles—annually.

Quinta de Covela 3

Dating back to the 1500s, the estate was formerly known as Casa de Covela, where, to this day, the ruins of the old stone Renaissance manor home still remains. The estate went on to belong to various owners, but in 1980s it was acquired by the businessman Nuno Araújo, who created the brand Covela. In 2007, Casa de Covela gained the classification as a bio-dynamic producer, which at the time was above and beyond what others in the region had done. Unfortunately, the estate was later abandoned, and when the property was first purchased in 2011, it was in disrepair and in need of a little TLC.  After two years of neglect, Lima Smith picked up the winery and, resurrecting it, refocused it from 50/50 red-to-white production to 20 percent red and 80 percent white under the direction of renowned winemaker Rui Cunha.

Rui had been involved in the original project back in 1992 and later returned to help revive this beautiful property; he also has a consultancy and makes his own wines through Secret Spot. Rui made the decision to return to help rebuild Covela because he could finally make the wines he always wanted to under the new ownership. When he came back to Covela, he was able to make a single variety wine out of the Avesso grape variety, which has now gained national acclaim. This grape variety wine turns out to be one of my favorite Vinho Verdes.

Wine Notes: Avesso 2012 Edicion Nacional. Covelo- first vintage.

Sold out (Unfortunately!)

Covela Vinho Verde 2012 Avesso

Covela Vinho Verde 2012 Avesso

It has a touch of baked goods with a crisp lemon-lime mouth; it is dry and delicious.

Price:        $16.

Importer:  David Boland

The winery has sold its wines mainly in Portugal in the past, but its focus for the future is to sell 40 percent of their wines nationally and sell 60 percent internationally, first into 3 new markets opened this past year: US, Brazil, and Germany, with plans for three other new markets.


In recent news, Quinta de Covela was just awarded the Trophy of “Best Viticulture” at the annual 2014 gala of “The Best of the Year” organized by Revista de Vinhos magazine.  This is one of the most prestigious awards of the wine and gastronomy industry in Portugal. Congrats!

For more information on Quinta de Covela, visit www.covela.pt/en

This concludes my series on Portugal. Next up is Portland and the urban winery movement as well as additional regions of interest in Oregon. If there is something you are interested in learning about tweet me @SacredDrop or leave a comment below.

Thanks for joining us!  Make sure to sign up to receive notifications of newest posts by email.


Unique Portugal: An interview with Quinta de Leda Winemaker- Antonio Braga

In a recent trip to the Douro River Valley, I had the honor of sitting down with Antonio, the winemaker of Quinta de Leda of Casa Ferreirinha. Young and affable, this winemaker tells us about the grapes of the Douro Valley and a bit of the history of the estate. Casa Ferreirinha is owned by Sogrape Vinhos.

For more information visit on Quinta de Leda, visit http://eng.sograpevinhos.com/regioes/…

You will also find more information on Portugual and the beautiful Douro River Valley visit the rest of my website for more information.

Welcome to the Valley of Gold: Douro, Portugal

The Douro River Valley has steep and twisting canyons that have been sculpted over the years into terraces by hard-working farmers. The birthplace of port wine, the Douro River Valley was demarcated in 1756 by the Marquis of Pombal and is one of the oldest regulated wine regions in the world.  It is also one of the most beautiful regions in the world to visit. Indeed, this spectacular region was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2001. It’s not surprising, given the history and beauty of this place. I was rendered speechless by the majesty of this region, this valley of gold, and what it has to offer.

While there are numerous theories on why this region was called Douro, the name might be traced to the Celtic god of water Durius, or perhaps to the phrase “De ouro,” which means “gold” in Portuguese. Either way, this region is a region of many riches and experiences to be had.  While this valley is known primarily for its port wine, it is now starting to be recognized also for its high-quality table wines.  All of these wines come from the terraced vineyards of Portuguese grapes, such as you can see in the photo below.

The Douro River actually begins in north central Spain, where it is called Duero; it then flows from there to Porto, Portugal, where it is called Douro.

How to get there: As you can see from the map below, the easiest way to get to the Douro River Valley is actually via a flight from Lisbon to Porto.  Then you can travel by boat or train to Régua or Pinhão, the two most popular cities of the Douro River Valley.

Plan on spending at least two days in this beautiful valley. Port wine enthusiasts will likely want more days to visit all the beautiful Quintas (country inns or estates) along the river. When planning your trip from Porto, it is about two hours in car, or two to three hours by train, to the cities of Régua or Pinhão. It is advisable to visit during the week, since weekends in the summertime may be quite busy.

 GLPWorldwide.com Map of Enticing Douro

Where to visit: Quinta de Covela- S. Tomé de Covelas Covela My recommendation would be to take the train from the São Bento station in Porto directly to Régua. While in Régua, stop off and visit the Vinho Verde region of the valley. Visit Quinta de Covela, where some of the best tasting Vinho Verde is made. (The direct translation of vinho verde is “green wine,” otherwise known as white wine.)  Under the management of Mr. Tony Smith, part owner of Quinta de Covela, and renowned winemaker, Rui Cunha, Quinta de Covela has come back from near ruin to prosperity.  Their award-winning wines are making strides in the wine world—in particular, their Covela Escolha Branco 2012, and my personal favorite, COVELA Edição Nacional Branco.  This last wine is made with 100% Avesso grapes.  I had the pleasure of enjoying their wines and their beautiful Quinta this past fall. I even had the chance to go running with the Covela dogs, Teddy, Alef and Spot, through the small towns of Portinha and Covelas. Stay tuned for my interview with Mr. Tony Smith.

Quinta de Napoles- Niepoort Winery in Santo Adrião Niepoort, while well-known in Portugal for their high-end quality Ports, their modern still wines are stunning. I have yet to have a Niepoort that I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed.  This beautiful Quinta de Napoles is situated in the town of Santo Adrião and has a brand new facility with state of the art equipment and a spectacular view of the valley. If not for the wines, come for the view.

State of the art facilities at Niepoort.

State of-the-art facilities at Quinta de Napoles of Niepoort

What to experience: 

One of the most beautiful times of the year to visit this region is during harvest, usually around September of each year.  If you happen to visit during this time, I recommend taking a three-hour boat river trip along the Douro River, starting in the morning to mid-day, and departing from Pinhão.  You can take the train back to Regua and spend the evening at Quinta Sta Eufêmia, where you can experience grape stomping in traditional lagares (a large, typically stone trough in which grapes are stepped on and pressed, separating the grape skin from the pulp to create must, grape juice).

When I first came here with the University of La Rioja as part of my master’s program in viticulture and enology, I left with unforgettable memories, including wading in grapes while dancing to accordion and drums at Quinta Santa Eufêmia Winery in the Douro River Valley. Take a look!

Quinta de Vesuvio- W.J. Grahams of Symington Family Estates

I had the pleasure of studying under Pedro Leal of Symington Family Estates and experiencing harvest in the Douro River Valley for the 2011 Vintage at one of the most prestigious and well-known Quintas, Quinta de Vesuvio.  The 2011 Vintage is now known as one of the best years for wine in general, as well as the best Vintage year for port wine.  I was honored to be a part of the punch downs of the Tinta Roiz (also known as Tempranillo grape varietal) while I was there.  Watch this:

Where to eat:

While there are plenty of great places to eat, one of my most memorable and exquisite experiences was at the Restaurante DOC- Rui Paula in the town of Folgosa, located off Estrada Nacional 222:

tel.: +351 254 858 123, e-mail: doc@ruipaula.com.

Every small plate was paired with a regional wine. Needless to say, there were many glasses of wine and many, many memories to pair it with.

Here is an example of their version of Terra/Mar or Surf and Turf.  All I can say is that it was one of the best meals I had ever had in my life.

If all of this isn’t reason enough to visit, I don’t know what is.  Time for you to add this beautiful valley of gold, the Douro River Valley, to your list of must-see places!

Note:  It is highly recommended to call or e-mail for reservations at this world-class restaurant.

If you are interested in having me lead you through a tour of the valley to a number of unforgettable Quintas in the Douro River valley, please contact me to discuss options.


My Favorite Portuguese Wines

Here you will find an ongoing list of my favorite Portuguese wines. Most of these wines are from the Douro River Valley of northern Portugal, but there are plenty of other regions of this great land I have yet to discover.  (Alentejo, for example, is one region I’d like to explore.) Portugal is one of the regions of the world with an amazing selection of wines at reasonable prices. If you can get your hands on some of these wines, especially 2011 Vintage Port, consider yourself very lucky. I’ve enjoyed every single one of these wines and wouldn’t have posted about them unless I had enjoyed them. To learn more:

Vintage Charts:

To learn more about the Douro River Valley, stay tuned, because this is the next article in my series on Portugal.  Chin Chin!

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Learn the basics of Port with Oscar of Vinhos Oscar Quevedo

In my recent trip to Porto and then into the Douro River Valley, I had a chance to sit down with a good friend, Oscar Quevedo. He teaches us the basics of Port 101.

Oscar’s family owns and runs Quevedo Port Wine, which you can visit in Porto, Portugal. His Port Wine Cellar is located across the riverfront of Porto, in Vila Nova de Gaia.

For more information, visit their website at Quevedo Port Wine.

Chin Chin!

Make sure to check out the most recent posts on Porto and Port wine on Sacred Drop.com

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Port wine, the nectar of the regular folk

We have champagne to thank for the evolution of what we now know as modern day port wine. In the late 17th century, champagne became known as a modern wine and was incredibly popular with the British and, of course, with the French. According to legend, a Benedictine monk, Dom Pierre Pérignon, pioneered quality changes for champagne and declared, of sparkling champagne, “I am drinking stars.” It wasn’t until later, after his death in 1715, that subsequent changes in production technique following his initial invention caused drinking champagne became the height of fashion in Paris and Versailles. Because it was so limited and nothing like it had been made before, the people who purchased it were invariably rich. This left little for everyone else.

When France and England went to war in the late 17th century, the English boycotted French wine and soon began buying their wine from Portugal. Due to the Methuen Treaty of 1703, Portuguese wine could be imported into England at a third less duty than other wines. This lead to an influx of Portuguese wines into the English market. 1

The first port that was initially made was coarse and cheap, sold as an alternative to claret wine. Port was first introduced to satisfy the tavern market of the English. In 1717, the first trading post was established in Porto. The city of Porto, with its many wine cellars or adegas in Vila Nova de Gaia, has long served as the main export port for port wine. This is where the main production and export of this fortified wine has taken place over the centuries.

Port wine, also known as Vinho do Porto, is a Portuguese fortified wine from grapes grown in the Douro Valley of Portugal. Traditionally, after the grapes are picked, they are placed in Lagares, which are these large open stone basins where the grapes are trodden by foot or by a wooden stick. While the grapes are fermenting, they create must, which is grape juice. The sugar in the must is then converted to alcohol.  When the must has reached about 6-7 percent alcohol, it is then fortified by the addition of a neutral grape spirit known as aguardente (a type of brandy). This simultaneously stops the fermentation process and stabilizes the wine. By stopping the fermentation before it is has completed, there is little residual sugar left in the wine, and a slightly sweet wine results. However, with the addition of the neutral grape spirit and residual sugar, there is an increase in alcohol as well as sweetness.

The first port wines produced were made with dry wines, meaning that the fermentation process had already run its course, leaving no residual sugar. This is what we would call a Dry Port. However, the traditional dessert wines that many know today are made with sweeter wines; thus when fermentation is stopped, residual sugar remains, giving this fortified wine the sweetness and potency we now enjoy.

Port wine is quality protected and monitored by the Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e Porto (IVDP). In 1756, the Douro Valley, where port wine is produced, was established as a protected region or appellation, making it one of the oldest demarcated and protected wine region in the world.

The Douro Valley has hundreds of varieties of grapes, but there are five key varieties widely cultivated and used in the production of port: Tinta Barroca, Tinta Cão, Tinta Roiz (Tempranillo), Tourigua Francesa, and Touriga Nacional.

Ports from Portugal can be divided and then subdivided into numerous categories. There is port that undergoes “reductive” ageing, which are wines aged in sealed glass bottles. A second main category is port wines that are matured in wood barrels—a process known as “oxidative” ageing. The port wines that possibly interest you most are the Rubies and Tawnies that you have likely heard about and maybe already tried.

Tawny Port is wine made from red grapes, aged in wooden barrels known as pipas. This process exposes them to gradual oxidation and evaporation. They are generally nutty in flavor and a golden brown in color. They can be aged for 10, 20, 30, and 40 years. In the image below, you will see what we call Colheita.

Colheita is a tawny port of a single vintage, instead of an age indication of 10, 20, or other years. Rather, it has a specific vintage year mentioned. Below you will see there is a Colheita of 1998 that is still in barrel. Colheitas can spend 20 or more years in barrel before being bottled and sold.

Ruby Port is among the most popular of port wines produced. These wines are generally stored in concrete or stainless steel to prevent oxidative ageing and to protect the beautiful ruby color common to these wines. Rubies are generally blended to be consistent in color and flavor. They are fined and cold filtered. They tend to be somewhat fruitier on the palate and in some ways fresher. A Ruby isn’t generally a port that will improve with age.

Vintage Port is a wine that is made entirely from the grapes of a declared vintage year by the individual Port house. Vintage ports represent approximately 2% of overall port production. While some perceive producing port wines labeled as vintage ports as a way to increase revenue by naming every year a vintage (or as some perceive it, a great year), the decisions to label certain port wines as vintage port are not taken lightly, and many reputations hang in the balance here. Vintage ports are aged in barrels for a maximum of two and a half years before bottling and then require another 10 to 40 years of ageing in bottle before they are ready to be consumed. Since they are aged in barrels for less than three years, they still retain a dark ruby color and a substantial amount of freshness. It is recommended to consume a vintage port wine within a few days of opening it, and it should be treated like a normal wine.

2011 is an example of  a phenomenal vintage- many wineries have released their 2011 Vintage Ports. I would highly recommend getting your hands on Vinhos Oscar Quevedo Vintage Port 2011, which was awarded 96 points by the Wine Spectator this month.

Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) is generally a port wine that was destined for bottling as a vintage port, but which, due to lack of demand, was left in barrel longer than planned. These port wines are generally bottled four to six years after the vintage year. Some are filtered; others are not and require decanting. The wine is ready to drink when it is released.

Calem Port Tasting- Bottom Row: Left to Right- 30 yr White Port- 40 yr Tawny – 1940 Colheita – 2011 Vintage Port

There is, honestly, so much to learn about port, and there are even white and rose port wines available as well. Port wine is extremely flexible as a wine/spirit and can be used to make mixed drinks as well.

Two good friends of mine, Ryan and Gabriella Opaz of CataVino, told me about a phenomenal White Port and Tonic drink. Such a drink would be a great intro to enjoying port wines, especially on a hot summer day. I found a recipe online by For the Love of Port with a great recipe to try.

How to make a Port and Tonic:

What you’ll need:

  • Bottle of Dry White Port (such as Taylor’s Chip Dry, Fonseca Siroco, etc.)
  • Tonic water
  • Fresh mint leaves
  • Ice cubes

In a tall glass, place 5-8 mint leaves and then top off with ice cubes. You can add more or less mint depending on your taste preference. Then add in equal parts White Port and tonic water and stir.

Chin Chin!

And stay posted for an interview with a port wine producer from Vila Nova de Gaia—coming soon!

1 Work Cited: Inventing Wine: A New History of One of the World’s Most Ancient Pleasures, by Paul Lukacs; W. W. Norton & Company (December, 2012)

Porto, the Gateway to the Douro Wine Region

Porto, formerly known as “Portus Cale” by the Romans, latin for Port of Cale, is now known as Oporto (The Port) by the locals following the Reconquest in AD 1000.  This city is full of Old-World charm with its red-tiled roofs, soaring bell towers, extravagant baroque churches, and stately buildings tumbling down the hillside to the River Douro (Rio Douro). Porto is one of Europe’s oldest centers and was registered as a World Heritage site by Unesco in 1996.

Oporto of "Portucale"

Porto of “Portucale”

Fun fact:  Did you know that Porto put the “Portu” in Portugal? In AD 1000, after the reconquest of Portugal from the Moors, the city’s name was made the name of the new country,“Portucale.”

I personally love the beauty of this town, and on my first real visit to this town, I marveled at the historical and modern significance that it had on the wine industry. Porto is famous for its export of Port wine; however, this region has so much more to offer than just Port wine.  Indeed, Porto is a vibrant city with amazing food and culture.

A little wine history of Porto:

While it is thought that grapes have been grown in Portugal for over 4,000 years, it wasn’t until the 14th century that Portugal really became known for its wine trade with England.  This wine trade later expanded in the 17th century to other countries such as Scotland and the Netherlands.

Port Wine Basics:

Port wine, also known as Vinho do Porto, is a Portuguese fortified wine made exclusively from grapes from the Douro Valley in northern Portugal. It is typically a sweet red wine that is often enjoyed with desserts or cheeses. There are now many different types of port: white port, rose port and the traditional red port.

Before I delve into everything port, I want to talk about Porto.  I’ve covered Port wines in this article.

The city of Porto:

Porto—or Oporto, as I like to call it—serves in many ways as the historical and cultural gateway to the stunning Douro River valley. It is worth it to stay a few days here before setting off into the Douro river valley.

Porto is a compact city with rolling hills, so be prepared to walk up and down quite a bit. I would recommend a great pair of walking shoes. As I visited the city, I created an “Oporto Must See List” which I saved on my Foursquare account. (I love using this tool because it maps it all out for me and as people provide me with recommendations, I add it to my list and can find it instantly.)

Ribeira of Porto looking over at Vila Nova de Gaia at night

Ribeira of Porto looking over at Vila Nova de Gaia at night

Porto is technically divided into three parts:

Ribeira, which is Porto’s riverfront center with a gorgeous view of all the Port wine houses across the river in Vila Nova de Gaia. This is a stunning neighborhood with great riverside restaurants and outdoor patios. It can be very touristy, so be prepared to look at menus and pricing first before sitting down. If you are a runner or a walker, you can run all the way from the port at the river’s edge inland as well as out to the sea along a busy road. I would recommend going early in the morning before the traffic picks up.

Places to visit:

  • Palácio da Bolsa, R. de Ferreira Borges 55, next to the Church of St. Francis —This stunning building is a must-see.  It  has some lavishly decorated rooms, including the Arabian room, which was inspired by Granada’s Alhambra.

Place to eat:

  • Bacalhau Restaurant—This tiny little place is hidden on Rua de Cima do Muro Bacalhoeiros 153. It is right on the river, and they offer some great dishes of seafood and in particular Bacalhau, also known as dried and salted cod, the nation’s national dish. They also have a great wine menu. You can sit outside or inside, but the views are worth waiting for a table outside.  +351.960.378.883


The Historic Sao Bento Train Station

The Historic Sao Bento Train Station

City Center, which is located directly up from Ribeira, on the top of the hillside.  I would consider this area to be a more realistic and less touristy area of Porto, especially if you are considering doing some shopping.

Places to visit:

  • Sao Bento Train Station, Praca Almeida Garret: This train station, opened in 1916, is still in operation.  The entry hall to the train station is covered in over twenty thousand vivid blue “azulejo” tiles, showing the historical and folk scenes of the Douro River region; the tiles were painted by Jorge Colaco in the 1900s. Throughout northern Portugal you will be able to find beautiful blue “azulejo” Portuguese tile that you can take home as a souvenir.
  • Clérigos Church and Tower, Rua S. Felipe de Nery:  Are you interested in seeing the beautiful city from above?  If so, brave the 225-step climb to the top of this towering landmark of Porto. Afterwards, stop over at the Clérigos Vinhos & Petiscos for a small bite and great wine.

Places to eat and drink:

  • Bella Doce Praça Almeida Garrett 11, is a great place to sit down and enjoy some of the local pastries and amazing coffee at a phenomenal price. At less than a Euro, you can enjoy a beautiful shot of espresso.  It is located directly across from São Bento Train station and has white umbrellas covering the outdoor tables. The entrance has a white awning.  It is also directly behind the large green magazine kiosk and by the entrance to the São Bento Metro stop.
  • Clérigos Vinhos & Petiscos, Rua das Carmelitas, 151, is a cute wine bar that offers a really good selection of Portuguese wines and aperitifs. It is located in the middle of this very modern-looking outdoor mall with outdoor and indoor seating.  I went in the middle of the afternoon, after lunch and before dinner, and enjoyed a small three-bite nibble and spent 3 euros for a Reserve glass of Douro wine. They serve regular-size meals for lunch and dinner.
  • Café Aviz, Rua de Aviz 1, is a great no-fuss cafeteria where you can get a reasonably priced meal. I’ve heard the francesinha, which is a sandwich made with a number of different meats, roast beef, different sausages and bologna, then covered with melted cheese, and a beer-and-tomato sauce. It is then topped with an egg at some places and served with French fries.  Be aware, it is a heart-attack type of meal but I would rather eat this than food at the millions of fast-food restaurants you now see. Click on this link for a fellow traveler’s experience with the Francesinha.

Vila Nova de Gaia

Now that you’ve stuffed yourself with this amazingly dense sandwich, let’s walk back down the hill and across the river to the Port wine center, Vila Nova de Gaia.  This is arguably one of Porto’s main tourist attractions, the port-wine cellars (Caves do vinho do Porto). The Douro can be crossed by any of the six bridges that connect the two sides of Porto together. If you are walk as I would imagine you would after the Francesinha, cross via the Ponte Dom Luis I. The metro runs above it, and the cars and pedestrians can cross on the lower level directly from the Ribeira water front.

Vila Nova de Gaia has always played a very important role in the history of the port wine business. All port wine that was to be exported outside of Portugal, had to first pass through Gaia. It would travel from the Douro Valley, almost 100 kilometers, approx.. 62 miles down river to Gaia, where it would be stored and aged before it was shipped out. This is where you will find a number of port houses that are definitely worth a visit. Here are a few of my recommendations.

Places to visit and taste:

Quevedo Port Wine Lodge, Rua de Santa Marinha, 77, Vila Nova de Gaia: This family-owned port wine business was officially founded in 1991, but the history of the land and the family goes back even further. The Quevedo Vineyard is located in João da Pesqueira, a small town in the heart of Douro Valley, where they make still wines as well as port wines.  Oscar, the most well known and recognized member of the family, acts as the face of Quevedo. He is also the member of the family whom you are likely to see in the tasting room, while his sister, Claudia, the winemaker, is generally out in Douro making the wine.  Oscar explains how port is made. I personally love his accent. Enjoy:

W. & J. Graham’s Lodge, Rua do Agro 141, Vila Nova de Gaia: W & J Graham’s was founded in 1820 by the Graham brothers from Scotland. The lodge itself was built in 1890, where you can now visit, taste, and tour the amazing facilities. I would highly recommend visiting this great lodge. W & J Graham’s now belongs to the prestigious wine group, the Symington Family, along with CockBurn’s, Warre’s, and Dow’s.

Porto Calém, Av. Diogo Leite, 344, Vila Nova de Gaia: Calém is the closest port lodge to the bridge and therefore makes it a great beginning or end stop. Established in 1859, Calém is one of the oldest port houses in Vila Nova de Gaia. In 2006 and 2008, they won the Best of Wine Tourism award for their architecture and wine tourism services. They offer daily tours and hold a number of events throughout the year. Since 1998, Calém is now a part of Sogevinus Fine Wines S.A., which also owns Kopke, Barros and Burmester.

Given that you’ve probably already drank quite a bit of port at this point, the only option is return to the City Center or go across the river and enjoy the night life and great food Porto has to offer. While I haven’t had a chance to visit all these places, I would recommend checking out my “Oporto Must See List” on Foursquare for more recommendations given to me by fellow travelers and locals.

After visiting Oporto for a few days, make sure you make it to the Douro River Valley. Stay tuned for a series of stories on Portuguese wine and travel.

Chin Chin!

Seasons of the Vine in La Rioja

A single wine estate, such as Finca La Emperatriz, is beautiful, especially when the clouds roll in. The colors of nature naturally come forward and create this beautiful contrast.  We are currently in the time of year, while unpredictable lately, goes the saying, “April showers, bring May flowers!”

In this case, the month of April, in La Rioja brought the much needed rain, especially important at this period of time for the growth of the vine. At the end of January to the end of February, the pruning was done and the old branches/canes were removed. This was done to optimize the production potential of the grape vine. As Finca La Emperatriz is located at the outer most edge of Rioja Baja at an altitude of about 570 meters above sea level, the weather is cooler here and is influenced not only by the Continental but the Atlantic and Mediterranean winds that converge here.  This altitude, weather and rocky soil causes the vines to bud later than the rest of Rioja Alta.

Taking this into consideration, this is also an advantage due to climate change. As the weather throughout Europe and the rest of the world, goes up, locations in higher altitudes and generally cooler climates will benefit from a cooler summer than other wineries located in areas such as Rioja Baja. Right now, you can see the differences in growth states of the vine.

Right now, it is fascinating to see the differences not only in trellis style but in where the vines are located around the estate. We are currently experiencing 4 different stages of growth at the winery as of 25 of April, 2012 and 5 different stages as of May 2, 2012.

Dormant Bud Crying-  Stage 0

Dormant Bud Crying- Stage 0

Stage 0: Dormant

The buds are closed and there is no indication of growth. In this image, we have just pruned it and it is “crying” and the sap has begun to flow through the vine and begins to come out of the cuts where we have pruned it. The buds are almost not apparent.

Swollen Bud and Bud Break- Stage 2

Swollen Bud and Bud Break- Stage 1 and  2

Stage 1: Bud Swelling

The buds on the vines in Goblet or Bush style, a very traditional trellis system in La Rioja, are either dormant or just now starting to swell.Bud Burst/ Bud Break- Stage 2

Stage 2: Bud Break- Bud Burst

This is when the leaves from the buds start to swell and emerge, still maintaining a slightly rounded shape. In the above image you get a chance to see bud swelling and bud break. The Bud Break or bud Burst is on the top right of the image above.

Here in this image, you can clearly see the leaves starting to come forward out of Bud Break/Bud Burst. It is somewhat in Stage 2 and 3.

Leaf Emergence- Stage 3

Stage 3: Leaf Emergence

Leaves are now recognizable and the shoots are starting to photosynthesize. Here you can see they are starting to open up.

Stage 4: Shoot Growth
1 to 3 inch shoots with 1 to 3 small leaves at right angles to the stemMore leaves become apparent as the shoot elongates. At this point, it is very important that the temperature does not fall below freezing. Any frost at this point could potentially jeopardize the crop yield.

The vines furthest from the River Oja are already starting to enter the 4th stage, which is called Shoot Growth.

Stage 5: Flower Cluster Emergence

Shoot Growth- Stage 4

Shoot Growth- Stage 4

-          4 to 8 inch shoots with 3 to 6 leaves there is also flower cluster emergence.

Others in more clay like soils are actually already into Stage 5 where the clusters are starting to show.   I will have to go out into the vineyard one more time so I can upload the picture. Stay tuned!

Written by April Hennig of www.sacreddrop.com.


Have you ever wondered if you could plant a grape seed and from it, a vine would grow?

Normally, this is something that as curious children we do with seeds.  In fact, I believe my father has some grape vines outside his home that were planted in this exact way.

Yes, technically, you can grow a vine out of a grape seed; however, the grape produced will be different from the grape you consumed in order to obtain the seed. As two parents produce a child that is a blend of both, the same thing would happen here with the seed being the child.

Grapevines are grown from vine grafts. The primary reason for this is is due to the Phylloxera outbreak that originally started in France in 1863 and later spread throughout Europe. Because of this, French enologists and viticulturists came to La Rioja to plant vineyards, initiating the wine industry in La Rioja. However in the late 1890s, Phylloxera had crossed the Pyrenees and invaded this grape-growing region as well.

Phylloxera, originally native to eastern North America, is a pest of commercial grapevines worldwide. Phylloxera was introduced to Europe when avid botanists in Victorian England collected and imported specimens of American vines in the 1850s. Because Phylloxera is native to North America, the native grape species there are at least partially resistant. By contrast, the European wine grape Vitis vinifera is very susceptible to the insect. These almost microscopic, pale yellow, sap-sucking insects, related to aphids, feed on the roots and leaves of grapevines. Phylloxera attacks only the roots.  After employing numerous other methods to try to kill and exterminate this “bicho” (insect), viticulturists found it was simply a better solution to live with it than to struggle to find a solution to kill it.

This is where the idea of using grafts of an American vine began.

Grafting is a horticultural technique whereby tissues from one plant are inserted into those of another so that the two sets of vascular tissues may join together.  In most cases, one plant is selected for its roots; this plant is called the stock, or rootstock. The other plant is selected for its stems, leaves, flowers, or fruits; this plant is called the scion. The scion contains the desired genes to be duplicated in future production by the stock/scion plant.

In the case of Phylloxera, the solution was grafting a Vitis vinifera scion onto the roots of a resistant Vitis American native species (Vitis Riparia, Vitis Rupestris or Vitis Berlandieri), as you can see in the two images below. Afterward this graft is usually covered in wax to seal the graft. These are then sold, and viticulturists will then plant these rootstocks in the ground—and this is where today’s European grapes come from.