Quinta do Bom Retiro on the Toro River, lies in the heart of a sumptuous garden built many decades ago. It has a swimming pool which is one of the oldest in the Douro, and fruit and exotic trees brought from different corners of the world. Today, the 110 ha estate owned by Ramos Pintos, has 62 ha under vine. The charming old villa next to the winery was going to be our home for two days.
ROAD TO BOM RETIRO
We left Pinhao, crossed the Douro and drove south along its left bank on the A323 towards Bateiras. Vintage House Hotel with a river cruiser and rabelo boats below it came in to view on the other side of the river as we turned right after the iron bridge and then, Quinta de la Rosa, gleaming in the evening sun, a short distance from Pinhao. I remembered walking to the Quinta from Vintage House to taste and then have lunch at a little cafe near the quay on a previous trip ten years or so ago. The little boats looked more attractive than the cruisers for a trip down the Douro. “Next time, I will sail from Pinhao to Porto in a little boat” I told myself.
The terraced vineyards of Fereira came next. Sandeman with its imposing gates is on this side of the river. As we turned left off the A323 at Bateiras and drove along the Toro River for a short distance and then uphill past Quinta de Santa Barbara, we could see the Douro way below us and Pinhao in the distance.
We climbed steadily up hill. The winding road makes a sharp left turn before the little village at the top and the view of the Douro from there is spectacular.
Just past the village, a sign indicates the way to Bom Retiro. The narrow, winding cobbled lane clings to the mountain side and was just wide enough for the coach. We could see the Quinta, way below us in the valley. We started to descend.
“We are not going there!
“Manuel, hope your brakes are OK” somebody shouted from the back of the coach.
“I am keeping my eyes shut” one in the front said.
“I am going to faint” another murmured.
“Have another port & tonic” I said.
AN EVENING IN PARADISE
The Quinta looked splendid and it was all ours. The reassuring figure of Mafalda emerged from the villa. Rooms were allocated and Manuel carried the bags. Tea was made and drunk and all was well.
Later, we met at the pool. Some swam – the water was warm enough. Others lounged, ate nuts and drank G&Ts.
Dinner was served on the terrace. We ate roasted alheira – a pork-free sausage first invented by Portuguese Jews during the Inquisition, Roast Cod, Cheese and an orange pudding. The wines were Adriano Reserva White Port, Duas Quintas White Reserva, Duas Quintas Red Reserva, 20 Years Old Tawny and an LBV.
As I went to bed that evening, I thought this must be close to paradise.
THE MORNING AFTER
A nightingale sang in the orange tree below my window. The garden was bathed in morning sunlight. There was nobody about. I drank thick black coffee in the kitchen and walked to the bottom of the garden past the orchard and the dovecote surrounded by purple artichokes. They seem to have a dovecote in every little vineyard in the Douro! Beyond, there were olive groves to the left and terraced vineyards stretching in to the distance on the right. It was a beautiful morning.
Breakfast was eaten in the dining room. Mafalda joined us and we got ready for the busy day ahead.
We were having lunch with Dirk Niepoort at Quinta do Napoles.
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