Just when it seemed that our vinous experiences could not be enhanced any further, they were. The morning – cold, foggy and breathvisibly beautiful – proved perfect for a visit to the small, hilly bodega of retired engineer turned vintner extraordinaire, Pepe Rodríguez. His atmospheric vineyards and winery, O Barreiro, in the small village of Seadur in Valdeorras, produces some of the most delicious and special Godellos anywhere, which means some of the most delicious white wines that I’ve ever had, equal or better in their mineral rich complexity to much of the best of what Burgundy and the Loire have to offer. Strong words, I know, but these wines possess everything I want in a wine – delicious, complex, mineral-rich flavor, low alcohol, romance and identity that pairs well with a wide variety of foods, especially shellfish and seafood. These un-wooded wines are not masked by anything, but are instead allow for the full expression of the grape and the land.
Rodríguez is not a young man, but his wines bear the fruit of his experience as an engineer, a winemaker and an aficionado. This is the kind of wine and wine experience worth seeking, as has been the case with all of the winemakers on this trip.
We left the fog and frost of O Barreiro behind as we headed to higher elevations and a visit to a larger and more modern facility that proved a total contrast with O Barreiro in everything but the quality of the wines. (O Barreiro Flick’r Photoset)
D’Berna, owned by Berna Guitián and his wife Elena Blanco, is a modern facility with expansive views and wonderful, homemade embutidos, which satisfied some serious hunger pangs. The wines are excellent as well, fitting in to Gerry’s criteria of low alcohol, no or little wood, quality fruit and a sense of varietal and place. While not as romantic or as fully nuanced as the O Barreiros, these were still superb, delicious wines. (D’Berna Flick’r Photoset)
Our path continued from the country back into town in O Barco de Valdeorras. Our purpose was, of course two-fold – food and wine-tasting. One of the most famous dishes of coast-heavy Galicia is their octopus or pulpo. It is a justifiably famous dish, but the oddity is that the dish is actually even better in the inland mountains than along the coast. Being a Sunday, on our way into town, we came across people making it as street food. It looked great, but we held out for a known entity – at least to Gerry.
While I don’t know how the street food octopus was, I suspect it was pretty darn good. However, once again, Gerry knew what he was talking about. At the quaint, unadorned Pulperia El Dorado, the boiled pulpo Gallego was sublime and as delicious as I have ever had anywhere. Bathed in quality Spanish olive oil and pimentón, it was supremely tender and full of flavor. Snipped into manageable bites, I couldn’t resist going back for more and more. This is the kind of cooking one hopes to find along one’s travels – authentic, of the area, expertly prepared and consummately delicious – something that can’t quite be repeated as such anywhere else.
We washed the pulpo down with the wines of the restaurant owners, the brothers Santalla – Eladio and Marcos. Their wines go under the label Hacienda Ucediños and both their Godello and Mencia wines went extremely well with the octopus, a dish sometimes difficult to pair well. (Pulperia El Dorado Flick’r Photoset)
Our visit with the Brothers Santalla was our last wine stop in Galicia, but we weren’t finished as we crossed over from Galicia into Castilla y Leon to the wine region of Bierzo.
There we stopped at Bodegas Adriá, no relation to the famed brothers from Catalunya. This is a much larger winery than others we had visited, but the price point reflects that as these wines are meant to reach a more introductory segment of the market. While not as complex as some of the other wines we tasted, they are still good wines reflective of the importer’s philosophy and great values. (Bodegas Adria Flick’r Photoset)
We had one last stop before heading east towards our final destination of the day. We stopped for lunch in the charming Camino de Santiago town of Villafranca de Bierzo, where I spied numerous hikers with walking sticks in hand passing through and stopping in this lovely town, which has obviously made a career of the Camino. The restaurant, La Puerta del Perdón, is part of a hostal, servicing the community of peregrinos, and was well worth the stop. It is owned and run by the husband and wife team of Herminio Garcia Corral and his wife, Pili, the restaurant’s chef. The restaurant is comfortable and attractive, the food centered on the traditions of the area. My lunch of partridge with soupy, local beans called pochas and collagenous trotters was hearty and more than I could eat given how much pulpo I had devoured earlier. (Puerta del Perdón/Camino Flick’r Photoset)
The afternoon was sunny as we clambered back into our well-used rental car to head east with the Picos de Europa on our left and the plains of La Mancha to our right. We had a long drive ahead of us with a falling night all around and ominous clouds in front.