On the drive to our next stop, part of me hopes the image he craves eludes Ramos. His wines - and his country - possess such refreshing personality and charm that I would hate to see it succumb to some French fantasy. Finally, I roll up to a tollboth to exit the highway for the night, and decide to give my foil-wrapped Spanish tortilla - similar to an omelet - to the toll-taker. The man gently cradles the tinfoil, opens it, and begins to take a piece, and then he smiles and says thank you. Pulling away toward a roadside inn glittering with lights, I look back and watch the man in the lighted booth take a bite as he returns to a book he's reading. A glass of red wine would go well with that, I think.

stephen mahan is a photographer based out of syracuse, new york.
tasty travel
here are a handful of wineries worth a visit and a taste.

joáo portugal ramos
, 011-351-268-339-910
known for smooth reds, such as its 1999 alentejo marquês de borba reserva (around $45) and 1999 vila santa ($26).

quinta do carmo
, 011-351-268-337-320
quinta do carmo is partly owned by domaines baron de rothschild, which has introduced a few french grape varieties and modernized the equipment. many of the wines - mostly reds, with some whites - are now aged in french oak. try the 1998 alentejo dom martinho ($15).