From a distance, the Serra da Montejunto dominates the landscape of Alenquer. But on our first drive up to the Quinta do Convento da Nossa Senhora da Visitação, the twilight turned to darkness, and the mountain upon whose slopes we drove was obscured by the looming shadows of trees. Pinhals (pines) and loureiros (bay laurel trees) cover the acres surrounding the quinta’s buildings, which once housed a Franciscan monastery founded in 1540. We dropped off our new friends who were staying there for the night, and returned the next day for a tour and a tasting of their wines.

On the second approach, with the sun still high enough over the ocean to give us a good view, we saw the vineyards that also embrace the land. Our guide, André, pointed out the 14 hectares under vine. In 2002, these were planted to 10 varieties, including Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Arinto, Fernão Pires, Merlot, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillion, Caledoc (a French native), and Pinot Noir, because of the hillside’s face to the Atlantic about 25 km away. We drove up to a converted lookout tower that is now the quinta’s honeymoon suite—a perfect perch if you like a vista, and the feeling of nesting atop a cliff.

From that perch, we also looked over our shoulders up the mountain to the top, which was not all that far away. We got a good sense here of the calcareous limestone bedrock and soils upon which Montejunto, and the quinta, are based.

Back in the winery, which has its origins in the 19th century, André showed us the modern trappings of the current winemaking operation. While the Tinta Roriz and Caledoc are still pressed in the traditional lagares, or open vats, a more gentle method is used for the Touriga Nacional and the Pinot Noir. Within the winery’s walls, the scent of fresh hay wafted through the air, a pleasing aspect. 

The Touriga Nacional and Pinot Noir are fermented in French oak tanks, and then go into barrels for a second fermentation. The quinta uses a bit of American and Canadian oak in the barrels for the Syrah. From time to time, the quinta produces an espumante from the Pinot Noir. They added a bottling line in 2016, with capacity to push through up to 1,200 bottles per hour.

Our continued tour of the grounds took us around a collection of spaces that reflect the composite nature of the facility, which is often rented out for weddings and such. The old convent building houses rooms in an historic fashion, while the new event facility has modern yet spare rooms that can be configured for families or small groups of close friends.

As we walked past the antique fountains and looked out over the forest, I felt a disconnect, until we came upon the quinta’s main capela, or chapel. We stepped inside, and in the anteroom were greeted by the calming light falling upon panels of azulejos, in the midst of restoration. Going further, into the chapel itself, more azulejos, some lining the confessionals, others telling stories on the walls. While André demurred that not much has been done yet as far as the restoration was concerned, I found the chapel’s current state to reflect perfectly the contemplative feeling I would expect in a former convent.

Snaking through to more rooms off of the nave, I saw the afternoon sun hitting the tiles tucked away in the corners. These became my favorite photos from our visit…and I’m so happy to see the effect of that soft light preserved in those pictures.

Finally, we met with the new winemaker, Vera Moreira, in the quinta’s modern tasting room. She’s recently taken over, in January 2018, from a compatriot, António Ventura, whose wines we tasted during this visit. Moreira has worked in regions around Portugal, including Vinho Verde and Tràs-os-Montes, and Alentejo, where she studied in Évora. Most recently, she worked at Quinta do Gradil—so we look forward to returning to taste her work.

She showed a series of five wines, to demonstrate the quinta’s range. We started off with a Sauvignon Blanc and Fernão Pires blend that we both found refreshing. The next wine, a 100% Semillion from 2013, was harder for us—it felt complicated rather than complex. The true winner of the tasting was the 2008 Reserva, a blend with primarily Syrah and Touriga Nacional grapes that had many layers opening up to us over the course of our moments with it there. We plan to enjoy another bottle or two of this lovely wine over the holidays with our family and friends.

Quinta do Convento da Nossa Senhora da Visitação

Rua do Convento

2580-442 Vila Verde dos Francos

+351 210 330 780

[email protected]

Tasting Notes: November 27, 2018

Quinta do Convento Sauvignon Blanc & Fernão Pires 2016 

From VR Lisboa. Mostly Sauvignon Blanc, unoaked, with a single fermentation. On the nose, florals and grass; on the palate, lemon leaves and fresh citrus flavors. Moreira calls Fernão Pires a very “plastic” grape. “It creates 20 tonnes/acre in Alentejo’s rich soils, but not here on the mountain.” 13% abv.

Vintage & Producer: 2016 Quinta do Convento

From: VR Lisboa

Style: Fresh, citrusy white

Variety: Sauvignon Blanc and Fernão Pires

Price: €4,20 at the quinta

Quinta do Convento Semillion 2013 

From VR Lisboa. 100% Semillion. Gasoline aromas, though still gives off a fresh, crisp sensation at first. Its color has yellowed a bit, as one would expect. Four months in French oak barrels lend it vanilla and leather elements. Tropical fruits on the palate, with a soft end that disappears. 13,5% abv.

Vintage & Producer: 2013 Quinta do Convento

From: VR Lisboa

Style: Medium-bodied, fruited, aged white

Variety: Semillion

Price: €5,20 at the quinta

Quinta do Convento Caledoc/Tinta Roriz/Pinot Noir 2012

From VR Lisboa. A blend of the three grapes, this red spent nine months in French oak barrels, and two years in the bottle prior to release. I found it leathery, with a bit of toast, and raspberry flavors. Soft tannins, with little on the finish. 13% abv.

Vintage & Producer: 2012 Quinta do Convento

From: VR Lisboa

Style: Soft, fruity red

Variety: Caledoc, Tinta Roriz, and Pinot Noir

Price: €4,40 at the quinta

Quinta do Convento Syrah 2013

From VR Lisboa. Spent a year in French oak barrels. Violets on the nose, with eucalyptus, menthol, and tobacco leaves. Stewed plums on the palate, with another soft ending. 12,5% abv.

Vintage & Producer: 2013 Quinta do Convento

From: VR Lisboa

Style: Medium-bodied, leathery red

Variety: Syrah

Price: €7,50 at the quinta

Quinta do Convento Reserva 2008 

From VR Lisboa. Syrah and Touriga Nacional are the only grapes in this red reserve wine, our favorite of the tasting. Spent a year in 70% French and 30% American oak barrels. Starts off with a bit of smoked sardine, then tomato leaf, then blackberries. On the palate, roses and red fruits as it opens up. Then, at the end, dusty violets. 13,9% abv.

Vintage & Producer: 2008 Quinta do Convento

From: VR Lisboa

Style: Complex, full-bodied red

Variety: Syrah and Touriga Nacional

Price: €15 at the quinta

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