This story originally appeared in the Napa Valley Register.
Portuguese wine production dates to ancient civilization but it is a rather unfamiliar region for wine drinkers in the United States. You may know of Port or Madeira or even Vinho Verde. But have you heard of Alentejo, Dao or Tejo? Meet Ayesha Trump (no relation) of Douro Vino Selections who is on a mission to bring artisanal wines from across Portugal to the United States.
Ayesha never thought she would be taking people on a journey into Portugal’s geography, cuisine and history through its wines. Born in Mexico, she was working as an oil consultant and traveling for work. While in Spain for work, she decided to take a vacation weekend to Portugal. On a warm summer night, she found a tiny restaurant in Lisbon where the owner gave her a mini-master class on the wines of Portugal. This amazing experience embodied Portugal and Ayesha fell in love. As she explained, “I fell in love with the entire package, the food, the wines, the culture.” She emptied personal contents from her suitcase to fit a few bottles of wine in to bring home.
Back in the United States, Ayesha noted that there were not a lot of Portuguese wines to be found in the market. So, she decided to start her own import business, despite having with no experience in the wine industry.
With no knowledge about importing wine, Ayesha spent the next six months researching her idea. She visited wine retailers to find out why Portuguese wines were not readily available. She got her importer and distribution licenses, as well as an online retail license. She asked hundreds of questions to retailers, sommeliers and the state Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC). And then she booked a flight to Portugal, rented a car and started driving around, meeting with producers.
Ayesha studied, asked questions and learned through experiences. She trained her brain to understand wine. She traveled back to Portugal with Roy Hersh, a great resource on Portuguese wine and the founder of For The Love Of Port. And in 2015, she launched D’Ouro Vino Selections, an importer of boutique and organic Portuguese wines, and began, for the time being, selling wine in Southern California.
D’Ouro Vino Selections is dedicated to representing a unique portfolio of boutique Portuguese winemakers who offer impeccable quality, character and value. They are masters in the craft of winemaking and strive for excellence and uniqueness. The wines will take you on a voyage of authentic taste and exceptional discovery.
— Herdade de Mouchão – Located in Alentejo, where 80 percent of the world’s cork comes from, this stunning winery has vineyards dating to 1901. Herdade do Mouchão believes in the true craft of winemaking. From traditional foot treading at harvest time to hand presses as old as the winery, Mouchão remains a traditional, family-run winery focused on producing award-winning wines.
—Quinta Da Lapa – This estate in the Tejo region has existed for more than 300 years. It is a winery in which its history can be felt in a glass of the wine.
—Casal da Coelheira – Located in the Tagus River wine region, Casal da Coelheira, which means “house of rabbits,” is a traditional Portuguese winery that features timeless architecture on the outside and state-of-art winemaking technology and processes on the inside.
—José Maria da Fonseca – Founded in 1834, José Maria da Fonseca is in Setubal, a region famous for moscatel. Jose Maria da Fonseca is the oldest producer of table wine and Setúbal Moscatel in Portugal.
—Quinta do Mourão—Quinta do Mourão, located in the Douro, is a producer of extraordinary Tawny Ports and DOC wines. The winery has been owned by the Braga family since it was purchased by Mario Braga in 1972 and today his son Miguel Braga is the owner and winemaker.
—Quinta de Linhares—Located in the Vinho Verde region, the largest and among the most fertile growing regions of Portugal, Quinta De Linhares produces a range of Vinhos Verdes with the grape varieties Loureiro, Avesso, Azal and Arinto from their 21-hectare vineyard.
Ayesha knew that when she started D’Ouro Vino Selections that her lack of knowledge about wine could be held against her, but she has taken a fresh approach, using her inexperience to work in her favor and focusing on learning what the customer wants. “I know my limitations but it does not stop me. I am persistent. I do not take ‘no’ for an answer. To me it is not work, it is fun.”
She has been quickly growing D’Ouro Vino Selections, making placements in many prestigious accounts across Los Angeles. In 2017, the portfolio of Portuguese producers will also include Luis Pato from the Bairrada Region, Vertice from the Douro Valley and Julia Kemper from the Dão Region. In addition, D’Ouro Vino Selections will be expanding throughout California, and beyond. Perhaps this will be the year that we all develop a passion for Portuguese wines.
Read the original story in the Napa Valley Register.