How to Open the Doors of Portception

With (deep) apologies to William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell along with Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception and the Doors of “Peace Frog” and more:

If the doors of Portception were cleansed every thing would appear to people as they are, Infinite. For people have closed themselves up, till they see all things thro’ narrow chinks of their vinous cavern.

There is one large reason I see for the doors of Portception to be closed for many. I discovered it during a wonderful harvest trip to Portugal sponsored by Symington Family Estates. The good news is it’s something very simply fixed and will promote Port pleasure. Perhaps you’ve tried Port in the past on one or more occasions and found it a bit “meh” or even disappointing/overwhelming/not to your taste. This is what you need to do:



You must chill…your Port.

The vast majority of red wines are consumed at temperatures far too high. So when you get a a fortified wine like Port, where you’re looking at alcohol by volume (ABV) levels of up to 20%, drinking it warm exacerbates its booziness to the detriment of all finer qualities. I can’t tell you how this made such a huge difference on this trip. I’ll also say that the weather was in the upper 80s and 90s in the Douro and we ate outside a lot. In the shade, but still. You wouldn’t think it was “Port weather.” But it was a comfortable delight to pass around the cheeses and cap a meal with some Port.

How to Open the Doors of Portception

I would like to drink a glass of Port right here / Quinta da Senhora da Ribeira / Photo: Shana Clarke

Now lets talk food and Port. I know that the classic match is with strong blue cheeses. Which we had none of. Which was more than fine. I don’t necessarily want Port’s role reduced to taming the most  intense(ly flavored/smelling) cheeses. I want it more as a complement. So I really enjoyed it with some milder cheeses ranging from a bit runny to firm.

As far as desserts go, again, don’t want to swing to the extremely sweet side of things. A more complementary dessert would be something with nuts, a little savoriness, but not cloying. The chilled temp also makes it more food-friendly.

CAVEAT: Please do not misunderstand me when I say chilled. I am not saying fill up a cooler with ice water and dunk that bottle of vintage Port for hours and drink it at an arctic temperature akin to a PBR/Rainier/Narragansett etc. It should be cool to the touch. Also, it’s going to warm up in your glass. Err on the side of too cold rather than room temperature. Unless your room temperature is like that of a basement/cave (aka my idea of heaven), you’re going to need the use of your fridge.

How to Open the Doors of Portception

The view from Quinta dos Malvedos, looking across the Douro River, in the morning light.

The House Style

How to Open the Doors of PortceptionI was thinking about an article my friend/colleague Courtney Schiessl wrote, “5 Ways That Port and Champagne Are Alike.” Does that sound kind of nuts? Sparkling and see-through versus fortified and fuerte? Well, it’s spot-on. One of the interesting tastings we had was a look at 2016 vintage Ports from Symington Family Estates’ houses.

Just as you may like Bollinger or Taittinger or the style of a certain Champagne house, Port producers have a similar signature. Perhaps you’ll dig Graham’s unique notes of mint or Dow’s drier finish, (Note: these were not qualities I divined as an expert Port taster but comments around the table from folks much more Portceptive than me.)

Non-Wine Activities in Porto

I made the best of a long stretch of free time between hotel arrival and first group dinner.

  1. Took a little walk on a pier.

2. Had an idyllic lunch at O Travessa. Who wouldn’t want to sit on this oasis of a patio?

3. Visited the very cool Serralves Museum and strolled through the lovely sculpture park. How about the natural light inside this Anish Kapoor piece?

So go ahead and bust out of that virtual cavern and experience the infinite by drinking Port with a chill.

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Headed to Portugal: Boats, Trains and Planes

Greetings from the Newark Liberty International Airport, good ol’ EWR. I’m waiting to board a flight to Lisbon then Porto for a media trip sponsored by Symington Family Estates.

It’s my first visit to Portugal in (gasp!) six years. What will I be doing while I’m there? I’m glad you asked.

The lovely terraces of Quinta do Tua / Photo via Graham’s Port

My first full day (Monday) I’ll be visiting Cockburn’s Port Lodge. It’s the only Port place that still makes its own barrels. I’ll be checking out Cockburn’s on-site cooperage. Roll out the barrels!

Next is a visit to Graham’s 1890 Lodge for a tasting of the 2016 vintage.

Starting Tuesday, vineyard visits to Quinta do Tua and Quinta dos Malvedos. Then one of my all-time favorite experiences. Not just wine, but everything. It’s a boat cruise along the Douro, gazing at the inspiring terraced vineyards and more, to Quinta de Roriz. Then back on the boat to set a course for a vertical tasting of Quinta dos Malvedos Port from multiple decades.

Wednesday brings a stop at  Quinta da Senhora da Ribeira and Cockburn’s Quinta dos Canais. Then another boat to Quinta do Vesuvio.

Now things get really interesting. After dinner, we are treading in the lagares. As in stomping grapes. This is actually something I’ve never done before.

I heard a story from someone that there are wine people who like to wear white trousers while they do it so they come back with custom-dyed purple Port pants. Hmm. I already have purple pants and I can’t see ever owning white pants in my life so I’ll pass. (Now, white t-shirts? That’s a different matter.) But I will stomp.

Thursday brings more boats (!!!!) at we float to Quinta do Bomfim, then a train to Porto. Dinner will be our final hurrah.

I’ll be on IG and stories so follow along.

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Weekend Wine Pairing – Churrasco Style Pork Ribs and Prazo de Roriz

The story of wine in Portugal is at its heart a paradox: home to some of the world’s oldest greatest and best known wines, yet years of poor political leadership and oceans of plonk wine have all but destroyed the once great reputation. Portugal has a history of winemaking that goes back thousands of years. Long before the Romans and Moors came through the native people of the southwestern Iberian Peninsula were making wine with indigenous grapes. During the Age of Discovery Portugal became a major world power, with Prince Henry the Navigator, sending his armada around the globe.

Most famous for Porto, the fortified wine of the Douro, Portugal has some of the oldest recognized wines in the world. The wines of Portugal were famous throughout the world, Madeira was favorite of the young American colonies, and was even used to toast the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

With the decline of colonial power the wine industry in Portugal fell on hard times. During the 20th century the wine industry was hit with the double blow of fascist dictatorship and cheap jug wine (Mateus and Lancers). In 1974, “The Carnation Revolution” put an end to 5 decades of dictatorship and in 1986 Portugal entered the European Union. With membership came foreign investment and complete overhaul of the wine industry.

Today, Portugal represents one of the Best Value wine producing regions in the world. The combination of ancient wine growing traditions and modern technology means that you can buy a wine with outstanding pedigree made from ancient vines for a relative bargain. The Prazo de Roriz is a great example of what I am talking about. Crafted by Prats & Symington family, Port producers since 1882, and Bruno Prats, former owner of the famed Chateau Cos d’Estournel. The wine demonstrates the incredible potential of combining winemaking expertise from the Douro Valley and Bordeaux, two of the world’s best wine regions.


The 2015 Prazo de Roriz is a roughly equal blend of Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional and Tinta Barroca, with small bits of Tinta Roriz and Tinta Amarela, aged for six months in used French oak. This is typically a good value. This might be my favorite in some time. There isn’t a lot of concentration in the mid palate and it isn’t the type of wine you want to age for 20 years. It’s not $50, either. It’s a very nice bargain with many virtues. The fruit here is just gorgeous, vivid, pure and clean. The structure lifts it and delivers it beautifully to the palate. The texture is silky and the finish is just a bit tight. Overall, it is hard to lean up more on this since it doesn’t have a lot of upside potential, but if you drink it over the next few years, you might like it even better than the score would suggest.

It’s summer so I am grilling everything. A wine like the Prazo beckons for grilled meat. The traditional dish of Costelas Vinho d’alhos, roasted spare ribs, transfers well to the American barbecue grill.

Weekend Wine Pairing – Churrasco Style Pork Ribs and Prazo de Roriz

Churrasco Style Pork Ribs (Costelas Vinho d’alhos)
4 – 6 pounds meaty pork spare ribs

3 Tablespoons piri-piri sauce
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons Soy
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup orange Juice and zest
¼ cup lime juiced
¼ lemon juiced
1 cup onion, minced
2 teaspoons oregano
½ cup Red wine
1/2 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper
More oil for grill

1. Prep the ribs by removing any meat or fat that dangles from the bone side. Also trim any tough sinew (silver skin) on the meaty side. Remove the membrane on the bone side of the ribs. Cut into 3 bone segments.
2. Combine all ingredients for the marinade in the bowl of a blender and puree until well combined. Reserve a cup for basting.
3. Place prepared ribs in large container or Ziploc bag and cover with marinade. Marinate for 2 hours.
4. Prepare charcoal for grill and move coals to one side, you can put an aluminum pan on one side to catch drippings.
5. When grill is 250 degrees place ribs opposite side of the coals for indirect heat. Cook turning every 30 minutes for 3 hours. Brushing with marinade occasionally. If necessary add a few more coals to the fire.
6. Wrap ribs in foil and Cook for 1 or more hours until ribs pull away from meat.
7. For Oven: reheat the oven to 350 or 325 degrees F. according to the method of cooking.
8. To roast, reserve the marinade and place the pork in a roasting pan and cook at 350 degrees F. for about two hours, not more. Baste periodically with the marinade.
9. Serve with Potatoes, a big salad and a nice big red.

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