In early May, 2007, I stayed in Valladolid while attending the Premios Zarcillo, an annual judging of wines ostensibly drawn from around the world by an international panel of wine experts, but primarily from the host region of Castilla y León. I had not really had a chance to explore the city since more than fifteen years ago, when I was working on guide books to the region for Penguin and Berlitz.
Artists such as Tomé were in transition, still restrained by the power, weight, and conservatism of Herrera's influence, but in the end, just as florid Gothic gave way in Spain to Plateresque, and what was once confined to altarpieces, as Boyd puts it, "moved cheerfully outwards from the retablos to the facades." Spanish decoration would eventually degenerate into Rococo, but not yet. The facade of the Universidad de Valladolid would like to take off, but it is anchored firmly, by four unadorned columns set on square pedestals, to the no-nonsense conservative building it decorates.
Around the corner to the southeast of the University, the Colegio de Santa Cruz represents the late 15th-century Renaissance style of Enrique de Egas, and just northeast, along calle del Cardenal Mendoza, which becomes calle Colon, is Christopher Columbus's house. In 1506 Columbus died in Valladolid a broken man, "If I had stolen the Indies and given them to the Moors, Spain could not have shown me greater enmity." The house where he died was demolished in the 1960s, then completely rebuilt to house the Casa de Colón, whose most interesting displays are the maps of the great Admiral's three voyages, and some artifacts from his new world discoveries.
Located northeast of the Plaza Mayor are two of Valladolid's main attractions: The Colegio de San Gregorio, the remarkable, incredibly ornate (Jan Morris called it "almost edible"), late 15th-century Isabeline-Gothic building in which the Museo Naciónal de Escultura is housed and, next to it, the equally ornate, Isabeline Iglesia de San Pablo. Both these pre-Renaissance buildings are often called Plateresque, but they are not.
They preceded Plateresque and obviously contributed to its development, but they were executed by foreign architects and stonemasons inspired–according to Professor Denning of Trinity College in Dublin– by the kind of decoration commonly used in the title-pages of books and by the wood carvings done for the altarpieces of the period. It is to this, not to the silversmiths who inspired Plateresque decoration, that we owe the remarkable style of these two structures. The 15th-century Iglesia de San Pablo, which preceded San Gregorio and is even more detailed (if that is possible), was added to in the early 17th century by the ever-present duke of Lerma, whose coat-of-arms can be seen on the facade. The French looted and destroyed the original interior during the Peninsular War, but a striking pair of Isabeline doorways remains in the since-restored church.
The Museo Nacional de Escultura in San Gregorio is filled with polychrome wood statues (many with meticulously detailed bleeding wounds); complete tableaux representing Biblical scenes; Holy Week processional pasos (floats): entire altarpieces; paintings; and even an entire set of carved wooden choir stalls, done by Gil de Silöe, Alonso Berruguete, Juan de Juni, Gregorio Fernández, Pedro de Mena, and others, is to Valladolid, as one book put it, "what the Prado is to Madrid."
One of the masterpieces in the Museo Nacional de Escultura 's collection is the early 16th-century altarpiece by Alonso Berruguete, who Alastair Boyd claims, was "the only inspired artist of the Spanish Renaissance." Berruguete spent five years working in Florence and was greatly influenced by Michaelangelo (he was mentioned in the master's letters), Leonardo da Vinci (he was in Florence when Leonardo was painting the Mona Lisa), and Raphael; he returned to Spain to become the greatest Spanish sculptor of the 16th century. Originally built for Valladolid's Iglesio de San Benito, Berruguete's retablo, now dismantled and displayed in three rooms on the ground floor of the museum, measured over 50 feet high.
The museum also displays another exceptional altarpiece taken from the Convent of La Mejorada in Olmedo, several first-rate pieces including the superb statues of San Sebastián and the Sacrifice of Isaac, and a fine Nativity painting, all by Berruguete, whose talents did not stop here: He also did part of the woodcarving on the upper parts of the magnificent choirstalls in Toledo Cathedral. The Frenchman from Champagne, Juan de Juni, whose work can also be seen in the Cathedral and in Las Angustias church here, is represented in this museum by one of his most highly-regarded works, the Entombment of Christ, and a good John the Baptist.
Gregorio Fernández, who in the early 17th-century carried Juni's Illusionism even further by using human teeth, glass eyes, and graphically depicted bleeding wounds to get his point across, is very well represented here, but a little bit of Fernández goes a long way. His Cristo Yacente (Christ reclining) here is just one of a number of profusely bleeding Cristos - - shown reclining, in Pieta tableaux, and hanging from the Cross - - done by this prolific artist, and scattered throughout Valladolid.
Other notable works in this museum, where the pieces are beautifully displayed and well lighted, are Pedro de Mena's fine 17th-century statue of Mary Magdalene; the bronce statues of the duke and duchess of Lerma kneeling, whose models were done by Pompeo Leoni and cast by Juan de Arfe; and the richly-detailed, carved wooden choirstalls by Diego de Silöe, son of Gil de Silöe, and creator of the great golden staircase in the Burgos cathedral.
There are also two fine Hispano-Flemish paintings from the 15th century: one of San Jerónimo, which was in the Convento de La Mejorada in Olmedo, and the other of Santiago, dressed as a pilgrim with his staff and a scallop shell on his hat, and San Andrés, with an X-shaped St. Andrew's cross.
South of the Plaza Mayor is calle de Santiago, the major shopping street of Valladolid with its own special twist, a place called Las Francesas, which has a number of good shops surrounding the cloister of an old former nunnery. The Iglesia de Santiago on this street contains a fine retable by Alonso Berruguete. At the southern end of Santiago street is the plaza de Zorilla, which forms the northern tip of the triangular-shaped Campo Grande park, an oasis of trees, fountains, flower gardens, and pleasant walks. Located at the southern end of the park, the convent of the Order of the Phillipines houses the interesting Museo Oriental, which has a fine collection of Oreintal art put together by Augustinian missionaries stationed in the Far East.
Casa de Cervantes
Valladolid was the capital of Spain for five years (1601-1606) under Phillip III after the city bribed the Duke of Lerma, the royal favorite, 400,000 ducats to move the court from Madrid. Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, spent three years in Valladolid during this period in a house on the calle del Rastro. William Byron, author of the definitive biography of Cervantes, describes what the building was like in those days, "one of five new houses jerry built by a small-bore speculator hoping to cash in on an influx of riffraff into the city. It was an instant slum." Cervantes, along with more than 20 of his relatives, friends, and perhaps a down-at-heel servant or two, crowded into 13 rooms above an old tavern that was the hangout for butchers from the nearby slaughterhouse.
The Casa de Cervantes is located two and a half blocks southeast of Plaza de Zorilla at calle del Rastro 7. Don't expect to moved by the spirit of the great writer in today's contrived surroundings, however; the house is more interesting as a refurbished 17th-century dwelling, certainly in better shape now than it was in those days, than as a Cervantes museum. Besides, by the time Cervantes moved here, Don Quixote was already finished and in the hands of his publisher, Francisco de Robles, who had moved to Valladolid from Madrid to be close to the real money - - in this epoch certainly - - around the supremely corrupt duke of Lerma and the court of Phillip III.
Cervantes was arrested in this house, though, after the mysterious death from sword wounds of a nobleman killed in the dangerous streets of this quarter. Cervantes and his family helped the man into their apartments, where he died two days later, and when no one could put a finger on the man's assailant, Cervantes and several members of his family were arrested, albeit briefly, thus adding Valladolid to list of jails - - Algiers, Castro del Rio, and Sevilla - - that the great writer had graced with his presence - - most unjustly.
". . .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.
Gerry Dawes can be reached at email@example.com; Alternate e-mail (use only if your e-mail to AOL is rejected): firstname.lastname@example.org
Some of my faithful readers, among the dozen of you, have expressed concern about the lack of posts and rightfully so. I have been traveling to Spain too much and can't keep up with it all!!! I am now averaging eight trips per year. To cut down on that average, I consolidated what would have been three-four trips in April-May to a one-month stay, so I have done three trips so far this year, a total of nearly eight weeks, and I am overloaded with information and backlogged with photographs. Some times you wish upon star and the star answers.
Posted (click on links below) and upcoming reports include: Read More
All photographs copyright 2008 by Gerry Dawes (Not to be used without permission, email@example.com)
Spanish food and wine fairs, wine trade fairs, , promotional events and gastronomic conferences can keep dedicated Spanish wine professionals, foodies and aficionados alike busy all year round, as I found out over the course of 2007, when I made a half dozen ten trips to Spain, many of them connected two and three deep to Spanish wine events. Spain now has thousands of wineries and it takes a lot of tastings to bring all that wine to the attention of the press, importers and consumers.
In January, it all begins at Madrid Fusión, an annual event, where a roster of the top chefs in Spain—augmented by other star chefs from around the world—come to show the latest superstar cooking techniques. Taking best advantage of the drawing power of the superchefs, ICEX Vinos de España / Wines From Spain puts on a star-studded show of their own at the event. In 2007, celebrating its 25th Anniversary, Wines From Spain presented more than 130 top-rated Spanish wines in several España: Vientos de Terruño / Spain: Winds of Terroir tastings at Madrid Fusión. La Rioja also presented two big panel tastings—one contrasting classic and modern style Rioja reds, the other focusing on versatility of the tempranillo grape.
Ferran Adrià with a food producer at Madrid Fusión
Juli Soler, El Bulli & Teresa Barrenechea, Termomix Spain at Madrid Fusión
Esmeralda Capel with white truffles
José Mari Arzak, Ferran Adrià, Rafael Ansón, Tetsuya Wakuda
Wakuda, Trotter, Norman Van Aken and Friends Having Tapas at Rafa in Madrid
Gerry Dawes and Paul Prudhomme at Madrid Fusión
That was just the beginning. Later that month in Valencia, the sixth edition of Encuentro Verema, one of Spain's most prestigious wine conferences, took place in Valencia on January 26 and 27 at the five-star Meliá Valencia Palace Hotel. The conference, organized by Valencia-based verema.com, one of the world's most visited wine websites, featured two days of high level seminars and tastings. Bodegas Herederos de Marqués de Riscal, presented "The Evolution of Rioja Wines in the Past Century," following by a tasting of historic vintages of Marqués de Riscal Reserva wines back to the stellar, legendary 1945, as well as their 2001 Barón de Chirel, perhaps the greatest in that wine’s history. The next day, Managing Director-Winemaking Team Leader Agustín Santolaya of Bodegas Roda presented a tasting of representative vintages from the winery since its creation. One of the event’s highlights was the presentation of the Verema Awards for 2006 to: Best Bodega 2006: Bodegas Roda; Rising Star Bodega: Viñas del Vero; Best Wine Award 2006: Vega Sicilia Único 1994; Wine Personality of the Year 2006 Award: Mariano García of Bodegas Mauro, Maurodos and other wineries; and Award for Best Restaurant Wine Service: Restaurante Atrio (Cáceres).
León Grau, José Luís Contreras, Verema.com & Ricardo Pérez, Descendientes de J. Palacios, Bierzo
Ricardo Pérez, Descendientes de J. Palacios, Bierzo (left) & Juan Such, Verema.com (right)
In early March in Ferrol (A Coruña, Galicia) the Chamber of Commerce of Vilagarcia de Arousa staged the bi-annual (2009 is next) Fevino—Fería de Vino de Noroeste—a show based primarily on the white wines of Galicia, but with exhibitors from around Spain. Here, in a less crowded environment, some 300 bodegas brought more than 1,000 wines to taste. This one is particularly good for importers and the press interested in the wines of northwestern Spain, because sit-down sessions with bodega principals and representatives are available on a one-on-one basis.
Also a bi-annual fair—and the biggest of them all—is the huge Alimentaria fair, a huge event with thousands of exhibitors (which next will take place in Barcelona from March 10-14, 2008). Hundreds of bodegas bring thousands of wines to show and along with a mind-boggling variety of foodstuffs, there is Barcelona’s equivalent of Madrid Fusión, the less well-known, but superb BCNVanguardia Congreso Internacional de Gastronomía de Alimentaria, all of which combine to make Alimentaria a not-to-be-missed event for wine lovers and foodies alike.
Charlie Trotter at BCN Vanguardia
Ferran Àdria at BCN Vanguardia
Juli Soler of El Bulli
In April, back in Madrid at the Casa del Campo, the Grupo Gourmets, for the past 21 years, has staged the Salón Internacional de Gourmets in three different exhibition halls, where some 1,000 exhibitors show an estimated 35,000 products, among them thousands more wines from all around Spain. This is one of best wine and food fairs I know and another no-miss event for wine and food professionals and aficionados of the best of Spanish products. For more than 30 years, Grupo Gourmets has been the publisher of Club de Gourmets magazine and an outstanding guidebook series that includes the annual Gourmetour Guía Gastronómica y Turística de España and the Guía de Vinos Gourmets wine guide.
Also in April and coinciding with the Salón de Gourmets, the group behind verema.com, started a new upscale bienial wine event, Vino Elite, which featured some of Spain’s top wineries and seminars by such luminaries as Spanish art film maker José Luís Cuerda (also owner of the D.O. Ribiero wine, Sanclodio), Jonathan Nossiter of Mondovino wine documentary fame and his wife, Paula Pradini, who showed her Mondoespaña segment. The verema.com group and Emiliano García—owner of Casa Montaña (a revered Valencian bodega and tapas bar that dates to 1836) and Aranleón (a very promising new Utiel-Requena winery), also staged another star turn tasting event, Vino a Toda Vela (Wine at Full Sail), one of a string of events celebrating Valencia’s turn at playing host to the America’s Cup yacht races. The event, which featured top wines from Spain and around the world was held in the cloister of the 500-year old monastery that now houses part of the University of Valencia.
Palacio de Congresos, Valencia, site of Vino Elite
Paco Higón, Verema.com; Paula & Jonathan Nossiter
The Feria Nacional del Queso (National Cheese Fair), of Trujillo (Cáceres province) in the region of Extremadura, has taken place the first weekend in May since 1986. Called the most important cheese fair in Europe, this consumer-friendly event has nearly 100 cheesemakers showing some 300 different cheeses, which can be sampled with local wines by buying tickets that are exchanged for tastes at each tented stand. The fair takes place outdoors in Trujillo's spectacular, historic Plaza Mayor, the main square, which is surrounded by distinguished buildings and the large equestrian statue of Francisco Pizarro, the conqueror of Peru.
This is a wonderful fiesta for cheese lovers. All one has to do is show up, make your way to the Plaza on foot, purchase some tickets and enjoy a superb range of artisan cheeses, the majority of which are from Spain and neighboring Portugal. The local Extremaduran cheese such as the ewe's milk Torta de la Serena, Torta del Casar and Tortita de Barros, along with Trujillo's own goats' milk cheese Ibores, are superb and among the best cheeses in Spain.
Following on the heels of those events was Castilla y León’s most important wine judging event, Premios Zarcillo, in which wineries from this large region’s denominaciones de origen, which includes Ribera del Duero, Rueda, Toro, Bierzo and Cigales, vie for the coveted Zarcillo de Oro top prizes in each category. The judges—a distinguished group of Spanish and international tasters—labors for several days tasting hundreds of wines from the region (and beyond; there are wines from other Spanish wine regions and foreign countries) in an unforgettable setting in the heart of the Ribera del Duero at the 14th-century Castillo de Peñafiel, one of Spain’s most spectacular castles and now the Museum of Wine.
After the Premios Zarcillo, Fenavin (Fería Nacional del Vino), Spain’s biggest annual trade fair dedicated solely to wine, takes place the second week in May in Cuidad Real. Fenavin has more than 1,000 exclusively Spanish bodegas exhibiting in seven pavilions and some 2,500 wine buyers and importers scour the exhibition spaces for four days seeking new treasures for their portfolios. This fair also features some of the best wine seminars in Spain with top experts from the around the world and Spanish experts who are only a short AVE high-speed train ride away from Madrid.
Another bi-annual fair, and one of the most rewarding, is The Vinoble International Noble Wines Exhibition, is held every two years at the end of May in Jerez de la Frontera. In 2008, it will be staged from May 25 through May 28. It is the only wine fair dedicated exclusively to fortified, dessert, and naturally produced sweet wines, not just from Spain, which has a much overlooked vibrant production of luscious wine in this genre, but from around the world. The setting for Vinoble is Jerez’s beautifully renovated 12th-century Arabic Alcazar fortress, which dates from the Almohade epoch of the Moorish occupation of Spain. The site is spectacular with wine tasting stands occupying the gardens of the Alcazar, and wine tastings such as a Château D'Yquem retrospective and a palo cortado Sherries presentation are held in the complex's former mezquita (mosque) and tasting pavilions in the Renaissance Palace of Villavicencio, which was built within the walls of the fortress in the 17th and 18th centuries. More than 100 noble wine producing areas for from fortified and sweet wines from around the world show their best labels at Vinoble.
But, at Vinoble, as might be expected, it is the host country, Spain, which shows the most extensive variety of high quality sweet and fortified wines. Local Sherry bodegas bring out a broad range of high quality fortified wines--finos, manzanillas, olorosos, amontillados, creams, pale creams, moscatels and Pedro Ximénez sweet wines, as do bodegas from nearby Andalucian wine regions such as Montilla-Moriles (Cordoba) with a range of finos, amontillados, olorosos and Pedro Ximénez; the Condado de Huelva with fortified Sherry-like wines, including delicious orange essence-flavored ones; and Málaga, which showed some exceptional moscatels. Cataluña was represented by sweet wines from Penedès and Priorat; Valencia by sweet mistela moscatels; Navarra by late harvest moscatels and vinos rancios; Alicante by moscatels and fondillones; Jumilla by late harvest Monastrell-based wines; and Rueda, Rías Baixas and Yecla by late harvest entries.
Only in Jerez at Vinoble can wine professionals and aficionados alike find such a broad range of high quality "Noble" wines. Even one day at Vinoble is an education into this relatively little-known, magical world of late harvest, fortified, botrytisized, dessert and dry wines such as manzanilla, fino and amontillado Sherries. Touring the Spanish stands in May 2006, I was able to taste an amazing array of wines that underscored the importance of this emerging genre of exceptional wines from all around Spain.
All these food and wine fairs take place before June, but there is more. On the first weekend in August, there is the lively Fiesta de Albariño (no permanent website) in Cambados, a charming Galician seaside town in the Val do Salnés region of Spain’s top white wine producing area, Rías Baixas. This region is where a wide range of producers make most of the excellent Albariños that are so food-friendly to modern (and traditional) cuisines have taken American wine lists by storm. Scores of the Val do Salnés region’s best Albariños are available for tasting at open-air stands along an esplanade outside the Parador de Cambados. Top wine journalists (and one American, this writer) taste wines for two days to select the top Albariños each year.
Xosé Posada, Presidente of the Irmandade de Vinhos Galegos (Brotherhood of Galician Wines) & Irmandade Member Gerry Dawes at La Festa de Albarinho in Cambados
Do Ferreiro Cepas Velhas Albariño & Nécoras (Crabs) from the Rías of Galicia, from which comes some of the world's greatest shellfish.
Those who think they might not get enough Albariño at Cambados can show up a week earlier for wonderful, little-known, country Albariño wine fair in Meaño, where more than a dozen small wineries from the Asociación de Bodegueros Artesanos, led by Francisco Dovalo of Cabaleiro do Val, stages a weekend showing of their artisan wines, along with Galician bagpipe music and culinary specialties such as pulpo a la gallega (octopus steamed or grilled and sprinkled with Spanish olive oil, superb Spanish pimentón [paprika] and sea salt) and local shellfish, which is some of the best in the world.
With Francisco 'Paco' Dovalo, Presidente of the Asociación de Bodegueros Artesanos at their Albariño wine fair in Meaño.
I have gone to all the events described in the past two years and was privileged to be invited to speak at several of them. I could have kept on going to any number of Spanish harvest wine fairs in September, October and November, when the great chefs conference, Lo Mejor de la Gastronómía, takes place in San Sebastián, and the excellent IberWine, billed the Salón Internacional de Vino (a biannual event devoted to Spanish and Portuguese wines that alternates between Madrid, Portugal and the U.S.), but even a marathon Spanish wine geek like me needs a respite sometimes. Still, I can’t wait for the next round to start each year.
Adrian Murcia's musings on my rant about high alcohol wines from a Spanish wine luncheon at Per Se.
May 17 & May 21, 2007 Two-part Podcast interview at Fenavin by Ryan Opaz, www.catavino.netGerry Dawes. Gerry has been traveling Spain for over 30 years and has written several books and articles on his experiences, which have gained both the respect and attention of several other well-known Iberian authors.
From beginning to end, the entire interview lasted about 40 minutes and I think its a great peak into Gerry’s career, along with some of his opinions about Spain, Spanish wine and Spanish food. If you’ve been interested in Spain as a culture, you’ve probably read at least one of his articles, if not several over the years without even realizing it. His endless knowledge on the subject is impressive and worth listening to if you desire an understanding of Spain’s gastronomical and wine evolution beginning right after Franco’s three decades of oppression.
I want to thank Gerry for taking the time to talk with me, and I look forward to crossing paths with him many more times as we continue to explore Iberia.
Cheers, Ryan Opaz
Writing, Photography, Speaking Engagements, Culinary & Wine Trips to Spain, Spanish Travel Planning
Available for writing assignments, photography assignments (digital and transparencies), and speaking engagements on Spanish gastronomy, wine, cheeses, travel, etc.
Recent Appearances (Autumn, 2006)
I also customize and lead culinary and wine tours to Spain and do Spanish travel planning.
"Gerry Dawes--has emerged as the leading American speaker, consultant, and writer on the subject of Spanish wine. . . suffice to say that everyone from The New York Times to the James Beard Foundation, from 60 Minutes to CNN, has sought Gerry's wisdom on... Spanish wine, food and culture." - David Rosengarten, The Rosengarten Report
(Note: To see photographs at optimum quality, please double click on each picture.)
Premio Nacional de Gastronomía 2003 (Spanish National Gastronomy Prize): 2003 Marques de Busianos Award from the Academia Española de Gastronomía (Spanish Academy of Gastronomy) & La Cofradia de la Buena Mesa for writing, photography, and lectures about Spanish gastronomy and wines. At the Casino de Madrid, with Lourdes Plana of Madrid Fusion & Teresa Barrenechea, Chef-owner of Marichu (New York)
Gerry Dawes has been traveling in Spain for more than three decades. Since 1995, he has made sixty extensive food and wine trips to Spain, twenty since 2003 alone. In his Daytimer notebooks, he has written down every dish and every wine he has had in Spain for the past 15 years and photographs most of the dishes with digital cameras.
Gerry's notebook - Navarra, April 2003
Gerry Dawes copyright 2004
Only non-Spaniard to receive the prestigious Premio Cena de Los 11 Vinos, an award created to honor those who have made significant lifetime contribution to enhancing the image and culture of Spanish wines (for writing on Spanish wines.)
Marqués de Vargas & wife Anya, Gabriela Llamas, Gerry Dawes at Casino de Madrid, Cava Writing Award Presentation, May 2004. Primer Premio--Artículo sobre Cava, Instituto de Cava (Barcelona, Spain): First Prize of 12,000 Euros for Bebiendo Estrellas (Drinking Stars), an article on Spanish Cava (Spanish sparkling wine), written in Spanish for Cocina Futuro magazine (Madrid).
Click for Gerry Dawes Biography & Credits
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Posted (click on links below) and upcoming reports include:
In January, Madrid Fusión and Valencia's Encuentro Verema
In March, more Madrid, a wild, exhilarating swing through all the D.O.s of Galicia (Valdeorras, Rías Baixas, Ribeira Sacra, Ribeiro and Monterrei) in early March and a return to Arévalo for supernal roast suckling pig at Las Cubas.
And in April-May, Madrid again (after all, I am an official "Amigo de Madrid") for Grupo Gourmet's annual Salón Internaciónal de Gourmets
Valencia (Vino Elite & Vino a Toda Vela) with reports on paellas (arroces & fideua), the surprising gastonomic scene in Valencia and Alicante and encounters of another kind with Jonathan Nossiter of Mondovino fame and his wife, Paula Pradini, who showed her MondoEspaña film at Vino Elite.
Another visit to wonderful, under-rated Chinchón
Trujillo's exceptional Feria de Quesos in Extremadura
A visit to an old friend at Restaurante Cala Fornells in Salamanca
Castilla y León's prestigious Premios Zarcillo at which prizes are awarded to the best wines submitted (from around the world), the vast majority of which are from the Castilla y León region, which includes Ribera del Duero, Rueda, Toro, Cigales & Bierzo and Vinos de la Tierra de Castilla y León)
Valladolid, getting re-acquainted with Castilla y León's historic, but modern capital city
Cuídad Real for the Fenavin (Feria Naciónal del Vino; Spain's biggest wine fair) and a re-visit to Mesón del Corregidor in Almagro
And, remarkable Toledo, where chef-restaurateur-bodeguero Adolfo Muñoz and his family (Julita, his wife, and Adolfo and Javier, his sons) took me and my traveling companion captive for nearly 24 hours and charged a handsome ransom. We had to visit their Viñedos Cigarral de Santa María property, which has drop-dead views overlooking Toledo (a stone's throw away) and has a 300+ seat restaurant for weddings and banquets. The cigarral is surrounded by their Pago del Ama vineyards, olive groves and gardens with aromatic plants and flowers that play an important role in Adolfo (and his chef son Adolfo's cooking. We were sequestered for the night in the five-star Hotel Palacio de Eugenia de Montijo hotel where Adolfo operates Belvis restaurant, had dinner at Aldofo restaurant (considered the best in Toledo) and, with Adolfo and restaurant director-summiller son, Javier, we got a private tour of their extensive wine collection, which is housed in the cellars of a 9th-century Jewish home in the old quarter. The next morning we had a tapas-"breakfast" at Adolfo Colección restaurant-delicatessen, then, after re-acquainting myself with monumental Toledo and re-visiting the Santa María La Blanca and Tránsito syngogues (a first for my friend), plus a damascene ware shop, it was back for a farewell lunch at Restaurante Adolfo in Toledo's old Jewish quarter.
After lunch at Adolfo, we headed for Madrid for another remarkable seafood dinner at Casa Mundi, one of a series of remarkable meals with my new-found friend, José Luís Cuerda, the great Spanish film director, producer and screen writer (Bosque Animado, La Lengua de Las Mariposas, Amanecer, The Others and more). Cuerda also owns vineyards and a winery, Sanclodio, in Galicia's Ribeiro, where he produces a delicious treixadura-based white wine, which will soon be available on the East Coast and is the subject of a New York Times article due to be published in late June (for more info on Sanclodio, e-mail alex@marblehillcellars ).
I am going back to Spain in June for two weeks and I will have reports on trout fishing in La Rioja and a much anticipated dinner at Bodegas Riojanas in Cenicero, the wedding of my friend, chef-cookbook author (The Cuisines of Spain, The Basque Table) Teresa Barrenechea's daughter, Maria, in Madrid; the Grupo Gourmet Gourmet Plus Gastronomic Feria in Bilbao at the Palacio Eskalduna from June 15-17; the superb rosados, moscatels and red wines from Navarra; plans for Expo 2008 in Zaragoza; the lastest developments in Cava, Conca de Barberá, & Priorat; another dinner at unbeatable Ca Sento in Valencia; another adventure in Alicante with my friend, María José San Román and her husband, "El Portero Pitu," owners of Monastrell, la Taberna del Gourmet and other excellent restaurants;" and a dash via Jumilla back to Madrid for yet another dinner with Sr. Cuerda, with whom I am planning a Spanish television series based on many of the adventures, people, places, wines and food you are reading about here.
After Spain, it is off to speak at several wine and Spanish artisanal cheese seminars at the Telluride Wine Festival (June 28-July 1), stopping off in Dolores, Colorado, 60 miles south of Telluride, to see my daughter Erica, her husband Ivan and my adorable Gerber Baby grandson, Graham Robert. I keep telling this now eight-month old wonder that I am his Tio Geraldo!
In July, I will be in Portugal's cork country with the Amorim cork producers to report on the state of wine corks. Despite the problems with so-called "cork taint"--many instances of which are not the fault of a cork at all--is an issue that is being successfully addressed by cork producers, for me and many other long-time wine world observers (and participants!!) abandoning the cork for plastic "corks," synthetic closures and the God Awful screw cap is not the answer (scientifically, aesthetically, romantically, image-wise and otherwise).
From Portugal, I will migrate via Oporto back into Spain and spend more time in Galicia, where within a few years fascinating, terroir-driven, indigenous varietal wines will put Spanish white wines on a par with those of the Loire Valley in France (the godello grape has the potential to rival some chardonnays from Burgundy!).
Projecting to September, I will be traveling in Murcia for an in-depth re-visit to the land of the Monastrell grape, Jumilla, Yecla and Bullas.
And, for November, see A Taste of Spain Tour of La Mancha and Andalucía for my cultural, gastronomic and wine tour.