I ♥ N Y

Tourist. Florence, Italy


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The Metro Stop

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Six Wineries

Adega Mayor

During our two week trek through Portugal, Spain and Italy, my brother Bill and I visited six wineries. We did our research before we left home and planned on stopping in on the more acclaimed wineries along our route.  Others we had to bypass because they were too far out of our way.

Sadly, we had to omit the famous Douro Valley area north of Lisbon since it was in the opposite direction we planned to travel.  To make up for that omission, we made sure to order many representative bottles of wine at the restaurants we had lunch and dinner at.  We didn’t miss many chances to sample and enjoy as much wine as we could no matter where we were.

What was fun about the wineries we chose to visit was getting there.  Bill would plug the address into his Google Maps, set his phone on the dash of our rented car and off we went.  We’d exit the main freeways and pass through country fields, pass through rural villages and eventually find our way to a beautiful little estate or a spectacular, modern designed tasting room.  I love seeing the countryside and getting out to meet working people at these places was an added bonus. They’re so ready to not only tell you about their wines but also about their family history, the local geography and the development of their site.  We met so many nice people who paused to chat with us and really went out of their way to not just talk up their wines but to educate us about wines, ask about how we chose their winery and also find out about our lives and where we’d traveled from.

We came away learning many things that are probably better shared over a glass of wine but I’ll list a few quick things that stood out for us.  We may not have always like the wines we sampled, but we always learned – even if learning  meant that we didn’t like that wine.  That’s a very valid part of tasting wines. You learn what you like and what you don’t, all the while keeping an open mind to the new style of wine that you were tasting.

  • In Portugal, we learned that there were many varieties of grapes we’d never heard of so learning the names was our first lesson.  That being said, the king of grapes used for Portuguese wine and the grape that stands out as uniquely Portuguese is the Turiga Nacional.  They certainly grow all the well known grapes too, but this one makes a clear statement that it’s Portuguese.  Turiga Nacional came across to me as being similar to a Merlot.  It had medium tannins and normally it was pretty full bodied. Not necessarily fruity but it did have slight hints of blackberry and plum.  We found that we really liked these wines a lot.
  • We took our hotel’s recommendation to visit the Schatz Winery in Southern Spain when the one we had planned to visit was closed for a private tour. This was a lesson to be flexible in our plans and not be disappointed when something doesn’t work as scheduled.  We ended up going to the Schatz Winery. Owner run and operated by Federico Schatz and his wife Roccella since 1982, this was a real gem.  They currently bottle 6 types of wine made from the grapes from their own vineyard that surrounds their home and warehouse: Lemberger, Pinot Noir, Petit Verdot, Chardonnay, Muskattrollinger*, Tempranillo, Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Our favorite was the Pinot Noir but we bought several others too.  All were very good. Along with the wines though, what was special was that Federico and his wife gave us a personal tour and tasting and then let us stroll around their finca (farm) to soak up the gorgeous views of his gardens, the vineyards and his beautiful  swimming pool.  Thank goodness we followed up on this recommendation.
  • We learned that local policemen set up speed traps and sobriety stops near wineries.  Do not speed! They don’t need a patrol car, only a hand held radar gun and an officer to flag you over.  One such stop was in Portugal.  After visiting the winery, we took several back roads to avoid being stopped at that checkpoint. This was a smart thing for us to do!
  • In Italy, we visited the Marchesi Antinori winery.  The architecture in this place could easily have been the background of a James Bond movie set with its sweeping open air, steel expanses and staircases that wind up to overhead vineyards cut right into the hillside.  It was here that we learned probably the best ‘take-away’ about Italian wine.  Chianti Classico must come from grapes grown in the region between Florence and Siena. That’s the law.  Secondly, Chianti is only made using the Sangiovese grape.  Other grapes can be blended into some of the more popular recent wines called Tuscan and Super Tuscan wines ( Sangiovese blend with Cabernet Sauvignon, for example) but Chianti had to be made with 100% Sangiovese grapes.  Having said that, overall, Bill and I did not find the Chianti’s to our liking.  We tried many.  They’re a bit drier and had far less of a fruit flavor than we were looking for.  We gave it our best try, trying these and other Chianti wines in Italy but for now, we would probably tend to shy away from Chianti. They were good, just not our favorites.  What we did end up liking a lot was Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Its is a red wine produced in the vineyards surrounding the town of Montepulciano, Italy. The wine is made primarily from the Sangiovese grape varietal  (minimum 70%), blended with Canaiolo Nero (10%–20%) and small amounts of other local varieties such as Mammolo. I recently saw it on a wine menu at a good Italian restaurant back here in the states so it is available and will be my choice for an Italian red for a while.

We learned so much more that are best described by actually tasting the wines. And its a whole lot more fun that reading about them, isn’t it?

I’ll wrap this up by listing the wineries we visited and including a few photos too.  The last tip I’ll pass along is this: Keep drinking until you find your favorite!

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Festival in Ronda, Spain: Feria Goyesca de Pedro Romero

By luck, or maybe my brother is a better planner than I am, we visited Ronda, Spain during the first week of September, right in the middle of one of the most important festivals that this town hosts each year.

Ronda is an ancient mountain town with beautiful plazas, a famous stone bridge and lots of history. Ronda is considered the home of the modern corrida or bullfight with its origins dating back to around 1572 when Kind Philip II promoted military and calvary training of noblemen by combining bullfighting with horsemanship, athletics and spearing of bulls. This evolved into the bullfighter getting off of the horse and running the bull with his cape, eventually spearing the bull on foot.  The father of this style was Francisco Romero, the patriarch of the mythical Romero family of Ronda.  However, it was Francisco’s grandson, Pedro Romero who is considered the greatest bullfighter of all.

Pedro Romero’s fame coincided with the time that the painter, Francisco de la Goya was also at the peak of his creative best. Goya, the famous artist and the court painter to Spanish King Carlos IV, was also a keen observer of traditional Spanish culture. In fact, Goya painted the most famous portrait of Pedro Romero and is said to have even designed some of his most stylish fighting costumes.  This painting of Romero is currently on display at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas (small world, eh?).

However, the festival celebrates not just Romero but two other important figures of Ronda.  The Feria Goyesca (properly called the Feria de Pedro Romero) stems from the inter-relationship of three main personae which spanned over three centuries, all with strong connections to Ronda. They are the famous 18th century bullfighter, Pedro Romero; the extremely influential 18th century Spanish painter, Francisco de la Goya; and finally, the great 20th century bullfighter, Antoñio Ordóñez, to whom the vision of the Ronda’s modern Feria Goyesca can be attributed.  Ordóñez is said to have started this current version of the festival back in 1954.  You’ll see old black and white photos of Antonio Ordóñez for sale in some shops in Ronda in which he’s standing at the bullring with his great friend Ernest Hemingway. It is rumored that Hemminway uses Ronda as his setting for several scenes in his books.

So, Bill and I found ourselves in Ronda right in the middle of this Fiesta.  The main attraction of this fiesta is the bullfight which takes place in the Real Maestranza bullring. Before the bullfight there is a procession of horse drawn carriages through the streets of Ronda with everyone dressed in 18th century Goyesque costumes. The matadors themselves also wear this traditional attire.  We missed the procession and it was way too hot to go to the bullfight but we got to see lots of ladies dressed up in their beautiful gowns, strolling through the main streets.

Indeed, Ronda is a Spanish treasure and should not be missed, festival or not.


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Copper Pot of Flowers

What used to be a casino in Lisbon is now home to two superb restaurants, a ballroom and a reception hall. This beautiful copper pot full of flowers decorated an open balcony door on the second floor lobby. It added a peaceful nostalgia to the richly adorned rooms.

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On my walking tour of Lisbon, our guide stopped at this famous little shop that sells ginjinha. Ginjinha or simply Ginja, is a portuguese liqueur made by infusing ginja berries, (sour cherry)in alcohol and adding sugar together with other ingredients. It’s served with a cherry in the bottom of each glass. 

I was told that the monk in the church (Praise the Lord!!)who first came up with this popular drink promised it would bring health and joy. Our guide said he wasn’t sure about the health benefits but he could confirm that it has brought many people great joy. 

I thought it tasted like cherry cough syrup. 

A joyful thanks to our fellow taste testers who posed for this shot….rather…. this picture. 

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Best Wishes

Ronda, Spain

While squeezing my way through the ancient cobblestone streets of Ronda, Spain in our tiny rented Fiat pillbox of a car, I came upon this couple posing for their wedding pictures. As I grabbed my camera and rolled down the window, they turned around with big smiles, gave me the ‘thumbs-up’ and …click..I got it!

Congratulations to all of us!

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