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SIPPING IN SAN SEBASTIAN

Posted by admin | Posted in Culture, Food, travel, Wine | Posted on 28-11-2012

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San Sebastian

Most people look to food, art & architecture for insight into a culture when they travel.  I also like to get out into the suburbs to see how the middle class live and possibly pop into a shopping center or mall.  In France, LeClerc is a lot of fun–a Home Depot and Walmart Superstore rolled into one, but way better.  Advertising and local products are also of interest;  I find that monuments and historical sites don’t always photograph well, but at least I am amused by a snapshot of a billboard or pack of cigarettes.

San Sebastian, Spain, is just beyond the resort towns of Biarritz and St. Jean-de-Luz, over the Southwest France border–Basque country.  Fiercely independent, we actually saw a separatist protest when we were there–but for all we know, they happen daily.  San Sebastian is known for food and beaches, but the bigger attraction in the off season is definitely the restaurant scene–two very different scenes, actually.  The first is the local Basque tapas known as “pintxos” (pronounced “peenchos”).  The old town is chockablock with little and large bars with platters of pintxos displayed on counter tops and blackboard menus listing others.  Each generally has a specialty, eg Iberico ham or spider crab or eels, but there are number of more modern bar/restaurants often bigger and more inventive menus.  Like much of Spain, there is one foot in the new world and one foot squarely in the old.

It may be known for sunning in season, but in November it was cold and rainy, so we did a lot of sipping.  When in Basque, drink as the Basque.  While that could also mean beer, cider or Rioja, to me it meant Txakoli (pronounced Chokali; sp. Txakolina in Basque), the local white wine with a bit of effervescence.  You can buy a bottle of Txacoli at currentVintage, but to get the full effect, you will need to pour it from at least two feet above your glass or as high as your arm can reach.  Skip the wine glass and use a tumbler to decrease your (spilled) wine loss–they generally do.

The other restaurant scene San Sebastian is famous for is of the Michelin-starred variety–more stars per square meter than any other city in Europe!  It is the birthplace of “Cuisine Molecular”;  El Bulli, the most famous, was considered the best restaurant in the world for nearly fifteen years until they closed their doors last year, apparently exhausted form being booked a year in advance for so long.  There are a number of pioneering chefs still in the kitchen, cooking alongside the next generation, as well as a new wave of chefs who learned form the old guard and are now doing their own thing.  One such is Mugaritz, a 2*, where we had a leisurely 4.5 hour lunch.  It was 11 or 13 courses–I lost count.  I will never forget the fist course, however–a piece of “paper” presented in an envelope, after opening which we dipped in a lovely tapenade and then ate.  The amuse bouche of pigeon-blood pudding guised as a chocolate macaron made an impression, as well.  So clever, so imaginative, so expensive, but only sometimes delicious.  The highlight for us was trying a series of unusual Spanish varietal wines thoughtfully chosen by sommelier, Nic–priceless!

A visit to Bilbao is a must, if only to see the spectacular Guggenheim.  Four days in San Sebastian and I felt we hardly made a dent in it or Bilbao, and there is the port of Getaria, home of Txakoli, in between.  Perhaps we did to too much sipping?

San Sebastian

San Sebastian

IMG_7921

Me in San Sebastian

Me in San Sebastian

Jorge Otoiza sculpture on Paseo Nuevo promenade

Jorge Otoiza sculpture on Paseo Nuevo promenade

Mention of Nantucket in Basque!

Mention of Nantucket in Basque!

Whaling Exhibit at Naval Museum

Whaling Exhibit at Naval Museum

La Concha Beach

Playa de La Concha

San Sebastian

San Sebastian

Pomegranate ceviche, A Fuego Negro

Pomegranate ceviche, A Fuego Negro

Modern Pinxos

Modern Pintxos

Kobe slider

Kobe slider

Tempura at A Fuego Negro

Tempura at A Fuego Negro

Iberico Ham
Old school pinxos

Old school pintxos

Fresh cod

Fresh cod

Txakolina

Txakolina

Working for our lunch at Mugaritz

Working for our lunch at Mugaritz

First course, Mugaritz

First course, Mugaritz

Mugaritz

Mugaritz

Mugaritz

Mugaritz

Local vino

Local vino

Decanting is fun

Decanting is fun

Louise Bourgeois "Maman"

Louise Bourgeois "Maman"

Puppy

Jeff Koons "Puppy"

Kapoor "Tall Tree & the Eye"

Kapoor "Tall Tree & the Eye"

Guggenheim Bilbao

Guggenheim Bilbao

Guggenheim Bilbao

Guggenheim Bilbao

Daniel Buren "Arcos Rojos"

Daniel Buren "Arcos Rojos"

Bilbao Bride

Bilbao Bride

Old Town Bilbao

Old Town Bilbao

Smoking--Not good for teeth?

Smoking--Not good for teeth?

Smoking kills

Smoking kills

BILBAO Silken Gran Hotel Domine

Fountain in Silken Gran Hotel Domine BILBAO

Anti-bullfighting ad

Anti-bullfighting ad

Bordeaux…right bank charm

Posted by admin | Posted in Bordeaux, currentVintage, Food, travel, Wine | Posted on 20-11-2012

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Chateau Canon

Chateau Canon

On the left bank, the chateaux are big, the vineyards are big and the wines are big.  On the right bank, many properties, especially in Pomerol and Saint-Emilion, are darn-near Burgundian in comparison, eg 10-20 hectare vs 100.  If I had to pick just one spot in Bordeaux to visit, I would vote for charming Saint-Emilion over bustling Bordeaux city or the sleepy villages of the Medoc.  Its cobblestoned streets, fabulous restaurants and proximity to great wine make it a place to spend some quality time–Anyone coming from Nantucket or Beaune will feel right at home.  Just be sure to enjoy wine from both banks!

NWF Denis Toner at Chateau Canon

NWF Denis Toner at Chateau Canon

Wearing bordeaux at Chateau Canon

Wearing bordeaux at Chateau Canon

Wallcovering at Chateau Canon

Wallcovering at Chateau Canon

Fall at Chateau Canon

Fall at Chateau Canon

In the kitchen at Ch. Canon

In the kitchen at Ch. Canon

Chateau Canon

Chateau Canon

TV restored, finally

TV restored, finally

Desperately trying to get election results

Desperately trying to get election results

Saint-Emilion

Saint-Emilion

Historical Saint-Emilion

Historical Saint-Emilion

Limestone bell tower Saint-Emilion

Limestone bell tower Saint-Emilion

Saint-Emilion

Saint-Emilion

limestone caves at Beauséjour Duffau

Rare limestone caves at Beauséjour Duffau

Château Beauséjour Duffau

Château Beauséjour Duffau

Lard et Bouchon bar à vins

Lard et Bouchon bar à vins

Convent in Saint-Emilion

Convent in Saint-Emilion

Chocolate in Saint-Emilion

Chocolate in Saint-Emilion

My kind of deli

My kind of deli

Saint-Emilion from Troplong Mondot

Saint-Emilion from Troplong Mondot

Chateau Troplong Mondot

Chateau Troplong Mondot

Great wine!

Great wine!

Luncheon at Troplong Mondot

Luncheon at Troplong Mondot

with Myriam at Troplong Mondot

with Myriam at Troplong Mondot

The Nantucket team

The Nantucket team

Denis Toner with Xavier Pariente

Denis Toner with Xavier Pariente

Elisabeth & Mark at Troplong Mondot

Elisabeth & Mark at Troplong Mondot

Creme Brulee!

Creme Brulee!

Super-sized carafe

Super-sized carafe

L'Enver du Decor

L'Envers du Decor, Saint-Emilion

Restaurant L'Envers du Decor

Restaurant L'Envers du Decor

Old basket press at Figeac

Old basket press at Figeac

Chateau Figeac

Chateau Figeac

Chateau Figeac

Chateau Figeac

Chateau Figeac

Chateau Figeac

Entering Pomerol:)

Entering Pomerol:)

Chateau Cheval Blanc

Chateau Cheval Blanc

On site at Angelus

On site at Angelus

new carillon at Chateau Angelus

New carillon at Chateau Angelus

La Fleur-Petrus

La Fleur-Petrus

Chateau Magdelaine

Chateau Magdelaine

Chateau Hosanna

Chateau Hosanna

Chateau Hosanna

Chateau Hosanna

Chateau Canon

Chateau Canon

Nicolas Thienpoint/Pavie-Macquin

Nicolas Thienpont/Pavie Macquin in NWF tie

Pavie Macquin

Pavie Macquin

Bélair-Monange

Bélair-Monange

Bélair-Monange

Bélair-Monange
Chateau Pavie-Macquin

Chateau Pavie Macquin

Bordeaux…left bank grandeur

Posted by admin | Posted in Bordeaux, currentVintage, travel, Wine | Posted on 19-11-2012

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Chateau Margaux

Chateau Margaux

Pichon-Longuevile

Pichon-Longueville

There are pros & cons to any travel destination.  With left bank Bordeaux, it is hellish city traffic and great distances to cover between towns in the Medoc and perhaps a little rain–this is France, after all.  However, the majesty of the great chateau and beauty of the vineyards  more than rewarded the early a.m. wake-ups to get to far flung appointments.  We even got to stay in a few…

Chateau Palmer

Chateau Palmer

Elisabeth at Beychevelle

Elisabeth at Beychevelle

Margaux

Margaux

...to Chateau Margaux

...to Chateau Margaux

Rainbow from Chateau Palmer...

Rainbow from Chateau Palmer...

Cos d'Estournel

Cos d'Estournel

Cos d'Estournel

Cos d'Estournel

Saint-Estephe

Saint-Estephe

St.-Estephe

St.-Estephe

Pontet-Canet

Pontet-Canet

Pontet-Canet

Pontet-Canet

Beychevelle

Beychevelle

Chateau Beychevelle

Chateau Beychevelle

Chateau Beychevelle

Chateau Beychevelle

Ferry to Blaye

Ferry to Blaye

Lamargue Ferry to Blaye

Lamargue Ferry to Blaye

Pauillac

Pauillac