Thursday, September 26, 2013

Eating Madrid

Though the focus was far from food on this past week's trip to Madrid, there were surely still ample amounts of it to enjoy.
The focus was instead on my beautiful cousin, Shannon marrying Manu, her Madrileño love. After 'surprising' Shannon a few days before the wedding, we hit the ground running for a week's long adventure in one of the more festive areas of the world, Madrid, Spain.

Weddings, especially the weddings of very close friends and family, are one of the greatest treasures in life. Truly. That they bring generations together to celebrate the past and future is a standard delight of all weddings but knowing the bride or the groom well makes the whole affair all the greater.
I can't help but wish they were more common but alas, it is their rarity that makes them so special.

Shannon and Manu's wedding was no different. A very quick and heartfelt city hall wedding ceremony was followed by an (I'm going to go ahead and use the adjective) epic celebration.

No doubt, the 3+ hour, 6+ course wedding luncheon at Caldea Restaurante in Rascafria was the highlight of all the meals preceding and proceeding it in Spain. The salad of romaine hearts, peppers & tuna was delicious, simple and beautiful. The dessert platters were nothing short of decadent...something out of a mid century Wayne Thiebaud painting and/or a child's fantasy of 'dessert'.


At nearly every meal, there was the requisite plate of the following: jamòn imberico, triangles of a various cheese & croquetas. It is a real wonder folks aren't heavier in Spain, though they do eat far less of everything than I for one am used to.
Padron peppers and fried eggplant with salmorejo (red sauce) were culinary highlights and while I can and plan to make both at home on the regular, it was somehow better there.

Another memorable meal was Sunday's paella excursion to El Caldero, in Shannon & Manu and Maria's barrio. In addition to several starter plates, we ordered a platter of traditional paella and of squid ink paella. It would be impossible to say which was better because I instantly went into a transcendental state at first bite. I. MUST. MASTER. THIS. RECIPE.

Yet another treat was trying the salchichón de chocolate prepared by Mari Carmen, Shannon's new mother-in-law. As I understood, this confection is made with chocolate, nuts, smashed-up cookies and butter and then prepared in the shape of a sausage, refrigerated to harden, and sliced to serve. Though there was a bit of a language barrier, Mari Carmen agreed to share the recipe with me so that I can prepare it properly and in turn share it with all of you!...more on that in time.
If the above photos weren't enough, here's a few more of my favorite edible moments in the delicious community of Madrid!...

I'm ready to go back and repeat it all over again...VAMOS!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Growing slow and acting on instinct.

This Monday, we will put our modest .97 ton lot of Manchester Ridge Chardonnay to bottle and with so doing Trail Marker Wine Company will be official. Actually, with all the hurdles of the ABC, TTB, BOE and LLC (have I lost you yet?!), TMWC won't be official in the eyes of the law until mid November at the earliest. But we will have made and bottled our very own wine, our very own way, from grape to bottle and that counts for something. 

When we started Trail Marker Wine Company last October, the idea was to grow it ultra slowly by one ton each year and to do only Chardonnay for the first two or even three years. It was a good plan but life has a way of making it's own plans. 

While sourcing a second Chardonnay vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mountains, we accidentally fell in love with a Pinot Noir vineyard while we were there.

In relaying the experience to close friends and family, I've compared it to that moment when you fall hard for delicious produce at the farmer's market or that perfect pair of wedge sandals you feel certain were made with you in mind..."it would be foolish not to buy this!", you rationalize. With the best purchases in life, it is not a matter of need or even want, but only a matter of MUST. HAVE. 
That was the case with both vineyards in Santa Cruz. It did not hurt matters that both vineyards have been under the impeccable care of unknown-legend viticulturalist, Prudy Foxx. The Legan Family Vineyard is a modest, out of the way, high elevation vineyard planted to 30+ year old Chardonnay vines. It is slated to produce a paltry 1 to 1.5 tons, a waste of time for most all other winemakers/wineries but for us and for Trail Marker, this vineyard could not be more perfect. One look at the vineyard and it felt as if it had been planted with exactly our ethos in mind.
Severia Vineyard is just down the road from Legan Family and is planted entirely to Pinot Noir. It's been said that great wine is made in the vineyards, NOT in the winery.  Sure enough, one taste of the fruit of these vines and there is NO doubt this will be a beautiful wine. We have no business signing on to process Pinot Noir this year/harvest. We planned to grow slow and stick with Chardonnay only but when fruit this good lands in your lap, you act on instinct, say yes and figure out the rest later.