brain farts...flotsam...driftwood...and meanderings on hedonistic endevours

Thursday, February 24, 2005

First meeting

So for all of you waiting for a sign about my job situation here is the first. So I met with a friend of a friend, who happens to own a very nice piece of property in the Duoro valley today. For most of his life he has worked the beverage industry from Pernod-Ricard, to Johnnie Walker and much more. Currently he and his son, who happens to be a famous wine maker in the region(or at least soon to be famous), are working to produce a hig quality table wine. So far 3 vintages into it they have had some sucess and are already gaining noteriety. I met with him to discuss the possibility of exporting a small portion to the USA, and to taste his 2 most recent vintages. i will post notes on them when I have more time, but in the end I found them both to be exciting new wines, that would be a wonderful complement to many a resturants menu back home. He also at this property or Quinta, has undertaken creating a "resort" of sorts to rent out for people coming to visit the Douro region. All I have to say is WOW! Not cheap but WOW, if anyone wants to get into the high end tourism industry, just let me know. With this guys connections, and his amazing new facility we could have some fun. I'm hoping that come April me and Gab could go there for a visit, over a long weekend. We'll see what happens. Anyways, we talked and tasted for a good long while, and then he took me to what is an amazing wine shop, one to rival any in the states, in the middle of nowhere with a resturant attached! Who would of thunk! So i drooled for a while, and restrained from buying anything, and then headed to a small dump for a $5 dinner of steak, potatos, rice, vinho verde, and cafe! The wine was poured from huge wooden barrels with old fashioned spigots attached, the food wasn't bad either. Afterwhich I wakled to a bus stop, hopped a bus to the wrong place, had a long talk with some men in a cafe to find out how far I needed to walk to get back on track, walked through a bad part of town, carrying too much and now I sit typing as fast as I can to finish this before my time runs out at the Cyber cafe I'm at! Whooo....Anyways, one more night here in Porto, then on to Bragança, and back to Spain from there. Tasting notes will be posted when I return to Madrid in about a week. till soon, ryan

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

1886 Port

Not sure on the exact name, though it's a second bottling of sorts from the old owner of Quinta of Noval. Tawny in hue, with faded rim. The nose is lacking all fruit, though has a musty carmel/ toffee quality, somewhat like an old basement. Body is medium with a sharp acid and creamy sweetness, how they both got in there I do not know. Flavors of rich carmel, baked creme brulee, and light alcohol. It had been open for awhile before I arrived, and some say this would not show the same, but my hosts both agreed it was very true to when they opened it. Very similar to the 1879 Noval I had 2 years ago. Amazing by itself, no, drunk in the home of the guy who blended it, amazing. Who know's whats to come in the next day.

As far as tasting in the next day I think I'll be heading up to the Northern region of portugal and North western region of Spain, I thought I was headed somewhere else but I got a free ride so I figure why not! Should taste some good albariño and who know's what else. Will keep you updated!

Friday, February 18, 2005

Two new wines

  • 2003 Ibernoble Ribera del Duero Tinto Roble - Spain, Castilla y León, Ribera del Duero (2/18/2005)
    90%TInto Fino10%Cabernet Sauvignon
    Intense plum color with ruby highlights. Medium thick legs.
    Rich nose clean and with black raspberry, light smoke, Black pepper? With anise, and a vanilla quality that floats over the top of it all. A candied cherry quality too becomes more pronounced as it begins to open up. Beautiful.
    Medium body with a richness that coats the mouth. The tannins are round and soft though they seem to stick to every inch of your mouth. Deep flavors of dark berries, and dry plums. Some raisin notes with a rich oak undertone that gives nice support to the copious fruit.
    C5+A12+T16+O8=91 (91 pts.)

  • 2003 Barbadillo Vino de la Tierra de Cádiz Castillo de San Diego - Spain, Andalucía, Cadiz, Vino de la Tierra de Cádiz (2/18/2005)
    Very pale gold with light hint of yellow. Very light nose, austere, light steely, with a lightness that does remind me of sherry. As it warms up a light walnut quality begins to show through. Light with delicate balance of acid and faint creaminess, austere if it weren't for a richness thunder lays it all. Light floral quality with a rich nuttiness that is dancing behind a veil of white flowers. Hmm... Quite the aperitif wine with amazing balance for something so austere.
    C5+A10+F17+O8=90 (90 pts.)

Posted from CellarTracker!

Our night out

Sunday night in Toledo

After a long day of walking about a city where no streets are straight and no roads are flat, Gab and I headed back to the hotel early to relax a bit and have a little wine. We would have liked to have stayed outside where the city was sucking up the sun’s energy and warming all within. Alas we were without motivation or strength after a long day of wandering through the streets. One thing you must know is that Toledo is a walled town, and in a walled town, the goal is to cram as much living space into as small an area as is humanly possible. This leads to narrow roads, winding streets and that fact that vertical is a more descriptive than horizontal. Nonetheless, with calves burning and numb thighs Gab and I sat down to rest a bit before our first intentional night of decadence. Our destination was one that many had recommended and that guide books talked about, to quote: "a bit overpriced but worth every peseta!".

La Abadia is a restaurant just off the main square of Zocodover, a place where locals meet before departing to whichever bar is to be their home for the night. From what we could gather, La Abadia is a bit of a legend and one that tends to fill up earlier than most Spanish bars who only seem to get going after 10 p.m. Feeling hungry, a bit tired and not knowing how late into the night our sore bodies would let us linger, we headed out early to explore the regional cuisine. Keep note that “early” for a Spaniard is around 9 p.m.

This leads me to another phenomenon of a walled city, the lack of straight lines. Often when one is headed in one direction you may find yourself in time back where you started or another country!. On this particular night, after wandering for a bit, we did finally make it to our destination, and without too many wrong turns.

Walking through the door we were greeted by a sign, the first of it's kind for us, which asked us to wait until someone could come and seat us. Now, Spaniards don't seem to have the same sense of order that Americans do when it comes to restaurant etiquette. In most cases, you will find yourself patiently waiting for someone to free up a table, at which point you rush forth and try to claim their still food laden table for your own. But the Abadia was different. After being told that it would be a 20 minute wait, we wondered if 20 minutes might be a bit optimistic, seeing that the bar area was already full of others like ourselves. Looking about we saw a couple leave the bar area, so we decided to wait it out and try a pre-dinner drink and some Tapas

At the bar, I not only noticed a large tap beer selection, but also that the appropriate glassware was also in attendance. On tap there were about 6 beers, one of which was a beer from Belgium called Grimbergen an abbey style double. Turning to the waiter, I promptly butchered my request for a pint in Spanish. You see Grimbergem is a beer that I know how to pronounce in English, and in fact, I sold it back in my store. But from the look on the bartenders face, I evidently didn’t have the “proper” Spanish pronunciation. With a look of disgust, the waiter promptly handed me a "Carta de Cerveca's" (beer menu) and with his finger, pointed to the menu indicating that he would gladly trade my Spanish skills for a hand gesture or two. The part that never fails to amaze me here is that upon pointing to the desired beer, the waiter nodded and moved away just as I asked him in Spanish what the correct pronunciation was. Slowly and with focused eyes he stared back at me and repeated what I said but with a slight Spanish accent. Looking at the list I also noticed that while it did sound different from what I said, it wasn't like there was anything else even close to it on the menu as far as spelling, not to mention that I had been pointing to the tap line as I said it! Oh well, I now had beer and life was better! FYI: the menu of beers was nothing short of amazing, including selections that any die-hard beer lover would drool over wondering where they came from. Note to all you beer lovers out there, Rodenbach, Alexander in bottles, available in Toledo!

Fortunately, this was just the start of what was to become a very lovely evening that restored my faith in Spanish cuisine.

A quick aside: You see up to this point, Gab and I had been having a hard time finding food that was either worth what you paid or was exactly what you thought you ordered. Fortunately, Spain has something called Tapas, literally translated "a lid". By some accounts, historically they were to be placed on top of one’s drink to keep thirsty flies out in the warm climates of the southern Spain. Yet others say it was created in an effort to combat public drunkenness by making sure that all imbibers were armed with a full stomach as they sipped their sangria on a hot summer's day.

Either way, Tapas were at one time given away with each drink as compliments of the house. Now, Tapas are almost always a part of the menu and usually each menu has a similar selection of Tapas. The confusing part is that every bar we encounter seems to have their own way of interpreting this tradition. Some after the purchase of a drink come forth with a few bits of Salami, ham, or maybe even a round of toast coated with a rich tomato based sauce and topped with a fresh anchovy (quickly becoming a favorite of mine). However, if you cross the street, you may not get free tapas no matter how much you drink. Additionally, it's not only the inconsistency of tapas selection, but also the prices are not always consistent for similar things. An order of sliced ham at one place may get you a 1 Euro plate of sliced meat; while at the next place, you might get a bit larger plate for a mere 15 Euros. I’m 90% sure that this is an issue of not understanding the menu/language most of the time. While it’s the 10%, of the time I know I ordered right that’s bugging me and just doesn’t seem to make sense of!

Now back to the story: up to this point I was quickly becoming impressed with our choice for the evening., Not only did they take the time to have good beers on tap, but from our vantage point at the bar, we could glimpse just inside the kitchen, and see the professionally dressed staff moving in a coordinated dance of high cuisine. It was about half way through my beer that we were, informed that our table was ready. After descending the stairs we found out table situated in a small cave with an arched ceiling, housing four small tables. Around us the walls were painted a bright yellow that contrasted well with the brown of the thin bricks found throughout Spain an making up the arch of the cave.

Prior to coming to Spain, I had spent some time doing research to learn more about Spain. I was hoping to learn what each region was known for so as to know what to seek out on my travels. La Mancha I found was know for it's Cerdo (lamb) and my eye's quickly scanned the menu hoping to get my first taste of it tonight. From what I read it was supposed to be some of the best in all of Europe. On the other hand Gab took some time to decide from the some what varied menu, finally settling on a Tuna dish, and for the both of us a trio of Tapas to start. All this was rounded out with a mid priced local wine from La Mancha. De Neiva 2000 Crianza, Cencibel (tempranillo's regional name) from the Cooperativa Ntra. Sra. De los Remdios. Though pleasant it did show itself a bit on the light side with a little too much oak that seemed to overpower some of the fruit and delicate spice of the grape. It did seem to match up well with Gabs tuna while my leg of lamb seemed a bit to rich and tended to over powered it a bit. But first the Tapas!

Sidebar number two: When ordering strange new wines expect yourself to discover new flavors and sometimes surprising new textures. Unfortunately all wine has one flavor in common, sadly this is encountered about once in every 10-20 bottles. CORKED!! On this night our server poured a small taste for myself and after tasting I knew something was not right, but the idea of new flavors kept me from saying anything right away. With time though and after much swirling of the wine, I realized that I hoped no wine would ever taste like this. So after consulting my food dictionary for the second time this weekend, I explained to the waiter in Spanish that the wine was corked and for the second time no question! Just a new bottle in no time flat, and fortunately those all to commons flavors were not present in this bottle and we went on to enjoy it with our meal.
Back to the story again: While I can by no means do this justice, from my earlier rant you get the idea that not all Tapas are created equal, and well I wish they were and that these were the inspiration! Three small plates were brought to us on a long board almost Asian in aesthetics, it was the first time this trip where I'd seen presentation play a part in a meal. Plate one was two pate's, one of meat, I can only assume pork, and the other a cheese and herb blend. Both were accompanied by a small dollop of peach puree and opposite of it a bit of pickled peppers, well short of a peck! Combining these pates with either the peach or the peppers seemed to bring them alive and surprisingly both combinations revealed different sides to this simple dish. Next the spinach croquettes on a bed of greens drizzled with olive oil and lemon. For those that don't know a croquette is basically the fried muchie food that one gets at a bar in an effort sop up the alcohol whose effects your hoping to avoid. In this case the delicate nature and soft texture melted in your mouth as you broke through the crisp fried shell freeing the steaming interior, the flavors balanced by what was just enough acidity of the lemon to keep the heavy flavors from fatiguing your palate. Marvelous! Finally number three was a pork terrine of shredded pork and liver on top of a bed of shaved green apple. The acidity of the apple did wonders to highlight the richness of the terrine. Wow! Give me a T, Give me an A, Give me a P, Give me another A, give me a S, what's that spell? TAPAS, TAPAS, TAPAS!!! While simplicity is nice and something that I've found I'm falling in love with, this trio on the other hand was something extra special and quite possibly the star of the evening.

Moving on to the main courses, tuna and lamb, while I won't go into detail on the tuna suffice to say, the middle of the country is not the place to order fish. When on finds themselves landlocked stick with animals that don't require salt water to stay fresh and instead require hooves to move about! Tasty, yes, worth mentioning, no, especially since our taste for fish runs towards raw, while this one was cooked all the way through. On the other hand lamb is an animal that is steeped in the tradition of La Mancha, and from what I hear is used here to create great sausages and cheeses unique to this part of Spain. My dish, though not fancy, was basically braised lamb shank in a rich meat stock reduction accompanied by boiled potatoes. Simple and so, so good! The meat that fell off the bones had one of the crispest exteriors, each bite crunching in your mouth, yielding meat so moist and sweet one would be led to believe that the lamb was fed on a diet of sugar cane in the days leading up to the slaughter. Every bite more moist and alive I found myself quite rapidly becoming full and yet found it hard to stop devouring every last morsel of this truly exquisite yet simple dish.

At this point in the evening I was beginning to get full after so much decadence. My lovely wife on the other hand always has room, no matter how full desert. A meal without desert is not a meal, at least according to Gab, hence two coffees and a plate of sweet stuff was swept before us. Gab who at this point was already stuffed, or at least she claimed, found heaven in what was before her and make quick work of it. Chocolate wrapped in cake, wrapped in marzipan, then plated with a mango puree and macerated raspberries, I even admit it was not to shabby!
Thus ended our meal at La Abadia, and one that we won't soon forget. Unless my job search goes better than expected it might be of necessity that we don't have these meals very often. I'll make a deal with all of you out there, I'll do the research, find the restaurant, decipher the menu, and translate for your travels, if you bring your checkbook! Till next time - Ryan Opaz

Monday, February 14, 2005

Some tasting notes from Toledo!

  • 2000 Estola Bodegas Ayuso Reserva - Spain, La Mancha (2/14/2005)
    Nice ruby red with almost a bing cherry quality to the color. Almost a smokey anise nose reminiscent of the saffron that I bought at the same shop where I go the wine. Though this is supported by a backbone of cherry/cranberry fruit. Mouth feel is of medium weight with a light sweetness that fades and as you finish, fine tannins slowly dry the mouth out. The anise and fresh berry(currant?) mingle in the mouth with a light smokey quality. The texture is silky and makes me go back for more, also on the mid palate there is the slightest pencil lead and medicine quality that seem to inform the anise and smoke nicely.
    C5+A12+F15+Ov7=89p wine (89 pts.)

  • 2000 Coop Ntra. Sra de los Remedios Crianza De Neiva - Spain, La Mancha (2/14/2005)
    Ruby, very clear and light. Nose of toasted oak, fruit, vanilla, plum and some cranberry. Med to light in the mouth and very dry. Medium acid that seems a bit out of balance. Flavors of cherry(sour) w/light anise and spice.
    5+10+15+6=86 (86 pts.)

Posted from CellarTracker!

Friday, February 11, 2005

Not much to report

Yet, I´ve been here for about 3 days I already think I´m going to like it though I´ve realized that it´s not going to be easy. I forgot how big the challenges of language are. Oh well, at least I know the word for Sherry, and boy am I glad. It´s so different when it´s fresh, though I can´t wait to get to Jerez to have some really fresh stuff I really like what I¨ve had so far. Crisp, fruity, dry, and a nice rich backbone of nuttiness, this with some fresh olives, that seam to make the sherry come alive. The other day I had Warm octopus, Jamon(not sure what kind, though it was slightly salty with a rich sweetness and creamy texture, and to round it out a glass(or 3) of a Manzanilla!!! Wow, I´ll post poictures when I get a chance but I tell you it´s a great thing, all the ham around here is amazing. Every kind and in every way! What else have I had? Oh some yummy paella, the first night I was here, rich, with big prawns, squid, and clams, with the richest rice I´ve had to date. Filled with saffron, and accompanied by a Rosado(rose) wine from Torres, amazing and thus making it hard not to eat 6 or 7 times a day just to get a chance ot try it all. So far I´ve had 3-4 new beers, and a bunch of wine. I´ll post the names later but one red was a Tempranillo, Moverdre, Grenache blend, that was lighter than expected but had that same meaty richness you look for in a modified rhone blend. Also had a Airen, the most widely planted grape on the planet, most often it is blended or distilled for brandy, yet with modern techniques it is proving an nice crisp table wine. Temp controlled fermentation allows for this easily oxidized grape to stay alive when fermented. The nose was light white flowers, followed by a delicate nut quality, almost hazelnut like. I´ve got to make sure to explore this avenue more in the future. This weekend it´s off to Toledo to see what they have to offer and then next week I´m deciding between Cadiz or maybe the Duoro to make some contacts with friends in the wine industry. We´ll see what happens, till soon, ryan

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Fermenting Pressed Grapes

Fermenting Pressed Grapes
Originally uploaded by crume.

Found this pick online and I hope that in my new adventure I find this in person. MMMMMM....almost wine!!

Ryan and Chris on my last day

Ryan and Chris on my last day
Originally uploaded by obiscoito.

Me and Chris during my last day at The Cellars. We're holding an '88 and '89 d'Yquem, just wish we were drinking them instead!

Belgium Beers

Belgium Beers
Originally uploaded by obiscoito.

This is one shelf of Belgium beers at The Cellars. I'm going to miss the variety!

Tuesday, February 01, 2005


SO I'm more work...3 yrs later and I walk free of the Reeck family(owners of the Cellars). It feels weird to not have anything to do with it anymore. I mean for the past 3 years every day off or vacation was taken with the anticipation of what would be there when I came back the next day/week/whatever. Now I don't need to worry...but I do! The trust I built with so many customers/employees and friends makes me wish that only the best will occur here on out. I'll miss it. Whether I should or not, I did learn a lot and have a good time. I won't miss it too, right now I'm about to embark on one of those adventures that you read about: " One day I woke up sold everything and moved to Siberia, because I was bored" That's me now. I wonder what the story will be I tell down the road, how will the story unfold; knowing wouldn't be fair or fun. I do thank all of you for your support so many have told me that we will be fine and in my heart of hearts I know this, still it's hard to convince myself. I told Gab today as she was trying to syke me up for this last day that I didn't doubt the positive re-enforcements that I have recieved it's just that even if I still believe all will be well, I can't avoid the apprehension. It's inevitable. I guess with this Blog entry I just want to say thankyou to all of you who have supported us and had faith in us. I can't wait to do this, and I'm soooo excited to see what awaits the end this is living life, no fear, no regrets, just living, and breathing, and awaking to new realities everyday. One things for sure, doing it with Gab is the best part of it all. Love you babe and see you soon-ryan