Location: Whitby, Ontario, Canada

Born in Malta but in Canada since age 5. Has written three books and presently does several columns about wine and food for various magazines.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

July 7th: Day Ten: Quinta da Lagoalva

Hogwartz In Portugal
The history of Lagaolva (pronounced Lah-gwal-va) goes  back to the 18th Century where after a series of damns were put in for flood and irrigation purposes the crop/livestock production began. The large estate that stretched along the banks of the Tagus river became the largest and most important in the area. It was owned by a succession of Earls and Dukes and their descendents. The present owners,  the Campilho Family, have owned this estate since 1888.
The centre of the estate consisted of a group of palatial buildings set around a magnificent courtyard. Here were the offices, living quarters and working facilities of the family as well as the stables which housed champion Lucitano horses.
Inside the family home was reminiscent of Hogwartz Castle of Harry Potter fame. We were fortunate enough to be given the use of the home that was the abode of Isabel Juliana Campilho.
One of the many buildings on the location, it exuded history and class. On entering the eight foot high doors, one was greeted by the busts of Roman emperors. The floor made of large (and well polished) stone contributed to the echo of footsteps as we walked past the statues.Intrigue was everywhere with doorways heading in many directions.
Around the corner from the statues was an elevator that led to the first and second floors. The second floor was where the bedrooms where among other things. These rooms each had its own ensuite bath and was well decorated in period pieces. The cleanliness was impeccable.
One would think that these rooms were there for use as a hotel but this was not so. Guests who came to stay at Lagoalva were at the special invitation of the family and were considered friends. I felt doubly honoured.
The first floor could be reached via the elevator or through the older and very lovely staircase.
As one ascended up the staircase, one could view various older paintings of people and scenes. It indeed was like being at Hogwartz with its myriad of paintings. The only difference, the Lagoalva paintings did not move or come to life-----at least not while I was there.
The staircase culminated of a large and very attractive painting of who I would believe was Isabel Campilho. The painting was illuminated by a light at its base. She was Diogo Campilho's grandmother and looked every bit the strong and independent person that I woul have assumed her to be. To my right was the living quarters complete with television, dining lounge and breakfast room. To my left was more rooms that were for the private use of the family.
The television/sitting lounge area had many pictures of the family in earlier times. One that struck me was of a younger Isabel Juliana with her favourite horse. She was as beautiful as she was strong. It made me think of the phrase that "Beauty Survives". I would have loved to meet her and maybe someday I will. Beauty does survive well in the Campilho's household. Diogo's wife, Sophia, a practicing psychologist, was absolutely gorgeous as well as superbly intelligent. But----of course---who else would a Campilho be attracted to!!!! 
From the window of my bedroom I could see the courtyard with a Pagoda style sitting area in its middle. The plants that covered the skeleton structure of the Pagoda gave a distinct feeling of privacy when it was entered.
From the home we could easily access the winery, carriage area which housed  the best antique carriage collection I have ever seen, a tasting area for the wines and the stables. Those who admire horses would be in their element at these stables since they were ultra clean. The horses got immediate attention.
The indoor riding arena was quite spacious and was where Diogo trained for Dfressage and Jumping competitions. He gave both my daughter Taryn and her friend Jessica a lesson on one of his prized horses.
Living at Lagoalva was not without its dangers however as one of the animal husbandry assistants got the worse end of an encounter with one of the large bulls on the property. He was limping a bit but was otherwise okay.
Both Taryn and Jessica did well in their lesson and it seems that the rest of the Campilho family carries on the family tradition of riding. I saw Diogo's oldest son in full riding gear coming from the stable. The lad had the style and class exhibited by the rest of this very aristocratic and special family.
Diogo's passion ranges widely. This former "Bullfighter" ("There isn't a bone that I have not broken in my body doing this. When I turned twenty five I suddenly asked myself the question as to why was I doing all this and then quit!" He now is happy to tackle, "Master of Wine" courses, university courses, wine making, group associations, equestrian riding, horse jumping and having a family. Oh yes, he also manages the winery.
His latest venture is with a group of young winemakers from different wineries. Together they call themselves the "Young Winemakers".  
The group operates together yet make their own wines. Diogo's wine named "Hobby' reflects his winemaking and also the association of the group.                                    
 Lagoalva is indeed a masterpiece reflecting all that is wine: History, Geography, Culture, Science and People. Located about two kilometres from the town of Alpiarca, it gained a reputation in the 19th century for quality wine, olives, cork and fine horses. It is a fully functional farm stretcinglong the south bank of the Tagus River for 5000 hectares planted with vines; olive, cork and walnut trees; fields of grains, lima beans and corn. In addition to the Lucitanos, there are cows and sheep in the pastures.
Lagoalva, which means “white pond,” is named for the beautiful body of water on the property. The soil is primarily a sandy clay that supports a wide variety of  indigenous and international grape varieties. The white varieties include Alvarinho, Arinto, Fernão Pires, Verdelho, Chardonnay and Viognier; while Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesa, Tinta Roriz, Alfrocheiro, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Tannat, Pinot Noir and Castelão represent the reds.
I personally tasted many of the wines at this winery and find them exceptional with good concentration and an elegance capability of challenging the best anywhere.