ALVES DE SOUSA (Douro, Portugal)


Portugal is an area of the world making outstanding wine, both excellent table wines as well as high-end world reds, and Alves de Sousa (Domingos and his son, Tiago, pictured above) produces some of the most exciting wines coming from the Douro, with Robert Parker commenting that “their lineup included some of the most enjoyable wines I reviewed.”  We are now offering an expended Alves de Sousa line via Portalis Online Store.  These wines are not readily available in the US and would make very special wine gifts for people interested in exploring the world of wine:     

ALVES DE SOUSA 2002 RESERVA PESSOAL BRANCO $46 – Golden color given by the long oak aging. Flavors of flowers, orange peel, cinnamon and other spices. You could almost expect some sweetness after that, but on the palate it’s surprisingly dry, smooth and with a great structure. Very long finish.

ALVES DE SOUSA 2003 RESERVA PESSOAL $63 (Parker 90pts) – “…softer and more sensual, although tannins pop up on the finish, and become stronger with air. The fruit is juicy, nuanced by plums and blackberries, and extremely tasty. …In addition to its pure charm, it has enough of everything to show better for a while on Day #2.” –Parker

ALVES DE SOUSA 2004 ABANDONADO $81 (Parker 95pts) – “The 2004 “Abandonado” is a limited production new bottling that comes from a single vineyard, 80 years old, that was almost abandoned, hence the name. …It is powerfully constructed, with drying tannins on the finish, but this structure is balanced by ripe, succulent fruit that is utterly delicious…. Although closed and a bit hard to read at the moment, I think it potentially is a significant winner.” –Parker. 275 cases total production. Drink 2010-2020.      

ALVES DE SOUSA 2003 QUINTA DA GAIVOSA VINTAGE PORT $53.50 – Dark, dense with extraordinary balance. Great structure; well-integrated tannins with intense chocolate notes. Spicy, with an intense and very long finish. It’s a port with a long and auspicious life in front.  Interesting note:  Alves de Sousa is the #1 grape supplier to Taylor’s.



Seasonal Food Note: Chef Tracey’s Holiday Appetizers

gp5This is the time of year when everyone needs a couple good appetizer tricks up their sleeve and most people don’t have much time to throw them together, so let’s keep it simple.  Crostini are alwasy a good bet.  Get a loaf of baguette, slice it up, brush olive oil on one side and toast.  For a topping, try white bean & smoked sturgeon (purée 1 can cannellini beans, 8oz smoked sturgeon, 1T capers, 1T chopped dill, 1T roasted garlic & juice of 1 lemon in a food processor, drizzling in extra virgin olive oil until it’s the right consistency), spread on the crostini and serve with a nice, soft bubbly, such as Toffoli NV Prosecco $17.  Another crowd pleaser is bacon-wrapped, blue cheese-filled dates.  Stilton makes a great stuffer as it’s dry and tangy and can hold its own against the sweet of the date and the salt of the bacon.  Use a half slice of bacon around the date and hold the little treasure together with a toothpick.  Pop a tray of these in a 450 degree oven for 6-7 minutes or until the bacon is sizzling.  To drink with this, I’d again recommend bubbly, but I’d go with something drier, such as a Spanish Cava:  Casteller NV Cava $14 is delicious and a good value, especially if you’re serving a large group.

Want to up the ante?
Serve a blue cheese savory tart.  I served this last year (and will again on Dec 19) at our Holiday Port Tasting, and people asked again and again for the recipe.  This tart is not difficult to prepare, but it requires a little more prep.  Start by making a crust.  Purée 2C Ritz crackers, 1C walnuts and a stick of melted butter.  Press into a springform pan and bake at 350 degrees for 5 minutes.  Let cool.  In the meantime, blend together 2 packages of cream cheese, 1.5lbs of blue cheese & 2 eggs (all at room temp).  For the blue cheese, try Valdeon.  It’s a tangy, Spanish blue that works great in this dish.  Pour the filling into the crust and bake at 350 for about 45 minutes or until the center of the tart is set.  Serve room temp with figs, dates, fruit crostini (available at most grocery stores) and of course port.  I’d recommend a nice tawny with this:  Dow 20 year old Tawny $62.  It’s a splurge, but well worth it … and as you drink this dessert wine with discretion, the bottle lasts a long time.  Right?

Contributor – Tracey Stoner, Chef, Portalis Wine Bar

Portalis Wine Club – December 2007: The Rhône Valley

dscn0667_blog_21The last wine club of the year features wines from the Rhône Valley in southeastern France. Wines from this area are exceptional food wines and match well with many traditional holiday dishes including duck, turkey, lamb and beef.

The Rhône Valley is one of the oldest wine growing regions in the world and is divided into the Southern and Northern Rhône Valleys. You can find thrilling, world class wines in Cote Rotie, Condrieu, Hermitage and Cornas (Northern Rhône) as well as in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas and Vacqueyras (Southern Rhône). Wines from the Northern Rhône appellation are mainly made from the Syrah grape, sometimes blended with Viognier and tend to be drier and more structured, with flavors of minerals & earth, while the Southern Rhône appellation produces an array of red, white and rosé wines, often blends of multiple grape varietals.  The reds from the Southern Rhône are earthy and spicy and tend to be fruitier than those from the north end of the valley.

The 2 bottle wine club features two wines from the Southern Rhône appellation.  The 3 bottle wine club adds in a wine from the Northern Rhône appellation.

Domaine des Espiers was founded in 1989 by Philippe Cartaux and is located in the village of Vacqueyras. This red is a blend of 65% Grenache and 35% Syrah from the Gigondas appellation. This wine is unfiltered and fermented 6 months in French oak. Tasting notes: Very aromatic. Refined fruit and flavors of dark berries, blackberries, with some herbal and spicy components. Elegant, complex and well-balanced. Great acidity. Still a little young. Needs some time. Up to 2 years

This producer is also located in the town of Vacqueyras. The appellation area covers the two communes of Vacqueyras and Sarrians within the “Vaucluse “department”, at the base of the Dentelles de Montmirail hills. The Vacqueyras appellation received Grand Cru status in 1990.  Tasting notes: Well-made Rhône wine with rustic, dark fruit, blackberries, herbal and earthy notes. Shows tar and mineral notes on the dark, long finish. Great acidity and body. A wonderful wine.  Drink now, up to 2 years.

Emmanuel Darnaud is one of the most talented young winemakers in the Northern Rhône Valley. After working for 4 years for Bernard Faurie, he made his first vintage in 2001. The winery is located in La Roche-de-Glum. Tasting notes: Seductive bouquet. Dark and racy, with lots of blueberry, olives, violets, tar and iron notes. Medium-to full-bodied, with a firm structure. Long, smoky finish. Drink now, up to 3 years.

Enjoy & cheers,

Note:  If you are interested in joining our wine club, read more at

Holiday Cheer – Celebrating with Champagne

Admit it, nothing says “bring on the party” like the sound of something bubbly being uncorked.  Most of you only buy Champagne for special occasions, and chances are that special occasion is coming very soon in the form of a holiday party.  Sure, you feel equipped to select Cabernets and Syrahs that will impress your colleagues and family members, but when it comes to those French Champagne labels it can be…well, down right painful.  As you stand in front of the Champagne section, questions start clouding your mind: ” Which one tastes the best? ” “How much do I need to spend?” “What are the differences?!”  Relax…Help is here.  Below are 3  Champagnes that are delicious, not outrageously expensive, and best of all – from small Champagne growers.  That means you can spread the cheer with bubbles and introduce those you know to something special versus the same ‘ol same ‘ol.  Here’s to you!

The Dumont family have been growing vineyards for over 200 hundred years. The winery is located in the southern Champagne region of the Aube.  Today, 3 Dumont brothers still operate and produce Champagne from their family’s 54 acres which are 90% Pinot Noir and 10% Chardonnay.  Description: Aromas of blossoms and ripe red apple, it has a light mousse, honey notes and crisp refreshing finish.

Bruno Gobillard took over his family’s 18th Century estate in 1994 at the age of 28.  He is relentless about producing only the best Champagne possible from their 17 acres (30 year old vines) by vinifying in small vats and leaving the wine on the lees for as long as possible to gain complexity.  To produce a “fresh and tasty” Champagne as Bruno describes, he blends equal parts Pinot Noir & Chardonnay with 10%  Pinot Meunier.  Description: Toasty nut flavors with hints of lemon citrus, producing a long elegant finish with subtle minerality.

 José Dhondt is a tiny organic grape farmer and producer who demonstrates that good things do come in small packages.  The 100% Chardonnay fruit comes from the Grand Cru village of Oger in the Côtes-de-Blancs region.
DESCRIPTION: Lean, stony, with aromas of  lemon peel and white flowers this bubbly has firm acidity that is delightfully dry to the finish.

Contributor – Gina Gregory

A visitor from Bodega Benegas (Argentina)

This tasting was great tasting for several reasons:  1) the wines were phenomenal wines, especially for the money and 2) Berenice Maulhardt, who was visiting Seattle from the winery in Mendoza, was a power-frau to say the least.  A beautiful woman in her high-heeled boots and her long blond hair, excellent English and a lot of information to impart on the subject of Benegas (pronounced BeNEgas she told us) and Argentine wine in general, she dazzled the crowd which was a lot of fun.  Bodegas Benegas ( has a long and interesting history, beginning in the 1880’s with Tiburcio Benegas planting the first French grapevines in the Americas and ending with Federico Benegas Lynch buying back the family winery in the late 1990’s.

Here are the tasting notes:

2006 Luna Benegas Cabernet Sauvignon $11.50 – medium-bodied, good dark fruit, easy to drink, soft tannins on the finish

2005 Don Tiburcio $17.50 – more complx, medium- to full-bodied with dark fruit, a little more tannic on the finish

2005 Benegas Malbec $23 – bigger, dark fruit, more tannic still.  Needs to age a little, but beuatiful dark fruit and lots of it.  Good with steak in year.

2006 Benegas Syrah $23 – a favorite at the tasting.  Need to drink now.  Has good dark fruit, easy, good sipper.

2005 Benegas Sangiovese $23 – a very big sangiovese. Not acidic & not light as you would normally expect from this varietal.  Big, full-bodied.  Needs a steak, too.

2004 Finca Libertad $28.50 – very complex, medium- to full-bodied Bordeaux blend. Fine tannins on the finish, delicate.  Drink now.  Serve with steak, roast, lamb.

2002 Benegas-Lynch Meritage $56 – biggest wine in the line-up.  Decanter gave this vintage 5 starts and named it the Best New World Wine that year.  It almost sold out at the tasting, with only 1 bottle left when we closed.  It’s so delicious, we recommend just sipping this wine.  It’s smooth, medium- to full-bodied; tannins have smoothed out. You have a really delicate wine.  Drink now.

In fact that’s just want some people at the tasting did.  When the tasting was technically over, but people were still hanging around as a film crew was interviewing Ms. Maulhardt for a documentary on Argentine wine, two gentlemen (who each bought a 6-pack of the Meritage amoung other things), just pulled a bottle from their case, popped it and starting sharing it with the people who were still there.  A little unorthodox, but it was generous and festive and was a nice end to the evening.