100 Blogs, 5 Vineyard lunches, and Friendship in the World of Wine!

Figatells Lomo and Salcichon.


Nearly two years of blogging and the land-mark 100th blog has been reached! The last couple of years are full of happy memories, almost all of it centred on the world of wine and food. It seems to me that I am not the only one to think that it is a world full of surprises and huge satisfaction, there is nothing better than enjoying and sharing good wine and food with people who are like-minded and in the past couple of years I have been lucky enough to meet  so many people willing to share their wines, recipes and meals with me!

Arroz from La Safor.

I have a book, Ten Vineyard Lunches, by American chef Richard Olney who describes his favourite meals as those improvised when friends turn up unexpectedly! I have enjoyed several of these here but my favourites are those at the vineyards where lunch is an opportunity to try their wines, some from the barrels,  the vintage bins or private reserves, to discuss them and also to try wines from elsewhere, always of course with typical food from the region and family recipes, variations on local themes.

Somewhat luckily the last month has seen five of these vineyard lunches and this seems a good opportunity ( if self-indulgently) to share some of my experiences

First lunch was  pre-harvest at Finca Collado with my adoptive Spanish family Mari-Carmen and Guillermo. It is always a pleasure to visit this property as readers will have discerned from previous posts. Finca Collado for me is one of the top properties in DO Alicante, emerging rapidly from the shadows and producing wines which are winning and will continue to win awards. This year the white has won both the Els Bodeguers silver medal for barrel fermented white wines and a bronze Baco .  The 2009 Merlot which is evolving beautifully in bottle but still needs decanting before drinking should win medals soon as should the tinto.

The vineyard is an expression of its terroir, sitting in the valley above Salinas and with three distinct soil types in the same vineyard. This allows for separate vinification and a tasting from the barricas shows the effect the different soils have on the grape varieties, especially in the reds.


Testing the must!


I sat and chatted with Guillermo who manages the vineyard and Joan the wine-maker over lunch and we discussed the way forward. Five plots have been cleared for new plantings of Monastrell  and some whites which will be initially experimental. These are likely to be Viognier which performs well in nearby DO Valencia, the boundary is very close and Roussane.

I was joined that day also by fellow blogger Javi Prats and his family, Javi having been very impressed at the Turia wine-fair was making his first visit.

Mari Carmen prepared lunch that day with Joan who comes from La Safor, and the food theme was based on his local cuisine. Mari Carmen had produced tortillas of red peppers and onion and plates of lomo, chorizo and jamon. Whist the main course was cooking we all sat and enjoyed the white and  rosado and then the Merlot with `Figatells´a small hamburger sized ball of pork liver and  shoulder minced roughly with parsley, thyme, rosemary and clove and wrapped in caul before cooking in the oven. Really tasty. Then with the main course of an arroz cooked with clams, squid and two types of prawns we enjoyed the tinto 2008 and a new wine still in the barrica which is largely Cabernet Sauvignon with a little Merlot from two different cuvees. This wine will replace the Merlot when it is ready early next year. Lunch was finished off with fresh fruit. Simple fare but with the right people and a wonderful atmosphere with expectations high of a good harvest!


Tortilla of red pepper and Onion.


Just ten days later I was back again, this time with Val and Tony from the Vilamarxant wine club to observe the harvest of the Merlot for the 2011 Rosado vintage, the 2010 being one of the most popular wines in my house this summer!

Mari Carmen learned to cook at her mother’s side, her mother having cooked in a care home and I have described her as someone who instinctively can throw something together with great ease, very much in the Olney style! Her mothers cooking was influenced by the different parts of Spain in which they lived. Starters of cheese, sausage and jamon were followed by a green salad and then a simple arroz, almost an arroz abanda but oven cooked in a cazuela, , although the preparation of the fumet looked anything but simple and used loads of fresh small fish (moralla) which the cats enjoyed later! This was followed by chunky slices of roasted meat  from a large beef joint, served with its own juices and necessary to keep the grape pickers on their feet. This was a largely family affair with a couple of friends drafted in and , for the record, the Merlot juice was very sweet and fruity, already developing colour after just a couple of hours in the deposit! Can´t wait until this is  released!






Just a couple of weeks before this Vincent Petré, son of Daniel Petré Champagne and his girlfriend Marine came to lunch here…hardly a vineyard I know but five vines just count I think, even with no grapes…birds! Daniel has been in Valencia for several months and we had met at several tastings and visited a bodega together. He was joined by Laura Weatherston a teacher who arrived in Valencia a year ago, threw herself into tasting and bodega visits , both local wines and food. Vincent is returning to France to do an MBA and Laura was moving on to Mexico City to teach for a year. Together with Javi Prats, his wife Elena and Miguel Angel Martin , a professional wine teacher and his artist partner Inma, we were joined by Adela Hernandez and Mariano Taberner of Bodegas Cueva and Tony and Val from the Vilamarxant wine club for a farewell meal.


Farewell lunch.

Once again the super fresh produce of Valencia provided the backdrop and we sat around the table outside on the terrace enjoying plates of humous, with peppers, carrots, pitta bread and celery, a tuna salad and an English contribution, home-made scotched eggs from our chickens. These were something new for the Spanish who took to them readily! Main course was a fidueà cooked by Javi and Laura and we finished with a lemon tart made by Tony from his own lemons….again something our Spanish friends are all chasing the recipe for! Lunch became supper and we enjoyed wines from Finca Collado and Mariano´s wines from Cueva including some of his experimental spirits, an orujo with horchata ( just like Baileys!) an orujo from ginger, his cava and the super-concentrated Macabeo, naturally fermented with 23.5% alcohol, just like a fino. As well as a Hermitage La Chapelle 1985 Jaboulet we finished with La Palera, a vi Negre Dulce from Vilafames.

The following day we just de-camped to Bodegas Cueva and carried on!


At Bodegas Cueva with Adela and Felix and Vincent.



Here we were joined by Felix Garcia, formerly professor at the Requena wine school and behind natural products from Bobal, grape juice and a concentrated jelly which are very healthy!

Adela is no mean cook either and had prepared salads, morro, bravas, home cured olives and  curious pickled baby plums, bottled before ripening and which were like large greek olives. Absolute winner on the day was her Gazpacho Jalancia! A version of Gazpacho Manchego from the Jalance valley the meat,( partridge and rabbit) is cut into chunks rather than shredded as is traditional elsewhere. Then for dessert we enjoyed the carne de bobal frozen with goats yoghurt ice cream and little cakes also made with grape juice. All of course washed down with wines from the bodega and a French wine brought by Javi and Vincents family champagnes.


Felix, Yolanda, Elena and Javi.

Finally  and by no means least was a surprise lunch on Saturday right in the middle of Ferevin. Javi and I and an English friend setting up as a wine-merchant in South London with a penchant for Valencian wines and Bobal in particular were invited by Felix Martinez of  Vera de Estenas.

We started with an aperitif of the bodegas excellent cava down in the cellars.

Together with his wife Yolanda and other family members and Andrés Alonso Pons a Valencian lawyer and Gourmet, we then sat down to starters of traditional Requenense food. Bollo ( the flat olive bread cooked with bacon and local sausages,) a quiche of tuna and tomato with the egg cooked on top, not mixed in, coca ( a sort of pizza or pisaladiere) empañadas of cheese and ham and pisto, cheese and a russian style salad. These were accompanied by Viña Lidon the excellent barrel fermented chardonnay, the rosado from Bobal and the merlot fermented in barrel, all chilled perfectly.


Chocolate to Accompany Bobal, Including Chocolate with Morro!.


These were followed by an oven  roasted whole shoulder of Pork with baked apple and its own juices full of herbs, the first time I have seen pork served anything other than the size of a small chop!

To finish we of course had to have bitter chocolate to go with the bodega´s Casa Don Angel Bobal, looking at the three vintages, 2005, 2006 and the recently bottled 2007.

Once again a truly memorable lunch in fabulous surroundings with great company demonstrating the generosity and warmth of the Valencian people and the diversity of cooking across the region.


Casa Don Angel Bobal, 2005,2006 and 2007.

If the next year is half as good as the last two have been it will still be a wonderful experience enjoying genuine family based friendships and writing about the wine and gastronomy of Valencia! Who knows, there may be a separate cookery book in it!

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