I have seen more than a few wineries in Napa built to resemble Bordeaux châteaus, and in Bordeaux itself I've seen some modeled after the Grand Trianon at Versailles. But until I visited Portugal's Vinho Verde country and its largest winery, Quinta da Aveleda, I had never seen one that looked as if it were laid out with Alice in Wonderland in mind.
Although Aveleda is one of the most modern wineries in Portugal, it is also arguably the most whimsical. Amid its formal, French-inspired gardens stand such structures as a stone goat tower and a thatched goose cottage. Even the 19th-century estate house (with more than 20 bedrooms) has its idiosyncrasies. "My grandfather designed it so that no two windows are alike," says Antonio Guedes, scion and president of Aveleda. His father added a few touches of his own, such as a fountain with the faces of Antonio's four aunts, each one personifying a different season.
Yet with all this to distract and amuse them, visitors to Aveleda are as likely to request a tour of the winery's bottling line as a walk through its fantastical grounds. Although it's hard to imagine the appeal of something as mundane as bottling machinery over, say, a Victorian teahouse (the estate has a charming one), Vinho Verde, in the northwestern part of the country, is a region of contradictions. To begin with, the area's eponymous wine literally means green wine--though it's actually a light, dry, somewhat effervescent white wine, made from a blend of grapes, most notably Trajadura and the aromatic Loureiro. Green refers not to its color but to its youth, since Vinho Verde is best drunk soon after wineries release their bottles in the spring.