Our van headed up the steep hill on a seriously curvy road in Pinhao, Portugal, granting us views on all sides of endless vineyards and the broad Douro River, which was below and growing more distant. It hadn't sunk in yet that we would find a luxury hotel at the end of this drive.
But soon enough, the Quinta Nova Luxury Winery House appeared before us, set on an oasis of flat turf where guests could amble between indoor and outdoor public spaces, relax at the swimming pool and, most definitely, sample a fine dining experience — outdoors, weather permitting — built around fresh, local foods and wine made from the property's own grapes.
Quinta Nova originated as and remains a winery. Today, vineyards occupy 210 of its 300 acres. Other acreage is devoted to orchards and olive groves. Quinta Nova, which sits within the Douro Unesco World Heritage Site, makes olive oil, too.
The Amorim family, owners of Quinta Nova, converted the manor house into an 11-room hotel a decade ago. Modern comforts complement bedroom decor that evokes the building's 18th century origins.
I traveled here with agents on a fam trip sponsored by Picasso Tours in New York and Air Europa.
Before sampling the chef's skills and Quinta Nova's wines at its Conceitus Winery Restaurant, we toured the property, noting the numerous and varied public spaces. As for the rooms, charming in their period dressings, all provide views onto vineyards and the Douro River. Some have terraces, as well.
A view of the winery house in the Douro River valley near Pinhao. Photo Credit: Nadine Godwin
Guests may participate in wine-centered activities, including a winemaker-for-the-day program and a pay-to-work option during the harvest, said Paula Sousa, Quinta Nova's marketing and tourism manager. Wine tours may be confined to the site or include other Douro wine producers.
Boat, rail and helicopter tours leave from on property (there's a helipad on site) as well as from Pinhao docks and stations. Quinta Nova also is a biker's and hiker's destination; in fact, it has 10.5 miles of marked hiking trails on property.
Sousa said Americans are the top source market, accounting for 13% of bookings, but these customers are in the wine business and book direct, in contrast with European customers. Quinta Nova pays commissions, the rates determined in negotiations with travel sellers, Sousa said.
To arrange terms to book the property, agents should contact Sousa at [email protected].
Rates for a double room including breakfast range from about $122 to $223, depending on time of travel and room type.
When overnight guests arrive by rail or helicopter, Quinta Nova provides the transfers. Some visitors are river cruisers on a day excursion, with transfers from Pinhao's docks.
Sousa said Quinta Nova is busiest in April, May and September, but October/November is good for autumn colors and harvest-time food.
A fam tour member, Jayne Piazza, who operates the referral-only Travel Works in Missoula, Mont., said she is considering Quinta Nova as the centerpiece for a group cycling tour. "Apparently, it has a fabulous chef, a nice pool, good wine. … It's a chill destination stay" good for up to three to four nights, she said.