The Yeatman Hotel
Our first stop was the gateway to the Douro Valley, Oporto, where we stayed at the newly opened Yeatman Hotel. Unlike many of the other hotels here, it’s actually situated across the river from Oporto itself on the side of the Douro called Vila Nova di Gaia, where most of the major Port houses are located.
Each of the 82 guest rooms has a balcony or patio with gorgeous views of the city and the famous Eiffel-inspired Dom Luis I Bridge. What we appreciated just as much, however, were the huge rooms and bathrooms (a rarity in Europe, with peekaboo shutters, and separate full-size bathtubs and showers), plush king-size beds, Caudalie bath products, and high-speed WiFi, as well as flat-screen televisions with access to a host of international channels. We also had breakfast included in our rate, and enjoyed a lavish spread only outdone by dinner in the gourmet restaurant, where we tried local specialties like marinated grilled green asparagus with crispy goat cheese, wild rocket and Moscatel de Favaios wine reduction. True to its situation in the gateway to one of the world’s most famous wine regions, the hotel has an unparalleled collection of Port wines…and, of course, it has a Caudalie Vinotherapie spa as well. Rates at the Yeatman start at 154 euros ($215) a night.
Casa das Pipas at Quinta do Portal
The next stop on our Port perambulations was a winding two-hour drive from Oporto up in the hills outside the sleepy town of Pinhao, the “cradle of the Douro,” at Quinta do Portal. The winery here was designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Alvaro Siza. It also features a small B&B called Casa das Pipas, with 10 simple but comfortable rooms, free WiFi, and a pool surrounded by vineyards that is one of the most picturesque we’ve come across. Guests can tour local vineyards, take a turn at stomping grapes in the demonstration lagar, and dine at the small gourmet restaurant, where we had specialties like partridge with parsnip puree paired with wines and Ports from the winery’s cellar. Rates here start at 100 euros ($140).
Quinta de la Rosa
We made our back to Pinhao the next day to stop at a small family-owned winery called Quinta de la Rosa, where we tried some of the pioneering Douro DOC still wines (i.e., not fortified), as well as the Ports they make here, and enjoyed a lazy lunch of fresh fish and local cheeses on the bougainvillea-shaded terrace, a walk through the riverside flower garden, and a snooze by the small pool. We didn’t get the chance to stay in one of the seven cozy double bedrooms, but we peeked in to check out the fresh, whimsical paint job and the new furniture, which made it feel like stepping back in time to a provincial Portuguese village inn.
Instead, we spent that night a little farther west at Quinta Nova, set among vertiginously terraced gardens with stunning views up and down the river. The name belies the age of this historic property, whose restored buildings actually date back to the 18th century.
This is another full working winery with a larger guest house attached, and features a gourmet restaurant, several sitting areas both indoors and out, a full bar, and even an onsite chapel for weddings. Just beware, there’s only one internet-connected computer here, and no WiFi. Guests can sample the wines and other food products like olive oil and jams (tried the honey fig!) in the tasting room or over dinner, while most seemed to spend the days hiking the vineyard terraces and relaxing by the pool. Rooms are fairly large with twin or double beds, all-marble bathrooms (with REN products), and rates here start at 126 euros ($175).
Quinta da Pacheca
Our final stop was west, back on the way to Oporto, just outside the town of Regua. Family-owned and operated Quinta da Pacheca was one of the pioneers of making Douro DOC wines in the region several decades ago, and has since restarted its production of fortified wines as well, with respected winemaker and co-owner Maria Serpa (she teaches winemaking at the University of Tras-o-Montes in Vila Real) at the helm.
Like the small yet sophisticated restaurant (we had bacon-wrapped filet mignon as well as fresh coriander soup), the boutique hotel’s 14 rooms are spare in a design-focused yet colorful way, and we settled into our spacious room, washing up with the L’Occitaine soaps, then hopped into the fluffy king-size bed and sent a few emails on the high-speed WiFi before falling asleep.
Hey, that’s what happens when you finish dinner with a glass (or two) of Port.
Full disclosure: Eric Rosen traveled to Portugal as guest of the Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e do Porto, but all opinions expressed are completely his own.