With a four day stop in Madrid for Madrid Fusión 2015 now history, it was time to begin the next leg of the trip. Bill Sciambi, a seasoned wine veteran and CEO of Gerry’s company arrived from NYC to join us. We rented another car and headed northwest. Galicia was the part of Spain that I hadn’t yet been to that I most wanted to visit. It would be the main focal point of the trip as we squeezed a ton of tasting both food and wine into a very abbreviated time frame. It would not be our first stop, however.
That first stop on the way north was the Ribera del Duero region. This region has become one of the most famous wine regions in all of Spain, the home of such legendary wines as Vega Sicilia and Pesquera amongst others. Here the Tempranillo grape is king, but over the past few decades, the region has fallen largely under the Parker trap of globalization and uniformity of style. Yet, there remain some producers that have retained the more traditional approach of making wines with distinction and style. One of those wineries is Bodegas Carmelo Rodero, who produces a delicious, young, 100% Tempranillo that was just a total delight to drink. With a good acid backbone and relatively low alcohol, this was a lovely fruit driven wine that I could drink all night without tiring of it. Tasted with some home made lomo, it was a marvelous introduction into this phase of the trip. (Bodegas Rodero Flick’r Photoset)
Of course, we had to have lunch and we made our way with some Carmelo Rodero wines to the town of Roa del Duero and the superb Asador Chuleta Balcón del Duero for an outstanding meal centered around beautifully grilled ribs of suckling lamb or lechado served as a wheel on a platter of roasted potatoes. In addition, we enjoyed lentil soup, a salad of partridge, quail and turkey, another of lamb’s leaf (mache) lettuce and garlic, mushrooms with huevos revueltos, a fabulous dessert of cuajada, cooked sheep’s milk with local honey and pine nuts and a saxophone serenade of “My Way” by the restaurant’s chef and owner, Joaquín “Joaqui”Alonso Aladro. This leg of the trip was off to a wonderful start. (Asador Chuleta Flick’r Photoset)
The wonders didn’t stop there as we continued north to the small town of Corcos de Valle in the region of Cigales and the rustic winery Bodegas de Hijos de Crescencia Merino, to visit the brothers Merino, Eugenio and Alberto, who produces what may be the most remarkable and delicious Rosado that I have ever tasted, Catajarros. Mineral rich and a lovely pink color, the grapes come from flinty, rock strewn soils. These notes show up in this rich, complex wine. The town itself is fascinating too with old wine caves dotting the hillside. We visited the cave owned by the family. Within was an extraordinary, ancient wooden wine press that evoked epochs long departed. (Hijos de Crescencia Merino Flick’r Photoset)
We continued on to the city of Tordesillas in the area of Rueda within the region of Valladolid, where we checked into the lovely Hotel Doña Carmen overlooking an ancient Roman bridge with a scenic view of the old city. We were joined for dinner by Ignacio Prieto, the son of Victoria Pariente, and one of the owners of Bodegas Jose Pariente, makers of outstanding Rueda Verdejos and Sauvignon Blancs.
Our meatfest continued, but this time the centerpiece was beef and not lamb. Café Bar El Torreon is a small restaurant with a large, indoor wood-fired grill and some of the best steak that I have ever eaten. Spanish beef can be truly extraordinary as they have a greater tendency to allow their beeves to mature to reasonable ages. Buey, or oxen of a certain age is a rare, but truly incredible treat. Close behind are older cows. The rib eyes grilled for us came from 8 year old working cows and was dense with flavor having been kissed just enough by the grill to provide a smoky sear. Aside from the steaks being so good, a bit of extra personality comes from the restaurant’s owner, Jeremías de Lázar a character who likes to literally throw handfuls of salt on the plate and on the diners. While a bit of an unexpected shock at first, it is done in fun and adds a bit of levity to the occasion. Another great surprise was how well the Jose Pariente whites worked with the meal. These were crisp whites with great structure and flavors true to their varietals, but with something extra – real terroir. A salad, roasted peppers and great fried potatoes rounded out the savory part of the meal, while delicious fried cheese with membrillo made for a superb dessert and finish to the night. (El Torreón Flick’r Photoset)