Whew. I am finally back in Salamanca after two busy weeks of travel. I tasted over 450 wines and traveled some 1,000 kilometers by car, train and bus.
Two weeks ago I went with my classmate Magdalena to the small town where her mother lives. Magdalena has a family finca, or estate, in the country about a 15-minute drive from La Cañiza, which is about 45 km from Ourense in the northwestern corner of Spain. Check out the map to orient yourself.
Her family’s property in Galicia sits up high overlooking one rolling hill after another, the furthest being that of Portugal. Backing up a few months, I had my first escape from Salamanca with Magdalena in February when she invited me to her house one weekend after class. She lives in Pozoantiguo, a small village outside of Toro.
We enjoyed our time even visiting the winery Estancia Piedra of D.O. Toro, which does wonders with the indigenous tinta del pais grape stalk. I am partial to crianzas and their Piedra Etiqueta Roja Crianza is beautiful. It is macerated with skins for 14 days. The malolactic fermentation happens in 30% French oak and 70% deposit before spending 12 months in American and French oak and then 24 months minimum in the bottle. These particular plants were planted in 1968. The maturity of the vine gives way to a concentration of red cherry color and mature red fruit in the mouth. They also have beautiful new installations to tour.
We followed the winding road from La Cañiza, Magdalena asking me if I get carsick easily. No, I do not. We speak Spanish the whole time even though she speaks English and Portuguese fluently. I appreciate her patience and intentions. We pull up next to a tall granite house with a Spanish-tiled roof. Her mother greets us.
There is an enormous wood-burning oven in the kitchen with views of the property below. When they went in to do the remodeling, they stripped some walls to find granite beneath the surface. They decided to leave the granite exposed.
Magdalena has the attic suite with a sloped ceiling and skylights that can be popped open with the turn of a handle allowing you to peer out over the roof. The bathroom has dark-wood beams with yellow tiles. We would later go into town where Magdalena picked up a home design magazine. She does her research and the results look great. My room faces the valley with vineyards as far as you can see. This is from the room…
We took a tour through the grounds. Because of the humidity in the air in Galicia (being just off the Atlantic coast) all of the vines grow on trellises above ground. You can walk beneath the vines.
The slope of the property is broken up with leveled terraces. Beyond the last terrace is a small garden where they are growing lettuce, beets, potatoes, green beans, and radishes. Pass that is the fountain that has a pipe that spews out potable water from a pipe, which we bottle and take back to the house for drinking. And for food, things also work differently in the country.
Of course, they do go into town to the market, but they also depend on the trucks that cruise the road honking along the way prompting customers to come to the street. The meat man comes once or twice a week, the fish man on Tuesdays and Thursdays, the butane supplier sporadically, and the bread lady sometime in between. Don’t need anything? Just shake your finger from the other side of your window.
On Sunday afternoon we went to the Festa do Alvarinho across the valley in Portugal, a 15-minute drive. It is like a country fair but with lots of great wine. There were about 30 Portuguese adegas selling their wines from stands around the perimeter of the interior of the tent. Chest-high tables occupied the rest of the space, giving patrons a bar feel for drinking and munching on cured ham and smoked, fried oily fish . Of course I had my wine notebook and recorded all the good wines.
Drinking a light, floral Alvarinho (Albariño in Spanish) is a nice change from the heavy, yet delicious reds found in Toro. I took a few videos of the local musical acts. For that, forgive me—it is not Oscar-worthy.
Play your accordion…
A couple days later. Magdalena and I took a walk. We found a few centuries-old chestnut tree.
I enjoyed myself so much that I agreed to spend the summer living with Magdalena and helping to do some repairs around the property, readying the vineyard for fall harvest. Want to come visit? Find me at my new address: El Campo, Galicia, Spain.
FENAVIN, May 10, 11, 12, 2011
As for Fenavin, it was great fun trying new wines. It is the largest exhibition of Spanish wines that I know to exist in the world. The Spanish wine fair in Ciudad Real, just a 50 minute AVE train ride from Madrid, hosts some 500+ wineries with the expectation of matching them with potential buyers. 73% of those present were wine importers/distributors with the remaining divided somewhat evenly between agents, retail stores, journalists and supermarket buyers. It sounds exciting, and it was, but it was very tiring to be standing and tasting good and bad wine with eager producers looking on to see what you thought for ten hours a day. Eight months ago I would have felt slightly out of place at an event like this, but I am finding my groove. I know less than most but more than some. I can at least hold a glass properly and spit my sample without spilling it all over myself–and that’s quite a feat.