Herdade do Esporão & Monsaraz

After passing through Évora and Reguengos de Monsaraz, we (me and Marta) arrived at the gates of Herdade do Esporão for a weekend dedicated to wine and the resources of this wonderful region of Portugal. Under the intense Alentejo sun, we were far to imagine the grandeur and extension of this property. With vineyards as far as the eye can reach and the Esporão Tower as reference, the Wine Tourism building was our stopping point, right in the estate heart. After a visit to the Archaeological Museum (installed in the Tower) and a jeep ride through the wildest areas of the estate, where we observed its fauna and flora, we entered the Wine Tourism, a project by architects João Botelho and Miguel Oliveira.Like the exterior, the interiors stand out for the simplicity of the lines, the materials honesty and the details that show tradition with a contemporary touch, like the furniture by Gonçalo Prudêncio and the colurful rugs by Mizette Nielsen, produced locally. With a magnificent view to the estate central lake, the lunch (that drag into the afternoon) couldn't be more pleasant, for the lively conversation, the menu prepared by chef Miguel Vaz (with some produce from the local biologic garden) and the great Herdade do Esporão wine selection. By the end of the afternoon, we visited the cellar, were the estate wine is produced and where the unbottled wine is resting in hundreds of french and portuguese oak barrels. Before going away, a visit to the shop is essential in order to bring the best wines and olive oils from this estate with more than 700 years of history. The next day, the first destination was Alqueva, the biggest artificial lake in Europe. Inside Sem-Fim sailboat, a 100 year vessel that came from Holland, and in the company of Tiago Kalisvaart (son of Mizette Nielsen and owner of Sem-Fim boat and restaurant), we could see a part of this imense lake and take a dive in its waters from the golden sand of a small island where we stopped. After the (slow) return by sail, Sem-Fim restaurant, near Monsaraz, was a natural choice after the invitation of Tiago and couldn't be a better one. In an old olive oil press building with a bohemian touch, that also works as an art gallery for Tiago's father pieces and where the old machinery is the main decorative element, we tasted some regional dishes and enjoyed the view of Monsaraz castle, that we visited after lunch. Dating from the 12th century, the castle was the best place to end this trip, with its magnificent views of Alqueva, the white washed houses and shops like Casa Tial and Mizette.