Alentejo Wine Tour

Portugal wine region

Alentejo wine region

Last summer we were fortunate enough to visit Lisbon, Portugal, as part of my husband’s work trip. It was my first visit to Portugal and the surrounding wine country. While I do drink a fair amount of French, Italian, and domestic wine, I had almost no exposure to wines from Portugal. Because of a compressed time frame, I decided a wine tour made the most sense for us to try several different wineries and specialities of the Alentejo region.

It was a great day touring with The Best Portugal Wine Tours. Armando was a wonderful, entertaining host and very knowledgable about the region. If you only have a few days and want to maximize your time, I would recommend a tour with The Best Portugal.

These are a few experiences that really stood out for us:

Dona Maria

Dona Maria is located in the city of Estremoz and dates back to the beginning of the 18th century. While the estate and chapel dates back to the 18th century, the wine is produced from an adjoining vineyard with a heritage that dates back 150 years. Dona Maria produces Alicante Bouschet, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petit Verdot, Aragonês, and Viosinho among several others. I brought home the Dona Maria Grande Reserva which was excellent! One of the most interesting features of the estate that I had never seen personally was a marble wine storage room where grapes are allowed to soak and drain naturally  into containers. I still don’t know how the marble looks that pristine!

Dona Maria Estate and chapel

Chapel

Dona Maria Chapel

Dona Maria production room

Monte da Ravasqueira

Monte da Ravasqueira estate is located in Arraiolos and has been linked to one family for several generations. Monte da Ravasqueira offers a wide variety of affordable, high quality wines from Petit Verdot, Nero d’Avola, Sangiovese, and Alvarinho to sparkling and liqueur wines. The estate also produces olive oil, honey, cork, cattle, and has an impressive carriage driving museum.

Ravasqueira estate

Monte da Ravasqueira estate

wine tasting

Wine tasting at Monte da Ravasqueira

A Cadeia Quinhentista

For lunch, we stopped at a very unique restaurant in Estremoz located in a 16th century jail house. We had a multi-course lunch with salted cod and other local dishes along with….more wine of course! It was one of the food highlights from our entire trip to Portugal and I would recommend a stop if you are in the Alentejo region.

restaurant in Estremoz

A Cadeia Quinhentista

Outside of A Cadeia Quinhentista

We hope to go back to Lisbon this fall for a quick visit. Do you have any other favorite wine regions in Portugal?

 

 

 

Advertisements

Off the Beaten Path: Perissos Vineyard and Winery

A few weeks ago, my husband and I decided to get out of town. It was hot, downtown was swarming with people for the Austin Food and Wine Festival, and we were fed up with chores and renovation projects. Taking a drive out to the Hill Country for wine tasting was the perfect escape!

I did a little research and stumbled upon a boutique winery just outside of Burnet, TX. I didn’t want to go to the more popular wineries in Fredericksburg, or Driftwood. I wanted to get off the beaten path and find the cute, charming wineries. You know, the kind where the owners are talking to visitors and various animals are running around the property; the kind of place you want to stay all day because it feels like home.

Perissos Vineyard and Winery

Perissos Winery

Perissos is a ancient Greek word from the Bible meaning “exceeding abundantly, beyond what is expected, imagined, or hoped for”. I think that is a fitting name for this lush, healthy estate. With plenty of seating inside and outside, this is a great off the beaten path option for those that want something a little different!

The main building houses a beautiful tasting room, barrel storage, and wine making facilities. The large stone structure was built by the owner, Seth Martin, a former custom home builder and self taught wine maker. We were able to chat with him for a few minutes as he was taking a break from the day’s work. He was super friendly and told us about the crop he just harvested, difficulty of the previous years water shortages, and life as a wine maker and farmer. It was obvious he loved making wine and had such a passion for it. He wanted visitors to explore and spend time on the estate. Everyone working there made us feel at home; even the farm dogs and chickens wandering through the picnic tables and tasting room!Perissos Estate

Now, I have to admit, I don’t normally drink Texas wine unless I’m out wine tasting. Most of the flavor profiles just don’t do it for me. I like big, bold, and serious. Texas wine is more light and playful. However, I did find the 2012 Petite Sirah and 2012 Roussanne to be absolutely fantastic. The Petite Sirah is 100% estate grown while the Roussanne is sourced from Bingham and Oswald Family Vineyards in Meadow, Texas. The two wines couldn’t be more different, but I thought the fruit and minerality of the Roussane and the structure of the Petite Sirah were fascinating. I ended up with a bottle of the Sirah to take home. Now all I need to do is figure out what to make with it. Any suggestions?

Wine

 

 

 

Austin’s Friendliest Wine Bars

SXSW is here! As all of Austin’s guests arrive, downtown is transformed into a crazy web of people, events, and pop up eateries and bars. It is going to be a hell of a ride this year since I work for a company that participates in SXSW. If you are looking for a fun, friendly, and Austintacious wine experience  check out my favorite places to grab a glass!

My guide for the coolest and friendliest wine bars is based on different criteria than you typically find in other guides. These are places that I hang out at regularly (ok, A LOT) and love the energy, people, and the overall experience. I judge these places based on friendliness of staff, inviting/fun/quirky spaces, and a decent wine/food selection. Some do not have the most high end wine selection, but I don’t want them too. I enjoy the vibe and people so I pick places that represent all that makes Austin the best place to live in Texas. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

1. Max’s Wine Dive
Max’s Wine Dive located downtown is one of the best places to grab a glass of wine. Don’t sit at a table. Grab a chair at the bar before the dinner rush hits and the bartenders are more than happy to chat you through their wine list in addition to any speciality wines that may be open. I always ask about the ‘day old’ wines that have been opened they are selling at a reduced price. If you go on a Wednesday or Thursday evening prior to their weekly shipment there are usually really interesting wines open they will let you try as well. Who doesn’t like awesome wine for a great price?! Everyone that works there has always been super friendly and very knowledgable. Added bonus: Max’s Fried Chicken. 

Max's Wine

2. House Wine
House Wine is a fun, quirky wine bar located on Lamar and Josephine not too far from downtown. I’ve spent many a night in coffee houses so House Wine brought back the nostalgic feeling of the “early days” of Austin where you could sit on the patio for hours and read. It is a great place to hang out with your friends, significant other, or on your own if you need some quiet time. Cool and comfortable, HouseWine offers small plates of cheeses, olives, and desserts.  The last time I was there they had a cheese plate/bottle of wine special for $50. Great deal! Added bonus: Make-your-own-s’mores plate.

3. East End Wines
East End Wines is actually a wine store located in a historic home on Rosewood Ave in East Austin. With a vast array of wine to choose from you can find economical wines along with high end and rare wines. The great part about East End Wines is they go out of their way to help you pick the right bottle as well as introduce you to new wine. Very friendly and knowledgable (see a theme?) Because you are buying the bottle retail, you can afford to spend a little more and try something different. They also host free wine tastings on Friday afternoons  from 4pm-8pm. If you would like to enjoy the bottle on the patio (and try Raymond’s food truck), they will uncork the bottle (for a small fee) and provide the glasses. Added bonus: Three Little Pigs food truck. Best meatloaf and collard greens EVER!

Wine and Food

4. Red Room Lounge
Red Room Lounge has been around for about a year and a half now and used to be the best kept secret downtown. However, I think the secret is out because the last time I was there it was packed! Red Room Lounge is a cool, laid back, basement lounge with a diverse wine selection at all price points. I like that I can enjoy a less expensive, but still high quality, bottle of wine or I can splurge and order something luxurious. With a somewhat obscure entrance and a basement descent, you may think you stepped into Prohibition era bar. That is why it is one of my favorite places in town. I can sit for an hour, have a wonderful glass of wine, and breath. Added bonus: Bill Elsey, one of Austin’s hottest, award winning sommeliers, is usually around to walk you through the wine list.

Red Room Wine

5. Uncorked
Uncorked was one of the first wine bars I started visiting when Austin’s food and wine scene was still young. Located on East 7th Street just off I-35 in a historic house, Uncorked offers great food, wine, and a view that is one of the best in town. I have consumed many a glass of wine on that patio while I waited out Austin’s crazy evening traffic!  You can order wine flights, glasses, or bottles from a country specific wine list. Tentative wine orderers are put at ease using the winedex tasting guide. Each wine has a series of symbols that describe the type, body, and style. If you have any questions or hesitations they go out of their way to explain the wines and let you try a sample before you order.  The local cheese and charcuterie boards as well as the truffled mushroom risotto are also wonderful. Added bonus: The amazing patio!

UnCorked Wine

Limoncello Raspberry Basil Sparkler

Lemon cocktailWhat do you do with an entire container of limoncello and free afternoon? Mix cocktails, of course! While limoncello is lovely to sip on its own it also makes a great base for craft cocktails. I also wanted to incorporate some sort of wine product and just happened to have a bottle of Prosecco in the wine fridge. To compliment and balance the sweetness of the limoncello, I added basil (my basil plant is going crazy right now!) and gin. If you do not like raspberries, blueberries can be used for this recipe.

What are your favorite limoncello cocktails?

Limoncello Raspberry Basil Sparkler

  • Prep Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 5 raspberries
  • 2 leaves of basil
  • 2 ounces limoncello
  • 2 ounces gin
  • Ice
  • Prosecco

Directions:

Muddle the raspberries and basil together in a cocktail shaker.

Add the limoncello, gin, and ice. Shake for 30 seconds.

Strain into a cocktail glass ( I used a highball glass) and top with Prosecco.

Relax and WineDown!

Food and Wine Process Map

Steak and red, seafood and white, dessert and….Food and wine pairings are so confusing that sometimes one needs a process map to figure it out! I thought it would be fun to create a visual process map (yes, I am THAT nerdy) using different combinations. I help groups visually describe their processes so it isn’t surprising my work follows me home! (Process maps are also good to use for recipe planning. It helps organize thoughts into coherent ideas.)

I don’t always pair the “appropriate” wine with food because I like experimenting. Food and wine can be analytical and unpredictable at the same time, but that is part of the fun! Try fried chicken and Champagne, a la Max’s Wine Dive, or a fresh garden pizza and Rose. You might be surprised what works for you.

What is your most creative food/wine pairing?

Food and wine process map