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This story originally appeared in the Napa Valley Register. To me, the best way to get to know a county and its culture is through its food and wine. Local ingredients and dishes, the indigenous grape varieties and winemaking processes, they all tell so much about a culture, its history and present-day. So, on my first trip to Portugal, specifically to the city of Porto, I dove right in. Located in Northern Portugal, along the Douro river, Porto is the second largest city in Portugal, after Lisbon. From the cobblestone streets to the tiled houses to the food and wine, it is no wonder that Porto was classified as a Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 1996 and recently awarded The Best European Destination by the Best European Destinations Agency. Porto is flanked by the Atlantic Ocean on the west and the vineyards in the Douro to the east. The cuisine of Porto uses its natural resources, which include fresh seafood and meats. And there are the sweet desserts, many of which are made with what was described to me as just “sugar, sugar, sugar and eggs, eggs, eggs.”
I spent the past week eating and drinking my way through Porto and the Douro in northern Portugal. There were so many wonderful wines, from still white and red Douro wines to the famous and historical Ports, both ruby and tawny. But at each and every tasting, the one wine that stole my heart was the Colheita and that is why it is the Please the Palate Pick of the week. Port can be ruby or tawny. Ruby Ports, whether young, reserve, LBV or vintage, tend to be more fruit driven as they do not age in oak. A tawny port is a port that is aged in wood so that oxygen flows through resulting in the loss of color and the development of different flavors. Tawny Port is available in 10 Year, 20 Year, 30 Year, 40 Year and Colheita, an aged Tawny Port made with grapes from a single vintage. "Colheita" means "harvest" in Portuguese. Colheitas are required by law to mature in wooden casks for at least seven years, although it can be much longer. The wine is bottled when the producer feels it is ready to drink.