From Basque country by train
Day 3, on the train to Tarragona – We leave the somber clouds of north Spain and head to the sunny cast of Tarragon and Barcelona. By the time el tren reaches Tarragona, with a few unexpected delays, we arrive at this Mediterranean beachside resort well into the evening and discover another hotel without the convenience of full-time WiFi or Internet. Through most of northern Spain Internet connections were few, which meant traveling in the 21st century relying on 18th century technology.
It’s too easy in the U.S., where we expect every convenience and rely on them so much we forget how to communicate without the electronic technology taken for granted.
But all is well this morning, the password works and there’s another 20 minutes or so left on this account.
The first part of the day was spent at the Solar Viejo winery in La Guardia, 30 minutes north of Logroño and well into the country of the Basques or Pais Vasco. This is Rioja Alebada, the upper Rioja heavy with Basque and Arabic influences of many years past. Which is why here it’s pronounced “La Huardia”, not the Americanized “La (hard-g) Guardia.”
Solar Viejo has been around since 1937 but only within the last 7 has it been associated with Freixenet. This also is tempranillo country, with a smaller mix of garnacha, masuelo and graciano to round out the D.O. red blends.
PR director Vanesa Dominguez led us through the town and showed us the caves winding under the city, hand-carved through solid rock, underground passages used in millennia past to hide the locals avoiding invaders. Now used in part as natural, perfect temp and humidity wine cellars.
We walked past the old church, looked across the Ebro River valley toward the Sierra de Catabria mountains protecting this part of Spain from the cold north Atlantic, and ate, ate and sipped at wine.
Tempranillo has four styles:
Cosecha (or Joven) young wines ready in their first or second years; Crianza – required to have two yera agin, at least one in oak; Riserva – 3 years aging,one in oak; Gran Riserva – exceptional vinatges with 5 years aging, minimum 2 in oak.
We tried the Vaza Cosecha, the young red with its deep cherry red/purple color and equally fresh flavors; the Vaza Crianza, much darker red color, a hint of the oak with round tannins and long finish; and the Riserva (not yet available in the U.S. but we tasted it to educate the Friexenet team) with its more oak, hints of tobacco and licorice, a deeply structured wine with great elegance.
My time on the Internet is about up, there’s more words and photos for later. We still have wines and miles to go.
ciao for now.