It's amazing that Portugal's Douro Valley has remained relatively off the radar for North American travellers.
One of the best places to soak in the ambience of this UNESCO World Heritage site (one of the first demarcated wine regions in the world) is the newly opened Wine Hotel at the historic 70-hectare vineyard, La Quinta do Vollado. Built right into the terraced vineyards, the sleek new building pairs perfectly with the winery's newly refurbished rooms built in the 18th century when the grande dame of the Douro, Dona Antónia Adelaide Ferreira, ran the place.
La Quinta do Vollado is located in the heart of the Alto Douro Wine Region. Set on the mountain with vineyards and a ribbon of the Douro River below, it is a pitch-perfect place to drink in the region.
Hire a car for day trips to other nearby wineries, idyllic villages filled with crafts and character, several museums, petroglyphs, churches and monasteries.
IF I COULD CHANGE ONE THING
There is a designated "spa room" (where massages can be booked well in advance), but it's a big miss for the hotel to not have a proper spa on site. The place
and pace absolutely lends itself to another welcome layer of luxury.
Architect Francisco Vieira de Campos blends and bends the Wine Hotel into its surrounding landscape.
From the long sleek stone walls made of schist, a local stone similar to unpolished granite, to old twisty vines that hang like art on the restaurant wall, the design feels seamless yet expressive from the outside in.
Rooms are minimalist and serene with generous windows and amazing views. The raw-looking surfaces of concrete and slate create a minimalist, seductive tone throughout.
By far, the best amenity is the winery itself. Established in 1716, it is one of Portugal's finest and has been in the Ferreira family for six generations. Wander the vineyards on your own – more than 40 grape varietals are produced here. The official tour takes you through the contemporary, cutting-edge winery, cellar and gift shop.
WHOM YOU'LL MEET
You're among friends. In the tasting room, restaurant and hotel you'll share stories with fellow well-travelled wine aficionados.
EAT IN OR EAT OUT?
Eating in is a must. Trust the hotel restaurant's impeccable pairings as they have an extensive portfolio of varietals, many unknown to the North American market.
Meals are simple but sensational and served with house-made olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sea salt and olives that accompany fresh breads, sausage and locally sourced meats. Even a side dish as simple as potatoes and cabbage melts in your mouth.
The finish is the Feirrara's own tawny port, in a glass and drizzled generously over paper-thin slices of spiced oranges.
ROOM WITH A VIEW
Be sure to request rooms facing the vineyard, river and valley below.