Hm...the problems of travel. Somehow my various dispatches from Portugal vanished en route, so there's been strange radio silence in this blog lately. Here's one of the M.I.A. entries, and another one below it:

A quick dispatch from Portugal's Douro region, where yesterday I had the chance to taste Quinta do Noval's new table wines, the next appearance of Douro table wines from a great Port producer (following Niepoort, Dow's, etc. etc.). Made by longtime Noval winemaker Antonio Agrelos, both of these new wines were terrific. The 2004 Cedro do Noval ($19) is the simpler of the two; a blend of 40% Tinta Roriz, 40% Touriga Nacional and 20% Touriga Franca, it shows light smoky oak notes, lots of pretty blackberry fruit and an appealing forwardness that asks for it to be drunk immediately. Though hold off until you're back from the store. The 2004 Quinta do Noval red wine ($55), which shifts the blend to 60% Touriga Nacional, 20% Tinta Cão and 20% Tinta Franca is a more formidable red; the aromatic nose suggesting blueberry and plum with some classic esteva (rockrose) floral notes, the wine itself firm with focused tannins and full of black fruit that opens up to wild cherry and black pepper notes. Both these wines are worth searching out. Also worth searching out is Quinta da Romaneira, Noval director Christian Seely's new ultra-boutique hotel which is housed in a pair of old quinta buildings by the banks of the Douro. It's an extraordinary property, about which I'll be writing more in the next day or two...but now I've got to go taste more Douro wines.