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El Camino: Day 9 (Logroño to Nàjera)

Posted on 22 September 2012 by christie

Rioja Wine Region

Holy grapes and vineyards of the Rioja, Spain’s wine capital

The magnitude of vineyards became very apparent as we left the city limits of Logroño. We were definitely in the famous La Rioja region, Spain’s wine capital. Luckily, we were able to sample plenty of delicious Rioja wine during the San Mateo Festival in Logroño. Spain is where my love of red wine began and it’s still as delicious and plentiful as ever. We cannot figure out how Spanish wine is so cheap, but great. When you order a “menu del dia” for 10 euros, they give you an entire bottle of wine included in the meal. Spaniards expect to pay only $4 for a good bottle of wine and just a bit more for a Crianza (Reserve). It’s crazy after coming from a culture where a decent bottle of wine costs at the very least $20. Some of the best and most expensive Californian wines are easily comparable to a $15-$20 bottle of Spanish wine. With all the amazing and cheap supply of wine floating around, it’s certainly hard to pass this indulgence up each night after a long day of walking.

Navarette pottery town

Navarette pottery town

Happily snacking on plump grapes, we meandered through 12 kilometers of vineyards until reaching the tiny pottery village of Navarrete. The town didn’t have much going on, besides the 16th century Asunción Church and a few red clay pottery shops. Brett was hoping to find some pottery, but the prospect of carrying it on the Camino made it impossible to buy. Just outside of the town are ruins of the old Antiguo Hospital de Perigrinos (pilgrims) “San Juan de Acre”. Next to the ruins is a large scale winery facility called Don Jacobo Winery. It was very early in the morning, so unfortunately we weren’t able to visit for a tasting. We grabbed a quick tortilla sandwich in town and continued on our way to Nàjera. Continue Reading

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El Camino: Day 5 (Puente la Reina to Estella)

Posted on 18 September 2012 by christie

Puente de la Reina Bridge

Puente de la Reina Bridge

The weather forecast was grim with predictions of midday rain. Therefore, we left Puente de Reina early this morning. The Calle Mayor led us past the St. Mary’s Cathedral and over the Puente la Reina Bridge out of town. The steep ascent to Maneru began immediately. Five tough kilometers later we crossed the town through Calle Forzosa.

The change in the terrain became clear as we strolled through vineyards, olive trees and farmland for the next three kilometers. We approached the old hilltop village of Cirauqui. We could have easily gotten lost in the medieval labyrinth if not for the clear Camino shell markings leading the way. Upon descending from the village we found more sweeping views of the Navarran countryside, as well as a passage over an old Roman bridge. Continue Reading

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The “Bull’s Blood” of Eger, Hungary

Posted on 14 July 2012 by brett

Plaza View from Eger Castle

Plaza View from Eger Castle

Most people we met en route to Hungary darted straight for Budapest, the capital city. Our engagement anniversary date is July 13th….. and we wanted to do something special in the wine country. Why? Because we were engaged at Matanzas Creek Winery in their beautiful lavendar gardens. Well, that’s easy! We will just swing by St. Stephen’s (10th century) town of Eger. But seriously, this is not a straight forward destination from places like Zdiar, Slovakia. Christie found the best route, which took over six hours and consisted of a bus to Poprad, train to Kotice, train to Fuzesabony, and train to Eger.

Downtown Eger

Downtown Eger

Eger feels like a cross between Mikulov and Olomouc in the Czech Republic. It has Olomouc’s vibrant university scene meshed with tons of historic buildings. Add wine country, thermal baths and there you have Eger. Eger’s wine tourism brings an older “cafe crowd” very much like Mikulov. So, if you’re not in school and have some time….. Eger could be perfect for you!  Continue Reading

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Mikulov… An Eccentric Czech Wine Country Experience

Posted on 27 June 2012 by christie

Mikulov Town Square

Does this place really exist?…Mikulov Town Square

When in Central/Eastern Europe…….. every town, city and country is extremely close and only a train ride away. Consequently, we struggled with where to go after Vienna. Should we hop on a one hour train east to Bratislava, Slovakia or perhaps travel west to Salzburg, Austria where “The Sound of Music” was set? In the wee hours of the morning, we decided on a quiet countryside setting in the Moravian wine country of the Czech Republic (CZ). While the Moravian Region is off the tourist radar, it’s known nationally as the best wine producing region in CZ. As it’s only a 1.5 hour train ride north of Vienna, it was a no brainer for our first stop in CZ….. before having to get to Prague by June 30th for Pearl Jam. Continue Reading

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Beyond Kosher: Israel’s Fine Wine Hits the World Stage

Posted on 06 June 2012 by brett

Backyard Wine Making

Backyard Wine Making

To most, Israeli wines are only used for religious reasons. Until this week, I could not name one Israeli wine brand besides Manischewitz. It’s true, Israel has traditionally produced mostly Kosher wines of “lower quality”. The topics of quality vs. quantity and increasing non-religious consumption came up severals times as we toured Israel’s wine country. In total, we drove 700km from Tel Aviv to Zichron Ya’akov, Golan Heights and the Upper Galilee. I’m proud to say that we covered a good taste of what Israeli grapes have to offer.

Israel has a distinctly Mediterranean climate with hot, humid summers (April – October) with very little precipitation and a cold, rainy winter (late October to March). Its latitude is similar to San Diego, California. Baron Edmund de Rothschild, a co-owner of Chateau Lafite recognized the opportunity to pioneer modern Israeli winemaking . Around 1882, he sent Israel grape varietals from southern France to help Jewish entrepreneurs kickstart a new industry. We learned that many of these growers were of Romanian descent. His vineyards were planted in Zichron Ya’akov (e.g. Carmel Winery) and Rishon Le Tzion, south of Tel Aviv.  Continue Reading

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