1 Mar

First port of call

A stay at the historic Vintage House Hotel and Yeatman Hotel are ideal bases for exploring the delights of Portugal’s Douro Valley and finding out more about its most famous wine region, says Mary Conisbee.

Last night I dreamt we were back in the lovely colonial- style Vintage House Hotel at Pinhao, in the heart of the Douro Valley, Portugal’s most famous wine region. One of Europe’s oldest wine regions and a UNESCO world heritage site, the Douro Valley was originally only reachable by boat. Today it’s easily accessible by road or train and travel time from Porto by car in just over an hour and a half.

The Vintage House Hotel, first created from old port warehouses back in 1998, has enjoyed several incarnations over the years. But this revamp is the smartest. From the elegant pale blue and yellow of our bedroom, with light pouring in from the wide, glittering river below, we looked over the serene riverside gardens below, drinking in the idyllic view, and savouring an excellent bottle of local wine and nibbles, while relaxing on our balcony.

The clever decor of the hotel is all about wine, reflecting on what the interior of a traditional wine house would have looked like. Each room features a statement piece that creates an atmospheric interest. The décor is vibrant, with colours and furnishings that resemble a lovely comfortable home. All the 50 bedrooms and suites look onto the river and have surrounding terraces, so guests can enjoy the view from the privacy of their own private balconies.

The old buildings, and the land around the hotel are part of an 18th century wine estate that has been exquisitely renovated into this magnificent five star hotel, with 21st century creature comforts, facilities, exceptional fine wines, food, first–class service – all set in stunning surroundings. Dining in the hotel’s award-winning Rabelo Restaurant is a gourmet’s delight, either indoors or on the outdoor terrace tables overlooking the river.

The menu cleverly concentrates on flavours from the Douro region – a fusion of the best of modern and traditional cooking. Wine lovers are spoilt for choice, with an impressive wine list of fine labels from all over Portugal.  And who can resist not rounding off the evening in the hotel’s Library Bar, relaxing over a glass or two of extraordinary fine port wine.

The region, of course, is known for the extraordinary quality of its wines – the most famous of which is port. Sign up for a Gourmet Wine Tasting at the hotel’s Wine Academy – or enrol for a course to discover all there is to know about the world’s most popular wine. Outside the hotel you can book riverboat trips, enjoy a ride on the panoramic Douro railway line, see the Douro Museum, visit craft workshops and explore the region’s numerous wine estates.

We travelled back through the wonderful Douro Valley and went on to stay at The Yeatman Hotel in Porto. Located in the historic heart of Villa de Gaia next to the ancient lodges where Port houses have aged their wines for over three centuries, The Yeatman is named after a distinguished port wine family. The hotel is a prime destination for those wishing to explore the pleasures of port as it offers unparalleled choice of wood aged and vintage ports from distinguished port houses and estates, including rare wines and collector’s items seldom found on any wine list.

The hotel sits in a seven-acre hillside site, and is cleverly orientated so all public spaces and bedrooms face the front – with spectacular and unimpeded views across the river Douro to the city of Porto.

The Yeatman’s Michelin starred gastronomic restaurant has been awarded Michelin stars for the last five years. Led by chef Ricardo Costa, the imaginative cuisine offers traditional flavours of Portugal, interpreted and presented with contemporary flair. The menu showcases Portugal’s huge range of fish and other fresh produce.

The cellars at the hotel hold one of the most comprehensive collections of Portuguese wines. The hotel has also established partnerships with some of Portugal’s finest producers, who actively participate in the hotel’s programme of tastings, seminars and
wine dinners.

The wine theme continues at the hotel’s splendid Caudalie Vinothérapie Spa where guests can indulge in a variety of Caudallie exclusive treatments and products – all based on ingredients from the vineyard environment. Why not try the relaxing ‘Barrel Bath Experience’. Immerse yourself in bubbling water enriched with a conditioning grape extract, rounded off with a relaxing massage including pressure points. There are ten therapy rooms where guests can relax and enjoy treatments including relaxing Vichy shower massage and other signature body and facial treatments.

The spa also has stunning panoramic views in the relaxation area, and direct access to the indoor, all-weather swimming pool next to the hotel’s gym. The large outdoor pool is surrounded by a sun terrace with staircase to the gardens. The swimming pool’s design is Decanter-shaped – Of course!

More information

Classic Collection Holidays
0800 294 9323 or classic-collection.co.uk, offer 2 nights at the Vintage House Hotel and 2 nights at The Yeatman from £999 pp.

Price based on 2 adults sharing River View Junior Suite and Superior Panoramic View Room. Both on a Bed & Breakfast Basis. Includes Return Flights from London Gatwick (other UK departure airports available) to Porto and all private transfers.