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Jan 19, 2014 01:40 PM

Porto, Ribeira Sacra, and the Douro.

Hello Hounds -- we're planning a trip to the Ribeira Sacra and Douro regions. We'll only have 8 days (I know, I know!), and are trying to balance not trying to do too much on the one hand -- and getting a chance to at least get a brief impression of two of our favorite wine regions on the other.

Our tentative plan is to spend the first two days and one night in Porto; then head to the Ribeira Sacra region for three days; then head south into the Douro, eventually wending our way back to Porto.

Foz Velha is on our list, as our both of Rui Paula's restaurants (DOP and DOC; both? One?). What are other restaurants we need to know about -- low-end, high-end, and/or (well, actually especially) rural finds? Where to eat in the Ribeira Sacra region?

Any great small inns to know about?

Lastly, we have our favorite wineries from both regions, but have no idea which ones make for great visits. And if there are smaller producers that are faves for any hounds, I'd love to know about them -- I of course only know producers big enough/lucky enough to have found their way to California.

Any and all thoughts/advice is massively appreciated!

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  1. In Sao Pedro do Sul,a wonderful little place west of the town,Adega de Ti Joaquim.Traditional food, worth a detour!

    1. In Galicia which "favorite wineries" do you have on your list? Some bodegas do not have public visits. Some can be visited by arrangement.
      Food in southern Galicia is always best to follow where the locals eat. There is nothing too fancy in the way of rural restaurants. Having said that have a look at the following ideas.
      O Grelo in Monforte de Lemos.
      Club Náutico de Belesar for a light lunch.
      Adega Do Emilio in Ourense.
      I do hope you do not stay in one of the Paradores as the food is not so good.
      The other choice is to look for Casa Rurals in the Ribiera Sacra.

      13 Replies
      1. re: Lugosur

        Thanks, y'all! Lugosur, included on the "list" are D.Ventura, Guimaro, and the Dominio do Bibei folks in the Ribeira Sacra. (I loved Raul Perez's Pecado the one time I had it, but get the sense that he's a winetrotter, and have no idea if there's any way to arrange an actual visit with him or his people.) In the Douro I'm eager to check out Niepoort, as I've enjoyed some of their wines here and want to get a better sense of the range of their experimentation. I'd love other people's recommendations, especially if there are young, innovative, small producers out there that wouldn't have hit my radar yet. Thank you all again, as ever.

        1. re: uberslop

          A few general observations from a US wine lover who spent a few days in the Douro. First, it won't be like California. Visting wineries is not a big activity in Portugal, so call ahead and make arrangements, even if the place claims to have regular hours. And don't try to do too much in one day: there are a lot of small winding roads leading to some of the better wineries, and the signage isn't the greatest.

          When I was there I would have liked to eat at DOC, but it didn't work out. But don't limit yourself to the fancy places - I really enjoy many of the local places serving traditional food too. In general, Pinhao did not have any restaurants worth visiting, Regua was better. Also had some good traditional food in Lamego, which is worth a look. Find a copy of Metcalf and McWhirter's "Wine and Food Lover's Guide to Portugal" - it is the only reasonably up to date guide in English.

          I stayed at the Quinta da Macedos, about 4 km south of the Douro in the Rio Torto valley. It is in a stunning location, and makes some very nice wines, the top ones from from pre-WWII vines of mixed local varieties. Among the other producers I enjoyed were Quintas Vale Dona Maria, de la Rosa and Vallado. The latter two also have rooms. There are lots of places which I had never heard of, and some make pretty good wine - get some advice from the locals. Alas, Niepoort and Crasto make fine wine, but I didn't have a chance to visit.

          It is a great place to visit - enjoy.

          1. re: jmoryl

            Jmoryl, this is great. We're on the same wavelength -- my copy of the Metcalf book should be arriving today! And I absolutely do *not* want to eat at exclusively at fancy places -- but they're popping up on the radar a lot more readily than their rustic counterparts. (The Michelin guide to Portugal is almost useless to me, outside of the cities, so under-researched and -reported it seems.) I enjoy following my nose, but experience shows me that a little research often goes a ways toward helping my nose out! Thanks for the Lamego tip, and for the Regua over Pinhao nod.

            While I'll admit that not all of my favorite wines are micro-producers, when traveling this way I tend to lean away from the sleek & imperially inclined sort and toward the smaller when possible. (I.e., the opposite of the prototypical Californian experience, at least inasmuch as we picture a big Napa tasting room when we say that.) Some of my favorite and most highly memorable wine experiences have come at the generous hands of tiny, tiny wine producers in France and Italy -- often the only people there, either in a non-descript concrete warehouse or a wooden shed, tasting and bullsh!tt!ng with the makers themselves. I've written a few of my favorites in Spain, and am in the process of scheduling a visit or two. But my assumption is that there are makers there that I've never heard of who are making fantastic juice, and I'm just looking to gather some ideas. I'm extremely eager to check out Vallado, et al., but I'm also eager to find some institutions considerably less put-together than those of the "Douro Boys." Thanks again for all your help -- any further ideas/info most welcome! (I've written Macedos, per your rec.)

            1. re: uberslop

              Paul Reynolds, the Anglo-Portuguese guy who runs Macedos, was able to point out some interesting places to visit when I was there. Also, if you want to try your Portuguese, here is a restaurant review site which I found useful while in Portugal: .

              In the link I've left the selector at the top right to show the restaurants in Peso da Regua. The reviews may not be worth that much (like Yelp) but it is useful for finding places. I did enjoy meals at two places on the list: Castas e Pratos and Cacho d'Oiro. Note that the towns around the Douro are either in 'distrito' (the left drop down) 'Vila Real' to the north or to the south 'Viseu'. These are sort of like counties in the US.

              If you want to see small producers from an area on the upswing, visit the Dao region sometime....

              1. re: jmoryl

                Jmoryl, the used copy of the Metcalfe book I ordered just arrived -- only the 40 some-odd pages on the Douro are missing! Ripped out by someone who clearly didn't want to tote the whole book along. Sigh. Back to the Amazonian drawing board.

                I'd originally hoped to go to the Dao, too, partly for that reason -- but a) our trip got shortened and I thought something needed cutting if we weren't going to do a whirlwind tour and b) I had the vague sense (correct me if I'm wrong) that the Douro was both slightly more, well, spectacular*... as well as a bit more ready for wine visitors? Thoughts? I assume this is still wise, though you're making me wonder -- I hope someday to visit Alvaro Castro et al.

                *As a rejoinder to my sentiment above: "Sometimes I think if I like more the Dão or the Douro. Maybe my heart slams more for the Dão. It's true that the Douro is very dramatic, dazzling, spectacular, but the Dão - it's mysterious and has a more discreet beauty, with the dreamy pines and flowing eucalyptus forest - the dark and magic forest surrounding the vines (as my son says, where we can find dwarfs and elves). That's why the wines from the Dão are the most interesting wines in the world."

                - Antonio Lopez Ribeiro, maker at Casa de Mouraz

                1. re: uberslop

                  That sucks about the Metcalf book! For some reason, it isn't easy to find. It could be easier to carry around.

                  No, don't worry about the Dao; the Douro is spectacular and you will enjoy it. The Dao feels really off the beaten track and if you like small and rural, it is great. I actually stayed in the town where Casa de Mouraz is located, but couldn't even find it! Save it for a future trip (maybe combine with Bairrada).

                2. re: jmoryl

                  and thank you for the aquiperto link!

          2. re: Lugosur

            Any recommendations for bodegas in the RS, lugosur? The only place I have a tentative appointment at is Dominio do Bibei.

            1. re: uberslop

              Sorry for not being here for some time.
              Dominio do Bibei is as you have found out open to the public.
              D.Ventura and Guimaro, are not open to the public.
              The Ribeira Sacra is full of small producers which are normally family run. It is often hard to make visits to those bodegas. However the larger ones you can there are several in Doade. One is Adega Agueira the other is Regina Viarum. There are more but you are limiting your time, so it is no good teasing you. However what you should know is to visit some of the non public bodegas it is not what you know: it is what the casa rural knows! So choose wisely.

              PS I think Niepoort and Guimaro work together.

              1. re: Lugosur

                One other question. When is this trip You might be in Galicia when there is a wine festival going on. Now that would be a bonus, would it not?

                1. re: Lugosur

                  Jan 30-Feb 9.... I haven't seen any evidence of a Ribeira Sacra wine festival!

                  1. re: uberslop

                    A few days time? yes not festivals. Accommodation may be difficult to find some places are closed for winter.

                    1. re: uberslop

                      If you get a chance, let us know how your trip went. I did visit some wineries on the Portuguese side of the Minho, but would like to hear what you found in Galicia, which is on my 'to do' list.

            2. Hey there

              Did you find any great places in Porto or the Douro? Keen for some good cheap and cheerful destinations!

              6 Replies
                1. re: zin1953

                  In Porto for four days this weekend. But thinking about a day trip to the douro!

                  1. re: nonearlyadopter

                    Some suggestions for dinner:

                    O Paparico
                    Rua de Costa Cabral, 2343
                    4200 Porto
                    +351 225 400 548

                    Palácio das Artes
                    Largo de São Domingos, 18
                    4050 Porto
                    +351 222 014 313

                    Restaurante Pedro Lemos
                    Rua do Padre Luis Cabral, 974
                    Foz do Douro
                    4150-459 Porto
                    +351 220 115 986

                    Clérigos Restaurante
                    Rua das Carmelitas, 151
                    4050-162 Porto
                    +351 223 400 770

                    The Yeatman
                    Rua do Choupelo, (Santa Marinha)
                    4400-088 Vila Nova da Gaia
                    +351 220 133 100

                    1. re: zin1953

                      Terrific - thanks so much for your help. Did you enjoy one or two of them in particular?

                      1. re: nonearlyadopter

                        Sadly -- for the purposes of your planning -- I enjoyedALL of them! ;^)

                        IF . . . and it's a big "if" . . . you're going up the Douro, try to have lunch at DOC, the sister restaurant of DOP. That way, you can skip DOP in Porto and dine at the others.

                        1. re: zin1953

                          Thanks zin1953, hopefully we'll make it up the Douro on Sunday for the day.

              1. My wife and I visited the Douro for a few days in November. I echo jmorly’s comments on not trying to do too much in a day. The roads take a while to navigate.
                We stayed at the Quinta do Vallado. It was very nice. The hotel was very modern and the views were good – not fantastic – there was a highway in the distance that you could see from the room, but road noise was never an issue. If you visit in the summer, the pool looked very inviting. The rooms were very comfortable and the common spaces were excellent. We ate probably our best meal of the trip there. A wonderful home cooked goat leg, paired with their excellent wines and port.
                We also visited Quinta do Crasto and Quinta do Tedo. Both were very informative and the wines were very good. We did make arrangements in advance. It was tough to visit more than a couple of wineries in a day. The times they had tours available varied widely.
                Enjoy your visit