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In 2019, again ranked in the Top 50 Gastronomy Blogs and Websites for Gastronomists & Gastronomes in 2019 by Feedspot. (Last Updated Oct 23, 2019)

"The Best Gastronomy blogs selected from thousands of Food blogs, Culture blogs and Food Science blogs in our index using search and social metrics. We’ve carefully selected these websites because they are actively working to educate, inspire, and empower their readers with frequent updates and high-quality information.

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

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 customized gastronomy, wine and cultural tours to Spain. Frequency about 2 posts per week."






"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 of José Andrés ThinkFoodGroup, Nobel Peace Prize Nominee and Oscar Presenter 2019

"Trust me everyone, I have traveled with this man, if Gerry Dawes tells you to eat somewhere it's like Bourdain, believe it!!" - - Chef Mark Kiffin, The Compound Restaurant, Canyon Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

“Spain wouldn’t be as known to Americans without the stories Gerry tells and writes.” - - Superstar Catalan Chef Ferran Adrià, elBulli

"But, for Gerry, Spain is more than just the Adriàs and (Juan Mari and Elena) Arzaks. He has connected with all manner of people working at every level and in every corner of Spain. I’m always amazed at this reach. You can step into a restaurant in the smallest town in Spain, and it turns out they know Gerry somehow. I remember one rainy night in Madrid during the 2003 Madrid Fusión congress. I wanted to go to my favorite place for patatas bravas, the ultimate tapa. But Gerry had another place in mind, and I didn’t know about it. But Gerry is always right. The potatoes at his place were amazing.” - - 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 loves Spain, and he loves Spanish wines. And the man knows whereof he speaks. The country bestowed upon him its prestigious Premio Nacional de Gastronomia (National Gastronomy Award) in 2003, and here’s what James A. Michener said about him in Iberia: SpanishTravels and Reflections: “In his nearly thirty years of wandering the back roads of Spain, Gerry Dawes has built up a much stronger bank of experiences than I had to rely on when I started writing Iberia … His adventures far exceeded mine in both width and depth … ” I first reached out to Dawes when I was planning a culinary journey to Barcelona, Rioja, and the Basque region of Spain, in 2011. I found his website and began reading, and have been learning from him ever since. Then, when I was preparing to stage at Arzak, in 2012, Dawes offered me some sound advice: learn Basque. He is opinionated – “You must decide whether you love wine or carpentry. If you want wood in your wine, suck on a toothpick as you drink your vino.” – he lives life with passion, and he respects wine and the men and woman who make it. Here’s to Gerry!" - - The Original Drinker: Spanish Wine Master Loves a $15.99 Rosado, Hates Wood and Always Avoids Wine Bars, James Brock, Paper City, papercitymag.com


Food Arts Silver Spoon Award to Gerry Dawes


 Premio Nacional de Gastronomía - - James Beard Foundation Nomination (Best Wine Writing)
Premio Periodistíco Cava

Gerry Dawes's Article Medieval Riches of El Cid's City (About Burgos, Spain)
Front Page, The New York Times Sunday Travel Section

 About Blog Author Gerry Dawes, Premio Nacional de Gastronomía (National Gastronomy Award)


Gerry Dawes at Marisquería Rafa in Madrid.
Photo by John Sconzo, Docsconz: Musings on Food & Life 


Custom-designed Wine, Food, Cultural and Photographic Tours of Spain Organized and Led by Gerry Dawes and Spanish Itinerary Planning

7 Days, 7 Nights: Beyond Paella, A Video Culinary, Wine & Travel Adventure in Valencia & Alicante with Gerry Dawes & Special Guests

If you enjoy these blog posts, please consider a contribution to help me continue the work of gathering all this great information and these photographs for Gerry Dawes's Insider's Guide to Spanish Food, Wine, Culture and Travel. Contributions of $5 and up will be greatly appreciated. Contributions of $100 or more will be acknowledged on the blog.

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11/05/2008

Gerry's View ICEX Foods From Spain News

Interview with Chef Alex Ureña, Pamplona, New York City Winter 2008

Starchefs.com Founder Antoinette Bruno Fall 2008

José Andrés & El Salón Internacional de Gourmets, Madrid Summer 2008

Chef Terrance Brennan, Picholine & Artisanal, New York & Spanish Products, Spring 2008

In the Metropolitan New York area, tapas bars are flourishing and seem to be sprouting like mushrooms in many youth-driven areas of the city and even beyond to once staid areas such as Connecticut. Winter 2007

Spain now has an incredible number of prestigious international gastronomy and wine fairs, so many in fact that few Spaniards, even hardened professionals, can keep up with them. Things kick off in January with Madrid Fusión, which has become one of the world’s top gourmet encounters in only five years. Summer 2007

Solera Tapas Bar & Restaurant, Minneapolis & Madrid Fusión 2007 Spring 2007

Spanish Specialty Food Shops & A Personal View of Madrid Fusión 2006

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 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.


Gerry Dawes can be reached at gerrydawes@aol.com; Alternate e-mail (use only if your e-mail to AOL is rejected): gerrydawes@hotmail.com

10/30/2008

Food Talk with Mike Colameco WOR Radio 710AM New York

Mike Colameco speaks with Gerry Dawes about his expertise on Spanish food and drink. October 30, 2008


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 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.




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 gerrydawes@aol.com; Alternate e-mail (use only if your e-mail to AOL is rejected): gerrydawes@hotmail.com

10/15/2008

A Day at El Bulli: Ferran Adrià's Book party at Per Se in New York City 10-09-08

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Click to see slide show, double click to go to web album and see enlarged photos.



About the author/photographer

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.


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

Gerry Dawes can be reached at gerrydawes@aol.com; Alternate e-mail (use only if your e-mail to AOL is rejected): gerrydawes@hotmail.com

9/23/2008

Ferran Adrià Debunks the Myth of Molecular Cuisine

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(From an interview by Gerry Dawes with Ferran Adrià in June 2008)




The term “molecular cuisine” is often used in conjunction with Spanish cocina de vanguardia, but Ferran Adrià, often proclaimed "world's greatest chef" objects to using this description to describe his style of cooking at El Bulli.
 
“I would like to use this occasion to debunk the myth of molecular cuisine. I am aware that in many countries they say that at El Bulli we practice molecular cuisine. But the truth is there are few qualifiers that define with such preciseness the cooking that we practice, because molecular cuisine is not a style of cooking. First off, the term comes from molecular gastronomy, which at the same time only describes the dialogue between cooks and scientists who are trying to understand the chemical and physical processes that are produced in the kitchen. But, as I have said many times, understanding what happens when a steak is cooking or how to make a mayonnaise, does not bring anything into the evolution of the history of cooking in the stylistic sense. 


All knowledge is good for those who are cooking, but that is not the reason in itself that a new style is created. To draw a parallel, it is not necessary for a great architect to know how to make metal alloys to create a work that is important in architectural history. But, in any case, this knowledge, which I will readily admit is always positive, has nothing to do with what an architect brings to the style. What appears absurd to us is that the architecture of a creator who knows about metal alloy is called “molecular architecture.”

Slide show (Double click to see enlarged images)

The way the theme (molecular cuisine) is being presented, it appears that the kitchen is a place basically to carry out scientific experiments. And this is not the case. I would like to make clear that science for a chef has great value, although, I repeat, always so that he can understand the processes, to know more, to enrich our knowledge. In the same way it helps to understand the processes of other disciplines.” 


Slide show (Double click to see enlarged images)

Because of this misconception about the use of science in the kitchen, Ferran says, “the name ‘cocina molecular' is being used as the name to define the cocina de vanguardia that we do at El Bulli and, in general, many restaurants everywhere. And with that they want to define a cuisine ‘based in science’ when in reality all that vanguard cuisine is trying to do is to try to open up new fields, understand more about everything, but only from a scientific standpoint. Our contacts have been established not only with scientists, but artists, industrial designers, nutrition experts, the food industry, etc. All this is done to procure the best knowledge, but all this is only tools at the service of the philosophy of style and of the way that each chef sees his cooking.”



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 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.


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

Gerry Dawes can be reached at gerrydawes@aol.com Alternate e-mail (use only if your e-mail to AOL is rejected): gerrydawes@hotmail.com

9/21/2008

Galicia's Terroir-Driven White Wines - Santé Magazine September 2008

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Galicia's Terroir-Driven Wines
(Full-size copy of the article. Tasting notes below.)







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 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.



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 gerrydawes@aol.com Alternate e-mails (use only if your e-mail to AOL is rejected): gerrydawes@optonline.net or gerrydawes@hotmail.com

9/01/2008

Terrance Brennan & Gerry Dawes Blaze Through a Culinary Tour of Spain


Terrance Brennan's New The Artisanal Table Magazine

With an Account of our Whirlwind Gastronomic Tour of Spain
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Food Arts Over the Foaming Wave Article on Ferran Adriá

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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 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.

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 gerrydawes@aol.com Alternate e-mails (use only if your e-mail to AOL is rejected): gerrydawes@optonline.net or gerrydawes@hotmail.com

7/12/2008

Navarra: A Spanish Kingdom's Wines Wear the Versatility Crown

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Text & Photographs by Gerry Dawes©2010

Immortalized in the Middle Ages in the French poem Chanson de Roland (whose legendary setting is in the hills above the Pyreneen village of Roncesvalles); its capital Pamplona made famous the world over in the 1920s by Ernest Hemingway in The Sun Also Rises; and again in the 1960s by James A. Michener in Iberia, beautiful, rugged and evocative Navarra is arguably Spain's most versatile wine region.

Located in mountainous north central Spain, Navarra is hemmed to the north by the Pyrenees (and France) to the north/northwest by Basque Country, to the west/southwest by La Rioja and to the east/southeast by Aragón, a climatic range that includes high mountains, green northern zones, the arid Ebro River basin in the south and a desert called Bardenas Reales. These varied climatic influences, which include very important temperate zones provide a breadth of truly great winemaking potential. 


Chardonnay at Chivite's Arinzano Estate
 
Several of its wineries have proven just that: Its first-rate Chardonnays are among the finest in Spain; garnacha-based rosados rank with the best in the world; the cream of Navarra's Bordeaux- and Rioja-style wines (especially from bodegas such as Julián Chivite) stand alongside many of Spain’s most distinguished reds; and late harvest moscatels — Aliaga, Chivite and Ochoa to name three — are counted among the most delicious dessert wines in the country. Navarra even boasts a stunningly good, little-known, old-fashioned vino rancio known as Capricho de Goya that rates in the high 90s on nearly everyone's point scale.
Bodegas Camilo Castilla
 
Wines have been made here since the Roman occupation, as evidenced in southern Navarra along the Ebro River by the remains of several wineries, such as the one at Funes, that date back more than 2,000 years. In the Middle Ages, Navarra was a sprawling kingdom that included Bordeaux, French Navarre, parts of La Rioja, portions of the Basque Country (mountainous northern Navarra and Pamplona, called Iruña in Basque) and Aragón.



Roman Winery at Funes in Southern Navarra
 
Navarra's importance was vital in establishing the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route that buttressed the Christian frontier, especially in the 12th and 13th centuries, when Cistercian monks arrived to establish monasteries and plant vineyards all around northern Spain.
Chardonnay at Chivite's Arinzano Estate
 
Several of its wineries have proven just that: Its first-rate Chardonnays are among the finest in Spain; garnacha-based rosados rank with the best in the world; the cream of Navarra's Bordeaux- and Rioja-style wines (especially from bodegas such as Julián Chivite) stand alongside many of Spain’s most distinguished reds; and late harvest moscatels — Aliaga, Chivite and Ochoa to name three — are counted among the most delicious dessert wines in the country. Navarra even boasts a stunningly good, little-known, old-fashioned vino rancio known as Capricho de Goya that rates in the high 90s on nearly everyone's point scale.

Bodegas Camilo Castilla


Read the rest to this 5,000-word article.

7/02/2008

Mencía: Terroir and Balance Mark Spain's Next Great Red Variety

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Text & Photographs By Gerry Dawes©2008
The unheralded existence of terroir-driven native varietals flourishing in northwestern Spain is comparable to the iceman encased in the glacier: By shining a critical spotlight on Bierzo, at the gates of Galicia in León province, and Ribeira Sacra, in Galicia's Ourense and Lugo provinces - much like sunlight melting back a the glacier ice - the native mencía grape emerges from obscurity. Grown in precariously steep vineyards and often clinging to treacherous slate-strewn hillsides and Roman-style terraces, the indigenous variety is responsible for some of Spain's most intriguing and delicious terroir-laced reds. 

Mencía vines on a steep slate-strewn vineyard

It has become quite evident to me, after tasting through more than 75 such wines on six return trips to these regions over the past five years, that mencía-based wines grown on these stony, well-drained soils, and enjoying beneficial altitudes (some vineyards are more than 2,500 feet above sea level), sunlight and rainfall, have the potential to rival the best in Europe. This assessment holds up despite a preponderance of popular, New Age, cellar-driven winemaking techniques that threaten to obscure both the glorious freshness of the mencía fruit and the haunting, mineral flavors for which many French vintners would give an arm.

Some bodegas here strive to make copycat, market-styled wines that rely on overripe fruit, high alcohol and aggressive new oak. But with the best vineyards, the marriage of mencía and ideal terroir produce enough personality that sometimes the fruit actually has enough character to stand up to such abuse. Better yet, when makers back off and don't try to produce ersatz Priorat or Ribera del Duero then the charm of sweet red and black raspberry-currant fruit imbued with the masculinity of somewhat rustic, garrigue-like country flavors and a strain of graphite-like minerals (Bierzo and Ribeira Sacra, as well as Priorat, have these traits in common) make for a memorable palate profile that calls the drinker back for sip after sip. Mencía is also grown in the Galician DOs Valdeorras and Monterrei, where predominately white wines, especially those made from the potentially spectacular native godello, rule (see "Galician Gold" article).

"Mencia is being abused. Way too much oak for no discernable reason. This is a wonderful grape which doesn't need that much help to shine. There is nothing wrong with leaving well enough alone," says Roger Kugler, General Manager & Wine Director at Suba and Wine Director at Boqueria, two of New York City top Spanish tapas restaurants. "Its not that all the oak aged Mencias are bad (there are a few that are very good), its just that most of them are inferior to the wines of 10 years or so ago which did not have the aggressive oak aging."

Yet this surprising red variety is having its greatest impact in the aforementioned Bierzo, some 250 miles northwest of Madrid, and emerging Ribeira Sacra, another 70-odd miles to the west. At this juncture, by far the most important of these two regions is Bierzo, which was not even a blip on the Spanish wine radar screen less than a decade ago - even for Spaniards.

Yet in just the past half-dozen years, the region has experienced meteoric growth, vaulting from obscurity to critical acclaim. Among the stalwart wines: the richly flavored Descendientes de J. Palacios wines from the old vines vineyards of Corullón (made by Priorat's Álvaro Palacios and his nephew, Ricardo Pérez); a range of Domino de Tares wines made until recently by former Ribera del Duero enologist Amancio Fernández; and Paixar, crafted by the sons of Mariano García, arguably Spain's top winemaker. These higher-profile Bierzo wines have had increasing success in the United States, which has become Bierzo's most important export market. Many others have come in their wake, including the highly regarded Tilenus, Castro Ventoso, Pittacum, Pucho, Peique, Cuatro Pasos (a wine from Martín Codax of Rías Baixas Albariño fame), Cásar de Burbia and Vega Montán. Both Tilenus and Castro Ventoso, as well as the newly inaugurated Bodega Cabildo de Salas, are made by Raúl Pérez, a young rising star winemaker. 

I became acquainted with many of the aforementioned wines in 2002 when I made a pilgrimage to Bierzo and Ribeira Sacra to taste the bright, fruity, mencía-based reds that were beginning to draw serious attention, especially those of Palacios and Pérez made from ancient vineyards at a place called Corullón. On the way to my appointments, I came across a lively country wine fair in Cacabelos, the key town of the Bierzo DO. Cacabelos is surrounded by vineyards and every May 1st it celebrates its chief industry in the Plaza del Vendimiador, where a statue of a family of grape pickers pays homage to those souls who have brought in the harvest here for centuries.
Vendimiador (Grape Harvester) Monument in Cacabelos (Bierzo) 

I eagerly waded in, tasting a range of mencía-based wines with the producers themselves. Most were works in progress, but others were eye-opening in their potential (two that stood out among the nearly dozen booths were Castro Ventoso and Val de Paixarines) and almost all - even the more rustic or heavily oaked examples - displayed an intriguing red and black raspberry richness laced with distinct terroir. Although the bodegas that produced them were only then beginning to make wines for outside markets (hence a number exhibited the harsh new oak character that comes with a barrel room full of new oak), beneath their oak curtains, the raw material augured well for the production of wines that would make Bierzo the most exciting emerging Spanish region since Priorat.

After tasting at the wine fair, I went to lunch with three of the principals of Dominio de Tares, partner Mario Rico, former winemaker Amancio Fernández and the late general manager Fermín Uria, whose reds - Cepas Viejas (old vines), P.3 (from a 100-year-old vineyard) - showed remarkable richness of wild blackberry fruit and mineral tones. (Since then, their wines have enjoyed much success in the United States and they, along with the wines of Palacios, are a major reason that Bierzo is held in such high esteem here.)


Dominio de Tares, partner Mario Rico

At dusk, in a misting rain, I joined Ricardo Pérez, who drove me a few kilometers beyond the village of Corullón to visit Descendientes de J. Palacios's spectacular, impossibly steep vineyards. Pitched on slate-strewn hillsides, the precipitous sites we toured included the soon-to-be-celebrated Moncerbal vineyard, where old vines mencía thrives on magical slate soil. Later, at the Palacios cellars in Vilafranca del Bierzo, we tasted the sweet, rich, terroir-imbued, still tannic wines of the Moncerbal vineyard. All were lush, rich, minerally reds that seemed to validate the promise of the wines tasted at the fair.

I dined later that evening with the owner of Luna Berberide, Alejandro Luna, and winemaker Gregory Pérez, who introduced me to yet another fine Bierzo Mencía made in consultation with the great Mariano García (former winemaker at Vega Sicilia and owner of Bodegas Mauro in Tudela de Duero, just west of Vega Sicilia). Taken altogether, that memorable May Day yielded one of the most meaningful epiphanies I have experienced in more than three-plus decades of covering Spanish wine: Bierzo's mencía-based reds were capable of standing alongside the best of Burgundy, Bordeaux, Napa Valley or any region on earth. As noted earlier, Mariano García and sons Alberto and Eduardo are also making their own Bierzo, the very highly regarded Paixar from the village of Dragontes, another high-altitude spot near the border of Lugo, one of the four provinces of Galicia.

The senior García is enthusiastic about Bierzo's prospects. "From these high-altitude, hillside, broken-slate vineyards it is possible to make wines with great style and personality," he asserts. "There is an explosion of quality wines from Bierzo and emerging single vineyard pagos [that are] comparable to the great northern Rhône Valley cru vineyards in Hermitage and Côte-Rôtie."

Another name consumers will be hearing quite a lot about is the aforementioned Raúl Pérez, who makes compelling wines in Bierzo and is also the consulting enologist for several Galician wineries, among them Alguiera, which is shipping its top-notch Ribeira Sacra wine to the United States this fall. "Ribeira Sacra, Vinos del Cielo" (wines of heaven) reads a sign overlooking a heavenly view of perhaps the most strikingly dramatic and stunningly beautiful wine region in the world (from a photo-journalist fresh off a visit to Portugal's Douro River Valley, this is not hyperbole).

The sign is also a tie-in to the origin of the region's name, which comes from the profusion of ancient sacred (sacra) monasteries and churches that dot this region. Some are more than 1,000 years old, and several are Romanesque churches founded in the 12th and 13th centuries by Burgundian Cistercian monks, who were the "Johnny Grapevines" of their epoch. They established vineyards all around France, Spain and Germany, many of which are still the basis for some of the world's most famous wines (Clos de Vougeot, Beaumes de Venise and Vega Sicilia to name but a few). While other grapes are grown here, including minority red varieties brancellao and merenzao, and the superb white godello, Ribeira Sacra is the land of mencía par excellence. It's a snake-shaped DO - still practically unknown in this country - with 3,000 acres terraced along the spectacular slate-strewn hillsides of the dammed-up Miño (flowing north-to-south) and Sil (flowing east-to-west) river valleys. It is shared by the Galician provinces of Lugo in the north and Ourense in the south, and is divided into five subzones: northernmost Chantada and Ribeiras do Miño along the Miño, Amandi and Quiroga-Bibei along the Sil (all four in Lugo province) and Ribeiras do Sil (along the Ourense portion of the Sil).

Most notable in Ribeira Sacra are its single-row terraces composed of old vines mencía (with some garnacha tintorera and the white grapes, albariño and godello mixed in) growing on treacherous slate-strewn slopes first planted by the Romans 2,000 years ago. These vineyards are so steep that steel tracks have been placed at strategic points to allow the grapes to be hauled up, and some, like a Cividade, are so sheerly pitched and isolated that they can only be reached by boat, on which the grapes are transported during harvest to the winery.
On that first visit, I was awestruck by the region's magical landscape and remain so today. While the first mencía-based wines I drank here were not as captivating as the terrain, I did find some of the same deliciously fruity black-ruby red raspberry qualities and similar graphite-slate mineral characteristics as those in Bierzo. And while they were fresh and light (some only 12 to 12.5 percent alcohol, a welcome relief in this era of overwrought wines), too many were unsophisticated, not well made and often obviously overproduced. My suspicions were confirmed when I toured a small, minifundia grower vineyard full of heavily laden vines with Fernando González of Adegas Alguiera. The 50-something former banker-turned-bodeguero explained that this overzealous farmer was one of the multitude who sell their grapes to the larger Ribeira Sacra wineries and others outside the region. Over intervening vintages González and his quality-minded peers have tried to persuade the minifundia growers to reduce yields significantly. If they are successful, the difference in quality could occur practically overnight and propel Ribeira Sacra into the front ranks of Spain's premier red wine regions. Together with the winemaking expertise of González's peripatetic, talented Raúl Pérez, who brought out the best in Adegas Alguiera's wines, these small, old vine plots, with careful vineyard practices, are capable of producing world-class wines. The progress being made was underscored during a visit this August.

Pradio, a new, but very isolated hill country winery overlooking the intersection where the Sil River pours out of its "throat" (Gargantuas del Sil) into the Miño River, with José Manuel Rodríguez, president of the Consejo Regulador of Ribeira Sacra. Pradio's youthful and energetic 30-something owner Xavier Seone Novelle has renovated a small hamlet of old houses and built a winery, a rural hotel and facilities for mountain tourists. He welcomed us with glasses of Pradio 2006, a carbonic maceration red wine, along with some of his mother's excellent tapas. It was evident from the first sip, at least at this winery, that things in Ribeira Sacra are moving in the right direction. The wine was deliciously fruity, moderate in alcohol and had seen no wood - except the trees growing on the property.

That night at O Grelo restaurant, just down the road from the hilltop Parador de Turismo where I was staying in the Ribeira Sacra capital of Monforte de Lemos, José Manuel Rodríguez and I tasted through his wines, paired with house tapas. The juicy, complex Décima 2006 and the Décima 2005 (a year he says was "espectacular" for his wine) were both delicious and full flavored, and neither topped 12.2 percent alcohol. He then poured an unusual and unusually good Décima 2006 tinto that was a silky, easy-drinking blend of mencía, garnacha tintoera (30 percent) and the white godello (10 percent). The garnacha tintorera boosted the alcohol level to 13.5, but that is low by today's standards. I now had tasted four superb mencía-based Ribeira Sacra wines from two small producers, and there were more to come.

A day later, after a heart-stopping tour of hillside mencía vineyards with Fernando González (the van was worrisomely wide for navigating the cliff-side access road), we returned to Alguiera and were met by Raúl Pérez, who was fresh off a flying enologist run to and from Bierzo in his Mini-Cooper. He led us through an eye-opening lineup of wines ranging from the Alguiera 2006, which will be superb with bottle age, back to the 2001, one of the best mencía-based wines I had ever tasted - and certainly the best Ribeira Sacra wine ever made. As we were drinking the wines with some tapas from Alguiera's own small restaurant, José Manuel Rodríguez showed up with Dona Das Penas owner Antonio Lombardía, who produced a bottle of juicy, white peach- and honeysuckle-flavored, mineral-laced Alma Larga Godello 2006, which clearly demonstrated that Ribeira Sacra was capable of producing a world-class white as well. The next morning, at the Parador of Monforte de Lemos, Antonio Lombardía poured his Verdes Matas Mencía 2006, which, despite just having been bottled and marked by new oak, showed excellent potential with rich, sweet raspberry and red currant fruit, mineral flavors and only 12.5 percent alcohol.

On earlier trips to Ribeira Sacra, I had seen glimpses of potential greatness in the meager production of José Manuel Rodríguez's Décima and in Alguiera, Viña Cazoga and Abadía da Cova, which had been on the U.S. market for some time, but seemed to have lost focus under the interventionist winemaking market urgings of their former American importer. Others, such as Peza do Rei, Rectoral de Amandi, Cividade, Ponte da Boga, Os Cipreses and Vía Romana, showed promise, and some were delicious with food, but, in general, they lacked finesse and some needed to lower their yields.

Now, however, after the remarkable August tastings at Alguiera and the samplings of Décima, Pradio and Pena Das Donas, I had seen the future of Ribeira Sacra crystallize in just two days. And there are other very promising mencía wines now entering the American market, such as D. Ventura Viña Caniero, in the which the great Gerardo Méndez of Rías Baixas's Do Ferreiro Albariño has a hand; the unusual, but exotic and intriguing (cherry and chestnut wood, for example, instead of oak) Enológica Thémera; and a trio of wines - Lacima, Lapena and Lalama - from Priorat husband-wife team, Sara Pérez (Clos Martinet) and René Barbier, Jr. (Clos Mogador). With Pérez-Barbier, what I fear is not an invasion of alliterative labels, but the Priorat factor, which I hope does not bring in its wake Mediterranean climate-style wines with 14 percent to 15 percent alcohol levels.

Andre Tamers, president of De Maison Selections and the U.S. importer of D. Ventura Viña Caniero, fervently believes in the future of Ribeira Sacra and warns of attempts to "Prioratize" these Atlantic-climate wines. He says those that are being made in this fashion in Bierzo are suffering from the overzealous use of new oak and are "completely over hyped. Bierzo is really more like Beaujolais," he notes. "Ribeira Sacra has the potential to be the new Burgundy." Based on the real promise of the mencía-based wines I tasted in August, within two to three years, I believe Ribeira Sacra will vault onto the world wine stage to join the Spanish red wine chorus line that already includes Bierzo, Jumilla, Priorat and Toro.

But Ribeira Sacra, if it stays true to its regional style, will be the lightest-stepping dancer in the line as the antidote to the big alcohol wines that still dominate today. Therein lies the challenge: to maintain the lovely raspberry, red currant and light black raspberry mencía fruit, minerality and modest alcohol content that makes these wines so engaging. To do so means resisting the temptation to submit to the ubiquitous abuse of new oak, which overwhelms both the fruit and the terroir.

If these first few Ribeira Sacra wines entering the American market are an indicator, they may prove to be Spain's antidote to all the overblown blockbuster wines out there - an antidote that a multitude of protesting wine lovers and importers like André Tamers and Alexandra Elman of New York's Marble Hill Cellars are ready to embrace. Perhaps big brother Bierzo will even follow Ribeira Sacra's lead and mencía will reach the top of the Pop chart by singing its own tune. Might I suggest "I Stop By Heaven" from Jerry Butler's soul album, "The Iceman Cometh?"

Tasting BAR

Many Bierzo wines, including some from the best, most vaunted vineyards, have elevated alcohol levels and are often the victims of over-oaking, a serious problem in this region (as well as in many other parts of Spain). Newcomers to Bierzo should seek the delicious raspberry fruit and mineral flavors of the younger, fresher, unoaked versions, and be leery of labels that connote roble or joven roble, which could indicate a regimen of three to six months in harsh new oak (a practice that breaks in new barrels for aging more important wines).

The majority of the wines that follow were tasted in Spain with the producers; they were not tasted blind.

Albares Mencía, 2006 Dominio de Tares (no oak; 13.5%) - $11: Ripe black raspberry and mineral nose. Rich, delicious mélange of black raspberry, currant and dark baker's chocolate with a long, lingering, graphite-mineral finish. I have to admit that this wine has been my house red for years and I love it. At this price, Albares is a steal! (Importer: Classical Wines) Score: 91

Pétalos Mencía, 2006 Descendientes de J. Palacios (5 months in oak; 14%) - $20: Ripe black raspberry nose. Round, smooth entry with delicious, deep black raspberry and currant fruit laced with graphite-like mineral flavors in a finish that still shows some wood and fruit tannins. Reasonable value. (Importer: Rare Wine Company) Score: 90

Peique Mencía, 2006 Bodegas Peique (13.5%) - $12: Rich fruit, clove, licorice and mineral nose. Delicious, rich, luscious red and black wild berries with clove, licorice and bitter dark chocolate notes. Reminiscent of a Graves or a good Chinon. Unbelievable bargain. (Importer: José Pastor Selections, Vinos & Gourmet, Inc.) Score: 91

Paixar Mencía, 2004 Paixar (14%) - $70: More new French oak than fruit in the nose. Excellent black raspberry and mineral flavors. In spite of the 14% alcohol and liberal lashing of new oak, experience with this wine shows that time and food will tone down these normally egregious flaws in the wines of this particular producer, who, seemingly, is enamored of new French oak. If you are, too, and you find this rather stiff tab in your range, this wine will really deliver. (Importer: Aurelio Cabestrero) Score: 92

Vega Montán Mencía Roble, 2005 Bodegas Adrià (14%) - $16: Spicy, sweet fruit, slate-like minerals and new oak in the nose. Nice entry with sweet ripe fruit and haunting soil flavors. Well balanced, so it tastes lighter than its 14%, but it is a bit over-oaked. Air, food and decanting improve the mix considerably. Good value. (Importer: Marble Hill Cellars) Score: 88

Cásar de Burbía, 2004 Cásar de Burbía (13.5%) - $20: Nice nose of red currant, cherry and minerals. Despite five months in new French and Hungarian oak, two-plus years in bottle have left it with none of the new oak nasties. Delicious balance of ripe berry fruit, dark chocolate, terroir and restrained oak. A real sleeper. (Importer: Nick Radisic, Rad Grapes) Score: 89

Tilenus (Envejecido en Roble), 2004 Bodegas Estefanía (14%) - $20: Earthy slate, ripe red fruit and some oak in the nose. Great balance of rich wild berries, minerals and well-integrated oak which may contribute to the pleasantly bitter finish. This elegant wine will surpass many Burgundy clos on the market. Why the maker felt compelled to inscribe "aged in oak" on the label, except perhaps for the purpose of appealing to those who favor oak over fruit, is baffling. Nevertheless, the wine is a fine value. (Importer: Eric Solomon Selections) Score: 91

Ribeira Sacra Décima, 2006 José Manuel Rodríguez (unoaked; 12%) - $27: Excellently balanced nose of red fruit and minerals. Delicious, with juicy acids balancing sweet raspberry fruit flavors and an enticing, complex mineral finish all in harmony because of the restrained alcohol and no oak. (Importer: Marble Hill Cellars) Score: 91

Prádio Mencía, 2006 Xavier Seoane Novelle (unoaked; 12.5% alcohol) - $20: Pleasant candied red fruit carbonic maceration nose. Delicious, bright, fruity, balanced, quaffable wine with lots of raspberry and currant fruit with a lasting, mineral-laced finish. Good value. (Importer: Marble Hill Cellars) Score: 89

D. Ventura Viña Caneiro, 2006 Losada Fernández (unoaked, unfiltered; 14%) - $26: Pure, rustic, ripe fruit and minerals in the nose. Big, rich, loaded with fruit, but very juicy and delicious with a long, intriguing earthy minerality in the finish. Superb. (Importer: De Maison Selections) Score: 92

Thémera, 2004 Enológica Témera (aged in cherry and chestnut wood; 12.5% - $23: Nice nose with subdued red fruit and scents of cherry and chestnut wood. Rich, but not overblown, juicy fruit with those odd, but not off-putting oak flavors that compete with minerals. Interesting, and good with food. (Importer: José Pastor Selections, Vinos & Gourmet, Inc.) Score: 88
Algueira Mencía Barrica 2005 Algueira, S.L. (aged 13 to 14 months in oak; 13%) - $40: Bright red fruit, graphite and non-obtrusive oak nose. Nice red fruit, good balance of fruit, tannin and oak, but needs more time. Quite good. (Importer: Antonio Antalvo) Score: 93

Alma Larga Godello Blanco 2006 Pena das Donas (no oak; 13.6%) - $25: Lovely white peach and lees nose. Of white Burgundy quality with delicious white peach and honeysuckle flavors, laced with a long, mineral-like finish. (Importer: Marble Hill Cellars) Score: 92 - GD

5/23/2008

Maestro Spain: Spanish Food, Wine & Travel Stock Photography Gallery

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(Under Construction)

(Click on link to reach Maestro Spain Photography by Gerry Dawes. )

All photographs copyright by Gerry Dawes 2006
Reproduction strictly prohibited without written permission and payment.

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.

In addition to the photographs on Gerry Dawes's Spain, his stock photography on Spanish Food, Wine & Travel can be seen and purchased at
Maestro Spain Photography.

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
maestrospain@aol.com

5/10/2008

Foods From Spain News Interview with Chef & TV Personality José Andrés at Madrid's Salón Internacional de Gourmets

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(Click to enlarge the article and any image on this post.)

Article and all photographs by Gerry Dawes ©2008.


Telefónica Arena Pavilion, Salón Internacional de Gourmets, Casa del Campo, Madrid

José Andrés stops to toast with a glass of Pomea Aurea rosado sidra at Cata Gourmet in the Asturian pavilion at Madrid's annual Salón Internacional de Gourmets in Madrid.

José Andrés has rapidly become one of the top stars of Spanish cuisine. Just in the past few years, Andrés, chef-partner and creative force behind THINKfoodGROUP, which owns and operates several several restaurants–most of them Spanish (his Jaleo and Mini-Bar by José Andrés at Café Atlantico) in Washington, D.C. He has a very popular prime-time television cooking show in Spain called Vamos a Cocinar and he is the host of American PBS-TV’s new series, José Made In Spain, which focuses on a different region each episode and features Spanish products, dishes from many different Spanish chefs and demonstrations on how to make the dishes. Andrés has published several books, including Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America, two cookbooks in Spain in Spanish and the companion book to his PBS-TV Series.

At the Pérez Pascuas stand at Salón Internacional de Gourmets, Madrid

Marino González Fernández, President of COASA (Comercializadora Asturiana de Alimentos S.A.), which produces high quality Asturian cheeses and owns the Cata Gourmet stores and product line, drinking sidra (Cider) with members of the Trabanco cider group.


This Foods From Spain News article circulated as an insert in Speciality Foods Magazine at the Fancy Food Show in New York, June 29th - July 1st, 2008


Despaña Brands, a Spanish food products shop at 408 Broome St., Soho, NYC

5/08/2008

The Ferran Adrià & Santi Santamaria Brouhaha: A Personal Chronicle of the Strange Occurrences Leading Up to the Star Chefs Fight of the Century

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All photographs copyright by Gerry Dawes 2007
Publication without permission strictly prohibited.

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On the surface it all seemed innocent enough at Grupo Gourmets Salón Internacional de Gourmets at the Casa del Campo, Madrid in May, 2006 . . . .


Santi Santamaría seemed jovial.

The normally pensive and serious Ferran even seemed happy. . . . . .There was much alegría --or is often said, "musha, musha alegría"-- in the espuma, er, air. . . . 
Hell, Santi and Ferran even seemed happy even though they were sitting together.

Arzak was amusing Bocuse, or trying to amuse Bocuse.
What a crew it was at the Salón de Gourmets Annual Gourmet Restaurant Awards that fine May day in 2006. . . . .as I said there was musha, alegría. . . . .musha

Santi, Bocuse, and Toño & José of Átrio, their superb restaurant in Cáceres, all got awards, mas musha alegría. . . .
. . . . . Santi stilled seemed jovial, José Polo seemed half-jovial, but Toño Pérez, José's partner in Átrio and in life, didn't seem jovial, maybe because José had his arm around Santi- -well, part of the way around Santi.
. . . . . Ferran got an award and Arzak got an award, each the size of a doorstop. Juan Mari then amused Grupo Gourmets Presidente Paco López Canís. . . . and the musha, musha alegría continued without pause, flowing like Torta del Casar (also from Cáceres) . . . . .
. . . . well, except maybe for Toño, whom Arzak provided some much needed amusement and way too much pacharán later on at Julián de Tolosa restaurant on Cava Baja. . . .but that's a story for another day, back to this one:

And then, and then, and then the trouble started on "Killer's Row. . . .
 
. . . . Santi, Ferran, Bocuse & Juan Mari were all seated together . . . . .Then Ferran whispers to Santi, "My espumas (foams), mango caviar, encapsulated 'olives' and olive oil drops and nitrogen cocktails are the work of a genius." What have you got to match that? 




Ferran, now pensive again, lets that soak in. Santi is no longer jovial, he is also now pensive. . . .

"So, you think that unhealthy, additive-laced mierda you do is cooking, eh?

Then Santi leans to the right, smiles and says, "How about something really creative, say aromatheraphy. How do you like my hot, smoky espuma laced with the terroir of Montseny?"
 
Ferran, momentarily stunned, tries to steady himself.

Sacre bleu! Bocuse is incredulous!
Juan Mari, not into aromatherapy, is not amused and tries to protect his air supply. 
 
Ferran, stunned and reeling, can't believe what just happened.

 
Ferran, contemplating a retort in his native Cartagena-inflected Catalan-Andaluz (guaranteed to piss Santi off since it is not pure Catalan), turns pensive again. . . .thinking, "Jodé, yo zoy genio y Santi no é. ¿Como es posible que el cabrón hizo esto antes de que me ha ocurrido a mi?". . . . ."F..k, I am a genius and Santi ain't. How is it possible that this cabrón did this before it occurred to me?"
 

Santi, once again jovial, enjoys a moment of musha, musha alegría.

Now, 800 chefs are pissed off at Santi, all over a little hot air!!

Fin de una triste historia.
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