Tuesday, 17 December 2013

A homage to a great 2013



If I want to have this post ready by the end of the year, I better start working on it now. Still, so many things have happened over the last 12 months, that it will be difficult to accurately collect them, so I will try to just walk you along the most important events.

A few weeks ago, my dear friend Erin made a comment that made me stop and think. It had to do with what a different situation I was living compared to last year, and being this absolutely true, I suddenly realised all the things that had taken place in my life.

I will go back to December 2012, spending my "life-changing" Christmas at home. Without a festive spirit and after too many sleepless nights, it was a quiet Christmas. I definitely did not have the energy to meet with friends and my mood was not in line with the season and I did not want to mirror everyone's spirit to mine, so I spent the week at home and after Christmas, I delivered the news to my family that I was going to quit my job and leave Germany, after seven years.

The news was taken in in various ways, but, with the exception of my mother, non of them were thrilled. Most thought I had lost my mind and others were... respectful.

Time to fly back to my seven-year home and start the count down.

The first three months of 2013 went by fast (like the remaining nine), lots of things needed to be done to prepare my move out, resignation, various notices, de-registrations and lots of things at work that I wanted to finalise before taking off. Hectic times but my mood was on its best, and with high spirits, no task seems too tedious. By the end of the thee month period notice, I packed my things, left my apartment and celebrated my farewell-birthday feeling my happiest. Before leaving a five day trip to the Mosel with my dear friend and then, off to London to start the training for my "new career life" (to be).

Mid April I spent two weeks of thorough study (probably the most intensive ones of my life) and thankfully, successfully passed the Advanced Level 3 in Wines and Spirits, but that I would not know before eight weeks had passed). Back to Germany for a week to do some further paperwork and say some difficult farewells. Despite my mood being jolly, saying goodbye was not fun.

Last week of April, time to get in the car and drive away from my up-to-then life and get acquainted with my uncertain and minute changing present. Since then, that is basically what I have been doing: living every present moment, without looking back, and not adventuring myself too much into the future. Must say that living this way, has reported some of the most pleasurable and happy moments of my life. Living the "hoy".

As you know, my first stop was Peter's home in Antwerp, were I had the time and the best amicable and soothing host who greatly helped me getting used to the new situation. Muchas gracias, amigo.

The following month transcurred between secondary roads and wine estates, learning, seeing and tasting the terroir. Unforgettable memories and extraordinary moment lived out of causality, or not (you decide in what you believe). And great wine! 

Time to arrive to my new~old home and get used to my new~old life and thank goodness for the good~old friends and family. The thought of the following six weeks, makes me dizzy. It was non-stop. Too many things needed to be sorted out, paperwork needed to be taken care of. The closing down of the first three months of the year in Frankfurt, now needed to be opened up in Ourense. 

So between registrations, car importing, painters, kitchen fitting and furniture delivery, my first, and so expected visitor, arrived. It was so good to see Erin again, she made me forget about the craziness of the move and for one whole week just enjoyed my very dear friend. I wanted to show her everything, of course it was impossible, so "tut mir leid" my dearest Erin, you will have to visit again. Looking forward to that.

By the time we realised the week had gone by (way too fast) and it was her time to fly out and Peter's turn to fly in. The beautiful, warm, sunny, rainless summer was pleasantly enjoyed with my friends visiting and while getting my life organised. 

The autumn made its way and it was time to sit down and plan the next steps. Meeting with my business partner to be each day for two weeks, was a challenging and satisfactory way to brainstorm through October. Decision making time regarding the name, the scope, the way forward... was as exhausting as it was rewarding. With the bases laid down and with a clearer idea of how it should be, time to concentrate on my studies for the following year, or two.

Next summer will be time for the business plan aiming to start with the business activity in about a year time. To be continued...

On the personal plan I am extremely satisfied with this year. It has given me so many personal challenges, that when I look back the balance is absolutely positive, feeling quite proud of how I have approached and handled them. I guess at times one must go through difficult periods to find out our inner strength to confront adversity, gaining in self confidence and getting the energy load needed to continue the path. 

Being happy to be back home, feeling for the first time that family is not overrated, that it is important to not leave the ones we love and care for "on hold", and that there is no job as well paid or challenging, that makes up for it, because, at the end of the day, we are tired of listening how it will not be our employer who will look after us, and in all honesty, why should he? Luckily it is never too late to realise that too often our priorities are not well defined and that we give the best of ourselves and our lives to those who just pay for a service. 

Yes, 2013 has definitely been one of my best years ever. I have finally understood the importance of living and fully appreciating the moment, because every one one of them is unrepeatable. We are given the freedom to choose and not making use of that freedom, is a real pity. 

I am sure I will find a way to make a living, but I am extremely happy to have finally found the way to live my life.

In Vino Veritas; Carpe Diem.

This post is dedicated to all of you who have been part of this amazing year. Thank you for your support, for your friendship, for your faith in me, for being there and for being part of my life. 

Best wishes for 2014 and may we all have the strength to materialise our dreams. 

¡Salud!




Saturday, 12 October 2013

"The clock is running. Make the most of today. Time waits for no man. Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That's why it is called the present."

It is the third time I start this post, however; I fear that no matter what I write, I will not do fair justice to the person it is dedicated to.

Here we go again, and please do forgive my lack of coherence, but this is a tough one and since the person it is dedicated to, has been a source of inspiration for the last 20 years, he well deserves a place of honour in my blog.

Dear Antonio,

I woke up this morning with the awaited, but still devastating news of your death.

Life, and death, are a funny thing, we give then for granted, because they are only a breath away, but logic is not of great help when it comes to accepting the fact about those we love.

It has been a long, nourishing friendship, that turned out to be a very special one.

I remember when I made it to the last test for the recruitment process, the personal interview with the General Manager, the person who would become my boss in case of being the chosen one. That is the first memory I have of you.

I was 21, unexperienced, nervous and trying to project a very mature, self confident image of myself. I got the job!

From that moment on, and for the next four years, our working relationship was full of challenges, improvisation, hard work, milestones and disagreements. God, you were a stubborn man! (and I was bold and inexperienced ), but you had all my admiration.

We were a good team. We all were. Those were the golden years of my newly discovered adult life as a responsible worker.

You were a good leader, and a great teacher. You helped me, by pushing me to the limit, at times, to discover my skills and my strengths, and I became your shadow. You just had to look up, and I would be there, efficient and happy to help.

I did hate you at times, no worries. Two strong personalities confronted on a daily basis made us argue with vehemence, but you knew how to turn the argument into a good laugh, and constructive discussions would always follow.

We had good, enriching conversations, but I would say, it was after you left and you were no longer my boss, that our relationship changed and we became friends.

Now I look back, and realising that 20 years have passed, it seems a lot, but our friendship has always been fresh, youthful and full of love, respect and mutual admiration.

Many things have happened since then, but throughout the years you have always been there, as a source of inspiration and admiration. We have discussed from important matters to little silly things, but we have had fun.

Yes, today I am sad. Very sad. I will miss you dearly, I will miss talking and getting that kick in my self-esteem that you knew very well how to give me.

I have realised that it is often the case I quote you. I use the wise words you have presented me over the years, and when I think of you, inevitably, my face brightens up in a genuine smile.

One of the biggest lessons you ever gave me was once you wanted me to do something, and I said I could not do it. "Have you tried doing it before?", you asked.  "No, never", I replied. "So how do you know you cannot do it if you have never tried?". That one is still nowadays one of my life mottos, and you can be sure, I always try, and must of the times, succeed. ;)

My dear Toñito, you live in my heart and my thoughts.

& you owe me a coffee.

With all my love and admiration,
Xóchitl









Saturday, 7 September 2013

Entre copas

The title of this entry is "Entre copas", although it really has nothing to do nor it is inspired by the film I have not yet watched, but I guess it is between glasses that my most memorable life experiences take place.

The day started out covered with clouds and the temperatures have dropped way to many degrees. I am just not ready for the autumn to start, however; this last weeks it has been so dramatically evident time, seasons, years... life! goes by so fast one has to do a conscious stop in order to realise. So wanting to hold to the summer is just as utopical as thinking way back I would always be twenty.

One day you are young, so full of life and dreams and curiosity, eager for adventures, for challenges, for life lessons, where the world is your game board and infinite is the limit, however; the next time you look, twenty years have passed and you have barely realised. "Where did the time go?" you ask yourself and when you think about it, you gain full awareness of all the things you have had the time to do.

I do not know if anyone has the life at forty he dram at twenty, but my feeling is more and more that life, like Lennon's song, "is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans". So why not embrace it and let it flow. For sure the ride would be much more pleasant and worry-free. However (and this is just a wild guess) I guess this just goes against the planning human nature. 

I find myself at forty at the start of a new (is it accurate to call it "new" or is it just the continuation of?) life, I have left behind "my orderly life" and forbid myself, as always, to look back. I feel as alive and invincible as when I was twenty, but now I know better. It is not at all a bad "continuation point". Then again, someone who reminded me too much of myself and as young as I was twenty years ago came into my life and stirred up all these thoughts and feelings. It was like looking into a time mirror and recognising myself. Amusing and rewarding, it did put a smile in my heart and made me regain boldness, and made me wonder at what point of my way, had I discarded it. 

Rod, I have to thank you for your enthusiasm and positive energy, I am sure you will not miss the one you have left in Spain. You have more than enough for yourself and others, and you can just generate so much every day. A true donor. 

My business plan is shaping up, I have an enthusiastic and full of energy business partner who's business idea is so much in line with mine, that we are like mind-siamese, my two-year diploma studies will start soon, and "entre copa y copa" lots of things to be done and, I am already looking forward to looking back in twenty-year time to realise how far I have gotten on this path. Hopefully happily far, if not, I will for sure remember this time, when I felt like twenty again. 

That reminds me of another song that says: "sentir que es un soplo la vida, que veinte años no es nada", (to feel that one’s life is a twinkle, that twenty years is nothing) by Carlos Gardel.


This time I do want to dedicate this post to my, now, three boys. I love you dearly and I thank you for sharing your thoughts and dreams with me. To Pancho, Maww and Rod, all the best wherever you are, wherever you go, whatever you do. Keep me posted!

Salud!

Good luck and many experiences in the new semester 

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Life is good when you are having fun

and time also flies, so they say, and that is exactly how it feels.

A few months ago, it seemed this was going to be the longest summer ever, but when I look into the calendar (not that often) it is amazing to see we are reaching the end of the month of August. But I am still trying to shape my new shoes and ... Slow down, please!

This was another fantastic weekend at the beach. I haven't had many this year, despite of being so close, but got many things to do. I insist.

A friend visited Galicia some days ago and I was sad and disappointed (without being sure that is the word) not to see him. I do not know, but I think I would have made the effort if it would have been the other way around. However, life has is surprises, and while 'mourning' my friend, a very distant and very young relative, of identical name, made his appearance in my life.

What I thought at first it would be a courtesy, turned out to be an extremely pleasant time with a very young person and early wine lover. 

The last few days I have enjoyed the nice, easy going, personality of the 'snake charmer' and had the great opportunity to review my wine knowledge thanks to his never-ending questions regarding wine.

It is actually so stimulating to find young people so eager to know and learn. Yes, I must say he did find my Achilles' heel and I have to thank him for the four days of good conversation, food and wine.

Looking back, the weekend started off by meeting my business partner (to be) and unleashing our thoughts and dreams, deciding to meet again in a week-time to lay down our ideas and build up our business plan. 

Driving, on Monday, my good friends Nacho and Yeni to Porto to catch the flight that would take them to the Salzburg Festival, where they were going to see, life, Bartoli's Norma (yes, I am jealous. Very) and taking a day off in Porto, visiting a winery, buying a vintage Kopke 'Colheita 1983' and walking around that, very close to my heart, city.

View of the Ribeira from Vila Nova de Gaia

My new 'baby'

On Tuesday, a very domestic day. Getting finally sorted my Internet at home was a top priority. One cannot inhabit the XXI Century without having decent Internet, whatever it takes. So I had to install a parabolic antenna at home in order to get something like broad band Internet. And it seems it works! Good.

Wednesday, time to go to the beach and the goal; to stay until the weekend. I took Rodrigo along and it was (please, excuse the capital letters) SO NICE, that time just flew. 

'Cloudy Thursday' took us to Viana do Castelo, where I had the chance to discover another lovely Portuguese town. I had been before, several times, to the 'citania' visiting Santa Luzia, the last time with Erin at the Pousada, having lunch before driving her to Porto airport, but never to the historic centre, and I must say it is 'quelque chose'. 

I had a great time discovering the town at the same time I was discovering Rodrigo, and laughing and enjoying just the fact of being there.

Viana do Castelo (I had to wait for a good five minutes to take this picture 'tourist-free')

Friday, time to visit a piece of heaven on earth. Roberto,the vineyard manager, kindly offered to show us the vineyards of 'Altos de Torona', a one-hundred hectare vineyard in Tomiño. At 17:00 (not so) sharp we were there to see the vineyards planted on the Rosal sky top. Jose gave us an extensive explanation about the terroir of this heavenly grape paradise. That night, Rodrigo and I shared a bottle of their young red wine. Very good. 


Altos de Torona vineyards in Vilarchan, Tomiño. (DO Rias Baixas) http://www.altosdetorona.com/

Saturday, we spent a beach afternoon at the Cies Islands, dreaming about sailing and diving the oceans and then to Salvaterra do Miño, to attend their annual wine fest. Good company and good wine. Life is good.

Sunday: a 25+ bright sun day at the beach, and time for me to drive back to Ourense, and for Rodrigo to continue his journey. On our way, the 'vuelta ciclista' near Tui, and a brief farewell in Valença with the best wishes for a good stay in Portugal and a very business constructive week for me in Ourense.

Now, listening to Cecilia's 'Norma', drinking Grüner Veltliner and writing this entry. An ode to music, wine, beauty and friendahip.

Salud, and all the best to you.






Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Wining across Galicia

Long time no entries, sorry for that. However, I do have two great excuses. 

First good excuse. Erin came to visit for a week in July, a week that just seemed too short. It was so great seeing her after almost three months that while waiting for her at the airport I was so excited and happy, nerves in my belly, that I just could not wait to see her and show her around.

For one week we did some site seeing and lots of wining and dining across the region. Our first stop was Tui on our way back from Porto and later a finger food diner on the hill top of Casal de Arman, with a lovely sight overlooking the Ribeiro vineyards in Ourense.

Dinner with a view in Casal de Arman

The following days were a continuous driving back and forth to some of the close attractions around Ourense. We visited  the 'Ribera Sacra' and took the catamaran along the Sil River while contemplating the terraced vineyards between steep rock walls and later getting lost while trying to find Santa Cristina monastery on our way back, a challenge we did not manage to meet, but at least we did make it to San Pedro de Rocas, an amazing monastery excavated in the granite rocks of the mountain, surrounded by chestnut tree forest and small running creeks.

Hahaha, the experience was not as pleasant when we decided to embark ourselves in the catamaran from Baiona and spend a day at the Cies Islands. Half way to the coast, the fog made its appearance  and stayed. For over five hours we were at the paradisiac island, covered with all the clothes we had and trying to stay warm. The stress and disappointment had its reward in the way of an amazing diner at El Candil, in Baiona. Bogavante rice and a bottle of Godello, were a nice consolation price. 

The night before departure we went to the Rosal wine fest, a very typical Galician way of celebrating their 'fiestas' with nice local products and the fantastic Rias Baixas wine from O Rosal subregion. The 'charanga' made its way and everyone, without exception, danced and sang to the music of the young musicians. It was a very folkloric moment to take as a souvenir. 

It just went so fast, that by the time we realised the seven days were gone and the drive back to Porto from Viana do Castelo, a bit tight. I did not succeed in my secret plan to miss the plane so that she had to stay for another week... 

Well my dear friend, you must come to visit again. Soon.

The days between Erin's departure and Peter's arrival went between finalising my kitchen (still ongoing), meeting friends and other domestic tasks. 

On Sunday the day started out grey and not that warm, threatening thunderstorms, nothing to do with the summer ideal. Peter arrived to Vigo on the late flight from Madrid, just in time to suffer a bit of turbulences but when the worst had past, and from Monday on... Sun, sun, sun!

With my house in better shape, we managed to eat breakfast everyday in the new balcony set and prepare coffee in the new kitchen. A ode to modernity! Small quotidian pleasures, nice to have back.

Tuesday 30 July: my grandmother's 90th birthday and time for a family celebration I could not ask my guest to endure, so while I sang along a million times happy birthday dear mother, grandmother, greatgrandmother... He had wonderful day at the beach in Cies.

Heading towards the Cies Islands from Baiona

Tapas dinner in Baiona and a three day stay at the beach, working (hard) on our suntan. I must say he managed to get one much better than mine... :(

Time flies when you are having fun, and after visiting Santiago de Compostela on Saturday, and a lazy Sunday in Ourense, it was time for him to go back and for me to prepare for my next visit. This time it is my turn to travel to Madrid on the weekend to celebrate a very dear friend's birthday.

Pedro en Santiago de Compostela

While I was writing this post, the carpenter finished with the last details of my kitchen and the painter will come this afternoon to do the last bit. Oh yeah!

Well my readers, thank you for your patience and hope to see you soon.

On the meantime, enjoy and have fun.

Salud!







Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Rías Baixas - Rosal

I am lucky enough to know this wine region for many years, not so much all the wines that are produced here, but the Rosal area, yes! 

The first summer spent in this land was at the age of 16, quite a long time has past, however; the memories are still very vivid and present in my mind and very close to my heart. Around this land I was a teenager once. Not so sweet sixteen, specially for my parents. I lived and loved the summers here, at the times when school was over in June and we did not have to go back until October, so the long summer holidays spent here are very dear to me.

This place was the scenery of summer friendships, summer freedom, summer outings and summer hangovers. The first time I tried wine and many other spirits, not always of the best quality and of not so clear origin. Yes, the summers spent here were very important and enlightening. Who would have guessed then that twenty plus years later I would be approaching this land from a very different perspective.

I do not even think back then the wine from this region was known as Rias Baixas, I think we would then order a wine from Rosal. It was good back then and I would say even better nowadays.

Back then we would suffer the high acidity of the alvariño grapes in our own stomach, nowadays this same acidity, proper to the grape sort is much better balanced, giving the wines all the freshness without the pain. Thankgodfor modern viniculture! 

Galician white wines have always been a reference of quality in the national market, however, of the Spanish whites one can find outside Spain, Rias Baixas is for sure one, and a very appreciated one. Fruity, fresh, citrus, full of life. They are great with the regions excellent seafood or drank on their own. 

The vineyards in the northwest part of Spain encounter different challenges, like the excess of autumn to spring rain and the very warm dry summers, not so drastic near the coast where the DO Rias Baixas is located. O Rosal has a microclimate of its own. Moderate temperatures, plus the fogs from the banks of the Miño river. A nice, stable temperature with no frost nor too hot in summer. I am sure grapes are happy here, just like me! ;)

Today I had lunch at a nice place in the middle of the Rosal area: as Eiras. Long time no see and still a pretty place to go. It opened back in 1988 and I have been a costumer since then. At that time it was a real act of heroism to wait for a table and have dinner, maybe after 5 hours... It is much more elegant and better organised now, it has gained some good things and it has lost some very charming ones. 



http://www.lagareiras.com/


There are things that despite of the years and the seasons one never gets tired of seeing, that is the case of this view. I have seen this view from the widow for over 25 years now, and every time, I find it as beautiful as the first time I saw it.

It has been a lovely SUMMER day, full of sun and over 30 degrees.


Salud! I am out to drink some Rosal wine ;)

Have a nice weekend and enjoy.







Monday, 17 June 2013

Pass with Merit

Today has been quite an odd day. I guess it is Monday!

It started out bright and sunny, but the skies started to cover and by 10 it was raining again, and since then, it has been on and off. And it is cold! Brrrrrr... 

I do not know if the summer will eventually arrive to stay, but for sure; not today. Blankets out and hoping the sun comes back soon. 14 degrees in June is not fun, it's fresh.

The paperwork to import my car is ongoing, I am starting to get the hang of it and in no time I will be greeted by my first name in all official institutions. Lets see if I manage to close that soon. Also the amount of boxes in my house decrease by the day, everything is finding its place and I just need a reasonable estimate and a reasonable delivery time for a new kitchen, et voilà! All sorted.

Met two friends for coffee and my mother called me to tell me that an envelope from the "Royal Mail" had arrived for me. If you are wondering if Prince Harry himself wrote me a letter, I am afraid not. However; the envelope contained a certificate from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust with my 'WSET Level 3 Award in Wines and Spirits'.

Yu-ju, I passed! And that means that the first step of my wine career is ticked. Next stop: the Diploma.
Now I must decide what format to choose for the next two years... OK, I guess today I can rejoice and tomorrow think.

Buenas noches y... salud!








Friday, 14 June 2013

Week Two

Furniture in place and 60+ boxes ready to be unpacked, days go by with many things done and many others to do.

Yesterday the movers brought in my 21 cubic meters of unnecessary but happy-to-see-again things. 

The day started out cloudy and grey, but by noon, beautiful cloud-free and bright-blue skies together with 25 degrees were so nice to be living in. 

In the afternoon; unpacking and cleaning. With the windows wide open and the magnificent and recently released Cecilia Bartoli's 'Norma', playing loud, courtesy of my friend Nacho. The birds happy with the music and singing along. It is good to be in the middle of nowhere surrounded by peace, quiet and nature (not always that silent).

The landscape is beautiful. I just can't help being amazed of the natural beauty of this land, so often abused and badly treated, in the best case scenario, just ignored or not appreciated. I guess the saying: 'you do not know what you've got till it's gone', can also apply. This year has been so rainy, that everywhere is an explosion of green. My garden is blossoming and the mountains, yes! my very much missed mountains, are a succession of green waves crossed by blue, full of water rivers. 

I promise to post some breathtaking pictures, but I just can't make up my mind of which one. I guess you should all come and see it with your own eyes. In the meanwhile, a picture of my blossoming kiwi trees :)


Talking about visiting, the week gave me two GREAT surprises. The first one is confirmed to arrive on the 16 of July, only 31 days to go and counting... I was so excited that I almost cried of joy. Later in the evening, the second surprise arrived, pending exact day confirmation, another visit of another dear friend for the first or second (why not both?) week of August. So if I ever feared I would get bored (which has not been the case so far), it seems that from the 16 of July, to the 20 of September I will be happily showing my latest place on earth to some very dear friends. I am thrilled!

Time for tradition, 'un vinito' (a wine) with Marieta, where other friends might join, in a terrace under the 21:00 sun. 

Yeap, life in Spain is (still) good, despite of the news.

Salud! 











Friday, 7 June 2013

Home Sweet Ribeiro DO

Long time no write. I know some of you are wondering if I fell in a barrel of Mencia wine in Bierzo, but fortunately (or unfortunately) it was not the case.

I arrived to my Galician hometown a week ago. The week has had its share of wine drinking, not so much of wine tasting. 

Arriving in June is the perfect timing for all the school year end and other festive activities. I started out on Saturday with a friend's sixties birthday party. Fantastic! My niece's gymnastics show, Sunday morning. The 'fabulous four' gathering, in the afternoon; painters and workers in my house; my other niece's theatre play on Wednesday and my own share of bureaucratic diligences throughout the week. I must say, in this sense, it is great being In Spain! Even tedious paperwork is much more bearable with nice, customer friendly people behind the counter. At least there is one skill Germans could learn from us. It is interesting to see the idea people have about other nationalities. No, Germans are not always right and not always 'that' efficient, and Spanish are not always sleeping siesta and dancing flamenco. A pity, but true ;)

To be honest, a week ago I was a bit scared about my landing. For over a month I had been living in an in-between, meeting different people, seeing beautiful places and discovering new wines. Lovely! But the idea of being back for good, was a completely different thing and I was not so sure I was fully  prepared for it (like if anyone is ever 'fully' prepared for anything). However, I must say: "so far, so good". 

Head first, my actual project is now sorting out my house, which is looking prettier and prettier and the upcoming months promise to be full of cleaning, organising and gardening activity. 

With the idea of 'one step at the time' still in mind, I think I could fill my summer days with this purpose. And why not, some well deserved sun and fun. After I settle in and before I start my next level at the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, I will continue with my wine tasting excursions and finding my place. 

At times it just doesn't feel real, is like the film of my life in 3D, I do not know if this lack of full awareness is some kind of anaesthetic effect because the body and the mind know best, or is it the effect of wine? ;) The other possibility is that I am so fully aware and feel so comfortable in my skin, that everything feels right. Too late to start worrying about formalisms, non-constructive thoughts are not  welcomed in my mind and I have absolute faith that time will set the pace and events will flow when the time is right. It was only me who decided to follow this gut feeling and now I have to keep walking, not a good time to start getting rational and pragmatic, only confident and proactive.

Today's post is not really about wine, but about my present status. Maybe you were also wondering about my doings. I will not entertain you more with domestic matters and promise to be back as soon as my wining life is restored. 

Have a nice weekend, be happy and enjoy.

Salud! 




Thursday, 30 May 2013

Mencia, the heart of Bierzo

If anyone has the impression I am not enjoying my very personal pilgrimage, please, get that idea out of your mind. I think I have not enjoyed more in my life (or maybe I have). This is just such a great experience.

Today, my day started out in Ponferrada after a not so pleasant stay at a decadent, horrible service hotel. This morning I thought my predisposition for the day was not the best, but I could not have been more mistaken.

At 10 I had the first visit scheduled at Castro Ventosa winery. I arrived a bit late and I just hate being late, so no, not a good start. After apologising, I was shown the winery on bottling day. This one is a very small family-run winery, producing around one hundred and fifty thousand bottles out of 65 hectares of old vineyards. 


In the last five days I have seen the oldest vines of the trip. Here and in Toro, this is given great importance due to the low yields and high concentration of the fruit characteristics in the grape.

By 10:30 I was tasting three wines directly from the vats and without the possibility of using a spittoon. LOL. I guess from that moment on, my day could only be fantastic.

After this visit, I went to the wine council to get a full list of DO Bierzo wineries and called them to see if it was possible to visit them. I got some visits confirmed and since my next visit was at 16:00, I decided to have a long lunch. And I did! At Moncloa. The food was super yummy and the wine... well, what can I say?

This was only the starter, do you really want to see more? I do not know if you will be able to bear it... 

 Sorry, I did warn you.

After my very much enjoyed lunch, time for my next visit. 

At Bodegas Godelia I arrived early (to make up for the previous delay), got a brief introduction and was toured around the winery, really, Spanish wineries have the latest technology, it is a great pride the way that wines are produced in this country.

After the visit, the tasting... Hhhhmmmm, yes, a golden brooch. Josep, the oenologist, arrived at that point and we got engaged in a very interesting conversation, starting off with vineyard management, the conversation covered many subjects, all very interesting where he gave me great ideas and information, ten minutes before six (yes, two and a half hours later), I got the reminder that my next visit was due at six. Oh dear, time flies when you are having fun. I did not even have the time to finish the tasting, but he gave me a bottle of their premium wine for my very personal wine tasting. Thanks Josep, it has been my great pleasure.

Last visit for the day to Pittacum, who's wines I had met before. Javier was my guide this time. He was an absolute star, very knowledgable and another wine lover. What a pleasure! His approach was from a very technical point of view that I greatly appreciated. I must say, it feels really good when being an amateur with professional aspirations to be considered a fellow wine expert. Oh yes!

With Javier we ended up tasting directly from the vat, the ready to bottle Pittacum Aurea. Lovely wine. The oak, acidity, tannins, alcohol, so well integrated, resulting in a deliciously round wine.

Being only little over a hundred kilometres from Ourense, tomorrow will must likely be the end of the journey home. It is a bit sad, but I think I am ready for landing and start with the phase B. Time to sort out domestic issues and transfer into a business plan all my thoughts, ideas and experiences.

During the well over three thousand kilometres of road, the initial draft idea has finished the fermentation and it is in the maturation phase. I have reached the point where I know where I want to be, and now, I just need to figure out the 'how to get there' part. My next journey.

Salud and sweet (wine) dreams ;)



Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Toro and its 'Tinta'

I have spent my last two days visiting wineries in the Toro DO. 

For those of you who have never heard nor tried these wines, Toro wines are known for their... How can I call it? Power? Yes, Toro wines are powerful. 

Following the Duero river, after Rueda, Toro is in the provinces of Valladolid and Zamora. Mostly reds, the main grape is Tempranillo, here known as 'Tinta de Toro'. Claimed to be the original, pre-phylloxera grape, they say the pest did not reach this land, due to the poor soils. And the are! Sand and stone, with a very extreme continental climate, one can often find vines of well over a hundred years and meters-long roots that find the water deep in the sandy soils. Very reduced yields and high concentration of sugars, being the Toro wines, high in tannins, alcohol (always around, more likely above,15%) and lots of complexity. 


The vineyards are mostly bush trained, the way they have traditionally been, and the grapes hand-harvested, selecting the best, first in the vineyard and latter in a selection table, before placing the unpressed destemmed grapes in the stainless steel vats for the first fermentation. In order to 'smoothen' the wines, the wine receives oxygen, by transferring it first to an open container before pumping it over.

Once the alcoholic fermentation is done, new French and American 225 oak barrels are used for the malolactic fermentation and the ageing. This is of course not the general rule, with slight, or not so slight, variations from winery to winery.

These strong, full of personality wines pair beautifully with the rich Castilian dishes. 

Potatoes with spareribs and vino de Toro at Restaurante Castilla

Of the five wineries I visited and the close to fifteen wines I tried, I can say that Toro is producing wines of good quality for the strong-red wine lovers, with marked land characteristics. All different and for all palates. I guess now you have to do your share of wine tasting ;)

Salud!








Monday, 27 May 2013

Another day in wineadise

Four weeks have passed since I left Germany and started my journey home. So many things have happened, and I am now so used to a life on the road. Who sang that song?... 'Give me a life on the road' (I should add that one to my journey's sound track), and sleeping in so many comfortable and uncomfortable beds, but actually sleeping. That can only be a good sign that I am on the right track.

http://youtu.be/XsybNX5I2tQ

When I planned my suitcase I decided to take the most pragmatic approach. I would be travelling south during the month of May, therefore, I would meet sun and heat, halfway. It has not been the case at all. I have been wearing the same clothes for a month (washing in between). That makes me think of my 21 cubic-meter removal. Unnecessary stuff! My short sleeve t-shirts, skirts and 'sock less' shoes have only, and briefly, seen the light in Belgium. LOL.

Nevertheless I am not complaining, life has been good and generous. I have had the chance to contemplate beautiful landscapes, receive the morning's chill and feel amazed and happy when the sun would come out to greet me. 

Today I had an intensive wineries day, each winery was different and special in their own way. Their mission statement was so personal and valid, that I enjoyed each and every visit. It is so comforting to meet talented and passionate young and old Spanish professionals, who believe in themselves and in what they represent. 

It is so energising, in a country where crisis, unemployment and disenchantment rule, to see the other side. It is a kick in the spirit to try to be our best ambassadors, to believe in ourselves and what we can do for our country and for ourselves.

However, this afternoon I was confronted with the, sadly, present scenario. Two engineers; a chemical engineer, unemployed for the last two years and a telecommunications engineer, with a pay check under 1000 EUR, asking me about job opportunities in Germany. My heart shrunk. It is sad to see young and highly educated Spanish having to leave their houses and families, not because they are unprepared and irresponsible, the way sometimes we are pictured. They are not smarter, more intelligent and better workers when abroad, it is just because elsewhere, they are given the chance to excel. Why not in Spain? Why are we our worst enemies? Why do we always try to compete in price, when we can compete in quality? Why are we so humble (?) with our skills and our products? 

While visiting wineries, the Spanish wineries have nothing to envy, if not the other way around, the wineries I have visited in other parts of Europe, but when selling the wines, Spanish wines are excellent value for money, but of course that has an impact in the whole chain. To achieve those prices, everyone I the chain, chips in. Due to this low wage approach, we go abroad to work and what we do is that the same labour force pays taxes and spends money elsewhere while here an aged population struggles to make it to the end of the month. Shops close, towns die, population decreases, the fields are abandoned and we sell our bottles of wine, at one third of the price we sometimes have to pay for a 'null zwei' glass of wine. And that, hurts. 

Believe me, I have no clue what was first; the chicken or the egg, nor how to fix it. And these, are just my thoughts spoken out loud. 

I am now only a few hundred kilometres away from home, 'reality' time is ticking, at times I feel lost and not knowing how I will continue, but when the morning breaks, I am always clueless how the day will go, and by the end of the day, not only have I survived, but I have learned something new, I have enjoyed and I have had a wonderful day. 'Moraleja': one day at the time, staying positive and looking at the bright side of life.

BTW, next time you visit Spain, be aware that in this country it is easier to have lunch at 17:00 than dinner at 19:30. But I managed to find a place and I am enjoying myself...

    Sartenada Tía Mari. 5€

Paired with a glass of Ribera  del Duero, I am sure this is also... Salud!


Sunday, 26 May 2013

Verdejo's green gold

In the province of Valladolid, Verdejo is the king of whites. This white grape is to Rueda, what Tempranillo or 'Tinta del Pais' is to Ribera de Duero. In fact many wineries from the nearby DO are now producing their whites here. 

In the DO Rueda, four white grape varieties are permitted, being Verdejo the predominant grape, followed by Sauvignon Blanc, Viura and Palomino Fino.

The fruity, fresh, young wines from Rueda have similar aroma characteristics as those of the Sauvignon Blanc: lemon and grapefruit citrus aromas, grassy, green apple. However; the hints of melon, the greenish colour and, once you try it, the taste, you know it is a completely different variety. The freshness of the Rueda wines match well the Castilian summers. Meant to drink young and chilled, it will bring to your mouth the freshness on a hot summer day. 

If one can get luckier, meeting Angel Rodríguez Vidal, a legend for the Rueda Verdejo, was my great pleasure today. Following the recommendation of Manuel Perez Pascuas, I called this morning to ask if by chance I could visit the winery. His daughter Sole guided me through the winery dated back to 1780. The visit to this small, full of personality winery was something different and unique. Hand harvested grapes and very traditional vinification method; Martinsancho wines do not talk trend, only quality. 

Their bushed trained, up to 300 hundred year old, Verdejo vines standing well apart in poor stone soils are a beautiful sight, but what captivated me were the small, bright, full of life and wisdom eyes of the 84 year old winemaker. A once in a lifetime experience. 



A man who was pioneer and an active part creating the bases for the Rueda DO, who decided not to sign the increased yield allowance and who thinks the mass produced Rueda wines will have a negative impact on the reputation of the original wines. A dreamer and a fighter, a man of principles, a man ahead of his time. A man proud of his wines. 

Those eyes have seen many things, those eyes know better, those eyes have seen the past and look to the future. A big lesson for me today, not only about wine, but about life.

Salud! 

I am liking more and more this word, which 'just' means health. Just think about it, in many languages when we toast we are wishing each other good health. And wine must be the key... ;)



Saturday, 25 May 2013

Ribera de Duero, land of good wine and good men

Of all my weaknesses, one I can confess is my weakness for Ribera de Duero wines. For years, it has had a special place in my table, shared with my most treasured friends. Therefore, so you can correctly assume that being here is not only a dream come true, but also one with implied expectations. 

I arrived to Aranda de Duero on Thursday and for the last two days, all I have been doing is driving around this extended land of vineyards and tasting its excellent wines and excellent food.

Unfulfilled expectations? Not at all! I can say without hesitation, that my expectations have not only been fulfilled, but crowned.

Today was a day I was awaiting with special enthusiasm, I had a visit scheduled at 12:00 to a winery, who's wines I have been a fan for years.

Half an hour before noon, I was parked outside Viña Pedrosa, the Pérez Pascuas brothers winery. I was so excited I even called my friend Carlos in Frankfurt to let him know I was going to visit the winery. As we say in Spanish: "al que madruga, Dios le ayuda" God helps early birds ;) Pilar, the nice lady who welcomed me, asked me if I wanted to join a visit that had just started, so that I did not have to wait. I was added to a 'friends visit' guided by one of the Pérez Pascuas brothers, Manuel. 

The winery is impressive, extremely modern, producing extremely traditional wines, putting special attention to preserve the lovely fruit characteristics of the Tempranillo grape and aged in new French and American 225 litres oak barrels, but what really made this visit exceptional, was the guide. 

Manuel, is a good, knowledgable, wine man, who patiently answered my questions and I am so thankful to him for so generously sharing his acquire-from-the-cradle know-how. Manuel could have never guessed how special this visit was for me, and he probably will never know, how even more special he made it for me. Thank you Manuel.  

A very touching detail was that Manuel was so enthusiastic about my career move, that he even gave me a business idea and in all honesty, a very good one to be seriously considered and defined. We agreed that one day I would visit again and we will have a picture taken for the house gallery of fame, where illustrous people such as the king of Spain, the Pope John Paul II, the US embassador, several prime ministers, ministers, movie stars, have a place, and I added (would not miss the chance in a million years) that we would drink a bottle of their Perez Pascuas wine, from his father oldest vines. The jewel of the winery. Thank you for believing in me. I will try my best to deserve a place in your gallery.


At the end of the visit, a wine tasting between old friends and a new friend (me) who was immediately treated as a good old friend. During the wine tasting, that was more likely wine drinking among friends, where football and weather were discussed and later, just because I was determined not to let my big chance to ask questions to the expert, vineyards, grapes, training, harvest, yields and wine. Just to learn that I was surrounded by two heavy weighs of the Spanish wine panorama. At a later state, Adolfo, the youngest of the Perez Pascuas brothers joined the group.

After the visit and the tasting I stayed for a good hour talking to Manuel and Adolfo. I loved their wines before, now I can appreciate them even more knowing that behind those super-quality wines are super-quality men, who love their land, take great pride on their work and give the best of themselves to their winemaking.

All my gratitude to the pater familia, Don Mauro, for cultivating good vines and good men. The two together, make wines of excellence.

I am so thrilled with this morning's experience, that I am not mentioning the rest, but Aranda de Duero and around Peñafiel, the land, the food, the people and the wine are a taste of country men who like the good table among friends. 

Two very interesting visits are the 'Museo Provincial del Vino' (Museum of Wine) located in the Peñafiel castle http://www.provinciadevalladolid.com/es/enoturismo-gastronomia/museo-provincial-vino and the 'Museo de los Aromas' (the museum of the scents) an initiative of young dreamers who have put all their efforts and heart to have the only museum of the scents in Spain and a one of the few in the world. They are the kind of passionate entrepreneurs that deserve success. So, if you are ever in the area, the visit to the museum is a must. Even if you are as sceptic as I was seeing it from outside, I can assure you, you will not be deceived.

If you do not plan to visit the place in the near future, at least take a peek in their web site http://museodelosaromas.com/index.php/es/

After my last visit this afternoon and before leaving Ribera de Duero, someone left a bunch of beautiful red poppies in my windshield. See you soon Ribera de Duero, thank you for the wine, the food, the countrymen and the flowers.

Salud! 









Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Priorat; and monks created wine.

I have been in Priorat for three days now, and the place do not cease to impress me. It must be a clear case of overdose. 


I should have guessed of the singularity of the place, where the Benedictine decided to stablish in the peace and quiet of this, gifted by nature, land.

Priorat and Montsant is the place where wine, olive oil and prayer come together, in such a way that one does not know when one stops and the next starts. 

The few wines of the Priorat DOQ, Montsant DO and Conca de Barbera DO I have had the fortune to try are of excellent quality, being those of Priorat, outstanding.

In the region, the schist and slate soils, together with the altitude and the protection of the Serra de Montsant (a mountain chain), its proximity to the Mediterranean, make of the Priorat a unique terroir.

Priorat soils

Terraced vineyards of Priorat

Once again the magnificence of the region and its wines make you believe you are in heaven.

Priorat is known for its full bodied, high alcohol reds. Forty percent of the grape variety in Priorat is Garnacha, a spicy, red berry, soft on the palate and high in sugar, producing wines high in alcohol with soft velvety tannins. Very thorough winemakers produce wines made with love and care, achieving of this region cuvées some of the best.

I am afraid I am not making justice to the wines of the region. The only way to know what I am talking about, is to actually try them, and if that can be done in situ, even better! No one could ever be deceived by the beauty of the region, the magnificence of the Cistercian monasteries and the quality of its wines. 

A WINE TIP: for those of you fans of the Chateauneuf-du-Pape wines, the Priorat wines will definitely please the most demanding palates.

A WINE RECOMMENDATIONScala Dei Cartoixa 2007.

Tomorrow I will try to visit a winery producing kosher wines (it just sounds interesting to me) before  directing my steps to another wonderful Spanish wine region: Ribera de Duero.

Salud!





Sunday, 19 May 2013

Au reboire Vin de France

Pas mal pour commencer la journée! 

Before crossing the Pyrenees, a visit to Carcassonne. The city looked nice, but nothing that special, until I saw the impressive view from below, of 'la cité'. Parked the car and started the ascension to the fortress like city. It was kind of funny to realise that I have never been good walking up hill, and after seven years in the flat (at least that) it has not changed.

Walking around before the opening times was kind of mysterious, the medieval look and the cold, windy, misty morning, did not make it pleasant, but interesting. The one thing that was open, was the basilica and an early mass was taking place, in what I kind of figured out was Languedoc. 

Time to continue the route through the kilometres and kilometres of vineyards of the south of France, drived past Languedoc-Roussillion, Aude, and briefly stop in the Fitou AC, curious about the bush trained vines, only to find out la Maison du Vin of Fitou is not open on Sundays. Now you know.

Direction Perpignan, the Pyrenees in the horizon and the Spanish border getting closer. It is a strange feeling of excitement, fear (?) about what will come next once I reach Galicia. Even though I am not worried and I have decided to take my time, the question-mark is in the back of my head, and I am curious. The road has given me good insight moments. I have sorted some pending issues on the way. I am learning a lot about wines, soils, winemaking... so it is all good. I am meeting and talking to very interesting people and specially, I am taking one moment at the time and savouring each and every one.

España! The weather in sunny Spain is terrible, the first kilometres are of storm rain and strong winds, temperature dropping to 11 degrees... But arriving to the outskirts of Barcelona, the sun was shining and the temperature, 20 degrees. Hello sun! long time, no see.

The joy did not last long, now it is rain and thunders, but I am here in the Priorat DOQ, in the province of Tarragona, surrounded by mountains and vineyards. My parents are here as well. I met them for an amazing late Spanish lunch at 16:00. Oh la la, la Espagne! We can really eat late lunch. Siesta is a cliche, but the tourism office here closes Sunday from 14:00 and Monday. How will I survive without my routine?

I will have to drink the great Priorat wines ;)

Salud!


Friday, 17 May 2013

Gaillac AC. Red, white and rosé

Upon arriving to Cordes-sur-Ciel after a beautiful sunny drive from Toulouse enjoying of the spectacular landscapes, what I saw, I do not think it can be described with words. It was more like a mouth drop and eyes wide open thing (I would have loved to see my face). The place in the mountain top is only surrounded by the sky. The view is impressive, I tell you.

A picture would not do justice to the place. It just cannot capture the quintessence of the village that does not deceive you at all, once you start walking up its very inclined cobblestone streets. It is so beautiful and full of ateliers, little artisan shops, everything put together in such a tasteful way, that it was like being inside a dream.

The link to the video from the tourism office, so you have an idea of what I am talking about.

The drive between kilometres and kilometres of vineyards in the Midi-Pyrénées region with its splendorous colours brought out by the light it just reassured me, this is the style of living I want to go for. Really, cities are nice and fantastic refugee for individuals, but a life out in nature, is so much more appealing (remind me this in the middle of the winter with no heating and in the middle of the summer with no air conditioning).

Today I also learned that over 50 grape varieties can be found in the vineyards of the Midi-Pyrenees, and that Gaillac wines can be either blends or mono varietal, and that the two local grape varieties are: Braucol (black), it produces a wine high in colour, full bodied with characteristic aromas and flavours of ripe blackcurrant, raspberry and spicy red pepper. For the white, the Loin de l'oeil, wine with a very subtle, floral or citrus fruit aroma (grapefruit) flavour characteristics. 

After the stop and before deciding to stay to live forever in the heights of 'le Ciel', I drove down to Albi. Apart of being a city worth the visit, it is the home of the Toulouse Lautrec museum, and for a fan of his work like me, it was absolutely 'a must'. So I arrived to Albi around noon and looked for the tourism office, to my luck that everything (or almost everything) in France closes from 12:30 to 14:00, so as soon as I arrived they were leaving, and the museum next door, as well. So I took the opportunity to visit the cathedral of saint Cecile and once again was impressed by its magnificence.

Albi, Cathédrale Sainte-Cécile 

At 14:00 I was ready to give more pleasure to my eyes and visited the Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec museum. WOW! The permanent collection has a good amount of his paintings, sketches, drawings and posters. Yes, I do love his strength and style, so personal and so intense. 

Time to relax and go for a nice evening out in Toulouse.

Have a nice weekend and... Santé!

Monbazillac, Cahors, Languedoc-Roussillon, Saint Chinian, Minervois, Cobiers...

Good night, sorry for the lack of posts, but I have been very busy ;)

I am now in Toulouse, getting closer to the Spanish border, which I plan cross sometime this weekend.

I left Bordeaux early(ish) morning yesterday and took advantage to visit Monbazillac. Most of you have probably heard about the famous Sauternes sweet wines within Bordeaux. All honey and very appreciated, but there is a place not far, that produces gorgeous sweet wines called Monbazillac. 

So I headed down, determined to learn something about these wines.

I was very lucky to meet a very collaborative agent at the tourism office, who gave me to taste two wines before 10 o'clock and recommended a foie gras shop across the street to accompany my Monbazillac wine, hey, what can I say? I do have a heart and the thought of a lonely wine without its foie gras seemed just not right.

He also reccommended three châteaux where I could get a bit of a explanation on the vinification of this wine, all on my way to Bergerac. Does it ring a bell? It did to me, but I did not know which one.

The first visit was off the counter, and I got a good explanation of the noble rot (botrytis affected grapes), the hand harvesting and selection of the grains, the amount of residual sugar allowed in the Monbazillac  wines, from 50 to 200 grams per litre and the alcohol, between 13 and15,5% Did a bit of tasting and also got interested in their other wines Bergerac AC (Monbazillac AC is only for the sweet ones produces under the strict specifications). I discovered a new (to me) grape variety, the Sauvignon Gris and I got to try a dry white made of this grape, and a sparkling one. 

My next stop was even more didactic. Chateau la Brie is part of the Lycée Agricole de la Brie, so being an active part of the wine formation of the region, I got a really detailed explanation of the whole process. Happy with my new acquired knowledge, my next stop was to take place only 6kilometres away, in Bergerac. Pretty old city and... It was not until I saw the statue of the renowned Cyrano (of Bergerac), that the penny dropped... Dahhh! Ha ha ha...

Drive and several stops took me to a beautiful Medieval city, labeled as one of the prettiest I France (at least that is what the sign said), so of course I had to stop. Monpazier that is and it was indeed something quite special. Picture for your eyes, below.


Running late... and so many things to see, so directly to Cahors without concession. I must say the driving is resulting as pleasant as the rest, the scenery of the landscape is so beautiful, that just doing that is a present to the senses.

In Cahors I must make a special mention to its cathedral, different to the ones I have seen so far, and in a more cozy way, unique. Another pic, not fantastic, but just so you have an idea of what I am talking about.


Time to rush to Toulouse, where I am expected for dinner. I arrived around 19:30 and Paul had prepared a delicious Cassoulet of cannellini beans, duck and Toulouse sausage, accompanied by a Saint Emilion red Bordeaux. Followed by my favourite digestive: Armagnac. Great food, in the best of companies. Thx, Paul.

Today, I had a very ambitious plan, and ended doing only half of it, I must go to Carcassone and Mirepoix before leaving, but I did go to: Revel, Saint-Ferreol (lake), drove across the 'Montagne Noir' from Mazamet to Beziers, down to Narbonne and then had to give up on Carcassone and Mirepoix because of the time and the rain. However; what I did do, was to go in a wine chateau and try about 10 wines from the Minervois and Corbieres regions. Interesting grapes and blends, and some, very good as well. I will pass on the recommended one, but the notes are in the car.


The Languedoc-Roussillon


Time to go to bed and get a good night rest before visiting Albi and... to be confirmed.

Salud y buenas noches!