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I want to let people know that in the upcoming weeks, we're going to be resuming our Celebrity Chats with Gerry Dawes, America's leading expert on Spanish food and wine, James Beard Award finalist, winner of the Silver Spoon Award (tribute written by José Andrés), and founder of the Spanish Artisan Wine Group which is going to become the most important importer of Spanish wines in the United States.

I've had the pleasure of traveling to Spain with Gerry, who was the inspiration for this Washingtonian article, and I have seen firsthand just how much he is feared and respected as one of the world's preeminent experts on Spanish gastronomy and wine. There is, quite simply, nobody outside of Spain who could possibly have a better combined knowledge of the two subjects.

From a personal point of view, Gerry's palate and mine are nearly identical - he appreciates wines that you drink, instead of wines that you merely taste. In particular, wines that you drink with food - I've witnessed firsthand his genius in pairing wines with food, and there's nobody that can do it better.

If you have any interest at all in the food and wines of Spain, make sure to register and become a member of donrockwell.com. It's quick, easy, and free, and it will allow you to participate in the upcoming chat. Gerry left just yesterday for Spain, then has an extremely busy schedule when he returns, so look for this chat to begin shortly after the presidential election.

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This soliciation for Madrid recommendations could not have come at a more opportune time. We're on schedule to start the chat with Gerry (see the above post) next week. If you have any questions at all about Spain, Spanish food, Spanish wine, or Spanish anything, get them ready to launch.

I cannot emphasize enough Gerry's expertise in Spanish gastronomy. Even putting aside his extraordinary knowledge of Spanish food and culture, his expertise in Spanish wines is unparalleled - to me, that's what really sets him apart from everyone. The guy knows so much about Spanish wine that it scares me.

NB - if anyone wants to submit any early questions, please feel free to do so now. Questions can be anything at all (but Gerry's bailiwick is obviously Spanish gastronomy), so feel free to let 'em rip. It can be as simple as, "Gerry, can you recommend a good Rioja?" And if you think about it, that question isn't as easy to answer as it might seem on the surface.

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New threads for questions, Rocks?

That's a good question. I like the one, free-flowing thread because it reads less like a "database" and more like a "conversation," so if we could keep everything in one thread, that would be great. When things are over, I could always create a separate "index" of topics, and link to the correct post.

The other chats are much more readable and interesting because they ebb and flow, and sound conversational, and that's what I'm shooting for here (although your idea is an interesting one, and clearly "the other way" to do it, both ways having their own merits). I told Gerry my goal at the end of this is for people to know him as a person, his frailties, his quirks, etc. The beauty of someone like Gerry is that he has so much technical knowledge that wine geeks like us can also ask the absolute most impossibly detailed questions we can think of, and he'll be able to answer with authority. I really hope this conversation runs deeper than Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Albariño, and Priorat, but even if it doesn't, it should be interesting. Gerry also knows there will be complete wine novices in on this, interested more in traveling to Spain, and he's happy to help with non food-and-wine questions. Everything is open for discussion.

(Gerry, Jake Parrott, who asked this question, is a wine expert, and in fact is one of our country's greatest experts when it comes to Bourbon - he sort of is to Bourbon what you are to Spain - so you're among some pretty formidable company here. Everyone with screen names, please feel free to introduce yourself to Gerry with your first name instead of "food_nut." :))

I'll probably lob a couple of softballs, and then go for the really obscure stuff. Gerry will be the first to tell you that he's extremely opinionated and has been doing battle alone for many years - decades, actually - toiling anonymously in the shadow of a gentleman named Robert Parker. He's only now stepping into his own even though he's always been the one, true master of Spain. I cannot tell you how much I respect him for his tenacity in persevering, continuing, marching onward in relative obscurity for the love of the subject alone.

He's combative, feisty, maybe even a little worried that - wait a minute - he actually IS getting recognition now, and, hmm, is he really ready to take center stage? Time will tell, but there's one thing I'm certain of already - this guy, Gerry Dawes, LOVES Spain. Everyone here think for a moment about your greatest passions in life - for example, with me, it's tennis and piano. Think of how much you truly love these things that you don't get paid a dime for. That's Gerry and Spain.

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I'll go ahead and lob my question in here. I do have a great deal of interest in Spanish wine, so I'm interested in reading the chat after the fact to learn more on that topic. Of immediate importance to me, however, is that my wife and I are traveling to Spain next Saturday. Specifically we will be spending about five days in and around Madrid and three days in Seville. We've never been to either city.

The broader question is, where should we eat? More specifically, we're probably looking to do at least one high end restaurant during our trip, but would do a second if there were two places we just shouldn't miss. After that we are looking for places with good food, and that are representative of the region. Based on recommendations from friends (and from this board) I have a reservation at Botin. Otherwise, I've just been reading things here ard on other sites to figure out where we should be going. Any advice is greatly appreciated.

Thanks so much,

Mark

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I'll go ahead and lob my question in here. I do have a great deal of interest in Spanish wine, so I'm interested in reading the chat after the fact to learn more on that topic. Of immediate importance to me, however, is that my wife and I are traveling to Spain next Saturday. Specifically we will be spending about five days in and around Madrid and three days in Seville. We've never been to either city.

The broader question is, where should we eat? More specifically, we're probably looking to do at least one high end restaurant during our trip, but would do a second if there were two places we just shouldn't miss. After that we are looking for places with good food, and that are representative of the region. Based on recommendations from friends (and from this board) I have a reservation at Botin. Otherwise, I've just been reading things here ard on other sites to figure out where we should be going. Any advice is greatly appreciated.

Thanks so much,

Mark

[Mark, thanks for chiming in. I'll delete this post (my post) tomorrow, but in honor of Gerry coming here, I'm "prettying up" the Madrid thread in terms of adding links, etc., so hopefully that will be helpful to you also even though the things I'm working on are seven years old. I won't get it finished (this is very time-consuming to do well), but if you start from the top, hopefully you'll get some benefit from it.

Also, of immediate concern to you is: do you have a place to stay? If so, where are you staying? I stayed in Madrid with Gerry, and he found a really charming, old-school, elegant hotel that was literally a block away from El Prado (that said, we weren't paying for it).

BTW, you do know that Botín is supposedly the oldest restaurant in the world, right?

I'll be posting a full bio-sketch of Gerry tomorrow or Monday, but in the meantime, here's an article written by our mutual friend John Gilman about Gerry's portfolio of wines (John Gilman knows his stuff and has a great palate):

"The Spanish Artisan Wine Group - Gerry Dawes Selections Arrives in US with a Plethora of Low Octane Beauties"

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BTW, you do know that Botín is supposedly the oldest restaurant in the world, right?

1725? Impressive...moreso if they've been able to keep the same location since 1725. However, in Suzhou, Deyueluo (得月楼) has been a restaurant for over 400 years, having been established sometime prior to 1566 during the Ming Dynasty, although it's only been in its current location since 1982. (I also happen to agree with this commentator that the food there is better than at crosstown rival Song helou, which to be fair has only been in operation since 1757.)

Gerry, great to have you do a chat with us. One of the things that struck me about dining in Spain was that it took center stage in the development of molecular gastronomy and its techniques, when it already possessed an unbelievable richness of cuisines, being the crossroads of the Atlantic, the Med, and North Africa. I never got the sense that even their modernist chefs were trying to revolutionize or sweep away the old, nor that they had become overly entranced with the methods to the detriment of the food.

Can you talk about the role of tradition in the recent evolution of Spanish food and wine, and how that affects their willingness to really explore crazy ideas?

On a more mundane note, the debate Stateside about tipping rates always seems to fall back on the argument that placing servers on a more salaried basis leads to awful service, yet Spain seemed to me to be blissfully immune to this problem. We ate absurdly well, for reasonable amounts, with good service, all over Catalunya. How on earth are their restaurants able to stay in business with only one unhurried seating per night?

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With the crazily generous introduction from Rocks, I feel like I should unleash a wild and wacky question. And I suppose I do have one. But first:

1. Traditional white Rioja. Lopez de Heredia and who else? Or is RLdH considered wacky in the context of "tradition," as well?

2. [slightly wilder and wackier] Does anyone still make the fortified/aromatized aperitif style "Jerez-Quina"?

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Dear Don,

I am very flattered and humbled by your kind comments and your steadfast support of me and my love of Spain over the years. I very much welcome the chance to answer some questions and share some of my knowldege and opinions with your followers from the Washington, D.C. area and . I don't get down to the Washington D.C. area as much as I want to, but I plan to come down more often this year. I already have had great feedback on my wines from people such as José Andrés, Max Kuller at Estadio, the great Mark Furstenberg of Remarkable Breads and my long, long time and very dear friend Janet Cam. Hopefully, by the first of the year my wines will be in Washington, Maryland and Virginia. I am looking for a good distributor who understands my philosophy about artisan wines with lower alcohol, little or no oak and discernible terroir (sense of place), so if anyone wants to put me in touch with the right people, I would be very grateful. As you know, I also do customized, private tours of Spain that I tailor for each group of travellers. I can be reached about any of this by e-mail at gerrydawes@aol.com, though I would appreciate keeping any general questions confined to this forum.

My best, Gerry

The Spanish Artisan Wine Group - Gerry Dawes Selections

I'll go ahead and lob my question in here. I do have a great deal of interest in Spanish wine, so I'm interested in reading the chat after the fact to learn more on that topic. Of immediate importance to me, however, is that my wife and I are traveling to Spain next Saturday. Specifically we will be spending about five days in and around Madrid and three days in Seville. We've never been to either city.

The broader question is, where should we eat? More specifically, we're probably looking to do at least one high end restaurant during our trip, but would do a second if there were two places we just shouldn't miss. After that we are looking for places with good food, and that are representative of the region. Based on recommendations from friends (and from this board) I have a reservation at Botin. Otherwise, I've just been reading things here ard on other sites to figure out where we should be going. Any advice is greatly appreciated.

Thanks so much,

Mark

That's a good question. I like the one, free-flowing thread because it reads less like a "database" and more like a "conversation," so if we could keep everything in one thread, that would be great. When things are over, I coulc always create a separate "index" of topics, and link to the correct post.

The other chats are much more readable and interesting because they ebb and flow, and sound conversational, and that's what I'm shooting for here (although your idea is an interesting one, and clearly "the other way" to do it, both ways having their own merits). I told Gerry my goal at the end of this is for people to know him as a person, his frailties, his quirks, etc. The beauty of someone like Gerry is that he has so much technical knowledge that wine geeks like us can also ask the absolute most impossibly detailed questions we can think of, and he'll be able to answer with authority. I really hope this conversation runs deeper than Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Albariño, and Priorat, but even if it doesn't, it should be interesting. Gerry also knows there will be complete wine novices in on this, interested more in traveling to Spain, and he's happy to help with non food-and-wine questions. Everything is open for discussion.

(Gerry, Jake Parrott, who asked this question, is a wine expert, and in fact is one of our country's greatest experts when it comes to Bourbon - he sort of is to Bourbon what you are to Spain - so you're among some pretty formidable company here. Everyone with screen names, please feel free to introduce yourself to Gerry with your first name instead of "food_nut." :))

I'll probably lob a couple of softballs, and then go for the really obscure stuff. Gerry will be the first to tell you that he's extremely opinionated and has been doing battle alone for many years - decades, actually - toiling anonymously in the shadow of a gentleman named Robert Parker. He's only now stepping into his own even though he's always been the one, true master of Spain. I cannot tell you how much I respect him for his tenacity in persevering, continuing, marching onward in relative obscurity for the love of the subject alone.

He's combative, feisty, maybe even a little worried that - wait a minute - he actually IS getting recognition now, and, hmm, is he really ready to take center stage? Time will tell, but there's one thing I'm certain of already - this guy, Gerry Dawes, LOVES Spain. Everyone here think for a moment about your greatest passions in life - for example, with me, it's tennis and piano. Think of how much you truly love these things that you don't get paid a dime for. That's Gerry and Spain.

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I'll go ahead and lob my question in here. I do have a great deal of interest in Spanish wine, so I'm interested in reading the chat after the fact to learn more on that topic. Of immediate importance to me, however, is that my wife and I are traveling to Spain next Saturday. Specifically we will be spending about five days in and around Madrid and three days in Seville. We've never been to either city.

The broader question is, where should we eat? More specifically, we're probably looking to do at least one high end restaurant during our trip, but would do a second if there were two places we just shouldn't miss. After that we are looking for places with good food, and that are representative of the region. Based on recommendations from friends (and from this board) I have a reservation at Botin. Otherwise, I've just been reading things here ard on other sites to figure out where we should be going. Any advice is greatly appreciated.

Thanks so much,

Mark

Dear Mark,

When you get to Botin, ask for Antonio Gonzalez padre (or Antonio Gonzalez hijo) and tell them that I sent you. You may want to ask Antonio to show you his copy of Fiesta (The Sun Also Rises) and read about Botin in the last pages of the book. Since you will be going to Botin, stop and have a look a Mercado de San Miguel, just up the street and another night, go to El Escaldon, further down the street for Canary Islands patatas arrugadas con mojo ("wrinkled" potatoes with green and red mojo sauces), then go to bar at Casa Lucio and have a tapa of boquerones en vinagre con olivas gordas (house-cured fresh anchovies in vinagrette with fat green olives), washed down with glasses of draft beer, manzanilla sherry or rosado from La Rioja.

For your top end restaurant, see if you can wangle a reservation at Diverxo. I will be giving you some more tips for restaurants and tapas bars in Madrid and Sevilla shortly. Please let me know if you are going to be traveling from Sevilla on day trips to Jerez, Sanlucar de Barrameda or to Cadiz. I just got off the phone a hour ago with Javier Hidalgo of Bodegas Hidalgo - La Gitana sherries (today is his birthday) and I am sure I can arrange a visit for you and your wife to this fabulous bodega.

Buen Viaje, Gerry

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1725? Impressive...moreso if they've been able to keep the same location since 1725. However, in Suzhou, Deyueluo (得月楼) has been a restaurant for over 400 years, having been established sometime prior to 1566 during the Ming Dynasty, although it's only been in its current location since 1982. (I also happen to agree with this commentator that the food there is better than at crosstown rival Song helou, which to be fair has only been in operation since 1757.)

Gerry, great to have you do a chat with us. One of the things that struck me about dining in Spain was that it took center stage in the development of molecular gastronomy and its techniques, when it already possessed an unbelievable richness of cuisines, being the crossroads of the Atlantic, the Med, and North Africa. I never got the sense that even their modernist chefs were trying to revolutionize or sweep away the old, nor that they had become overly entranced with the methods to the detriment of the food.

Can you talk about the role of tradition in the recent evolution of Spanish food and wine, and how that affects their willingness to really explore crazy ideas?

On a more mundane note, the debate Stateside about tipping rates always seems to fall back on the argument that placing servers on a more salaried basis leads to awful service, yet Spain seemed to me to be blissfully immune to this problem. We ate absurdly well, for reasonable amounts, with good service, all over Catalunya. How on earth are their restaurants able to stay in business with only one unhurried seating per night?

Many thanks for you kind welcome, Dave.

Botin, which at times by writers and visitors who failed to understand it has been called very touristy (over the past several years, I am hearing more and more Spanish spoken at nearby tables), but that misses the point. It is a classic and the classic Castilian food is always good. Of course, I can take you to this place that might be better for roast suckling pig or lamb or morcilla or gazpacho, but you can get all of those at Botin, with very good service, a good wine list and a terrific atmosphere. Just relax and enjoy Botin, which exudes history from the walls. It has been in this spot, continually operating since 1725 and it is a family run business.

Even Ferran Adrià, who did completely revolutionize, not only Spain's, but the world's idea of no limits creativity in food did not try to sweep away the traditional cuisines of Spain. He put food into another dimension, but at the same time became the catalyst for the greatest evolutionary movement in Spanish traditional cooking in history and that, in my opinion, includes the Columbine exchange when ingredients such as tomatoes and peppers were first introduced to Europe. Many young Spanish chefs followed the cocina de vanguardia movement, but the expansion of so-called easy money in the 1990s and up to 2008s still was not enough to sustain an elBulli on every corner in Spain, nor was there really the popular interest, outside of hardbound foodies, to support it, so many of these young chefs, now trained in modern techniques returned to their home towns or home regions and opened restaurants that served traditional cuisine, but with some reasonable modern twists. The result has been that traditional cuisine in Spain is better than I think it ever has been in Spain's history. Likewise, because of the fame of Ferran, American chefs began seeking to do their stages in Spain, instead of France, and in the process became exposed to traditional Spanish tapas bars and restaurants, especially in Catalunya and the Basque Country, but elsewhere as well, such as in Alicante and Valencia.

My best, Gerry

The Spanish Artisan Wine Group - Gerry Dawes Selections

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On a more mundane note, the debate Stateside about tipping rates always seems to fall back on the argument that placing servers on a more salaried basis leads to awful service, yet Spain seemed to me to be blissfully immune to this problem. We ate absurdly well, for reasonable amounts, with good service, all over Catalunya. How on earth are their restaurants able to stay in business with only one unhurried seating per night?

Sorry, Dave, I didn't get to this one.

In Spain, waiting is generally a profession, not a temporary job while waiting for something else. If the service is good, I usually tip 5-10% on the bill, even though service is supposedly included. Spaniards usually leave leftover change and small bills, In tapas bars and for cafe, the remaining change or a couple of Euros for a larger bill.

How do they manage to stay and business (and many prosper)? Perhaps lower costs, way lower rents and a national health care system, plus since in many places prices are fairly reasonable, they also make a lot on drinks, especially after dinner drinks.

My best, Gerry

The Spanish Artisan Wine Group - Gerry Dawes Selections

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Thanks for your questions, Jake.

With the crazily generous introduction from Rocks, I feel like I should unleash a wild and wacky question. And I suppose I do have one. But first:

1. Traditional white Rioja. Lopez de Heredia and who else? Or is RLdH considered wacky in the context of "tradition," as well?

Actually, thouigh Lopez de Heredia is unique and different from other Riojas, there are two other major wineries that are similar in style in many ways, La Rioja Alta and Marques de Murrieta. The other great classical Riojas, CUNE, Marques de Riscal and Bodegas Riojanas, are quite different in style.

2. [slightly wilder and wackier] Does anyone still make the fortified/aromatized aperitif style "Jerez-Quina"?

I believe Valdespino, which is now owned by Jose Estevez, makes a Jerez Quina.

My best, Gerry

The Spanish Artisan Wine Group - Gerry Dawes Selections

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Dear Mark,

When you get to Botin, ask for Antonio Gonzalez padre (or Antonio Gonzalez hijo) and tell them that I sent you. You may want to ask Antonio to show you his copy of Fiesta (The Sun Also Rises) and read about Botin in the last pages of the book. Since you will be going to Botin, stop and have a look a Mercado de San Miguel, just up the street and another night, go to El Escaldon, further down the street for Canary Islands patatas arrugadas con mojo ("wrinkled" potatoes with green and red mojo sauces), then go to bar at Casa Lucio and have a tapa of boquerones en vinagre con olivas gordas (house-cured fresh anchovies in vinagrette with fat green olives), washed down with glasses of draft beer, manzanilla sherry or rosado from La Rioja.

For your top end restaurant, see if you can wangle a reservation at Diverxo. I will be giving you some more tips for restaurants and tapas bars in Madrid and Sevilla shortly. Please let me know if you are going to be traveling from Sevilla on day trips to Jerez, Sanlucar de Barrameda or to Cadiz. I just got off the phone a hour ago with Javier Hidalgo of Bodegas Hidalgo - La Gitana sherries (today is his birthday) and I am sure I can arrange a visit for you and your wife to this fabulous bodega.

Buen Viaje, Gerry

Gerry,

Thank you, this is extremely useful. As for day trips during our time in Seville, we were planning on one, although we had been thinking about Cordoba. Either Cadiz or Jerez sounds outstanding, however, so I've been looking into both of those this afternoon.

Don, you'd asked about our hotel in Madrid, we are currently booked at Hotel Preciados, which appears to be just south of Calle Gran Villa.

Thanks,

Mark

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Gerry sent me an official bio-sketch for me to edit, but I'm just going to go ahead and include the whole thing (well, why not). At the end of this post, I'm going to ask a question, open a cold beer, and leisurely read through it:

About Gerry Dawes

“In his nearly thirty years (now more than forty) of wandering the back roads of Spain, Gerry Dawes has built up a much stronger bank of experiences than I had to rely on when I started writing Iberia. . . . His adventures far exceeded mine in both width and depth. Truly he had a basketful of experiences that made me envious.” — the late James A. Michener, author of Iberia: Spanish Travels and Reflections

". . .That we were the first to introduce American readers to Ferran Adrià in 1997 and have ever since continued to bring you a blow-by-blow narrative of Spain's riveting ferment is chiefly due to our Spanish correspondent, Gerry "Mr. Spain" Dawes, the messianic wine and food journalist raised in Southern Illinois and possessor of a self-accumulated doctorate in the Spanish table. . ." - - Michael & Ariane Batterberry, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher and Founding Editor/Publisher, Food Arts.

Gerry Dawes was born and raised in the small village of Alto Pass (pop. 400+ bi-peds, far more with four legs) in Southern Illinois, 40 miles north of where the Ohio River joins the Mississippi. His village finally got a water system when he was 16, the first time he had lived in a house with running water. His family had, however, modernized their outdoor two-seater toilet by installing a light pole to illuminate the path. He graduated third in a class of eleven from Alto Pass Community High School, where he played an underwhelming style of basketball for the Alto Pass Apaches, which is perhaps apropos, since his maternal great grandfather was a full-blooded Indian (raised by whites). Only many years later would he realize that his hometown was on the same parallel as the Sherry district in Southern Spain (this will make more sense later).

In 1966, during the Vietnam War, Dawes joined the U. S. Navy to avoid being drafted, astutely calculating that aircraft carriers probably did not invade rice paddies. He opted for a four year hitch in the Navy, rather than a two-year draft stint in the Army, figuring that four years and alive, was better than two years and dead. Through a series of improbable circumstances that included a six-month stay in a Navy hospital in Waukegan at Great Lakes Naval Station because of spinal meningitis (where he was influenced by the movie El Cid, which he saw at the base theater), he was sent to Russian language school in Monterey, California for nine months and then, after six months at a security school in San Angelo, Texas (where the locals favorite sport was opening up a can of “whup ass” on serviceman assigned to the base), he was ready for his first assignment. Gerry Dawes recalls the momentous twist of fate that come near the end of security school classes in Texas. “Post-school assignments were being read to the 30 men in my class. I was praying for Europe and trying to imagine what it would be like in, say, Bremerhaven, Germany. Spain was the furthest thing from my mind, after all, my specialty was Russian. Several of my friends were assigned to a base in Turkey’s outback; others were sent to Hokkaido, Japan to keep an electronic ear on the nearby Russian-occupied Kuril Islands of the cold northern Pacific; still others were sent to the USS Banner, the sister ship of the USS Pueblo, whose crew was held hostage by the North Koreans for a year in the mid-1960s. I had no idea that we had a large naval base at Rota in the Andalucian province of Cádiz, from which the Navy kept track of the Russian fleet in the Mediterranean. Suddenly, a Chief Petty Officer called my name, “Dawes, you lucky bastard, you are going to Rota, Spain.”

For most of his last two years in the Navy in Rota, he flew on what he calls “amatuer spy missions” on antiquated, unarmed airplanes re-figured for intelligence collecting. During his Navy career, he flew on missions from Germany off the coasts of East Germany, Poland and Russia; from Greece off the coasts of Egypt and from aircraft carriers, from which his aging A-3 Skywarrior took off at just 3000 pounds under maximum catapult launch weight and sometimes landed back on the carrier and on some occasions, after missing the deck three times, the plane was diverted to places such as Malta and Sicily. In Iceland, drinking while it was still daylight (at midnight!) sitting on lava boulders and while watching Norwegian sailors go skinny dipping in the icy waters above the arctic circle in Norway, Chivas Regal Scotch seemed to trump wine as preferred beverage of inebriation.

Dawes received his discharge in late 1969 and decided to stay in Spain, which he had come to love. A Navy Commander, who claimed that Dawes had “gone native,” intervened on his behalf, and he was allowed to take his discharge in Spain, rather than return to the U. S. first, then have to fly back at his own expense. He walked out the front gate at Rota with an amassed $500 in American Express Travelers Cheques and managed to remain in Spain for six more years, in sherry country (in the province of Cádiz), in Sevilla, and in Mijas (Malaga). Shortly after his release from the Navy, he worked as an extra on “The Great White Hope,” major parts of which were filmed in Barcelona, and had anecdotal personal experiences with then rising star James Earl Jones.

Dawes sold paintings for the late American artist-matador John Fulton in Sevilla and Marbella; apprenticed under Robert Vavra, photographer of James Michener's Iberia; ran The Dawes Gallery, a contemporary art gallery in Mijas, and using the G.I. Bill, studied Spain's language, history, and culture at the University of Sevilla (in the former Fábrica de Tabaco-- famous as the setting of the opera Carmen). Subsequently, he finished his B.A. in Spanish and Creative Writing at State University of New York (SUNY).

An avid aficionado of Spanish fiestas and a photographer, Dawes traveled extensively in Spain during the eight years he lived there, putting muchos kilómetros on Rocinante, his Volkswagen sedan. He amassed thousands of photographs and a wealth of knowledge about the country, its wine and food, customs and culture. On these trips, he began to acquire knowledge of wines from different regions in Spain, often being initiated in the glories of local vinos by latter day saints still seeking to capture the essence of Ernest Hemingway’s “Lost Generation.”

Dawes recalls his pre-Spain wine experience, “Before I was stationed in Spain in the United States Navy, my experience with wine—except for plying girlfriends back in Illinois with the occasional bottle of pink “Champagne”—came from experiences in California in the mid-1960s. On the mystical white beach at Carmel, with my buddies—all of us students at the Defense Language Institute at the Presidio of Monterey—I shared the occasional jug of Gallo “Chablis” along with bread and cheese from the Mediterranean Market in the village. One night under Monterey’s decaying old wharf, I helped two others polish off a gallon jug of Mountain Red—with miserable results. And once in a while on a payday weekend, I would splurge on abalone and a bottle of Almaden Emerald Riesling or some such at a restaurant on Monterey’s then-not-so-touristy Fisherman’s Wharf or have spaghetti and a wicker-wrapped, aptly-named fiasco of Chianti on Cannery Row, which still had vestiges and whiffs of John Steinbeck’s time. And, one August weekend in 1967, I watched and listened in wine-soaked reverie at the Monterey Pop Festival as Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Otis Redding and many others became international stars right before our mesmerized eyes and passed into legend. We won’t go into my forays into Portugal to get my passport stamped–tourists had to exit Spain every six months if they didn’t have a residency permit–and score bottles of Rosé Mateus, which went down very well with toques of Moroccan hash.”

In late 1975, he and his former wife, Diana, pregnant with their first daughter, decided to move from Mijas, a village overlooking the Costa del Sol, to New York City, a place they had never been, trading a multi-leveled, old white-washed village house with flower pots in the patio, a roof top from which they could see Africa in the morning light and donkey-braying and rooster-crowing as alarm clocks for Manhattan, which in the beginning, in the Washington Heights of the mid-1970s, seemed to be burned out cars lining streets, broken glass, dog shit, sirens and the occasional giant man pissing on lampposts in broad daylight.

After six months of profound culture shock, the vestiges of which lasted for ten years, Gerry Dawes found work in the wine trade at Frederick Wildman & Sons on 69th St., just off Madison Avenue and shortly thereafter met a friend whom he had know in Spain and was now managing Mortimer’s, one of the top restaurants in a wave of new American restaurants, and soon began a career, a major component of which was having lunch with restaurateurs, chefs, sommeliers and winemakers in many of the top restaurants in Manhattan.

Dawes worked in the wine trade in New York City for some of the finest palates in the business, selling the portfolios of Colonel Frederick Wildman (Domaine Leflaive, Pol Roger, Ridge Vineyards), Robert Haas of Vineyard Brands - - Robert Haas Selections, Gerald Asher at Mosswood, Fred Seggarman at Bonsal Seggarman and Winebow - Leonardo LoCasio Selections, where he was the top New York restaurant trade producer. He was a Vice President at Vineyard Brands - - Robert Haas Selections and a Regional Manager for Mosswood under Gerald Asher.

During his wine career, Dawes acquired extensive contacts with rising star American chefs. Bored with wine geek chatter and inspired by Spanish Basque gastronomic societies, in 1989 he founded The Chefs From Hell Acrobatic Unicyclists & Winetasters Club, whose sole purpose was to have luncheons, at which chefs showed off by cooking for each another, drank lots of wine and told stories and jokes. Chefs From Hell members included Thomas Keller, Tom Colicchio, Michael Lomonaco, Mario Batali, Tom Valenti, Rick Moonen, Bobby Flay, Andy Pforzheimer, Rose Levy Beranbaum, Martha Stewart, Rusty Staub, Terrance Brennan, Waldy Malouf and honorary member Julia Child. The group had many “rules’ such as “No acrobatic unicyclists allowed,” “No pissing on the shrubs in front of host restaurant in day-light,” No pizza deliveries accepted during the host chef’s service,” No dishes shall include all three of the following: foie gras, caviar and truffles,” and “No war stories about sex in a walk-in.”

Over a period of more than four decades, Gerry Dawes has traveled extensively in Spain–for a four year period an average of eight times per year and for a five-year period six times per year-- visiting more than 600 wineries. He has been declared in numerous press reports as the reigning American expert on the wines of Spain. His Spanish wine expertise and palate are uncontested.

In 2003, he was awarded The Spanish National Gastronomy Prize: Marques de Busianos Award from the Spanish Academy of Gastronomia for his activities (writing, photograpy, lectures) on behalf of Spanish gastronomy and wine. He is the only non-Spaniard to receive the prestigious Premio Cena de Los 11 Vinos, an award created to honor those who have made a significant lifetime contribution to enhancing the image and culture of Spanish wines (for writing on Spanish wines.) The Mayor of Madrid, Spain’s capital, made him an official Amigo de Madrid. In 2001, he was a finalist for The James Beard Foundation Journalism Awards: Magazine Writing on Spirits, Wine and Beer for his article "Weinbach & The Faller Femmes,” about the women who make the stunning Weinbach wines from Alsace. Dawes won The Cava Institute's First Prize for Journalism for his article on cava in 2004, and received the 2009 Association of Food Journalists Second Prize for Best Food Feature in a Magazine for his Food Arts article, a retrospective piece about Catalan star chef, Ferran Adrià. In 2009, he was awarded the Food Arts Silver Spoon Award in a profile written by star chef José Andrés.

Gerry Dawes was a James Beard Foundation Restaurant Awards Judge from 1998 - 2012. In 2003, he was the Chairman of the 17th Annual James Beard Foundation Auction Dinner at the Essex House Hotel, New York. The event, honoring Spanish chefs Juan Mari Arzak & Ferran Adriá raised $400,000 for the Foundation and broke all existing records.

For more than thirty years Gerry Dawes has written, published photographs and spoken in numerous conferences on Spanish wine and gastronomy. He has been cited for his knowledge of Spain in The New York Times and New York Times Magazine, New York Newsday, The Wine Spectator, Forbes, The James Beard Foundation Newsletter, Food Arts, Men's Journal, and Spain's Deia, El País, and Cambio 16.

Gerry Dawes has been traveling the food and wine roads of Spain for more than 40 years, making more one hundred extensive food and wine trips over that period. He is personally acquainted with hundreds of Spanish restaurateurs, chefs, winemakers and food-and-wine personalities. He leads private, customized gastronomy, wine and cultural tours to Spain (World Trade Center Club, Wine Society of the Club Managers of America, Commonwealth Club of California). He has also led on trips or on shorter outings in Spain, such major chefs as Thomas Keller, Mark Miller, Terrance Brennan, Norman Van Aken, Charlie Trotter, Tetsuya Wakuda, Michael Chiarello, and food luminaries, including Ruth Reichl, Harold McGee, Karen Page, Andrew Dornenberg, Don Rockwell, Michael and Ariane Batterberry and Colman Andrews.

On his custom designed tours, Dawes leads his fellow travelers to great food in wonderful traditional restaurants with unforgettable regional dishes as well as those specializing in Ferran Adrià-inspired cocina de vanguardia cooking. They meet chefs and food personalities, visit very special food markets and producers, sample unique wines with winemakers at specially selected wineries, see some of the best sights Spain has to offer and experience the culture of this vibrant country with an expert who knows it intimately. (Contact: gerrydawes@aol.com.)

In 2011, he put together a group of artisan Spanish wineries and in early 2012, to great critical acclaim, Dawes introduced these wines as The Spanish Artisan Wine Group – Gerry Dawes Selections to the New York market through a small shell importer. In just over six months, The Spanish Artisan Wine Group – Gerry Dawes Selections received unprecedented critical success from such publications as Huffington Post (author Rozanne Gold), from wine writer Howard G. Goldberg (The New York Times, Decanter, etc.), John Mariani (Bloomberg News, Virtual Gourmet), Colman Andrews (The Daily Meal), Docsconz (by John Sconzo, a major food blogger who published an extensive two-part article), Steven Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar (Josh Raynolds reveiewed all the wines) and most importantly, extensive coverage and praise from John B. Gilman in View From The Cellar). (Check out www.spanishartisanwinegroup.com for links to all the aforementioned articles and reviews.

In addition, the wines have been praised in quotes by such chefs as Dan Barber of Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Michael Lomonaco of Porterhouse, the legendary Jeremiah Tower, Mark Miller (Santa Fe, NM), James Campbell Caruso (La Boca and La Boca Taberna, Santa Fe), and food world stars such as Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg,

Andy Pforzheimer (Barcelona Wine Bars) and Arthur Lubow (writer, The New York Times Magazine, Smithsonian Magazine).

“I first tasted several of these wines at the start of March of this year, as the wines were just scheduling to depart from Spain (and I for a month-long swing through France and Germany), and then followed up with a second tasting in late May when the wines had fully arrived here in New York. Both tastings emphasized that Señor Dawes’ lineup is chock full of outstanding producers new to the export markets and who are fashioning absolutely stellar, old school wines that are long on terroir, purity of fruit, tangy acids and great personality that are derived from their traditional places of origin, rather than from a tony French tonnelier or trendy international winemaking consultant.”- - The Spanish Artisan Wine Group - Gerry Dawes Selections Arrives in US With a Plethora of Low Octane Beauties, John B. Gilman, The View From The Cellar. http://www.spanishar...roup-gerry.html

Articles & photographs published in:

Gourmet Live (on-line successor to Gourmet magazine), Departures, Food Arts (Contributing Authority on Spain), The Wine News, Santé, Foods From Spain News, Wines From Spain News, Decanter (Great Britain), World of Fine Wines (Great Britain), Food & Wine, Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar, Wine Enthusiast, The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, The Chicago Tribune, Saveur, James Beard Foundation Magazine, Wine International (Great Britain), Spain Gourmetour (Madrid), Fine Wine Folio, Playboy (America's Best Restaurants; America's Best Bars), La Prensa del Rioja, El Diario de La Rioja, Sobremesa (Madrid), Restauradores (Madrid; Spanish language).

Book Contributor

Penguin Travellers Guide to Spain (four-plus chapters, 64,000 words); Berlitz Travellers Guide to Spain; Kevin Zraly's Windows on the World Complete Wine Course; The World of Wine by Frank E. Johnson (45 photographs); Pamplona by Ray Mouton (photographs). Wrote forewords for several books, including the English version of Javier Hidalgo’s Manzanilla and Boquería Gourmand, the English version of a book about Barcelona’s Boquería market.

Television Experience

– Food Network, as an expert on Spanish food and wine. Dawes’s photographs were also used as background for Food Network segment. (Video clips available.)

David Rosengarten/Donna Hanover Show: Basque Country Segment

Quench with Andrea Immer & Steve Olson: Sherry Segment

– Culinary Institute of America Greystone, video clip excerpts of speaking engagements

– CNN, interviewed by Carolyn O'Neill on Spanish Cuisine.

– Appearances in several interviews on both television and radio in Spain.

– On-camera Host, 7 Days, 7 Nights. Proposed reality series focusing on Spanish wine, gastronomy and travel. View the 5-minute pilot on Valencia-Alicante at http://gerrydawesspa...s-culinary.html)

Gerry, for whatever reason, I thought for some reason you were originally either from Oklahoma or Texas. You have this deeply resonant baritone, slow "drawl" that commands attention. All this to set up the following situation:

When I went to Spain with you, we spent about seven nights in Galicia, hitting a different town every night, getting up early and driving, then visiting multiple wineries per day, usually with a multi-hour lunch break, then driving some more, then having a late dinner which usually began around 9 and ended after midnight, sometimes not getting back until 1 AM. We were sleeping about six hours a night, and I don't think I've ever been so damned tired in my entire life.

One morning, we had breakfast in our hotel, packed our things, threw them in the car, and started driving. About an hour into the trip, you pulled off the road into a gas station (in Spain, gas stations often have little snack bars), and said, in this long, slow, deep, drawl ... "I'm gonna git' me a tapa."

"We've just fucking had breakfast."

"Ah don't care."

"Why are we doing this?"

"Because I'm in Spain, dammit, and I'm going to live every single minute of the day, and not miss a thing."

Red-eyed, I joined you at the little snack bar inside the gas station, and had (if I remember correctly) a piece of jamón on bread, drizzled with olive oil, and maybe a shaving of manchego. It was very nice and all that, but it wasn't *that* good. So here's my question:

I'm sort-of known in DC as this obsessive whack-job who has taken it upon himself to know every single restaurant, in every obscure strip-mall and suburb in the region, and I think I've managed to do it pretty successfully. I had a powerful impetus: I was struggling with the death of my wife, and needed something to occupy myself with - educating myself and helping others was a way for me to pass the time constructively without being alone, or devolving into empty hedonism. You, however, have somehow managed to memorize every alleyway, gas station, and back-road bar in the entire country of Spain which is about the size of Texas. I remember driving back to Madrid from Galicia, and you pulled off into this restaurant that had *the best* roast suckling pig I've ever eaten, bar none. What on earth possesses you to do this, and how do you not become exhausted over the long-haul?

---

PS Did you know "Rocinante" was the name Steinbeck gave his car in "Travels with Charley?"

---

PPS There are also five "bonus" Madrid posts by Gerry starting right here.

---

PPPS Holy Cow (toned down from "Holy Shit") you mentioned me in your biography! This just made my day (well, along with this - it's been a really good day).

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During his wine career, Dawes acquired extensive contacts with rising star American chefs. Bored with wine geek chatter and inspired by Spanish Basque gastronomic societies, in 1989 he founded The Chefs From Hell Acrobatic Unicyclists & Winetasters Club, whose sole purpose was to have luncheons, at which chefs showed off by cooking for each another, drank lots of wine and told stories and jokes. Chefs From Hell members included Thomas Keller, Tom Colicchio, Michael Lomonaco, Mario Batali, Tom Valenti, Rick Moonen, Bobby Flay, Andy Pforzheimer, Rose Levy Beranbaum, Martha Stewart, Rusty Staub, Terrance Brennan, Waldy Malouf and honorary member Julia Child. The group had many “rules’ such as “No acrobatic unicyclists allowed,” “No pissing on the shrubs in front of host restaurant in day-light,” No pizza deliveries accepted during the host chef’s service,” No dishes shall include all three of the following: foie gras, caviar and truffles,” and “No war stories about sex in a walk-in.”

Gerry, with all of these outlandish rules, how did you all manage to have any fun?

---

In all seriousness, Gerry, what area of Spain do you consider the most under-rated and why?

---

I know some people who are reluctant to travel to Spain now because they are concerned about the economic conditions there. Is there any validity to those concerns from a traveler's perspective?

---

BTW, also flattered to be mentioned in your bio :D

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Gerry, for whatever reason, I thought for some reason you were originally either from Oklahoma or Texas. You have this deeply resonant baritone, slow "drawl" that commands attention. All this to set up the following situation:

Cotton starts growing 40 miles south of where I was born in Southern Illiniois and raised and we are all a bunch of Goddamn hillbillies, ridge-runners and the like. Where I grew up damn near everybody had a gun and at one point, when a jealous husband was after my ass, I had a seven-shot automatic Beretta with a slug in the chamber that I carried in my Mustang. One night I got shit-faced and left it stuck in the sun visor of my car then took the car the next morning to my buddy's dad's filling station to get the car washed. My buddy, Mike, was working for his dad that weekend and was cleaning up my car, when he flipped down the visor and the damned gun fell into his lap with the barrel pointing straight at his head. He damned near shit. Now, I am a flaming radical progressive revolutionary and I don't own a gun anymore, which is probably a mistake since I think that every liberal ought to own two guns, so we can have sensible discussions with people like Ted Nugent.

When I went to Spain with you, we spent about seven nights in Galicia, hitting a different town every night, getting up early and driving, then visiting multiple wineries per day, usually with a multi-hour lunch break, then driving some more, then having a late dinner which usually began around 9 and ended after midnight, sometimes not getting back until 1 AM. We were sleeping about six hours a night, and I don't think I've ever been so damned tired in my entire life.

Well, damn, Don, you can sleep when you die! As I learned a long time ago from people like the great Bob Haas of Vineyard Brands, when you are working in wine country, you are not there to lollygag and just hang out, you are there to cover some ground. You don't stay in fancy hotels, because you are only in them for a few hours a night, they cost too much money and there is just not the luxury of ambling to a couple of wineries a day. I have seen up to six wineries in a day and tasted 110 wines one day, but the latter was not in Spain, that was in France.In Spain, I usually drive a couple hundred kilometers to make a noon appointment at one winery, then have lunch with as many as a half dozen artisan winemakers, then visit one or two in the afternoon, before driving to the next region, where I might stay for two nights. In this last trip in October, I had my lady love, my spousal equivalent (SE), Kay, with me, who didn't slow me down at all, probably much to her chagrin. We covered 3,500 kilometers in ten days, going from Madrid to Ribera de Arlanza to La Rioja, dipping briefly into Navarra, then Bierzo, Galicia for a week, Asturias, Cigales and back home.

One morning, we had breakfast in our hotel, packed our things, threw them in the car, and started driving. About an hour into the trip, you pulled off the road into a gas station (in Spain, gas stations often have little snack bars), and said, in this long, slow, deep, drawl ... "I'm gonna git' me a tapa.""We've just fucking had breakfast.""Ah don't care.""Why are we doing this?""Because I'm in Spain, dammit, and I'm going to live every single minute of the day, and not miss a thing."Red-eyed, I joined you at the little snack bar inside the gas station, and had (if I remember correctly) a piece of jamón on bread, drizzled with olive oil, and maybe a shaving of manchego. It was very nice and all that, but it wasn't *that* good.

Damn, Don, what are you going to do if you break down out there on that highway and you haven't had even a tapa for hours on end?

So here's my question:I'm sort-of known in DC as this obsessive whack-job who has taken it upon himself to know every single restaurant, in every obscure strip-mall and suburb in the region, and I think I've managed to do it pretty successfully. I had a powerful impetus: I was struggling with the death of my wife, and needed something to occupy myself with - educating myself and helping others was a way for me to pass the time constructively without being alone, or devolving into empty hedonism. You, however, have somehow managed to memorize every alleyway, gas station, and back-road bar in the entire country of Spain which is about the size of Texas. I remember driving back to Madrid from Galicia, and you pulled off into this restaurant that had *the best* roast suckling pig I've ever eaten, bar none. What on earth possesses you to do this, and how do you not become exhausted over the long-haul?

Well, the place we stopped on the way to Madrid for lunch, was in Arévalo, which is famous for having some of the best roast suckling pig in Spain and is an important town in the history of Isabeline Spain (the rise and reign of Queen Isabel I of Columbus fame). I had not been there for a least a decade or two, so I plotted it for lunch. It is important to have the best pig in the place known for the best pig every so often to calibrate your palate and have the experience to weigh every other roast suckling pig encounter against. Arévalo is in Ávila, which along with the neighboring province of Segovia is famous throughout Spain for roast suckling pig, like Roa de Duero and Aranda de Duero in Burgos province are for roast suckling lamb.

PS Did you know "Rocinante" was the name Steinbeck gave his car in "Travels with Charley?"

Yes, at different times I have read a reasonable amount of Steinbeck's writing, but, despite my year in Monterey, California, which was Steinbeck country, I took Rocinante as the name of my noble VW sedam, which used to grow more tire tread spontaneously at night, from the name of Don Quixote's horse, as did Steinbeck. In Spain, some ex-Pat types and itinerant bullfight aficionados used to call Don Quixote and my ex-wife, or course, was Sancha.

PPS There are also five "bonus" Madrid posts by Gerry starting right here.---PPPS Holy Cow (toned down from "Holy Shit") you mentioned me in your biography! This just made my day (well, along with this - it's been a really good day).

That is not my biography, it is a small slice of my life. My biography is much longer and in many places not suitable for reading in places that might reach Christian women and children.

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Gerry, with all of these outlandish rules, how did you all manage to have any fun?

There is a footnote in the book, United States of Arugula, in which Tom Colicchio, who was brought into the Chefs From Hell by Thomas Keller, something I never forgave Keller for ;-), tells about having so much fun laughing at one of our lunches that he puked. And the first time Martha Stewart got up to do my mandatory "tell us what is going on in your life" post luncheon segment, she managed to work the "F" word in to let us know that she was really one of the group. Other than that, except once at The Water Club when Andy Pforzheimer stuck a big plastic beetle in one of Rick Moonen's salads, which I then sent back to the kitchen via a tuxedoed waiter, instructing the waiter to tell the chef to take more care in cleaning his greens, then getting the bug back, bathed in chocolate on my petit fours plate, we seldom had much fun. Unless you count the empty chair we always had at each luncheon, the official Chef-in-Court chair; if the chef currently in question was able to get out of court or had been released from jail in time for lunch, then we would have nobody to talk about, so we didn't have much fun. Some chefs were pissed because I made them check their cutlery at the door--this actually happened--because I didn't want to run the risk of having them try to carve up their sous chef who had just run off with half the kitchen crew to open a new restaurant. To avoid other kinds of violence, I made chefs who were enemies sit a opposite ends of the table.

In all seriousness, Gerry, what area of Spain do you consider the most under-rated and why?

Galicia, because it is off the beaten track. It has some of the best wines in Spain, along with some phenomenal food, including probably the best shellfish in the world, including exceptional scallops, the best octopus and to-die-for crustaceans and molluscs, great empanadas and country stews. Galicia is beautiful and still relatively unspoiled in many parts. I am convinced that parts of Ribeira Sacra, the most awesomely beautiful wine region on earth, can produce artisanal red wines as good as Burgundy and that the best Godellos in Ribeira Sacra and Valdeorras rival all but the very best Chardonnays from the best crus of Burgundy.

Neighboring Asturias is another sleeper. It has only a miniscule amount of wine, but great cider and a multitude of some of the best cheeses in the world and bean dishes like verdinas con mariscos (green flageolot-type beans cooked with crab, shrimp and/or clams) and fabada asturiana, along with arroz con leche with a creme brulee-like caramelized crust. Then you add some of the most awesomely beautiful high mountain scenery and seashore in Spain, bucolic mountain villages saved by cheese making and colorful fishing ports and Asturias is a paradise, a place to get away from it all.

I know some people who are reluctant to travel to Spain now because they are concerned about the economic conditions there. Is there any validity to those concerns from a traveler's perspective?

I think almost none, as far as Americans are concerned. They, like many Occupy movements (and most are not a part of Occupy movements, just private citizens desperate for government help in solving the "crisis"), are railing against system abuses and their own politicians. I have been with the Indignados en both Barcelona and Madrid on four different occasions and no one even questioned me. It is the police busting heads without reason--with Catalan cops (!) imitating the police of the Franco dictatorship in Barcelona last spring--that has caused the problems. The people taking to the streets, as they are doing all over the world, are tired of the banks and powers that be fucking them out of their houses and their living, because of the gross re-distribution of wealth from the middle class and the poor to the filthy rich over the past thirty years.

BTW, also flattered to be mentioned in your bio :D

I am flattered that you and Don actually mention me on your fine blogs.

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I've had the pleasure of traveling to Spain with Gerry, who was the inspiration for this Washingtonian article ["Waiting for Godello"] ....

In all seriousness, Gerry, what area of Spain do you consider the most under-rated and why?

Galicia, because it is off the beaten track. It has some of the best wines in Spain, along with some phenomenal food, including probably the best shellfish in the world, including exceptional scallops, the best octopus and to-die-for crustaceans and molluscs, great empanadas and country stews. Galicia is beautiful and still relatively unspoiled in many parts. I am convinced that parts of Ribeira Sacra, the most awesomely beautiful wine region on earth, can produce artisanal red wines as good as Burgundy and that the best Godellos in Ribeira Sacra and Valdeorras rival all but the very best Chardonnays from the best crus of Burgundy.

Tying these three posts together, and referring to my article (referenced in my above quote), "Waiting for Godello" ...

Gerry, would you believe me if I said that I don't think I've had a single great glass of Godello since we were in Spain together?

The years have gone by, and Godello is becoming more-and-more like Sammy's Villa Pizza to me (do a find on "Sammy's" in this City Paper article by Tim Carman). I've reached the point where I'm actually wondering if Godello, like Sammy's Villa, was actually all that great, or if it was nothing more than a childhood memory, made more special because I had just stood on the dangerously sloped vineyards where it is grown.

I'd know it if I ever tasted it again (the lack of viscosity, the complex minerals, the bracing acidity, and the endless finish of lime blossom are an unforgettable combination), but the memory is fading. If you can tell me that you can provide me with wines of the caliber we had in Galicia, I'll buy a case a month. In your opinion (and I understand you're not that familiar with the DC market), are there any truly great Godellos available in the states right now, and if so, what?

These wines shouldn't cost much more than $20-30 per bottle, knowing what they sell for ex-cellar, but if I could have just one more experience that rivaled what we had in Spain? I'd pay $100 a bottle for it. It's like Dönnhoff's wines which are plentiful (and starting to be priced commensurate with their quality) - I can get the Spätlesen for $40 or thereabouts, but if you told me they were going to disappear, and that I could only have one more bottle? I'd definitely pay $100 for it. I'll go a step further: if I could only have one type of white wine to drink for the rest of my life, I'd choose Godello. I'm not saying it would be my "deathbed white," which would probably be a Montrachet, or Dönnhoff Eiswein, or some such thing; merely that for daily drinking, I can't think of anything better over the long haul. As I type, I'm enjoying a Panang Chicken from Sweet Rice, and Godello would go just fine with this (though a Grüner Veltliner may be better still because of the somewhat thick peanut sauce), much better than either the Montrachet or the Eiswein. Ah, I just had a thought! Super-aged white Rioja! Perfect!

Do you remember the first time we met? It was at a Spanish restaurant in New York (the kitchen was run by a really good female chef), and you opened what I vaguely recall was a 1964 white Rioja. That was a revelatory moment in my wine career.

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"When that this too too solid flesh shall melt, and I am called before my Heavenly Father, I shall say to him Sir, I don’t remember the name of the village, and I don’t remember the name of the girl, but the wine was Chambertin."

-- Joseph Hilaire Pierre René Belloc (originally derived from a line spoken in Shakesperio's "Jamónlet")

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"I had no idea that we had a large naval base at Rota in the Andalucian province of Cádiz, from which the Navy kept track of the Russian fleet in the Mediterranean. Suddenly, a Chief Petty Officer called my name, “Dawes, you lucky bastard, you are going to Rota, Spain.”

Gerry, Last time I was trawling for interesting stuff around Jerez I recall asking someone if there were ever red grapes in the region. The response was the the main vineyards were taken over by the US Naval base near Cadiz. And that several grapes were made extinct by that American colonization of Spain. Do you know anything about this?

Your departure from Rota suggests there is justice in the universe and hope for the future. It is ironic that, after the destruction of Rota's vineyards (if I have my story straight) and the bigger, more destructive colonization of Spanish regional wine styles by market demand for high spoofulated, identikit New World driven 'international' wine styles, you have probably done more to champion Spain's great wine traditions and helped preserve these from serious polution, if not outright extinction.

BTW, Thinking about Veterans Day your biography goes a long way toward celebrating how many, unsung American vets like yourself have gone about quietly repairing America's reputation abroad. There are many ways to serve one's country well and you've done more than your fair share.

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Tying these three posts together, and referring to my article (referenced in my above quote), "Waiting for Godello" ...

Gerry, would you believe me if I said that I don't think I've had a single great glass of Godello since we were in Spain together?

The years have gone by, and Godello is becoming more-and-more like Sammy's Villa Pizza to me (do a find on "Sammy's" in this City Paper article by Tim Carman). I've reached the point where I'm actually wondering if Godello, like Sammy's Villa, was actually all that great, or if it was nothing more than a childhood memory, made more special because I had just stood on the dangerously sloped vineyards where it is grown.

Don, now tell me the truth. How many Godellos have you drunk since Galicia? Have you had Casal Novo? Any of the Valdesil Godellos? Pena das Donas Alma Larga? My Do Barreirio A Silveira? D. Berna? Amizade from Monterreis, made by the great Gerardo Mendez of Do Ferreiro fame? This is chardonnay before they screwed chardonay up. But it has wonderful white peach flavors and close to the peach stone flavors and, when you don't barrel ferment it and battonage it to death, Godello transmits terroir like few grapes, IMHO.

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Don, now tell me the truth. How many Godellos have you drunk since Galicia? Have you had Casal Novo? Any of the Valdesil Godellos? Pena das Donas Alma Larga? My Do Barreirio A Silveira? D. Berna? Amizade from Monterreis, made by the great Gerardo Mendez of Do Ferreiro fame? This is chardonnay before they screwed chardonay up. But it has wonderful white peach flavors and close to the peach stone flavors and, when you don't barrel ferment it and battonage it to death, Godello transmits terroir like few grapes, IMHO.

I've probably had 10 different ones, perhaps one every few months ... Casal Novo, maybe, Valdesil, yes but not lately; the others do not ring a bell.

Vidalia used to pour the Valdesil Montenovo by the glass, but I don't think they do anymore. It is *so* hard to find Godello in this city, and when you do, it's usually an oaked-up version - I stopped trying awhile back because it seems every bottle I'd buy and try would disappoint me. At least now, you've given me a list of producers (I assume you know all these to be imported?) to seek out.

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Any current and specific reccs from the Ribera Sacra DO (which are known to be imported here)? And, as long as I'm asking, how about from Priorat?

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Any current and specific reccs from the Ribera Sacra DO (which are known to be imported here)? And, as long as I'm asking, how about from Priorat?

I have not tasted in Priorat for a couple of years now, but I will get to some notes from my last tastings. I have become less and less interested in Priorat in the past few years because of high alcohol, excess oaking and very high prices. However, I am very high on Ribeira Sacra artisan reds, those that are not made in the international style. Below are some recommendations, following by John Gilman's reviews of my wines.

Ribeira Sacra wines, my listing of wines currently in the market, following by John B. Gilman’s View From The Cellar (http://www.viewfromthecellar.com) reviews of my own Spanish Artisan Wine Group-Gerry Dawes Selections wines (Available in New York now, in the Washington, D.C. area after the first of the year).

Except when noted as in the case of white Godello-based wines, these are all Mencía red wines, usually with field blends that include some 3-5% Garnarcha Tintorera, Brancellao and/or Merenzao and other Galician red wine grapes.

Adega Algueira, Amandi Subregion (made by the peripatetic and controversial enologist, Raúl Pérez)

Algueira

Enológica Témera, Ribeiras do Sil Subregion

Alodio Mencía

Thémera (sic),

D. Ventura, Losada Fernández, Ferreira de Pantón (Lugo), Ribeiras do Minho

(Consultant Gerardo Méndez of Rías Baixas’s Do Ferreiro; some of these wines may have small percentages of Brancellao and Garnacha; all are stunning, unoaked wines and incredible bargains.)

Viña do Burato

Pena do Lobo

Viña Caneiro

Dominio do Bibei, Manzaneda (Ourense), Quiroga-Bibei (Sara Pérez and René Barbier, Jr., consultants)

La Pola Godello (usually with some 40% Dona Blanca grapes; more like a Meursault than a Godello from this region.)

La Lama (mencía, garnacha, moratón)

Guímaro, Pedro M. Rodríguez Pérez, Sober (Lugo), Amandi (Raúl Pérez, consultant)

*Guímaro Mencía

Guímaro B2M (Mencía field-blended with small amounts of caíño tinto; aged 14 months in oak; 2500 bottles made; 13.5%) Was very similar to El Pecado 2007 [see note] at $25 less .

El Pecado Ribeira Sacra (the first vintage from 2007 was sold as Guímaro Barrica in Spain forfar less than the $75 price tag it commanded in the U.S.; the label said 100 per cent mencía, but the wine was 80 per cent mencía, 10 per cent caíño tinto and 10 per cent garnacha tintorera (alicante bouchet); fermented in 1,500 liter egg-shaped barrels from Austria for 12 months with battonage; 13.5% alcohol). My note Ripe, extracted red fruits, oak and some minerality. Deep extracted attractive red currant fruit, very juicy acidity, rustic touches, oak and minerals, a laudable example of a modern Spanish wine made to fit a commercial profile. (Note: This Raúl Pérez wine was been rated by Jay Miller at 98 points, but while I found it to be a good wine, I rated it 93 points, but noted that it did not seemt to be a prime example of Ribeira Sacra.)

Pena das Donas, Pombeiro, Pantón (Lugo), Ribeiras do Minho

Almalarga Godello (13%) Beautiful nose of lime, white peach and minerals. Soft, silky and well balanced with lovely, sweet white peach fruit, and a haunting, lingering bitter almond and mineral finish. I have rated some vintages of this wine at 96 points. Exceptional value.

Verdes Matas Mencía (12.5%) Pomegranate, currant and mineral nose. Balanced, perfectly ripe and rich, with plenty or juicy cranberry, pomegranate and currant flavors, dark chocolate and a long, complex, mineral-laced finish. I have rated this wine at 93 points in the past.

Ribeira Sacra (and other Mencía-based Reds)

2011 Don Bernardino Mencía (Ribeira Sacra)

As noted above, Don Bernardino is the wine of restaurateur, Emilio Rodríguez Diaz, whose O Grelo restaurant is in the town of Monforte de Lemos. The steep vineyards for his red wine lie in the village of Amandi, overlooking the Sil River. I tasted two vintage of this terrific Mencía, with the 2011 being the slightly riper of the two vintages at thirteen percent (in comparison to the 12.5 percent of the 2010), but with both wines proving to be absolutely outstanding. The 2011 Don Bernardino offers up a vibrant nose of pomegranate, black cherries, a beautiful base of slate, a touch of lead pencil and a gentle topnote of woodsmoke. On the palate the wine is deep, fullish and very classy, with excellent intensity of flavor, bright acids and excellent length and grip on the focused and bouncy finish. Just a classic example of Mencía. 2012-2020. 92+.

2011 Décima Amandi Mencía - José Manuel Rodríguez (Ribeira Sacra)

José Manuel Rodríguez is the head of the growers’ association and regulatory agency of Ribeira Sacra, and makes one of the finest examples of Mencía I have ever had the pleasure to taste. Like the Don Bernardino Mencía, these two lovely vintages of Décima hail from very steep vineyards overlooking the Sil River in the village of Amandi. The 2011 Décima weighs in at a very classic octane of 12.5 percent and roars from the glass in a sophisticated and utterly classic nose of pomegranate, lead pencil, slate, a nice touch of gamebird, coffee bean and a gentle medicinal topnote that is vaguely reminiscent of Hermitage. On the palate the wine is fullish, complex and very intensely flavored, with laser-like focus, fine mid-palate depth, tangy acids and great length and grip on the very softly tannic finish. Utterly classic Mencía! 2012-2020+. 94.

2010 Toalde Mencía- Roberto Regal, Chantada (Ribeira Sacra)

Roberto Regal’s production is miniscule, as he owns only about one hectare of Mencía vines here in a very steep vineyard overlooking the Miño River. There are just a handful of older indigenous varieties also in the vineyard here, so Señor Regal makes a field blend of these with his Mencía to produce this superb wine. The 2011 Toalde is outstanding, offering up a deep and complex bouquet of black cherries, pomegranate, a touch of nutskin, a lovely base of slate and granitic minerality, smoke and a gentle topnote of fresh herbs. On the palate the wine is deep, fullish, long and very sappy in the mid-palate, with fine focus and balance and a long, suave and bouncy finish. This is a lovely wine. 2012-2018. 91+.

2011 Don Bernardino Godello (Ribeira Sacra)

Don Bernardino is the wine label for restaurateur, Emilio Rodríguez Diaz, whose O Grelo restaurant is located in the town of Monforte de Lemos - effectively the capital of the Ribeira Sacra region. His 2010 Godello is excellent, weighing in at a ripe and pure thirteen percent and offering up a beautiful nose of peach, lime peel, a lovely base of soil, just a whisper of honeycomb and a gently smoky topnote. On the palate the wine is deep, fullish, pure and very classy, with excellent mid-palate depth, fine focus, crisp acids and outstanding balance and grip on the snappy and soil-driven finish. Just a superb bottle of Godello. 2012-2020. 92.

2011 Don Bernardino Mencía (Ribeira Sacra)

As noted above, Don Bernardino is the wine of restaurateur, Emilio Rodríguez Diaz, whose O Grelo restaurant is in the town of Monforte de Lemos. The steep vineyards for his red wine lie in the village of Amandi, overlooking the Sil River. I tasted two vintage of this terrific Mencía, with the 2011 being the slightly riper of the two vintages at thirteen percent (in comparison to the 12.5 percent of the 2010), but with both wines proving to be absolutely outstanding. The 2011 Don Bernardino offers up a vibrant nose of pomegranate, black cherries, a beautiful base of slate, a touch of lead pencil and a gentle topnote of woodsmoke. On the palate the wine is deep, fullish and very classy, with excellent intensity of flavor, bright acids and excellent length and grip on the focused and bouncy finish. Just a classic example of Mencía. 2012-2020. 92+. (Gilman rated the 2010 at 94 pts.)

2010 Sabatelius Mencía- Primitivo Lareu (Ribeira Sacra) (out of stock)

Primitivo Lareu is a superb winemaker on the far western end of Ribeira Sacra, located in the sub-region of Chantada, which happens to be the coolest vineyard area in all of Ribeira Sacra. In addition to his winegrowing responsibilities, Señor Lareu is also a sculptor and painter, but first and foremost these days, he is a serious viticulturist bent on extracting as much terroir from his vineyards and producing as transparent a glass of wine as possible. His 2010 Mencía is outstanding, offering up a stunning and sappy nose of pomegranate, black cherries, woodsmoke, beautifully complex herbal tones, espresso and a superb base of stony, slate soil. On the palate the wine is deep, medium-full and dancing on the palate, with superb lightness of step coupled to excellent intensity. The wine is impressively complex and focused, with bright acids, little tannin and outstanding length and grip on the bouncy finish. Superb juice. 2012-2020+. 93+.

2010 Toalde Mencía - Roberto Regal (Ribeira Sacra)

The 2010 Toalde from Roberto Regal is excellent, wafting from the glass in a smoky mélange of dark berries, black cherries, espresso, tree bark, stony soil tones, fresh herbs and woodsmoke. On the palate the wine is deep, fullish and intensely flavored, with lovely transparency, very good mid-palate depth and superb length and grip on the focused and complex finish. This wine is very light on its feet and yet packs plenty of intensity. I suspect it will prove to be a touch longer-lived than the equally fine 2011 Toalde bottling. Classic Ribeira Sacra. 2012-2020+. 92.

2010 Viña Cazoga Mencía - Jorge Carnero (Ribeira Sacra)

Viña Cazoga has a long history of fine wine production in the Ribeira Sacra and was once one of the largest and most important estates in the area, but during the nadir of the region’s fortunes- which really started at the dawn of the twentieth century, when so many of these steep vineyard sites were abandoned and young people emigrated en masse in search of more profitable work- Jorge Carnero’s family’s vineyard holdings in the village of Amandi dwindled down to almost nothing. Jorge’s grandfather, Raimundo Vidal, was instrumental in starting to resurrect the Ribeira Sacra region in the 1970s and today the family owns a single, 3.9 hectare parcel of vines right above the Sil River that was long recognized as the finest vineyard in Ribeira Sacra. Almost the entire vineyard is planted with vines in excess of one hundred years of age, with ninety-five percent planted to Mencía and the balance made up of a mix of Tempranillo and Merenzao. The 2010 Viña Cazoga Mencía is a beautiful wine, offering up a deep, very intense and complex nose of black cherries, pomegranate, black pepper, a touch of spiced meats, slate soil tones, espresso and a topnote of cigar smoke. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied and very sappy at the core, with great focus and grip, excellent balance, bright acids, virtually no tannins and outstanding length and grip on the dancing and palate-staining finish. Great Ribeira Sacra! 2012-2020. 94.

2008 Viña Cazoga “Don Diego” Mencía - Jorge Carnero (Ribeira Sacra)

The Don Diego bottling from Jorge Carnero spends six to twelve months of its elevage in four year-old, five hundred liter French oak barrels prior to bottling and is released after further bottle age. Even using four year-old barrels, the Mencía grape still shows a fair bit of wood influence in this wine, which does make for a markedly different impression than the stainless steel-aged regular bottling. The 2008 offers up a very deep and classy nose of black cherries, bitter chocolate, woodsmoke, lovely soil tones and a nice, generous touch of vanillin oak. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied, complex and quite suave on the attack, with a bit less overtly terroir-derived soil tones in evidence. The finish is very long and moderately tannic, and though the wine is focused nicely, there is not quite the same purity and blazing transparency here as is found in the 2010 regular bottling. This is still a very well-made wine, but it seems that the oak takes away a bit more than it adds to the final blend. 2012-2025. 90.

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"I had no idea that we had a large naval base at Rota in the Andalucian province of Cádiz, from which the Navy kept track of the Russian fleet in the Mediterranean. Suddenly, a Chief Petty Officer called my name, “Dawes, you lucky bastard, you are going to Rota, Spain.”

Great to hear from you, Paul.

Gerry, Last time I was trawling for interesting stuff around Jerez I recall asking someone if there were ever red grapes in the region. The response was the the main vineyards were taken over by the US Naval base near Cadiz. And that several grapes were made extinct by that American colonization of Spain. Do you know anything about this?

I had not heard this, but I am not surprised by it. Whatever Tintilla de Rota red wine vineyards disappeared were for than compensated for by the economic boon to the region from American money pouring in to build and maintain the base at Rota, which still employs many locals. Tintilla de Rota is apparently the same grape or, at least very similar, to Rioja's Graciano.

I also found this on the very fine Fringe Wine blog, whose author has concluded after a good deal of research that Tintilla de Rota is Graciano:

"Tintilla de Rota is used in both table wine and fortified wine production around the Sherry region of Spain. Rota is the name of a town in the Sherry region whose sandy soils are particularly well suited to the cultivation of the Tintilla grape. It has been known in this region since the 1500's, but was pushed to the brink of extinction in the 1950's as an American military base was constructed where many Tintilla vines were once planted. The wine that I was able to find was the fortified version from Emilio Lustau, which I picked up my friends at the Spirited Gourmet for about $45 (I believe Curtis Liquors carries this as well). To make this wine, the grapes are picked and then left out in the sun for two or three weeks to dry out. They are then placed in tubs and covered with mats to minimize the amount of air contact. They're left in the tubs for about a month and periodically stirred before being pressed. The wine is fortified to about 17% (mine was 17.5%) and then aged for awhile in casks before being bottled."

Your departure from Rota suggests there is justice in the universe and hope for the future. It is ironic that, after the destruction of Rota's vineyards (if I have my story straight) and the bigger, more destructive colonization of Spanish regional wine styles by market demand for high spoofulated, identikit New World driven 'international' wine styles, you have probably done more to champion Spain's great wine traditions and helped preserve these from serious polution, if not outright extinction.

Because of my opposition to these spoofulated wines, I have been called everything from a hopeless romantic to a wine Taliban. I find it ironic that now, years later, when sales of such wines are sinking like a stone in the water, that Spanish wine writers have suddenly begun drifting towards the lower alcohol, less manipulated position that I have held all along.

BTW, Thinking about Veterans Day your biography goes a long way toward celebrating how many, unsung American vets like yourself have gone about quietly repairing America's reputation abroad. There are many ways to serve one's country well and you've done more than your fair share.

I am very flattered, Paul. Many of us served, because in the day, there was little choice in the matter, short of running to Canada or having "Fuck the Army" tatooed on one's hand as a friend of mine did to get out of going to the military during the Vietnam War. Whatever I have done, it has always been for my love of Spain.

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