Friday, December 9, 2011

Discovering the Rioja wines

We went to a ceremony organized by the Consejo Regulador de la Denominación de Origen Calificada Rioja (Regulation Council of Rioja Qualified Designation of Origin) which took place in the majestic Hotel Palace in Madrid. Around 100 wineries of DOC Rioja (Rioja Designation of Origin Qualification) were represented with its best wines. This was a wonderful occasion to taste and buy the Rioja wines. 

It was a pity that the wines were not at its right temperature, but they were hot. The temperature is very important when the wines are tasted since a low temperature hides its virtues and a high temperature only shows its defects. The glasses were not the appropriate either since the bowl was too wide instead of close in the top part in order to better concentrate the perfumes.

However, as it is said, the sons must not be responsible of their parents’ mistakes, and in this case, despite the two defects of the organization, it is impossible to deny the quality of the wines we tasted.

Here you have a list of the best Rioja wines: 

Contino Viña del Olivo 2007, elaborates with tempranillo and graciano grapes. Aged in oak barrels for16 months. 91pts. Parker. Around 65€

CVNE Imperial Gran Reserva 2000, elaborates with tempranillo, graciano and mazuelo grapes. Aged in French and American Oak barrels for 24 months. Around 28€.

Ángeles de Amaren 2007, tempranillo (85%) and Graciano (15%) grapes. Aged in new French and American barrels for 16 months. Around 16€

Altos R “Pigeage”,  tempranillo (90%) and graciano (10%) grapes from vines that are over 80 years old. Aged in new French barrels for 15 months. Around 30€

Finca Valpiedra 2007, Tempranillo, Mazuelo, Graciano and Cabernet Sauvignon. Aged in French Oak barrels for 22 months. Around 20€.


Roda I 2006, 100% tempranillo grape. Aged in French Oak Barrels ( 50% new, 50% one vintage) for 16 months. Standing in bottle for 20 months before be on sale. Around 35€.

Real de Asua 2002, tempranillo with a bite of graciano grapes. Aged in new French oak barrels for 18 months. Around 52€.

Aluen + 2008. 100% tempranillo grapes. Aged in new French and Eastern Europe barrels for 14 months. Around 32€.

Hacienda Pradolagar 2005, Tempranillo (40%), Garnacha (10%), Mazuelo (10%) and other (40%) grapes. Aged in French and Russian barrels by Seguin Moreau for 22 months. Just 3,000 bottles. Around 85€.

La Rioja Alta 904 Gran Reserva 1998, one of the classiest Rioja wines. Tempranillo and graciano grapes. Aged in American oak barrels for 48 months. Around 30€

Martínez Lacuesta Gran Reserva 2004, tempranillo (85%), graciano (10%) and mazuelo (5%). Aged in new and nearly new American oak barrels for 26 months. Standing in bottle for 36 months before be on sale. Around 21€

Tahón de Tobelos 2006, 100% tempranillo grapes from own vineyard located at the foot of Sierra de Cantabria, on the plots Hombón, La linde and La Tejera. Aged in French, American and Hungarian oak barrels. Around 22€.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Karrin Allyson, musical tribute to Brazil

Karrin Allyson was born in Great Bend (Kansas) and grew up in Omaha (Nebraska). Her mother was a pianist and that is why Karrin started to play the piano when she was 5. She played the hits of the 70’s (James Taylor, Carole King, etc) because that what his father liked, and those were the first she sang. It was when she started in the University of Nebraska that the Jazz captivated her. Since then she had been nominated for two Grammy as the Best Female Jazz Singer and three albums nominated for the Best Jazz Album of the Year. Since 2000 she left Kansas City to move to live in New York.

Between her first album in 1992, "I didn't Know About You", until the one she published this year, "Round Midnight", Karrin has recorded 13 wonderful albums full of sensitivity and sensuality. All them have been produced by the same company "Concord". We upload the album she published in 2007 "Imagina: Songs of Brazil", in which she sings in her mother tongue, English, and in a very correct Portuguese the songs of important Brazilian singers such as Jobim, Stan Getz, Joao Gilberto, Elis Regina, Edu Lobo (whom we could see in Barril 1800 in Ipanema), Rosa Pasos or Vinicius de Moraes.

There are 14 songs which were chosen from many other wonderful Brazilian songs. To create this album she was helped by her friend and Portuguese teacher, Lucia Guimaraes. None of the songs are more important than the rest, but when listening to the first two songs, “A Felicidade” and “Correnteza”, the listener is trapped as when reading a very interesting book.  

We finish echoing the desire she had when she finished this job: “No matter what your language is, I hope that these Brazilian songs talk directly to your heart as it happened to me”. And to us. 

Oven-roasted Crab

It is long time since we do not post in the section “Cooking with…”. We have always cooked with professionals, but this time we are cooking with a great cook which is housewife, María Luisa Fernández, alma mater of the blog “Marilu entre pucheros”.  

Since she is from A Coruña, in Galicia, we asked her for the recipe of a shellfish dish that we can cook at home. She gave us two and we will post here the one of the oven-roasted crab (with albariño).


1 Fresh or Frozen Crab
1 Onion
1 Leek
1 Carrot
1 Tomato
1 Glass of Albariño Wine

Open the crab and remove the crabmeat from body and legs. In a saucepan, stir fry the chopped onion and leek. Add the grated onion (not much) and when everything is ready, add the chopped tomato without seeds and skin. Cook for 5 minutes and add the glasss of wine. When alcohol evaporates, add the crabmeat and stir.

Rinse the sell and fill it with the mixture. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and put it the oven until gloden brown.

Easy, original and delicious recipe. Thanks to Marilú.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Old Pulteney 12, known as “La Manzanilla del Norte (of Scotland)”

Our friend Ramón has brought to us from Edinburgh this bottle of malt whisky. It is made in Pulteney Destillery, which is located in the Far North of Scotland. It was founded in 1826 by James Henderson and in 1995 it became Inver House Distillers’ property. 

It is located in the town of Wick (Caithness), a small town which was the main important fishing port in herring capture in Great Britain. It had 1000 boats moored when the herring capture ended. As curiosity, there was a time when the only way to arrive to the distillery was through the sea. Therefore, the barley could only arrive to the distillery by boat. Many of its workers had two jobs: fishers and when the season ended, they worked in the distillery.

During those good years the port of Wick was famous because the casks for the rest of Great Britain were loaded there: the silver casks had herrings and the golden had whisky from this distillery.

The cask park is made of American oak, where the bourbon has been previously aged one or two times. Of the three warehouses used to age, the number 3 is the most important since it has 10,000 casks of a total of 24,000.

This whisky from the Highlands is also called “La Manzanilla del norte”, because its salinity is similar to the one of Sanlúcar’s wine (the two drinks are made in front of the sea).

At the end of October the 21 year old whisky made in this distillery has won the price “2012 World Whisky of the Year”, awarded by the prestigious whisky guide “Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible”, with a score of 97.5 out of 100. This is one of the most important prizes that a whisky can receive in the world.


This beautiful bottle makes reference to the still where the whisky has been distilled. It is originally dress with no label, but with an engraving. Alcoholic Volume 40%.

Color: Wonderful honey/amber color, bright.

Nose: At first it makes a powerful impression, iodate and saline. It made us feel like DiCaprio in the bow of the Titanic, with the arms open receiving the breeze. Afterwards it gives a fruity perfume (apple), white flower and spiced (vanilla and white pepper), white chocolate, noble wood and the sea perfume persist.  

Mouth: Soft attack, elegant, delicate, well balanced. Vanilla with sweet notes, noble wood, flowers, salinity and a sweet touch of spices. When it goes through the mouth it has a long route where the dried character and the final smoked notes can be noticed, slightly saline and toasted wood.

After 15 minutes with the glass empty we wanted to know the smells we received. The memory of the chamomile (with the flower and saline notes) was clear. It was quite astonishing. 

A malt whisky to taste with patience. We drank it with no ice, only with a very light touch of water to open and discover its soul. Around 30€, excellent PQT.

Bodega Alta Pavina, the sensitive Pinot Noir in the tough Castile

One of the wines that aroused the tasters’ curiosity is the Pinot Noir of Alta Pavina, an explosion of feelings. Its celebrity is such that our friends, who were on holidays in Spain, had the winery in its list of “places to visit”. Therefore, we contacted the winery and we arranged a visit with meal included. This is the story of the experience:

The winery is located very near to the small village of La Parrilla. The winery is very strange because it used to be a farm where there were pigs, cows and chickens. Therefore, when you arrive you can see two cereal silos, which confuses the visitor.  

In La Parrilla, the Patron Saint is San Francisco de San Miguel. He was born in 1543 and died martyr in Nagasaki (Japan) when he was crucified the 5th February of 1597. He was beatified by the Pope Pius IX the 8th June of 1862.

Around the winery are the vineyards with an extension of 24.8 acres, the 70% is Pinot Noir and the rest is Cabernet Savignon. The vineyard is surrounded by a lush pine forest. It is a small winery, almost a “garage” winery, where you can breathe peace and good work. Claude Bourguignon is French and he is the technical adviser who works for the winery of Burgundy, Romanée-Conti. This is probably the most prestigious winery of the world.  

We visit the vineyards, first the one of Pinot Noir, where the stock is in espalier and drip irrigation. When tasting the grapes “of the grandsons” we notice their light skin. The bunches are called “of the grandsons” because they do not ripen at the same time than the rest, they grow later. Therefore, during the harvest this kind of bunch is not collected. Its flavor is very special. The grapes are oval and bunches are closed. 

In the Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard we tasted its small grape and we noticed the great difference with the Pinot grape: the skin and the flavor. This grape’s skin is thick and it makes it hard to eat, and her flavor is strong and a little sharp. This grape is round and the bunches are not so compact.

We went to see the grape reception area, where we found the stainless steel tanks. The tanks are small, only 9000 liters, but they are enough due to the small production they have.  

The casks park is mainly of French oak, but they also have Spanish and American oak casks. The Pinot Noir requires old casks whereas the Cabernet requires new ones.

Finally they showed to us the bottling line which has no label because they do it manually, and the jails where the bottles sleep before they come onto market. 

And to end this experience we had a Spanish stew cooked over low heat by Chus, and the wine tasting.  As dessert we had flan (custard) with two different coffee textures which was worth asking for the recipe.

We left the heart of Valladolid delighted to have met the people of Alta Pavina and to have seen the passion and enthusiasm they have when preparing their wines and to have tasted in situ the fruit of their work.

Strathisla, the hidden treasure of Chivas Regal

We introduce in this small space a whisky made in, following the opinions, the oldest working distillery in Scotland. Alexander Milne and George Taylor founded it in 1786 in the heart of the region of Speyside, with the name of Milltown Distillery. In 1828 it was bought by William Lonmore and it suffered two horrible fires in 1976 and in 1879. At the end of the XIX century it started to be called non-officially Strathisla. It was from 1951 when Chivas Regal (property of Seagram’s at that time) bought it in a judicial sale.

After the II World War Chivas wanted to buy it to George Pomeroy, but the price was too high and that is why the negotiations were broken. The following year, in 1949, George Pomeroy was accused of capital flight and the distillery went bankrupt. In April 1950, Chivas won the property in the judicial sale that took place in Aberdeen. He paid £71,000. At the end of 2001 the distilleries of the group Chivas & Glenlivet were bought by the French group Pernord-Ricard.

For more information of the distillery, it is one of the most beautiful in Scotland. It has the famous pagoda roof and it is located in the shore of the River Island in Keith, with quality water and very close to the barley fertile regions as Moray or Banffshire’s. The name of Strathisla is Gaelic and it makes reference to a river island that is in front of the distillery. The word Strath means flat. 

The water used to make this whisky is taken from the well “Fons Bulliens”, a well that is famous because of the purity of its water. In fact, it was already known in the XII century when the Dominican monks used it to make the beer.

Casks used in Jerez are used for the 12 months of the maturity.


Original bottle, well dress with an engraving instead of a label. Alcoholic volume 43%.

Sight: Wonderful old gold color. Bright and clean.

Nose: Difficult and attractive impression. Citrus notes (orange), flowers, sweet pastry, spices (vanilla, white pepper), wood and honey.

Mouth: Powerful and elegant attack, dry and well balanced. There are mainly sweet notes, fruity (mature orange and peach), raisins, Jerez wood and malt. The end is long route, soft with vanilla and sweet notes.

An excellent malt whisky, the problem is that a great part of its production is used to make Chivas, including the Royal Salute, that is why it is not easy to find it. Its price is 35€, very good PQR. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Christians King’s Fortress, mirror of the history of Cordoba (II)

Nowadays, the Fortress is a gothic square-shaped building of around 4,000 m2. Its four towers are well preserved: the tower of the Homenaje in the Northeast end, the one of the León in the Northwest and the one of the Inquisition or the Gardens in the Southeast. All them are communicated through a narrow corridor (called Camino de Ronda). This corridor runs along the wall and is protected by the merlons. The fourth tower wall called Vela or Paloma.

Inside the complex there is a rectangular Moorish courtyard whose walls are covered by stucco baseboard with original Arabic drawings.

There are also Roman baths which became afterwards the Royal Baths used by the Caliph. They are under the Salón de los Mosaicos. This room was the Chapel of the Inquisition and it was built in the XVIII century. It is called Salón de los Mosaicos because its walls are decorated with Roman mosaics and other creations of the II and III century.    

These mosaics were found in the excavations of 1959 in Plaza de la Corredera, an area which was outside the fortified complex of Colonia Patricia Corduba.  This mosaic represents Polifemo and Galatea.

Another mosaic represents the head of Medusa, an important Roman mythological character. It is the symbol of the strength and the power.

Another of the treasures of the Fortress is the Roman sarcophagus of the III century. It was found in the excavations of the Huerta de San Rafael del Brillante in 1958. The main engraving is the half-opened Hades' door.

Outside the Fortress is what was originally the Fortress garden, where there are gardens with an approximate extension of 55,000m2 where. The gardens has a great variety of autochton plants characteristics of an Arabic garden: orange trees, lemon trees, fountains, cypresses, ponds and palm trees.

This place captivates with its history and relaxes with its gardens allowing the visitor to remember that visit for a long time.