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Gerry,

Stepping back a bit -- for the first-timer in Spain, how would you recommend spending a week to ten days?

All best,

Simon

Dear Simon,

Since, you are a first timer, I recommend that you concentrated your ten days in just a few areas. That way you way have a good chance of catching the Spain bug and you will return to see other regions.

Base your trip in Madrid and spend the first two or three nights there, perhaps more. Now with Spain's fast trains, you can literally go to places like Toledo and Segovia and back easily. For over nighters, you go to Cordoba, Granada and Sevilla to get the flavor of Andalucia, the back to Madrid and the AVE train to Barcelona to spend the last three nights. If you plan to rent a car, I can sent you on a great swing from Madrid or Barcelona through several wine and gastronomy regions of note, plus some cultural and historical sites, then back to whichever of the two cities from which you choose to fly back to the U.S.

Buen viaje! :)

Gerry Dawes,

Gerry Dawes's Spain: An Insider's Guide to Spanish Food, Wine, Culture and Travel

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With all these wines, give your guests a little primer about drinking them with Thanksgiving Day fare. Tell them not to take a sip of wine after 1) sweet potatoes with marshmallows; 2) cranberry sauce; or 3) asparagus. If they take sips of wine after bites of turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes with gravy and gible

The problem with this, Gerry, is that it makes too much sense.

(Keep a little bottle of gin under the table for the sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, asparagus, and relatives.)

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The problem with this, Gerry, is that it makes too much sense.

(Keep a little bottle of gin under the table for the sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, asparagus, and relatives.)

Ah, Hell, Don, if you start drinking gin, everybody is going to want to drink gin, then you are going to have to make martinis and gin-tonics and everybody is going to get drunk and the Republican family members are going to start fist fights with the Democrats, except for a brother-in-law and a sister-in-law who are going to take advantage of the mayhem and sneak off and due the boogie. Then all Hell will break loose, so just stick to the Godello, Rosado and Ribeira Sacra and learn not to take a sip after the sweet stuff and after the veggie that makes your urine smell like asparagus. Much simpler, when you compare it to your recommendation! :o

Gerry Dawes,

Gerry Dawes's Spain: An Insider's Guide to Spanish Food, Wine, Culture and Travel

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Dear Simon,

Since, you are a first timer, I recommend that you concentrated your ten days in just a few areas. That way you way have a good chance of catching the Spain bug and you will return to see other regions.

Base your trip in Madrid and spend the first two or three nights there, perhaps more. Now with Spain's fast trains, you can literally go to places like Toledo and Segovia and back easily. For over nighters, you go to Cordoba, Granada and Sevilla to get the flavor of Andalucia, the back to Madrid and the AVE train to Barcelona to spend the last three nights. If you plan to rent a car, I can sent you on a great swing from Madrid or Barcelona through several wine and gastronomy regions of note, plus some cultural and historical sites, then back to whichever of the two cities from which you choose to fly back to the U.S.

Buen viaje! :)

Gerry Dawes,

Gerry Dawes's Spain: An Insider's Guide to Spanish Food, Wine, Culture and Travel

Again qualifying that I know virtually nothing about Spain relative to the wisdom being dispensed in this thread...

That said, and just because I had the incredibly good fortune to spend the 8 or so months in Barcelona that I did years ago, I have to ask.

Base the trip in Madrid. Sure, that makes sense purely due to the centrality and transport convenience of the capital but, in considering choosing allegiance between the two great cities, do you not think it kind of like the Yankees and Red Sox? In other words, it's one thing for a first timer to see all the great spots to be hooked but, at some point (the 3rd or 4th visit, after spending at least a couple of months there, etc), do you, Gerry, not believe that all must pick a major and stick with it for life?

Can't be a fan of Real and Barca. Can't like Catalunya and hate Jordi Pujol. Can't be indifferent toward Catalonian independence. Can't not have a strong view on whether Catalunya truly is the economic and cultural engine of the nation. And, castillian. Either it really is a distinct, historic and cherished tongue OR it's basically a mix of Spanish and French. Finally, either you say "z" like the z in "zebra" or like the "th" in "thimble" a la 'Saragoza'

Have to take sides.* Right Gerry? Right? I'm way out on a limb here ready to either be vindicated or swatted to the ground.

With trepidation and appreciation...just one..depending

* perhaps I've exposed myself by now but despite having much love for Madrid, all my answers are in the Barcelona corner. In the same way that, of course, the Red Sox are the team to follow and the Yankees the team to be hated. Just the way it should be.

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Again qualifying that I know virtually nothing about Spain relative to the wisdom being dispensed in this thread...

That said, and just because I had the incredibly good fortune to spend the 8 or so months in Barcelona that I did years ago, I have to ask.

Base the trip in Madrid. Sure, that makes sense purely due to the centrality and transport convenience of the capital but, in considering choosing allegiance between the two great cities, do you not think it kind of like the Yankees and Red Sox? In other words, it's one thing for a first timer to see all the great spots to be hooked but, at some point (the 3rd or 4th visit, after spending at least a couple of months there, etc), do you, Gerry, not believe that all must pick a major and stick with it for life?

Can't be a fan of Real and Barca. Can't like Catalunya and hate Jordi Pujol. Can't be indifferent toward Catalonian independence. Can't not have a strong view on whether Catalunya truly is the economic and cultural engine of the nation. And, castillian. Either it really is a distinct, historic and cherished tongue OR it's basically a mix of Spanish and French. Finally, either you say "z" like the z in "zebra" or like the "th" in "thimble" a la 'Saragoza'

Have to take sides.* Right Gerry? Right? I'm way out on a limb here ready to either be vindicated or swatted to the ground.

With trepidation and appreciation...just one..depending

* perhaps I've exposed myself by now but despite having much love for Madrid, all my answers are in the Barcelona corner. In the same way that, of course, the Red Sox are the team to follow and the Yankees the team to be hated. Just the way it should be.

Sorry, I forgot that you spent 8 months in Barcelona years ago, which means that you really are a "first-timer" in Spain. (As you can see from tee-shirts in Barcelona "Catalunya is not Spain.")

This means if you want to see Spain, let's talk about that. If you want to continue to base yourself in Barcelona and explore Catalunya, let's talk about that. To give you an idea, if I had stayed in my native Cadiz province and Sevilla, which can be wonderful, and limited myself to Andalucia, I would have still had a great time (and did!), but I would never have discovered the glories of Madrid, Extremadura, Castilla y Leon, La Rioja, Navarra, The Basque Country, Asturias and Galicia, let alone La Mancha and La Comunitat Valenciana, especially Valencia and Alicante or my beloved Barcelona (and surrounding Catalunya).

So, what's it going to be? Barcelona-centric (or Boston-centric) and miss all the great Santa Fe, Austin, New Orleans, San Francisco, Napa Valley, Seattle, New York (and Hudson Valley), etc. glories.

Let me know, either way I can help.

I love Barcelona. Do you know one of my favorite "pueblos" in Spain, La Boqueria?

English Version of Boquería Gourmand (Published in October by Viena Edicions), a New Book about Barcelona's Fabulous La Boquería Market (Foreword by Gerry Dawes)

My best, Gerry Dawes :rolleyes:

Gerry Dawes's Spain: An Insider's Guide to Spanish Food, Wine, Culture and Travel

IMG_2158-1%20Quim%20Marquez%20Quim%20de%20la%20Boqueria.jpg

Quím Marquéz, Chef-owner, Quím de la Boquería

Photo: Gerry Dawes©2011 / gerrydawes@aol.com.

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[Gerry will understandably be less responsive over the long weekend, but keep your questions coming to give him some notice, and he'll be back at full speed next week.

In advance, Señor Dawes, thank you for the considerable effort you're putting into this chat. You're funny, substantive, friendly, and you make me proud to support a gentleman of substance such as you are. Bravo in advance, my friend. (And I'd like to get into some weirder, more obscure varietals next, and ask if you'll be importing any.

Any thoughts on Quique Dacosta?]

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[Gerry will understandably be less responsive over the long weekend, but keep your questions coming to give him some notice, and he'll be back at full speed next week.In advance, Señor Dawes, thank you for the considerable effort you're putting into this chat. You're funny, substantive, friendly, and you make me proud to support a gentleman of substance such as you are. Bravo in advance, my friend. (And I'd like to get into some weirder, more obscure varietals next, and ask if you'll be importing any.

Any thoughts on Quique Dacosta?]

Don, you asked.

IMG_4898.JPG

Quique Dacosta at Casa Elías, Xinorlet (Alicante), October 18, 2012.

Photo by Gerry Dawes©2011. gerrydawes@aol.com

Quique Dacosta has long been a friend of mine. I was very happy to hear that is was announced yesterday that he had received his third Michelin star, for which he has worked so hard for so many years [Editor's Note: Quique Dacosta was also just named #1 Restaurant In The World by opinionatedabout.com and theworlds50best.com]. I last ate at Restaurante Quique Dacosta in October 2011, when I was staying in Denia at Hotel La Posada del Mar. I was traveling with Ryan Mcilwraith, Michael Chiarello's executive sous chef and we were supposed to go to Quique Dacosta that night. Ryan was sick with a bad stomach, so I decided not to go either, but Quique called me on my cell phone at 10:30 p.m. and demanded that I get my ass over there (it is about 2 kilometers from the hotel), so I ended up going by myself. I was pretty wiped out from ten days of taking Michael and Ryan around northern Spain (Michael had left the day before from Barcelona), so I told Quique I was only up for an abbreviated menu. He sent out a dazzling parade of his incredible cocina de vanguardia estilo Quique dishes, then came out and sat with me for half an hour.

IMG_0539%2520%2520Quique%2520Dacosta%252C%2520Denia%2520%2528Alicante%2529.%2520%2520%2520Dish%2520with%2520the%2520spooky%2520vapors%2520of%2520the%2520dry%2520ice%2520beneath%2520swirling%2520around%2520your%2520food..jpg

Quique Dacosta, Denia (Alicante). Dish with the spooky vapors of the dry ice beneath swirling around your food.

Photo by Gerry Dawes©2011. gerrydawes@aol.com

This October, I was the inaugural speaker at the annual Turismo conference in Benidorm (Alicante) and I met Director General de Turismo de Valencia Sebastian Fernández, who told me he was going for lunch at one of my favorite restaurantes in Spain, Casa Elías, a exceptional family place in the small village of Xinorlet. Casa Elías specializes in wonderful thin-layered arroses (rice dishes, call them paellas) con conejo y caracoles (rabbit and local snails [with fresh rosemary]) cooked over grape vine cuttings, usually from the local Monastrell vineyards. Casa Elías also serves a number of other authentic local speciaties (see photos of the luncheon here: Xinorlet (Alicante) Casa Elias Rabbit & Snail Paella Paco Torreblanca - Quique Dacosta Oct 18, 2012). Sr. Fernández also told me that two great friends--two of my favorite Spanish chefs--Quique Dacosta and Paco Torreblanca were also coming. I managed to wrangle (not wangle) an invitation to accompany Sr. Fernández to the luncheon.

We got to Casa Elías first and I hid in a private dining room until Paco, his wife Chelo, Quique and journalist Maria Canabal (http://www.gastronomad.eu) were in the main dining, then came out to surprise them (I took it as a good sign that they didn't flee). I felt like I had hit the lottery. Not only did I get to schmooze the Director of Tourism for Valencia on the hour-long ride from Benidorm to Xinorlet and have a chance to eat the terrific food at Casa Elías again, among my dining companions for the next two hours were two of Spain's real culinary super stars: Paco Torreblanca may be the top chocolatier in Europe and Quique Dacosta could well be the heir apparent to Ferran Adria's throne, now that elBulli has closed.

I never see Quique without remembering (how could I not?) that I was having lunch with Santa Fe Chef Mark Miller (then owner of Coyote Cafe) at Quique's restaurant in Denia, at the time called El Poblet. Halfway through a terrific meal--we were having a course of supernal grilled gambas de Denia (superb rosa-colored shrimp that actually come from deep water off the Balearic Island of Ibiza), when my Spanish cell phone rang. It was chef Teresa Barrenechea, who then owned Marichu restaurant in Manhattan. She, too, was traveling in Spain. She told me that a plane had hit The World Trade Center. I thought, "Wow, someone has had the misfortune to have crashed a private plane into The World Trade Center!" Soon enough, Quique called us to the bar, where we saw the rest in real time, including the second plane crashing into the second tower. Mark Miller, Quique, myself and his employees watched dumbfounded as we the events unfolded on television. Mark Miller's Coyote Cafe restaurant managers from Santa Fe and Las Vegas were still in-flight headed for Valencia, where we were supposed to pick them up after lunch.

IMG_0855.JPG

Mark Miller (at the end of the table) and some friends tasting wines with me at Taberna La Boca in Santa Fe during the Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta in September 2012

Miller's managers were able to get to Valencia on time, but, as we soon found out, there would be no going back to the U.S. right away, since all flights were grounded, so we continued on our planned intinerary to Barcelona, Navarra, The Basque Country, la Rioja and back to Madrid. In Navarra, we had lunch in Tudela, and found out the next day that an Al-Qaeda operative who had planned to blow up the U.S. Embassy in Paris had been apprehended in a nearby village, where he had been living for several months.

For several days, I was sure that I had lost friends in The World Trade Center attack, including Michael Lomonaco, one of the original members of my Chefs From Hell Club, who was then Executive Chef of Windows on the World, Cellar in the Sky and The World Trade Center Club; Jules Roinnel, the Managing Director of The World Trade Center Club; and a number of others who had been on a trip to Spain with me that spring.

IMG_9228.JPG

Chef Michael Lomonaco, now Chef-partner at Porterhouse New York.

Ironically, in May of 2001, I had led a group of 26 people from The World Trade Center Club around Spain for eleven days. The group include Jules Roinnel, the Club's Director and my old friend, Michael Lomonaco, Executive Chef of Windows on the World, Cellar in the Sky and The World Trade Center Club. Ironically, on that trip, we had gone for lunch one day in Madrid at a great seafood restaurant, La Trainera, on calle Lagasca. Since the street was too narrow for our bus, the driver double-parked the bus alongside some parked cars on calle Goya across the street from Bar Goya and in front of a BBVA bank branch and we walked a block or so to the restaurant. After a terrific lunch, at which on old friend of mine, John Ewing, joined the group, we drove back to our hotel and continuing touring Madrid in the afternoon.

After dinner, some of us decided to have a drink in the Hemingway Bar at the Hotel Palace.John Ewing, who had also joined us for dinner, decided to all it night and took a cab back to his hotel, which coincidentally was the Hotel Lagasca, on the street where we had had lunch. Within half an hour, Ewing called me on my cell phone and told me, "You won't believe what just happened! A bomb just exploded and damned near blew me out of bed."The Basque separatist group ETA had planted a bomb in a car parked in front of that BBVA bank branch where our bus was parked during lunch.

For all we knew the bomb could have been there while our bus was there. The bomb injured 14 people, destroyed a number of cars and wrecked a number of business along calle Goya, including the Bar Goya, which got destroyed and was where John Ewing had considered stopping for a nightcap, but opted to return to his hotel, go to bed and read a book, a decision that may have saved his life.

The next morning, our World Trade Center Club group was preparing to leave for Ribera del Duero, Burgos and The Basque Country. The Deputy Security Inspector for The Bridge and Tunnel Authority, which was in charge of The World Trade Center, had his offices on the 77th Floor of the tower that was home to the World Trade Center Club, Windows on the World, Cellar in the Sky and City Lights Bar. He stood outside the cargo compartments of the bus and made sure that each bag belonged to its owner and was verified. Looking back, I have always considered that Basque bomb on calle Goya as a harbinger of things to come.

As Mark Miller, his Coyote Cafe managers and I continued our trip, I checked newspapers at every stop and listened to Spanish radio in the car, but, in the absence of any direct news about my friends, I was almost sure that they had perished. Then three days later, my daughter, Elena, who had dined with me at Windows on the World in August, called crying about the attacks, but told me that she had seen my friend, Chef Lomonaco, on television. Michael had survived because he took 15 minutes to have his glasses repaired and did not catch the elevator that would have taken him 110 stories to his kitchens at Windows on the World and to certain death.

Later I would find out that Jules Roinnel had switched shifts and planned to work that evening. The Deputy Inspector who had checked the bags going on the bus in front of the Hotel Ritz in May had had breakfast at The World Trade Center Club and had just reached the 77th floor when the first plane hit. He was able to get out in time by walking down all those flights of stairs, helping and injured person to get out as well, injuring his neck in the process. But, of the some 24 people on that Spain trip with me, not a one perished. Pardon me if I have digressed in reporting about Quique Dacosta's third Michelin star, but I spent one of the most unforgettable days of my life in his restaurant.

Subsequent meals at Quique Dacosta have fortunately had a much happier outcome, but we seldom see one another for any length of time without recalling that incredible afternoon that we watched unfold on television together.

(A video trailer on Valencia and Alicante showing Quique Dacosta, Paco Torreblanca and Casa Elías.)

Gerry Dawes

Gerry Dawes's Spain: An Insider's Guide to Spanish Food, Wine, Culture and Travel

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I think you are lucky that you are able to couple your memory of 9/11 w/ a wonderful trip, & meals, & it is amazing how sometimes the slightest coincidence separates tragedy w/ survival. Congratulations to Chef Dacosta on his star, thank you for joining us here, I enjoy reading your posts, I would love to take my kids to Spain...

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I think you are lucky that you are able to couple your memory of 9/11 w/ a wonderful trip, & meals, & it is amazing how sometimes the slightest coincidence separates tragedy w/ survival. Congratulations to Chef Dacosta on his star, thank you for joining us here, I enjoy reading your posts, I would love to take my kids to Spain...

I was very, very lucky, by not being in New York on 9/11 and by not being a part of that bomb blast in May, 2001. What might have happened had we had dinner at La Trainera, instead of lunch?

I actually, maybe crazily, have been talking to some other people with children (and a nanny), who would like to go to Spain. I may just put a trip together that would allow travelers to bring there children and have someone (or more than one someone) to look after them along the way. I took my small children to Spain several times, a couple of times with invited 16-year old relatives (girls), who would look after the children at night a few times when we went out to dinner, but most times, in Spanish restaurants, we usually took the kids with us to lunch or dinner.

Thanks for you kind comments about the posts.

Gerry Dawes

Gerry Dawes's Spain: An Insider's Guide to Spanish Food, Wine, Culture and Travel

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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."

This is so cool. As you know I'm on a similar crusade trying to keep spoofulation out of Portugal and help it keep as many of its ancient varieties in the ground so we can all drink these in future. One of the grapes I've been chasing down there is Tinta Miuda, none other than Spain's Graciano, one of my favorite varieties.

Miuda seems to have been a major red variety around Lisbon before and just after phylloxera hit there. Surprisingly, Alvarinho was also a dominant white in Lisboa as well. Both have almost completely disappeared over course of 20th century. No one makes pure varietals from either now in Lisboa that I've been able to find so far, but there are vines still in old mixed vineyards there so hope survives.

Your digging up this infor about Tintilla de Rota makes me wonder if there is a connection between the two important seaports and the grapes they shared. Previously I wondered if maybe the origin of the grape in Lisbon came from Rioja. But this seaport link makes it just as likely Graciano originated in Andalucia and moved its way north by sea. Bilbao to Logrono maybe?

And that same reasoning spills over into Mencia's connection to Portugal where it's called Jaen in Dao (where it makes some damned fine wine from this grape). The logic of that is that it followed pilgrims up the Santiago Trail from Jaen in Spain.

As it's possible with DNA measurement (of clonal populations) now to pinpoint precisely where grapes came from, the real shame of the naval base ripping up those vineyards is we may never know now where Graciano originated.

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More Quique Dacosta info from my Departures article, Spain's Best Undiscovered Restaurants:

Restaurante Quique Dacosta

Dénia (Valencia)

Chef Quique Dacosta’s rock-star looks and ultra vanguardia cuisine have few peers in Spain. The creative riffs that emerge from his Michelin two-star kitchen, located in the Mediterranean city of Dénia in the region of Valencia, continue to thrill, chill and amaze: an oyster prepared to look like a small chunk of Frank Gehry’s titanium-clad Guggenheim Bilbao, say, or a dish served on a box with a glass top whose holes allow the spooky vapors of the dry ice beneath it to swirl around the plate. Prepared with impeccable ingredients, Dacosta’s futuristic food is well conceived, supremely delicious and just as original as anything that Ferran Adrià does. In fact, with El Bulli closing at the end of July, Restaurante Quique Dacosta may just become the new destination for those looking to experience food in another dimension. Dinner, $145. 1 Carrer Rascassa, Dénia, Alicante, Valencia; 34-965/784-179.

Where to Stay: The charming Posada del Mar (rooms, from $220; Plaza Drassanes; 34-966/432-966) in the center of Dénia is directly across the street from the afternoon fish market.

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This is so cool. As you know I'm on a similar crusade trying to keep spoofulation out of Portugal and help it keep as many of its ancient varieties in the ground so we can all drink these in future. One of the grapes I've been chasing down there is Tinta Miuda, none other than Spain's Graciano, one of my favorite varieties.

Miuda seems to have been a major red variety around Lisbon before and just after phylloxera hit there. Surprisingly, Alvarinho was also a dominant white in Lisboa as well. Both have almost completely disappeared over course of 20th century. No one makes pure varietals from either now in Lisboa that I've been able to find so far, but there are vines still in old mixed vineyards there so hope survives.

Your digging up this info about Tintilla de Rota makes me wonder if there is a connection between the two important seaports and the grapes they shared. Previously I wondered if maybe the origin of the grape in Lisbon came from Rioja. But this seaport link makes it just as likely Graciano originated in Andalucia and moved its way north by sea. Bilbao to Logrono maybe?

And that same reasoning spills over into Mencia's connection to Portugal where it's called Jaen in Dao (where it makes some damned fine wine from this grape). The logic of that is that it followed pilgrims up the Santiago Trail from Jaen in Spain.

As it's possible with DNA measurement (of clonal populations) now to pinpoint precisely where grapes came from, the real shame of the naval base ripping up those vineyards is we may never know now where Graciano originated.

Rota was not an important seaport, it was a fishing village until the U.S. Navy made it an important military port.

Following a pilgrim's trail from Jaen to Portugal is a big stretch, since that would not have been a logical pilgrim's trail. Lisbon is west of Jaen, Santiago northwest. Jaen would have been impossible to a part of any pilgrim's trail to Santiago until after the 13th century, when the city was re-conquered from the Moors. It took 2 and a half more centuries to re-conquer Granada, which is only 60 miles south of Jaen, so no vine-carrying pilgrims were coming from there. How Mencia came to be called Jaen, could have come to be called "Jaen" in Portugal, could be one of those accidents of history.

How graciano got to Rota, if indeed Tintilla de Rota is actually Graciano and not just similar to Graciano, is anybody's guess. It has been there, according to some reports since the 1500s, and apparently it is not extinct. I think there may still be a few vineyards around Rota, because there are still a couple of Tintillas made by Emilio Lustau and especially by J. Ferris. If you read Spanish, you may find this 2005 article by Ricardo Romero, the enologist of Bodegas J. Ferris, interesting (I just found it and haven't been able to digest it all yet). Romero also says that it is Graciano and that the sandy soil around Rota saved it from being wiped out by phylloxera here.

The trail is pretty much vined over by history and the fact that Tintilla has not been an important wine in the Jerez's broad portfolio.

I will let you know if I find out any more about how Graciano arrived in Rota. I hope this helps. :)

Gerry Dawes

Gerry Dawes's Spain: An Insider's Guide to Spanish Food, Wine, Culture and Travel

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Gerry,

Sorry I didn't really toss a question in there for you in last post, Gerry. It was really more a brainstorm riffing off your handing me a new factoid about Graciano. The grape got me to thinking about another connection.

It was somewhat ironic that Graciano caused our first meeting in Rioja during a wine journalist tour a good dozen years ago. I was there chasing down Graciano for an article I was writing for an Australian wine magazine. My eventual conclusion was its high acidity had huge potential in Oz, fortunately no one took my advice and the grape hasn't been spoofulated to death there in the interim (I except Brown Brothers who have honorably championed the grape since the 1920s and hold the largest Graciano vineyards in the world).

But as important as that trip was for me on that count, even more so was your helping me to understand that Rioja, at that point, was at a critical juncture. The battle between (internationally driven) 'modernists' and the 'traditionalists' was raging and you helped me understand who was on what side and what really was at stake. I am deeply indebted to you for that. It quickly became clear the traditionalis were probably going to lose the battle to big money and dummed down market demands.

So my question is where do you see the battle ground now? Who is losing or is the battle over? Are any guerillas on the upsurge? Will places like Navara and Penedes and Alicante/Valencia ever toss out French grapes and replant their native grapes and rediscover their local terroir?

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Rota was not an important seaport, it was a fishing village until the U.S. Navy made it an important military port.

I was thinking as it was close to Cadiz and all the other little fishing villages up to Huelva might have been growing the same/similar grapes. High acid Graciano makes sense there, although it probably gets sun-burned pretty easy.

Following a pilgrim's trail from Jaen to Portugal is a big stretch, since that would not have been a logical pilgrim's trail. Lisbon is west of Jaen, Santiago northwest. Jaen would have been impossible to a part of any pilgrim's trail to Santiago until after the 13th century, when the city was re-conquered from the Moors. It took 2 and a half more centuries to re-conquer Granada, which is only 60 miles south of Jaen, so no vine-carrying pilgrims were coming from there. How Mencia came to be called Jaen, could have come to be called "Jaen" in Portugal, could be one of those accidents of history.

Yeah, it may be one of the accidents of history, which DNA will clear up. But sometimes there just might be a bit of truth hidden there too.

Actually the Portuguese 'central way' Santiago trail came through Dao and up from the southeast via Evora, Caceres and Seville and points east and south. Keying on the old Roman capitol Viseau, it carried on inland on to Valanca bording Galicia further inland. it wasn't really attached to the Coastal Way through Lisbon far to the west.

On timing, the trail has been in continuous use for hundreds of years after Jaen fell to the Christians so there is a chance the grape might have come in after that. DNA has nailed Jaen as one of the youngest arrivals, apart from French grapes post Napoleon. It may have slipped in from short hop up to Sacra or who knows where from in south.

Somewhere in the back of my head I recall that a local relative/clone of Mencia does exist near Jaen under a different name. Poor recall? or do you know anything about this? What are the wines like around Jaen, if any? They must be some old field blends of something the locals drink.

A few years back I was judging wine in Valencia. One of saddest moments was trying to find a bottle of local Bobal to drink afterwards. I think I plowed through 120 bottles of locally made French variety labeled wines and only found 2 Bobal to taste. What's your take on all that?

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Gerry,

Sorry I didn't really toss a question in there for you in last post, Gerry. It was really more a brainstorm riffing off your handing me a new factoid about Graciano. The grape got me to thinking about another connection.

It was somewhat ironic that Graciano caused our first meeting in Rioja during a wine journalist tour a good dozen years ago. I was there chasing down Graciano for an article I was writing for an Australian wine magazine. My eventual conclusion was its high acidity had huge potential in Oz, fortunately no one took my advice and the grape hasn't been spoofulated to death there in the interim (I except Brown Brothers who have honorably championed the grape since the 1920s and hold the largest Graciano vineyards in the world).

But as important as that trip was for me on that count, even more so was your helping me to understand that Rioja, at that point, was at a critical juncture. The battle between (internationally driven) 'modernists' and the 'traditionalists' was raging and you helped me understand who was on what side and what really was at stake. I am deeply indebted to you for that. It quickly became clear the traditionalis were probably going to lose the battle to big money and dummed down market demands.

So my question is where do you see the battle ground now? Who is losing or is the battle over? Are any guerillas on the upsurge? Will places like Navara and Penedes and Alicante/Valencia ever toss out French grapes and replant their native grapes and rediscover their local terroir?

I remember exactly the point at which you could date your epiphany about understanding Rioja. We were at a dinner in the bodega at R. López de Heredia and I was sitting next to María José López de Heredia. I had one mission in mind, to taste the R. López de Heredia Viña Bosconia 1947 once again (I had had it some four times in the 1970s and despite having sold the greatest Burgundies for some 15 years in New York, I was convinced that this wine may have been the greatest red wine I had ever drunk). I confided that to María José and casually asked her if she had had that wine recently. To my astonishment, she said that she didn't remember if she had ever tasted it. Shortly thereafter, admittedly with some subtle prodding on my part, she called a trusted bodega employee over and whispered something to him. He disappeared and some 20 minutes later, emerged from the darkness off to our right with a pair of Burgundy bottles, which he discreetly placed on an empty table behind us. He opened a bottle just for our table, the other was a reserve in the case the first bottle was off! By then this 1947 Bosconia was at least 50 years old. María José and I were poured a taste. The wine was alive, vibrant, magnificent, like old Burgundy and every thing I thought it to be. We savored it in small sips, but I had to share it, so I had some more wine poured into my glasses, went over to your table and asked you to accompany me off into a place off to the left where there were no tables set up, so, out of sight of the some 80-100 people at the tables set up amongst the giant wooden tino vats, I could get your opinion on the wine. Shortly after I had given you a chance to taste the wine and returned to my table, Mercedes, María José's sister came over to our table demanding to know what they Hell we were drinking. She demanded that the second bottle be opened, so she could have some, so we got to taste some of that one, too, which further convinced me that I was right about the 1947 Bosconia.

The newbie bodegas sought to destroy this type of wine, simply because it was too damned expensive and time-consuming to have that many barrels, a cooper shop to maintain them and 14 years to let a gran reserva develop before putting it on the market (R. López de Heredia has a rosado that they age for something like six years before putting it out for sale).

I could elaborate on this hours, but it is late and I would just get saddled with the wine 'Taliban" label again.

I will answer more of your questions tomorrow.

My best and a big abrazo,

Gerry Dawes

Gerry Dawes's Spain: An Insider's Guide to Spanish Food, Wine, Culture and Travel

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Gerry,

Sorry I am late to the party, was stuck in a wheel of 24 months old Comte in Burgundy for 10 days.

Since the subject of Lopez de Heredia came up, I wonder if you could comment on their recent releases of the Rosado. This wine has been, outside of the Loire Valley, easily my favourite still Rose. I am noticing, particularly with the 1998 and 2000 releases, that the style is a bit more oxidative, perhaps along the lines of what I would expect to find in their Blanco.

I guess there are multiple questions.

Are you observing the same phenomenon, or am I imagining this?

If so, do you think it is intentional?

Given that previous vintages of this wine did converge to a more oxidative style with bottle age (although with additional complexity), do you think these new vintages are simply meant to be consumed earlier?

And finally, could you please give us a hint of where LdH rosados have belonged on your table - as aperitif or accompanying dishes, and what kind of dishes, depending on the wines' stage of evolution?

Many thanks,

Sasha

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Gerry,

Sorry I am late to the party, was stuck in a wheel of 24 months old Comte in Burgundy for 10 days.

Since the subject of Lopez de Heredia came up, I wonder if you could comment on their recent releases of the Rosado. This wine has been, outside of the Loire Valley, easily my favourite still Rose. I am noticing, particularly with the 1998 and 2000 releases, that the style is a bit more oxidative, perhaps along the lines of what I would expect to find in their Blanco.

I guess there are multiple questions.

Are you observing the same phenomenon, or am I imagining this?

If so, do you think it is intentional?

Given that previous vintages of this wine did converge to a more oxidative style with bottle age (although with additional complexity), do you think these new vintages are simply meant to be consumed earlier?

And finally, could you please give us a hint of where LdH rosados have belonged on your table - as aperitif or accompanying dishes, and what kind of dishes, depending on the wines' stage of evolution?

Many thanks,

Sasha

Sorry to tell you, Sasha, that I haven't had a bottle of Lopez de Heredia in a while. I ran through a case or so of the 1988 when I had it, then I believe the 1991 was next, but I think I have only had one bottle or so in the past five years. It is a rare wine that I once thought was for only those in tune with the L de H style, but after having drunk it with friends who were relatively unsophisticated I thought in the appreciation of such a wine, I found that they loved it.

Rioja+Lopez+de+Heredia+Maria+Jose.JPG

María Jésus López de Heredia in El Cementerio.

Photo by Gerry Dawes, copyright 2008 / gerrydawes@aol.com

That oxidative style, which because it sees a year in barrica and several years in bottle before release, seems to me to be the natural oxidation (or maderization) of a wine with age.

I never served or drank Lopez de Heredia Rosado as an aperitif. Like the L de H white wine, it always needs food, IMO. It goes very well with dishes that need a wine with good acidity, especially dishes with sauces. I would serve this wine with pasta with a cheese sauce, Alfredo, for instance. It would also be great with cheeses, especially aged or blue cheeses. Gambas al ajillo (garlic shrimp), bacalao al ajoarriero, mushrooms sauteed with garlic and parsley (and a little of the vino) and dishes with alioli come to mind.

You might enjoy this piece I did on the wines of R. López de Heredia, The Wines of Yesterday

Rioja+Lopez+de+Heredia+tower+3.JPG

La Rioja: The Wines of Yesterday, the 19th Century bodega of R. López de Heredia

in Haro, the wine capital of La Rioja Alta.

Photo by Gerry Dawes, copyright 2008 / gerrydawes@aol.com

You might also want to check out this article by Hugh Acheson on the 2000 R. López de Heredia Rosado.

And here is my original report on the V. Bosconia 1947 (the happening with Paul White; see post above) that comes from A Traveller in Wines:

"During a visit in 2002, just a year short of the 20th anniversary of my first visit to López de Heredia, I was invited to dinner at the winery with some thirty other Spanish and foreign wine writers who were attending a three-day tasting session of Rioja wines called Los Grandes de la Rioja. Formal dining tables were set up inside one of the most spectacular naves of the bodega. We were surrounded by huge 50,000-liter wooden vats that have been used to ferment and store wines here for more than a century. The subdued lighting, from old style, low-wattage and flickering candles created a fantastic ambience. I was seated next to María Jésus López de Heredia, with whom I had become friends in recent years. As we were chatting during dinner, I told her about my experiences with the 1947 Viña Bosconia in the mid-1870s and told her that I still believed after more than 30 years of drinking Spanish wines and 20 years selling the best wines of France, Italia and the United States to the top restaurants in New York, the 1947 Bosconia was still the best red wine I had ever drunk.

“Have you tasted it recently?” I asked.

“No, but, if you think it is that good, there we are going to taste it now. Just don’t tell anyone else,” she answered.

Maria Jésus called a bodega worker over and had a brief discreet discussion. The man left the room and ten minutes later returned with two bottles from the cementerio, one of which he opened on an empty station table between two of the wine vats, the other was a backup bottle in case the first bottle was flawed. It was the 1947 Bosconia, now 57 years old. It had been one of Anastasio’s young lads of 27 when I last drank it in 1974. Now, even with another 29 years tacked on, the wine was still magnificent. I was gratified to find that it every bit as stupendous as had I imagined it to be all these years. It was easily a 100-point wine, even coming on the heels of the great 1964 Viña Tondonia and 1964 Viña Bosconia–itself a 98-point maravilla– that we had drunk earlier at the dinner. No fading rose, the 1947 Bosconia still had a deep black ruby color and fabulous deep, ripe nose. The great acidity was in perfect balance with delicious fruit and still firm tannins, which needed food to soften them up.

Even though Maria Jésus had sworn us the secrecy, the wine caused quite a stir at our table. We attracted the attention of her sister, Mercedes, who upon quizzing Maria Jésus, demanded that the other bottle of 1947 Bosconia be opened for her table. I called Paul White, an American wine writer who lives in New Zealand, aside and shared some of my glass with him. He, too, was astounded by the quality of this nearly 60-year old perfectly preserved museum piece that has stood the test of time and represents the pinnacle of quality that La Rioja is capable of obtaining–wines that do indeed still have a beautiful “bloom” to them even decades after the wines were made.

During the early part of the millenium, denigrating the traditional wine houses of La Rioja became a significant national pastime among Spanish wine writers, many of whom would have us believe that truly great wines must be dark as ink, overripe, above 14% alcohol and infused with enough new oak flavor to evoke visions of a sawmill. The time-honored house of R. López de Heredia, who has been making fine wines for more than 125 years came under attack as colorless, flavorless wines made by antiquated methods. I feared that they would have to dramatically change their philosophy and the style of their wines to survive. It has been heartening in the past few years to see young sommeliers from the United States and other countries embrace these wines for what they are: the unique, finely crafted, wonderfully drinkable wines of another era. I call them the wines of yesterday. "

Gerry Dawes

Gerry Dawes's Spain: An Insider's Guide to Spanish Food, Wine, Culture and Travel

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I'm sorry to let everyone know that this weekend, we lost Diana Valenti, Gerry's former wife and the mother of his three daughters, Erica, Elena, and Maria.

I'm so sorry, Gerry. The pictures I've seen of Diana are just beautiful - please feel free to share them with the community, if you wish.

Take as much time as you need, and don't worry about this chat - there's no urgency here, and we can always put everything on pause and hit the play button later. Right now, you need to take care of yourself and your family.

Un abrazo,

Don

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I'm sorry to let everyone know that this weekend, we lost Diana Valenti, Gerry's former wife and the mother of his three daughters, Erica, Elena, and Maria.

I'm so sorry, Gerry. The pictures I've seen of Diana are just beautiful - please feel free to share them with the community, if you wish.

Take as much time as you need, and don't worry about this chat - there's no urgency here, and we can always put everything on pause and hit the play button later. Right now, you need to take care of yourself and your family.

Un abrazo,

Don

Many, many thanks, Don. Your thoughts are greatly appreciated.

The only upside, if there is one, to an illness like Diana had, is that at least my daughters (and myself, we were still very close friends) had time to get used to the fact that she was no longer going to be with them.

Here are some photos of Diana during the time we were together (28 years!), in Spain (Valencia, Pamplona), Portugal's Algarve, Five Islands, Maine, in New York and in Austin, Texas with James Michener.

Top-006.jpg

Diana modeling a dress for El Corte Ingles, Valencia 1972.

I do not need to take a break from this board, lots of memories from Spain are re-surfacing and I will want to share some of them with your followers, not just concerning Diana, but many of the wine, food and Spain adventures during those years.

My very best,

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Many, many thanks, Don. Your thoughts are greatly appreciated.

The only upside, if there is one, to an illness like Diana had, is that at least my daughters (and myself, we were still very close friends) had time to get used to the fact that she was no longer going to be with them.

Here are some photos of Diana during the time we were together (28 years!), in Spain (Valencia, Pamplona), Portugal's Algarve, Five Islands, Maine, in New York and in Austin, Texas with James Michener.

Gerry, in case you're wondering why nobody's saying anything, I think it's because everyone's feeling shellshocked (I know I am).

Diana sounded like she was beautiful, both inside and out.

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Many thanks, Don. Diana was remarkable. When we lived in Mijas, a village overlooking the Costa del Sol, we had no television. Instead we read each night in front of the fire in our whitewashed village house, whose fireplace was held together, rounded and smoothed out, by cal (whitewash, layer upon layer). Through one stretch, from Julian's Lending Library in Fuengirola, where we would buy used Penguin Books Classic for 25 pesetas, she would read one Faulkner novel after another, while I was reading damned near everything Orwell ever wrote (except for '1984') or Flaubert or Fitzgerald or Dos Passos.

Only in mid-October this year, had I re-discovered a copy of '1984' in my library, so I finally decide to read it (inspired by the ghastly pre-election political machinations going on this year and the conviction that Karl Rove had thumbed through it so many times that he run through multiple copies). I decided to take 1984 on my trip to Spain, which regrettably I had booked on the world's most ghastly airline, United (Untied greed airlines run rampant; "want more leg room, you can move up to the civilized rows for only $179.00; we take credit cards"). I began reading 1984 on the trip and, you can't make this up, I found that it was actually Diana's book. Her name was inscribed in the front cover of the paperback and she had owned it since before she had even met me. You can't make this up either:. As I was deplaning in Madrid, the book was left behind in my seat as I was gathering up my other things.

So, ironically, almost as if she willed it, a piece of her in Orwell's 1984 stayed in Spain. I guess it was her last goodbye to a country that she loved and fit so well into. I had no idea what my leaving that book behind meant until just now. That was the seed she planted, so she will have roots when she gets back home to Spain.

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Here are the bean dishes from Asturias, along with the arroz con leche, that I mentioned in my answer to docsconz.

"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 (rice pudding) 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 have made this dish twice since I returned from Asturias.

IMG_6139.JPG

Asturian verdinas con mariscos (beans cooked with shellfish), a dish made with beans

brought back from my recent trip to Asturias, crab legs, clams and shrimp. 11-11-2012.

Dish and photo by Gerry Dawes, 2012.

IMG_1065.JPG

La Maquina restaurant's famous fabada asturiana, fabada bean stew with chorizo and morcilla.

Photo by Gerry Dawes©2011 / gerrydawes@aol.com.

IMG_1068.JPG

La Maquina restaurant's arroz con leche, rice pudding with a caramelized crust.

Photo by Gerry Dawes©2011 / gerrydawes@aol.com.

Gerry Dawes

Gerry Dawes's Spain: An Insider's Guide to Spanish Food, Wine, Culture and Travel

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Gerry,

Many condolences on your loss. And thank you for your continuing contributions in this chat. I just read your story of 9/11 and it stopped me in my tracks.

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Gerry,

Many condolences on your loss. And thank you for your continuing contributions in this chat. I just read your story of 9/11 and it stopped me in my tracks.

Many, many thanks, SeanMike. My best regards, Gerry

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