Heading out of Lisbon, as sprawling malls and industrial structures give way to a post-impressionist landscape of rolling green hills and cloudless blue sky, I write: “Drive alone worth the trip, obrigada.” The gratitude goes to my Portuguese friend, who recommended we make this weekend detour to Alentejo in south-central Portugal.
After 45 minutes we arrive at L’And Vineyards, a resort that opened on a family-owned vineyard in 2011 near the Unesco World Heritage city of Evora. Peeking around the bold prism of a main building that houses the bijou winery, we uncover another rich, painterly scene, this one of iridescent red dragonflies, bursts of lavender and flowers spanning the yellow spectrum from golden to ochre. Beyond this we spy the swimming pool and its surrounding loungers, populated with tanned couples, and hear birdcalls emanate from the lake at the property edge. When I look up, the medieval hilltop castle of Montemor-o-Novo comes into view.
The hotel’s 22 suites (doubles from €195)fan out past the pool; ours is one of 10 endowed with a skylight above the bed that retracts for the ultimate in horizontal stargazing. Equally fawn-worthy are the bathroom’s black stone rectangular tub – one of the deepest I have ever seen – and courtyard Jacuzzi pool. Indeed, each of the 120sq m retreats, finished by Brazilian architect Marcio Kogan in earthen tones with polished wooden slats, black stained timber flooring and textural stonework, has two private patios.
Curled up on the sunlit living room’s cushy couch I read about L’And’s organic-wine business and study the oenophile-oriented activities on offer, include tastings and courses (€7.50-€75). We get our first taste of the hotel’s gourmet programme over dinner in L’And restaurant, helmed by chef Miguel Laffan and hung with an artful plethora of polished copper orbs. Just as aesthetically pleasing is my olive-cake appetiser topped with sardines and organic tomatoes, which earns me a record number of Instagram likes even before the poached sea bass arrives, cosseted by liquefied butter with anise, roots, mushrooms and oyster leaf.
Over the next two days, we explore the 66-hectare property on foot, learning that four hectares are set aside for producing red grapes and two for white grapes. Here in Portugal’s largest wine-producing region, this is one of around 250 vineyards and the first to open an on-site resort. On our second evening we join the 6.30pm wine tasting, where I manage to sniff out black fruit and tobacco from the barrels, before my palate settles on one of Laffan’s desserts: caramel sea-salt brownie drizzled in white chocolate and basil sauce. I go to bed swearing our last day will be all about another vineyard walkabout, until I catch sight in the morning of carrot, apple and tomato jams laid out alongside baskets of fluffy homemade breads in the sun-soaked dining room.