Travel Writer & Author

Category: Portugal

Wine Travel Irvina Lew

Will Fly For Wine

Thomas Jefferson—who tried in vain for success as a vintner—endured weeks on transatlantic crossings and on horseback to visit wineries just to swirl, sniff and sip. Today, prestigious wine regions are accessible within two hours of major cosmopolitan cities, including New York City with its proximity to wineries on Long Island, in the Hudson Valley and in Coastal Connecticut. But for those looking for a break from New York, there’s no need to buy a horse, of course. Hop on a plane and clink glasses in some of the world’s most famous wine regions.

Mendoza, Argentina (Santiago, Chile)

Mendoza is the world’s fifth biggest wine producing region, in large part because of the weather. Hot dry days and cold nights make it perfect for producing Malbec, Argentina’s best-known grape. Mendoza City is central to 1,500 regional wineries and offers museums, parks and familiar luxury hotels—including The InterContinental Mendoza with its casino. Bodega Familia Zuccardi in Maipú is a 30-minute trip and the prestigious Bodega Catena Zapata, in the desert-like Valle de Uco where the winery rises like a Mayan temple, is only 50 miles away. Algodon Wine Estates, a hacienda-like resort set amidst the rolling foothills of the Sierra Pintada Mountains at the base of the Andes, is three hours away. It’s worth the trip for oenophiles looking for a well-rounded experience. The resort offers its few dozen guests and second home owners barbecue feasts, called Asado, winery visits, horseback riding, golf and a pool. Go.

Sonoma, USA (San Francisco, California)

In the nearby Russian River Valley, La Crema opened a new visitor center on the fabulous Saralee’s Vineyard for tastings, wine education and culinary exploration. Each September, people flock to Kendall Jackson Winery for The Annual Heirloom Tomato Festival. The two-day charity event is complete with chef-staffed booths, a cook-off and a tasting of each of the 150 different heirloom varieties grown on the winery estate’s vegetable garden. Executive Chef Scott Romano reigns at Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen in charming Healdsburg and serves dishes developed by his mentor, the late Long Island chef Gerry Hayden. The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn—with its mineral springs and spa—is a comfortable and convenient base for a California Wine Country tour. Go.

Burgundy, France (Paris, France)

Visitors to Burgundy pass wine estates colored in burgundy (grapes), green (vines) and gold (sunlight), which match the region’s famed glazed-tile roofs. The route reads like a famous wine list: Gevrey-Chambertin, Clos de Vougeot, Nuit St. George, Pommard and Meursault. On European Waterway barges, the crew cooks, pours and drives to and, thankfully, from the tasting rooms. In Beaune, the Hotel Le Cep, an affiliate of Small Luxury Hotels, combines two historic mansions separated by a 16th century courtyard. Its Spa Marie de Bourgogne offers massages within a panoramic tower. From here, walk to wine merchants and the historic Hospice de Beaune and bike (40 minutes) to Puligny Montrachet for an al fresco lunch within a 17th century building at the 13-room Hotel Olivier Leflaive. Go.

Douro, Portugal (Porto, Portugal)

Quinta da Roêda (12)

The Douro Wine Region starts up river from Porto, the 2000-year-old UNESCO World Heritage city. Oenophiles drive, ride the rails or cruise on Emerald Waterways to visit its long-established port wine estates. In 2015, the 57-room Six Senses Douro opened within a 19th century turret and arch studded country house, which New York’s Clodagh transformed into a modern, multi-level spa hotel, 90-minutes from Porto. The wine library stocks local wines including Van Zellers Douro DOC wines (Quinta Vale D. Maria 2013, a Douro Red, ranks in the TOP 100 in 2016). And the owners of Croft, Fonseca and Taylor, who constructed The Yeatman, a Relais & Chateaux in Porto, recently launched the 43-room Vintage House, located riverside in Pinhão not far from the visitor center at their Quinta da Roêda estate. As for the view, it’s unbeatable. Guests are known to savor the view of rugged, vine-covered hills as much as they savor the world-class vino. Go.

Penedes, Spain (Barcelona, Spain)


The picturesque Catalan wine region of Penedes, which is best known for its Cava sparkling wines, is an hour from Barcelona. As an idyllic home base, there’s the luxurious Mandarin Oriental Barcelona with its spa, the high-rise Melia Barcelona SKY with its new YHI Wellness Spa or Hotel Bagues, a small luxury hotel in a historic palace on Las Ramblas. This is the pedestrian street boasting the bustling Boqueria market and the Liceu Theater, which connects Gaudi’s gorgeous modernist achievements with the waterfront statue to Columbus. Vilafranca del Penedès—reached by car, train or on a Viator wine tour—is the place to experience the wine and architectural artistry at the extraordinary Waltraud Cellar for Bodegas Torres. This wine estate was established by the Torres family in 1870. Designed by Javier Barba of BC Estudio Architects in Barcelona, the GREEN tri-level structure has an underground cellar, cloister-like meditative space, a museum and tasting room with the spot’s finest wines. Go. 

Read The full article at Long Island Pulse


The Yeatman, Porto Review

We arrived in Porto from Lisbon via a train trip that took 2.5 hours and discovered an enchanting UNESCO World Heritage City at the mouth of the Douro River. The city dates back 2,000 years, and for the last three centuries it’s been the home of British wine shippers who transport the wine by river through a rugged, verdant valley studded with grand port wine estates to the Atlantic.

Today, Porto is a bucket-list destination for wine lovers who flock to The Yeatman, a luxurious wine hotel and Relais & Chateaux affiliate opened in 2010. The hotel was a project Adrian Bridge, CEO, The Fladgate Partnership, envisioned and continues to enhance. Its location near established Port wine lodges, including its own newly transformed Taylor’s Visitor Center, faces the historic center across the river and was built to take advantage of the extraordinary panorama.

The hotel is situated on a hillside with floor-to-ceiling windows that showcase the view from public spaces, 83 guestrooms and the hotel’s spa. From my terrace, the hotel pools, restaurants and bars, I savored the vista of the historic Monastery of Serra do Pilar; Maria Pia Bridge, the city’s oldest bridge, built by Gustave Eiffel in 1877; and the Don Luis, built in 1886.

The grand lobby introduces a light and airy, contemporary yet classic interior design. The lobby circles a stunning stairwell that leads to elevators with walls personalized with 360-degree vinyl photos of wine regions, a humidor stocked library, a computer room, a boutique stocked with Port wines and olive oils, and Dick’s Bar where the wine list draws from the hotel’s 25,000-bottle cellar. The restaurant at the Yeatman, where Chef Ricardo Costa offers a pairing from a wine list named “The Best Wine List in Portugal,” was awarded two Michelin stars in 2016.

The enormous guestrooms and suites are named for and decorated by an affiliate winemaker representing all 11 Portuguese wine regions. Our room included a king-sized bed, library, entertainment center, desk, complimentary WiFi and doors leading to a furnished terrace with a gate that led to the pool.

The wine experience is integrated in the Caudalie Vinothérapie Spa. Products and services, such as the wine barrel bath, follow the protocol of the first Caudalie spa in Bordeaux, which discovered the anti-aging properties of grape skins. The two-story spa incorporates a large indoor swimming pool and is linked via a unique spiral staircase within a large wine cask.

Meeting and convention attendees will find the 10 meeting rooms conveniently close to the convention center in the Old Customs House, several Port wine lodges, the Porto Airport and the Estela Golf Course. Taxis and the hotel’s Douro River Taxi are available to visit the ancient city, with its Romanesque architecture, the Portuguese Manueline-style Church of Santa Clara, the Neoclassical Stock Exchange, the azulejo-tiled railroad station and the historic Lello bookshop.

On my next trip, I’ll fly TAP Portugal non-stop from Newark.

The Yeatman, Porto

Rua do Choupelo, 4400-088
Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal
tel 351 22 013 3100

By Irvina Lew
Global Traveler

A Taste of Six Senses Douro

“Be local, buy local, eat local,” is the mantra at Six Senses Douro, a refrain that won’t surprise spa-goers who are familiar with the brand’s emphasis on wellness, organic foods, and sustainability at its high-end Asian outposts.

The eagerly anticipated Six Senses Douro, the brand’s first European property, made its debut in July 2015, in Portugal’s exquisitely rugged Douro Valley. Located in a magical region where steep, terraced hillsides slope towards the river, the area has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is best known for its family owned Port wine estates, called Quintas. The fertile river valley also has a long commitment to producing organic agriculture and natural ingredients, including olive oil, figs, and cheese.

One of the region’s magnificent wine estates, with its palatial 19th century country house, was transformed to create the 57-room Six Senses Douro resort spa. The original structure, with its arches, a turret and tower, is set high on a verdant hillside overlooking the Douro River, a 90-minute drive east of historic Porto, the country’s second largest city. The newly restored, expanded, and stunning multilevel, Clodagh-designed contemporary spaces—with their Portuguese limestone floors, neutral leathers and woods, textured fabrics, and decorative barnyard tools—offer distinctive dining venues.

The Wine Library accommodates weekly wine dinners and nightly wine tastings—served with Portuguese tapas, called petiscos, that feature local cheese, chorizo, and smoked ham. The resort’s main restaurant, Vale de Abraão, serves country house cuisine offered on an a la carte or prix fixe menu. We lunched in the Open Kitchen, where shelves are lined with jars filled with house-made, garden-fresh preserves, fruits, and pickles. Nearby, cooks are working at the Josper Grill and the traditional wood-fired oven, where bread bakes before it’s served with superb, house-crafted butter. There’s even an Enomatic wine dispenser for by-the-glass pours on the wall that leads into a second spacious section of the dining room, which boasts a fireplace, 18tcentury Portuguese tiles, and a tea bar. The dining room terrace, plus a poolside snack bar are idyllic spots for scenic al fresco meals.

In Spring 2016, a new culinary team made its debut. Sarajevo-born, Consulting Executive Chef, Ljubomir Stanisic, studied pastry, bakery, international cuisine, and food chemistry before he arrived in Portugal in 1997. Trained with Michelin-star Portuguese chefs, he established his own widely acclaimed, award-winning Lisbon restaurant where he was recognized for his creativity, won a prestigious gastronomy award, and served as a judge on the first MasterChef Portugal TV show. The menu he created at SIX SENSES stars traditional Portuguese dishes and has been lauded for its “urbane rusticity.”

Chef Nuno Ferraz, who completed his studies in the Hotel School of Porto, heads the resident team. His gastronomic experience developed on luxury cruise ships and as Sous-Chef at the prestigious, The Yeatman Restaurant—which was recently awarded its second Michelin star—and is the gastronomic venue at the Yeatman Hotel, a Relais & Chateaux member, in Porto. “Chef Nuno” is available to discuss the food program and cooking techniques with spa guests, and he willingly adjusts menu items, according to personal needs and tastes.

The culinary program practices a philosophy of minimal processing that assures nutritional richness and extraordinary flavor. The results illustrate how delicious healthy, whole-food-based cooking can and should taste. The team prioritizes an organic “where possible” approach, which incorporates fresh-picked produce and herbs from the estate’s own organic garden, seasonal, market-inspired ingredients, wild-caught fish from the North Atlantic, and local, grass-fed red meats, poultry, game, and cereals.

Menu starters feature a house-smoked trout, char-grilled leeks, garden figs and peaches, and kitchen-made tomato relish. Entrée choices introduce Atlantic sea bass paired with Guru white wine and farmer-style grass-fed chicken, among others. We were delighted with the roast garden vegetables served within a cast iron pot. The dish displayed multi-colored carrots, baby beets, and corn on the cob atop a coating on the bottom of the pot that looked like soil, but was actually made with finely chopped olives and mushrooms. We also enjoyed sweet, tender grilled shrimp a l’ajillo cooked in the Josper Grill and served with an herbed, grilled rustic bread.

The expansive wine list emphasizes regional, Douro Valley wineries. We drank a 2013 VZ Van Zeller Douro from Van Zellers & Co, a traditional Port wine shipper which Wine Director, Francisca van Zeller’s family has owned for over 300 years. Dessert choices appear on the menu, though I chose a glorious plate of garden fruits instead of the egg-yolk-rich Port wine flan cake or the traditional “Abade de Priscos ” custard. Our leisurely lunch ended, as does every meal in the Douro Valley, with a Port, in our case a sublime Old Tawny Port: Van Zeller’s VZ 1990 Colheita.


Á l’Ajillo Shrimp


8 large peeled and deveined shrimp, with tails

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

3 cloves garlic, chopped

Salt & pepper, to taste

¼ cup brandy

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon chopped coriander


Pre-heat the pan. Add olive oil, then garlic. In a separate bowl, salt and pepper shrimp. Add the shrimp to the pan for two minutes, until pink; turn for another minute. Flambe with brandy. Add butter. Garnish with chopped coriander, and serve.

Insiders Guide to Spas

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