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CASA SANTOS LIMA

Located in Portugal's Estremadura region, Casa Santos Lima goes by a variety of names, so take your pick:

Companhia das Vinhas de San Domingos
or
Quinta da Boavista
or
Adega Galega de Merceana.

But while the estate and its labels go by a variety of names, there are two interesting "constants" to this equation:
1. Good quality.
2. Sensible pricing.

At the helm of thi
s growing enterprise is José Luis Oliveira da Silva, whose great grandfather had owned extensive acreage in the town of Alenquer.   The old fellow sold tons of wine in bulk, mainly to Brazil.  In fact, Great Grandpa married the daughter of his Brazilian importer!  

José spent his early years in the banking business.  His mother and three aunts owned the estate and were considering selling the place.   José's mother-in-law had some financial resources and so did José, so they took control of the property and it's turning into a major success story.

The Quinta comprises some 280 hectares of land, with about 200 hectares under vine presently.  José's great grandfather had something like twice as much land, but his cousins sold some parcels and today Casa Santos Lima buys grapes from the neighbors.
 

José Luis Oliveira da Silva shows off his sustainably-farmed vineyards.

The estate provides about 60% of the fruit, with 40% coming from neighboring vineyards.  Though we saw some older parcels of vines, many of the vineyards were planted since 1990.  The actual winemaking under José's watch started in 1996.  A combination of great vineyards, competent winemaking and reasonable prices have the demand for these wines skyrocketing.

Touriga Nacional in the "Lost Valley" of the estate.  This is row L-8 and there are 116 vines in the row.  José Luis is a big fan of Touriga Nacional, saying it's one of the most popular grapes in Portugal, "especially on the back labels of the bottles."
Each row of vines is catalogued and monitored...that's how fanatical the focus on quality is here.
 
The cellars are well-maintained and they're working to expand the tank capacity.

There's a barrel cellar, but though they age some of the red wines in wood, we did not find oak to be a prominent characteristic in the wines.  

The range of wines and varieties they produce is remarkable.  But even more impressive is that each wine tasted like the grape named on the label.  You could actually taste the Chardonnay in the Chardonnay and the Arinto in the Arinto.  Santos Lima makes a blend of these two white varieties and, remarkably, in the glass one can find the elements of Arinto and the characteristics of the Chardonnay.


Each bottle is inspected before being placed, by hand, in a case box.



Presently we have two of their wines to offer.

 

In the bargain basement department, there's a wine called Quinta das Amoras.
It's a blend of Castelão with Tinta Miuda, Camarate and Touriga Nacional.  Four weeks of skin contact during and after the fermentation, followed by a brief pass in small oak.  There's a berry and spice quality here and for $5.99, this is remarkably good.  

 

 



In scouting Portuguese wines, I found numerous citations for this Quinta de Bons Ventos red wine.  
In Portugal, this wine is quite popular in a 3 liter "bag in box" format.  We have it in regular 750ml bottles.

We know what a "good value" this is in Europe and yet here in California, a terribly inefficient distributor asks a remarkably "high" price for the wine.  And it gets great reviews as being a bargain when it's being sold for $10-$12.

The San Francisco Chronicle praised this wine in an article on "good values," in local wine emporiums, saying:  "...at $12.50 it was a total score...This larger-production red from central Portugal has a vivaciously juicy, high-acid palate of red fruit, meshed with scents of huckleberry, dried currant, cigar wrapper and loam. It's surprisingly broad-flavored and full, with chalky tannins bulking out the finish."

The latest bottling is here and passed muster...it's a well-made, medium-bodied red...smoother styled...

Currently in stock:  ESPIRITO SANTO Sold Out
QUINTA DAS AMORAS $5.99
QUINTA DE BONS VENTOS  SALE $5.99
 

 

 

 

 

 

QUINTA DA AVELEDA

Producers of Charamba and the famous Casal Garcia Vinho Verde

 

CHARAMBA Douro Valley Red  SALE PRICED $5.99  
You probably thought Charamba was some sort of Latin dance.  Nope.   It's a reasonably-priced, modest red wine from Portugal. 
Coming from the Douro Valley, this is made of some of the same principal varieties as Port.   We've had Charamba wine in the shop for a number of years and it is a surprisingly nice, slightly rustic red.   There's a spiciness to this which recalls some Southern Rhone reds.  The grape varieties for this include Touriga Francesa, Tinta Barroca and Tinta Roriz.   Matured for less than a year in wood.  
The 2011 is the current vintage.  It's a medium-bodied, mildly spicy red.  Much like its predecessors, this is a great little wine at a most affordable price.

Here's an inexpensive, everyday red wine with some soul!   We get calls for this from all over the countryside.  These are even more prevalent since the San Francisco Chronicle printed an article on "Bargain-Priced" wines in late 2006.   

W. Blake Gray wrote seven years ago...The current exchange rate has caused a mild increase in its price...
Aveleda Charamba Douro ($4.79) This is the best under-$5 bottle I've had this year. It's made by Aveleda, a large Portuguese company best known for Vinho Verde. Weimax wine buyer Weisl says it's a store favorite, and no wonder, with its flavors of cherry, berry, earth and spice. Consider buying this one by the case.
 
We are amused that so many people would, actually, buy 12 bottles of this wine without tasting it!  We do sell it by the bottle, of course, making it possible to buy a single, go home and taste it to see if it's a wine of any appeal.  
One person called from 50 miles away to inquire about buying a case...they will spend, at 40-cents a mile for their auto expense, $4 for bridge toll and at ten-bucks-an-hour for their own time, $64 to buy a $60 case of wine.  


We suggest decanting it and letting it breathe for about an hour.  

They recently "updated" the label.  You can decided for yourself if it's an improvement.
 

 

CASAL GARCIA VINHO VERDE

Casal Garcia is one of Portugal's most popular wines.  It's quite simple and uncomplicated, so it's not a wine which will appeal to fans of California Chardonnay.

The brand has been around since 1939 and it's found on most wine lists all over the Portuguese countryside.  

Best consumed immediately (cellaring this is a bit like aging a carton of milk), the wine is dry, relatively low in alcohol and bottled with a bit of residual CO2.  It's not overtly fizzy, but there's a subtle "buzz" on the palate.  The grape varieties in this little wine are Trajadura, Loureiro, Arinto and Azal.

We enjoyed a bottle at a fancy seafood palace and the wine was thoroughly delightful with the prawns, percebes (barnacles...if you're on the Iberian Peninsula, don't miss these delectable treats!) and shrimp.

 

 

A Rosé was launched recently and this is a delightfully fresh basket of strawberries that's fairly dry, low alcohol, bright and crisp.

It's not a complex wine...it's not intended to be a grand vin, but merely delicious.

Currently in stock:
Casal Garcia Vinho Verde Branco (white) $6.99
Casal Garcia Vinho Verde Rosé $6.99


 

 

 

 

QUINTA DA AVELEDA


A bit more spiffy in terms of intensity and quality is the "Quinta da Aveleda" bottling of Vinho Verde.

This is made of Alvarinho and Loureiro  It's nice and dry and, of course, light.  You'll detect that faintly fizzy quality to this fresh bottling...

The 2013 is in stock presently...Well-priced, too.  Some customers have told us they think this is the best little dry white in the shop in its price category...
 
 
 
 

Currently in stock:  2013 QUINTA DA AVELEDA $8.99

 

 

 



The Aveleda property is remarkable...there's a small wine shop and tasting room.  They maintain a remarkable garden which makes for a delightful stroll, should you find yourself in Porto (it's about a 30 minute drive).


 
 
 


"Here's looking at you, kid!"

 
 

Portu-Geese.

 

I checked...no Vinho Verde in the fountain.

 
 
 
A sign pointing to the tasting rooms...


If the weather is nice, you can sit on the balcony and enjoy the view...and a sip of wine.


 

 





 
QUINTA DO BACALHÔA
This brand is but one label of many produced under the proprietorship of one of the most wealthy man on the planet.  His story is an extraordinary one...

José Manuel Rodrigues Berardo was born in Madeira and, as a kid, worked at the Madeira Wine Company, his first introduction to the world of wine.  He was an ambitious, hard-working fellow and ventured to South Africa in search of his fortune.  And did he ever hit the jackpot!

His South African adventure began as he was a field worker on vegetable farms.   This led to his selling produce to mining company kitchens and this led to his buying abandoned mines in hopes of extracting gold.  His hunches proved correct and remarkably lucrative and today this fellow is insanely wealthy.  
 
Visit the Quinta do Bacalhôa winery a half-hour's drive (if there's not road construction and heavy traffic) and you arrive at a gated, security guarded entrance.  This is not so much to protect the vinous "gold" made at this winery, but to look after the impressive art works displayed on the grounds and in the cellar.
 
 
 
We had heard there was a garden and impressive display of Portuguese tiles at this estate, but we had no idea of the enormity of the collection or of Mr. Berardo's active role in the art world (especially in Portugal).  Nor did we know of his enological interests in Canada and Australia.  Or the depth of his holdings in the Portuguese wine industry...

Berardo, in addition to the numerous wines made by his Bacalhôa estate, owns the Caves Alianca brand, has recently bought the Rothschild's share of Quinta do Carmo (to become the sole proprietor of that estate), owns 33% of Sogrape (the humungous firm which makes Mateus Rose and other notable wines), 50% of a Canadian wine company called Colio and he's the majority stockholder in an Australian wine company called Cumulus.  And I didn't mention he owns a significant percentage of the prestigious Madeira winery called Henriques and Henriques.  We suspect Donald Trump or Bill Gates might appear impoverished in comparison to "Joe" Berardo.

In addition to the impressive showplace-of-a-cellar and bottling facility, there's a very curious "garage" cellar where they mature the famous Moscatel called Setúbal.


This is a "cellar" where Mother Nature "controls" the temperature.  It can be quite cool in the winter and hotter-than-hell in the summer.  We were told these conditions contribute to the particular character of their various Moscatel wines.
We tasted three different bottlings of Setúbal Muscats and the wines were excellent from the entry-level bottling to the deluxe, rare "Roxo" wine.


Berardo was born on the 4th of July and he's a fan of the American president, Abraham Lincoln.


These olive trees, relatively recently transplanted here, are said to be well more than a thousand years old...maybe two-thousand.


Ana Isabel Leitão offers a taste of Moscatel, amongst others.

Quinta do Bacalhôa's famous red wine comes from mature vines of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  The wine sees extended skin contact following its fermentation as they're trying to obtain every last nuance from the grapes.  The wine then goes in oak, half the barrels being brand new.  After a year or so in wood, the wine is bottled and left to mature in the cellar...

The 2008 has recently arrived through a new, local importer.  This is a deep, dark colored wine and it has intense red and black fruit aromas and a wonderfully woodsy bouquet.  It's still a bit clumsy and we found decanting or aerating the wine for an hour is extremely beneficial.  The wine is complete on the palate, showing nice fruit and wood with modest tannins.  It can probably be held for another few years, but drinking it tonight with red meats or game is ideal, too.

There's a dynamite bottle of white...it's a sort of Portugal-Meets-Bordeaux wine.  Semillon is the base and part of the Semillon portion is fermented in oak.  In keeping with the Bordeaux theme, the wine is 25% Sauvignon Blanc.  But wait!  There's more.  To give it a unique flair, the Iberian grape, Alvarinho, comprises 25% of the blend.  What's remarkable is, if you're familiar with each of these three grapes, you can actually detect all of them playing their own tune in this little symphony. 
Don't be scared off by the notation of wood.  Oak is barely detectable in this medium-bodied dry white.  


Currently in stock:   2008 Quinta do Bacalhôa Red $29.99
2010 Quinta do Bacalhôa White $22.99





JP Azeitão White

Here's a simple, inexpensive and brilliantly-made little dry white from south of Lisbon.

It's made of Fernão Pires and Moscatel de Setúbal but vinified dry in stainless steel tanks, cold-fermented and bottled young.
It's got a lovely fragrance as you might expect from the aromatic Moscatel grape...

The flavors echo the aromas...notes reminiscent of pineapple with a touch of orange and grapefruit...light...no oak...great cocktail wine...consider this with some Melon and Prosciutto/Jamon/Presunta Iberico.  
Also works nicely with shrimp or crab dishes...Sea Scallops...
 
Currently in stock:  2012 JP AZEITÃO WHITE $6.99

 




QUINTA VALE D. MARIA

Though this is a rather new wine and few people have heard of the estate, most fans of Portuguese wines know the name of Cristiano Van Zeller.  That's who's behind this producer of table wine and Ports.

For one thing, it turns out he's virtually everyone's cousin in Portugal!
We spent a couple of weeks touring around the various wine regions of Portugal and it seemed like everywhere we went, someone told us they had a cousin named Van Zeller from the Douro.

Van Zeller's family owned and operated the Quinta do Noval port house before selling it in 1994 to an insurance investment group.

Ellen & Cristiano Van Zeller
 
This property has been in Cristiano's wife's family for about 200 years.  It was rented or leased by the Symington family, who had it as the home base for their Smith Woodhouse brand of Port.  Since 1996 the Quinta Vale D. Maria has been operated by Van Zeller.
 


It's a 43 hectare estate with 20 hectares of 60 to 80 year old vines.  The other 23 hectares range from 5 to 30 years of age.


The cellars are small and well-maintained.
Joana Pinhao does a lot of the cellar work.

 
Sandra Tavares da Silva is the head of the enology crew at this property.  She and her husband also make some top wines in the Douro and her parents own a wonderful property in the Estremadura region, just north of Lisbon.
 


We especially like the 2007 vintage of the Quinta Vale D. Maria Douro red. Part of the wine was fermented in stone lagares and part in stainless steel tanks.  The wine comes from 60 to 70 year old vines and spent 20 months in oak.  It's a medium-full bodied red, comparable to top Napa Cabernets or upper level Rioja.  

We found the Port here to be quite good, as well.

***
 
Currently in stock:  
2007 QUINTA D. VALE MARIA Douro Red $57.99


 

CHRYSEIA
We are certain most people looking for Portuguese wines are hoping to find something inexpensive and drinkable.

For many people, the idea of spending more than ten bucks on a bottle of wine is crazy.  

So, if you are one of those people, please scroll down the page to some of the other wines featured here, because this is definitely not for you!

The Symington family owns tremendous properties in Portugal's Douro Valley, producing a great range of prestigious Port wines.  Graham's, Dow's and Warre's are their leading labels, amongst others.  

Some years ago we stopped in to pay them a visit and were graciously invited to stay for lunch.  I recall them serving a pork chop alongside a carafe of "house" wine, a table wine made for their own enjoyment but nothing terribly fancy.  The wine tasted good, but was certainly simple.  

I wondered why they didn't consider, given the warm climate of the Douro, making something more interesting or noble.  

Years later, they embarked on a collaborative effort with Bruno Prats, the former owner of a top Medoc property, Château Cos d'Estournel in St. Estèphe.

They have really come up with something exceptional, the wine being called Chryseia.  "Douro" is Portuguese for "golden" and "chryseia" is Greek for golden, which is what your credit card needs to be if you're going to buy this wine.  

The first vintage of this wine was uniquely Portuguese, though you'd find a fair contribution from French oak barrels on the nose and palate.   The fruit character, though, is exceptional.  Touriga Nacional is the main grape, augmented with Touriga Franca, Tinto Roriz (Tempranillo elsewhere) and Tinta Co.  

They substantially increased the price of Chryseia, lending some measure of credibility to its "goldenness."  Recent vintages have been a mystery, as the Symington's sales company operates under the notion that a wine this expensive is too golden to be opened and poured so sommeliers and wine merchants would be able to recommend the wine with confidence based upon its lofty price tag.

They have a new distributor and we bought a bottle, opened it and found the 2009 to be one of those nice, big, deep Douro reds.  It's moderately oaked, showing dark fruit and mild tannins.  If you want a showy red for grilled meats or a roast, consider this.  


Currently in stock:  2009 CHRYSEIA   SALE $49.99



 

QUINTA DA LEDA
This is a wine now made under the Sogrape umbrella from the Casa Ferreirinha.  It's a Douro Valley wine and is produced from fruit grown in the "Douro Superior" region.  It's an important red, vinified from Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Tinta Roriz grapes.  

Their most famous wine has been "Barca Velha," the "Penfolds Grange Hermitage" of Portugal, if you will.  Whatever major league wine you compare it to, (Vega Sicilia of Spain, BV Private Reserves of Napa from the late 1950s or 1960s, top Bordeaux, etc.), it's expensive.  I put a bottle on my dinner table along with the less costly Quinta da Leda and we found the Leda wine to be quite good and the scarcity tax was less.

We have a few bottles of the 2004 in stock.  It's a magnificent red, cedary, woodsy and complete.

Currently in stock:  2004 Quinta da Leda  Sold Out






VALE DO BOMFIM
Since the price of a bottle of wine has climbed to dizzying heights all over the planet, it's little wonder we are now seeing hugely expensive wines coming from various regions of Portugal.

Though the Douro is firstly famous for its Port wines, the region is certainly capable of producing world class red wines.  Some are hugely expensive and some are actually priced within the realm of reason.  We have noticed, of course, that the price does not always correlate to the quality of a wine.

Many of the really expensive bottlings seem to carry a scarcity tax or a the costs of a marketing campaign.  We have trouble pouring those "features" into a wine glass.

The Symington family makes quite a range of wines, owning extensive acreage in the Douro.

Their Dow bottling of table wine from the 2011 vintage, the fourth year this is offered commercially, I think.  It's a blend of 15% Touriga Franca, 15% Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), with 50 percent Tinta Barocca, 20% Touriga Nacional and no Tinta Cao this year.  The wine does have a bit of tannin, so pairing it with red meat actually softens one's impression of the wine.  If you can decant it an hour, or so, before dinner, that's all the better.  
Currently in stock:  VALE DO BOMFIM 2011 DOURO $10.99
 
 
 


 
LAVRADORES DE FEITORIA
At the turn of the century (as 1999 slipped into 2000), a group of grape growers (lavradores) began a collaborative winemaking project in the Douro Valley.  

One of the people involved in putting this together was winemaker Dirk Niepoort, who's already got a lot of projects he's working on.

Today there are 18 vineyard sites scattered around the Douro, with a range of terroirs, elevations, exposures and grape varieties.  Baixo Corgo, Cima Corgo and Douro Superior...And from these there is a range of wines being produced:  blended wines from various sites and various varieties and a few single vineyard wines.
 
Four vineyard sites have white grapes and they're making some nice, fresh, dry, crisp table wines.
There's even Sauvignon Blanc growing in the Douro (better that than Chardonnay...).

We had a nice little, inexpensive bottling from this producer, but today there's a single vineyard bottling in the shop which is remarkably good.

It's a 2008 Quinta da Costa das Aguaneiras and it comes from a south-facing vineyard site which is predominantly a mixed planting of red grapes.  We understand they fermented this in traditional lagares where the grapes are crushed by a team of "foot soldiers" (so-to-speak).  
At the cellar we visited, we saw normal fermentation tanks and standard cooperage.

We had included this wine in a blind-tasting of Portuguese reds and I was knocked out by it (along with a wine from Cristiano Van Zeller).  The wine has a beautiful fragrance, showing some sweet wood spice tones and bright red fruit aromas.  It's a medium-bodied wine and the tannin level is moderate.  During our tasting, this wine got better and better as it aired, too.

For the price of a good bottle of Zinfandel, you can enjoy a really top wine from Portugal...pair this with roasted or grilled red meat, roasted chicken, etc.


Currently in stock:  2008 QUINTA DA COSTA DAS AGUANEIRAS Douro Red $29.99







PROVA REGIA

A few miles from Lisbon is the Bucelas region and it's long been associated with the white grape called Arinto.

This is not a wine for kids, as it tends to be quite dry and rather acidic.  

Arinto is said to have been the grape used to make a wine called Charneco back in the days of writer Bill Shakespeare (we know him as "Bill," but most called him William) and the Duke of Wellington.  

We're fans of the wine called Prova Regia, a fairly well-known brand in Portugal and relatively unheralded here.  

It's not sweet, it's not buttery or creamy and it has no oak.  The wine is light, dry and very crisp, so it's a great bottle to open when you're serving some sort of seafood, be it fried calamari, sautéed fish, a bowl of steamed clams or these "percebes" as seen in the photo to the left (they're some sort of barnacle and can be absolutely outstanding!).

The grapes are grown in chalky soil and the wine is simply vinified to make this tangy little wine.  The winery describes the wine as showing notes of lime and pineapple...we can detect a hint of lime and tangy citrus, but are unsure about the more tropical aspects of this.
 
Currently in stock:  2010 PROVA REGIA Arinto  Sold Out


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
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MORE PORTUGUESE TABLE WINES
 

PORTUGUESE DESSERT WINES

By the way...we also have Sagres Beer from Portugal, as well as some brandies and liqueurs.

 

 

 

 

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