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Experience Gerry Dawes's Spain: Customized, Specialized Food, Wine Cultural & Photographic Tours of Spain & Tour Advice

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Drinking Godello at Estado Puro in Madrid.
Photo by Harold Heckle, Associated Press, Madrid.

In October, 2015, John Sconzo (Docsconz: Musings on Food & Life) and I led a group on an exclusive tour of Northern Spain, visiting Galicia, Asturias, the Basque Country, Navarra, La Rioja and Madrid. 

 In January 2014, I organized and led the Club Chefs of Connecticut and New York on a culinary educational tour through Barcelona, San Sadurni d'Anoia (Cava country), Valencia, Alicante and Madrid. 

In October 2013, I led 28 people, including baseball great Keith Hernandez, on The  Commonwealth Club of California Taste of Spain Tour with Gerry Dawes 2013 to Madrid, Córdoba, Sevilla, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Ronda, Granada, Almagro, Toledo and Chinchón, highlighting gastronomy, culture and wine.  

Gerry Dawes and baseball great Keith Hernandez at the Alhambra in Granada.

The following week, I organized and led John Sconzo (Docsconz:  Musings on Food and Life and his son L. J. on a week-long trip through Segovia, Ávila, Segovia, Cáceres, Mérida, Jabugo, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, the Sierra Morenas north of Córdoba, Chinchón and Toledo.  With more posts to come on his blog, John Sconzo wrote this in one of his first entries about the trip:

"Nights like this are ones that just need to be appreciated for the something special that they are. It is no exaggeration that Gerry Dawes, my friend, traveling companion and guide “knows and appreciates Spain more than all but a few Spaniards” let alone people from other countries. That statement came from our host for the evening, Benjamin Rodriguez Rodriguez, the proprietor of the humble appearing, but fully sensational El Rincon de Jabugo situated in the equally humble, but comfortable Gran Hostal San Segundo located just outside the historic walls of Avila near the  San Vicente gate."

“I have said this before and I’ll say it again, nobody knows Spain like Gerry Dawes. I sincerely doubt that there is another American, and very few, if any, Spaniards can approach, let alone surpass his knowledge of the people, food, wine and culture of Spain. He has been frequenting the depths, breadths and heights of the country as a second home for nearly fifty years, leaving no stone, and especially no wine, unturned during that time.” -- Wining and Dining Around Spain with Gerry Dawes: Part 1 (of a 6-part series) by John Sconzo, Docsconz: Musings on Food & Life, March 10, 2015 (From a second trip Sconzo took with me, this one this year.)

“Gerry Dawes is a true gastronomad, walking the culinary and cultural by-ways of the Spanish soul and then sharing every bit of his passion and knowledge (both considerable) with the reader.  I once overheard someone say that James Michener said Gerry was the only one qualified to write the sequel to Iberia.  I have learned so much from his experiences -- he is the "go-to" guy for anything authentically Spanish and is unparalleled in his experience with Spanish wines.  Gerry has introduced the world to Spanish chefs (including Ferran Adria), Spanish food products, wines, history (I especially love his respect for Spain's Jewish culture -- and he's not Jewish), and travel.”  - - Rozanne Gold, Four-time James Beard Foundation award-winning chef and author.  

Pilot for a reality television series on wine, gastronomy, culture and travel in Spain.
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For customized trips, contact Gerry Dawes (based in New York) with desired dates, areas of interest in Spain (gastronomy, wine, art, history, culture, photography, etc.), specific sights you might like to see, number of possible travelers, and an estimated budget for your group. 

Phone: 914-414-6982 
Teléfono movíl (during stays in España): (011 34) 670 67 39 34


Gerry Dawes & Docsconzo Insider’s Jamón Ibérico, Extremaduran Cheese, Andalucian Seafood, Sherry & La Mancha Tour of Spain Nov. 9 – 20, 2016

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Florencia Sanchidrián, Spain´s greatest cortador de jamones, demonstrates his unique style of cutting  Jamón Ibérico at his restaurant, Rincón de Jabugo in Ávila.  Photo Gerry Dawes©2015.

 Including the great cities and towns of Madrid, Segovia, Ávila, Salamanca, Cáceres, Mérida, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Cádiz, El Puerto de Santa María, Jerez de la Frontera, Sevilla, Córdoba, Toledo, and Chinchón

$4,995 per person; $5,995 single supplement
(without airfare)

For booking and info e-mail
Phone: 914-414-6982

Tour led by Gerry Dawes & John Sconzo (Docsconz

Gerry Dawes with Ibérico pigs in La Dehesa de Extremadura.  
Photo: John Sconzo©2015

 John Sconzo and his son, L. J. on a hill overlooking Segovia's famous Alcázar and Cathedral on our pilot trip for out November Pig Tour of Spain.  Photo by Gerry Dawes©2014.

 2000-year old Roman aqueduct at Segovia.  Photo by Gerry Dawes©2014.

Kay Balun, John Sconzo and L. J. Sconzo with cochinillo, roast suckling pig, at Mesón del Candido, Segovia.  Photo by GerryDawes©2014.

(More photos to follow!)

Day 00, Wed., Nov. 9 USA to Madrid Flights to Madrid.

Day 01, Thurs, Nov. 10 Madrid 

Arrive in Madrid, Spain's capital, where we will rendezvous at our hotel, which will be near the Prado Museum. We will allow everyone to rest and freshen up, then we will meet at 2 p.m. for lunch at a restaurant owned by Spain’s greatest cortador de jamones, Ibérico ham cutter-he travels the world showing how these hams should be cut-and sample the best jamón, personally selected by this superstar personality.  

This will be our first introduction to jamón Ibérico, the world's best hams from acorn-fed, pata negra (black foot breed) pigs.  The woman chef, mother of the cortador’s restaurant partner is a great traditional cuisine cook, so jamón will just be the intro to our meal.

After lunch, we will visit the Prado Museum with a professional guide.  

In the evening, we will visit a couple of very special places for drinks and tapas, then have dinner at one of John Sconzo’s new discoveries in Madrid, La Buena Vida.
Day 02, Fri, Nov. 11 Madrid – Segovia – Avila – Salamanca
From Madrid, we will drive up into the Guadarrama Mountains to Segovia, the roast suckling pig capital of Spain and home to an amazing 2,000-year old Roman aqueduct that still crosses the city.  For lunch, we will have exceptional cochinillo, roast suckling pig, so it can be cut it with the edge of a plate, in a restaurant that has been a must visit for celebrities and just plain folks for decades. 

After lunch we will drive less than an hour to visit the amazing Medieval walled town of Ávila, then move on to spend the evening in the historic university city of Salamanca, whose Plaza Mayor (main square) is the most beautiful in Spain, and just sample an order of tostón, roast suckling pig with crackling skin and other non-pig regional specialties.  (You may recognize the Plaza Mayor square in Salamanca from the 2008 movie Vantage Point.)
Day 03, Sat, Nov. 12 Salamanca – Guijuelo – Hervás – Casar de Cáceres – Cáceres – Trujillo 218 kms. 3 hrs.
We will spend a little time in the morning seeing some of Salamanca and visiting the market, then head south through the major pig town of Guijuelo, where we will stop to visit  one of Spain's top jamon Ibérico producers, then travel south, stopping off to visit historic Hervas (an old Jewish town), arriving in to the monumental medieval city of Cáceres, where we will have lunch and sample the sensational local Torta del Casar  and Torta de la Serena ewe’s milk cheeses.  

After lunch we will take a walking tour the old quarter of Cáceres, before moving on to the important nearby hilltop town of Trujillo, hometown of Pizarro (conqueror of the Incas) and Orellana (the first European to make the 2400-mile trip down the Amazon).  Trujillo has a major cheese fair every year in May and producers here make great goat cheeses, including Ibores.  In Trujillo, we will take a break from pig and have some roast goat and try other regional specialties.
Day 04 Sun, Nov. 13 Trujillo – Montánchez (secador and pigs) – Mérida (Roman ruins) 2 bus hours
What an exciting day we have in front of us! After a walk around picturesque Trujillo, the next stop is Montánchez, an incredible hilltop town, where we will sample the prime hams from this village and visit a hermitage with stunning views. We will push on to Mérida, one of the best preserved Roman cities in Europe. The Roman bridge across the Guadiana River, a superb amphitheater and arena, the Raphael Moneo-designed Roman Museum and the well-preserved remnants of this important Imperial city are scattered all over town. (One shop in this city has the figure of a Roman Centurion whose shield is an Ibérico ham.) 

We will stay in a lovely converted palace on the main plaza in Mérida (excellent evening lollygagging territory) and within an easy stroll of all the major Roman ruins. This afternoon will be free to relax, tour the Roman monuments, stroll across the river on a pedestrian-only Roman bridge and in a nearby restaurant sample grilled cuts of pork from Ibérico pigs.
Day 05 Mon, Nov. 14 Mérida –  Fuente de Cantos - Jabugo – Sevilla 4 hours bus with several stops
We will leave Merida in the morning, stopping off for visit to a farm that produces foie gras by natural, not by gavage (forced feeding) methods (Chef Dan Barber has written about this place), then make a short visit to Jerez de los Caballeros, the evocative and picturesque hometown of Vasco Nuñez de Balboa (discoverer of the Pacific Ocean) and De Soto (explorer of the Mississippi River).  By lunchtime, we will arrive in Jabugo, the jamón Ibérico capital of the Andalucía. We will tour a jamón processing plant and have lunch there on some of the best pig products in the world.
After lunch, we will arrive in Sevilla, the city of Carmen and one of the most beautiful and evocative cities in Europe.  After checking into our hotel, we can relax until early evening when Gerry Dawes will lead a walking tour of this stunningly pretty city where he lived for nearly six years.  We will sample tapas in a few places, then sit down in a particularly good tapas bar for some grilled shrimp, fried fish (an Andalucian specialty) and other special tapas, including, no doubt, a plate or two of Ibérico ham.
After the tapas tour, there will be the option of going with some native Sevillanos to an authentic flamenco joint.
Day 06 Tues, Nov. 15 Sevilla - Sanlúcar de Barrameda 1 hour+  
Bus Driver Free Day, Alternate Transportation to Sanlucar
In the morning, we will have a guided tour of the Cathedral and the Moorish fortress-palace El Alcázar, the Barrio de Santa Cruz (the old Jewish quarter), do some strolling and shopping, then travel south to the superb fishing and Sherry town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, where Columbus set sail on his second voyage to America.  We will prevail upon one of Gerry’s friends to open his old sherry bodega and let us taste some of his exceptional manzanilla sherries, then we will have lunch at a beachfront restaurant with more manzanilla, grilled shellfish and some of the best fried fish in the world.  Hopefully, we will see one of Sanlucar's spectacular sunsets from the legendary Bajo de Guia fisherman's beach with a glass of manzanilla in hand (more on this later). In the evening, we will have free time to enjoy the Plaza del Cabildo and environs, which has some of the best tapas bars and restaurants in Spain.
Day 07 Wed, Nov. 16 Sanlúcar de Barrameda – Cádiz – El Puerto de Sta. Maria - Sanlúcar de Barrameda 2 hours bus and ferry, round trip.
Market breakfast in Sanlúcar market, then to El Puerto de Santa María, where we will visit and taste in another Sherry bodega, then get the ferry to Cádiz in the morning, visit this wonderful sea-surrounded peninsular city and its unique market, have lunch in Cádiz, then back to El Puerto by ferry.  We will return to Sanlúcar de Barrameda, a 20-minute ride, then have a free, relaxing afternoon, before we return to El Puerto de Santa María at the sensational Aponiente Restaurante, where Chef Angel León is doing some of the most creative, innovative seafood based dishes anywhwere.   We will return to Sanlúcar for an optional nightcap and a relatively early (for Spain) end to the evening.
Day 08 Thurs, Nov. 17 Sanlúcar de Barrameda – Pueblos Blancos – Ronda – Córdoba 350 kms. 4 ½ hrs. with several stops.
We will leave Sanlúcar in the morning and drive east through the spectacular Pueblos Blancos, the white hilltop villages of Cádiz and Málaga provinces, some of which are cheese villages, visit a great mountain cheese producer, then have lunch in the spectacular city of Ronda, which is set astride a 300-foot gorge that splits the town in two.   After lunch, we will take a brief walking tour of Ronda, then drive to Córdoba, where we will tour the Mezquita (once one of the great Mosques in the world, which is so huge that it has the Christian full-sized cathedral built into the middle of it) and the Roman bridge.
We will wander the labyrinthine streets of the old the old Jewish and Moorish quarters, one of Spain's finest old quarters, have some free time for shopping.  In the evening, we will gather in the lobby of or hotel, then take a short walk to a very special Cordoban taberna, where we will have fried eggplant strips along with two kinds of salmorejo (a thick gazpacho that is at its best here).  We will also sample the excellent jamón Ibérico from the up-and-coming Pedroches ham region north of Córdoba, then move to another colorful local restaurant for some churrasco (grilled pork loin) or steaks and some good red vinos.
Day 09 Fri, Nov. 18 Córdoba – Toledo 4 hours with stops
In the morning, we will tour more of Córdoba, relax a bit, then have an early lunch at Chef Paco Morales’s Noor, which specializes in modernized dishes based on Hispano-Moorish tradition drawn from Córdoba’s illustrious past as one of the great capitals of the Moorish world (rivaling Damascus).   After lunch, we will ride via La Mancha, land of Don Quixote, stopping briefly for refreshments at Puerto Lapice (where Quixote spent a night guarding his armor and refreshments and at Consuegra (ridge-top castle and a dozen windmills) and end up in the historic city of Toledo. 
In Toledo, we will visit El Cigarral de Santa María, which has spectacular views over the properties on vineyards, olive trees and the city of Toledo below.  The owner, whom Gerry calls the Emperor of Toledo is a major chef-restaurateur.  After the visit, we will check into our hotel, then take a walking tour of old Toledo, have some free time, and gather for a creative tapas dinner at Colección Adolfo, the Cigarral owner’s tapas restaurant near the Cathedral and we will visit his restaurant group’s magnificent wine cellar underneath what was a Jewish home in the 9th century.

Day 10, Sat, Nov. 19 Toledo – Aranjuez - Chinchón  70 kms.
We will take a guided tour of Toledo in the morning, visit the historic home of the great painter, el Greco, the two great synagogues and the Cathedral, then ride 30 minutes to Aranjuez, where we will lunch in one of the top restaurants of the region.  After lunch, we will ride another 25 minutes to the enchanting city of Chinchón, where we will check into a charming hotel just a block from Chinchón's legendary Plaza Mayor, one of Spain's best restored and loveliest plazas, which is like a page out of the 16th Century.  Our group will have the rest of the afternoon free to explore this magical village and shop for unique local items.
We will have dinner at La Balconada overlooking the charming Plaza Mayor. At this romantic restaurant, Chef Manuela and her husband Isidro, offer superb classic Castillian dishes, including more pig (roasted) of course, but with the option of having roast lamb, wood-grilled steaks, bean dishes, fried potatoes with "broken eggs," artichokes cooked with jamón Ibérico bits, bean dishes and other specialties, accompanied by simple D.O. Madrid (province) Rosado and red wines. We can linger over snifters of the town's famous Anis Chinchón licor (dry or sweet), watch the peregrinations of the people down in the plaza and reminisce about the high points and comedic episodes of our trip around Spain.
Day 11, Sun. Nov. 20 Chinchón – Barajas Airport – USA 
50 kms.

About Gerry Dawes

Gerry Dawes is the Founder-President & Jefe of The Spanish Artisan Wine & Spirits Group - Gerry Dawes Selections, representing some of the finest small artisan grower-producers in Spain.      

Gerry Dawes was awarded Spain's prestigious Premio Nacional de Gastronomía (National Gastronomy Award) in 2003. He writes and speaks frequently on Spanish wine and gastronomy and leads gastronomy, wine and cultural tours to Spain. He was a finalist for the 2001 James Beard Foundation's Journalism Award for Best Magazine Writing on Wine, won The Cava Institute's First Prize for Journalism for his article on cava in 2004, was awarded the CineGourLand “Cinéfilos y Gourmets” (Cinephiles & Gourmets) prize in 2009 in Getxo (Vizcaya) 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, Dawes was awarded the Food Arts Silver Spoon Award in a profile written by José Andrés

". . .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. Gerry once again brings us up to the very minute. . ." - - Michael & Ariane Batterberry, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher and Founding Editor/Publisher, Food Arts, October 2009. 
Pilot for a reality television series on wine, gastronomy, culture and travel in Spain.


Video on Travels in Spain with Gerry Dawes: Valencia & Alicante

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Video on Travels in Spain with Gerry Dawes
Valencia & Alicante


Bodegas Artesanas, Rías Baixas, Galicia: The Grand Cru Native Yeast Albariños of Avó Roxo, Cabaleiro do Val, Lagar de Broullón, Lagar de Candes, O’Forollo & Rozas

Asociación de Bodegas Artesanas, Rías Baixas, Galicia
“When Gerry discusses his albariños his voices rises and his enthusiasm goes into high gear, as does the prose in his tasting sheet on albariños from members of the Asociación de Bodegas Artesanas.
 Back label in Spain for the Asociación de Bodegas Artesanas, Autores do Viño.

The association, he relates, is “A group of small grower-producers who rebelled against commercial wine styles in Rías Baixas and produce their own unique wines using native yeasts.” He continues: “Each wine is distinctly different from the others.  There are 14 members of this association.  I have six of them, with probably four more to come. Why? These wines are among the greatest white wines of Spain, that’s why.”

I am not knowledgeable enough to say whether they are the greatest or not, but I loved the scintillating, complex 2010 Albariño from O’Forollo ($23.99); enjoyed the lush, flavorful 2010 Avó Roxo ($24.99); and admired the lithe, fresh 2010 Cabaleiro do Val ($24.99).
I wish I had drunk these wines with seafood, as Gerry did, in Rías Baixas, a marine paradise. They would have been accompanied by ostras (oysters), almejas (clams), cigalas (langoustines), nécoras (small hard-shell crabs), vieiras (sea scallops) and zamburiñas (bay scallops, sort of).” - - Howard G. Goldberg, writer for The New York Times, Decanter and others.

Back label in the U.S. for Avó Roxo, member of the Asociación de Bodegas Artesanas, Autores do Viño.

 Among these artisan Albariños are some unique and stunning examples of how great Spanish white wines can be.  The Spanish Artisan Wine Group - Gerry Dawes Selections  imports six Albariños from the Asociación of Bodegas Artesanas, which has 14 small grower-producer members, most of which produces 1,000 cases or less and use indigenous yeasts to ferment their wines.  Though each producer's wine is distinctly different from the others, each is a jewel in its right and several of them are amongst the greatest Albariños I have ever drunk.  There are at least four more producers that The Spanish Artisan Wine Group - Gerry Dawes Selections may bring in.

Gerry Dawes with some of the Bodegueros Artesanos 
at Lagar de Broullón, owned by José Pintos Pintos (third from left).

The Spanish Artisan Wine Group - Gerry Dawes Selections imports six Albariños from same municipio, Dena-Meano, in the Val do Salnes, all from a group of independent grower producers who are members of the Asociación de Bodegas Artesanas (the Association of Artesan Wineries). 

Each member farms his own-clone grapes and makes unique, individual terruño-laced, spoofulation-free Albariños of character, style, grace, balance, charm and breed in his (or her) own adega (bodega) using wild native yeasts to ferment the wines.  These producers do not believe, as many commercial wineries do, that they should bottle early in the year after the previous vintage.  Most bottle their wines in early July, in time for the group’s Festa do Albariño held each year in Meaño at the end of July.
Albariño, Val do Salnés Rías Baixas (Galicia). Photograph by Gerry Dawes©2012.

With the Bodegueros Artesanos, the taste of their unique wines is driven by what tastes best to each of them, not what "the market is asking for."  They make some of the most intriguing and best white wines of Spain. The Asociación de Bodegas Artesanas stages their Festa del Encontro do Viño de Autor the third weekend in July in La Praza de Feria en the center of Meaño each year.   All the bodegas in the group pour their wines for several days and there is great Galician food–fabulous bread (including pan de milla, corn bread), pulpo (steamed octopus), Galicia stews, percebes (goose barnacles), chorizo, grilled food, filloas (crêpes), etc.–which can be purchased.  The Festa del Encontro del Vino de Autor wine fair is usually the third weekend in July.

Gerry Dawes with Francisco (“Paco”) Dovalo López, owner of Cabaleiro do Val, is the founder and president of the Asociación of Bodegas Artesanas, Rías Baixas, Galicia. 

Adega Cabaleiro Do Val, Meaño (Pontevedra) Bodeguero Artesano Francisco Dovalo Cabaleiro do Val Albariño 2010
 13.5% 12/750ML $27.99

Cabaleiro do Val, Paco Dovalo's great Albariño, Asociación de Bodegas Artesanas.
Cabaleiro do Val was officially incorporated as a bodega in 1989, although Paco Dovalo López has been producing his vino de autor signature wine all his life in an old granite stone farmhouse that he inherited from his ancestors and dates from 1834.  A section of the house is the old bodega, where the Dovalo family has been making wine for more than 100 years.  In the garden of the house is a huge old grapevine, estimated to be at least 150 years old, that measures more than three feet in circumference and has branches 30 feet long (vines are trained on the trellised parral system here).

Chefs Michael Chiarello and Ryan Mcilwaith (Bottega, Napa Valley) with the 200-year old vine  
at Cabaleiro do Val in the garden of Paco Dovalo's home. All Photos by Gerry Dawes©2012.

In the early 70's, there were numerous little known grape varieties such as Espadeiro, Tinta Hembra, Catalán, Hoja Redonda and even some unknown grapes growing in his vineyards and though he kept a some of these varieties to study their characteristics, he decided to use only Albariño in his wines.  At the time, there were also strains of Albariño estimated to be more than 150 years old.  Dovalo took cuttings these old vines for re-planting sections of his vineyards–he calls them the mothers of all his Albariño vines.  

Paco Dovalo says the grapes obtained from the original Albariño vines made wine that is the model for what he tries to achieve in what he calls “my indigenous artisan wine,” Cabaleiro do Val.  Dovalo, wine our ancestors. Dovalo has kept some of these old vines, which he says are unique among Albariño vineyards in Rías Baixas.  Dovalo says that his wine very much reflects his personal taste, which is rooted in tradition and in his memory of wines from a by-gone era.  

Though he and his fellow artisan grower-producers respect that tradition and still work their own vineyards, some of which have been in the family for generations, they have evolved by incorporating modern vineyard management and winemaking equipment.  But, though they have “modernized” to a certain degree, many of the winery maintain rustic touches and they continue to produce exceptionally high quality artisan wines that their ancestors would have been proud of. 
Paco Dovalo, grower-producer of Cabaleiro Do Val.

Paco Dovalo says, "In my group of small artisan grower-producers, we make a very personalized style of wine, whose individual roots reside in the tradition and memory.  Although we have incorporated some of the lessons learned from modern winemaking, we still continue the artisanal work that we learned from our fathers.” “For those who continue our style of artisan winemaking,” Dovalo says, “we hope that our new generations will maintain this tradition and endure, but for them to do that we also know that we have to build a following and an appreciation of these pure and noble limited production wines.” It was because of Paco Dovalo’s wine that I discovered this incredible group of artisan producers. 

One day a decade ago, I was on my way from Rías Baixas to Ribeira Sacra.  I was driving through an area known more for cheeses than wine when I reached the small town of Melide.  It was nearly four o’clock and I still had not had lunch, so when I saw a hotel-restaurant, I stopped.  At first taciturn, as Gallegos sometimes are, the son of the chef-owner (a damned good cook trained in France) opened up as lunch service was wearing down and made some recommendations to this American stranger.  First, he offered a couple of excellent Galician cows’ milk cheeses–slices of Arzua-Ulloa and of the breast-shaped classic Tetilla–and he suggested that I might like to try a glass of Cabaleiro do Val Albariño to accompany the cheeses.         

The wine was stunning.  He told me that it was from the jefe who had organized a group of artisan producers, who were rebelling against making Albariños like most of the larger wineries were producing.  I wrote down the name of the winery and vowed to check out these producers, but it was nearly three years later when I finally tracked them down and it would be another five years before I founded The Spanish Artisan Wine Company and began to import Cabaleiro do Val and five more of these splendid artisan wines.   

Dovalo may see his dreams for the artisan wines of his group come true.  Although the wines have hardly seen the light of day in Spain outside of Galicia, the wines of the Asociación of Bodegas Artesanas are now on the lists of such great American restaurants and wine bars as Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Blue Hill (New York City), Crabtree’s Kittle House, Picholine, Petrossian, Terroir Tribeca, Tertulia, Barcelona Wine Bars (Connecticut) and Solera.
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Adegas Avó Roxo, Meaño (Pontevedra) Bodeguero Artesano Antonio Gondar Moldes Avó Roxo Albariño 2010 13.0% 12/750ML $27.99

Avó Roxo joined the Asociación de Bodegas Artesanas in 2010 and is one of the group’s newest members.  Avó Roxo is a traditional family winery and all their wine production comes from their own 3.5 hectares (8 acres) of Albariño vineyards are located in the heart of O Salnes, a privileged environment for the growing and harvesting of the Albariño grape. The winery began producing wines in the 1930’s under the management of Serafín Gondar.  In 1975 Serafin passed the vineyards and winery to his son Antonio Gondar, who continued the wine’s development.  Avó Roxo won several awards in the 70’s, including 1st place at the XXII Albariño Wine Festival in Cambados in 1974. 

Antonio Gondar Moldes, Avo Roxo, Asociación de Bodegas Artesanas.  All Photos by Gerry Dawes©2012.

The winery was named after the founder Serafín, whose nickname was Avó Roxo, Grandfather Purple (don’t ask) in Gallego.     In 2007 his grandson Antonio Gondar Moldes took over ownership and management.  He renovated and re-energized the bodega and winemaking.   In 2007, the year he took over, Avó Roxo produced only 7,000 bottles, under 600 cases. 

Gondar, whose day job is doing electrical installations, says, "My dream is to live only from the winery and expand production to 12,000 bottles, doing all the vineyard work my grandfather used to do because our grapes give exceptional aromas and taste to our wines.” Practically all the wines of Asociación de Bodegas Artesanas are only sold locally to individuals and a few restaurants.  

Few of these marvelously original, high quality wines have ever been sold in Madrid or anywhere else in Spain, but now wines like Avó Roxo are on the lists of such American restaurants as the great New York (State) restaurants as James Beard Outstanding Chef Dan Barber’s Blue Hill at Stone Barns and at Crabtree’s Kittle House, which has one of the best wine cellars in the United States. 
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Lagar de Broullón,  Meaño (Pontevedra) Bodeguero Artesano José Pintos Pintos Lagar de Broullon Albariño 2010 12.5% 12/750ML $26.99


Lagar de Broullón 2010 is made by José Pintos. Beautifully balanced, Pintos's wine is full-flavored and quite complex with lychee and green apple flavors braced by a long, clean, mineral-laced finish, but has just 12.5% alcohol, which helps make it very easy to drink.   It is ideal with many different dishes, but especially with grilled fish, shellfish (for which Galicia is famous), octopus, rice dishes and cheeses.   

José Pintos, artesan grower-winemaker of Lagar de Broullón, sings during a lunch break 
at the Festa del Encontro do Viño de Autor at Meaño (Pontevedra).

Located in the heart of the Val de Salnés, in an area known as the home of Albariño grape, Lagar de Broullón bodega is surrounded by its 2.5 acre south-southwest facing vineyard that produces its signature wine.  Akin to wineries in Burgundy, the bodega is a 19th Century house, where several generations of the Pintos family have made wine with intelligence and care and have developed a family tradition for authentic artisan wines on a small scale.  Only about 600 cases of fine Albariño are made each year and only 100 of those will reach the U.S. market.  

Lagar de Broullón’s dedication to quality focuses on the vineyard and the grapes, which José Pintos believes is the most important element in wine.  Although the winery has modern a vinification system, Pintos tries to make his wines with as little intervention as possible.  He believes that his signature wine is steeped in tradition and through meticulous vineyard work, he tries to achieve the highest quality in his wine. We believe that Pintos has achieved his goal.  His Lagar de Broullón is one of the finest wines in our portfolio. 

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Bodega Meis Otero, O’ Forrollo, Dena-Meaño (Pontevedra), Galicia Bodeguero Artesano Fernando Meis Otero   O’ Forrollo Albariño 2010 Rías Baixas 13% 12/750ML $27.99 
O' Forrollo, one of the six Asociación de Bodegas Artesanas de Rías Baixas Albariños brought in by 
The Spanish Artisan Wine Group - Gerry Dawes Selections. 
Color & appearance: Deep green-gold, correct for Albariño. Nose: Pears, lime, apricots, spices, minerals. Palate: Lots of delicious fruit, including hints of pear, apricot, lime and spices, with a bracing acidity that balances the fruit.  The wine finishes long, compelling sense of minerality. Bodeguero artesano Fernando Meis Otero is one of the younger members of the Asociación de Bodegas Artesanas, a group of 14 independent artisan wineries from the same area of Val do Salnés, the top subregion for Albariños from Rías Baixas.  Fernando Meis farms his own vineyards of 100% Albariño grapes and ferments his must using native yeasts. 

Fernando Meis Otero, O'Forrollo. All Photos by Gerry Dawes©2012.
At the beginning of the 1980s, Fernando Meis Álvarez, the current Fernando’s father, a vineyard owner in Dena (Meaño) decided to begin changing the mixed varieties of indigenous grapes growing in his vineyards for Albariño vines, a tough task, but with a single objective: to create the vineyard to provide grapes for his own estate-bottled Albariño. Fernando Meis Álvarez thus took his first steps into the world of making Albariño and in 1990 he registered his bodega and his wine O Forrollo with the D.O. Rías Baixas.  

His first harvest as an officially registered Rías Baixas bodega produced just over 250 cases of O Forrollo Albariño. His son, Fernando Meis Otero, took over the direction of the winery in 2001.  

During the past decade, Meis has adapted new technology, in viticulture as well as in the production in the winery, but never forgetting his roots and with one objective: to produce a Rías Baixas Albariño of excellent quality. O Forrollo’s 1.5 hectares (3.7 acres) of vineyards are in the heart of the Val del Salnés (Dena –Meaño), an area which produces some of the best wines of the D.O. Rias Baixas.  85% of O Forrollo’s vines are in a single vineyard divided into four sub-parcels, the remaining 15% is in smaller plots.   
Albariño grapes, Meaño, Val do Salnés Rías Baixas (Galicia). 
Photograph by Gerry Dawes©2012.
The vines are trained on the typical Galician “parral” trellising system, supported on wires attached to granite posts that keep the vines and grapes horizontally suspended several feet above the ground, which allows circulation of air and helps prevent mildew and other related vine and grape diseases in this sometimes rainy climate.  The soil in the vineyards is sandy, shallow and low in acidity.
Albariño grapes growing on trellises, Val do Salnés, Rías Baixas (Galicia).   
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2012.
The region enjoys an Atlantic climate, which gets abundant rainfall, but enjoys many hours of sun as well.  Because of the proximity of the vineyards to the Atlantic Ocean, the mean temperature is temperature, though in summer temperatures often reach 86-90 degrees. The vines are 100% Albariño, a sweet, small berry, native Galician grape.  All of O’ Forrolo’s grapes come from their own vineyards, so the harvests are limited and can vary, depending on the year, from 7000 liters (9000 bottles, 750 cases) to 10000 liters (14,000 bottles; 1166 cases).  

Meis says, “The harvesting of our grapes depends upon several factors that we consider indispensible for producing a wine of excellent quality:  The climate, taking into account all the environmental factors that can affect the maturation of the grapes; the degree of ripeness, taking very much into account the acid balance, which will dictate when we pick the grapes and is a vital element in the quality of the future wine.”
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Bodegas Rozas, Meaño (Pontevedra) Bodeguero Artesano Manolo Dovalo  Rozas Albariño 2010 13.5% 12/750ML $27.99

@JohnBGilman of View From the Cellar on Twitter: "2010 Rozas Albariño.  Maybe the greatest Albariño I have ever tasted - - kaleidoscopic minerality, blazing purity."  

“Gerry’s 2010 albariños, from Rías Baixas, were notable, especially Manolo Doval’s Rozas: a great floral aroma, feather-light, grace, a swirl of subtleties.” - - Howard G. Goldberg
Manolo Doval, Producer of Rozas, Asociación de Bodegas Artesanas.   
All Photos by Gerry Dawes©2012.
Manolo Dovalo farms just over 6.3 acres of well-drained vineyards that get ample sunlight enabling him to produce one of the greatest Albariños of Rías Baixas.  Dovalo says the secret of the quality of his wines is that the majority of the vines are very old.  Some of these vines have been producing grapes for generations.

The bodega was founded by Dovalo’s ancestors, who made wine for the family’s own consumption.  Over the years, the winemaking gradually evolved into the modern era, where Dovalo says that his family has succeeded in integrating tradition with modern elements such as stainless steel and including the latest techniques for thermic stablization. 

The winery has limited production, which allows Dovalo to carefully monitor his vineyards during the growing season.   The albariño grapes are picked at what Dovalo assesses as the optimum point of ripeness–never overripe–for making a great white wine.
“The first time I tasted the Rozas I was stunned.  This is serious Albariño - chocked full of minerals, not too fruity, dense but not in a spoofy way.  Just pure with insane length.  This shows similar old vine intensity to a top Do Ferreiro or Pazo de Señorans Albariño.  Highly recommended!” - - Chris Barnes, Chambers Street Wines, New York City.

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Lagar de Candes, Bodegas y Viñedos Eulogio Gondar Galiñanes, Meaño (Pontevedra) Bodeguero Artesano Eulogio Gondar Galiñanes

Hazards of being an artisan grower-producer. Eulogio Gondar, Lagar de Candes, wearing a eye patch 
after being injured when a grapevine he was pruning poked him in the eye.

 Lagar de Candes Albariño 2010 12.0% 12/750ML $25.99


In the glass this Albariño is a light golden color. The nose offers aromatic complexity with floral notes of orange blossoms, green pears and lime, supported by racy Alsatian Reisling-like acidity and a traces of minerality in the finish. Lagar de Candes winery and vineyards are located in the village of Meaño in the heart of the Rías Baixas Val de Salnés, which has excellent growing conditions for the Albariño grape.  In and around the town of Meaño some of the greatest Albariños of Galicia are made.   

Eulogio Gondar represents the fourth generation making wine here.  Eulogio took over the winery just over a decade ago and, following the footsteps of his ancestors who believed that the best Albariños were made from the best grapes married to the soil and climate of the Val do Salnés, an area long known for its small family vineyards.  

The Meaño area has its own microclimate suitable for the cultivation of the vine and its own unique granitic-laced soil, resulting in grapes with excellent balance of acids and sugars, with an optimum ripeness that over the years has given albariño from this area a special identity.


Eulogio Gondar, Lagar de Candes.  
All Photos by Gerry Dawes©2012.

Eulogio uses modern winemaking coupled with artisanal techniques to make excellent wines.   Dedicated to making his grapes and his wines as natural as possible, Gondar had dedicated a portion of the family’s vineyards to NATURA, which designated an ecologically protected space that falls within the NATUR AGRO project dedicated to protecting the agricultural environment.


About Gerry Dawes

Writing, Photography, & Specialized Tours of Spain & Tour Advice
For custom-designed tours of Spain, organized and lead by Gerry Dawes, and custom-planned Spanish wine, food, cultural and photographic itineraries, send inquiries to  

I have planned and led tours for such culinary stars as Chefs Thomas Keller, Mark Miller, Mark Kiffin, Michael Lomonaco and Michael Chiarello and such personalities as baseball great Keith Hernandez and led on shorter excursions and have given detailed travel advice to many other well-known chefs and personalities such as Drew Nieporent, Norman Van Aken, Karen Page and Andrew Dornenberg, Christopher Gross, Rick Moonen, James Campbell Caruso and many others.

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“The American writer and town crier for all good Spanish things Gerry Dawes . . . the American connoisseur of all things Spanish . . .” Michael Paterniti, The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge and The World’s Greatest Piece of Cheese

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"Gerry Dawes, I can't thank you enough for opening up Spain to me." -- Michael Chiarello on Twitter. 

"Chiarello embarked on a crash course by traveling to Spain for 10 days in 2011 with Food Arts
contributing authority Gerry Dawes, a noted expert on Spanish food and wine.  Coqueta's (Chiarello's new restaurant at Pier Five, San Francisco) chef de cuisine, Ryan McIlwraith, later joined Dawes for his own two week excursion, as well. Sampling both old and new, they visited wineries and marketplaces, as well as some of Spain's most revered dining establishments, including the Michelin three-star Arzak, Etxebarri, the temple to live fire-grilling; Tickets, the playful Barcelona tapas bar run by Ferran Adrià and his brother, Albert; and ABaC, where Catalan cooking goes avant-garde." - - Carolyn Jung, Food Arts, May 2013.

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"In his nearly thirty years 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..." -- James A. Michener, author of Iberia: Spanish Travels and Reflections

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Gerry Dawes was awarded Spain's prestigious Premio Nacional de Gastronomía (National Gastronomy Award) in 2003. He writes and speaks frequently on Spanish wine and gastronomy and leads gastronomy, wine and cultural tours to Spain. He was a finalist for the 2001 James Beard Foundation's Journalism Award for Best Magazine Writing on Wine, won The Cava Institute's First Prize for Journalism for his article on cava in 2004, was awarded the CineGourLand “Cinéfilos y Gourmets” (Cinephiles & Gourmets) prize in 2009 in Getxo (Vizcaya) 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.

". . .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. Gerry once again brings us up to the very minute. . ." - - Michael & Ariane Batterberry, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher and Founding Editor/Publisher, Food Arts, October 2009. 

Pilot for a reality television series with Gerry Dawes  
on wine, gastronomy, culture and travel in Spain.

Experience Spain With Gerry Dawes: Customized Culinary, Wine & Cultural Trips to Spain & Travel Consulting on Spain

Gerry Dawes can be reached at


July 11, Día de Dimasu, Peña Anaitasuna & A Homage to Patxaran (Pacharán)

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Patxaran (from the Basque paitar and aran ("sloe"), called pacharán in Castilian Spanish, the red sloeberry anís made by macerating arándanos, or endrinas, (sloeberries) from the blackthorn shrub in fine anisette spirits for several months (one part fresh sloeberries to three parts anisette).   Patxaran Navarro is controlled by an official denominación de origen, or D. O., like wine, and must contain no artificial flavorings or additives.  Sometimes a few coffee beans or cinnamon sticks are added to the patxaran casero housemade styles.   The maceration period can run from one to eight months.  Some homemade patxaran leave the berries in the anís.

Patxaran would seem to be the last drink on which to base macho memories, but in northern Spain everyone from Basque woodchoppers and daredevil bullrunners at Pamplona to the star chefs of El País Vasco’s great Michelin-rated restaurants drink this stuff - - often over ice. I first tasted Patxaran in 1971, when my old friend José Ramón Jorajurría, the “printer’s devil,” as I called him (he worked in a print shop), decided to make me only the second American to be invited into the Peña Anaitasuna (the other was the famous bullrunner Matt Carney, who was featured in James A. Michener’s Iberia; Joe Distler, the great bullrunner and my dear friend was the third). 

Anaitasuna is one of Pamplona’s legendary social and drinking peñas,or clubs. During the Fiestas de San Fermín, the peñas carouse all over town behind their raucous, but accomplished, band of musicians, drinking, singing and dancing the infectious northern folk dance, the jota, and generally raising Hell for eight days. The peñas all sit in the same section in the sun at the bullfights and drink, eat, sing, dance, throw flour and food all over one another, generally raising some more Hell. On the 11th of July, they have DIMASU (Día del Marido Suelto), which means Husband’s Day Out, an excuse to stay out for 24 hours straight, do even more drinking, singing, dancing, and, you guessed it, Hell raising. But, at midday on DIMASU, they retire to their clubhouse, which is like an Elk’s Club, only much bigger and with a health club, an Olympic swimming pool, plenty of rooms and facilities for family activities. There the men of Anaitasuna have a gargantuan lunch followed by cigars and heroic amounts of Patxaran.

Among the few things I remember about that day, aside from feeling supremely honored at having been invited, was that I didn’t like Patxaran. That was then, this is now. Like Scotch, drinking Patxaran is an acquired taste. Over the years I have acquired it; I love Patxaran. It’s nutty, sweet red fruit and anisette flavors are a great counterpoint for a good cigar.

One year, while touring the Basque Country with Chef Mark Miller (who then had Coyote Cafes in Santa Fe, Austin, and Las Vegas and Red Sage and Raku in Washington), on a cool misty afternoon at Kaia, a fabulous seafood restaurant in the port of Getaria near San Sebastián, I ordered a Patxaran after a stunning meal that featuring fresh house-cured anchovies, grilled sardines, and a whole wood fire-grilled turbot. Our server poured, over ice into a large brandy snifter, a very generous portion of Baines ‘Etiqueta de Oro (gold label),’ the Aston Martin of Patxaranes. A fine Montecristo completed the picture and all was well with the world by the time we finished lunch - - at 6:00 p.m.! (Some other brands of Patxaran to look for are the easier-to-find regular bottling of Baines, Basarana, Etxeko, and the brands you are more likely to find in the United States, Atxa and Zoco).

Then there was the glorious afternoon of the 14th of July, 1998, I believe, when John Ewing and I brought two liters of patxaran that we had been given by the sisters at Restaurante Hartza.  I got the fine folks at Hotel Maissonnave in Pamplona to partially fill a garbage bag with ice, put the jug of patxaran in it and put that into a wine box.  Somewhere we procured a couple of dozen plastic copitas so we could share the patxaran with the whole tendido.  We took the box with us to our seats in Tendido 9 and after the merienda, we began distributing the iced-down, Hartza house-made patxaran to about 20 people around us.  We indeed, lit up the whole tendido.  After most of our tendido had cleared out Ewing and I lingered in our seats, telling stories and drinking more patxaran. 

Below us, Tom Gowen and "Australian George" Danick appeared in the bullring callejón in front of our tendido, so we gave them some, too.  One of them took the picture above--George, I believe.  It remains one of my favorite memories of San Fermín.

Remember the Sloe Gin Fizz? Patxaran, which once a homemade concoction, has become one of the most popular drinks in Spain, bit it has only a remote relationship with that American sloe gin sensation of decades past. Patxaran, a ruby-garnet colored, Navarrese-Basque destroyer of brave men and levitator of adventurous women, is made by macerating sloe berries (called endrinas, arandanos, or arañones in Spanish; patxarán in Basque) in a sweetened, anís-flavored aguardiente. Patxaran de Navarra (from Navarra) even has its own protected Denominación Específica (DE - - which refers to the method of production, whereas in wine, denominación de origen (DO) refers to the area). The endrina fruit grows wild throughout Europe, but 110 experimental hectares of sloe berries have been planted in Navarra to insure a continuous supply from within the denominación for some of the nearly eight million liters of Patxaran produced annually.

DE Patxaran de Navarra, which averages 25 to 30 percent alcohol by volume, is produced by infusing orujo (aguardiente or marc) or agricultural-based alcohols with the essence of anís oils, then macerating sloe berries in the anís-flavored alcohol for a minimum one month to a maximum of eight months for each liter of Patxaran produced. Old-timers back in the hills of Navarre say that eating the berries after they are macerated in the anís cause you to go loco or develop a permanent dislike of patxaran, the latter of which I personally do want to risk, so I don’t eat the sloe berries.

Only the commercial Patxaran brands Zoco (made by Larios), Atxa and a few others are presently available in the United States. The attractively packaged Etxeko and Las Endrinas brands, found in duty-free shops in Spain, are quite good. Top Spanish wine and licores shops, such as the Club de Gourmets shops in Spain’s El Corte Inglés department store chain, stock the superb Baines Patxaran de Arañon and the top-of-the-line Baines Etiqueta Oro (Gold Label) bottling.

Once looked down upon as a blue-collar regional drink from Navarra, patxaran is now popular with everyone from Pamplona bullrunners, Basque woodchoppers, and heirs apparent to Hemingway’s Lady Brett to discriminating Spanish winemakers. An incident at a private luncheon held in Madrid before a fútbol match a few years ago underscored the popularity of Patxaran. Mariano García, for 30 years the winemaker at Vega Sicilia and now a much sought-after enologist considered to be Spain’s top winemaker, invited me to lunch with a group of his friends at Mesón Txistu. They had come to the capital to root for the Valladolid soccer team, in what was thought to be a hopeless match with powerful Real Madrid (the game ended in a 2-2 tie, which under the influence of patxaran, I had correctly predicted).

After a long, laid-back luncheon that featured almost every wine García has a hand in (Mauro, Mauro Vendimia Seleccionada, Maurodos San Román, Leda, Luna Beberride), coffees were ordered and cigars were lit. The proprietor then suggested post prandials. I ordered Patxaran on the rocks in a brandy glass (as it is often served in Spanish restaurants after meals).  The owner was aghast. With a somewhat patronizing tone, suggesting that a foreigner should be properly instructed in what constitutes a proper drink to end a meal, he suggested that I couldn’t possibly want to drink Patxaran after having drunk Mariano Garcia’s superb wines, some of which are among the most expensive in Spain.

I held my ground, however, and asked him to pour my favorite, Baines Etiqueta Oro, if he had it. Garcia, who had been somewhat distracted in conversation during my exchange with the owner, chimed in, “Make that two.” Shaking his head, the poor man went off to get Patxaran for the foreigner and for Spain’s legendary winemaker.

About Gerry Dawes  

Gerry Dawes was awarded Spain's prestigious Premio Nacional de Gastronomía (National Gastronomy Award) in 2003. He writes and speaks frequently on Spanish wine and gastronomy and leads gastronomy, wine and cultural tours to Spain. He was a finalist for the 2001 James Beard Foundation's Journalism Award for Best Magazine Writing on Wine, won The Cava Institute's First Prize for Journalism for his article on cava in 2004, was awarded the CineGourLand “Cinéfilos y Gourmets” (Cinephiles & Gourmets) prize in 2009 in Getxo (Vizcaya) 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. 

". . .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. Gerry once again brings us up to the very minute. . ." - - Michael & Ariane Batterberry, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher and Founding Editor/Publisher, Food Arts, October 2009. 
Mr. Dawes is currently working on a reality television series 
on wine, gastronomy, culture and travel in Spain.

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