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1/16/2017

Chinchón I: A Day Trip with Padre Luís de Lezama, Feb 5, 2011


* * * * *
A Series of Posts on Chinchón, One of my Favorite Towns in Spain
Text and Photographs
By Gerry Dawes©2011


 La Plaza Mayor, Chinchón. 

Chinchón I: A Day Trip with Padre Luís de Lezama, Feb 5, 2011

A day in Chinchón with Padre Luís de Lezama and his brother, Patxo. Convento de Las Clarisas, Castillo de Chinchon, a visit with Alfredo Freire, La Plaza Mayor and lunch at Mesón de la Virreina, owned by Padre Lezama's old friend, Tito Clemente.


Padre Luís de Lezama and his brother, Patxo, stroll down a street in Chinchón.

Chinchón has long been one of my favorite towns in Spain.  I first visited this wonderful town in 1971 with my old friend and art gallery partner, Edwin J. Mullens, III, from Clarksdale, Mississippi.  Over the past forty years, I have visited Chinchón many, many times and I have spent at least a dozen nights there.  I especially like to stay in this charming, romantic town with its 16th-century atmosphere the nights before I have to catch a plane back to the U.S. (Chinchón is less than an hour from the Madrid air terminals).   


La Plaza Mayor, Chinchón.

When I visited Chinchón with Padre Lezama on Feb. 5, it was almost 40 years to the day of my first  trip here and,  ironically, we would have lunch in the very same place, Mesón de la Virreina, which is owned by the Padre's old friend, Tito Clemente.   

Mesón de la Virreina, Chinchón.
 
On that first trip, it was a very cold day, so we had lunch in the upstairs dining room next to the fireplace at a table near windows that overlooked La Plaza Mayor.   I still remember that I had alubias con chorizo (beans with chorizo), baby lamb chops, the local red wine (now from the D.O. Vinos de Madrid), café con leche and a brandy snifter of anís (anís liqueur) de Chinchón.  That day is still a cherished memory.  

Alubias con chorizo with guindilla peppers and the red Vinos de Madrid wine of Chinchón.

My lunch with Padre Lezama was also on a February day, but the weather was uncharacteristically warm (nearly 70 degrees F.) and the sun was shining.   It was a glorious day, so the Padre, his brother Patxo and I had lunch outside on the balcony overlooking the square.    
 

Padre Luís de Lezama with Chinchón behind him.

The Priest of the Bull Bums

Gerry Dawes is writing The Padre’s Tavern, a book about the life of Padre Luís de Lezama, once known as “el cura de los maletillas,” the priest of the bull bums of the Franco era.  (Parts of this article are excerpted from the book in progress and may not be reproduced without expressed written permission.)
* * * * * 

Frascuelo, the famous 19th-century matador who was a favorite in Chinchón.

Early on in Chinchón, a town an hour southeast of Madrid that is famous for festive bullfights held in its picturesque 16th-century Plaza Mayor, Padre Luís de Lezama, a Basque priest on his first assignment out of the seminary began befriending down-and-out maletillas, or bull bums, the itinerant teenaged would-be bullfighters, in the Spain of dictator Generalissimo Francisco Franco. Early one summer morning in 1962, when he arrived at the entrance the 17th century Convento de Las Clarisas, where he went each day to say mass for the nuns, he found three maletillassleeping under the overhang of the entrance to the church.  This encounter would change the Padre's life forever.


Matador El Bormujano, one of the maletillas that Padre Lezama found sleeping 
at the entrance to the Convento del las Clarisas, an order of Franciscan nuns, in Chinchón. 


Slide show of A Day Trip with Padre Luís de Lezama, Feb 5, 2011.
(Double click to enlarge.) 
________________________________________________________________________________


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. 

Dawes 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. 
 
video
A trailer from a proposed reality television series with Gerry Dawes  
on gastronomy, wine, culture and travel in Spain.
 

Continuing Our Tour of the Wine Routes of Catalunya: Oct. 18 The Cava Museum (Cava Interpretation Center), Cavas Codorniu visit and tapas lunch, an early dinner at Bolets Vins i Caves and the Barcelona Golf Hotel.


* * * * * 
 
Fascinating interactive photo displays at the CIC Fassina Cava Interpretation Centre Cava Center in the Cava capital of Sant Sadurni d'Anoia illustrate cava production at our first stop on the Catalunya Wine Routes tour, 
Oct. 18, 2017. All photos by Gerry Dawes©2017.
   
Wine Routes of Catalunya
October 18, 2016 Vilafranca del Penedès - Sant Sadurni d'Anoia -  
Castellví de la Marca -





 Phylloxera larvae figures, large enough to be carried by fiesta participants through the streets during the annual celebration of the demise of the devasting vine louse's effect 
on the vineyards of Catalunya (and most of the rest of Spain and France) at the Cava Museum, Sant Sadurni d'Anoia (Barcelona), Catalunya, Spain. 

 
 Photo of a Cava cork stopper at the CIC Fassina Cava Interpretation Centre Cava Center in Sant Saduri d'Anoia (Barcelona), Catalunya, Spain.

 A glass of Cava on old wine press in the CIC Fassina Cava Interpretation Centre (Cava Center), Sant Sadurni d'Anoia (Barcelona), Catalunya, Spain on our Catalunya Wine Routes Tour.

 A guide at the CIC Fassina Cava Interpretation Centre Cava Center in the Cava production capital of Sant Sadurni d'Anoia explains cava production at our first stop on the Catalunya Wine Routes tour, Oct. 18, 2017
More to come for October 18, 2017

_______________________________________________________________________________ 

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. 

In December, 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. 
 
video
Pilot for a reality television series on wine, gastronomy, culture and travel in Spain.
 

1/15/2017

Goya's La Maja Desnuda (The Naked Maja) at Los Gatos Tapas Bar, One of the Campiest Joints in Old Madrid



* * * * *

La Maja Desnuda, now with a padlock over a sensitive portion of her anatomy, 
Los Gatos tapas bar, Madrid. Curro Romero is the bullfighter. 
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2010 / gerrydawes@aol.com.



The Naked Maja & Bullfighter Curro Romero and the Not So Naked Maja at Los Gatos Tapas Bar, one of old Madrid's campiest bars.


____________________________________________________________________________________________
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. 
 


video
  Trailer for a proposed reality television series on 
wine, gastronomy, culture and travel in Spain.

1/14/2017

The Padre's Tavern


* * * * *
The Story of Luís de Lezama, a Basque Priest, 
Who Became One of Spain’s Most Celebrated Restaurateurs
Revised article (first published in Food Arts)


 Material from a book-in-progress
 
by Gerry Dawes ©2016


Former New York Times Restaurant Critic Bryan Miller, Padre Luís de Lezama, D. Ramón del Hoyo López (Bishop of Jaén)and Gerry Dawes, Il Circo, NYC.

One night in the early 1970s, Luís de Lezama, a Basque priest who would subsequently (and improbably) become one of Spain’s top restaurateurs, was invited to go to the gypsy caves on Sacromonte hill in Granada by a group of students with whom he had spent three days encouraging them to join the religious orders.  It had been a long day, but it was his last with this group of young people, so he joined them as they made their rounds of Granada’s tapas bars and the touristy, but colorful zambra flamenco performances. 

Along the way, Padre Lezama was approached by a gitana, a gypsy woman.  She showed him an old intricate piece of wrought-iron, which could have been a trivet, except that it had no legs; it was an ancient hierro, the facing for an cattle brand. The gypsy implored him, “Padrecito, buy this hierro from me, it will change your life.”

Padre Lezama declined, but as the group continued their tapas prowl, the gitana continued to appear, nagging him to buy her hierro. Each time Lezama refused her offer. Finally some of the students intervened and the gypsy woman left Lezama alone. At the end of the evening, some of the students accompanied the priest back to the religious residence where he was staying and said their adioses. When Lezama entered his room he found the hierro on his night table with a thank you note for his service signed by all the students.  It said, “Don Luís, here is the hierro de la gitana that will change your life.” 


Luís de Lezama.
Photograph by Gerry Dawes
 
Lezama’s personal stories—triumphs, misadventures and sometimes tragedies—as recounted in this autobiographical book, are at once intimate and at the same time mirror the history of the rise of modern Spain and its democracy.  

Lezama’s life as a young boy in the Basque Country, first in the village of Amurrio, where he was born and predominately in Bilbao, was marked by the fact that his family was branded as “rojos,” reds on the losing side of the Spanish Civil War.  This meant that his father was perpetually unemployable and the family often lived hand-to-mouth.  In his later teen years, to deflect the advances of young woman pursuing him, to dissuade her Lezama proclaims that he is going to enter the priesthood, an idea that sticks in his head—he had an ongoing internal battle  throughout his youth concerning his beliefs about God.  In his insightful, moving, often humorous book, Hablemos de Díos, Lezama insightfully chronicles his often quite surprising thoughts on God, the Catholic church and society.
After studying with the Jesuits in the Basque Country (Ignacio de Loyola, founder of the Jesuits was a Basque), Lezama attended a seminary in Madrid, was ordained as a priest in 1962 and became coadjutor of Chinchón, a 16th-century storybook town an hour southeast of Madrid with excellent typical Castilian restaurants and a remarkably picturesque town square that is converted into a bullring for summer bullfights.  

While co-adjutor in Chinchón, one day Lezama discovered sleeping under the portal of his church three young maletillas—impoverished bull bums, down-and-out young men who roamed the roads of Spain in the Franco era following the bullfight fiestas in the almost always vain hope of getting a chance to become a bullfighter (the famous so-called Beatle Bullfighter El Cordobés was a maletilla).   Padre Lezama decided to help them and soon befriended other maletillas to come.   

Lezama opened up his home in Chinchón to the maletillas as a place where they could get a bed and a meal.  Lezama worked with the maletillas and other poor young men, helping them to find employment and change their lives.    Soon he became known as El Cura de las Maletillas, "the priest of the bull bums."

“The maletillas took possession of my living quarters and of my life,” Lezama wrote in his book, La Taberna del Albardero

Once in Chinchón, during one of the bullfights in the Plaza Mayor that town is famous for, one of his protégés, El Bormujano, bravely challenged a big bull and impressed the crowd, but he was gored and carried bleeding out of the ring on a stretcher.  Lezama comforted El Bormujano as the doctor’s worked on his horn wound.  El Bormujano recovered—and eventually became an important part of Lezama’s restaurant team at La Taberna del Alabardero in Madrid and a life-long friend who is still with the Grupo Lezama—but that day that he was gored made a profound impression on Lezama.
Lezama gave numerous aspirant bullfighters food, shelter and encouragement and even drove them to bullfights.  Once he and El Bormujano rode the padre’s Vespa 14 hours to Sevilla and slept the first night on park benches in the Parque de María Luísa in a successful  attempt to get his torero his first formal appearance in a bullring, in Álcala de Guadaira, a town just outside Sevilla.  But realizing that the odds against achieving success as a bullfighter are enourmous, Lezama decided that he must find other work for his young wayward and usually homeless charges.  

The mayor of Chinchón*, who was displeased that Lezama was attracting so many down-and-out maletillas to his village, basically invited the priest to leave and take his bullfighters with him, so Lezama moved his scruffy band to one of the poorest barrios of Madrid, Vallecas, where he organized them into a group of paper, scrap metal, bottle and glass collectors for recycling and earned enough money for subsistence support of the young men from1965-1968. 

In 1968, in Vallecas, Padre Lezama founded the Albergue de la Juventud, a safe haven where he worked with young people until size limitations caused him to begin looking for another solution.  Lezama thought that a restaurant would provide jobs for the troubled young Vallecas albergue men, many of whom, besides the would-be bullfighters, were also homeless castoffs and delinquents.  Lezama hoped to channel their energies into gainful pursuits that would allow them to lead useful lives.  Teaching his charges how to earn a living by working as a restaurant professional seemed to mesh perfectly with Lezama’s philosophy of “don’t  give the poor fish, teach them to fish.”   
 
The albergue was the pre-cursor to the opening of La Taberna del Alabardero in Madrid.  In October 1974, Lezama indeed began to undergo a major life change.  For Lezama, a native of Almurrio and Bilbao in the food-loving Basque Country of northern Spain, opening a restaurant seemed a logical, if unorthodox way of achieving further his work in ministering to his flock of downtrodden young people.  He went from passing out communion hosts at mass to hosting a restaurant.  He obtained a bank loan, co-signed by a wealthy friend, and with no prior practical restaurant experience except for a one-year stint at Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne, he opened his first restaurant, La Taberna del Alabardero (Tavern of the Halberdier, or Palace Guard) in Madrid, just off the Plaza de Oriente, which faces the huge 18th-century baroque Palacio Real (the Royal Palace). 


Padre Luís de Lezama and Gerry Dawes at La Taberna del Alabardero, Madrid, 2006.

In yet another counterpoint for priest-restaurateur-maletilla patron Lezama, La Taberna del Alabardero is ensconced in a house purported to have been the home of a palace guard, whose wife was the lover of Spain’s King Alfonso XII in the late 19th century.  The opening of La Taberna was the year before Generalissimo Franco died.  Lezama foresaw the coming modernization of Spain and the advent of democracy as creating a business environment that called for new forward-looking ventures.  A comfortable, upscale restaurant with good, reasonably-priced, Basque-influenced food should be a natural gathering place for the busy area around the Palacio Real and the nearby Spanish Senado (Senate). 
 
“In the beginning, it was not easy,” Lezama said of the opening of La Taberna del Alabardero, “I started with 16 employees, most of the young men from the Albergue who had never held a job.  Many of them were marginal kids with a lot of problems, kids without a future, which was why I was working to help them.  Finally, I enlisted Francisco Pena, a restaurant professional and now the General Manager of La Taberna del Alabardero in Washington, D. C., to train them.  And I was on the phone regularly with two of the Basque Country’s greatest chefs, Juan Mari Arzak of Arzak in San Sebastián and Genarro Pildaín (the legendary bacalao maestro of Bilbao’s Guria restaurant).  They gave me a lot of good advice and were kind enough to take in some of my young people to train them at a time when the idea of stages were not so widely accepted as they are now.”    





Former New York Times restaurant critic Bryan Miller, Padre Luís de Lezama 
and Paco Pena, Director of La Taberna del Alabardero, Washington, DC 
at a James Beard Foundation dinner hosted by La Taberna in 2005.
 
Despite that problematic beginning, it is this diamond-in-the-rough “human capital,” as Lezama refers to the young people who work for him, that is responsible for the success of his  restaurant and hotel empire that now employs 700 people.   “From the beginning, my most important mission was to see that these unschooled young people got formal restaurant training.  I sent them to get experience in many of the best restaurants of Spain and France.  It has paid off and this human capital is the most important resource the Lezama Group has.”  



Camarero, La Taberna del Alabardero, Madrid.

Grupo Lezama now includes nearly 20 businesses, including the original La Taberna del Alabardero
(still going strong after 35 years) in Madrid; its nearby sibling, the highly regarded Café de Oriente with its modern cuisine restaurant-within-a-restaurant, El Aljibe in the centuries-old, brick-lined cellars of the Café; and the new seafood-and-arroces (rice dishes, paella) restaurant also on the Plaza del Oriente, La Mar del Alabardero.  Grupo Lezama also operates  El Obrador de Oriente (a specialty food store) alongside Madrid’s Teatro Real (royal theater), around the corner from the original Taberna del Alabardero.  

At either the original Taberna or the Café de Oriente in Madrid you are apt to see long-time patrons such as Spain’s former President Felipe González (who went under his clandestine name, Isidoro, when he was an habitué of La Taberna under the Franco regime, well before he was elected to run Spain), current Spanish cabinet ministers, Spanish senators, authors, artists and bullfighters.


The Lezama group also owns hotel and restaurant schools in Madrid and Sevilla.  El Club de La Playa Taberna Alabardero in Marbella (opened in 1975) and the Alabardero resort in Benahavis near Marbella, where he also has a restaurant in Puerto Banus and another hotel-and-restaurant school.     

La Taberna del Alabardero in Sevilla is in a 19th-century mansion that also houses the hotel and restaurant school and a ten-room hotel.   The La Taberna del Albardero restaurant is now rated by Spain’s Gourmetour Guide as one of Sevilla's top restaurants, only scant points behind the über-chef Ferran Adrià-coached restaurant, La Alquería, at the Hacienda Benazuza (in nearby Sanlúcar la Mayor).  

Lezama’s first American venture La Taberna del Alabardero, on 18th Street in Washington, D. C., which he says he opened because the capital needed a great upscale Spanish restaurant, recently celebrated its 20th anniversary and has received numerous accolades from Washington publications.  Lezama says one of his great joys was seeing Alan Greenspan order calamares en su tinta (squid in ink sauce).   Last year, the Lezama Group branched out to open another American Taberna del Alabardero outpost in Seattle.


Also among Grupo Lezama myriad of enterprises are Hotel Miranda Suizo en San Lorenzo de Escorial (Madrid); Caserio Iruaritz (three oaks), a country hotel in a renovated, large, stone Basque family homestead in Lezama (Álava);  Arroz María, a new restaurant in Lisbon’s pleasure boat port and Mesa Real, which runs the dining rooms in the Royal Palace and the Spanish Senate.   Lezama, with his brother chef Patxi de Lezama, also ran La Carmencita, a popular stand-alone Madrid restaurant near in the back streets off the Gran Vía, one of Madrid’s most important thoroughfares.

And, for a number of years in the 1970s, Lezama had an award-winning religious radio program and he has also authored a number of books–his “Hablemos de Dios" (Let's Speak of God) is in its third printing. For more than thirty years, the indefatigable Lezama, was more apt to be found in a straight-laced business suit rather than wearing his collar, which he often donned to preside over mass in Chinchón many Sundays, to perform wedding ceremonies (he recently married Julio Iglesias and his long-time companion, the mother of five of his children in Marbella), to preside at christenings and funerals, and to bless the openings of new buildings and business ventures, some of them undoubtedly restaurants.




*A mural in the entryway of the atmospheric Café de la Iberia in Chinchón features Lezama, in his formal priestly robes (center), along with other habitués of the Café, town notables and historical figures.   Chinchón, famous for its production of anís licor and garlic, awarded Lezama the “Ajo de Oro” (Golden Garlic Award) and named him an adopted son of the pueblo.
All photographs by Gerry Dawes©2010.

For most of the past three decades, the indefatigable Lezama was more apt to be found in a straight-laced business suit rather than wearing his priestly collar, although he was known to carry his priest’s collar stashed in a suit pocket and continued to don the cloth and perform the duties of a priest.  


Padre Luís de Lezama at the Madrid Fusión International Gastronomic Summit.
Photo by Gerry Dawes.

“Many would like to have seen more of me in church, a place where others never come to visit me,” Lezama wrote in his book Taberna del Alabardero: Historias y Recetas de mi Taberna (Histories and Recipes from my Tavern / PPC, Madrid 1995).

Still, all during his career as a restaurateur, Lezama could often be found saying Mass in Chinchón and other churches, presiding over christenings and funerals, performing wedding ceremonies—including the recent wedding in Marbella of Julio Iglesias and Miranda Rijnsburger, his long-time companion and the mother of five of his children--and blessing the openings of new buildings and business ventures, some of them undoubtedly restaurants.

  
After being a restaurateur and part-time priest for more than 30 years, a few years ago Lezama set up a board of directors to handle the day-to-day affairs of the Grupo Lezama and went into semi-retirement.  We say “semi-retirement” since Lezama went back to being a full-time priest at the Montecarmelo parish in Northwest Madrid and has already been responsible for building a new Catholic school associated with the parish for 1,500 students.  

Nevertheless, he can still be found most days having lunch or dinner in one of his Madrid restaurants, the original Taberna del Alabardero or Café de Oriente, when he is not traveling to Sevilla, Marbella, the Basque Country or Washington, D.C. to check up on his establishments there. And one is apt to see him dining with the friends such as Julio Iglesias, Plàcido Domingo or former President Felipe Gonzàlez.  Lezama says one of his greatest joys at La Taberna del Alabardero in Washington, D.C. was seeing Alan Greenspan order calamares en su tinta (squid in ink sauce).

Luís de Lezama in a light-hearted, off-duty moment in New York.

Padre Lezama has written seven books the colorful anecdote-and recipe-filled Taberna del Alabardero: Historias y Recetas de mi Taberna (Histories and Recipes from my Tavern / PPC, Madrid 1995) and Hablemos de Díos, which is in its third printing. He has also written several novels, including La Rosa de David, in which one of the characters is based on former New York Times restaurant critic Bryan Miller, who once was a student in Salamanca.

 

 
The gyspy hierro cattle brand that became the logo for the Grupo Lezama.


The gyspy hierro cattle brand that the students in Granada gave him is one of the most treasured momentos of Lezama’s life.  It so affected him that he used it as the logo for Grupo Lezama, his ever-growing string of restaurants, hotels and hotel-and-restaurant schools.   Staffers, cooks, waiters and maitre’ds who complete ten years in Lezama’s restaurant, hotel and hotel-and-restaurant school group receive a pin whose design is taken from that gypsy brand that not only changed the priest life, it has changed the lives of the hundreds of young people who have been transformed by working in the Padre's tabernas.


-- The End --

Catalan Wine Routes Adventure Continues: October 18 AT Roca at Sant Sadurni d'Anoia, the Sparkling Wine Capital of Spain


* * * * * 
October 18, 2016 Vilafranca del Penedès - Sant Sadurni d'Anoia 
 
We arrived at hour southeast of Barcelona

Agustì Torellò Roca, winemaker at AT Roca and son of Agustí Torellò Sibill, shows us one of AT Roca´s free-standing old vines vineyards from which their exceptional Clàssic Penedès methode champenoise sparkling wines are made.
Agustí Torelló Roca came by to pick us up at 9:00 the next morning to show us some of the AT Roca vineyards, their fine vinification facility at Can Bonastre, which is also a wine resort hotel and restaurant, and then on to their production and facility where the Torellós age and bottle their exquisite Champagne-quality methode champenoise sparking wines, including their native varieties Brut Rosat in a complex at the edge of Sant Sadurni d'Anoia. 


Agustí Torelló Sibill in his Conca de Foix Plana de l'Urpi vineyard (Foix basin, l'Urpi plain), near Sant Sadurni D'Anoia in Catalunya, southwest of Barcelona.  Photo by Gerry Dawes.



AT Roca, an artisan, family owned, viticulturally oriented winery, produces superb quality Clàssic Penedès Brut and Brut Rosado sparkling wines Agustí Torelló Sibill and his sister Lali were shut out of their father’s  family winery Agustí Torelló because of a family dispute.  Agustí, who was the face of the family’s wines, decided to begin anew.  Agustí, Lali and his son and winemaker Agustí Torelló Roca, set up shop on the outskirts of the Cava capital of San Sadurni D’Anoia, and named their wines AT Roca. 
 
 Xarel.lo grapes, AT Roca, July 2015. Conca de Foix Plana de l'Urpi vineyard (Foix basin, l'Urpi plain), near Sant Sadurni D'Anoia in Catalunya, southwest of Barcelona.  Photo by Gerry Dawes.

The Torellós also found three prime ecologically farmed vineyards, owned by eight dedicated viticulturists with mature vines in three different areas of Penedès at three different altitude levels, from which they source their grapes:  Their Macabeu (Viura) grapes come from L'Ordal (coastal Massís del Garraf), Finca Canta Llops (Howling Wolf) vineyard, 420 meters (nearly 1400 feet above sea level); Xarel·lo from the slate-laced vineyards of Conca del Foix, Plana de l'Urpí, 220 meters (more than 700 feet); Parellada from La Llacuna, La Ginestera, 725 meters (2400 feet).


 Agustí Torelló Sibill explaining the topography of his vineyards in Penedès at his finishing winery in San Sadurni d'Anoia, July 2015.

The exceptional Clàssic Penedès methode champenoise sparkling wines of AT Roca:


AT Roca Vi de Terrer (Wine of Terroir) Brut Reserva 2013  $28.99   12.0%


“AT Roca is a new winery that was started by the brother and sister team of Agustí and Lali Torelló Sibill, as well as Agustí’s son, Agustí Torelló Roca, who handles all the viticulture and winemaking for the new sparkling wine house. These are the same family members who ran the famed Agustí Torelló Mata Cava house, who were one of the driving forces in the formation of the prestige of the category in past generations and continue to make one of Spain’s greatest sparklers, which they call Kripta.  An internecine family argument led to the ouster of Agustí and Lali Torelló and they promptly set up on their own operation, contracting with eight small farmers to purchase grapes from 97 cooler, high altitude vineyards farmed in the proper, Six Percent Club manner.

The 2013s are the first releases from AT Roca and not surprisingly, they are exceptional in quality. The 2013 Brut Reserva is a blend of the Big Three grapes of Xarel-lo, Macabeu and Parellada and offers up a superb bouquet of tart apple, bread dough, wild fennel, lovely minerality and a top-note of ocean breeze. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied and rock solid at the core, with frothy mousse, lovely focus and complexity and a long, perfectly balanced finish. 2016-2025+. 92+.” – John Gilman, View From The Cellar

AT Roca Vi de Terrer (Wine of Terroir) Brut Rosat 2013  $29.99   12.0%
     
The 2013 AT Roca Brut Rosat Reserva is comprised of a unique blend of fifty percent Macabeu (Viura), ten percent Garnatxa Negre and forty percent Monastrell. The wine is aged for fifteen months sur latte prior to disgorgement and is a lovely, pale salmon color. The bouquet is bright and classy, wafting from the glass in a mélange of blood orange, white cherries, salty soil tones, dried rose petals and a smoky top-note. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied, crisp and complex, with outstanding mid-palate amplitude, elegant mousse and excellent cut and grip on the long and racy finish. This is terrific Rosat! 2016-2025. 92+. John Gilman, VFTC

After our visit to show Brad Haskel the AT Roca production facilities and introduce him to Agustí´s aunt, Lali Torelló, partner and operations manager at the winery,  Agustí then took us us to meet up at 10:30 a. m.  to meet up with the Spanish National Tourist group at the Cava Museum in Sant Sadurni d'Anoia. 


AT Roca Brut Rosat 2013.  Photo by John Sconzo, Docsconz LLC








 Phylloxera larvae figures, large enough to be carried by fiesta participants through the streets during the annual celebration of the demise of the devasting vine louse's effect 
on the vineyards of Catalunya (and most of the rest of Spain and France) at the Cava Museum, Sant Sadurni d'Anoia (Barcelona), Catalunya, Spain.

 October 18, 2016 Vilafranca del Penedès - Sant Sadurni d'Anoia - Castellví de la Marca -
_______________________________________________________________________________ 

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. 

In December, 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. 
 
video
Pilot for a reality television series on wine, gastronomy, culture and travel in Spain.
 

Madrid's Barrio de Las Letras (Literary Quarter): Miguel de Cervantes & Lope de Vega with Glimpses of Quevedo, Calderón de la Barca, Lorca and Hemingway


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Image of Cervantes (1547-1616) in tiles on the Taberna del León de Oro (Golden [Age] Lion Tavern) front in the Literary Quarter of Madrid. Photograph by Gerry Dawes©2011. Contact gerrydawes@aol.com.

An easily walkable area roughly bounded by the Paseo del Prado to the east and the Plaza Santa Ana to the West is a fascinating place to stroll and go tapas hopping.  Along the way, visitors will see plenty of reminders of the great 17th-century Golden Age literary lights: the immortal author of Don Quixote (Edith Grossman's translation of Don Quixote is fabulous), Miguel de Cervantes; Spain's Shakespeare equivalent Lope de Vega;  Spanish poet Francisco de Quevedo, his arch rival the Baroque poet Luís de Góngora and poet-dramatist Pedro Calderón de la Barca.


(Double click on images to see a larger version of this slide show on Picasa.)


And in the lively Plaza Santa Ana, there is a charming statue of Federico Garcia Lorca, a monument to Calderón de la Barca  and echoes of Ernest Hemingway in such places as the Cerveceria Alemana, the bullfight bar where he used to hangout

Cervecería Alemana, once a major bullfight aficionados bar--still frequented by many foreign aficionados.
Famous as an Ernest Hemingway hangout.  Photograph by Gerry Dawes©2011. Contact gerrydawes@aol.com.

Detail of the Lorca statue in La Plaza Santa Ana in Madrid's Literary Quarter. The great martyred poet, Federico del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús García Lorca-- better known as García Lorca--was murdered by right-wing forces in Granada at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. Photograph by Gerry Dawes©2011. Contact gerrydawes@aol.com.

There are also a Cerveceria Cervantes,  a Hostal Cervantes, a Lope de Vega restaurant and a Hotel Lope de Vega (my home-away-from-home hotel in Madrid).  A wild and crazy tapas bar called Los Gatos with a really camp treatment of Goya's Maja Desnuda (Naked Maja; note the relatively recent addition of a padlock over a strategic area of her anatomy). Warning: Have a beer in this place, have a look at all the kitsch decor and avoid being trapped into expensive, not particularly good tapas).


Middle room of Los Gatos in the Literary Quarter of Madrid with statues of Black jazz musicians, a photo of the great bullfighter Curro Romero and a reproduction of Francisco de Goya's La Maja Desnuda (The Naked Maja), now with a padlock over a sensitive portion of her anatomy (see later photo of the painting the way it used to be in this very touristy, incredibly funky tapas bar).  Photograph by Gerry Dawes©2011. Contact gerrydawes@aol.com.

More links to Miguel de Cervantes and Don Quixote:



Miguel de Cervantes. Don Quijote




12/19/2016

From the Breakfast of Champions to Dinner with Champions, Drinking AT Roca Clàssic Penedès--as Good as Champagne--in Barcelona with Agustì Torellò Sibil and His Son Agustì Torellò Roca


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Continued from the previous post:  Breakfast of Champions in La Boquería Market in Barcelona and A Wine Adventure Trip in Catalunya October 2016


All photographs by Gerry Dawes©2016, unless otherwise noted.

Agustí Torelló Mata, winemaker-partner at D. O. Clàssic Penedès AT Roca, showing the winery's different vineyards and varying altitudes.  At a tasting at Hotel Majestic in Barcelona, October 17, 2016.

I phoned my friend Agustí Torelló Sibil, who with his son, Agustí Torelló Mata, produces AT Roca, splendid sparkling wines (a Brut Reserva and Brut Rosat Reserva that are of Champagne quality), plus several first-rate still white wines from Penedès and an excellent red Montsant from the neighboring province of Tarragona.   AT Roca, along with some 12 dozen other small producers, recently left the D.O. Cava to make wines under the more exclusive Clàssic Penedès designation.
 
“Meet us a the Hotel Majestic at 7:00 p.m.  We will be pouring our wines at a wine tasting there tonight.”
 

“We were going to catch the train to San Sadurni d’Anoia early in the morning.  Can you give us a ride and recommend a hotel?”
 

“No problem.  We will all have dinner after the wine tasting and you can ride down to Sant Sadurni with us.  I will find a hotel for you.”
 

Hecho! Done!”

 Agustí Torelló Sibil, who with his son, Agustí Torelló Mata, produces AT Roca, splendid sparkling wines (a Brut Reserva and Brut Rosat Reserva that are of Champagne quality).


We didn’t get much sleep at the Pensión Casablanca, because the pavement pounding going on below, but had at least given us a place to stash our luggage, had allowed a partial nap, was a place to shower and did not cost a fortune, even considering that we didn’t spend the night.
 
We showered and dressed, checked out, went down with our luggage to the Vía Layetana to catch a taxi to Hotel Majestic to drink some more sparkling wine, in this case, the superb Clàssic Penedès designation AT Roca Brut Reserva 2013 and AT Roca Brut Rosat (Rosé) 2013, both made by impeccably done methode champenoise production standards.
  
AT Roca is an artisan, family owned, viticulturally oriented winery, producing superb quality Clàssic Penedès Brut and Brut Rosado sparkling wines.  Agustí Torelló Sibil and his sister Lali were shut out of their father’s  family winery Agustí Torelló because of a family dispute.  Agustí, who was the face of the family’s wines, decided to begin anew.  Agustí, Lali and his son and winemaker Agustí Torelló Roca, set up shop on the outskirts of the Cava capital of San Sadurni D’Anoia, where some 90% of Spain´s sparking wines are made.  They named their wines AT Roca, since they winery owned by the family patriach owns the name Agustí Torelló.
 
The Torellós also found three prime ecologically farmed vineyards, owned by eight dedicated viticulturists with mature vines from which they source their grapes in three different areas of Penedès at three different altitude levels:  Their Macabeu (Viura) grapes come from L'Ordal (coastal Massís del Garraf), Finca Canta Llops (Howling Wolf) vineyard, 420 meters (nearly 1400 feet above sea level); Xarel·lo from the slate-laced vineyards of Conca del Foix, Plana de l'Urpí, 220 meters (more than 700 feet); Parellada from La Llacuna, La Ginestera, 725 meters (2400 feet).

Brad and I spent two hours at the tasting, half behind the AT Roca stand at the event.  I am comfortable enough with the wines and I speak fluent Spanish, though no Catalan, but with Brad´s help with the pouring I manned the stand while the two Agustís "worked" the busy room.

At 9:00 p.m. the tasting was over.  We helped the Torellós pack up, then strolled up the Passeig de Gracia, the elegant main divided boulevard the bi-sects Barcelona's tony Eixample district, towards El Principal del Eixample, Carrer de Provença 286 - 288, 08008 Barcelona; T. 93 272 08 45, an elegant new Catalan market cuisine restaurant.  Along the way, we passedg one of my long-time favorite hotels, the Condes de Barcelona, and taking in one of celebrated turn-of-the-19th Century Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí's most spectacular buildings, Casa Mila, popularly known as La Pedrera, which translates unjustifiably into "the rock pile." 

 
Hotel Majestic to Restaurante El Principal del Eixample, Barcelona.

 
Casa Mila, "La Pedrera," Passeig de Gracia, Barcelona. 


El Principal del Eixample

Agustí Torelló Sibil has long been a wine celebrity in Catalunya and the rest of Spain, so he gets red carpet treatment for himself and his guests almost any place he goes.  He has long been one of my favorite people in the wine trade in Spain and we have been friends for at least 20 years, so it was great to be having dinner with him and his son, whom I had not met until this evening.

El Principal restaurant is a sprawling space with a charming enclosed terrace, accessible from the interior dining rooms. This is a fancy restaurant that can accommodate up to 500 people for a cocktail party, but with a panel system that allows the space to bee divided off into smaller more intimate venues.

The food was modern with creative, but sensible riffs from chef-owner Joan Ferrè, who spent 25 years cooking the Tragaluz restaurant, which has some 20 restaurants in Barcelona, Girona and Madrid.  We began with a plate of superb Anxoves del Xillu, coca amb tomàquet (Anchovies “del Xillu” [a legendary store in L'Escala, a town famous for its cured anchovies and its Greek and Roman ruins on Catalunya's Costa Brava]), which were served with Catalan flatbread with tomato, pan con tomate style; not shown).   At nearly four Euros a piece, these cured anchovies are a luxury menu item. 

 Anxoves del Xillu, coca amb tomàquet (Anchovies “del Xillu” [a legendary store in L'Escala, a town famous for its cured anchovies and its Greek and Roman ruins on Catalunya's Costa Brava]) at Restaurante El Principal in Barcelona.

We were sharing all the dishes here.  Next was a tartar de tonyina, tomàquet picant, gingebre i caviar d’oli or tartar de atún , tomate picante, jengibre y caviar de aceite<(tuna tartar with spicy tomato, ginger and spherified olive oil "caviar."

Tartar de tonyina, tomàquet picant, gingebre i caviar d’oli or tartar de atún , tomate picante, jengibre y caviar de aceite (tuna tartar with spicy tomato, ginger and spherified olive oil "caviar."
 
Then we were served a very good rice squid dish--Catalans do great things with squid and sepia--Calamar, ceba confitada, arròs de julivert i festucs; Calamar, cebolla confitada, arroz de perejil y pistachos; Squid with caramelized onions, served on rice with parsley and pistachios.

Calamar, ceba confitada, arròs de julivert i festucs; Calamar, cebolla confitada, arroz de perejil y pistachos; Squid with caramelized onions, served on rice with parsley and pistachios.

Arròs de llebre i carxofes Arroz de liebre y alcachofas en paella, Rice with hare/rabbit and artichokes, our final course, was exceptional. We drank the wines of the Torellós, including the AT Roca Brut Reserva 2013 and a delicious, not over the top in either high alcohol (miraculously under (14%) or new oak, Sileo Vi Negre (red wine) they make in D.O. Montsant.





Arròs de llebre i carxofes Arroz de liebre y alcachofas en paella, Rice with hare/rabbit and artichokes, our final course, was exceptional.


In this day alone, Brad Haskel and I flew in from New York, experienced a four-hour plus "Breakfast of Champions" at La Boquería market, strolled the old Gothic Quarter of Barcelona, grabbed a nap of sorts, went to a wine tasting at Hotel Majestic and even poured wines at the event, had dinner with Agustí Torelló and his son and rode an hour southeast of Barcelona to





Agustí Torelló Roca, the son, told us he would be by at 9:00 the next morning to show us some of the AT Roca vineyards, their fine vinification facility at Can Bonastre and the Caves, where they age their wines.  Then he would take us to meet up with the Spanish National Tourist group at the Cava Museum in Sant Sadurni d'Anoia.  It had all worked out much better than we could have imagined.  We would not have to catch a very early train from Barcelona to Sant Sadurni, dragging our luggage with us and we were being provided with a ride to catch up with the group.   Except for that damned jackhammer machine, life was good to us today!

Today, as many days in Spain tend to be, our first day in Catalunya was packed with adventures and we had not even begun our official tour of the region's wine routes yet.  I will continue the rest of the story in my next post about our travels in Catalunya and beyond. . . ________________________________________________________________ 
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. 

In December, 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. 
 
video
Pilot for a reality television series on wine, gastronomy, culture and travel in Spain.
 
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