Though I wish I could have sent what you will find to be a series of scribblings from my time abroad these past couple weeks actually from there in real time, I have kept close records and wanted to share them with you now over the course of the next month.
My trip began in Barcelona…well, literally. I flew in there but quickly found myself in Girona, about one hour north of Barcelona—in the northeast region of Catalunia. Some of the more famous wine regions in and around this area include Priorat, Emporda, and Penedes—home to Spain’s infamous bubbly: Cava.
I wasted no time. The first wine that hit my lips was only hours upon landing over lunch at the adorable little villa where I was staying in the countryside appropriately was from my favorite Spanish producer: R. Lopez de Heredia—a ’99 Tondonia rojo. That familiar musky scent met my nose, along with dried flowers, herbs and cherry tobacco. Fantastic now, but confident acidity assured me this wine had fantastic ageing potential. Dependable and well-integrated, this Rioja made me so grateful for the opportunity to actually live and breath Spain for the next few days. It was hot as all get out, so a slight chill on the bottle (a custom I noticed was quite common in the summertime here) was a refreshing way to approach this otherwise cool-weather red.
That evening saw a dinner at Las Plasas, a cozy, romantic stone restaurant tucked far into the country. Elaborate gardens greeted one at the entrance. I began with white anchovies—a recommendation I received far more than once during my preparations. Situated upon a crustini with a layer of red pepper compote, the fish paired quite well with a Merlot rose from Penedes—a weightier rose from spending time on its lees.
We then moved onto red: a tempranillo from DO Tierra de Leon, a subregion of Castilla y Leon, which sits between Galicia and Rioja. Tierra de Leon is one of nine DOs in this region, alongside more famous Ribero del Duero, Bierzo, and Rueda. It is considerably higher in elevation than the others, containing somewhat challenging clay-like and alluvial soils that are poor in organic matter. The bouquet was evident of dark forest fruit but it had a hint of minerality on its breath. The fruit got a bit more dominant with time, and a fennel component came to the fore. It was very modern in style, a crowd pleaser that night. In the end, a surprisingly nice choice when trying to pair everything from lamb and pigeon to duck and dorado.
To finish, we enjoyed a glass from nearby Emporda: Sinols Garnatxa to be exact. A nose of dried apricots and a mouthfeel that was satisfying albeit understated. It met its end rather quickly and did not dare an encore finish on the back palate. Nonetheless, it was delicious in its own right. Sweet ending to a sweet first day in Spain.