Txakoli: An Adventure in Basque Country

May is a fun month in France. The weather has already started to turn and there are four federal holidays, which thanks to the way the calendar fell this year meant four long weekends.  And of course, being me, I tried to take advantage of all of them. There was the Saint Emilion Portes Ouvertes, a trip to London for the London Wine Fair and a girl’s weekend in San Sebastian. And of course being me – I couldn’t let the last one go without some kind of wine related adventure.

11258038_10152737085342657_1430919325007564612_nPerched only 12 miles from the French border, the charming seaside town of San Sebastian, called Donostia in the Basque language,lies in the heart of Spanish Basque country and is one of Spain’s foremost tourist destinations. Given the city culture is rich with history and amazing food (the city boasts more Michelin stars per capita than any other in the world), it is no big surprise. The city also boasts a stunning beach and warm weather perfect for enjoying it. In addition to the abundance of gourmet restaurants, the Old Town city center is home to over 300 pinxtos and tapas bars. And of course spending time in the sun and eating all that great food makes you thirsty: enter Txakoli (pronounced CHOCK-oh-lee). Continue reading

La Rioja

DSC00021One night, two days, three estates, four total visits, five + hours on the bus (each way) and … over 120 students. I’ve already been to Spain twice this summer but this was my first wine tour and I got two experience both La Rioja and Navarra. While there were a lot of things I found frustrating about the trip and it wasn’t how I would have chosen to do things, I got to drink some awesome wine and enjoy a night out in Logroño.


Tasting at D.O. Navarra

Our first visit, and one of the best of the trip, was at the D.O. Office of Navarra. We sat through a short presentation and then enjoyed a great tasting of white, rose, red and sweet white wines. The director we spoke with was very passionate about his work and his enthusiasm was contagious.

Next, after a slightly disconcerting lunch, we made a stop at Marco Real. Part of a large family group that has estates in Argentina and Spain as well as a spirits production branch, Marco Real is based in Navarra. With a gleaming modern facility, one of the best aspects of this visit was the aromatics room. With over 70 essential oil diffusers this room is all about exploring the unique aromas that can be found in wine.

Cathedral in Logrono

Cathedral in Logrono

That night, despite my initial reservations, we spent a lovely evening at a seminary in Logroño. And of course… we wen’t out on the town. We had a couple of bottles of wine in the shadow of the lovely cathedral and then moved on for a tapas tour. I’ve had some amazing Spanish food over the years and enjoyed some amazing tapas. But I had, hands-down the best tortilla I’ve ever had. I’m still having dreams about it. Le sigh…I guess I’ll just have to go back and find the tiny little bar again.

Frank Gehry's Amazing Hotel at Marques de Riscal

Frank Gehry’s Amazing Hotel at Marques de Riscal

Then Friday morning, we dragged our slightly sorry, hungover buts out of bed and back onto the bus. I will confess this is where my group was especially lucky. We got to visit two estates instead of another D.O. Office and an estate. The first stop: the internationally celebrated Marques de Riscal. With stunning architecture and impressive production facilities, this estate encapsulated some of the best Rioja has to offer. Although I have to say I was a little disappointed by the visit…the estate was beautiful and we got to see some of the behind-the-scenes sites, but it almost felt too perfect. Clearly a well oiled machine, Marques de Riscal has turned the winery tour into an almost conveyor-belt like process.

Vat tasting at Marques de Teran

Vat tasting at Marques de Teran

But our second stop…was a completely different story. The best visit of our trip by far, Marques de Terán, was a unique experience characterized by passion and endless enthusiasm.  Our tour guide: the CEO. Utterly dedicated to producing the best possible wine and remaining both unique and eco-friendly, his excitement was contagious. Our tasting included two wines from the vats and a stunning 2009 Crianza. Not your typical Rioja wines, I liked them so much I bought three bottles.

We then stopped for a lovely three course lunch – that included more of the fabulous Marques de Terán wines. And then unfortunately, we were headed back to Bordeaux and real life. I’m looking forward to going back and getting a chance to do more exploring. Also there seems to be some tortilla calling my name… In the mean time, click below to see my tasting notes from the trip or click here to see the full range of photos.

Continue reading

Hello Again!

It’s been ages since I wrote. Although to be perfectly accurate I should say: it’s been ages since I posted. I’ve been writing. I have several posts that have already been written but never seemed to make it to the website. All I can say is: I’ve been too busy having too much fun to actually post them.

Barcelona, Arcachon, Brussels, Boston, New York, California, Cornwall again, Bordeaux Fete le Vin, Valencia… I’ve been busy racking up the miles and living out of a suitcase. In fact, I’m celebrating the fact that I’ve only lost one item in all the mayhem. Granted it was a favorite coat, but I’ll keep looking for a replacement.

This has been my first quiet weekend in a while. In fact, I’m celebrating by being domestic: eight loads of laundry, writing my internship report, floor to ceiling apartment scrubbing, grocery shopping, napping, etc. And of course plotting for my next trip. I have another month an a half before my internship contract is over for the summer. And August is going to look a little boring – most of France and a lot of my friends will be on holiday. So…next stop, Georgia (and yes the country not the state) or maybe it’s actually the camping trip to the Bayonne ferias or maybe back to Germany for another visit with the family. Either way…I’ll be in touch. Or maybe, I’ll be too busy travelling. Either way this has been a summer to remember.