Category Archives: Spain

Food & wine in Jumilla, Spain — a standout experience

While taking advantage of a special package at Spa Leana, known historically as los baños de Fortuna (2 nights double room with terrace, half board including wine, and a spa treatment circuit for an amazing 108 euros/person!), a hastily arranged day trip to Jumilla wine country (about 70 km away) resulted in a fantastic visit to Bodegas Juan Gil and an unplanned lunch at Finca de Olmo.

Juan Gil has an impressive winery facility amidst the rocky soils and chaliced

Monastrell

monastrell vines of northern Jumilla wine country. The winery has lots of extra stainless steel vat capacity, including large & small vessels, and vinifies both mid market and finer wines. The mainstay in Juan Gil silver label, which is made from 100% monastrell and receives 12 months of aging in French and American oak. The 4 month, with a new gold label, presents an excellent value.  The silver label can stand up to long aging, with at least 5 years recommended. Juan Gil’s great grandson explained that a new 18-month wine will be on the markets this year. Much of Juan Gil’s better wine is made from 80+ year old vines, growing in the starkest, driest, and rockiest vineyard land we have seen.

A little known fact is that many of the vines are on original rootstock, and this part of Jumilla was never affected by phyloxera. The wines produced were famous for their colour, concentration, and ability to produce high alcohol content (reportedly up to 17%!). Today’s finer wines are lean, tightly structured, and still alcoholic (14%)–the 12 month oak-aged wines need some time to open up.

Departing the bodega on the way back to los baños we spot a roadside cortijo and restaurant called Olmo. We arrive just at lunch time, and a table is arranged. Local sausages, a mixed salad with excellent bonito (mackerel) in oil, and fried local goat cheese precede the most amazing dish we’ve had in Spain in quite a while.

While paella is most often associated with Valenica–just over the border with Murcia–Jumilla apparently has its own, unique version. Paella jumilliana was prepared at Olmo in a heavy-bottomed paella pan cooked over a wood fire. One single layer of short-grain rice covered the pan. The paella was escargot and rabbit, with the brilliant yellow color of saffron unmistakable cooked into the rice–a true culinary expression of terroir. The smokiness did not obscure the complex saffron flavor, itself complimented by an excellent stalk, the rabbit (including the liver), and the snails. Perfectly cooked, the bottom was crispy and the rice grains  plump and flavouful.

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A standout organic red from Priorato . . . will be on the list at Trout Point Lodge this year

Wine Spectator gave the 2005 and 2006 vintages of Bodegas Pinord‘s “+7blend 92 points. Having recently sampled the 2007–a blend of garnacha (50%), syrah (20%), and Cabernet Sauvignon  (30%)–this producer of organically-certified wine has excelled again.

Silky tannins and featuring the weight and alcohol (14.5%) so typical of Priorat, +7 has a bit of smokiness, but is not so dense that it requires a lot more aging or lacks in subtlety. Berries, briar, and a bit of green pepper.

The wine is fermented in stainless steel, then blended and oak aged for 1 year.

Pinord has pledged to make quality wines here whilst maintaining a close relationship with more traditional grape growing techniques. From the beginning, the vineyards have been organic, using only permitted natural products on the land. All chemical products such as herbicides and pesticides are avoided.

Pinord has firmly adopted Biodynamic Farming techniques in their Mas Blanc vineyard. They believe that by following their own winemaking practices and by attempting to maintain a balance with the land, they will be leaving it a better place for future generations.

Trout Point Lodge of Nova Scotia will have the 2007 +7 on its 2012 season wine list, which specializes in organic and Spanish selections.

A pleasant Rioja for drinking now . . .

Bodegas Lan is a major, quality producer of Rioja wines. Like many other houses, Lan is going being the traditional joven, roble, crianza, reserva, gran reserva categories with some uniquely named wines. Such is the case with “D-12”, spied recently on the shelves at Carrefour in Andalucia.

It’s 100% Tempranillo with 10 months in a combination of new American oak (65%) and French oak (35%).

This wine is robust, with nice berry flavours, and ready for consumption now. The price is good, too.Bodegas Lan D-12 Rioja

L’art de vivre column: Bohemian Granada

Granada, Andalusia The sun sets over the Alhambra Palace after a typical bright/hot day in this prince of a city. We’re here for just a few days R&R, enough time to soak in not just some sun, but also the street musicians and performers, the labyrinth streets of the ancient Arab quarter, the Gypsy boys playing Flamenco at rock-concert levels, and the flocks of tour-group tourists wandering through the plazas near Mirador San Nicolas.

Granada is a city of Miradors–public open spaces where once can relax and take in the view of the Alhambra, the Generaliffe, and the majestic Sierra Nevada.

The place whose symbol is a pomegranate exudes its authentic Mediterranean and unique historical past: the grapes are heavy on the 50-year old vine that helps shelter part of the front terrace; gentle breezes blow anticipating the coolness of night time, and the olives are just forming, firm, still with their pale greenness; the rosemary grows like a weed in the patio garden, as do the beautiful Cymbidium orchids.

Late summer is still a time for cave dwelling–a traditional form of habitation in Granada, remnant of Arab and perhaps earlier times. The hand-dug hard-clay caves stay cool and fresh even when its 42 degrees outside. Many on the European bohemian circuit visit Granada because of the myriad caves to be had, squatted in for a spell. Ours, by contrast, come with a deed and a ventilation system.

Last night, on the search for a decent place to sup at 10pm, we found a perennial favourite serving dinner–the incomparable Bar Kiki, just beside the San Nicolas church and its gigantic aljibe, or water deposit. Mozarabic style foie gras, a mixed salad, and a fritura or fresh fish, cazon en adobo, and squid, all perfectly crisply fried in the region’s best olive oil. A local Granada wine made with little-known Vijiriego and Sauvignon Blanc provided a perfect, light, floral compliment to the food. Service was excellent, partly because we’re know there, as “los vecinos.”