It started with a coffee.
It’s an interesting business going on a wine trip with six people you have never met. The coffee shop assumes the role of big brother house meets blind date setting as you try to fathom who are the other ‘Majesticers’.
Normally, as our customers would doubtless agree, members of the thin green line are enthusiastic, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and so it would be easy to recognise each other? Not at six in the morning it’s not!
Before long, we had left not so sunny Stansted for Valladolid where it was 28 degrees Celsius! Upon arrival at the airport we were shown to our hire cars and we set off for Salamanca where the Hacienda Zorita is situated.
The Hacienda Zorita is sensational! Historical yet minimalist and very tastefully decorated indeed. It is a five star establishment with a menu designed by Sergi Arola who has not one, but two Michelin stars. It is also a former monastery that oozes character. Think beams, stone and amazing antique wardrobes.
After a sumptuous lunch of tapas and wine we were taken on a tour of the cellars. The premier wines are aged in the chapel where there are also priceless, though slightly spooky, medieval paintings. We were also told that a former guest of the Hacienda Zorita was Christopher Columbus and the main cellar roof is built in the style of a galleon’s hull in his honour.
That evening we were taken to Salamanca and Laura was our tour guide. It is a beautiful city with a hazy, golden glow. The two fantastic cathedrals and the plaza mayor looked sublime thanks to a wonderful setting sun that eventually painted the sky shades of crimson. The tour also took in the House of Shells, the University and the ancient Roman bridge, which is on a famous pilgrims’ trail. To conclude it’s a beautiful city that was justly crowned European Capital of culture back in 2002.
The tour was rounded off with tapas and several bottles of Marques de la Concordia Reserva Rioja. A firm staff and customer favourite that has fresh black and red fruit characteristics as well as interesting dark chocolate and leather notes. With a rich, long finish it was a perfect match for all of the tasty tapas treats including lamb, succulent steak and slow cooked pork. Delicious!
On our second day we were taken to the Durius all natural food factory in the beautiful Arribes del Duero national park. I must confess that this is where the highlight of my trip arose. It was neither wine nor food related which was an unexpected surprise for me but it was certainly memorable. Whilst driving up the final lane toward the factory a wild boar hurtled across the road in front of our car, we slammed on the brakes and the sight of a scruffy, jet black, giant tusked head on legs running furiously into the distance, against the backdrop of a spaghetti western style scene, was breathtaking. Almost as breathtaking was the ham, cheese and olive oil tasting that followed at the factory whilst eagles could be seen circling from out of the window. A wild boar sighting followed by lots of lovely lomo, soft cheese and uber high quality olive oil…Viva Espania!
After lunch we visited the Durius vineyards and saw the incredible state of the art facilities on site and the vast cellars. The volume of wine that the stainless steel vats can hold and the number of bottles that can be bottled in a day are staggering. The winemaker also talked to us about the differences of French and American oak and which wines she was most proud of. The tasting that followed the tour was great but it’s both a joy and a shame when you taste wines that you cannot buy in the UK. One thing in particular that impressed us was how good the Syrah based wines were and how well the Syrah and Tempranillo can marry together to get a wine of depth and restrained power. Another surprise was the Sauvignon Blanc and Verdejo blend that was refreshingly light, fruity and well balanced.
After a tasting one can often feel a little tired and the mixture of sun and alcohol can make an afternoon nap a delightful option. So when we embarked on a river cruise on a very comfortable and exclusive vessel along the Duero and later, upon crossing the border into Portugal, the Douro, I felt a little nap was in order. However, the beautiful surroundings and peacefulness of the canyon were not lost on me.
The only downside of the boat trip was getting to the jetty. The heart stopping bends and width of the roads en route were the cause of some intense anxiety for me. Coupled with this was a Skoda Octavia with a penchant for stalling and I was having the proverbial kittens in the backseat. However, this was probably the only downside of the entire trip due to warm hospitality, great food, wine and excellent company, you know who you are!
I would recommend a trip to this area of Spain to anyone. The Hacienda Zorita has excellent rates, character, great service and even offers wine treatments in its spa. As we did not get to see this, let your imagination run wild as to what this might include!
All that remains to be said is that throughout the trip the Marques de la Concordia and Durius wines were enjoyed thoroughly and are very food friendly, roast lamb especially, so make sure you get down to your local Majestic and order some bottles of the Crianza or the Reserva and enjoy!