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

"My good friend Gerry Dawes, the unbridled Spanish food and wine enthusiast cum expert whose writing, photography, and countless crisscrossings of the peninsula have done the most to introduce Americans—and especially American food professionals—to my country's culinary life. . .” - - Chef-restaurateur-humanitarian José Andrés, Nobel Peace Prize Nominee and Oscar Presenter 2019; Chef-partner of Mercado Little Spain at Hudson Yards, New York 2019


Gerry Dawes's A Taste of Southern Spain Tour (Sample Tour; Dates to be Arranged)

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Windmills in La Mancha

A Taste of la Mancha & Southern Spain 
 12 days, 11 nights

A Private Tour with Gerry Dawes, guidebook author, wine & food writer, & expert on Spanish wine, gastronomy and culture, who has been traveling in Spain for over 30 years and was a recipient of the Spanish National Gastronomy Prize in 2003.

A Spectacular Historic, Cultural, Gastronomic and Wine
Tour of La Mancha & Andalucía

Exciting Madrid, Don Quixote’s La Mancha
& Exotic Moorish Andalucía

Madrid, Toledo & La Mancha, Granada, Ronda,
Los Pueblos Blancos, Cádiz, Sherry Country,
Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Sevilla, Córdoba & Chinchón

Pricing: $4,495* per person* (double occupancy), $4995* (single occupancy), which does not include airfare, since most travelers will want to arrange their flights using frequent flier miles or via the internet, where fares are often cheaper than group fares. Accommodations will be in excellent four-star hotels and paradores. At least two meals, sometimes three per day, including breakfast, designated multi-course luncheons/dinners and tapas meals will be included in the price (see meal code). All main meals include wines selected by Gerry Dawes.
(Meal Code: B = Breakfast; L = Lunch; D = Dinner; T = Tapas.)
In-country transportation will be by comfortable, roomy, air-conditioned bus.

*$250 discount for payment in full by certified check or money order at time of booking.

(Note: Tour based on a minimum of 16 paying guests. We can accommodate a maximum of 24 people plus the tour guide. *Price subject to change, if exchange rate fluctuates dramatically.)


Day 00 - Wednesday   Evening flight from US to Madrid

(Note: Most people will want to find their own flight arrangements to Madrid. We can discuss a group flight, but since most people usually make their own arrangements through frequent flier miles or other means, we should all plan to rendezvous in Madrid on Thursday morning.)

Day 01 - Thursday  Arrive Madrid (D)

Each tour member should take a taxi (approx $40) or group van ($50 total for up to 5-6 people, depending on luggage, for all, plus a small tip) in to Madrid to our hotel, the Lope de Vega, which is just across the avenue from the Prado Museum.

Free morning and part of the afternoon to get over jet lag, shop, visit museums, etc.

17:00 Meet in our hotel lobby. Guided tour of the Prado Museum

20:00 Meet in hotel lobby. Short walk to a great old Madrid taberna, where we will have an orientation session.
Madrid's Retiro Park

21:00 - We will stroll through the old quarter of Madrid and the Plaza Mayor, then have dinner at a typical Castilian Tavern, dining on such specialities as jamón ibérico, asparagus, roast suckling pig or lamb, lamb chops, etc. and plenty of good Spanish wine.

Roast Suckling Pig at Casa Botín in Madrid

Day 02 - Friday  Madrid (B, D)

Day & afternoon free for visiting museums, shopping, etc.

21:30 - Dinner at one of Madrid’s top restaurants.
As an option, we may sample some of capital city’s “movida” night life.

Day 03 - Saturday  Madrid - Toledo - La Mancha - Almagro (B, L)

In the morning, we will leave Madrid by bus to visit the magnificent town of Toledo, where El Greco painted so many memorable canvases. We will have lunch at the restaurant of a very special chef who has his own vineyard, then drive through Don Quixote country, stopping to see the windmills above the saffron-producing town of Consuegra and for a drink at the Venta del Quixote in Puerto Lapice.

Don Quixote

We will spend the night in Almagro, which has Spain’s best preserved Golden Age theater. The 16th-century teatro was host to many of the Spanish Shakespeare, Lope de Vegas’s plays and is still used for performances today. Evening free to explore this charming, easily walkable old town.

A Winery in La Mancha

Day 04 - Sunday, Nov. 04 Almagro -Granada (B, L)

In the morning, we will leave Almagro and drive to Granada, where a guide will lead us through one of the world’s greatest monuments, the Alhambra, the Moorish palace of legend. We will then visit the Generalife palace above the Alhambra and stroll the gardens.

The Alhambra Palace in Granada

Lunch will be at a special Granada restaurant, whose chef did a part of his apprenticeship at Restaurante Daniel in New York.

In the afternoon, we will visit the Cathedral and the Capilla Real to see the tombs of the Catholic Kings Isabela and Ferdinand, who drove the Moors from Spain and sponsored Columbus’s great voyage of discovery. In a small museum, alongside the tombs, we will see the exquisite collection of Flemish miniatures that belonged to Isabela and were hidden from view for centuries. Later, we will stroll through the labyrinthine streets of the Albaícin, the ancient Moorish quarter.

In the early evening, there will be time to relax before an optional stroll to the Campo del Principe, which has a dozen tapas bars, where we can try the hams of Trevélez, which are cured in caves high up in the Sierra Nevada mountains that soar above Granada. Those still game may want to go to the gypsy caves of Sacromonte to watch a colorful gypsy zambra dance performance.

Day 05 - Monday, Nov. 05 Granada - Ronda (B, D)

After breakfast, we will leave Granada and drive through the Andalucian countryside, visit a couple of unique white towns, arriving in time to explore the spectacular town of Ronda, a former mountain bandit stronghold and Hemingway favorite, which has one of the oldest, most beautiful bullrings in Spain. This town, which sits astride a 300-foot deep gorge, is like a set from Carmen. In fact, the Carmen opera movie was filmed here.

At the end of an exhilarating day, we will have dinner across from the historic bullring in an ambience-filled restaurant, itself a bullfight museum.

Day 06 - Tuesday  Ronda - Pueblos Blancos - Cádiz (B, L)

What a fabulous day we have ahead of us. In the morning, we will leave Ronda and drive through the unique pueblos blancos, the stunning white mountain villages of Cádiz province, which are among the most striking and beautiful in Europe. We will stop for lunch on delicious trout plucked from the southernmost trout stream in Europe - - cooked with a slice of superb mountain ham tucked in its belly.

White Village of Olvera in the Mountains near Ronda

After visiting some of the most wonderful villages in Europe, we will end up in the lovely, but little-visited, African-like city of Cádiz, which is surrounded on three sides by the sea. The afternoon and evening will be free for exploring this marvelous walking city of narrow streets and elegant 19th-Century buildings. Cádiz, the oldest continually occupied city in the western world, is a superb town for chilling out. You may want to take a carriage ride around the city, where the views and sunsets from the esplanades are truly splendid.

Those still game are invited to join an optional tapas hopping tour of the city.

Sunset in Cádiz

Day 07 - Wednesday  Cádiz - El Puerto de Santa María - Cádiz (B, L, D)

In the morning, we will visit Cádiz’s fine provincial museum and tour the colorful market, then take a short ferry ride across the bay to El Puerto de Santa María for a great casual seafood and fish luncheon, where we will buy pre-cooked shellfish by the kilo at one place, superb freshly fried fish at the other, then spread it all out at tables under the archways, order big salads, El Puerto’s excellent, light, dry fino Sherry and/or good Spanish beer.

After lunch we will return to Cádiz, where the afternoon is free for strolling, lollygagging, and, of course, the optional siesta. You will want to take in the sunset from the beach near our hotel. If it is a good day, sunsets here can be unforgettable. Dinner will be at one of the best restaurants in southern Spain.

Tapas (small dishes) with Sherry in southern Spain

Day 08 - Thursday  Cádiz - Jerez - Sanlúcar de Barrameda - Sevilla (B, L)

We will leave Cádiz by bus in the morning, tour one of Jerez’s magnificent, colorful, exotic sherry bodegas, the Saturday morning market in this wonderful sherry town, then take a short ride to the sherry town and fishing port of Sanlúcar de Barrameda. In Sanlúcar, we will meet a top sherry producer and have a splendid seafood luncheon with Sanlúcar’s unique, ethereal, manzanilla sherry in a one of Spain’s greatest traditional cuisine restaurants on Bajo de Guia beach, which overlooks the Guadalquiver River.

Sherry bodega (winery)

In late afternoon, we will arrive in one of Spain's loveliest cities, Sevilla, the city of Carmen. Optional tapas hopping tour of Sevilla in the evening and optional flamenco show in a town where everyone is a flamenco dancer.

Flamenco in Andalucia

Day 9 - Friday  Sevilla (B, D)

Morning guided tour of the Cathedral, Alcázar, and the Barrio de Santa Cruz, the ancient Jewish quarter. Sevilla is an exceptionally charming, magical, historic city filled with orange trees, exotic flowers and often spontaneous guitar music in the streets. (Our tour leader Gerry Dawes lived in this marvelous city for parts of 6 years.) 

Afternoon free for shopping, sightseeing, siestas. Dinner in a colorful Sevilla restaurant.

Giralda & Cathedral of Sevilla

Day 10 - Saturday Sevilla - Córdoba (B, L)

We leave in the morning for a picturesque hour and a half ride to the great old Roman, Moorish and Jewish city of Córdoba, once literally the greatest city in Europe. Home of a magnificent Roman bridge, the legendary Mezquita (Moorish mosque), the atmospheric old Jewish and Moorish quarter, flower be-decked patios and much more, Córdoba lives up to its billing as one of the most memorable, historic and exotic cities in Spain.
We will arrive at our hotel, located in the old quarter, check in, then take a guided tour of Córdoba, then have lunch with Montilla (the dry sherry-like wine of Córdoba) in a lovely ancient house owned by a superb old quarter restaurant with a first-rate wine list (the wines are kept in an old Roman cellar).

The rest of the afternoon will be free to explore this charming old city with optional tapas at a legendary Cordoba tavern-tapas bar and perhaps serendipitous flamenco.

Day 11 - Sunday, Nov. 11 Córdoba - La Mancha - Chinchón - Madrid (B, L)

A Restaurant Entrance in Chinchón

We will leave Córdoba in the morning, drive through parts of La Mancha we missed on the way up, with a few tapas stops along the way, then arrive in the magical 16th-century town of Chinchón, which looks like something right out of Cervantes. The town square is surrounded by balconied, half-timbered buildings and many of the buildings house picturesque restaurants serving superb regional cuisine. We will have a leisurely farewell lunch with local wines, then drive into Madrid, where a light dinner at an old quarter restaurant is optional.

Plaza Mayor in Chinchón

Day 12 - Monday, Nov. 12 Madrid - USA

Flights from Madrid to U.S.

End of tour. Option of more days in Madrid and other Spanish cities.


Speaking Appearances

Wines of Murcia, Power Point presentation and tasting of the Wines of Murcia at Morrell & Company, followed by a wine tasting dinner speaking engagement on the Wines of Murcia at Solera restaurant, New York City. Nov. 20, 2006

All photos are copyright 2006 by Gerry Dawes and may not be reproduced without permission. 
(Click on image for a larger view.)

San Antonio New World Wine & Food Festival (Nov. 6-12, 2006; dedicated to Spain ). Seminar presenter, Spanish co-ordinator, emcee & guest speaker at gala auction dinner.

CIA-Greystone, Napa Valley (Nov. 1-4): Five seminars with Power Point presentations on Spanish regional gastronomy, cheeses, wines, etc. at the most important Spanish gastronomy conference ever held in the United States.

General Session I: The Spanish Market Basket: Iconic Elements of Tradition, Exchange, and Invention
A culinary exploration of six foods—olive oil, salt, garlic, tomatoes, peppers, and wine—that have shaped the Spanish table and its contribution to world cooking

Moderator/presenter: José Andrés
>Presenters/guest chefs and experts: Miguel Palomo, Mª Carmen Velez, Karen MacNeil, Dani García, Gerry Dawes, Enric Canut, Colman Andrews, Rafael Vidal, María José San Román, Llorenç Petràs, Carles Gaig

General Session III: Rice Traditions of Spain: Preserving, Adapting, and Re-imagining Moderator: Gerry Dawes Presenters: Chefs María Muria Lloret, Carles Gaig, MªCarmen Vélez, and a live feed from our “PaellaCam” with Rafael Vidal in our outdoor rice kitchen

Seminar I B Ecolab Theater
Tasting Valencia: Of Gardens, Groves, and Vineyards

Moderator/presenter: Gerry Dawes Presenters: Chefs María Muria Lloret, MªCarmen Vélez, Rafael Vidal

Seminar V A Phelps Room
Spanish Cheeses, American Menus—and the Wines that Match
Moderator: Gerry Dawes Presenters: Cheese Experts & Authors Max McCalman, Enric Canut

Seminar IV Williams Center for Flavor Discovery
Tasting the Best of Traditional and Modern Spain: A Visual Feast of Markets, Tapas Bars, and Classic (and “Modern Classic”) Kitchens
Moderator/presenter: Gerry Dawes Presenter: Chef Jesús Ramiro, Mushroom Expert Llorenç Petràs

Also see Videos of Gerry Dawes speaking on Sherry at CIA-Worlds of Flavor Conference 2003.

Spain's Ten Conference (New York City, Oct. 13, 14, & 15): Emcee & presenter of chefs at a day-long event featuring ten of Spain’s greatest chefs and the most important Spanish gastronomic event ever held in New York.

Podcast Interview with Gerry Dawes about Spain's Ten

Star Chefs and Presenter Gerry Dawes at Spain's Ten

Daniel Boulud, Paco Torreblanca, Ruth Reichl at Spain's Ten

Photography by Gerry Dawes

Gerry Dawes copyright 2004

An avid aficionado of Spanish fiestas and a photographer, Gerry Dawes traveled extensively in Spain during the eight years he lived there, putting muchos kilómetros on Rocinante, his Volkswagen sedan. He amassed thousands of color transparencies and a wealth of knowledge about the country, its wine and food, customs and culture. He has published hundreds of wine, food and travel photographs in numerous magazines and has had cover photographs for The Wine Spectator, The Wine News, Wine Enthusiast and others.

His photographs have been published (often with his articles) in The Wine News, Food Arts, Decanter, Wine Enthusiast, Santé, The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, Food & Wine, Fine Wine Folio, Spain Gourmetour (Madrid), Restauradores (Madrid), Sobremesa (Madrid & Latin America) and many other publications.

He currently shoots both color tranparencies and high resolution digital photographs and is available for assignments.

Gerry Dawes
17 Charnwood Drive - Suite A
Suffern, NY 10901
Phone & Fax (call before faxing): 845-368-3486
Cell phone: 914-414-6982
Telefono movil (durante estancias en España): 670 67 39 34


Cava: Spain's Champagne Method Bubbly is Perfect for the Holidays

Cava - once cheap, now chic

(First Published in Wine News December/January 2005-06 Gerry Dawes©2006)

Riddling bottles at Juve y Camps

Over the past few years of sipping Cavas in some of Spain's top restaurants, it has become increasingly apparent that a number of the country's smaller producers are bottling some absolutely superb sparkling wines. By contrast, not too long ago, Spanish sparkling wine was little more than quaffable, mass-market bubbly widely available at bargain prices. While that still holds true for a large percentage of the staggering ten million-plus cases of Cava exported each year (another eight million-plus cases are consumed in Spain), during the past ten years — hand-in-hand with quality advances on the country's wine and gastronomy fronts — a number of Champagne-quality Cavas from a wide range of producers have emerged. Some of these exceptional wines are vintage dated, prestige brut cuvées; bone-dry, palate-cleansing brut natures (great with shellfish); and an increasingly impressive group of sparkling rosados (rosats in Catalan), some made with pinot noir, others with indigenous varieties such as trepat, monastrell and garnacha.
Cava Photos


Con-queso-dores: A Ham & Cheese Adventure in the Conquistador Villages of Western Spain, Castilla y León & The Mountains of Asturias

Con-queso-dores: A Ham & Cheese Journey in the Columbine and Conquistador Villages of Western Spain; the highlands of Castilla y León & The Mountains of Asturias

Text & photographs copyright by Gerry Dawes

One of the most rewarding trips in Spain for lover's of Spain's great cheeses, hams, historic sites and stunning scenery, is a trip through western Spain--ranging from Huelva on the Atlantic Ocean in the south; traversing the superb jamón Ibérico, exceptional queso and conquistador country of Extremadura; Salamanca and its Guijuelo ham country; Zamora for Zamorano cheese and Toro wine; León and its magficent stained-glass cathedral, Bierzo wine and Valdeón cheesese; and ending up back up in the north, again on the Atlantic, in the Asturias, land of cidra (cider) and Spain's Parque Naciónal de Quesos (National Park of Cheeses).

A couple of years ago, I embarked on an ambitious trip to Spain designed to accomplish several missions: My journey would begin in warm, southern Andalucía on the Atlantic Ocean and end in the cool northern coastal regions of the Cantabrian Sea and along the way I would visit some of Spain’s best cheese-producing regions in Extremadura and Castilla y León and end the trip in the so-called Parque Nacional de Quesos (National Park of Cheeses) in the northern provinces of Asturias and Cantabria. Along the way, I planned to sample Ibérico hams and embutidos (cured meats), which were recently approved for eventual importation into the United States.

Driving southeast from Sevilla to Mazagón (Huelva), I arrived at the beautiful Parador de Turismo, which sits on a cliff above a long stretch of Atlantic beach. From Mazagón, I explored Palos de la Frontera, the village where Christopher Columbus recruited his crews and set sail on his first voyage, and the monastery of La Rábida, where Franciscan monks had sheltered and encouraged Columbus, then helped him get his plan before Queen Isabela. Near Huelva, the provincial capital, a huge monument commemorating the discovery of the New World stands at the mouth of the rust red Río Tinto, from which Columbus sailed into the open sea on his way to immortality.

 The next morning I drove north into Huelva’s Sierra de Aracena mountains to Jabugo, famous for its jamones Ibéricos de bellota made from Iberian pata negra (black foot) pigs, which roam free in the autumn months fattening up on acorns foraged beneath the cork oaks. I spent the morning visiting the Consorcio de Jabugo, a producer of the first-rate jamones. Julio Revilla, the firm’s President, showed me around his impressive production facility, where hundreds of the world’s best hams were aging under ideal conditions. Revilla explained that because of aging requirements (2½ years for hams), the jamones will not be available in the U.S. until 2008. In the plant’s dining room, Revilla invited me to lunch (salad, the Consorcio’s own Castilian cheese from Valladolid, plenty of their first-rate ham, chorizo and lomo (cured Ibérico loin), plus cuts of grilled, fresh Ibérico pork, for which a big demand is developing in Japan.

After a stop at Aracena to pick up a Monte Robledo torta de cabra, a rare local small goats' milk cheese (tortas are usually made with sheeps' milk), I explored several little-known hill villages before reaching the intriguing Extremaduran town of Jerez de los Caballeros (Badajoz), hometown to both Hernando de Soto, discoverer of the Mississippi River, and Vasco Nuñez de Balbao, the first Western explorer to report seeing the Pacific Ocean. That evening, arriving in the lovely small city of Zafra, I stayed in the 15th-century fortified Dukes of Feria palace, now the Parador de Turismo. At dinner, served in the soaring, two-story Renaissance patio, I sampled the assertive and delicious Aracena goat torta, an intriguing cheese with hints of mushroom or truffle flavors.

The following day took me through stark, hilly terrain to the remote de la Serena region (Badajoz) to seek out the legendary Torta de la Serena. With much the same characteristics as Torta del Casar, this exceptional, expensive cheese is ~ in springtime and early summer versions ~ creamy, buttery, and spreadable like Brie, but with more intriguing, rustic flavors. I visited two excellent producers making cheeses from the de la Serena Denominación de Origen Protegida (D.O.P.) A D.O.P. operates under rules similar to those governing wine regions and guarantees the origins and production methods of a cheese.

Francisco Murillo, the D.O.P.’s technical director, took me to the Sánchez Ruíz (Toril del Cardo brand) cheese factory near the rocky, hillside town of Benquerencia. Murillo showed me a small artisan plant surrounded by well-trod grounds where scores of merino sheep, the approved breed, rested beneath the shade of oak trees. Murillo explained that D.O.P. Tortas de la Serena are made only with leche cruda de oveja, raw sheeps' milk, and he also pointed out the cardo silvestre (Cynara cardunculus; wild thistle flowers) that produce the vegetable rennet used to coagulate the milk. Cheeses made from this rennet ~ a practice rooted in ancient Moorish and Jewish dietary laws ~ often have a Vacherin Mont d’Or-like creaminess and a pleasant bitter almond finish. Murillo also gave me a tour of Lácteos de Castuera, a modern production plant that still requires careful daily hand-turning of the cheeses and cleaning the planks they rest on while aging. He gave me three tortas de la Serena, each with a lace band around its rind and packaged in a small brown cazuela, a reusable ceramic baking dish.

After stopping in Medellín, where an imposing statue of explorer Hernan Cortés stands in the town square, I drove to the great monumental Roman city of Mérida and checked into the Parador, this one ensconced in a renovated convent on a charming plaza. After touring Mérida’s splendid Roman theater and amphitheater, fine Roman Museum (designed by Rafael Moneo) and awesome Roman bridge over the Guadiana River, I dined at the Parador. The simpática server offered me jamón Ibérico from the D.O. Dehesa de Extremadura, followed by a local cheese selection that included a Manchego-type sheeps' cheese; a creamy, log-shaped Doña Inés goats' cheese; an exceptional Torta de Barros (from south of Mérida; winner of the 2003 Salón Internacional Club de Gourmets Torta cheese competition); and several goat cheeses from Berrocales Trujillanos, including an excellent Ibores from Trujillo.

The next day, my itinerary included the little-known hilltop town of Montánchez. Also famous for its hams, Montánchez soars above the Extremaduran plain and has superb views from the hermitage below the castle ruins that crown the hill. After enjoying a picnic lunch of some Ibérico ham and chorizo, local cured olives, wine and fresh figs, and a Serena Torta, I drove to Trujillo, one of Spain’s most striking and history-steeped towns.

Trujillo was the hometown of Francisco Pizarro, conqueror of Peru, and Francisco Orellana, a kinsman of Pizarro who discovered the Amazon River. The town is filled with photographic opportunities including Pizarro’s great equestrian statue, the towering San Martín church on the storybook town square, a number of palaces including Pizarro’s, a castle on the hill and many distinguished buildings along steep, winding streets that offer dramatic vistas.

Previous paradores were good places to sample local cheeses. Trujillo was no exception, with good reason: The D.O.P. Ibores offices are located here and Trujillo is host to the most highly esteemed cheese competition in Spain, the annual Feria del Queso, where, in the Plaza Mayor on the first weekend in May, some 350 cheeses are available for judging, sampling and sale. At the parador, I was served a smooth, delicious Ibores goat cheese and a soft, rich tortita de Barros – cut in half and surrounded by toast rounds.

After a restful night, I set out for Cáceres to visit a Torta del Casar producer who came highly recommended by Toño Pérez, chef-owner of Átrio, a Michelin one-star restaurant that serves the best modern cuisine in Extremadura. Just southeast of Cáceres is EXLAJA, a modest, artisan quesería that produces a first-rate Torta del Casar ("Tiana"), a famous non-D.O.P. torta (El Castúo), a flavorful semi-curado and a characterful curado (aged one year). Now a D.O.P. recognized by the EU, Torta del Casar is a raw milk Merino sheep cheese that is also coagulated with wild thistle rennet. Similar in style to the French Vacherin Mont d’Or o Epoisses(both cows' milk cheeses), Torta del Casar can be semi-soft or ripened to the point that it becomes molten and can be scooped out with a piece of crusty country bread. Torta del Casar, which gets its name from its torta-shape (like a Spanish potato omelette, or tortilla), is quite expensive since it takes several sheep (two milkings a day) to get the gallon of milk required just to make a two-pound cheese.

I tasted several cheeses at EXLAJA, photographed some charmingly picturesque young lambs and the purple cardo silvestre flowers growing on the property, then drove into Cáceres, enjoying a superb lunch at Átrio – with Torta del Casar ice cream with membrillo strips and vanilla oil for dessert! After lunch I explored the historic old quarter of Cáceres, then drove north, stopping briefly in the town of Casar, from whence the cheese gets its name, to photograph a wonderful scene – the bell tower of the town church crowned with storks in their nests with a herd of sheep in the foreground. Further north, I stopped briefly in late evening at Guijuelo, a town south of Salamanca filled with Ibérico jamon and embutido processing plants, including those of Joselito, the most sought-after in Spain. I spent the night in Salamanca, a city famous for its historic university, its plateresque architecture and the most beautiful Plaza Mayor in Spain. Taking a temporary respite from cheese and ham sampling, I dined that evening on grilled shrimp and the region’s famous tostón, roast suckling pig.

The next day I drove to León, the last stop before continuing into the majestic, but challenging high mountains of the Picos de Europa and the National Park of Cheeses. On the way, I passed through Zamora, where the excellent D.O.P. Zamorano cheese is made from pasteurized milk from churra and castellano sheep. North of Zamora I stopped to visit the ruins of the once magnificent 12th-century Romanesque Cistercian monastery at Granja de Moreruela. Flanking the ruins, standing like soldiers at attention, were thousands of wild thistles, now dried and glowing golden in the rays of the evening sun.

Upon reaching León, I found it in the midst of fiesta, and its restaurants and bars packed. Volunteers worked steadily to create a huge carpet of flowers in front of León’s magnificent Gothic cathedral, but even the flower carpet was upstaged by the sight of the church’s superb stained glass windows lit from inside and glowing like iridescent jewels against the night sky.

The following morning, I headed north to another majestic cathedral, this time a natural one, the mighty Picos de Europa mountains. I had an appointment with Marino González, President of COASA ~ a group of some 40 artisan producers, including González, who is the prime mover behind promoting artisanal food products from the bounteous Asturian cornucopia. Marino led me to Posado de León, a small village in northeastern León province nestled in a valley beneath awesome mountains, which still had pockets of snow in early July. Here the Alonso brothers make Queso de Valdeón, one of the great blue cheeses of Europe. Made principally with cows milk (sometimes laced with a bit of sheeps and/or goats milk), the cheeses are injected with pencillum mold, aged under humid conditions, then wrapped in sycamore leaves before being sold. Valdeón is a wonderfully smooth and creamy cheese with all the character of a classic blue cheese, without the more aggressive traits of other blue cheeses.

After visiting Valdeón, I followed Marino González through the dramatic 14-kilometer canyon, the Desfiladero de Los Beyos, and up into the hills to visit his family home, where his sister produces the highly regarded artisan cheese, Beyos. A historic cheese that was nearly extinct, this dense, compact, "peasant"-style, cows milk queso has a unique flinty texture and flavor. The firmness at first bite melts into a buttery, creamy, chalky paste, which makes it a cheese par excellence with cider or wine. I sampled the Beyos with Asturian cider that Marino poured from a height into wide-mouthed glasses. Versions of Beyos are also made with goats milk and mixed cow and goats milk.

For two days I stayed in the Cangas de Onís, an important Asturian tourist and market town in the foothills, visiting a number of cheese producers who work with Marino González, sampling Cabrales, Spain’s most famous D. O. P. blue cheese, a semi-soft blue (made mostly from raw cows milk) with a strong, spicy flavor, and Gamoneu, one of the few remaining naturally bluing blue cheeses. This is made from raw cows' milk (with some goats or sheeps milk mixed in) and has a creamy, pungent flavor. I watched a Gamoneu producer’s wife work the coagulating curds and whey up to her elbows, after which she stoked the apple wood fire that provides the smoky flavor to rows of aging cheese wheels.

At Arenas de Cabrales, I visited Marino González’s own artisan cheese plant and the dark, humid caves on the hill where hundreds of Cabrales cheeses were maturing. I also tasted such cheeses as Afuega L’Pitu, Peñamellera and Ovín, but recounting my cheese adventures in this National Park of Cheeses is alone the subject for another article.

As I was driving towards Cantabria, the thought occurred to me to attempt to reach Tresviso, a town hidden at the end of a corkscrew road up in the highest peaks of these mountains, where a powerful D.O.P. blue cheese, Picón Bejes-Tresviso, is made. But the road was too difficult in my rental car, and I soon retraced my route and headed for the Parador de Turismo Gil Blas at Santillana del Mar, a Medieval village near the sea, southwest of Santander. As luck would have it, the selection of cheeses that final night at the parador included several Cantabrian cheeses including a pungent, grey-blue cheese from Tresviso. It reminded me that on my next trip to Spain’s National Park of Cheeses, Tresviso will be high on my list of places to visit.


Remembrances of Times Past: CIA-Worlds of Flavor General Session Flavors of Spain 2006: Espherification Videos with Ferran Adrià & José Andrés

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Here are two excellent videos in English and in Spanish from the Culinary Institute of America's historic Flavors of Spain Conference in 2006.  

Ferran Adrià demonstrates his revolutionary espherification and reverse espherification tecniques and José Andrés translates and embellishes the descriptions.

Ferran Adrià. Photo copyright 2007 by Gerry Dawes.

José Andrés at the CIA-Flavors of Spain 2006. Photo copyright 2006 by Gerry Dawes.

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.

Experience Spain With Gerry Dawes: Culinary Trips to Spain & Travel Consulting on Spain

Gerry Dawes can be reached at; Alternate e-mail (use only if your e-mail to AOL is rejected):

Gerry Dawes: Credits & Biographical Information

Gerry Dawes
Suffern, New York
(914) 414-6982

Credits & Biographical Information

Gerry Dawes is a New York-based gastronomy, wine and travel writer-photographer who specializes in Spain. He lived in Spain for eight years, has been traveling there for thirty years and visits the country as many as eight times per year. In the past decade, he has made more than sixty extensive food and wine trips to Spain and leads gastronomic and wines tours to Spain.

Gerry Dawes was awarded the prestigious Premio Nacional de Gastronomía Marqués de Busianos 2003 (Spanish National Gastronomy Prize) from the Spanish Academy of Gastronomy for writing, photography, and lectures about Spanish gastronomy and wines and is also the 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. According to Food Arts magazine, Dawes is known, "for good reasons in wine and periodical circles as Mr. Spain."

The Rosengarten Report says "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 the subject of Spanish wine, food and culture."

Dawes has published hundreds of articles and photographs on Spanish food and wine for numerous publications and he lectures frequently both in the U.S. and in Spain on Spanish gastronomy, wine and culture, often using colorful PowerPoint presentations illustrated with his photographs.

— Finalist, 2001 James Beard Foundation Journalism Awards: Magazine Writing on Spirits, Wine and Beer.

— James Beard Foundation Restaurant Awards Judge (1998 - present)

— Amigo de Madrid (Presented by the Mayor of Madrid.)

— Chairman, 17th Annual James Beard Foundation Auction Dinner, Essex House Hotel, New York, Nov. 16, 2003 The Flavors of Spain Honoring Juan Mari Arzak & Ferran Adriá (Broke all existing records by $100,000.)

Video clip (interview in Spanish):,2956,35582_39233338_39231713_131324_0,00.html

Audio clips: A radio interview in English with Restaurant Guys.


— Food Arts (Contributing Authority on Spain)
— The Wine News
— Spain Gourmetour (Madrid)
— Santé
— Foods From Spain News
- Wines From Spain News

Articles and/or photographs published in:

— Wine International (Great Britain)
— Decanter
— Food & Wine
— Restauradores (Madrid; Spanish language) - American correspondent
— Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar
— La Prensa del Rioja
— El Diario de La Rioja
— Sobremesa (Madrid, a publication now more than 25 years old)
— Wine Enthusiast
— The New York Times
— Martha Stewart Living
— The Chicago Tribune
— Saveur
— James Beard Foundation Magazine
— Fine Wine Folio
— Playboy (America's Best Restaurants; America's Best Bars)
— The Wine Spectator (photos only).
— Berlitz Travellers Guide to Spain
— Kevin Zraly's Windows on the World Complete Wine Course
— The World of Wine by Frank E. Johnson (45 photographs)
— Pamplona by Ray Mouton (photographs)

Current Articles:

— Santé, Extensive article with tasting notes and photos on a range of wines from around Spain. (Oct., 2006)

— Food Arts, Silver Spoon profile of Spanish gastronomy figure Clara Maria de Amézua. (Oct., 2006)

— Spain Gourmetour (new consumer edition). Travel article on the Ribera del Duero and its wines. 400,000 copies distributed with The New York Times. (Oct., 2006)

— Wine News, 3,000-word article on Ribera del Duero with photographs. (Oct. - Nov., 2006).

— Wines From Spain News, cover story on the wines of Bierzo. (Autumn issue, 2006)

— Foods From Spain News, Gerry's View, (Autumn edition).

— Spain-US Chamber of Commerce magazine, Long article on Cava, gala issue (Oct. 2006)

— Food Arts, 3,000-word article with photographs on Valencian gastronomy. Scheduled for March 2007)

— Spain Gourmetour, 3,000-word article with photographs on Valencian wines pending publication.

Public Speaking Experience

Gerry Dawes has been a featured speaker on Spain, Spanish wines, gastronomy, culture and travel at:

— The Smithsonian Institution
— Macy's De Gustibus
— Executive Wine Seminars, New York
— Tasters Guild International
— International Wine Center
— Boston Wine Expo
— Centro Riojano (Madrid)
— Culinary Institute of America (Greystone & Hyde Park)
— Oldways Preservation & Exchange Trust International Leadership Symposium (Barcelona, at EXPO '92, in Sevilla, and in Madrid)

Conferences, Benefits, Speaking Engagements:

— Conference on Spanish Regional Gastronomy II International Congress on the Mediterranean Diet (Held in Barcelona and Córdoba, Spain; March 1998)

— Culinary Institute of America (Hyde Park, NY) 1998 Winter Dining Series

— The James Beard Foundation's Mediterranean Festival (New York; October, 1999) - A Photographic Tour of Spain's Regional Cuisines & Wines

— First International Symposium on Tempranillo (Logroño, Spain; April, 2000)

— The 10th Annual Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta (Santa Fe, New Mexico; Sept. 2000)

— Texas Hill Country Wine & Food Festival (Austin, Texas; April, 2001) A Culinary Slide Lecture Tour of Spain's Regional Cuisines & Wines

— Fiesta de España, Two Rivers Theater Company benefit, Food & Wine Co-ordinator; Speaker VIP Tasting (Oceanport, NJ; June 2002)

— Guest speaker on Rias Baixas wines, The Great Match, The Regent Wall Street Hotel, NYC (Oct., 2002)

— Guest speaker on Ribero del Duero wines, The Great Match, Scottsdale Culinary Institute, Scottsdale, Arizona (Oct., 2002)

— Guest speaker, Food & Wine Co-ordinator, A Fresh Taste of Spain Dinner, Union Square Cafe (Nov. 2002)

— Faculty Lecturer, Artisanal Cheese Center, classes on Spanish cheeses and wines. (May 2003 - Present).

— Guest speaker on the wines of the Spanish Levante, The Great Match, New York City (Sept., 2003)

— Featured Speaker & Panelist (four seminars on Spanish gastronomy & wines), Worlds of Flavor: Mediterranean Flavors, American Menus--Tasting the Future, Culinary Institute of America, Napa Valley, (November 6-8, 2003)

— Guest Speaker, Celebration of the Gastronomy of Spain Dinner, Rainbow Room,
New York City (Feb. 2004)

— Guest Speaker, A Taste of Spain Dinner, Cindy's Supper Club, Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen, St. Helena, California (June, 2004)

— Guest speaker on the wines of the Spanish Levante, The Great Match Miami, Florida (Oct., 2004)

— Seminar on Spanish Wines & Cheeses, Macy's De Gustibus, New York City (Oct., 2004)

— Guest Speaker on Rare Spanish Wines, Christie's New York Spanish Wine Dinner/Tasting at Aquavit Restaurant, New York City (Dec., 2004)

— Inaugural Speaker on the Wines of Spain & Wines of the Spanish Levante, Encuentro Verema IV, Valencia, Spain (in Spanish). (Feb., 2005)

— Featured Speaker, Menu and Wine Co-ordinator for a series of six dinners on Spanish-related themes during the Salvador Dalí Exhibition, Philadelphia Museum of Art Museum Restaurant, Philadelphia, PA. ( Feb. - May, 2005)

— Featured Panelist on Spanish Cheeses & Wines, More than Manchego, Arbequina and Rioja: Exploring Spanish Denominacion of Origen Cheeses, Olive Oils and Wines, International Association of Culinary Professionals, 27th Annual Conference, Wyndham Anatole Hotel, Dallas, Texas (April, 2005)Demand for seminar required moving it a room with double the capacity.

— Guest Speaker on Valencian culture, gastronomy and wine, at a dinner in honor of Francisco Camps, President of La Generalitat de La Comunitat Valenciana, at Thomas Keller’s Per Se Restaurant, New York City (April, 2005) (Talk given in Spanish.)

— Guest speaker, CRDO Ribera del Duero Special Selecion Wine Tasting Tour of the U.S. 2005, eight events in Chicago, Culinary Institute of America-Greystone (Napa Valley), Berkeley, San Francisco and Washington, DC.

— Guest speaker, Worlds of Flavor Conference, Culinary Institute of America-Greystone (Napa Valley). Power Point seminars with own photography on Spanish cheeses and wines and on Spanish regional cuisine and wines made from indigenous grape varities. (November, 2005)

— Panelist (on Petit Verdot in the Iberian Peninsula) with Carlos Falcó (Marqués de Griñon), José Peñin (one of Spain's top wine writers) and Jésus Flores (Author and Master Sommelier), IberWine, Madrid Spain. (Dec., 2005)

— Panelist (on world-wide wine trends), Madrid Fusión 2006 (one of the world's most prestigious gastronomic conferences). Madrid (Jan., 2006)

— Panelist on the future of Spanish cuisine, Congreso de Hosteleria, Valencia, Spain, (March, 2006)— Panelist on Catalan cuisine, Turisme de Barcelona round table on the future of Catalan food, Barcelona (March, 2006)

— Panelist on Marketing Navarra Food and Wine Products in the United States, Camara Navarra, Pamplona (March, 2006)

— Panelist on Palo Cortado, Palacio del Marques de Domecq, Vinoble, Jerez de la Frontera (June, 2006)

— Judge, Concurso de Quesos (Grupo Gourmets National Cheese Competition), Salón Internacional de Gourmets 2004 & 2006, Madrid. (The most prestigious cheese competition in Spain.)

— Holland America Cruise Lines Food & Wine Magazine Enrichment Program (July, 2006): Lectured on the tourist attractions and gastronomy of Cataluña. Power Point presentation on the cheeses and wines of Cataluña, followed by a tasting of six wines and six cheeses.

— Silver Seas Cruise Line Wine Lecture Series (Oct. 3 - 9): Lecture and tasting of Spanish Mediterranean Cheeses and Wines; Lecture on the cuisines and wines of Cadiz, Malaga, Valencia, Barcelona and the Balearic Islands.

— Spains Ten Conference (New York City, Oct. 13, 14, & 15): Emcee & presenter of chefs at a day-long event featuring ten of Spain’s greatest chefs and the most important Spanish gastronomic event ever held in New York.

— Commonwealth Club of San Francisco (Oct. 19-30): Led 24 members of the West Coast's most prestigious public forum society on a gastronomic and wine tour of northern Spain (Madrid, Ribera del Duero, Burgos, La Rioja, Bilbao, San Sebastian, Navarra and Barcelona).

— CIA-Greystone, Napa Valley (Nov. 1-4): Five seminars with Power Point presentations on Spanish regional gastronomy, cheeses, wines, etc. at the most important Spanish gastronomy conference ever held in the United States.

General Session I: The Spanish Market Basket: Iconic Elements of Tradition, Exchange, and Invention
A culinary exploration of six foods—olive oil, salt, garlic, tomatoes, peppers, and wine—that have shaped the Spanish table and its contribution to world cooking
Moderator/presenter: José Andrés Presenters/guest chefs and experts: Miguel Palomo, Mª Carmen Velez, Karen MacNeil, Dani García, Gerry Dawes, Enric Canut, Colman Andrews, Rafael Vidal, María José San Román, Llorenç Petràs, Carles Gaig

General Session III: Rice Traditions of Spain: Preserving, Adapting, and Re-imagining
Moderator: Gerry Dawes Presenters: Chefs María Muria Lloret, Carles Gaig, MªCarmen Vélez, and a live feed from our "PaellaCam" with Rafael Vidal in our outdoor rice kitchen

Seminar I B Ecolab Theater
Tasting Valencia: Of Gardens, Groves, and Vineyards
Moderator/presenter: Gerry Dawes Presenters: Chefs María Muria Lloret, MªCarmen Vélez, Rafael Vidal

Seminar V A Phelps Room
Spanish Cheeses, American Menus—and the Wines that Match
Moderator: Gerry Dawes Presenters: Cheese Experts & Authors Max McCalman, Enric Canut

Seminar IV Williams Center for Flavor Discovery
Tasting the Best of Traditional and Modern Spain: A Visual Feast of Markets, Tapas Bars, and Classic (and "Modern Classic") Kitchens
Moderator/presenter: Gerry Dawes Presenter: Chef Jesús Ramiro, Mushroom Expert Llorenç Petràs

— San Antonio New World Wine & Food Festival (Nov. 6-12, 2006; dedicated to Spain ). Resident scholar, Spanish co-ordinator, emcee & guest speaker at gala auction dinner.

— Wines of Murcia, Power Point presentation and tasting of the Wines of Murcia at Morrell & Company, followed by a Wines of Murcia dinner speaking engagement at Solera restaurant, New York City. Nov. 20, 2006


The Emerging Wines of Valencia:

by Gerry Dawes copyright2006

(First appeared in Spain Gourmetour magazine [consumer edition, 400,000 copies of which were circulated as an insert in The New York Times in Fall, 2006)

The exotic, once Moorish-dominated Comunitat Valenciana–which encompasses the provinces of Valencia, Alicante and Castellón de la Plana–and its capital, the ancient, but suddenly ultra-modern and rapidly growing Mediterranean port city, Valencia, has long been known for its wild end-of-winter Fiesta called Las Fallas and sunny beaches that have become nirvana for northern Europeans who flock to Valencia like Americans do to Florida. Gastro-nomically, Valencia is known world-wide for paella–in reality a wide variety of rice dishes made with local bomba or senia arroces–and nationally for its, Mediterranean seafood, Valencia oranges and clementines from Castellón, almonds and almond turrón candy from Jijona and dates from the largest date palm forest in Europe in Elche (both in Alicante province). Until recently, except for the large quantities of bulk wines shipped most to northern Europe, the only vinos la Comunitat Valenciana was known for were a strange, but exotic and wonderful vino rancio from Alicante called Fondillón and sweet dessert mistelas made from luscious moscatel grapes from the vineyards of Valencia and Alicante. (see more)


Sherry’s Image Gets a Makeover

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To meet the challenge of making their classical fortified wines attractive to an increasingly younger demographic group that is much more in tune to sexy new age table wines, sherry producers, while almost always quite hospitable and charming to visitors, have had to reconsider the aristocratic, often arrogant image that they projected to the world and wrestle with the significant problem of putting a new face on the stodgy image of their wines. In today’s market, classicism seems anachronistic to many consumers, especially with the new wave wine crowd that has emerged in the past decade.

Javier Hidalgo believes that sherry’s old-fashioned image was created because the sherry producers have been making wines specifically for export markets and he disagrees with this approach. Hidalgo says, “These sherries are very different from the kind of sherries we drink in Spain. I think we were wrong to export product that were not of the type we consume in Spain.”

Javier Hidalgo drinking his Bodegas Hidalgo Napoleon Amontillado.
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2010 / Contact

Stephen Olson (aka The Wine Geek), a New York-based wine professional and drinks consultant, who was contracted by the Commercial Office of Spain to promote several high-profile brands and to find ways to make new converts to joys of drinking good sherry, also admits that overcoming sherry’s “stodgy” image is a formidable task.

Olson also knows that the chances are slim that Americans will learn to love sherry if they are introduced to it in most American bars and restaurants, the majority of which offer a couple of standard brands in bottle long since opened and kept unrefrigerated behind the bar. Olson says, “Most bartenders don’t know what sherry is, have never been taught how sherries sound be served, and they don’t have the proper glasses for it.”

There are signs though that sherries are not condemned forever to conjure up images of antiquated “dinosaur” wines favored by elitist wine aficionados (duty bound to cover all the classical wine bases) or of cooking sherry consigned to the back of a cupboard and eventually pilfered by puberal grandkids foraging for something naughty to drink or of sweet wines with English names that are drunk on the rocks.

Steve Olson conducts sherry seminars for consumers, but also for sommeliers, chefs, bartendars, and restaurant staffs. He says wine and food professionals quickly become converts once they have been taught about sherries and get a chance to taste them served properly (finos and manzanillas, and some amontillados chilled; palo cortados, olorosos, Pedro Ximénez, creams and dessert sherries cool) in a tulip-shaped sherry glass or small tulip-shaped wine glass. “Many professionals who are served these wines in a good glass become sherry aficionados,” Olson says. “If you pour them a fresh manzanilla, fino or amontillado and serve a bite of food with it, they love it.”

Olson likes to point to number of success stories in top-end American restaurants. At Ilo in New York, the highly-regarded chef Rick Lakonnen liked sherries so much with some of his dishes that he now offers 8 to 10 sherries by the glass. Joseph Scalice, co-owner and wine director of March, which has been one of Manhattan’s top dining establishments for more that a decade, has long been a sherry lover and even has his own selections under the Dios Baco label. Rob Bigelow, the Master Sommelier who runs the wine programs at Il Circo and Le Cirque in Las Vegas, also offers a number of sherries by the glass and sommelier Jorge Liloy of Nuevo Latino restaurant Patria in New York has a list of 25 to 30 sherries by the glass.

Max McCalman—author of The Cheese Table, mâitre fromager at New York’s Picholine and Artisanal, and one of America’s top cheese gurus—often pairs sherries with some of the 225 cheeses he offers in the two restaurants. “Most dry sherries, because of their crispness, acidity, and pungency are excellent foils for cheeses. Stronger, more assertive, full-flavored palo cortados, olorosos, Pedro Ximénez and creams are fine companions to powerful flavors of aged and blue cheeses.”

Olson also points out that dry manzanilla, fino, and amontillado sherries have a particular afinity for seafood dishes, especially shellfish, which is not surprising since they are often the wines of preference with Spain’s superb crustaceans, which are some of the best in the world.

Olson also points out that “One of the classic matches for sherries, especially amontillados, is soup.” Many restaurants that offer black bean soup either lace it with sherry or offer a glass alongside, but dry sherries are also excellent partners to seafood soups and consommes and the “brown” sherries such as lightly sweetened amontillados and olorosos are perfect foils for thick autumn and winter soups, chowders, etc.

There are signs that a foundation is being laid for turning a new generation on to sherries. The ubiquitous Spanish habit of having tapas with a drink - - call it hors d’ouevres noshing - - is growing in popularity in the United States and tapas bars are popping up like mushrooms. Most, if not all of them, offer a range of sherries by the glass. A recent survey showed that there are now more than fifty Spanish restaurants serving tapas in Manhattan alone. That doesn’t include dozens more in the surrounding burroughs and in nearby communties in New Jersey and Connecticut, nor the Latino cuisine restaurants that serve tapas and the scores of non-Spanish restaurants that now offer a selection of small dishes and call them tapas.

One of the most pleasant surprises Steve Olson encountered in finding food matches for sherry is its afinity for Asian food, especially Japanese food. Sushi Samba in New York’s Flatiron district matches dry sherries with sushi and sashimi.

Sherry’s staid image is getting a makeover.


Copa de Jerez Sherry & Food Matching Competition

The International COPA JEREZ is a competition featuring chefs and sommeliers who have won preliminary competitions in their home countries by matching creative dishes to specific Sherrries. The finals in Jerez de la Frontera, capital of the Sherry district, will showcase winning chef and sommelier teams representing Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, USA, The Netherlands, Japan and United Kingdom.

Jerez de la Frontera

Sherry Bodega

During the finals--to be held in Jerez on January 11, 2007--each team will defend and justify their maridaje, or Sherry-and-creative dish marriages, in front of a panel of judges anchored by Heston Blumenthal of Fat Duck, and including Juli Soler of El Bulli, and Doug Frost, MS, MW.

Juli Soler of El Bulli

The Chef/Sommelier team of one of NYC's finest restaurants has been selected to represent the USA at the International Competition of the COPA Jerez in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain next month. Andy Nusser, executive chef, and Nancy Selzer, GM/sommelier, both co-proprietors with Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich of NY's celebrated Casa Mono, have chosen a brilliant array of Sherries to complement their original, creative cuisine.

An Andy Nusser scallop dish at Casa Mono

Copa Jerez was born some years ago with the aim of explaining the potential of Vinos de Jerez in the world’s gastronomy. After the success of the 1st Edition International Final in January 2005, Copa Jerez's prestige has grown rapidly and national competitions in 2006 drew a large number of enthusiastic chef-and-sommelier teams vying for a trip to the finals in Jerez.

American competitors at Copa Jerez 2005

All photographs copyright 2005 by Gerry Dawes.


Gerry's View - Spanish Food Reports Filed in Foods From Spain News

2006 - Madrid Fusion, Alimentaria & BCN Vanguardia, Salon Internacional de Gourmets, Spain's Ten, CIA-Worlds of Flavor, San Antonio New World Wine & Food Festival

The world of Spanish gastronomy has never been more exciting. Culinary conferences spotlighting Spain, both in Spain and the U.S.; trade shows with a focus on Spanish foodstuffs and wines; and gastronomic promotional events throughout the year offer unique opportunities to sample, savor and learn about both exciting, cutting edge Spanish cuisine and the great cooking based on the rich food traditions of Spain.

In January, as reported in Foods From Spain News (Winter Issue), Madrid Fusión 2006 took center stage in Madrid and dazzled the world press with innovative presentations from Spanish star chefs and culinarians such as Ferran Adrià, Juan Mari Arzak, Martín Berasategui, Thomas Keller, Charlie Trotter, José Andrés and Harold McGee, the author of On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen.

On October 14, Madrid Fusión will make its debut in New York appearance with Spain's Ten, a day-long "mini Madrid Fusión"as a part of the events surrounding the inauguration of the new International Center for Food & Wine, an offshoot of the long-established French Culinary Institute. Invited to the event are ten top Spanish modern cuisine chefs including Adrià, Arzak, Berasategui, Joan Roca and Paco Torreblanca. Several of these same chefs will also cook at a gala dinner for the James Beard Foundation on Oct. 12 and for the press and invited American chefs on Oct. 13 in the kitchens of the International Center for Food & Wine.

In March, far less well-known that Madrid Fusión in international gastronomic circles, but quite spectacular for professional culinarians and aficionados was the superb BCNVanguardia ‘06 Congreso Internacional de Gastronomía de Alimentaria that was featured during the huge Alimentaria trade fair, a bi-annual event with thousands of exhibitors, which took place in Barcelona from March 6-10.

In May, late this year because of the Easter holidays, the Salón Internacional del Club de Gourmets (May 8-11 at the Casa del Campo) featured in three different exhibition halls some 1,000 exhibitors showing 35,000 products to more than 50,000 visitors. 2006 marks the 20th Anniversary of this stellar trade show. Grupo Gourmets, the organizers of this annual event is also celebrating 30 years as the publishers of Club de Gourmets magazine and an outstanding, indispensable guidebook series that includes the annual Gourmetour Guía Gastronómica y Turística de España, the Guía de Vinos Gourmets wine guide and GourmetQuesos, a guide to Spain’s superb cheeses. During the Salón Internacional de Gourmets each year, the Bocuse d’Or prize for the best young chef in Spain is awarded, as well as Gourmetour prizes for the best restaurant, best chef, etc. There are also competitions of national significance for the best Cortador de Jamón (Ibérico ham-cutting championship), sponsored /Dehesa de Extremadura, and the Cata-Concurso de los Mejores Quesos de España, a judging of Spain’s finest cheeses that has been narrowed to ten finalists in each of seven categories.

On May 15 and 16 in New York and May 17 and 18 in Chicago, at a series of tastings the government of Navarra’s trade mission to the United States presented a range of Navarra food products such as pimientos de piquillo, asparagus and a wide variety of quality conserved vegetables and fruits, olive oil, cheeses and wines–charming Chardonnays, superb rosados, world-class reds and luscious dessert wines. For more information about products from Navarra, contact: José Guerra ( from Foods From Spain or Miguel Moncada ( from the Cámara Navarra, the Chamber of Commerce of Navarra. Tasting & Touring in Navarra.

Also on the calendar are at least two other exciting Spanish-oriented gastronomic events, both of which will take place in November, 2006. The Culinary Institute of America's 9th annual Worlds of Flavor International Conference & Festival, will take place at their Greystone campus (a former monastery and winery) in Napa Valley from November 2-4, 2006. Widely acknow-ledged as the America's premier annual forum on world cuisines and culinary flavor trends for chefs, food journalists, and other food service, beverage and hospitality industry professionals, this year’s Worlds of Flavor event will be dedicated to Spain. Greg Drescher, Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives at the Culinary Institute of America told Foods From Spain News, "This year the CIA will stage the largest and most comprehensive conference ever held in the United States on Spanish food and wine, and the contribution of Spain to world menus past and future. Our 2006 program, Spain and the World Table: Regional Traditions, Invention and Exchange, will bring together more than 50 guest faculty, leading chefs, cooks, cookbook authors, and other culinary and beverage experts from throughout Spain as well as from across the United States and elsewhere around the world. Conference presenters will lead seminars, tastings, and demonstrations and collaborate on special meals and the spectacular food bazaars and cultural events at the World Marketplace held in Greystone's historic 15,000 square foot Barrel Room."

This year’s Worlds of Flavor event, which focuses on the traditional cuisines of Spain–as well as modern cuisine elements–promises to be the most spectacular Spanish gastronomic event of the year. José Andrés, author, Spanish television personality and chef-partner in several Jaleo restaurants in Washington, D.C. will chair the event. For more information see:

Less than a week later, from November 7 to 12, the 2006 San Antonio (Texas) New World Wine and Food Festival will also be dedicated to Spain in general and will highlight the gastronomy of the Canary Islands (many San Antonio area residents trace their roots to the Canary Islands). The festival will feature seminars and tasting on Spanish gastronomy, Spanish wines and cheeses and Canary Islands food, wine and culture. Spanish chefs from both the mainland and the Canary Islands will be invited to do demonstrations, cook at gala dinners, etc.


New Spanish Cookbooks

Fall, 2006

With the publication in the U. S. of four more major Spanish cookbooks in the past several months, the good news for Spanish gastronomy and food products just keeps coming. For years, the only serious Spanish cookbooks that one encountered in the major bookstores were those of pioneer author Penelope Casas, whose body of work grew to more than half a dozen high-quality interpretations of Spanish cuisine over a period of some twenty years, including last year’s La Cocina de Mama. During the same period Janet Mendel, who lives in the village of Mijas on the Costa del Sol, was also publishing several Spanish cookbooks, but their circulation was confined mostly to Europe until recently.

Then came Teresa Barrenechea’s The Basque Table, which joined Colman Andrew’s classic Catalan Cuisine, in highlighting Spanish cuisines regional distinctions. And with the publication in English and importation of new wave cuisine books in Spanish–such as those by super star chef Ferran Adrià on his world-famous restaurant El Bullí–the library of culinary writing on Spain (coupled with its international acceptance as the new culinary mecca), has grow exponentially to lay the foundation for this year’s explosion of new literature. Now, four excellent new books are on the market: Teresa Barrenechea’s The Cuisines of Spain>: Exploring Regional Home Cooking (Ten Speed Press), Janet Mendel’s Cooking From the Heart of Spain, José Andrés’s Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America, and Anya Von Bremzen’s The New Spanish Table, all of which call for Spanish products and list American purveyors where readers can find them.

Barrenechea’s The Cuisines of Spain has the endorsements of four of Spain’s three-star chefs: Ferran Adrià, Juan Mari Arzak, Martín Berasategui and Santi Santamaría. Adrià wrote “Barrenechea captures the essence of our country’s authentic regional cooking in a way never before accomplished.” And Arzak says she has “transmitted the true essence of our regional cuisines through this book.” Barrenechea, in Chapter Two, The Spanish Kitchen has valuable essays on such Spanish ingredients as extra virgen olive oil, sherry vinegar, Spanish cured jamones (both Serrano and Ibérico), piquillo peppers, pimentón de La Vera (paprika), esparragos de Navarra and azafrán (saffron).

Janet Mendel, in her Cooking From the Heart of Spain, emphasizes that “La Mancha’s culinary roots are rural, but beneath their sturdy simplicity, a rich Moorish and Sephardic heritage imbues Manchegan cooking with an aroma of refinement, of delicate complexity. Some of Spain’s most outstanding products come from this region,” Mendel says, “Manchego cheese, saffron, fine wines, serrano ham, and extra virgin olive oil. To give the foods a sense of place, I tell stories about an artisanal cheese maker, a revolutionary wine maker, harvesting saffron, trout fishing, a partridge shoot and making Marzipan in Toledo.”

José Andrés, star of his own wildly popular Spanish television cooking series, Vamos a Cocinar, and executive chef of Washington, D. C. ’s Jaleo, Café Atlantico and its renowned avant-garde tapas Minibar and several other restaurants in the nation’s capital, was recently named Chef of the Year by both Bon Appétit magazine and the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (Rammy awards). His Tapas: A Taste of Spain, Andrés concentrates on modern small-plate tapas such dishes as lobster with clementines and grapefruit in saffron oil, slow-roasted beef tenderloin with Cabrales cheese and octopus with Spanish extra virgin olive oil and pimentón).

To promote her book on Powells bookseller’s website (, Anya Von Bremzen, in a wonderful essay about her experiences in writing The New Spanish Table, wrote “Experimental chefs swoon over the luminous quality of native (Spanish) ingredients and the rigorous simplicity of classic preparations — hanging out at old tabernas, tascas, and tapas bars along with the rest of Spanish gourmands. Meanwhile, owners of old-school restaurants send their children and business heirs to apprentice with new-wave maestros for progressive kitchen tricks. I don't know any other place on the globe where the union of old and new is so strong. In the end it's this marriage of tradition and innovation that makes eating in Spain such a thrilling adventure.”

Von Bremzen’s essay sums it up very well. These days, eating in Spain and the quality of Spanish ingredients is indeed is indeed “a thrilling adventure.”


The Wines of Murcia: Jumilla, Land of Monastrell

Jumilla, a region whose rich, hefty wines are made from the indigenous Monastrell grape have historically been used for blending, has now come into its own. No longer the rustic country bumpkin, Jumilla now produces wines that are finding a growing audience for fans of ripe, fruity, full-flavored wines that are reasonably priced and compare favorably to those from warm-country growing areas such as California and Australia.

Located in an arid mountain valley, some 50 miles inland from the Mediterranean Coast of Alicante, southwest of Valencia in the province of Murcia, Jumilla's 100,000-plus acres of vineyards are planted at altitudes that range from 1,300 to nearly 3,000 feet above sea level. Temperatures here can be extreme, soaring to more than 100 degrees on summer days and dropping to well below freezing in winter. Jumilla gets some 3,000 hours of sun per year and only about 16 inches of annual rainfall, but roots of traditional old vines burrow deep in search of moisture and most modern vineyards are fed by drip irrigation.

But don't be fooled by the climatic conditions in Jumilla. Like many other regions in Spain (the second most mountainous country in Europe), the secret behind making successful, balanced wines in areas that would seem to be too warm to make seriously good wines, is altitude. The vineyards' thermostats may be cranked up during the daylight hours in summer, but at night temperatures at these altitudes cool down dramatically. This allows the vines a good night's rest to buttress themselves for the coming day and is the secret behind Jumilla's emergence from near obscurity. The grapes get properly ripe, but still have enough acids because of the cool nights to carry the hefty weight of the wines they produce.

The brownish soil (with underlying chalk) and the arid conditions in Jumilla are inhospitable to the phylloxera bug that devastated Europe in the late-19th century; so inhospitable that many old Monastrell vineyards in Jumilla are planted on pie franco, or ungrafted French rootstock. In contrast, the vast majority of vineyards in Europe had to be grafted long ago onto American, phylloxera-resistant rootstock.

In Jumilla, Monastrell is the most important authorized grape variety and accounts for 90% of the wine produced. Monastrell is an indigenous grape variety, also sometimes called Mataró or Murviedro in Spain, but known to the rest of the world by the French name Mourvèdre (believed to be the French pronunciation of the ancient Spanish town of Murviedro). To be labelled 'Monastrell,' a Jumilla wine must contain at least 85% of the variety. Other red varieties authorized in the Jumilla denominación de origen (D.O.) are Garnacha Tintorera, which makes a powerful, deeply colored blending wine; Garnacha, the great Spanish grape that is also used widely in La Rioja, Navarra, Aragón and Priorat; Tempranillo/Cencibel, the main grape of neighboring La Mancha; Cabernet Sauvignon; Merlot; the exceptionally promising French Syrah; and Petit Verdot (authorized since 2003), which also shows great promise (Casa de la Ermita makes an exceptional example).

Though white grapes are insignificant at this stage, also authorized are Airén (so widely planted in La Mancha that its acreage ranks first among the world’s white grapes); Macabeo, known as Viura in La Rioja; Pedro Ximénez of Montilla-Moriles (and Sherry) fame; the ancient Mediterranean white variety, Malvasía; and Moscatel Grano Menudo (small berry Moscatel, an important grape of neighboring Alicante and Valencia). This last grape was approved in 2003, along with Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. While not yet officially approved, Viognier may have promise in Jumilla as well, though few bodegas make wines from it.
Aficionados of Spanish wines are discovering the joys of Jumilla wines, and, given the excellent price-quality ratio of many of these Monastrell-based wines, those who are looking for wines that deliver a lot of bang of their buck may find their nirvana in these flavor-packed wines.

Bodegas Agapito Rico is widely distributed by Classical Wines of Seattle, WA ( Agapito Rico's Carchelo Monastrell, a very reasonably-priced wine made from old vines Monastrell blended with small amounts of Syrah and Merlot, has enjoyed steady sales for many years in the U.S. Carchelo Monastrell is an unoaked, bright, full-flavored, balanced wine with delightful ripe red fruit-plums, cherries, red currants-that is a good match for grilled meats, pizza, paella and pasta. Agapito Rico makes just over a thousand cases of Canalizo, an intense 100% Syrah wine that spends 18 months in oak and needs several years in bottle to fully develop. They also produce Altico Monastrell-Syrah, a powerhouse blend that is aged for ten months in French oak.

Bodegas Mayoral 1890, named for the date of its founded in 1890, has also had considerable success in the U.S. with their balanced, richly flavored, inexpensive Jumilla wines. Wines from this bodega include the unoaked Mayoral, a blend of 60% Monastrell and 40% Tempranillo; a crianza (12 months in oak), which contains 70% Monastrell; and a reserva with Monastrell, Tempranillo and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. They also make a Cabernet Sauvignon (100%), Syrah (100%), and Mayoral Selección (a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Monastrell and Tempranillo), all of which spend just four months in oak.

Bodegas Bleda, produces the well-known Castillo de Jumilla brand and exports 85% of its production, mostly to northern Europe. These relatively inexpensive wines are very well-made and show attractive, easy-drinking peppery, black currant, blackberry and chocolate flavors. All these very well balanced wines - even their bright, fruity rosado - are made with a minimum of 55%-60% Monastrell, 40% Tempranillo, and sometimes 5% Merlot. There is also a Castillo de Jumilla Monastrell (100%) and the first-rate Divus, made with 90-95% Monastrell and 5-10% Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot.

Finca Luzón, an impressive estate vineyard planted en espaldera (on wires), is surrounded by stark, grey mountains. They produce well-made wines, including several Monastrell-based (50%) blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Tempranillo that are aged in new French and American oak. They also make a delicious Monastrell rosado; a rich, sweet 80% Monastrell Finca Luzón; Castillo de Luzón, a crianza (aged one year in oak) with 75% Monastrell; and their top-of-the-line Altos de Luzón, a blend of Monastrell from 50-year-old vines, Cabernet Sauvigon and Tempranillo.

Casa de la Ermita, another impressive small winery that overlooks a vast valley of vines, is drawing attention with their 100% Viognier white wine; a young red that is a blend of Monastrell, Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah; a Casa de la Ermita crianza made with a predominance of Monastrell and Tempranillo, laced with Cabernet Sauvignon; an organically farmed Ecológico Monastrell (100%); and a set of Monasterio de Santa Ana mono-varietals–Merlot, Monastrell, and Syrah–all of which spend three months in oak. But the Casa de la Ermita wine that is drawing the most interest from Spanish wine aficionados is their 100% Petit Verdot, aged 12 months in new American (75%) and French oak.

The Jumilla winery that has earned the most kudos from both the Spanish and international press is Julia Roch e Hijos Casa Castillo. Their success is based on some splendid old vines vineyards, some of which are well over 50 years old, planted on ungrafted French rootstock in soils that show pronounced terroir. Many of the Casa Castillo wines contain some of the best Monastrell in the Jumilla D.O. The Casa Castilla 2001, blend of 50% monastrell and 50% tempranillo, was a rich mélange of sweet blackberry, currant, chocolate and licorice with a graphite mineral finish. The Casa Castillo Monastrell (85%) is sweet and rich with blackberry and currant flavors. The Casa Castillo Crianza, a Monastrell with 10% Syrah, shows even more of those rich blackberry, currant, chocolate and licorice flavors, again laced with an intriguing mineral finish. Their Las Gravas, a concentrated blend of 70% Monastrell, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Syrah, is a tannic wine crammed with cherry, currant and blackberry flavors. The now legendary Pie Franco, a 100% Monastrell wine made from vines planted in 1941 on un-grafted rootstock, is another towering powerhouse that is loaded with soft fruit and has an engaging silky finish. Casa Castillo also produces limited quantities of a top-notch, well-balanced, sweet, late harvest Moscatel de Grano Menudo.

Olivares makes the big, ripe Altos de la Hoya Monastrell table wines from ungrafted old vines. Their red table wines are intense and mineral-laced, but still a bit rustic. However, it is their Monastrell-based sweet wines that are some of the most exciting in the emerging genre of Spanish dessert wines. Olivares can't make these late harvest wines every year, but when they do the results are superb. Olivares Monastrell Dulce, made from low-yield, old vines fruit, is a deep, black wine with currants and exotic spices in the nose and rich, sweet blackberry, coffee and chocolate flavors on the palate. The Olivares Viejísimo 1930 is a very dry Fondillón, an unusual, compelling rancio wine with a cornucopia of flavors - coffee, tobacco, dates, dried citrus peel. But these magnificent, once nearly extinct wines from Murcia and Alicante are a subject deserving of an entire article to themselves.

Many of the better wines of Jumilla are exported. Indeed, some bodegas export 90% of their wines and new wineries like Hijos de Juan Gil with their new brand, Wrongo Dongo, made by an Australian winemaker, are almost entirely aimed at the American market. Juan Gil and the Spanish dynamo in the American market, Jorge Ordoñez of Fine Estates From Spain, also produce the exorbitantly rated and wildly overpriced Clio and El Nido, though fans of Parkerista blockbusters with deep pockets may find much to like in these polished, but niche market-targeted wines.

About the author:

Gerry Dawes was awarded Spain's prestigious Premio Nacional de Gastronomía (National Gastronomy Award) in 2003. He writes and speaks frequently on Spanish cheeses, wine and gastronomy. He was a finalist for the 2001 James Beard Foundation's Journalism Award for Best Magazine Writing on Wine. He has personally visited more than 30 wineries in the Levante region, which includes the Murcia regions of Jumilla, Yecla and Bullas and La Comunitat Valenciana D.O.s of Alicante, Utiel-Requena and Valencia.

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