Quinta do Crasto
|Quinta do Crasto estate hilltop|
The sun setting behind the hills that make up the Quinta do Crasto estate.
|Check out that view over the Douro River|
As we arrived at Crasto, we took in the stunning views of the vineyards and the Douro River below. Driving up to the estate we saw in full view the renowned Maria Teresa estate vineyard that produces what is to me the best wine produced by Crasto. When we arrived we met Andrea, head of hospitality at Crasto, who was one of our favorite people we met during our trip to Portugal. Disarmingly friendly, funny and a great host, Andrea seemed like a long lost sister that was taking care of her family while we were under her care. She showed us around the estate and that was where we came across the most magnificent infinity pool I have ever seen. There was a beautiful patio that was just off the back of the home with a long communal table that seemed to be the perfect setting for leisurely dinners and lunches with guests, friends, and family.
|Andrea, our amazing host at Crasto and Miguel our steadfast guide.|
We made our way inside to the dining room to get started with the wine tasting. We tasted our way through a good portion of the Douro 2012 white wine, 2011 Crasto Superior, the 2010 and 2004 Old Vine Reserva, and the epic 2007 Maria Teresa which is made from 100 year old estate vines. As is tradition in the Douro, we finished the tasting with a port, the 2008 LBV to be exact.
|The Maria Theresa vineyard just below the estate buildings at Quinta do Crasto|
We were having a great time during our tasting, learning about the different vineyards Crasto owns, production methods, and the history about the Roquette family and the Crasto property. Andrea was asking how we liked our trip so far and where we had been eating lunch and dinners. Andrea asked me what our dinner plans were the next day. Miguel mentioned we were going to the CS Vintage House and Andrea hinted that may not be the best choice for us. So since we were at the Crasto dining room table as a joke I said, “well, we could always just come here instead”. Without flinching Andrea opened up her calendar book and lucky enough for us the schedule was clear the following evening and she said that would be fine. I said to Andrea “You know I was kidding, right?” Well, she was not kidding. Andrea told us she would double check with the staff to be sure the schedule was fully clear and if so to come back the next day to swim in the infinity pool and enjoy a meal at the table out back with some of the great Crasto wines. Thankfully that was the case and by the next morning we had confirmed our evening plans with Andrea.
|Tasting grapes in the vineyard.|
After the tasting we took a glass with us and headed into the vineyards. We got into the soil and terraces and since the fruit was so far advanced, we were able to taste a few of the different grape varieties. It was amazing to taste the same grape variety from different vineyards and have them taste so differently. Conveniently the sun was setting and we got some great photos of us in the vineyards. Funny enough we had our own paparazzi with Andre and Miguel manning the cameras. The last time we had this kind of camera attention was our wedding.
|Barriques in the lagares and stacked off to the side.|
|Fermentation and blending tanks.|
|The new barrel room, all walls, columns and stacking structures are black.|
|Racking barrels in the new barrel room.|
|The estate home at Quinta do Crasto.|
As we were making our way to our first appointment Miguel got the call from Andrea that we were good to go for dinner that evening at Crasto. The day was set and now ready to unfold perfectly. After our Quinta appointments that day, we got to Crasto around 6pm, just in time to see the sun set and for a quick dip in the pool. Our new best friend Andrea greeted us with a warm smile and made us feel right at home. We quickly changed into our swim suits and made our way to the most amazing of infinity pools I have ever seen. The pool was fresh water and had a refreshing chill to it to enliven the senses. I really think it made the delightful bottle of the Crasto white that Andreas opened taste even better. Refreshing and clean, the Crasto Branco had excellent citrus fruit notes, minerality with excellent acidity and freshness. As we sat pool side and sipped the wine, Andrea brought out a spectacular platter of appetizers that we happily devoured. We nibbled on Roasted Marcona almonds from trees planted around the estate property, some local cheese, as well as estate olives, crusty bread and a slew of mixed bites. If we were not careful we would fill up before we made it to dinner. Once the sun started to make its way down, it cooled off so we made our way back inside freshen up for dinner.
|The amazing infinity pool.|
|Fresh ingredients for dinner that evening.|
|The family style dinner table,|
My favorite of the tasting was also one of my favorite wines we had the entire trip, a single varietal Touriga Nacional bottling from 2005 that was absolutely spectacular. Some bottle age, exuberant fruit, good structure from the ripe and silky tannins and some lively acidity lent this wine a regalness not seen often by those outside of Portugal. It’s hard enough to find the current vintage of this wine, never mind one 8 years old. However it is well worth the time and money to seek out a few bottles.
Below are the tasting notes for the wines we tasted during our first visit to Crasto.
2012 Douro Branco
Made from traditional Douro white grape varieties Gouveio, Roupeiro and Rabigato, this wine was pale straw in color; waxy lemon notes, flowers and a touch of honey in the nose. The palate is fresh, clean, stony and chalky, with bright citrus lemons.
Crasto Superior 2011
Made from Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, and Sousao, this wine has a very dark core. The Sousao grape is a red fleshed grape that contributes to that additional depth of color. It spends 1 year in 2nd use French oak barrels. Blackberry, black cherry, licorice, Asian spices, and meaty notes rise from the glass. Fresh and clean, there is good depth, medium+ tannin, with a long and persistent finish for the class this wine lives in.
2010 Riserva Old Vines
The Riserva was open for 2.5 hours when we tasted it. Crafted from vines averaging 70 years this is a classy and elegant wine; beautiful, with great persistency and balance. This is an outstanding wine of aristocratic nobility. Impeccably balanced, fresh and long in the finish. Black cherry, creme d’cassis, and subtle oak notes meld well in the palate. The flavors stretch on for what seems a very long time. The Riserva will age nicely in bottle for 10-15 years depending on the vintage.
2004 Riserva Old Vines
A red core with lighter red edges, this wine was in a real sweet spot for drinking. Mature notes of dry red fruits, haunting forest floor, cigar wrapper, cedar, and a mild oak influence, it was so open and broad, complex, yet finely elegant. Good depth, persistency and excellent oak integration. This is a world class wine, refined. So easy to enjoy and savor, the flavors unfold in layers over the palate.
2007 Vinha Maria Theresa
From the oldest vines on the estate averaging 98 years old, the fruit from these vines is minimal, yet excellent in quality. The wine is not made every year, but only in excellent years when the character of the vineyard rises to levels above the rest of the estate old vines. The name Maria Theresa came from the daughter of the prior family that owned Crasto. 1998 was the first vintage and has only been made in 6 vintages since then. The 2007 was aged in 15% American oak barrels and the rest in new French oak barrels. The 2009 was aged in 100% new French oak barrels for 20 months. A dark ruby core, with vibrant red edges. Coaxing the nose brings out black and blue berries, cherry, charcoal, licorice, and earth tone aromas. You can barely notice the oak but for a hint of creaminess and roundness on the palate. This was really big on the palate with tons of complexity. It sailed on to a fine and elegant finish that was long and clean.
This was newly bottled 1 week prior to our tasting but one would never know it from what we tasted. Violets and purple flowers, pepper and spice, savory herbal notes. Fresh and powerful, this attacks the palate with intensity and opens nicely across the palate, giving way to a long palate staining port experience. A huge bargain, this is one to seek out for more frequent consumption.