Two of my close friends and I floated off to the land where my current favorite wine is produced…Rioja, Spain. I loved Rioja so much that the highs feel, well, as if I was amped up on a foreign substance…I have so much to share, I want to do it slowly, savoring the story telling. So 2) and 3) will require their own posts….
Here are the High 5 of Rioja…a place where I felt so alive it rejuvenated my sense of purpose for my season here in Europe….what is my life ASKING of me? How will I show up with courage and integrity EVERY minute?
1) The People. Yep! We encountered some might fun, entertaining and simply put INVITING folks in Rioja. Think about a man cutting big slices of proscuitto and promising to give me his pig, or a dinner with New Friends, who let us in to the wine cellar of a restaurant to hand pick our wines, or an elderly man who got in the front seat of our car and directed us (in Spanish) to a good place to find wine. A lady hanging out in the courtyard one minute and the next opening up her small warehouse to show us her small organic production of house wine..or a glass artist in the market who spent more than 25 minutes with us as we hand selected a set of tiny liquor glasses.
We had a 3+ hour long family style dinner with a group of single Spanish men and we conversed about parents, love, loss, gender roles, and how “what type of man is like a Chianti.” You know how sometimes it is easy just to connect with others? It felt like this moment that “my very flesh had become a poem…” quoting Whitman. Was it me? The Land? Or a mixture of the season that I am in and my steadfast heavy hunger? Magic in the moment, and
appreciation at the sense of freedom and capability….. a true birthday gift
2) A Cheese Making Excursion (more on this later!) Yep! I made cheese…and was inspired to add something to my list (milk something!)
3) Wine Education….We went on four formal winery tours. Each one, we learned something new about how wines are made, which often is an art.
4) The Flavors of La Bodega Vieja….So, I crave the wine of Rioja, but more than 70% I put into my mouth that weekend I truly enjoyed. PURE PLEASURE. Ever had three days of FLAVOR?
This meal delivered with EACH AND EVERY BITE. First up…an Amuse Bouche to trigger our taste buds (it works!)
Perhaps my favorite dish of the trip was this shaved artichoke salad with iberian spanish ham, pistachios and thinly sliced fennel. Delicious
And I will forever remember the love we had of this rather simple, yet powerful creme dessert over fruit. Finger Licking Magic bowl of heaven
5) The Hotel Eguren Ugarte…Smack dab in the center of the valley, this hotel was my kind of place. First, you have the scenery which surrounds the hotel. Absolutely breathtaking. The hotel is set high on a hill and thus overlooks all of its vineyards.
The all glass reception area is set up high, and thus, you get an excellent view as you sip contardos in the morning and eat tortas. Second, it is a WINERY. And you get to your rooms by going DOWN. Meaning, all the rooms are underneath the ground in the cellar where wine is stored. Yep. Open your door and you are looking at the reserva wine collection just chillin for the next 24 months or so. Third, and who really needs another reason….the shower was the best I have ever had. Ever. Think 6 heads and perfect pressure and great temperature….and that made the fourth: FREE WINE from their estate!
Just all the more delectable.