What do you plan to do at the age of 95? Plant a vineyard and start a wine project? Maybe not… but that is exactly what Baron Bodo von Bruemmer did at Casal Santa Maria
But going back a little bit. Walking through the gardens of Casal Santa Maria, we realized why Baron von Bruemmer chose this place by the sea to spend the last years of his life.
And I am not only referring to Portugal, which itself is already surrounded by the sea, but the quinta itself is less than 1 km from the sea, in the Colares close to Sintra.
I tell you the story. It’s a bit long but it’s worth it, I promise!
Born in Courland at the beginning of the 20th century, but it was later in the 1960s – when Bodo lived in Switzerland – that he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer that would give him just six more months to live.
He decided that this was not going to happen in Switzerland and looked on the map of Europe for a better place to end his days.
The chosen place was a house in ruins, surviving the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, in a state of neglect, hidden in the middle of the gardens, which were also very careless.
Together with his wife Rosario, he renovated the house and waited there for the announced death.
But irony of life, it was his wife who a few years later died of cancer.
Bodo continued his life until a real health problem (not the cancer that had been misdiagnosed years ago) took him back to Switzerland.
After several treatments and finally cured, Bodo wakes up in the hospital and – already 95 years old – tells the doctors that he wants to go back to his place in Portugal and plant a vineyard!
Yes, planting a vineyard at 95, because “its never too late” by the words of Baron von Bruemmer himself.
And that was how the most western vineyard in Europe was born, in Casal Santa Maria. In those soils, sixteen acres of vineyards were initially planted with Portuguese and foreign grape varieties.
Located in the Colares sub-region, Lisbon wine region, the vineyards that surround the house have a strong Atlantic influence.
The Baron was 98 years old in 2009 when the first harvest came out.
After the first year with twenty grape varieties, there was a selection of the six with the most potential – Pinot Noir, Touriga Nacional, Petit Manseng, Chardonnay, Malvasia and Sauvignon Blanc – considerably improving the quality of the wines.
It was during a stroll through the gardens and vineyards with a sea view, that Pedro told me this whole story.
And believe me, you need to be there, in that quiet, to truly understand the Baron’s fascination with this place!
At the end of the walk, back at the house I did the usual wine tasting (which can be paired with regional bread and olive oil).
There are several references that are produced today at Casal Santa Maria, all quite distinct from each other and from other wines from the same region.
I chose to taste:
Mar de Rosas – the rosé is dedicated to Rosario, the Baron’s late wife. Made from Touriga Nacional, Pinot Noir and Syrah. It has a beautiful salmon color and good acidity to balance the sweetness of the red fruits.
DOC Colares Branco Malvasia – a good example of wine with salinity. This wine is made from sandy ground vines. In addition to those planted next to the house, Casal Santa Maria has a few acres of traditional vineyards very close to the sea which allows it to produce DOC Colares wine.
Pinot noir – It must have been the first wine from Casal Santa Maria that I ever tasted and it was love at first sight. This Pinot Noir is full of color and flavor to blackberry jam and spices. It is an intense but very elegant wine that I tasted with a slice of chocolate cake and I recommend you to do the same!
Bodo von Bruemmer passed away at the age of 105, but he lived long enough to still enjoy five harvests from Casal Santa Maria.
For the excellent wines, for the unique and privileged view and for the impressive life story, a visit to this winery fills up our soul!