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

Thursday, March 31, 2005


Originally uploaded by obiscoito.

Too bad the Spainards will never understand the proper way to use the Chopsticks!

Chinese food

So last night we didn't know what to do for food. So we went the Chinese restaurant that Gab first went to when she arrived in Madrid. Turns out she got to the house no one was home, she was hungry, and she didn't speak any Spanish. So she went to a Chinese restaurant.

Good thing too, they speak about as much Spanish as we do. Not to mention there menu is in Spanish and English. Some items: Chinese noodles with three delicacies, Duck on a hot platter, Chicken on a hot platter, oh yeah and beef on a hot platter.

Must be a special platter, these were some of the most expensive things on the menu! Hope I get to keep the platter!

I am glad though to see that the Chinese are so successful with so little care for language. Makes me confident I can do it too. The Chinese motto: Keep it vague, they'll order it anyways!

One nice thing though. At the end of the meal instead of a sweet piece of cardboard with a piece of paper inside telling me my lucky numbers; we were instead presented with booze! Well more like a small cup of Chinese liquor made from flowers, what kind? Well the server had the motto down pat and therefore all I can say is "Flowers". Tasty though with an orange blossom kind of freshness and some sweet peach undertones.

Not a bad way to end a meal, and a cheap one at that!

Till soon, Ryan

Wednesday, March 30, 2005


Originally uploaded by obiscoito.

This is 2 things one, a the great cheese shop I mentioned before. And 2 me playing with the GIMP, a photo editing program that is free and from what I've seen so far as good if not better than Photoshop! Not very interesting but fun to make text float! Also all the photos of Lavinia and these cheeses were so blurred it was hard to tell what they were. All better now! Thank you GIMP!

Lavinia Madrid 2

Originally uploaded by obiscoito.

So here's looking back up at the store from the other direction. On the top in back there is a classroom for wine tasting courses they do. Below the 2nd level in the back there is a glass enclosed cellar for the "special" bottles!

Lavinia Madrid

Originally uploaded by obiscoito.

Here's looking down from the upper story of Lavinia, the store in Madrid where I have a membership. The picture doesn't do it justice. Not to mention when Brian tried to take a picture they told him not to. This was taken with my handheld PC and I guess they didn't think that it was a camera too.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Finca Luzon

Here's a neat wine that I in the might have sold to you or with you. Actually it's it's baby brother and while I was at the Cellars we sold a lot of it. This one is about 6 euros as compared to the big brother at about 17 dollars. Found it at Lavinia and really enjoyed it to the "very last drop"!

  • 2003 Finca Luzón Jumilla - Spain, Murcia, Jumilla (3/21/2005)
    Inky purple with hints of blue. Deep fruit nose with berries, vanilla and a nice slate overtone hovering above it all. Very intense in the nose and it keeps drawing you in. Med weight with Soft tannins and an acidic cherry quality. Deep fruit once again that needs time to open up with a tight core of tart black berry. Very nice, though I will wait to see what develops. With time plum and some spice comes to the front of the nose. While the tannins integrate a bit more and I begin to pick up more of a ripe blackberry. I really like this and it's similar in many ways to its bigger brother which I've had in the past.
    c5a12t15o7=89+ (89 pts.)

Posted from CellarTracker!

Monday, March 21, 2005

Today a visit to a wine retail shop and more

Reservas y Catas is a series of wine shops in and around Madrid. From what I can gather they have about 7 shops all very small and smartly dressed as if to resemble old bodegas with a modern touch. Today I went to one in an upscale neighborhood near the Metro stop Alonso Martinez. When I arrived, the store was closed for what is becoming a more and more frequent annoyance. You see, here in Spain, everyone takes a break from 2 till 4 or 5pm, during which time they go home to eat, sleep or watch the Tele. While in practice (theory?) this is nice, it's a bit hard for an American to get used to. Usually this means that I at times find that I have to wait for things to open, or hurry before things close. Fortunately, I arrived only a few minutes early and after a pause in the park, I headed back to explore what it had to offer.

Unlike America, where you may find hundreds of wines haphazardly places on floors and stacked on shelves, in Spain you find the epitome of order. Small wood shelves in this case held no more than 2 offerings usually grouped according to their respective style. This allows for wines from different countries to be placed side by side, a practice I’ve always advocated. Most people when shopping want a wine to go with some specific food or event while few actually look for a specific country. Not to mention that when 2 countries create similar styles why not place them in similar quarters so that someone might be tempted to try something they haven't had before.

Another characteristic of Spanish wine shops is their labeling. Faulting only a few, every wine in the shop has a label with information such as price, origin, varietals, and anything else the owner might like to state about the wine in question. Reservas y Catas were simple to the point and immensely helpful in guiding a lost American through the wines of Spain.

Approximately 20x40 feet, the shop probably contained 200+ wines. In America this might be considered a small selection yet here it was perfect considering they also accounted for almost all the major regions. To complement this, it also contained about 30 liquors, including 2 bourbons! To round l of this out in the back there was a stylish bar where regular in store tastings are held.

In the shop with me was a middle-aged lady who was friendly enough, especially when I pointed out a sweet wine that was leaking. We didn't talk much until another gentleman arrived to make a purchase. After some discussion they proceeded to the bar to taste a wine. Listening in I realized that they were asking me to join in the tasting of a young wine from Castilla de la Mancha:

2004 Isola de Mont Reaga Vino de la tierra de Castilla
Tempranillo & syrah, de LaMancha light with tannins present Bright cherry color, Light anise with bright cherry notes and Carbonic maceration with a light hint of banana, but a very fruity flavor overall, First year of production Light fruity with a racy acidity but falls a bit flat on the finish, might be because it was opened earlier. Cherry, ripe banana (light) and a little green pepper that seems out of place in the back of the palate.

Earlier in my visit, I asked this particular employee about a selection of olive oils and vinegars I happily encountered in their store. One vinegar in particular was made from Pedro Ximenez wine. Pedro Ximenez is a sweet wine from the region of
Jerez, though I have tasted a few dry versions, it is famed as a wine that is honey like in texture and has an intense flavor. In some regions, I heard that it is poured over hard ice cream and after having tried some, I seriously think it would be perfect on pancakes. As far as vinegars go, it is tart and crisp with a finish that leaves wafting aromas of caramel and toffee lingering in your mouth. Wow! I can’t wait to get a chance to try this on some nice greens and crisp vegetables.

As I mentioned, olive oil was also available and since it was one item on my shopping list I bought the least expensive. Siurana from Cataluña is made from a small single variety of olive called Arbequina. It’s light in body with a soft fruitiness and a light fresh ground pepper quality on the finish. For 5 Euros, it’s quite nice!

The lady in the shop at this point was beginning to warm up to me. After a bit of conversation she learned that I was seeking employment, while trying to learn all there was to learn about Spanish wine wordy. After a bit of stumbling through the language, we came to a point in the conversation where the proverbial light bulb went off in her head. BING! She suddenly remembered an upcoming seminar on wines that is being offered in Madrid, free with an invite. Viola, 2 invites appeared stamped with the store name, a requisite not to be charged for entrance. Life was getting good. I now had 2 passes to a tasting at a Hotel downtown in a few weeks where we would be tasting through a series of white wines and Cava’s.

Having already spent about an hour there, I decided to leave to meet Gab buying both the olive oil and vinegar on my way out. Making a note to self to return in the future, I said my goodbyes and headed out. After a beer at a local Ceveceria, I met Gab at a nearby Metro stop and we headed to the next stop on our list. Cocao Sampaka A Chocolate shop like no other!

Walking by this place earlier I knew I couldn’t in good conscience enter without Gab by my side. When I say chocolate shop, I don’t mean a place with fancy candy and fun treats, but rather a Mausoleum to the Cocoa bean. A fortress set within Madrid for chocolate lovers to pay alms to the God of all things chocolate. Decorated in dark wood and with dim lighting it’s not only a feast for the palate but one for the eyes but feels as sacred at a shrine. Piles of fresh powdered chocolate, bars of single plantation origin, bon bons and truffles of all sizes and flavors, along with a small library with books on all aspects of chocolate and you start to understand what I mean. They even had a Spanish translation of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”! These people are serious!

After picking our jaws up off the floor and wiping the drool from our chins we were able to with weak knees wander about trying to decide what our limited budget would allow us to procure. Thankfully, these people had thought of everything and our situation was not foreign. On two tables they had assembled 8 tasting kits of various styles each holding 8 different flavors of chocolate in the form of two one-inch square bites. Each set had a theme from nuts to fruits to cocoa beans of particular origins and our choice #8 Invocaionnes Gastronomicas. This was a package that both Gab and I could not resist pushing the limits of what you could do with chocolate. Ever wonder what olive oil infused chocolates taste like? We did! How about the odd idea of Anchovy and Hazelnut? Let’s just say they pushed the limits further than I thought possible. The balsamic vinegar infused contained a light sweetness biting back at the rich earthiness of the dusty dark chocolate, balanced to perfection. While the olive oil was a subtle fruity texture that slowly coated the tongue only after you swallowed the last bit of rich truffle. I do say these people know what their doing.

Only after convincing ourselves that it would still be there when we wanted to come back did we finally make our purchase leaving with an excited anticipation in our stomachs. Who knew heaven would be in the heart of Madrid?

At this point we thought life couldn’t get any better and with a spring in our step we headed out to have a bit of wine and Tapas. Unfortunately, this did not work as planned, and we found ourselves wandering not sure of what to do. Both tired after a long day, and rapidly getting hungry, we wandered about before heading home to cook some dinner. Walking up a busy street to a Metro Stop a small shop down a side street caught our eye. Turning, we saw a cheese shop and from the outside an impressive one at that. Quickly heading inside, my mind started to spin and my body started to tremble. Had just entered the Pearly Gates of heaven or maybe just an annex to the previous shop? Lining the walls through a mist of continually humidified air, like one discovering a temple in the middle of the rain forest, was a dream world of cheeses like I had never seen before. I think only the USA was not represented. Though as we moved about we noticed that each countries cheeses were being held in perfect conditions for its unique style or ripeness. I won’t even try to list the length to which the selection went, but suffice as to say, they must have over 150+ cheeses of every style produced in Europe. To accompany all of this were books, wines, beers, pates and a selection of meats all selected for their ability to enhance the primary subject: Cheese. My body reacted with a small spasm of excitement at the possibilities presented to me. I never thought I would find a true Affinage until I made my way to France; but fortunately, this was not to be the case.

Finally grounding ourselves back on earth, we spoke with a young lady who was more than willing to help us so as to find a few samples to take home and try. I don’t think she quite believed us at first when she asked what we liked and our response was “Anything and everything” so with each choice she first presented us with a sample! Our goal was to taste some of Spain’s myriad cheeses. Her choices were superb and I only hope that the next time we return she is there to help us move further into the panorama of cheeses here in Spain. All the tasting notes are placed before this article on “Wino”.

At this point, we were excited to get home and dig into the treats in our backpack that we quickly headed back to Reserva y Cata to grab a wine that we might pair with them. It was close by and Gab would then have a chance to see it. The same lady was there and very happy to see us. Eventually we ended up with a wine that is bottled exclusively to Reserva y Cata and comes from Castilla De La Mancha for around 6 euros. It was a tempranillo with a few months in French oak. Nice Fruit with a vanilla cream quality supported by a good amount of wood though not in an overpowering way. Good table wine and we enjoyed it as such with our dinner. Oh and the cheese never met the wine, we tasted and sampled as I cooked, taking what I hope is not our last set of “cheese tasting notes”. Our eventual goal to taste our way through the cheeses of Europe during our adventure here.

All in all another fun day exploring Madrid, Till soon, Ryan

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Cheeeese Grommit!

The Opii Family Cheese Rating Scale
Ratings based on a 1-10 with 10 being perfection! Think of it this way, 1 is equal to cheese whiz from a can, while 10 makes one dizzy with euphoric glee! We hope to do this more now that we have found a true affinage (cheese finishing shop) in Madrid. In total they have about 100+ cheeses from around the world and a staff that knows them. Check them out online at:
Below is our first attempt at tasting notes for cheese! When you see a (G) or a (R) it stands for Ryan or Gab whose opinion was unique.

Three Spanish Cheeses:

ES- Framatge Garraxta
Hard whitish mold rind, interior a millimeter of tan fading to a light cream, medium hardness, light pungency with a fruit characteristic and raw crème. Creamy in the mouth with tackiness that coats the mouth. Slight sweetness. Rich caramelized flavor. (G) Thinks a light peppery while Ryan doesn't. Slight tanginess at the end.

Taramundi - Vaca Cruda
Ashen rind has a soft grayish mold similar to an Aspen bark. One half a mil. of dark tan gray thick rind and hard, quickly moving into one millimeter of dark crème color and ending with a bright white. Tangy and fruity aroma. Waxy, soft and buttery feeling in the mouth. Sweet tangy start with strong acidity and a salty backbone. Strong peppery quality (G), Light pepper quality (R)


ES- Sierra De Cazorla Tomillo
Outside is coated in Thyme with a white and forest green coating. A thin but hard rind. The width of the rind is quite small with a brilliant white interior. Smells incredible like thyme and the musky raw earth of a lush forest floor. Decaying leaves and rich loam. Crumbly dry with a delicate softness. Tangy flavor of strong acid with a touch of peppery olive oil. Slight grapefruit flavor from the acidity on the finish.


Recent Tasting Notes

  • 2002 Mas Doix Priorat DO Salanques - Spain, Catalunya, Priorat (3/20/2005)
    Salanques 2002 DOC Priorat Granacha, Carinena, Merlot, Syrah
    Deep reddish purple
    Nose of dirt and rich spice, almost like grandmas attic
    Heavy in the mouth it has a richness that shows a lot of fruit supported by copious tannins. Rich berry flavors framed by pepper and earth draw me back to this wine. Really dirty, as in earthy, and I wonder how a flavor as such would progress given a few years.
    c5a13t16o7=91 (91 pts.)

  • 2001 Cerevoles - Spain, Catalunya, Costers del Segre (3/20/2005)
    2001 Cervoles DO Costers del Segre 14% (Cataluna)
    Deep ruby/purple with Black pepper, dirt, light blueberry, and some black licorice. Med weight with an initial sweetness that fades to dry with a strong acid component and hidden tannin. Flavors of fresh berries, rich spice and tar? Unfortunately picking up some green tannins. Though this might be a natural herbal component unique to the region. Nice wine and I would like to see how it develops in the next few years.
    c5a12t15o7=89 Grenache blend (89 pts.)

  • 1998 Castell del Remei Costers del Segre 1780 - Spain, Catalunya, Costers del Segre (3/20/2005)
    Deep muddy purple Strong blackberry and vanilla with a backbone of oak that is not afraid to show itself plum and anise too. Heavy weight in the mouth with a very dry and strong backbone of tannin. Flavors of sour cherries and Sweet fruit. The acidity does a lot to balance out the tannin and the fruit while it seems to needs more time for it to show itself fully. Not sure though considering it is already 7 years old.
    c5a12t15o6=88 (88 pts.)

  • 2002 Castell del Remei Costers del Segre Gotim Bru - Spain, Catalunya, Costers del Segre (3/20/2005)
    Deep reddish brown with a nose of smoked cherries and vanilla and some anise with notes of blackberries. Rich mouth feel with a dry finish and strong acidity. Smoked vanilla, a little lacking in fruit as compared with tannins and acid.
    C5A13T13O6=87 (87 pts.)

  • 2004 Isola de Mont Reaga Vino de la Tierra - Spain, Castilla-La Mancha (3/20/2005)
    2004 Isola de Mont Reaga Vino de la tierra de Castilla, (tasted) Tempranillo & syrah, de LaMancha
    Light body with some tannin
    Bright cherry color, Light anise with bright cherry notes.
    Carbonic maceration was used and hence a light hint of banana, with a very fruity flavor overall. First year of production for this procuder. Light fruity with a racy acidity but falls a bit flat on the finish, might be because it was opened earlier. Cherry, ripe banana (light) and a little green pepper that seems out of place in the back of the palate. Not a bad quaffer

Posted from CellarTracker!

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Great Article

A great article I came across online about Paul Draper of Ridge Vineyards. Makes you wish they all were all like him!

A legend

Tuesday, March 15, 2005


Every day I wonder about our distant nature towards food. Part of our escape from America was due to the lack of contact or care for what we put in us. Moving to Spain, I hoped to find a new perspective on our most basic need.

Last night I made a chicken. I rubbed it with dried thyme, some garlic, salt, pepper and lots of butter. Putting it in the oven I waited an hour and took it out cut it up and served it on a simple platter. Served with a mushroom risotto and steamed broccoli drizzled with good olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper. Basically a Betty Crocker dream meal.

When I served it to our group our American roommate made the comment, "How did you make it taste so good? If I did this it wouldn't be the same." Different is nice too. There was just enough food left in the end, for our late arriving roommate.

Shouldn’t food always be this way?

To drink we had a simple Albariño wine from the northwest of Spain. Light and crisp with fresh fruit and a playful nature, the wine paired perfect with our communion. For dessert, yogurt, a strange but favorite after dinner treat of La Familia (our pet name for ourselves).

I'm not sure if it’s the fact that we eat together almost every night or if it’s just being in Spain, but meals have become fun again. We don't always make it to the “good” market to buy the best vegetables. Somedays we just throw 2 or 3 leftovers together creating something of old rice, steamed vegetables and random hunks of sausage. It always tastes good. Not to mention we laugh together, learn a bit, and always sit together.

Without our families in America, or language we can speak, or our cats to pet, it's been hard. I'm glad we have this, simple, basic and priceless. Time to see what's in the fridge...

till soon, Ryan

A night out on the town in Madrid 3-4-05

A travesty has occurred, I have been here close to a month and I haven’t even had a chance to sample the night life of Madrid. Supposedly, by most accounts it is some of the best the world has to offer, and the latest in hours of operation. In fact, it is well known that if you go out in Madrid before midnight you will most likely find yourself alone at the bar or waiting for the nightclub to open since a large majority do not open until 2 or 3 in the morning and then it is standing room only. So this night I was to have a taste though a tame one a taste none the less, focusing mainly on small bars and fun food.

The night was prompted by a visitor. Around 3 in the afternoon, Janelle’s Cousin Todd arrived in Madrid for a short stay. Also this night, our other roommates were preoccupied with other things to do, leaving the responsibility to Gab, Janelle and I to show Todd, and in the end me, what Madrid had to offer. After a nice lunch, and a couple of naps, we decided to head out around 7 or so, just to have a few drinks and taste a few Tapas.

Having had a class downtown, Janelle decided to have Gab and I take Todd on his first metro trip, to meet up with her by the Bear and the Madrileño tree in Sol. Basically, this is the place where everyone meets when they want to get together with friends, and thus, is usually filled with people in all manner of dress with darting eyes trying not to miss anyone in the mass of humanity. Fortunate for us, being the foreigners we are, we arrived there a bit too early by Madrileño standards and found Janelle right away before heading off into the chilly night.

Making sure that Todd got a bit of the Tourist view, we headed to Plaza de Mayor. Plaza de Mayor has one of the longest histories in Madrid, as well as the obligatory statue of a famous person on a big horse; which acts like a tourist magnet and provides the digital camera industry with a stable foundation on which to build. So after a few pictures of the necessary monuments and sites of famous deaths/pronouncements, we quickly moved on to a part of the town just south of where we were to explore a vibrant restaurant/bar area in Madrid.

Our guide Janelle had a thousand things to show us, and we only had one night and about three quarters of a tank of gas in us to go on. Our first stop was a small wine bar. When I say small, I mean it made our old apartment look like a mansion. A small bar a couple of stools and a basement with bathroom and that’s about it. Our bartenders were two middle aged ladies both with smiles and kind eyes who were quick to get us each a wine. To start, Gab and I opted for a Cava in attempt to kick off the night’s events with a bit of class.

Agusti Torello, straw colored very light with small bubbles. Light honey nose w/faint walnut and citrus. Medium body with strong sparkle on the tongue and a dry finish. Sharp flavors of citrus and light almost clay like earth with a faint marzipan almond quality on the finish. 88pts

As is the tradition, we were presented with Tapas, which in this instance was a small round of bread with a pungent sharp goat cheese round drizzled with a fruity olive oil and a few red pepper corns. Most of the time the pepper corns would overpower what ever I was having, but in this case their sharp bite echoed the sharpness of the cheese perfectly. So far, so good! A nice start to the evening, and one that was quickly getting chilly as we soon headed out in search of our next stop.

After a 5 minute walk, we were led to the next bar- a quirky little place tucked into the side of a building as if to be an afterthought of the architect. Janelle informed us that they not only served white wine, sherry and beer, no red wine or liquors, but also that the ala carte style of food service offered some fun interesting new treats. After some discussion, we opted for a dish that consisted of semi crisp potato thins topped with a strong cured ham and a broken or lightly scrambled egg. To go with this strange concoction, three of us split a half bottle of Pedro Romero Manzanilla Sherry. I won’t bother with notes for this one, as it was a poor example of Manzanilla, but it did have the trademark salt air quality that did find a nice pairing with the side of olives we were given. The food though unremarkable did a nice job of preparing us for the night that lay ahead by giving us a nice base of grease on which to layer our drinks. It was still wee bit early for a normal Madrileño evening out, but by the time we were finishing up, the small space we found in the basement was quickly feeling smaller.

Moving on again, the night air was starting to bite back with a chill that sunk to the bone. Consequently, it pushed us on in search of substances to warm us up on the inside. We finally arrived at Cien Vinos, though not without some difficulty. Janelle was given directions to this place by a student, and after finding the street it was supposed to be on, we had some trouble finding where exactly on this street it was. But not to be thwarted, Janelle ran into a small bar to ask for directions to which she was informed that they had “no idea” where this particular bar was. Interesting enough, just as we walked out the front door to our left hung a very nice bronze plaque with Cien Vinos etched on it. Oh well, maybe they never leave through the front door!

Cien Vinos is a place that I must get back to sooner than later. Seeing that we were not sure how long we would be out, nor how much food we would need, we decided to stick to wine at this stop: 2 glasses of a nice Navarra and 2 glasses of a Tokaji Furimint, Oremus Dry. Both were fun! I have had the Tokaji in the dessert form, but not in the dry state. It was a fun experience to try it another in a completely different state. While watching various groups mingle and talk, our eyes turned to the display case of some of their “Pinchos” usually a larger version of a Tapas and a smaller version of a “Racione”. For what seemed like vary reasonable prices, you could have anything from foie gras to Calamari with fantastic presentation. Catching my eye was a round thimble shaped dish with caramelized fruit topped with couscous and a half moon slice of seared foie gras. Why we didn’t stay and partake of this we later regretted, but oh well, just another reason to come back another night.

With three bars down, and three to go, we had the pleasure of a tourist spot called the “Guitarra” a cave of a restaurant, set underneath Plaza de Mayor. Old brick arches framed dimly lit rooms, all quite chilly and oozing with, history. As far as food, we decided on something more traditional: Sangria and Fried Chorizo. It was an odd pairing but incredibly but the cool sangria balanced the hot chorizo quite well!

Aside #1 Chorizo

Before I had arrived in Spain, Chorizo existed in my mind only as a spicy sausage from Spain - basically, pork with lots of spicy paprika giving it its bright staining red color. But after arriving here, I’m starting to understand that I was not only incorrect in this assumption, but also in need of some serious exploration. One person put it to me this way: “Chorizo is Chorizo and Sausage is Sausage. One is not the other and can never be”. Whether this is a language issue or truly a difference that I need to get straight is a subject of some debate. The one thing I can tell you is that like the Italians these people know what to do with a pig! So many different types of cured hams, sausages and chorizos that my mind wants to explode with the opportunities. Given an infinite length of time to try them all, I’m not sure I would have a chance to try them all. Spicy, sweet, rice filled, prosciutto like(though never compare the two out loud), cured hams from pigs that were fed only acorns for the last days of their lives, long ones, short ones, sliced ones, cold, hot, thin, thick….YES!!! .. as I sit drooling, I shall now return to the story.

In this instance, we were given small almost round chorizos with a light piquant spice to them steaming hot and bursting with flavor! As you tentatively bit into them, the flavor of paprika and rich fat coated every part of your mouth. To wash it down, the Spanish drink of Sangria did just the trick. The soothing heat of the hot little sausages fresh from the pan mixed with the delicate flavor of the Sangria. Sangria at its most basic level is a slightly sweetened wine beverage, to which wine is combined with triple sec, brandy and fruit. It can provide one with quite the buzz if you are not careful do to the easy way in which it goes down. One or two pitchers of this on a hot summer’s day makes a siesta seem a more natural part of life.

During this part of our adventure, the conversation turned to odd things one might eat while in Spain. Todd stated that he was up for trying anything, and beginning an exploration of the extremes in the culinary world, came to the subject of Rocky Mountain Oysters. For those of you who don’t know, these are not oysters from the Rocky Mountains, but rather from a bull. Here in Spain, “bull’s balls”, as we like to say, are eaten as part of the bull fighting tradition. I’m sure a notion of transfer of power was involved, although I don’t really think I need or want to get into this. In a hunt for “bull’s balls”, we were off wandering further into the rapidly cooling night. Unfortunately we were not successful, and after one waiter laughed a bit when we said that we would like to try this delicacy, we decided instead to stop at a small Tapas bar in Plaza de Mayor to warm up and eat some more.

Surprise some wine was ordered, while for food, a plate of blood sausage with rice (the rice is inside the sausage) and a plate of warm octopus. The sausage was almost purple black in color, while the flavor was a mix of rich sweetness and mild spice. The most notable characteristic was that of the texture. The cooked rice was mixed into the meat making every bite crackle with the crunchy rice contrasted by the slight chewy resistance of the meat. I think I like this one whose, richness, sweetness and texture: blend to create a tri-fecta of sorts. Unfortunately, the octopus was lacking in character. While not all together bad, it did not compare to the fare we had had up until now and was our one regret so far. My wine of choice was a sweet Oloroso sherry with a salty nut character that made me wonder if there was such a thing as honey roasted pecans. At this point in the evening, I was not in the mood to critique anything too deeply, but I did make sure to make a “note to self” reminding myself to return to this wine for further exploration. Unfortunately, this restaurant was in a heavy tourist area making the value for euro severely lacking! Don’t worry though we wouldn’t let the night end on a sour note.

Instead, we ended up at Delic, a crowded bar where we squeezed past large groups of people in order to get to the back where were lucky enough to find a table for 4. Lively and a bit loud, this turned out to be a fun place with up beat music and friendly patrons. We settled here and for a change tried our first mixed drinks of the evening. For me, it was Orujo, a liquor that I had seen on many store shelves that continuously called my name to "Come take a taste!" Basically, it is a brandy based liquor infused with herbs originating from “green Spain” in the northwest corner of the country. Served in a snifter with ice, it shows a shade lighter than Galliano with a rich viscosity that clings to the glass. Very sweet! It has a faint anise flavor and a strong green herbal characteristic that lingers with every sip. To appease the groups’ sweet tooth, two slices of cake/torte like substance were brought to the table. The first treat was a mound of gooey chocolate cake oozing across the plate. For me, this was a bit overpowering, while the second was more of a local specialty, Torte de Dulce de Leche. I’m not sure if we have this in America, but Dulce de Leche is basically a caramel sauce made by boiling down milk and sugar and is put into and on just about everything. The torte is made up of thin layers of paper thin dough sandwiched by dulce de leche and would put even the healthiest individual into diabetic seizures, though it does taste kind nice!

At this point in the evening, our bodies and minds were beginning to slow down a bit as our tank was heading towards empty. So with a bit of wiggling and weaving we pushed our way to the front and out the door into the frigid night air. It had been fun and we had seen a lot. For me, it was my first taste of what Madrid has to offer to a person whose soul thrives on good food, good wine, and decadence.

Till soon, Ryan Opaz

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Something Yummy I found!

As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.

A Moveable Feast , Ernest Hemingway

And the Site It Came From....I wanna be a Judge!

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Some tasting notes

  • N.V. Bodegas Franco Diamante - Spain, La Rioja (3/6/2005)
    Nice pale yellow with steely highlights. Kind of an earthy nose like a ripe brie, almost a light banana thing, and some peach. Medium body with a light sweetness that lingers on the finish. Sweet fruit and fresh peach with a light mineral/herbal note that hides in the background. Not bad table quaffer. C4+A11+T15+O6=86 (86 pts.)

  • 2001 Roger Goulart Cava Brut Nature - Spain, Catalunya, Cava (3/5/2005)
    Light staw with strong efffervensence. Lime with a light breadnote, and faint yeast. Med body with a light sweetness to start that quickly fades into the distance. Lime and oragnew ith a light woodiness and some bread notes. Very tasty with a subtle elegance and a delicate complexity.Very nice wine.
    C5+A12+T15+O7=89 (89 pts.)

  • 2001 Dominio de Algara Envejecido en Roble - Spain, Extremadura (3/5/2005)
    Dominio de Algara, 2001 Envejecido en Roble, Extremadura VT 12.5%, Tempranillo/Grenache

    Very light reddish purple color. Light smoke, light spice, candy cherry notes and with a bit of time some rhubarb. Med body with med acid and light if any tannin, there is a slight sweetness in the front palate that fades towards the finish. Overall, cherry candy with some black pepper to it. There seems to be some oak though I doubt it to be from barrel, it seems a bit too fresh to have sat in a barrel and the oak a bit too pure! Oh well, really a fun bottle to drink!
    C5+A11+T15+O7=88 (88 pts.)

  • N.V. Gonzalez-Byass Alfonso, Jerez, Oloroso Seco - Spain, Spain (3/5/2005)
    Alfonso, Jerez, Oloroso Seco, Palomino – Gonzalez Byass 18%

    Georgeous light carmel color brilliant clear with hints of gold that flash as you swirl it in the glass. Carmel, wood, salt air, Raw nutmeg, light roasted nut notes and all supported by a light vanilla underlayer. Light and heavey in the mouth at the same time if possible, the flavors are ethereal with a rich salty, wood laden body that lingers in the mouth. Strong flavors of carmel, salt, citrus, light wood notes, light toffee and more and more. This is my first Seco Oloroso so I won’t rate it but if this is even a decent at best example of the style than I need to buy more of this. Similar to a Fino in that the rich salt quality is there and lingers, but more hefty than the delicate almost feminine nature of the Fino. Both offer so much and in such surprisingly different ways.

    The Oloroso is a dry play on the basic elements that make up wine. So much so that I even taste a slight tannin on the mid-palate. But like a chef would a soup, the mire-poix of acid, tannin, fruit, is then sprinkled with a dash of salt air so as to bring alive the sleeping flavors. Too bad so many of us associate sherry with grandma and the sweet wine she drank, unbalanced and heavey, when before us is a treasure trove just waiting to be discovered. I can’t wait to explore further this family of wine and all of it’s manisfitations, hopefully learning what else is out there to stimulate the mind and palate.

Posted from CellarTracker!

Friday, March 04, 2005



So I joined a wine club in Madrid. 15euros for one year. 5% off all purchases, Free tastings everyweek, special offers and events. And an opprotunity to shop at one of the best wine stores on the planet. Incredible. I mean wow, Check out the site, and next time I'm there I'll try to take some pictures to post. It is so comprehensive and really well priced for the most part. It's fun to see all the spanish wines I sell here. It kind of validates for me something. Not sure how to explain it but when selling a Spanish wine in America you feel so detached from it but to actually see it's home and people selling it who know all about it makes it feel more real. Anyways, I'm hoping to go to a Cava tasting on monday, since it doesn't look like I'm going to be hearing back from any vineyards anytime soon. We'll see what happens. Last night I had a dry Oloroso Sherry I got there, I'll post a tasting note soon, but let me tell you I've never tasted anything so alive and explosive with flavor. Truley an experience that I hope to have more of! till soon, ryan

Wednesday, March 02, 2005


New Corks? Just when we thought they were going away!

I do find it interesting this debate, so far on my trip my corked wines are:
1 from the Grocery store
1 at a bar by the glass
2 bottles, one in Portugal and one in Toledo Spain at resturants
Oh and one that I'm not sure if it was TCA taint but the house wine they were serving was just plain nasty!

I've had a lot of wine here, but no matter how many bottles I have, CORKED still bugs me. I hope this new thing might work out and not cost a fortune for the wine makers to use.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Recent tasting notes

  • N.V. Graham Porto 20-year Tawny - Portugal, Douro, Porto (3/1/2005)
    Maple, nut brown color, beautiful! Rich wood, and raisen nose with soft toffee carmel notes. Med weight in the mouth with a rich sweetness that drys a bit on the finish followed by an alcohol burn that seems well integrated. Rich wood flavors of oak and a bisquit note that leads me to believe it was covered with carmel. Light fruit through out though only of the dried variety and a soft spice of cinnamon and spicy vanilla. I could drink a lot of this. C5+A13+T18+O9=95 (95 pts.)

  • 2001 Quinta de São Jose - Portugal, Douro (3/1/2005)
    Tinta Roriz and Touriga Francesca, 8months on Oak
    Deep Opaque purple. Clove, anise, smokey oak, and hints of vanilla all show at first on the nose, with rich fruit coming forward as it begins to open. Rich in body with light alcohol sweetness and tannins that are not aggressive but do well to support the flavor. Big oak covering the fruit a bit, which appears to be cherry, strawberry with a strong mineral presence as it begins to open further. C5+A12+T17+O8=92 (92 pts.)

  • N.V. Graham Porto 10 Year Old Tawny - Portugal, Douro, Porto (3/1/2005)
    Light brown with glints of Ruby as is agitrated. Noticeable wood and alcohol on the nose with hints of carmel and light fruit. Rich in the mouth with a coating quality followed bylight alcohol on the finish. Carmel, with dried raisen, prune and a clove/allspice note intermingled. I need cheese with this to bring to life. Very nice wine though the alcohol is a bit distracting on the finish. C5+A13+T17+O7=92 (92 pts.)

  • 2001 Rejadorada Toro Crianza - Spain, Castilla y León, Toro (3/1/2005)
    Deep red with hints of purple. vanila, oak, Light spice, maybe black pepper and Cherry, raspberry quality. Softer than the later with round soft tannin and asofter acidity. Nice fruit without the oak overpowering it. Cherry, raspberrry, some tobacco, and a light background of black pepper? Even a bit of bacon fat as it warms in the glass. Best balance of the three wines I tasted from Rejadorada.
    13.5% alcohol (91 pts.)

  • N.V. Graham Porto Six Grapes - Portugal, Douro, Porto (3/1/2005)
    Almost maroon in color. Nose of plum and dried cherries with hints of liquorice. Also a distinct stewed fruit quality as if it was my mom prepareing Jam! Med weight with a nice richness and no alcohol presence, also the tannins seem soft but noticeable. Big fruit, almost candy like with cherry, strawberry, and a light smokiness. Very nice. C5+A12+T16+O8=91 (91 pts.)

  • 1998 Graham Porto Late Bottled Vintage - Portugal, Douro, Porto (3/1/2005)
    Deep reddich purple all the way to the rim. This spent 6 years in Oak. Elementary school paste with light anise and pencil lead on the nose with a rich berry quality lurking beind it all. Rich in the mouth with a strong alcohol presence on the finish. Sweet fruit and lots of spice, black pepper, anise, clove, and a nice black berry quality to support it all. Though here they say it cannot age, I think this might gain from 2 or 3 years lying down. C5+A12+T16+O7=90
    I liked this more as it sat open and if I was to re-rate would give it a T17 and O8 (90 pts.)

  • 2001 Rejadorada Toro Sango - Spain, Castilla y León, Toro (3/1/2005)
    Deep purple with hints of a ruby red. Thick clingling legs, quite bueatiful. Lots of Oak, tobacco, this was just opened and needs time to breathe. There is a lot trying to get out of the nose but it's wound up pretty tight. thought some rich ripe cherry, fresh off the tree seems to be screaming to get out. RIch in the mouth though softer overall, the tannins though present seemed subdued and integrated more with the acid and fruit. Rich fruit and lots of oak with nice vanilla hints and raspberry. Why I can't move past the raspberries I don't know, but all three of Rejadorada’s wines remind me of raspbberries I picked as a kid, if those raspberries were then coated in vanilla and oak. I think this puppy could use a few years to mellow out.
    C5+A12+F16+O7=90 (90 pts.)

  • 2002 Quinta de São Jose - Portugal, Douro (3/1/2005)
    Nice plum color with glints of ruby, brilliant clear. Spicey oak, vanilla, and dried plum on the nose. Med-Heavey w/soft tannin on the front end and a rich acidity on the finish. Nice acid, cherry, light smoke, some cranberry and a that same light minerality. This is a nice soft wine with a flavor richness, who would do well to be paired with some stewed beef or pork.
    C5+A12+T16+O7=90 (90 pts.)

  • 2003 Rejadorada Toro Tinto Roble - Spain, Castilla y León, Toro (3/1/2005)
    Gorgeous ruby color with thick clinging legs.
    Vanilla spice nose with hints of oak. THough the fruit seems a bit restrained. Rich, medium body with light tannin and medium acidity. Oak and Vanilla, Cherry, and a nice sour raspberry quality. Very nice steak wine, whose acidity would deal nicely with the richness of the meat.
    14% alcohol (89 pts.)

  • 2002 Bodegas Ramon Ramos Toro Tinto Joven Monte Toro - Spain, Castilla y León, Toro (3/1/2005)
    Slightly hazy deep reddish maroon. Strong rich berry nose with oak, smoke and some bacon fat. Med body with steely tannins and a strong acidity. Cherry, Oak, vanilla, earth/mineral and a light dried fruit quality.
    C4+A12+T15+O7=88 (88 pts.)

  • 2000 Grao Vasco Tinto - Portugal, Dao (3/1/2005)
    Nice deep ruby red. Smokey mineral nose with hints of blackberry and plum. Medium body with light faded tannins, nice balanced acidity and short but enjoyable finish. Flavors of raspberry, light oak,smoke and a light mineraltiy. The 12% alcohol shows a bit strong on the finish but overall is not a factor.
    C5+A11+T15+O6=87 (87 pts.)

  • 2001 Evel - Portugal, Douro (3/1/2005)
    Very rich deep amber/ maroon, with plum accents, and a bit muddy. Port nose, of rich fruit, plum, raisen and a rich spice all framed by a delicate minerality. Med Body w/soft tannins and structured acidity. Light Cherry, plum, oak, vanilla, all show on the palate, though the spice on the nose does not follow through to the palate. Flavor of jammy fruit, though not a “jammy” wine. Very port like but with more of the smokey oak usually not found in port.
    C4+A12+T14+O7=87 (87 pts.)

  • 2004 Vinicola de Castilla Macabeo Viño de la Tierra de Castilla Senorio de Guadianeja, Blanco - Spain, Castilla-La Mancha, Viño de la Tierra de Castilla (3/1/2005)
    Steely light yellow with the smallest bubbles adhereing to the sides. Nice light fruit nose with some floral notes and Medium body with a viscous nature that fades at the end leaving a crisp finish. Green pear and a light lychee nut quality appear first on the palate followed by a lightness that turns to an almost but not quite bitter finish. Blind I might think it was a blend of gewerztraminer and viura or verdejo. As it warms the whtie flower quality of the nose becomes more prevelant, while a faint nuttiness that I can't quite put my finger on shows through. Nice
    C4+A11+T15+O7=87 (87 pts.)

  • N.V. Graham Porto Tico Dry - Portugal, Douro, Porto (3/1/2005)
    Austere, and alive!Light nose with a slight nuttiness and some pear? Almost steely with an underlying softness. Very dry in the mouth with an austerity and light bite on the finish. Fresh mosit nut quality with some light fruit. A nice apretif though not for large amounts of consumption. C5+A11+T14+O7=87 (87 pts.)

  • 2001 Real Companhia Velho Porca de Murca - Portugal, Douro (3/1/2005)
    Very light and clear maroonish red. Nose of sweet candied fruit,jolly rancher like.Med body with light tannins and high acid. Flavors of cherry, light oak and some light minerality. Nice and pleasant enough though not very involved.
    C4+A11+T14+O6=85 (85 pts.)

  • N.V. Graham Porto Fine white Port - Portugal, Douro, Porto (3/1/2005)
    Honeyied nose with a light minerality. Both this and the other white are a light clover honey color. the nose also shows light muscat like grape qualities. Med to heavey in the mouth with noticealbe residual sugar. Also a definate alcohol heat on the finish. Nice though a bit brash.C5+A11+T13+O6=85 (85 pts.)

  • N.V. Vina Rotura - Spain, Carinena (3/1/2005)
    Light red with brilliant clarity. Cherry, light cinnamon and a little bit of smoke and spice. Med body with a light sweetness in the front of the palate but ending dry. Fine tannins and very light. Tart cherry and light spice with a nice overall spice quality. Not bad for a cheap bottle of red from the supermarket.
    C5+A12+F12+O6=85 (85 pts.)

Posted from CellarTracker!

Spray on Grappa

Spray on Grappa
Originally uploaded by obiscoito.

Not sure if I was to spray this in my mouth or on my body!

Villar d'Allen

Villar d'Allen
Originally uploaded by obiscoito.

Where the first owner of Noval Lived!

Old wine

Old wine
Originally uploaded by obiscoito.

Just some old wine laying around the house at Villar d'Allen. BTW the big bottle in the middle is a red table wine from Noval somewhere in the mid 1800's!

Old Cellar

Old Cellar
Originally uploaded by obiscoito.

This is the no longer used cellar at Rejadorada. They are in the states, make sure to look for them. Good ´shit mon!

grahams tasting

grahams tasting
Originally uploaded by obiscoito.

My line up at Grahams where I was given a private tour, and an extensive tasting. Quite fun, at one point I had a British lady come up as I wrote notes to ask who I wrote for! Notes to be posted soon.

barco duoro

barco duoro
Originally uploaded by obiscoito.

A traditional Boat for shipping wine down the Duoro river. What a nice day it turned out to be!