Not every city or town in Europe is beautiful or charming, but fortunately, there are still plenty that are and Tordesillas, northwest of Madrid, in Valladolid, on the way to Galicia, is one of those small, charming and beautiful cities. From a vantage point situated in the lovely Hotel Doña Carmen overlooking the Rio Duero and the center of the city, it was beautiful lit up at night and even more so, the following morning. Unfortunately, it was to be a very busy day and we had no time to linger.
Our first stop was a quick visit to Bodegas Jose Pariente to see where the wines that we had drunk the previous night at dinner had come from. There, we met with Ignacio Prieto, our dinner companion from the night before and his sister, Martina, who showed us around the winery. The facility was large, clean and modern and their products, delicious. (Bodegas José Pariente Flick’r Photoset)
Not too many people outside of Spain associate winter with the country, but it was February and we left the winery to continue through Rueda and the mountains on our way to Galicia. We were fortunate with the weather though, as it had snowed just the day before as well as earlier in the week. Instead, we were treated to sunny, blue skies.
Our first stop in Galicia was in the small town of Oímbra in the southeastern Galician province of Ourense. The draw here, of course, was more wine, but here we had our first encounters of the trip with Galician wines and Galician wine varietals. I used to think way back when, that Spain was all about red wines, but then I had my first Spanish whites, which happened to be from Galicia. My view changed in a hurry and I came to realize that Spain is full of excellent white wines, yet, Galician whites remained my favorites. At that point, I was under the impression that Galicia was all about white wines, but then I had my first Galician reds, made from the Mencia grape, and I realized that this region of Spain was no one trick pony when it came to wine. On this trip, that was made quite apparent with our stop at Adegas Triay¹, where Antonio Triay along with his wife, Purificación “Puri” Garcia, are equally adept making outstanding whites from the Godello varietal and reds from Mencia. (Adegas Triay Flick’r Photoset)
Antonio joined us for lunch at the nearby Asador José, a restaurant with a huge menu featuring a wide variety of exotic meats and a decor to remind me of the infamous South of the Border way-station off I-95 in South Carolina just below the North Carolina border.Though it would not be a destination restaurant for me in the future, the food (we abstained from any of the more exotic choices, but not out of any sense of culinary prudism) was ultimately quite decent and the net result an enjoyable lunch, especially as it had been washed down with delicious wines from Adegas Triay.² (Asador Jose Flick’r Photoset)
Here we were in Galicia, but now I was yearning for the coast and we continued in that direction. As we headed that way we skirted Portugal just to our left. Of course, we had to cross the Miño river and into that fair country, for no other reason than its own sake. Once back in Galicia, we made our way to Pazo de Valdomiño, a distiller of artisanal aguardientes and licores. The Spanish Artisan Wine and Spirits Group is expanding its interest in the spirits side of the business and with this gem of a discovery made by Gerry, they should do very well. Led through a tour and tasting by the company’s Director, Miguel Oliveira, I was quite impressed by the quality of the company’s spirits including a Cilantro Licor, their gin (Ginabelle) and others, so much so that I bought some to bring home and for gifts elsewhere on my trip. I would have bought more if I had more room, but I’m looking forward to finding it available in the US in the not too distant future. (Pazo de Valdomiño Flick’r Photostream)
By this point, we had seen some beautiful rios de Galicia³, but none of the vaunted rias de Galicia, the sources of so much of the wonderful shellfish of the area. Fortunately, upon leaving Pazo de Valdomiño, that was to be quickly remedied as we ventured north through the province of Pontevedra, where we crossed the Rias de Vigo on the Puente de Rande. stopping to admire the view of a myriad of shellfish farms and a spectacular sunset scene.
That was not our destination, however, We continued heading north along the coast for another wine tasting – this time for our first formal tasting of Galicia’s golden glory – Albariño! The tasting was to be at one of the winery’s in Gerry’s portfolio, Adega Cabaleiro do Val, a venerable Galician winery owned by the winemaker, Paco Dovalo, who also happens to be the President of the Asociación de Bodegas Artesanas Rias Baixas within the Rias Baixas denomination in the heart of Albariño country. At his winery building (dating from 1837), we tasted a wide range of vintages of his own aromatic albariños, both from bottle and from steel vat, as well as those from a number of other nearby producers, including Manolo Dovalo (Rozas), Xosé Pintos Pintos (Lagar de Broullón), Eulogio Gondar (Lagar de Candes), Fernando Meis Otero (O Forrollo), Antonio Gondar (Avó Roxo). It was a beautiful tasting with each one having its own distinct flavor profile, but all conforming to the mineral rich, crisp character of the varietal. These were not boring, cookie-cutter wines, but wines of distinction and pleasure, simply begging to be accompany the region’s world-class seafood. (Adega Cabaliero do Val Flick’r photostream)
A number of the wines got their wish a short time later. Gerry, Bill and I left the adega to check in at our lovely Hotel Casa Rosita in just north of Cambados and a short while later we met the winemakers, Paco Dovalo, his cousin Manolo and Antonio Gondar, each of whom brought their wines, at D’Berto, on the nearby peninsula town of O Grove. This proved to be an epic meal, perhaps the very finest and most memorable shellfish meal of my life, requiring its very own post. Please stay tuned!
¹Adega is the Galician word for Bodega, which is the Spanish term for winery or more precisely, wine cellar. I try to use the locally preferred term in situations like this.
²I and my traveling companions spit more superb wine on this trip than I would typically do, but believe it or not this was a working trip to taste and evaluate wines. On such a trip, especially when so much driving is involved, it is not just wise, but good business practice to limit one’s actual intake of alcohol. Nevertheless, the pleasures of tasting remained – even as the day wore on and the number of wines to taste mounted.
³Rios are rivers, while rias are Galician equivalents of fjords. They are prolific sources of some of the finest seafood in the world and beautiful in their own right.