Casa Guedes, Porto, Portugal

With apologies to my Jewish and Muslim friends, I did not make this rule:  the name of the game in Porto is Pork-o.  Like, for real.  While true for most of the Iberian peninsula, this little rule seems to be magnified in Portugal’s second city . . . much to the disappointment of my travel companion who was excited to break his Yom Kippur fast Casa Guedes outdoorsoon after landing.  Our gracious AirBNB host gave us more great recommendations than we were ever able to hit, but his stories so frequently included roast pork and the local favorite francesinha sandwich (think Portuguese Hot Brown with ham, sausage, roast beef, coated in a cheese and tomato sauce) that we had to do a bit of our own searching.  Casa Guedes, however, had enough options on offer that we made it work.

This little family run spot sits at the corner of the pleasant park Jardim de São Lázaro.  As with most of Porto, the locals that have been going there for years seem fascinated by the trickle of foreigners that seem to be coming in ever growing waves.  (Yes, that’s a mixed metaphor.)  Still, it’s a mostly locals spot and the counter service staff gets a kick out of foreigners who can actually manage to order in proper Portuguese.  While the bolinhos de bacalhau (classic Portuguese codfish balls) and fresh country

Casa Guedes Sande de Pernil
The Star of the Show – pernil sande!

cheese are worthy companions to the Super Bock on tap, the real star of the show here is the pernil sande – slow roasted pork sandwich.  I chose the version with fresh cheese and it was to die for.  I say this, mind you, with many years of consuming Cuban lechón straight off the Caja China and 12-hour Kentucky-smoked pork under my belt.  But beware:  you will most likely end up getting two or more and having your friends roll you out of here in a wheelbarrow.  If you’re lucky enough to visit on a warm day, have an espresso or two on the terrace to recover.  Bom apetito!

 

 

Casa Guedes, Praça dos Poveiros 130, 4000-098, Porto, Portugal

 

 

Bruno Giacosa 2015 – Dolcetto d’Alba, Italy

A pretty little medium bodied red with no surprises.  Luscious, with red fruit and faint leather and grass notes.  This one is easy-drinking and plays well with a variety of foods and moods.  Don’t think, just drink.

  • Rating: Everyday Red
  • Name: Bruno Giacosa Dolcetto d’Alba 2015
  • Winery: Bruno Giacosa
  • Region: Dolcetto d’Alba
  • Country: Italy
  • Varietals: Dolcetto
  • Price: ~$25
  • Where to Buy: com

L’assemblage de Coeur Rouge 2016 – Vaude, Switzerland

A fresh and mellow expression of these varietals popular in Switzerland.  The nose has fresh white pepper and a spacious red fruit.  Not dense, but enveloping.  More red fruit on the palate with a green wood freshness, rather than mustiness.  Gentle, but not non-existent, tannin give just the right structure on the back end.  A lovely red wine, really surprising to those accustomed to American-style pinots.  This was a gift from a friend in Switzerland and really hit the spot.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: L’assemblage de Coeur Rouge 2016
  • Winery: Cave de Jolimont, Mont-sur-Rolle
  • Region: Vaude
  • Country: Switzerland
  • Varietals: Gamaret, Garanoir, Pinot Noir
  • Price: ?
  • Where to Buy: ?

Quinta dos Corvos, Porto, Portugal

We lucked into this place entirely.  Wine tours in Porto’s Gaia wine house district don’t tend to start until 11ish, but we don’t often let silly formalities like operating hours slow us down.  With all the big, famous name Port wineries still shuttered we stumbled into this place by chance – and an open door.

Corvos Entrance            Admittedly, the early arrival got us invited to, oddly, “relax” in the restroom while folks pulled themselves together.  An older German couple straight out of central casting joined us (i.e. rude, cranky, weird older man in ill-fitting and awkward neo-90’s techno tank top and shorts accompanied by very kind, cordial wife with spiky red hair).  Our tour guide, Isabel Santos, took just a few minutes to shake off last night’s partying cob-webs before launching into a well-rehearsed (but not tired) introduction to the history of the family wine house.  A beneficiary of one of the world’s oldest zoning charters – 1756 by Portugal’s beloved Marques de Pombal – the property in Sabrosa along the Pinhão river produces an average of 40,000 bottles a year.  The Quinta was acquired by the Queiroz Cardoso family in 1989 and has since remained in the family (with a few small enlargements) and is planted in an 80/20 red to white ratio, with the exact makeup of the varietals – like with the wines – something of a secret.

Isabel never missed a chance to needle some of the nearby “multi-national” wine houses for not being Portuguese enough, or abandoning old world artisanal methods for mechanized and sterile (perhaps too) modern methods.  A particularly excellent feature of the tour was her willingness to dive down as deeply as their secret recipes would allow into winemaking and grape-growing minutiae, on request.  I tried to not make the tour laborious for my companions, but did take the chance to ask a few advanced questions – questions which Isabel was able to answer concisely.

Corvos Stack            The tasting room at this wine house is stellar.  One could make an afternoon of it by ordering food and other goodies.  Some light snacks and a generous introductory tasting were included with the tour.  Again, Isabel knocked this out of the park, appropriately generous and thorough with both pourings and knowledge.  Unlike many other wine houses, Corvos offers up tastings of anything they make, if for a very reasonable price on several of the older, more advanced offerings.  My comment on the likely malvasia content of the white ports (airy salinity that balances out the usual cloying sweetness of white port) won a knowing squint from Isabel, before simply commenting that she couldn’t really comment.  I opted to go deep into some of the Vintages, as well as the 20 year old white port.  Ultimately, I walked with a bottle of 1996 Vintage (the year I first visited Lisbon), a bottle of the 20 year white, and a bottle of their cosecha.  If you only have time for one wine house tour while in Porto, make this the one . . . and don’t miss it if you’re piling up visits.  Oh, and in case it isn’t already obvious, ask for Isabel.

Quinta dos Corvos, Rua Guilherme Gomes Fernandes nº 63, 4400-175, Vila Nova de Gaia (Porto), Portugal

 

Vermentino i Fiori 2013 – Sardegna, Italy

The nose of this one hits you with a mossy, salty note reminiscent of craggy rocks splashed clean by ocean surf.  The front of the palate echoes the same notes, smoothed with an almost creamy mouthfeel.  This is a minerally, slate and clay, white with a body that is at the same time fresh and summery, but not as light and forgettable as a languid Summer afternoon.  She plays well with all manner of seafood and well into the crushed leaves of autumn.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: i Fiori Vermentino 2013
  • Winery: Azienda Agricola PALA di Mario Pala & C.
  • Region: Sardegna
  • Country: Italy
  • Varietals: 100% Vermentino
  • Price: $17
  • Where to Buy: Whole Foods et al.

Tapas Bar 52, Lisbon, Portugal

If you’re in need of a late-night bite to stand you well for the fun ahead, this is your jam.  They call it tapas, but they mostly mean delicious Portuguese small plates, with a few Spanish standbys blended in.  We ordered everything.  As in, everything, to the point that the hilarious waiter was afraid to actually order it from the kitchen for fear that we were joking.  No single dish or beverage blew our minds here, but all were well-executed and on-point.  You won’t have a mind-altering culinary experience here, but you will get good food at a reasonable price in a nice atmosphere.

Tapas Bar 52, Rua Dom Pedro V 52, 1250-083 Lisboa, Portugal

Pub Lisboeta, Lisbon, Portugal

We would never have found this place, if not for being summoned here by some locals.  This one-room spot in Principe Real has just the perfect balance of hip ambiance and the truly local flare that you were looking for.  A great jumping off point for a foray into the Bairro Alto.  You will see debauchery near, but can enjoy cocktails or wine with adults in this little oasis.  We were only here for a couple of drinks, but gained a great appreciation for its chill atmosphere shortly – after getting a taste of the just-a-little-much behavior in the nearby street parties.  And they won’t force you into the street.  Not really.  Sit outside by the door, greet your friends en route to the parties, and chill.  Small bites and great cocktails.  But if you leave, you best be strapped in for the wild and wooly student-fueled party atmosphere surrounding it.

Pub Lisboeta, Rua Dom Pedro V 63, 1250-096 Lisboa, Portugal

La Suerte de Arrayan 2011 – Méntrida, Spain

Fresher than expected on the nose:  notes of grass, strawberries, and wood.  Front palate of red fruit, blueberries, and faint vanilla notes.  Chewy and rich with tobacco, cocoa, and more vanilla rounding into a wall of warm tannins red fruit.  A soft, berry-laden finish that melts away quickly.  Lovely.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: La Suerte de Arrayan 2011
  • Winery: La Verdosa, S.L.
  • Region: Méntrida
  • Country: Spain
  • Varietals: Garnacha
  • Price: 25
  • Where to Buy: S&R Liquors

Champs Pentus – Faugères, France

This one starts with a ripe, bright explosion of cherries and blackberries on the nose, rounding out with some grassy notes.  The fruit fades into tree bark, woody/mossy scents and flavors, with just the right amount of tannin to back it up.  This is how I imagine the wet woods tasting when you wake early from your tent on a camping trip.  The finish is short, but clean, with a faint saltiness and a whisper of the original cherry bomb.  Stylistically, the bright and medium-to-light body isn’t really my favorite, but if it were I would consider this more than worth the price-tag.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: Champs Pentus 2013
  • Winery: Frédérico Brouca
  • Region: Faugères
  • Country: France
  • Varietals: 40% Syrah, 30% Grenache, 30% Carignan
  • Price: $23
  • Where to Buy: S&R Liquors

Monica i Fiori 2013 – Sardegna, Italy

Starts with a woody, mossy nose, with background notes of red fruit.  The front pallet has a fresh red fruit and grass character, though not necessarily like the thinness of a young wine.  A certain fresh, green quality closes out with light tannins and a fascinating strawberry-balsamic after taste.  We tasted this one after the Corash, so the tasting could have been impacted by the bold fruit and toughness of its Sardinian cousin.  Both were had with Osso Buco and played stunningly well with it.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: Monica i Fiori 2013
  • Winery: Azienda Agricola PALA di Mario Pala & C.
  • Region: Sardegna
  • Country: Italy
  • Varietals: Monica
  • Price: $17
  • Where to Buy: Litteri