Howard’s Folly is a winery that brings together art, dreams and different cultures from around the world that is reflected in the food and its wines
It all starts when Englishman Howard Bilton, living in Hong Kong, tastes a Portuguese wine that really loves. In such a way the wine impresses him that he insists on getting to know the winemaker: that was Dave Baverstock (yes, the renowned winemaker at Herdade do Esporão)
The relationship between the two remained and out of friendship – in 2007 – the idea of creating a wine project in Alentejo was born.
Howard started by buying vineyards in Portalegre, more specifically at Tapada do Falcão in São Mamede hill, some over 50 years old! There are 17 acres of touriga nacional, aragonez, syrah, alicante-bouschet and trincadeira. As for the white grape, it is bought from small local producers, all located in Portalegre.
The first harvests were made in different wineries until 2018 was the time to have your own winery. Howard acquires the former agricultural cooperative in Estremoz – where a train line would come straight from Lisbon many years ago – to transform it into a winery on one side and wine bar and restaurant on the other.
The Howard’s Folly portfolio includes Sonhador Branco, Sonhador Alvarinho, Sonhador Rosé, Sonhador Tinto. They also produce a white and red Reserva and special editions every year. For this autumn they have something new: the first amphora wine will come out!
Howard is an avowed art lover and this is evident not only in the colorful walls of the cellar, filled with graffiti by different artists, in the gallery, in the decoration of the wine bar, but also in the wine labels.
Each year a theme is defined and several paintings go to competition to decide which is the winner of the year. The best painting not only wins its place on the labels of the Sonhador range, but is also sold – along with the other participating works – in an art gallery and the earnings go to the Souvereign Art Foundation, that since the foundation has already raised $ 10 million
Created in 2003 by Howard Bilton, S.A.F. has the mission to recognize the talent of contemporary art while helping children in need in Asia.
When visiting Howard’s Folly, you can choose from several programs. A visit to the winery to see the large stainless steel vats and oak barrels is always included. Then you can choose a set of different tests, such as:
Sonhador Tour – tasting of 3 wines from the Sonhador range
Winemaking Workshop – tasting different single varietal wines to then make a customized wine according to your taste
Reserve and Premium Wine Tour and Tasting – where in addition to the visit to the winery, you may taste wines directly from the vats and barrels plus 5 reserve wines or special editions
The tastings can be paired by tidbits prepared by The Folly restaurant. This place is open for lunch and dinner (and the kitchen doesn’t close during the afternoon, ideal for those late weekend lunches!)
The Folly restaurant is in the hands of Chef Hugo Bernardo. Graduated in hotel management, he worked for several years as a hotel manager. One day he got fed up, changed his suit and tie, by his chef’s coat, rolled up his sleeves – finally showing off the various tattoos – and opened his first restaurant in Oeiras.
Bernardo’s life took many turns until he ended up in Estremoz. Here he gathers some of what he has collected throughout his life, his travels, the places where he worked and the people he worked with.
Our lunch started with a board of regional cheeses and cold cuts from small local producers. The brand new Sonhador Rosé was the first served. 2019 is the first harvest of this rosé to hit the market and it is delicious! Made with 65% Aragones and 35% Castelão, this rosé is very floral on the nose, but dry in the mouth despite the intense red fruit flavor.
There followed a parade of delicious dishes:
After the rosé, it was the turn of the White Sonhador to arrive at the table. Intense flavor of white plums that filled the mouth and acidity to balance and make it fresher. I didn’t taste the red in that day, but I brought it home, so one day I could taste it calmly 😉
Howard’s Folly is a winery, which is also a wine bar, which is also a restaurant and an art gallery. I’m sure of one thing, Estremoz will never be the same after Howard’s Folly arrived!