Taste of Wine

Seize the day and escape to Spain

The countryside of one of Spain’s top wine countries, the Ribera De Duero, in the northwest, near Portugal is on the itinerary of San Diego State’s College of Extended Studies inaugural Wine Education Abroad.  Photo courtesy San Diego State UniversityIn Spain, Barcelona’s bodegas are a universal mix of nearby Tempranillo Wine from Rioja, Tapas made up of cheeses and meats and flamenco guitarists.  Photo by Frank Mangio

Of all the great wine countries of the world, Spanish wines seem the most mysterious.  There’s a lot to learn. In my two trips to Spain, once to Barcelona in the northeast and Granada, in the south, Barcelona was easily the most vibrant city. Its all-night wineries and wine bars, called Bodegas, only start getting interesting past 10 p.m.  If you are an early riser, you might hear the last of the revelers at 6 a.m., along with the roosters.

In the old town districts of Barcelona, you’ll want to be sure to visit La Rambla where all kinds of people stroll the boulevards, enjoying vast vegetable and flower stands, handicraft, outdoor theatre and our favorite stops, flamenco guitarists and Spanish bodegas.

To give you an idea of the vastness of this marketplace, there are really five different “Ramblas” and two massive squares.

If you go, look for the Rambla de Caputxins or “del Centre,” typified by its side-street bars such as La Opera or Los Italianos.

Just about every evening, locals and visitors go to see, and be seen.  Tempranillo is the wine of choice in Barcelona and elsewhere.  Grown primarily in the nearby Riojas district, it’s a mellow red with soothing aroma and flavor with aging potential.  It’s often compared with France’s Pinot Noir and Italy’s Sangiovese.

Before leaving Barcelona, I must point out that a jaw-dropping sight to behold is the work-in-progress great temple in the La Sagrada Familia district, by the architect Gaudi in 1891.  Parts of the neo gothic structure are still in need of completion.

Another vast and important wine country next to Portugal, also known for Tempranillo wines, is Ribera Del Duero that follows the course of the Duero River that eventually flows into Douro and Porto in Portugal.  At their best, Ribera De Duero wines are deeply concentrated, richly textured and without high tannins or alcohol.

Here, you will find the prestigious Vega-Sicilia Unico, considered Spain’s most sophisticated wines.

A vintage to keep in mind when purchasing Spanish wines is the 2010 harvest.  The major wine countries of Spain all scored 92 and higher. 2011 did just as well in most varietal categories.

San Diego State’s College of Extended Studies is inaugurating Wine Education Abroad with a private group journey through Spain’s wine country, notably Catalonia, Rioja and the Basque Regions, from Oct. 9 to Oct. 17 of this year.  The university promises to “sample wines from the barrel, walk through vineyards by the sea, learn the harvest process, prune grapevines, and even crush grapes under foot — along the way, dine everywhere from an ancient wine cave to a medieval village to modernist pintxos bars.”

Another feature is the private wine classes daily. A local guide and translator will be part of the trip.  Arrival will be in Barcelona, my favorite part of the country.  A four-hour “tapas route” through the Gothic Quarter is planned.  For more information on this singular opportunity to know Spanish wines, email: wine@mail.sdsu.edu, or visit neverstoplearning.net/winetravel. According to the school, deposits are due by March 2.

Wine Bytes

Meritage Wine Market in Encinitas has a wine, cheese and chocolate Valentine’s event Feb. 14 from 1 to 3 p.m.  Cost is $59.  Call (858) 442-2749 for an RSVP.

Solare Italian Restaurante at Liberty Station in Pt. Loma has a special four-course dinner for Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14 for $69.  A rose is waiting for each couple as a bonus.  Call (619) 270-9670

Tuscany in La Costa has a pair of events this month:  A Tolosa Wine Tasting & Appetizer pairings Feb. 18 from 6 to 8 p.m.  Four wines and four pairings, plus music from San Diego Jazz great Micky Maga.  Tickets and RSVP by phoning (760) 929-8111.  Also Tuscany has a live Jazz Sunday brunch with a bottomless Mimosa from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Firefly Grill and Wine Bar in Encinitas has added a Robert Hall Winery dinner event, Feb. 19.  For time and price, call (760) 635-1066.

Pairings in downtown Carlsbad is presenting a Tablas Creek Wine Dinner, Feb. 19 at 6:30 p.m. for $95.  Five courses matching up with such wines as:  Rousanne Blend, Granache Blend and Mourvedre Blend.  Phone (760) 453-7874.

Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator.  He is one of the leading wine commentators on the web.  View and link up with his columns at tasteofwinetv.com. Reach him at mangiompc@aol.com and follow him on Facebook.

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