Celebrating My Portugality- #EsporãoDay

{I attended this event as media but no other compensation was provided. Thoughts are my own.}

In honor of the inaugural Esporão Day, the winery and Evan Goldstein, MS invited me an other writers from the area to “celebrate our Portugality.” Without this country’s agricultural and epicurean contributions, our tables would look very different. Without Esporão’s contributions, Portuguese wines would be harder to find.

June 10th is a national holiday in Portugal honoring Luís de Camões, the revered poet and playwright. To further commemorate one of the nation’s literary icons, one of the icons in the wine industry invited us to celebrate Esporão Day. The event took place in three cities across the country, New York, San Francisco, and Austin.

I had the good fortune of attending a lunch about the wines of Portugal a few years back hosted by Evan Goldstein,MS. When I saw that he would be hosting I juggled what I needed to to make sure I could attend. He is an excellent teacher, conveying his vast knowledge in an approachable manner. He is engaging, passionate and witty. I would sit under him to learn on any topic, but the added bonus of Portuguese wines made for an invitation I could not turn down.

The event was held at The Bonneville restaurant and began with an introduction to Sovina Craft Beer, the only large-scale craft brewery which was making its debut in the states.

The name Esporão is synonymous with great Portuguese wines, but their mission as a company is for the name to mean much more. They are driven by a desire to serve, to protect, to strive for excellence, to operate with integrity. As stated on their site, their driving force is as follows.

To be a family company that is economically, socially and environmentally sustainable, capable of providing unique products and experiences that improve people’s lives.

Photo courtesy of Esporão.

The winery was founded forty-six years ago, but the traditions and approaches are rooted in centuries old practices, on an estate with centuries of history. José Roquette and Joaquim Bandeira began with Herdade de Esporão in the Alentejo region and brought on David Baverstock as head winemaker in 1992. In 2008, they acquired Quinta dos Murças in the Douro and also began producing premium olive oil. José Luis Moreira da Silva took over winemaking at Murças in 2014. They acquired Sovina Craft Brewery in 2018.

With over 250 indigenous grapes, Portugal’s potential for winemaking is vast and versatile. The climate and topography lends itself to producing grapes with great acidity and character. Esporão estate is farmed organically and is in the process of becoming certified as such.

We began the tasting with a flight of six white wines and a charcuterie plate.

2018 Assobio Blanco– Meaning “whistle” this wine is named for the sounds at the highest plot at Murças. Granite and schist soils, stainless fermentation. Exotic tropical fruit fades into citrus and green pear.

2018 Esporão Monte Velho Branco-A blend of Antão Vaz, Perrum (Palomino),
Roupeiro (Codega), this wine is golden in the glass and on the palate with notes of baked tropical fruit.

2017 Esporão Verdelho Branco– A combination of older and younger vines. The fruit is integrated, savory green notes, long finish.

2018 Esporão Colheita Branco–  100% Certified organic Antão Vaz, Viosinho, Alvarinho & others. Pale yellow green, notes of quince and citrus, Balanced and delicious.

2016 Esporão Reserva BrancoThis was the first wine produced by Esporão in 1985. A blend of Antão Vaz, Arinto,Roupeiro. Aromatic, palpable oak notes. Honey, rich, candied lemon peel. Weighty and long finish.

2016 Esporão Private Selection Branco-A departure from Portuguese grapes, this wine is 95% Semillon and has classic notes of the grape.

After evaluating the first flight, we experimented with pairing the first course. A traditional Caldo Verde with Crispy Bacalhau. Braised escarole, bacon, a crispy Salt cod cake and sun cured black olive aioli. A brilliant dish. While several paired nicely I really enjoyed how the green notes in the 2017 Verdelho and the 2018 Colheita paired with the dish.

Photo courtesy of Esporão.

Between flights, we sampled their olive oil with our charcuterie. From family growers, produced from organic Portuguese olive varieties, and extracted at low temperatures to maintain flavor, this was unlike any olive oil I remember. The texture, fruit, and pepper notes were amazing. They graciously gave us a bottle to play with at home.

The second flight was a real treat. Half of the wines were from the 2011 vintage. Originally from a variety of price points, these wines showed the beautiful aging potential of Portuguese wines.

Assobio Tinto 2011 (magnum)-From the namesake plot and, more recently additional vineyards, this blend of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, and Tinta Roriz is packed with black and red fruit, caramel, coffee with grippy tannins. Surprisingly fresh for being 8 years old.

Esporão Colheita Tinto 2017-More subdued on the nose, juicy black cherry, balanced acid and tannins.

Quinta dos Murças Minas Tinto 2017-“Minas,” meaning spring, is aptly named for the five springs on the property. This vines range in age from 1987 to 2011. A blend of Touriga Nacional,
Touriga Franca, Tinta Francisca, Tinta Roriz, and Tinto Cão. Juicy, savory nose, Blackberry, blueberry, black olive. Surprisingly silky tannins.

Quinta dos Murças Reserva Tinto 2012-40-50 year old vines, planted vertically. One year in barrel and four in bottle before release. A blend of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Sousão, Tinta Amarela, Tinta Barroca, and Tinta Roriz. Rich and funky nose, integrated fruit, cocoa powder, violet, eucalyptus and a persistent finish. 

Esporão Reserva Tinto 2011– The first wine made in 1985. From clay loam soils with granite and schist, Alicante Bouschet, Aragonez, Trincadeira, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Baked fig, sweet tobacco, acid and tannins in balance and long developing finish.

Esporão Private Selection Tinto 2011-From the best parcels of the estate vineyards, a blend of Alicante Bouschet, Aragonez, and Syrah. Deep dark fruit, savory pepper notes, softened tannins.

With these wines, we paired the second course. Seared Center Cut Sirloin with charred spring onions, roasted mushroom salad, and herb and garlic butter.

For dessert, Salted Chocolate Macaroons and Almond Chiffon Cake with fig mascarpone.

The history and influence of Esporão goes far beyond what can be covered in this post. For more on their estates, programs, wines, and sustainability programs, visit their site. Or, better yet, if you are able to, visit them. They are huge proponents of tourism in the region. It is number one on my dream wine trips.

The afternoon was brilliant, start to finish. Many thanks to Kate Morgan-Corcoran of Creative Palate for the invitation. Thank you to Evan Goldstein for the education and entertainment. Thank you to The Bonneville for the brilliant food and, most especially, to Esporão for sharing your love of all things Portugal, for what you do to elevate the industry, and for choosing to share your world with us in Austin.

I’ll leave you with a poem by the man honored by the day.

Beholding Her

by Luis Vaz de Camoes

When I behold you, Lady! when my eyes
Dwell on the deep enjoyment of your sight,
I give my spirit to that one delight,
And earth appears to me a Paradise.
And when I hear you speak, and see you smile,
Full satisfied, absorb’d, my centr’d mind
Deems all the world’s vain hopes and joys the while
As empty as the unsubstantial wind.
Lady! I feel your charms, yet dare not raise
To that high theme the unequal song of praise,–
A power for that to language was not given;
Nor marvel I, when I those beauties view,
Lady! that He, whose power created you,
Could form the stars and yonder glorious heaven.

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Being a stay- at-home mom can leave one thirsting for a taste of the outside world, a world in which sentences are composed of more than three words. Being an educator means one is always seeking an opportunity to explore and learn. Being a woman with a need to connect can be a challenge when adult conversations are rare. In wine, I find the marriage of art and science, agriculture and storytelling provides limitless areas to explore. But it is the people that keep me engaged. The tenacity needed to keep the family dream alive, the risk to start anew, the trials and principles. I love the history of the vine, the impact of a season, the sentiment in the bottle. That is why I write. I write to tell their stories, to share a piece of mine. I write to learn as I teach others. I write to connect with new friends, to disconnect from the world. I write to celebrate what makes each of us unique, and that which ties us together.

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