Quinta do Piloto Winery, Palmela, Portugal

A short drive from Lisbon is a world-class winery with incredible views.

Quinta do Piloto origin story

In 1900, Humberto da Silva Cardoso emigrated from Brazil to Portugal. Young Humberto worked in the fledgling auto industry, becoming quite successful along the way. Mr. Cardosa used his money to buy land on the Setubal Peninsula in and around the town of Palmela. On this land, grape vines were planted and Quinta do Piloto was born.

With 500 acres of vineyards, Quinta do Piloto was one of the largest wine producers in the region. The majority of this was bulk wine of marginal quality sold as table wine.

Then, in 2008, a change took place.

More than 100 years after its founding, the winery was taken over by a 4th generation Cardoso. Filipe Cardoso saw the potential for top quality wines at Quinta do Piloto. Today, much of the production has been taken over by top quality Quinto do Piloto labeled wine.

Visiting Quinta do Piloto

Quinta do Piloto is in Palmela, about a 45 minute drive from Lisbon. Or, you can take public transportation from Lisbon. The easiest way is probably to take the train from Campolide in Lisbon to Palmela and then take a taxi or rideshare to the winery (about 3.5 miles from the train station). Or, if you’re in Setubal, take the bus from the main station in Praca do Brasil to the bus station in Palmela (it’s really just a parking lot) and walk up the hill to the winery.

At the winery, you can take a tour of the vineyard and finish it with a tasting. Times for the tours vary and must be made in advance. Make sure you confirm your guide speaks English if you don’t speak Portuguese.

Quinta do Piloto has a full portfolio of red and white wine as well as sparkling wines. They are perhaps best known for their Moscotel, a fortified wine similar to the Port wines of the Douro Valley.

Or, you can just drop in and buy an incredibly cheap glass of wine and sit on the terrace overlooking the peninsula. On a clear day, you can easily see Lisbon across the Tagus River. The setting is incredibly beautiful and peaceful. Highly recommended.

If you want to stay longer, book a room at the winery.

Other Things to do near Quinta do Piloto

Heading up to the winery from Palmela, there’s a fork in the road. Go right and you’ll be at Quinta do Piloto in a few minutes. Or, bear left and follow an unpaved road to Moinhos Vivos, a terrific bakery where you can get some fresh baked bread. Get there early, cuz when they sell all their bread, that’s it.

The humble Moinhos Vivos bakery (photo: Brent Petersen)

Along the trail are a few windmills, most abandoned, that surely were used to mill grain or extract oil from olives back in the day. A bit further you’ll run across some ruins dating the Roman era, or, perhaps, even earlier.

For the truly intrepid, you can hike well into the Arrábida Park, almost 70 square miles or protected forest. Be sure you know where you’re going and bring plenty of water. I’ve seen folks hiking in flip flops in Arrábida and they wind up regretting it. Also, know that there are lots of areas in the park where there’s no cell service, so if you get lost, you might be on your own.

Palmela Castle

The Palmela Castle occupies the highest point in town. It dates to Roman times and was also used by the Moors when they ruled in the Iberian Peninsula over 1,000 years ago. Much of the current castle was built, or expanded upon from the 15th through the 18th century.

You can visit the castle and it’s various tiny museums for free. It’s also fun to climb the tower to get views from Lisbon to the city of Setubal and almost the entire Setubal Peninsula.

View of Setubal and the Sado River from the Palmela Castle tower (photo: Brent Petersen)

To get to the castle from Quinta do Piloto, I suggest taking a car, taxi, or rideshare. It’s a little over a mile from the winery, but since the castle is on top of a big hill, it’s a pretty good climb.

About the Author

Brent Petersen is the Editor-in-Chief of Destination Eat Drink. He currently resides in Setubal, Portugal. Brent has written the novel “Truffle Hunt” (Eckhartz Press) and the short story collection “That Bird.” He’s also written dozens of foodie travel guides to cities around the world on Destination Eat Drink, including in-depth eating and drinking guides to Lisbon, PortoSintraMonsaraz, and Evora in Portugal. Brent’s podcast, also called Destination Eat Drink, is available on all major podcasting platforms and is distributed by the Radio Misfits Podcast Network.

Author: Brent