Vol 2 No 15…Almeira, Cartagena, Ibiza (Days 4-6)

I apologize for the long lag between #14 and today’s #15…a lot going on. Should run smoothly from now till the end of the trip! TB

As usual, we did most of our cruising at night…kind of like being rocked to sleep…except for one night when it was a little ‘rockier’. We left Malaga well before sunset and no wine tasting due to our shipboard barbecue which was truly memorable. Windstar always has one of these sometime during a cruise. A barbecue…so what? The chefs and Steve had been busy at the market picking up fresh local food items. How about a 200 pound tuna? A whole roast suckling pig? Not to mention lagostinos, lobster, shrimp, local cheeses, paella, and much more. The crew also served us cocktails especially the ones like the Negroni, and Cobbler (the original cocktail…filled with fresh fruit ‘cobbled’ with crushed ice and with Dry Sack Sherry…all this while relaxing on deck watching the coastline of southern Spain. This was followed by the talent show (Line Dancing) put on by the crew. A fun evening!

The next day we arrived early in Almeira, originally a Moorish town often referred to as ‘an extension of Morocco. The streets are narrow and as you wind up the hills to the Alcazaba, an ancient fortress with incredible views of the city and countryside. As you near the fortress, you have to walk up rather steep, winding paths (thankfully paved!). The hike is well worth it.The gardens are beautiful and water flows down ‘gutters’ between the steps adding to the peaceful surroundings.  There are some shops in town but I preferred taking in the ambiance by  walking through the streets. That afternoon, Steve (aka Wine Geek) hosted another wine tasting. To recap, after the tasting the three wines were always poured at dinner so you could have any one or all of them and as much as you liked!

If you recall, the first Albariño was a Burgan’s which makes a good benchmark for the varietal. This time we had Pazo Señorans, an intense, citrusy, ‘knock your socks off’ version, which along with Filaboa (which we visited when we were in Rias Baixas), mark my two favorites, with the latter showing more minerality but nicely balanced with the trademark citrus flavors (note that all wines served on the cruise are available in the U.S., which was a prerequisite of Steve’s…what’s the point of tasting it if you can’t buy it when you get back home?

The next was Castaño Solanera, Las Ruesas, mainly monastrel with 15% each cabernet sauvignon and Grenache. A beautiful red combining sweetness and medium tannins and a hint of blackberries…wow!

Last was Celler de Capcanes Mas Donis Barrica. This wine gushed with fresh fruit…more blackberries and is from Montsant…a region that only came into the sights of Americans over the last five years or so and is most famous for its Priorat region which is surrounded by Montsant. While Montsant is the larger and less known of the two, it is producing more and more quality wines. Capanes is a five family co-op. Try this one with lamb or spicy dishes like pork, and with cheese.

Needless to say, the dinner was incredible with these wines!

Cartagena was next on our itinerary and it did not disappoint either. Another Moorish town that is now a resort…a huge contrast with Almeira…the main streets are all polished stone (and very slippery in the rain), with many small places to settle into for a drink…but since it was raining not too many outdoors…but the rain let up and it was pleasant walking in the town, which is the major naval seaport of Spain.

Our tasting that afternoon began with Lustau Puerto Fino,  a sherry from Jerez made from 100% palomino grapes. Don’t like sherry? Try a Fino with seafood…and of course olives or creamy mild cheeses and you will change your mind…at least I did! Sherry is back on my list.

Next came Rafael Palacios As Sortas, a beautiful white wine made from Godella grapes…look for it…citrus, fruit, and spice…it has it all. Palacios is a very well known producer, is organic, and harvests by hand.

This was followed by Abadia Retuerta Seleccion Especial, 75% tempranillo, 15% cabernet sauvignon, and 10% syrah…wow…again…wow! Want something to serve with game or red meat…give this one a try!

Due to the tasting dinner we were treated to another wine Mas Doix Costers de Vinyes Veilles, one of the top Priorats and expensive. Great fruti on the nose, soft tannins and perfect for hearty stews, sausages, etc.

The chefs and Steve had been busy shopping again with Steve managing the pairings for dinner…and what a dinner it was:

Apple Rosemary Lobster or Smoked Bison Salad or Beets & Berry Salad…while it says ‘or’ you could try them all. That was served with the Godello (note on the second night out there was a fire alarm…the captain came on and said remain in your cabins…I noted that this was what the captain of the Crystal Concordia said…but it was soon announced that it was merely a technical problem. I had asked Windstar Corporate Chef Michael Sabourin, where they found Bison…in Spain??? He brought it with him from the U.S. and was smoking it when it set off the alarm…so being awakened at 3am was worth it after all).

Main course choices were Spicy Grilled Corvina and Filet Mignon with Foie Gras (guess which we chose…although we order a Corvina for the table as Chef Michel Nischan had shown us how it was prepared in a cooking demonstration…yummy!).There was also a Lemon Pasta for vegetarians. Dessert was Toffee Apple Cheesecake…another hit!

The next day we visited Ibiza, one of the Balearic Islands…we were told we would be getting under way before dark as lots of strange things happen at night there. It is a strange mix of locals and jet-setters who go to some strange (dare I say ‘swinger’?) clubs and dress up like animals in a Carnival type atmosphere. So we took the tame route and visited a local winery, Sa Cova, where the owner and his son showed us around. The wine was not of the caliber we had come to expect on the trip but still very good – good enough that I brought back a bottle. It is hard for me to imagine how they make a good living but apparently do, judging from the modern winery and nice buildings. I liked both their red and white wine and it is just about all consumed on the island.

The tasting that evening was Scala Dei, Les Brugieres, garnatxa Blanca (remember ‘tx’ is pronounced ‘ch’ in Cataluyn. Another beautiful Priorat, this time white, and again great with rich seafood…think bouillabaisse!  This was followed by Vall Llach, Embriux, and another great Prioratwhich is a spicy, rich wine with soft tannins….great with tapas, stews, etc. The final entrant was Torres Milmanda, a single vineyard chardonnay (reminded me of Marimar Torres Don Miguel Chardonnay from Sonoma!). It is easy, but wrong to dismiss Torres as a bulk producer as they make a wide range of wines, and pardon the comparison, like Gallo, have quality in every range.

Next: end of the line…Tarragona and Barcelona…arriva! arriva!